An Interview With Download Festival Promoter Andy Copping

Andy Copping from Live Nation Promo Shot

A couple of weeks ago, just after the most recent Download Festival line up announcement where another twenty three bands were added to the festival (read that here if you missed it), Rock Sins were very pleased to be able to catch up with the mastermind behind all the goings on at Donington, Live Nation’s Andy Copping, who for those not in the know has been helping to put together the Download Festival since it started in 2003. Read on for some discussion of this years’ event, as well as previous years and what might occur in years to come…

Launching right into business, It’s quite an announcement that you put out yesterday and I think getting Killswitch Engage on a European exclusive is probably the pick of the bunch and you must be very pleased with that.

Andy: Well we’d been talking to them for awhile, and initially they weren’t going to come. They were going to have some time off, and they have this tour coming up with Trivium in a couple of weeks that’s gone down really, really well. So I just said to them why don’t you come and play at Download and we just had a conversation and they said “actually we’d love to come and play”. They’ve always done very well at Download in the past, and so they’re going to just fly in, do the show and fly out. But I’m very pleased, they’re a great band and they’ve been good to us down the years.

I don’t know if this is something that’s happened by design or whether it’s organically grown that way this year but it seems to be one of the most diverse bills you’ve had this. I’ve been to every Download apart from the first one and it seems to have as much variety as it ever has done, was that something you were deliberately aiming for?

Andy: We try to do it every year to be honest. You are of course always at the mercy of who’s available at any given time but I want to make it as diverse as possible without shooting off on too many tangents. I want to have a great cross section of bands and not be too one dimensional, and I stand or fall by that. People have ideas about what they’d like Download to be, a metal festival or a punk festival or a classic rock festival and I want to have a mix of everything. You know, rock is such a broad church with so many different genres within it and I’d like to be able to tip my hat to all of them.

One thing I’ve always said about Download, and it’s something I got from going to Monsters of Rock in the early years, is discovering new bands, especially bands people would originally think they’d have no hope of liking. I particularly saw it happen in 2009, when there were things like people in ZZ Top shirts watching Limp Bizkit and someone in a KoRn shirt watching bands like Journey. They wouldn’t necessarily buy their music, or even buy a ticket to see them live, but they were coming to see them at the festival and going “you know what, they’re a good band”. I look at the forums a lot and obviously interact on Twitter and Facebook as much as I can and the best thing for me is when someone says, I came to Download and stumbled into such and such tent or stage, saw this band I’d never heard of and they’re now my new favourite band. I think more than ever nowadays people are prepared to do that and look at the bands that aren’t just their favourite bands. It’s really nice to hear you say you think it’s one of the most diverse line up’s because it’s always what I try to do and I’d probably have to agree with you because we really have tried to push that this year.
Rock Sins: Well I think as well now it is good because there are very much now the smaller festivals which cater for the specific audiences like Hit The Deck and Slam Dunk and more recently the more underground events springing up like Temples and Beyond The Redshift and you do have a bit of everything which is great because most people can’t afford to go to multiple festivals with the tickets and the travel and if you can please a large amount of your target audience at 80% then that will be good enough for a lot of them.
Andy: Well that’s certainly what we’re trying to do. and I think in some respects I honestly believe what we do at Download can only help some of the smaller, more boutique style festivals. If by seeing bands at Download someone then starts to love a different style of music that’s a bit different than what they’re used to then they may look at going to some of the more specialised events, so it’s helping to create awareness on a large scale.

You’ve been doing this for twelve years now and I’m guessing there still must be a few bands you haven’t managed to get, either at headline level or in general that you’d still like to get? I know in the past you’ve mentioned The Foo Fighters, are there any others?

Andy:There’s a number of bands really. You’re right about Foo Fighters, I’d love to get Muse, I’d love to get Greenday, Blink 182. I’d love if it Led Zeppelin reformed and we got a reformed Led Zeppelin. I’d love to do an original line up of Guns N’Roses…
Rock Sins: Would you not do Guns N’Roses again after 2006 unless it was the original line up?
Andy: Part of me would say yes to that, and would definitely prefer to wait until it was the original line up, but then the other part of me would say that Guns N’Roses as they are now are still a big act, selling out arenas and headlining festivals in other parts of the world. So you can never say no.
Rock Sins: No, of course.
Andy: But certainly my preference would be, and most people’s preferences would be, to see the line up with Axl, Duff, Slash, Izzy, Matt Sorum on drums, I think Steven Adler isn’t 100% together but wouldn’t it be great if he came out and did a couple of numbers. That, a lot of people would love to see. I certainly would love to see it. But I couldn’t rule out ever having Guns N’Roses as they currently are again.
Rock Sins: Fair enough.

How many years was it that you were actually trying to get Rammstein before you managed to get them for last year? And, as we’ve said, you’ve been doing this awhile, do you think their performance the greatest headline performance at Download, because I know an awful lot of people who think it was.

Andy: Firstly, I’ve been trying to get Rammstein for about five years, or actually probably a bit longer, let me see if I can work this out. 2008 was the year we had the second stage on the tarmac, and I think that was the first year we took it (the second stage) outdoors. Actually, I think it must be about seven years, because originally we were talking about them playing the second stage and headlining that. It may have even been 2005. So it was seven or even eight years since we started approaching them because they were a band I’d had my eye on. We’d been really close a couple of times, one time in particular was very, very close and then unfortunately their schedule changed and we couldn’t make it work. One thing i’ll say about Rammstein; They’re very definite about what they want to do, and when they made the decision that they were going to come and do Download last year, there was nothing, absolutely nothing that was going to stop them doing it. One of the things that they’d said was that they really wanted to build up their following in the UK before they played Download, as they said it was a really important event for them.

