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Interview: BRUCE MEE (Fireworks/Firefest)



Bruce Mee is the founder and editor of the cult bi-monthly rock magazine Fireworks as well as the co-organiser of the melodic rock festival Firefest. Suffice to say, he is well and truly dedicated to the cause of promoting melodic rock/AOR in the UK.

Why did you decide to set up Fireworks?

Well a few years before, we had being doing Boulevard Fanzine - which led on directly to Now & Then Records. That eventually folded around 1994 so we could spend more time on the record company. Art designer Sebastian Kozak (cover artist for Crown of Thorns, Ten etc.,) was involved in another fanzine in 1999, but was getting rather frustrated with the editor.

Rather than give up completely, we discussed the idea of doing a brand new magazine - and doing it properly. Seb came up with the title - after the Bonfire album of same name - and the idea of the magazine was to promote the music we both loved. Seb has since given up designing the magazine, and we have James Gaden on board now.

Do you have any ambitions for the magazine?

Well, ideally we'd like to have larger distribution and bigger circulation. But we were quoted £25,000 by a large distributor just to have the pleasure of them handling out title! That kind of money is ludicrous, so we just have to build it up by word of mouth, internet, etc.

I really do think our magazine is a wonderful companion for the melodic hard rock scene, and with our free CDs (3 in last issue!!) we try and promote the best of the new, upcoming bands as well as those established acts.

Besides, are there any other publications that promote melodic rock/AOR so enthusiastically?

Well sure! There are lots of wonderful magazines in Germany like Rock-It and Breakout that do a fantastic job of promoting classic and melodic rock - just a shame I can't read them! Then there's Rock Report website, located in Belgium, as well as several other enthusiastic sites. And not forgetting internet radio stations like Arfm! We just need a little more support from the major media outlets.

What do you think of state of rock journalism/magazines in the UK?

Hmmmmm ... I used to really like Classic Rock, but lately it seems to be regurgitating a lot of old articles from years ago. They still do feature new acts, but not enough melodic rock for my liking.

I still can't believe they have NEVER interviewed Gary Hughes … even when Ten were voted #2 in the 'Brightest Hope For 2000' with the 'Spellbound' album.

The actual quality of the articles is fine - I just wish they'd cover a wider range. I used to be an avid reader and collector of Kerrang! And Metal Hammer - but gave up on those mags in the mid 90's as suddenly classic rock and melodic rock became a thing of amusement for the writers that remained - talk about kicking the teeth of the fans that established your magazines and made you what you are.!

Can you give me a brief history of Firefest?

Well … as most people know, Firefest is basically a follow on from the Gods festivals that I used to help arrange with Mark Ashton when we were running Now & Then Records.

After the label folded, Kieran Dargan wanted to re-establish The Gods as a melodic rock festival - but one that didn't have to represent any singular label (The Gods was mainly tied to N&T and Frontiers artists).

We couldn't come to an agreement with Mark, so Kieran and myself put in the money for Firefest 1, which took place in Bradford. That lost about £5000.

We moved to Nottingham Rock City after that, as there is a large and loyal rock following there, and Rock City is one of the best known rock venues in the country. Firefest 2 also lost several £1000 but FF3 and FF4 broke even, and with the advent of filming many of the sets for future DVD releases, we might actually start making some money in the future.

In terms of organising Firefest who are the people behind the scenes?

Kieran does most of the dealing with the bands - he truly does have the gift of the gab! I handle all the money aspects, as well as dealing with the tickets, the t-shirts, band flights, and various other issues.

Kieran's wife Evelyn deals with the guest lists and tickets on the day. Tony Marshall is our stage manager, although he does so much more - organising all the band pick-ups and drop-offs, as well as making sure the day runs smoothly - and on TIME! His wife Amber looks after the merch on the day. Sue Ashcroft organizes the hotels for everyone, her husband Phil is our press officer. Dave 'Bunt' Jones and Paul Keane are our drivers - who never seem to sleep!

What has been your favourite Firefest line-up so far?

Ooooo ... difficult. At this point, I'd say Firefest 3 as so many of the bands were personal favourites and most played blinders on the day. It was sooo cool having Bonfire appear, and Claus Lessmann telling the audience how proud he was to be playing at a festival run by a magazine named after one of their albums! But I definitely believe Firefest 5 will blow all the others out of the water!

What is your dream line-up for Firefest?

Pretty much what we have for Firefest 5! Some bands let us down who I'd loved to have seen - maybe still will. Everyone would love to see Giant, but I don't see that ever happening. I'd love to see Night Ranger, Cinderella, Ten, UDO/Accept, Stage Dolls, Skagarack, Joshua…

A large part of the fun of Firefest is getting your favourite bands to reform and play, which was what we have done with Valentine, White Sister, Treat and most of the original line-up of House of Lords. That gives us satisfaction - that we are doing something positive for the scene.

Another spin-off from Firefest has been the new albums being made by both Tyketto and Valentine, and those are directly a result of the bands enjoying themselves so much at our festival and seeing how much the fans still care.

Is it hard trying to get bands on board and commit to the gig?

I guess initially, it was. But once the festival has earned a good name, it is easier. However, with a capacity audience of 1600 at Rock City, there is only a certain amount you can offer bands. We DID try and go after bigger names for FF5 - we would have moved to a bigger venue had we succeeded.

But when you start dealing with agents and managers, it makes the job that much more difficult, and a lot of those bigger bands are purely in it for the money - which is kinda sad.

One of the reasons we are seriously considering this as the last Firefest is simply that we have run out of bands to have play. Even this time a lot of people were moaning that they'd already seen Firehouse, Danger Danger and Tyketto previously.

Well, let's hear what they say when they have NO show to complain about!! Having said that, we still have had far more bands wanting to play than we can possibly have on … but it is the headline bands that really attract the crowds, as we saw with FM last year, and Winger the year before at FF3.

Firefest V is held at Nottingham Rock City on October 25th and 26th. Further details can be found at while details on the magazine can be found at


Interview © 2008 Neil Daniels. All rights reserved.


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