Jim King exclusive eFestivals interview

Rock Ness boss gives us the lowdown

published: Fri 25th Feb 2011

around the festival site (1)

Friday 10th to Sunday 12th June 2011
Loch Ness, Scotland, Scotland MAP
£149 for 3 days with camping
last updated: Mon 30th May 2011

It's the night after Rock Ness have won an accolade, and festival boss Jim King is a little the worse for wear having celebrated the victory with what might have been a large slosh of Jagermeister, whatever, he tells me he's sure parts of his brain are struggling to be connected.

around the festival site (1)
Are you pleased with how the line-up is shaping up?
I think, since we announced the headliners back in last year, we're really pleased with what we're putting together. We've already tried to balance the acts, Rock Ness is always about that, and we're really pleased with the way the latest announcement of acts was received. There's some stuff that we've not had before like DJ Shadow, I think that's going to be really exciting. They're still working through the production for his show (Shadowsphere) at the moment, so I can't say exactly what that is yet, but, it will be the full show. I think that's great, it fulfils the electronic side of things we've something we've not seen before. Then there's stuff like Groove Armada who have not played the festival for something like five years, (Mark) Ronson hasn't played for about the same length of time, and they're both playing new stuff for Rock Ness.

What I'm also really pleased about is a lot of really new young bands that traditionally we would not normally get and they would go to T in the Park, but they want to play Rock Ness. Two Door Cinema Club I think is a really important booking for us. They're going to be a huge band this year, and already they're getting a tremendous profile. I think Magnetic Man's going to be massive by the summer, and Katy B is getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger. And Example has just had a fantastic tour. On that emerging talent level we have some of the best out there.

It's nice when people like Fake Blood say "I've got a new live set coming, and I want to do it at Rock Ness, we think it's perfect." It's great that we've broken that threshold and have acts actually wanting to come and play the show.

So when's the next announcement?
We've got loads more still to announce yet. There's loads more coming through as well, which we will be announcing next month. There's a couple of new stages to announce too. It'll be around four weeks, where we'll announce stage by stage, and we're going to change things around a bit. The new site plan which we'll get out to everyone before the show includes a complete re-draw of the Nesstival area, and we'll be replacing some stages with some new ones. I'm really excited about it, I wish I could talk about it now, but I've been told I've got to wait.

You'll be replacing old stages with new ones, rather than introducing extra ones?
Yes, I don't think we need any more stages for the size of audience we have. If anything I think we possibly had two small stages too many last year. That's something, we might lose one of the smaller ones, and leave it out. It's important to update stuff, we introduced the Afterburner Stage which is hugely popular and successful, so that will remain. It's important that we update and keep the festival fresh. I don't want people turning up to Rock Ness every single year and thinking it's an identical show to last year. It involves us evolving the show with the audience.

So The Afterburner will be back?
Yes, it's definitely coming back, and the programming for that is going to be announced shortly, and it's going to be very exciting, there will be some big acts playing through there this year. That's definitely one of the features of the show moving forward.

So Nesstival is still there, Afterburner, presumably the comedy is back, and Howard (Marks) will still be in his pub?
Yes, Howard's going to be there, he's just part of the team, like The Cubans, I don't think Rock Ness would be the same without either of them anymore. I think it's important to have people like that who love coming to the show, love hanging out, and love being part of it. All festivals need something that threads itself through the show from year to year that become part of the event and make it what it is. We're not trying to make a completely new festival, we're trying to evolve it.

Do you think it's important to have areas offering something other than music at a festival?
Yeah, definitely. It's a festival of many things, music is obviously a big part of that, but it's not the only part. It's about a weekend of entertainment and fun for 30,000 people who want to come to our festival, and it can't just be about DJs or indie bands, it needs to be a be a bit more than that. Last year's structure of the comedy was a really, really good idea. Brett. who books that for us, he's going from strength to strength, and the line-up for this year is going to be great. We had Kevin Bridges last year, and he's gone on to bigger thing. We're going to be announcing acts for the comedy which is going to run everyday through one of the stages for about three or four hours a day, and we'll be having the big acts on Sunday in the Sunday Best Arena like we did with Kevin. Brett's going to be ready to announce that over the coming weeks.

We don't want to announce everything on the same day I think it's too much to take in, and we've still got something special to come. We've announced around thirty acts and Rock Ness has about a hundred acts, then we go stage by stage, there's a lot that hopefully will find appealing.

You've had AEG on board for a while now, did that alter things when they came on board?
No, the show is still run like it has been since these first two shows and this is the sixth year, so this is the fourth one now where they've been involved. We get on very well with them, and they obviously have a tremendous pedigree with festivals, in so far as they own the Coachella Festival. For us to be in that family is good, we have no issues with it at all.

Do you get to visit other festivals such as Coachella?
I went to Coachella many years ago, and I'm going to go this year again. I think it's a wonderful show, they do a really great job there. As a company we run a number of different festivals for clients, We run Bestival and Camp Bestival, which are both leading shows in the world in their field, and we run Creamfields which I think is the best electronic festival in the world. I think it's an amazing show these days. So, through work more than anything else, we get to go to quite a few.

You've no plans to start any new ones?
Not at the moment. We've just announced Deadmau5 who is playing for us in Victoria Park this year, so we're going to be very busy with that, as well as Rock Ness. That's enough for me for the time being.

