Last year’s Ritual Festival was one of the highlights of the calendar year. A mixture of all things dark and heavy, for a first time a festival hit all the right notes. Now Ritual is back with Ihshan headlining the event alongside appearances from All Pigs Must Die, Misery Index and Canvas to name a few. With much more still to be done, I interviewed Ritual Festival head honcho, Dan Vaughan.
Jack: Hi Dan, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you?
Dan Vaughan: Hi, excited but very busy, running Ritual has taken over the majority of my life and I’m stupid/ambitous enough to run Dreadfest on top of that.
Jack: What inspired you to start Ritual?
Dan: Ritual was always a dream of mine, I have been working a lot of live events, festivals and alongside promoters, so it was always going to happen. It was a bit of a rash decision to do it this year but I’m glad I did.
Jack: Do you play in any bands yourself? If so has this experience helped you with Ritual in anyway?
Dan: No, I don’t play in any bands, not a musician either; I should probably start at some point. I think it benefits me not being in a band, putting everything into Ritual rather than having a conflict of interest with a festival and creating new music. I barely have much spare time as it is so trying to fit rehearsals, recording and gigs in would be a nightmare.
Jack: You put on the first Ritual in your final year of University. How stressful was it balancing University and running the festival?
Dan: Running a festival is one of the most stressful things I have ever done, University was probably one of the others. It was a major balancing act and up until about a month before Ritual I was just about handling it. I took some time off over that period to concentrate on my festival and my work did suffer a little but it was worth that sacrifice.
Jack: What was the biggest challenge with the festival?
Dan: The line-up is always the hardest part, trying to get the right combination of bands to a budget, sometimes it works out great. We were super lucky that Full of Hell and The Body were touring, one of the many highlights for me.
Jack: Was booking the acts hard? Was it hard to get some of the more established bands to play considering it was a first-time festival?
Dan: This was one of the hardest tasks of Ritual’s first year, we had to book the band in the correct order so they knew we meant business, hence why it took so long to confirm our headliner. I think the uncertainty of a first time festival, funding it with my student loan and it very little experience booking at that calibre didn’t help us. We pulled it off and look at the line-up this year. If you told me last December Ihsahn, Misery Index and All Pigs Must Die were on Ritual 2017 I would just laugh.
Jack: How did you think it went for a first year? I take it that it was a massive sigh of relief in a way to see it so positively received?
Dan: If I remember correctly, the only negative feedback we had was the lack of coffee, so yeah it was positively received. [It] has kept me going and wanting to improve on it for next year’s edition. I honestly was so busy running around that from what I saw it went well and everyone seemed to enjoy it so that’s all that matters really, the bands and the fans have a good time.
Jack: Which band was the highlight of the day?
Dan: There simply wasn’t a favourite, I got to catch maybe a song or two from each band so that’s not a judgement. Conan, Full of Hell and The Body no doubt was something special and I will always remember it but so was seeing Hang The Bastard.
Jack: What do you feel could be improved on about the festival for next year?
Dan: Unique acts, diversity and more on offer to the fans. Creating an immersive experience is something that I will continue to create and build on as Ritual continues.
Jack: In an interview you said one of the dream acts for Ritual would be Ihsahn. How does it feel to have him headline this year?
Dan: It was amazing, I got the confirmation email whilst on the coach to Bloodstock so I was hyped all weekend and I’m pretty sure I told everyone I knew there that weekend. It’s an honour to be able to host Ihsahn as well as the other acts we have I didn’t think I would get. It just goes to show that if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Jack: You also have Canvas playing their first show in sixteen years? How did you convince them to get out of hibernation?
Dan: Canvas is an extremely odd experience, I’m still a little surprised about the reaction it had. I got sent Womb Plague to listen too, I liked it then asked to be introduced to one of the members and that’s it. No persuading, bribes or breifcases full of money. I think it was just perfect timing.
Jack: When it comes to Ritual. Do agents/bands/labels come to you with bands, do you go to them or is it a bit of both?
Dan: For Ritual Festival itself, I sit with a list of bands and curate the line-up to fit. It’s a creative process as in my head I will have my dream acts but sometimes they simply aren’t free or busy. There’s no input or sway from anyone else apart from myself, friends and maybe the perfect timed tour.
Jack: How far in advance do you book the bands?
Dan: I’m starting in February for Ritual 2018 which will probably be the most organised I have ever been in my entire life.
Jack: Does Ritual Dreadfest and the other events you run have a big impact on Ritual Festival itself?
Dan: Not really at the moment, Ritual is on its own path, I have a clear direction and set of goals to achieve. Dreadfest is more DIY, creating a solid line-up in my favourite venue, Temple of Boom. There’s more fun, experimentation and less risk with Dreadfest. Possibly in the future they could conflict and I may need to think carefully about how they both progress.
Jack: Is festival and gig booking a full-time event?
Dan: Near enough, I’m freelance so I work at venues and festivals to pay the bills but apart from that my daily life is emails and gigs. Even if I’m not booking I will be at shows to scout a little, watching bands play live is also my thinking time, my quiet time in some odd fashion. I find it helps me plan my next shows and think of my ideal supports.
Jack: As with last year you have a warm-up show the day before, was this always the plan?
Dan: The Winterfylleth pre-show was not part of the original plan but something that just happened along the way, I was super happy with it so it has now become part of the plan. Hopefully we will be able to put it in Canal Mills too one day.
Jack: Where do you see Ritual Festival in five years time?
Dan: My absolute career goal is to be up there with Roadburn, I’m going next year as my post-Ritual treat to admire and learn from it. There are a lot of bands on my wish list I want to book by my five-year point and some interesting new ideas but you will have to wait and see for those. I will try and get Emperor for the ten year Ritual.
Jack: Finally, what is the best Emperor album?
Dan: In the Nightside Eclipse, bit of an obvious one. I did one of those top 100 albums the other day and it’s a lot harder than you think, there’s just some bands that have to go on there with their best albums but you start running out of space quickly.
You can buy tickets to Ritual Festival here