The other part of your question – there is absolutely no question. That performance was the greatest performance by any act at Download, and even going back to Monsters of Rock because I went to several of those. It was just the best performance from start to finish; The pyro, the audience, the interaction, the audience response was just phenomenal, and we’ve had some amazing headliners and headline performances at Download over the years, the likes of Rage Against The Machine, Slipknot. We’ve had some phenomenal headline performances but that from Rammstein last year was just off the scale. The band were so humble afterwards, thanking us for putting them on and believing in them. They also told us it was the best festival they played that Summer, I don’t think they were quite prepared to say it was the best festival performance they’d ever done although I think it possibly was, and they absolutely loved it. They sent me an amazing photograph of themselves on stage and all signed it thanking me for having them.
Rock Sins: Fantastic.
Andy: Great band, great people, great organisation around them.

Would you have them back again? I guess in that scenario there’s always the risk of maybe tarnishing the memory and not living up to the first time.

Andy: I think there’s always that possibility, when you’ve seen something once and it’s amazing and then you go see it again and it’s not as good as you remembered. I said last year, after that performance, that I would book Rammstein to close the Download Festival every single year if I could. I know that’s quite a dramatic thing to say….
Rock Sins: I don’t think you’d make too many people unhappy if you did that, I’d certainly be happy because I’ve never seen anything like that.
Andy: It was something else. But yes, of course I would have them back. I know there’s always talk about them retiring because of the age of the band but what they do is pure theatre and pure entertainment and it all fits perfectly with the music. I mean the footage they allowed us to have that we broadcast was just incredible. In-credible. The two songs they let us record (Feuer Frei and Du Hast) were the two songs of the night, just absolutely outstanding.
Rock Sins: Well I guess if they do retire you’ll have to try and get them once more before they call it quits…
Andy: Absolutely.

Just a couple more questions as we know how busy you are – have you booked any bands for 2015 yet? Obviously there are still spaces to fill for 2014 but is anything in motion for next year?

Andy: I’m already talking to people, I can’t say I’m a long way down the line because I’m not but I’ve certainly started to put the feelers out there in terms of who might be available and who’d be interested. There is one band in particular who’ve intimated to me that they’d entertain an offer for 2015. They’re not a headline act but they’d be a big act to have on the bill. There’s something else I’m working on that if I managed to pull it off for 2015 would be really exciting and I’m working on that at the moment. But I’m always looking to see all the time who I can book and when.

Obviously this year you’ve promoted Avenged Sevenfold (to headliner status) and it’s something you have to keep doing to breed the headliners of tomorrow, do you think next year subject to schedules and everything you’d look to have “another newer generation band” as a headliner?

Andy: The answer to that is a resounding Yes. I’ve taken stick over the years from people for elevating bands who were perceived that they didn’t deserve it and then it works out. I did it with Slipknot in 2009, and back then people said I was crazy, that they weren’t ready, that they weren’t a big enough band, and they SO were, and I’ve done exactly the same with Avenged Sevenfold. People are saying they’re not worthy of being a headline band, they are absolutely worthy. They’ve had a number one album in the UK…
Rock Sins: And they’re the only ones to do so who aren’t Metallica, Maiden or Sabbath in god knows how long.
Andy: Yeah, correct. I think it’s really important that Download elevates these bands and bring bands through who are going to be the headliners for the future becuase there aren’t that many there. We have to do it as a festival and hopefully we bring the audience along with it too. People may say that they weren’t expecting such and such a band to be a headliner but they’ll say I’m going to get behind this and that’s where we need people to be whether it’s buying the records or buying the concert tickets or whatever, we have to elevate and bring them through. Otherwise, the old guard are not going to be around, and who’s going to replace them? Let’s be honest, if you think when we first started Download, so twelve years ago, in twelve years from now I can’t see Maiden doing it, or Metallica doing it.
Rock Sins: No, and certainly not Sabbath.
Andy: And not Sabbath, and not AC/DC. They are not going to be there. So there has to be a new generation coming through, and there are acts there, definitely, but we need to nurture them. It’s hugely important that a festival like Download and myself as a promoter start elevating these bands. And the bands themselves have to live up to it, they have to deliver the performances and they have to keep releasing strong records to keep themselves in people’s eyes and have people talking about their music.
Rock Sins: Were Alter Bridge close? I know there was a lot of speculation amongst the fans and the forums as they’ve had two virtually sold out arena tours and they’ve released another really strong album, they must be fairly high on the list of potentials for the future….
Andy: For me, with Alter Bridge, if they can release a crossover album, with two or three really big songs on there, anthemic songs, then they’ve definitely got a chance. They’re an unbelievable band and considering how well that they’ve grown over the years, I think on their next record if they can release and have a couple of really strong, big singles on there, that’s definitely going to put them in that group of bands that have got a chance of going on to headline status.

Rock Sins: Well we could keep you much longer and talk your ear off for another hour but we’ve already kept you longer than we should, so we won’t.
Andy: No worries, I’ve really enjoyed it and thanks for the support.
Rock Sins: Great stuff, thanks again Andy.
Andy: Thank you.

As always, the latest on the Download Festival can be found here at Rocksins, as well as at the official website Aerosmith, Linkin Park (performing Hybrid Theory in it’s entirety) and Avenged Sevenfold head the line up for the 2014 edition of the Download Festival live at Donington Park this coming June. Andy Copping can be followed on Twitter at @Maverick_AC.

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