Firefest has risen from the aches of the Gods to be one of the hot new burgers on the rock Ďní roll BBQ. Firefest 111 returns to the Nottingham Rock City and its Winger who will light up the sky as the headline act. Itís an explosive line-up that also features Gotthard, Bonfire, Fair Warning, Wig Wam, Treat, and NEXX Its not often you can interview the editor of a magazine you write for (Fireworks) so letís break out the Bonfire toffee as we go head to head with the ED Bruce Mee!

BB's: Is it fair to say that Firefest moving to the Nottingham Rock City last year really lit the touch paper for the event?

Bruce: Well yes, in terms of audience attendance, but it didnít cover the costs.

BB's: You were responsible for getting House Of Lords back together tell us how you set about to achieve this and what was really in it for the band?

Bruce: Well, Kieran (co promoter) simply asked them all, and I guess the timing was right. Although that's another story right there, because the other guys didn't know James was already making another HoL album with a different line-up. But the classic line-up got the live album they always wanted, and had a total blast playing!!

BB's: How far in front do you have to plan this festival?

Bruce: Typically 6 months which is not very long!!

BB's: Do you choose bands on pulling power or have you added bands because you want to see them play live in the UK again?

Bruce: I guess we are a little biased towards bands we like ourselves. But that has to be tempered with bands that have pulling power. I was actually a little disappointed at the turn-out for Firefest, considering the bands. Also, when handing out flyers to the Dio audience at Manchester for FF2, I was amazed how many people didn't know House of Lords. That was an eye-opener. We need to have a headliner most people KNOW.

BB's: There's never been much profit for the promoters so why take the gamble?

Bruce: Thereís never been ANY profit so far. But we always hope 'The next timeí!! Plus, we love to see these bands over here.

BB's: Is it just me going blind or are there no UK acts on this year Firefest3 and how can you justify that?

Bruce: Personally, FF3 was a little crazy! We made offer to quite a few of our favorite European bands, hoping that maybe ONE would say yes. And they ALL said yes!! That was brilliant, but made running order a little difficult, This also left no room on the bill for UK bands. But let me say, a UK band WAS asked, and would have headlined. But it didn't come off.

BB's: thereís no doubting the quality and choice of some great bands on this years Firefest 111 but surely that's telling the world the British rock well has truly dried up?

Bruce: Apart from Thunder and Magnum, what other UK acts would pull in a large audience?? And many of these UK acts tour the UK anyway, so a Firefest appearance would be nothing special. I have tried very hard to get Bob Catley doing a set that includes some very old Magnum stuff. I'm hoping to wear him down eventually!!

BB's: The hotels are pretty booked up it seems the fans are making plans to make a weekend of it how are the advanced ticket sales doing?

Bruce: So far, sales for THIS show are amazing. And so many people coming from abroad - one guy from Italy just bought 10 tickets!! There must be 30 coming from Sweden already. We have probably sold over 500 tickets as of early September, and the adverts haven't even hit the magazines yet. So hopefully this month will se a lot more. Rock City already sold double for FF3 what they sold in total for FF2!!

BB's: Are there any bands you approached that said No to Firefest and who are they?

Bruce: Well, that wouldn't be right to mention, as we don't want people thinking what might have been, and these bands might play FF4. What I can tell you is that Nightranger had agreed to play FF2, and we even changed the date to accommodate them .then they let us down at last minute.

BB's: I suppose many acts are now approaching you to be on the bill?

Bruce: LOTS!!! And usually from America. It costs us so much on flights and Hotels.

BB's: We should mention Kieran who does a really great job. Are you joint promoters of the Firefest? Bruce I would say yes, although Kieran was definitely the one who got the ball rolling, I prefer to stay in the background.

BB's: You took the show to Europe how did that come about and did you attend?

Bruce: The Greek company approached Kieran and asked for some of the bands to go over. Itís as simple as that. I didn't go but I heard the show went well, although the attendance could have been better.

BB's: How do you find time to run the Fireworks magazine and put shows like this together?

