Interview: Adam Ruane – Pop Punk Pile-Up Festival Director

Everyone interviews the bands, but so often the backstage heroes are forgotten. There’s no point having bands if there’s nobody around to organise them and get them all playing together. Whether that’s a pair or trio of acts on a tour, or a large one-off event with a huge line-up such as the recent Pop Punk Pile-Up in Selby.

During the Sunday session, Jack took a break to talk to event organiser and festival director Adam Ruane…

So please can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into organising music festivals?

Yes, sure, so my name’s Adam. Basically, I’ve been working in the music scene since I was 16. I started out doing press journalism for smaller bands and from that it kind of spiralled out of control massively. Bigger bands started realising we had a blog and they started emailing, their press agencies started emailing and it just kept circling from that. To a point where we had a small fan base of not just people that go to gigs but also bands. Then bands came to us saying is there anything you can do gig-wise, you’ve got a decent following, you can put a gig on. I started doing club nights in Selby which were popular, so we moved to Doncaster and from there it spiralled out of control, we started running tours and we kind of kept at a steady pace for about 8 years doing that while working a day job which was an absolute killer.

I then had a break for about 2 years, doing nothing music related at all.  I came back and had a look at my emails just to kind of touch base and see what I’ve been missing out on and there was so much stuff.  MTV had invited us to do stuff and it felt too good to miss out on, so I started again and within about a week we were covering Leeds Fest and Hellfest in France, and all the major festivals in that circuit. We definitely missed a trick, if we hadn’t had that break we’d have been two years ahead of where we are now.

I’ve always wanted to do a festival. I’ve always felt that was the right direction to take Riff Media. The festival was always going to be the backbone of where we wanted to be and how we were going to get there. I knocked a few emails about and I got most of the smaller bands interested and they were all drumming up interest. At first, we’re going to do it in that small venue in York and do it with just small bands and an all-day festival which we’re used to doing anyway.

Then some of the bigger bands caught drift what we are doing, from that we ended up with the Bottom Line and it went mental. We ended up with a three-day festival with big bands and small bands.

What is the history behind Pop Punk Pile-Up?

Basically, everybody will tell you Riff shows have always been a total mashup of genres, like we never stick to what some typical promoters will do. Some promoters will have a metal night and just include metal bands or will have an acoustic night and it will just be acoustic bands. The way we’ll do it is will open with an acoustic act and we’ll just gradually get heavier from there. On Friday we started acoustic, we got heavier with Blood Youth and finished off soft with Room 94. Saturday was kind of the same with the pop-punk bands coming through. Today is going to be mental and you’ll realise why its called Pile-Up. We’ve piled up everything into one line up, we’ve got metal bands coming on in a minute and Young coming up who are a rap band and finishing off with the King Blues who are a bit ska.

The York festival will be a bit diverse, there will be more metal bands than we have here, but we’ve still got the pop-punk bands and the acoustic bands. The plan is to eventually merge both festivals then you’ve got the best of both.

Why did you pick Selby as the location to Pop Punk Pile-Up?

Basically, Ian who now owns the Venue, he used to own the Riverside when I was 16. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, Ian brought me in, showed me the ropes. Everything that I know, I know from doing it for the two or three years there. He was awesome with me, that’s why I wanted to bring it back to Selby and develop it for Selby. It kind of a homecoming, we’ve not done a show here for about four years, we kind of wanted to come back to where it all stated and kick it off again. We always wanted to try it in Selby, its our home.

How did you go about picking the line-up?

It was actually really easy. Like 90% of the bands on the line-up I know anyway from over the last 10 years of booking and working with them. The other 10% are from the press and managers who have offered the bands to us. The Bottom Line, I wanted them from the very beginning because those guys are absolutely fucking amazing at what they do and they are going to be massive, they are so close to breaking through. Mallory Knox, we asked them right at the very beginning but like with the Mikey situation they couldn’t confirm to anything. We needed to sort the line-up out, so we basically booked around it and just left it, thinking we will go back to them next year. Then they came back with like maybe 3 months to spare saying “We want to play”. When I got that email through they had to be on.

Sally Pepper, I manage her. She’s on my record label so always had a spot. Northern Horizon, they’re on the label too. They are all amazing bands that we just want to give exposure to. It’s a thank you to the bands that have supported us and we’ll continue this way going forward. The line-up picked itself, I all I did really was put it in the right order.