Apart from formulating the line-ups for festivals, what other burning issues are festival organisers having to deal with at the moment?
Well, I'm heavily involved in the Association Of Independent Festivals (AIF) and there's a number of key things as an industry we're looking at. Obviously you've got improving security at festivals, and I think we've seen some really great results in the last year, with reductions in crime across most festivals that are out there, especially the ones that we were on, we're really pleased with that. There's a number of issues facing the industry at the moment, which are a challenge for the independent sector.

What advice would you give to someone going to Rock Ness for the first time?
I don't really want to try and say too much to answer this, other than to come and have a great time. Get there early on the Friday, and take your time, the programme doesn't start until Friday afternoon, which we intentionally do. I hate the idea of a festival where people turn up, literally drop there tent, and run straight down the front. People then don't really have a chance to take in what the other key aspects of the festival are, and that's meeting people, and making friends. What people tell us, and what we find, is that because they have that really gentle introduction to it, they take their time and they spend the time in the campsites and they make friends with their neighbours, and by the time they go down to the festival site, they're already in a different attitude and atmosphere than they would be at other shows.

Do you think last year's award win, will have any impact?
I think it's only a positive thing. We're overjoyed that we won, it's a fantastic award to win, if you consider the other festivals that were nominated in that category, it was a really big honour for us. Obviously we had a few drinks afterwards, and that's probably why I'm struggling to speak, I should apologise. It's a tremendous award to win, and I'm really pleased for everyone. Running a festival is really hard work, it takes a lot of passion, a lot of commitment, and a great deal of work from a high number of people, and for them to have that recognised is tremendous for everyone who works on the show, and I'm really pleased for them. It's a really good team who work on Rock Ness, and they deserve it to be honest with you.

It's also tremendous for the people who go, we have a very loyal fanbase. We're very close to our fans, and do regular online chats, which we do with eFestivals, and I go on there many times around the festival to talk directly to our festival goers, and we pride ourselves on talking to our customers, it's important for us. It's important that they feel they've won this award as well, because they have, and without an audience it's just an empty field, and it doesn't mean anything. The only reason that our festival has won, was because our customers have made it a great festival, and then they have voted for it. We just couldn't be happier.

And, how are ticket sales going?
We're way ahead of last year. We've got three really big headliners this year. Last year we said we wanted a really big rock band to play the show, and I think in Kasabian it's the biggest rock band in the UK, and obviously that helps us sell more tickets. And, I think in The Chemical Brothers we have the definitive electronic band, they are probably one of the most important bands we could have at Rock Ness, everything about them says Rock Ness, and to have them Saturday night is huge for the festival. Then, Paolo, we wanted to spread it out, it can't all be about what we did last year, and I think, in my opinion, he's probably the most important singer-songwriter to come out of Scotland in the last generation. We're delighted he wanted to come along and headline the festival.

I think we had a great starting position with our headliners, and I think the support acts that are going in around them is really strong, I think it covers a wide range of music genres, and we've got some stuff that people haven't seen in a number of years and will want to come along and see. Shadow is a really good example of that, I've not seen him play for seven or eight years, and the last time I saw him play he was amazing. I think it's going to be real highlight of the festival, and that Sunday night sunset slot with Glasvegas is going to be amazing. I think it's a great new record that they've got, and they're only going to get bigger, and bigger. Come the summer they're going to be really great band to come and see.

Can you tell me more about Groove Armada present Red Light, I've not heard much about it?
It's a brand new concert that they want to put out, and obviously they're not out live at the moment. They've got this DJ led performance thing which they're calling Red Light. It's very clubby, and I think they're going to absolutely smash it, it gives them a great deal of flexibility to go musically where they want to go, and they want to produce a great club set. They're going to be playing in the Arena, and I think it will take the roof off. There are those moments at Rock Ness, we've had them with 2manydjs in the past, and continue to have them with Boys Noize where there's 10,000 in and around the big arena that we have, all having a club experience, and that Groove Armada set will provide it.

Rock Ness takes place on the scenic banks of Loch Ness, Scotland on Friday 10th to Sunday 12th June 2011 where Kasabian, The Chemical Brothers, and Paolo Nutini will headline this summer. They are joined on the bill by Glasvegas, The Wombats, Two Door Cinema Club, Groove Armada presents Red Light, DJ Shadow, Mark Ronson (DJ set), The Cribs, Frightened Rabbit, We Are Scientists, Magnetic Man, Example, Lissie, Katy B, Annie Mac, Erol Alkan, Zane Lowe, Brother, Boys Noize, Simian Mobile Disco, Fake Blood, DJ Yoda, Rob da Bank, and Howard Marks, with many more still to be announced.

Tickets are priced as follows:

£149 for a 3 day weekend camping or non camping ticket
£159 for a 3 day weekend camping or non camping with coach travel
£135 for a 3 day weekend camping or non camping student ticket
£145 for a 3 day weekend camping or non camping student ticket with coach travel
£189 for a 3 day weekend camping or non camping VIP ticket

To buy tickets, click here.

To buy tickets from Ticketline, click here.

To buy tickets from Ticketmaster, click here.
interview by: Scott Williams

Friday 10th to Sunday 12th June 2011
Loch Ness, Scotland, Scotland MAP
£149 for 3 days with camping
last updated: Mon 30th May 2011


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