Bruce: We have such a great team at Fireworks that the mag almost runs itself now. Having Phil Ashcroft as reviews editor certainly helps out massively, although I think it will make Phil go greyer a lot sooner!!!

BB's: The magazine has a bit of a cult following now but surely it should be in the high street shops is there a reason it isn't?

Bruce: Yes. We were quoted a fee of £20,000 JUST for having the distributor be kind enough to put our mag in WH Smith. Plus, you need a min print run of 15,000 copies to have such a deal. So if your mag doesn't sellÖÖ. and you don't know for up to 4 months about the returns. Basically you lose your shirt!! That's why unsuccessful mags last at least 3 issues. It takes that long to find out sales of issue one.

BB's: What bands would you like to bring to future Firefest and will this event continue?

Bruce: Oh man, too many, but we have to remain at a certain level. We will never attract the really big guns, which is a shame. Will the event continue? Well, let the dust settle from FF3 and we will see how we stand,

BB's: We "Can't Get Enough" of Winger, so tell us how you went about trying to get them to headline?

Bruce: Well, there were two or three bands we were thinking about as potential headliners for FF3. I'd heard that Winger, the band, was getting back together, so through our previous contacts we approached the band. Turned out they were wanting to tour Europe around the same time, so we just slotted Firefest in around their plans - or probably more likely, Winger arranged their tour around Firefest 3, as we agreed on an exclusive UK show for the festival. Kip and Reb have always been cool guys to deal with, so it was pretty straight forward.

BB's: We saw Kip do an incredible acoustic set at the Gods so he's no stranger to the event. Did this help, having booked him before?

Bruce: Well, I'm not sure how much it helped from his side. I know Reb knew about us becasue his website guy approached us last year, pretty desperate for us to bring Reb and his band over. But that didn't make financial sense, no matter how much we loved the guy. From Kip's previous acoustic sets at The Gods, I knew for sure how much the audience were into him, so I figured Winger, the band, would be a pretty safe bet.

BB's: Had Winger decided already to get back together or was this another Firefest instigated re-union?

Bruce: Nah, the guys had already been talking about getting back together for quite a while. I think everything just kind of fell into place at the right time. Call it fate. Their album is released virtually on the same day as the festival - how perfect is that??

BB's: Talk us through the rest of the line up and how you decided on order of appearance? What in particular do you like about each band?

Bruce: Well, believe it or not, Nexx were the first band down on the bill. Their record company, Angelmilk, approached us and asked if we would have the band open the show if they brought them over. We all love the band - Patricia has such an awesome voice - and of course we had them at the pre-show last time. So really, that was an easy answer - let's have the guys on the big stage. Sure!! And Andy Bramall and his label have been very supportive of the event as a whole, so hopefully everyone gains. Regarding the rest of the bands, we just made offers to a bunch of our favorite artists, and as I said elsewhere, we never expected to get more than one, never mind them all! Wig Wam are my favorite band of the moment - their new album is just an amazing amalgam of everything I love about 80's melodic rock, and their live show is just pure entertainment. Getting them over here for the first time, doing an exclusive UK show, is a dream! And of course, there's Bonfire. These guys were my favorite band for a good few years back in the 80's, and 'Fireworks' is still my favorite album - hence the name of the magazine (although to be fair, that was Seb Kozak's suggestion). I saw Bonfire live in Germany a few years back, and they were still a great live band. Some of their latter-day releases have been disappointing, but the new album 'Double X' is right back on track. So we figured due to the connection. We should really have the boys over to play at the festival named after one of their own albums! Fair Warning... Well, what can you say? I never thought I'd ever see these guys play live, so when they announced the reformation, Kieran still had a good contact with Tommy Heart. A quick Email, a quick acceptance, and wow, the line-up was looking amazing! Treat have always been one of my favorite Scandinavian bands. 'Dream Hunter' and 'Organized Crime' are both immense albums. I was so happy when they reformed recently, and then I heard the reports from Sweden Rock. People were telling me 'You MUST bring Treat over. They were AWESOME!' Well, that was good enough for me, and we approached the band directly through our contacts, and again they were more than happy to play. I think, speaking purely as a fan, this line-up will be the most amazing concert I have ever been to. EVERY band I totally adore!!

