Biffy Clyro - Best Festival Rock Act

We chat to Simon Neil and Ben Johnston

Biffy Clyro - Best Festival Rock Act

Photographer: Peter CorkhillDaniel Fahey on 04 November 2008

In one of the most closely contested category of the ceremony, Biffy managed to see off the likes of Bloc Party, Bullet For My Valentine, Elbow and The Raconteurs to take the coveted title - and boy did they deserve it.

A series of mammoth gigs at Download, Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, as well as another special T In The Park homecoming performance, cemented their reputation as one of the best live acts in the world, not just at festivals.

VF managed to get five minutes in with lead singer Simon Neil and drummer Ben Johnston before they went off the celebrate their victory.

Virtual Festivals: How does it feel to win?

Simon Neil: "It's wonderful."
Ben Johnston: "Its always good, what a feeling."
SN: "We've seen so many incredible bands over the summer it's just lovely that we were some people's favourites. It's wonderful, great."

VF: Who do you think was your biggest rival in your category?
BJ: "They were all good bands and stuff, but The Raconteurs especially because they put on great performances over the summer and I've heard loads of people talking about them. Even my girlfriend's mum and people like that, so they were definitely a bit of hard competition. Some stiff competition."

VF: You've done quite a few festivals this summer, which has been your highlight of the year?
SN: "There's loads, most of our festivals have been abroad this year but we did what we call the big four: Reading and Leeds, Glasto [Glastonbury], Download and T In The Park. To be honest we loved them all but T In The Park has a special place in our heart because we did our very first festival show there in 1999 or 2000 and every time we go back there we have flashbacks to the very first time we were there. So that’s always a special time."

VF: Is it true that Scottish crowds rock harder than English crowds?

SN: "We definitely think so because we're Scottish. I think everybody rocks hard everywhere. But at T In The Park, if the sun is shining, and it's so rare for the sun to be out, everyone makes sure that is their weekend for the summer. So it's amazing and T In The Park is very hard to beat on a good year."

VF: Reading and Leeds and Download both claim to be the biggest rock festival of the year, but which do you think it is?

BJ: "I think Download is metal, but Reading and Leeds always has the best line-up for indie festivals, so I think personally, as a band, we prefer the line-up at Reading and Leeds. Not to take anything away from Download though because Download is great fun and it's good that there still is a metal festival. Its nice that metal bands still get a bit of time to play and stuff and everyone gets together and bangs heads."
SN: "I think that Reading and Leeds has really got something for everyone and it's got new music and there really is every type of genre of music played at Reading and Leeds."

VF: Who has been the best band you've seen perform live this summer?

SN: "I saw Rage Against The Machine from the side of the stage at Leeds and we saw them back in the day and they were amazing. We managed to wangle our way on the side stage and they were absolutely phenomenal. They had to stop the show actually because there were some people getting hurt. It almost added to the vibe because it took 15 minutes for everyone to calm down and you know that thing when a gig stops and it kicks back off again, everybody is part of a real community spirit and it was just phenomenal. And to see Rage up close, they've got more camaraderie onstage then I thought they would have. I thought they would be 'I'm not looking at you', but it seemed like four friends onstage and a rock band controlling 70,000 people. It was phenomenal."

VF: What are your plans for the future because you've been playing festivals in a row now? It's been quite a few years without a break.
BJ: "It has and that’s exactly it. I think we're going to keep it a bit quieter over the summer and get our new material, erm songs ready."
SN: "New material eh? Everyone's got that bug."
[They both laugh over the use of word material rather than songs]
BJ: "We'll get the new songs on the new album ready and tour the arse off of that and try to avoid doing major festivals. We may do some more smaller festivals next summer for a bit."

VF: Are there any smaller ones you fancy?
BJ: "There are so many good ones."
SN: "We've had some amazing times at Buckandskit, at Truck, at Belladrum and some of those festivals are the reasons why a festival is amazing. Its people in the same headspace, there to have a really good time and the big festivals wouldn't be there if it wasn't for the small festivals being successful. And I'm sure if you'd ask any band that plays festivals over the summer, most of their favourites will be the smaller ones because there's maybe less pressure and people are there to have a great time. So those three I remember having great times at, but we're open to any festivals – we love festivals!"

VF: As a punter, what's your favourite festival to go to?
SN: "We actually started playing festivals when we were 18, so we didn't go to any. James [Johnston, bassist] went to the first ever T In The Park when he was very young. But we just started playing, so our experiences are just playing and we're very lucky in that way, but we love it."
BJ: "We don't really travel around Britain to festivals but T In The Park is a good fun festival and we get taken care of and stuff, so I think that’s important."

VF: If T In The Park asked you again next year would you play again?
SN: "We definitely would because it would be the tenth time, or something like that – but more than everybody else. Dave and Geoff [Ellis] who organise T In The Park have always been so kind to us and whenever they want us we'll come play. But I think next summer its important for us and for our fans not to see us for a while, so that when we come back people will dig what we're doing."

VF: They haven't asked then?
SN: [Laughs] "Well, they always ask, but fortunately now we’re in a nice position where we can pick and choose when we do things. It's a nice position for a band like us to be in because we have been in the other position where you're dying to get onto a festival. It's nice now to be in a position where everyone wants you. We just want a quiet summer next summer because we've played them all."

VF: What are you plans for celebrating your award this evening?
BJ: "I'm going to drink some of the free booze that's on offer."
SN: "Hopefully our record company will buy us some nice drink for being so great."
BJ: "And for us making them loads of money."
SN: "So that's our plan for the evening. Are you having fun?"

VF: I'm having a lovely time.
SN: "Are you going to relax later on?"

VF: I will when all my interviews are done. I'll have a beer or two.

SN: "You can get out of this room up here and come down."

VF: Yeah, you'll find me streaking around one o'clock.
SN: [Laughs] "Sounds good, we’re stick around for that."

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