Gimme Your Answers (Beyond the Stage): An Interview w/ Alex Martel, founder of Amnesia Rockfest

Amnesia Rockfest
Ever wonder what happens beyond the stage? Well we do. These roadies, managers, guitar techs, lighting directors, publicists (and even positions you may not have known about) make the music you love come alive! Taking place in Montebello from June 18th-21st, Amnesia Rockfest features metal, rock, punk, ska, and alternative artists. This year’s festival line-up includes Linkin Park, System of a Down, The Offspring, Slayer, Snoop Dog, Pixies, and many others. With the festival right around the corner, A Music Blog, Yea? recently gave Alex Martel (founder of Amnesia Rockfest) a call to discuss festival preparation, line-ups, meeting favourite bands, and taking over Montebello. Here’s what he had to say:

AMBY: Hey Alex, how are you doing?

Alex Martel: I’m good, just catching my breath since I just got back from a mountain bike ride.

AMBY: Oh alright, well I’ll give you a second [laughs]. Thanks for taking the time to have a chat today. We can’t wait to cover Amnesia Rockfest this year.

Alex Martel: No problem.

AMBY: For our readers at home, how did you first get into your industry and the groove of organizing a festival?

Alex Martel: It really started from nothing. Basically, I grew up in Montebello which is a small town in the middle of nowhere between Ottawa and Montreal. There was nothing to do here. I was a huge music fan and I basically had to travel all of the time to Montreal, Ottawa, or Toronto just to see concerts. I figured I should start my own festival in my hometown. I was seventeen the first year and we had five hundred people show up and then it slowly grew into being the largest rock festival in Canada. I’m really proud of how it started.

AMBY: 2015 marks the tenth edition and anniversary of Rockfest. How stoked are you for everything this year?

Alex Martel: It was lots of work and I’m really proud of the line-up and everything else. I think this is our strongest line-up so far, it’s been the biggest reaction from the fans, the most press coverage we’ve ever had, and our strongest sales yet. We’re pretty happy and it seems like the festival goers are happy, too. It’s pretty awesome so far.

AMBY: You mentioned the line-up – this year’s includes System of a Down, Pixies, Tenacious D, Linkin Park, The Offspring, and tons of other great groups. How did you solidify this massive lineup? What was that process like?

Alex Martel: It’s usually a year long process; it takes a lot of time and sometimes we work on stuff for years before it ends up actually happening. It’s a long process and I feel like it’s a process which has been ten years in the making.

AMBY: It’s also a pretty extensive line-up. I know you put your heart into booking each of these bands, but are there any artists you were able to book this year that you never thought you’d be able to have play the festival?

Alex Martel: There are a lot. System of a Down for sure. They were pretty hard to get and they were by far the most requested band by our festival goers.

AMBY: How about who you’re excited to see?

Alex Martel: Aside from them, The Offspring, Pixies, Tenacious D, Rancid, Refused, Ministry, Skinny Puppy… I could go on for forever.

AMBY and Alex Martel: [laughs]

AMBY: Pretty much the whole line-up, eh? Are there any artists you’d love to still book that you’ve yet to?

Alex Martel: There are lots of bands that I’d like to see in the future. Nine Inch Nails are my favourite band ever. I’d love to get them on there someday. Green Day would be great. There are so many because there are tons of bands that we haven’t done yet that I’ve love to do.

AMBY: There’s a ton of preparation and people you have to deal with before the festival begins. What’s been the craziest thing to happen to you so far while working on the event?

Alex Martel: There are so many things [laughs]. I’ve been able to meet and hang out with lots of bands, had friendships with lots of bands, I get interviewed on lots of shows I never thought I’d be able to do, I get to travel the world to go see other festivals… Overall, the feeling of seeing my small town getting taken over by tens of thousands of punk rockers and metal heads, it’s a really unique and awesome feeling.

AMBY: Congratulations on that! If you could go back and give seventeen-year-old you some advice about running a company and the festival, what would you tell yourself?

Alex Martel: I should get ready for lots of unexpected things; it’s been a pretty crazy ride. I don’t know if there’s anything that I could tell myself to prepare for this industry. I think you learn as you go along. That’s what I would have told myself.

AMBY: What advice would you give to music lovers who are heading to Rockfest for the first time this year?

Alex Martel: Hurry up to get your tickets!

AMBY: [laughs] Well, that wraps everything up today. Cheers, Alex. It’s really inspirational to see what you’ve accomplished in ten years and I truly with the best with this anniversary concert.

Alex Martel: Thanks so much.

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Follow updates from Amnesia Rockfest here.

Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

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