BB's: we know you were talking to Jean Beavouir about COT playing. How come that didn't come off?

Bruce: Well actually, I was speaking to Micki Free. I interviewed him for the magazine a few months ago, and was surprised when he said he would be up to playing with Jean in Crown of Thorns again, but with the line-up that played over here originally. That band was one of the most exciting live bands I have ever seen, so of course we were interested. Unfortunately Jean was too busy with his other commitments. But that possibility is still open for the future.

BB's: Given the ever growing reputation of the Firefest would you now feel in a position to approach acts like Michael Schenker, UFO, Dio or similar bands as headliners?

Bruce: Thatís a definite thought. But headline bands for Firefest really need to be something a little different/special. I love Dio, but he's toured here twice in last 2 years. So he would not pull a big crowd to a Firefest as a headliner (unless he was to play the whole of the 'Rising' album .. which is actually something I've been thinking about...). But really, we need to get bands over who have not played here for a while - bands that will generate some interest.

BB's: You have made this a one day main event, is this the future of the Firefest or would you consider a two day show if there was just too many acts that you couldn't say no to?

Bruce: 2 days is always a possibility, but we'd just have to make sure we had the line-ups that warranted it. We often has 2 day events with The Gods, and the line-ups for the AOR fans was fantastic, but for your average Joe rock fan, they wouldn't even have heard of most of these bands. So the chances of having a 2 day line-up with sufficiently well known bands to pull in the crowds... I don't know. I doubt it, but that would obviously be the next logical step if the event grew in popularity.

BB's: Which band are you most looking forward to seeing on the day?

Bruce: Oh man, all of them. But if pressed, I'd have to say Wig Wam and Treat, two bands I've never seen before and whose albums I totally love. And reports of their live shows already have me salivating!!

BB's: Last year was the most relaxed we have ever seen you at an event you have helped to stage. Is this because you had the numbers not to lose money or because everything was running so smooth?

Bruce: Well, I don't know about 'not losing money' because it did, even though at the time I thought we were actually going to make a little money. But really, once you get to the actual day, most of the organizing is in the hands of others. STS Touring have been our production team since the first Gods back in 1993, so 13 years brings a definite working compatibility. These guys know there stuff, and by now, they know everything about us and how we operate. And Kieran is a total rock when it comes to organization and communications, and with Tony Marshall as tour/show manager, we don't have to worry about things not getting done! Basically, we have a superb team working really well together, so things tend not to go wrong. When I think back to The Gods 1993, I just shake my head. But hey, it's a learning curve.

BB's: Everyone is always getting excited about an AOR/melodic rock revival but to be honest the Rock City should be rammed with Winger fans alone so surely this is the one you can finally say hey we made a profit?

Bruce: Well Dez, if it isn't, then it's definitely over.

BB's: Hey why not drag Angels arse over here?

Bruce: Angel were actually begging us last year to bring them over. But at that point, we didn't think it financially viable. Starz also wanted to come over. And believe me, these are two bands I'd LOVE to see over here in the UK. So depending on the outcome of FF3, we still might have the chance.

BB's: Any bands that you would really love to bring over?

Bruce: Yeah, but I don't want to mention names, because people will then be expecting these bands to play at FF4. On a personal level, one band I'd love to see over here would be Skagarack - love that band!! I'd also like to have UDO play, but I think I'd have to fight some people to get my way on that, haha.

BB's: Just like the Baileyís beer fridge, the Nottingham Rock City should be full to bursting. Fans keep saying rock is coming back but to even survive we have to support people in the business like Bruce Mee. Now letís look at the amazing line up again and kick yourselves hard in the ass if you ainít got a ticket!

Fair Warning
Wig Wam

These are the only UK shows for all acts appearing!

Firefest site
Interview by The Bailey Brothers,
(c) 2006