Where there any bands that you wanted but couldn’t get?

Don Broco immediately. When we were looking through which artist who wanted we emailed Mallory Knox and Don Broco. Don Broco came back saying yeah, they could do it and they wanted to do it and then a week later came back and said “Oh The Venue is actually quite small”. That would have been absolutely insane if we’d have got Broco the first year, but we want them eventually. Propagandhi was another that we asked for but they were playing Manchester Punk Fest, so they were tied up. There were a couple of bands that we were looking at but it’s all bands that we can look at for next year, especially when we show them what we can do this year. I think next year we’ll have a decent pick of who we want, as long as they’re available.

What is the biggest challenge when organising a music festival?

Jesus Christ, oh so many. The main issue that we had from the offset was the financing of the festival. At the start of everything we were told we would have x amount of finances available to us which were then quickly retracted once we’d booked the bands. We had to scrape where we could just to get through. We’ve relied on my dad quite a lot, he’s bailed me out big time. Money isn’t everything, but you can’t do anything without it. Everything else has fallen into place, everything else has been fine. We’ve got bands that wanted slots, agents that want to work with us, the press and all sorts of stuff going on it was just financing it.

Obviously, the backlash for the King Blues didn’t help, it was as soon as we announced them it all went to shit and that didn’t exactly help us in any way shape or form. But it hasn’t stopped us. We stuck to the band that we wanted, we were doing it our way. We weren’t going to have people screaming at us to take a band out because people don’t like them. There are just so many challenges, it’s just so stressful.

What is the best part about setting up a music festival?

When I first started and booking the bands in, when you get a reply from a big band like Mallory Knox and when The Bottom Line email came through and they said “Yes”. I just stood there like “Fuck, have I actually just booked that?” With the York festival again booking bands like Wilhelm Scream, Teenage Bottlerocket and Oceans Ate Alaska. It’s just when you get those emails back saying “Yeah, we want to play your event”. Obviously getting here on the day, building up to it was so stressful, getting everything set up, getting ready to do this was fucking carnage. But once you get here and set up and the bands start, it’s out of your control. You can just sit back and think that “Shit, we’ve actually done this”.

What is your highlight of the festival so far?

Knox has to be up there, I’m a massive Mallory Knox fan and to have them now on one of my shows is fucking amazing. The Bottom Line, they were always going to be a highlight anyway because they are fucking amazing and they did nothing wrong yesterday; it was fucking perfect. The highlights again are really all down to the team, we thought it was going to just collapse, we didn’t think we’d get to opening the doors and everybody played a part in it. Jay, the sound manager, I don’t know how he’s done it but he’s just run everything perfectly. All the bands have been amazing, its hard to even pick a top 20, let alone a top 5.

How successful do you think the festival has been?

A hell of a lot more successful than we thought it was going to be. Two weeks ago, I was close to calling it all off and putting a fucking stop to everything and just giving up. But everybody pushes me through it, then drag me through it. Just getting to opening the doors on day one was a great feeling.

Whats next after Pop Punk Pile-Up?

So, we’ve got the York festival in 7 weeks. So basically, we wrap tonight, pack down tomorrow and we’ve got seven weeks to get York into shape. I’ve also got a day job in between that as well so I’ve got a lot of work to do before the York festival.

Moving forward we’ve got a lot of plans. Next year we’re looking at moving to a couple of locations, but we want to keep certain places.  In the same vein as Warped Tour in America I guess, we kind of want to branch out and develop smaller festivals, maybe a one or two-day events in smaller locations and just have one big one. I think there’s a bright future in it and there is loads that we want to do.

Will Pop Punk Pile-Up be back in Selby next year?

I’d like to think so, if not in Selby then close by. I don’t know what The Venue’s plans are. The Venue has gone through a lot of bullshit with the council so I’m not sure if The Venue will be here next year. Knowing Ian, I know he won’t just walk away from music, he’ll be in a venue close by, so I’d like to say we’ll be back. This weekend has been perfectly fine, it’s been successful in my eyes, it’s been successful for everybody else. Ian’s happy and I’d be happy to work with him again, he developed me into what I’m doing now. Absolutely, I’d say so, we’ll be back, it’s too hard to walk away from it now.

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