Interview mit Crt Batagelj von Tolminator Metal Fest

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The Metaldays have disappeared from Tolmin – but metal hasn’t: With the TOLMINATOR, a new festival will take place at the tried and tested location from July 25 to 28, 2023 – but on a much smaller scale. Why they decided to launch a new festival in the first place, why exactly in Tolmin and why metalheads should consider TOLMINATOR when planning their vacations, festival co-founder and booker Crt Batagelj tells us in this interview.

TOLMINATOR is a new festival – what makes you special, why should fans definitely consider your event in their vacation plans?
The TOLMINATOR festival is quite unique because of the venue itself. Many visitors at the previous festivals were amazed by the beauty of the nature surrounding the event. Now with a lesser capacity of 5.000 Metal fans, this will just be even more noticeable. Tolmin, Slovenia is known for stunning mountain landscapes, breathtaking Soča River, a beautiful array of tree-lined camping area, Mediterranean weather and endless headbanging music… And this is where TOLMINATOR steps in to follow the tradition of metal festivals in Tolmin.

The festival landscape is already quite dense, the offer in all countries is very large. Why did you still decide to put on another metal festival?
This year it will be the 20th. edition from the first Metal festival held in Tolmin. In these two decades the town of Tolmin and the venue itself became traditional for the local Metal community and also for many Metal fans from abroad. So many stories and relationships emerged in this place, so we just didn’t want to let it go. We are quite positive that the Metal fans will want to return to this epic place. We want to create a festival where lines between fans and bands are blurred, with a friendly and laid back feel. Let’s have some f**cking fun.

The area is known for spending a lot of time on the beach – what’s your timetable for the concerts?
We are quite happy with the 5.000 capacity, as we wanted to make a boutique version from the start. The reason for this is mostly that we have seen how it looks if you accommodate in this venue 12.000 people or 5.000 (like on Punk Rock Holiday festival for instance). The difference is huge, as even though the venue can handle the mass, it’s quite crowded, queues everywhere, blockages on various paths between the stages, and it’s harder to control garbage… The 5.000 capacity version is much more relaxed and a better way to enjoy your vacation days.
Of course the current inflation and the post-pandemic issues the live music industry is facing, is not making things easy. With a 5.000 capacity, we are quite limited with finances as the production of the festival itself became a huge expense, as transport prices skyrocketed recently. But we still want our visitors to have a great experience here, that means we will not cut down expenses on things like toilets, showers, food stalls or anything else that could ruin the experience we are aiming for.

The billing is genre-wise quite mixed so far – what are your criteria for booking?
Basically we are booking the bands that we like and we see potential in them. There are some bigger names that are working great on local club shows in Slovenia, there are some old school Metal legends that we always like to see, younger ‘up and coming bands‘  and newcomers. For the first edition we have given quite some slots on the second stage to the local Metal label On-Parole, so we will host many great bands from Slovenia. For the next editions, bands will be able to fill up an application at this year’s festival info point and have a chance to play.
Genre-wise we are not restricting ourselves, however you might find the lineup a bit undergroundish and without many power metal acts. This is mostly because the bigger bands from this genre are mostly out of our price range.

Which band are you personally looking forward to the most?
I’ve been promoting shows for 21 years now, so there is hardly a band I haven’t seen live yet. One of the bands I haven’t seen yet are Kvaen, I love their debut album. It’s always nice to see Dying Fetus, this time they will play without a barrier in front of the stage, that should be super fun. This might as well be one of the last shows of Holy Moses, so I’m really glad we have them on the lineup. And of course, since I’m a Motörhead fan, having Phil Campbell on the lineup is truly an honour. 31 years rocking alongside Lemmy is just unimaginable. These are just mentions that spontaneously popped out of my head, I guess I could write something for each band that I’ve booked.

Tolminator Metal Fest 2023 Banner

You present yourselves as an environmentally conscious festival – how far does that go, what actions have you taken to make the festival environmentally friendly?
Probably the most environmentally conscious thing was to reduce the festival capacity, as a huge crowd takes a toll on the nature around, whether you want it or not. Otherwise we implemented festival cups that are reused, we have many cleaning teams on site so the place stays clean all the time. We have an idea to make all the festivals in this area Zero waste, but we will need some government funding to reach that. Unfortunately it’s not cheap to be environmentally friendly, but it’s nevertheless the right path.

How is the catering planned on site – will there be more of a small or large food offering, and what about vegetarian/vegan food?
We are still in talks with the food stalls, but we will definitely have vegan and vegetarian options as well. I believe covering all the dietary requirements for every visitor is a very important point.

 What prices will fans have to expect on the festival site – what does a beer cost, what does a festival shirt cost?
At the moment I don’t have this information, as we will be trying to have the same prices on all festivals that are happening there this Summer, so there is still talks to be had. If I have to guess, beer will be from 4 to 5 euro, while festival Tshirts about 30 euro.

Will there be signing sessions or other meet & greet opportunities, or will the bands be on the road anyway?
I expect most of the band members will be watching other bands. That’s one of the cool things about the more underground lineup. I think fans will be able to meet the artists in a more natural way. In case there will be a lot of requests to do meet&greets, we will of course do them in the future.

The location is the same where the Punk Rock Holidays take place and where Metaldays used to be held. The Metaldays had to vacate its site near Tolmin and move because of a large-scale construction project of a bypass road – why can the TOLMINATOR – significantly under the slogan „Metal stays in Tolmin“ now take place there after all?
Punk Rock Holiday festival is the co-owner of TOLMINATOR, we went into this adventure together, as they know everything regarding the venue production in Tolmin, while me and Matej (copromoter) know a lot about our Metal. It’s a nice symbiosis. Otherwise I can’t talk much regarding Punk Rock Holiday as they are just friends and partners, I myself am not involved in their company.
The road actually is just one of the problems that made it hard to have a festival of 12.000 capacity on this site. The major issue was that the local community of Tolmin wasn’t happy with the festival, so the capacity restriction was made by the Mayor of Tolmin. In my opinion this tension could have been easily avoided, but there was not much interest in doing that. TOLMINATOR is a 5.000 capacity festival, so the new Mayor of Tolmin gave us the green light, as he doesn’t seem to see a problem with us, until we respect the rules. We intend to cooperate much more with the local community, after all we are doing this on their doorsteps.

I have only heard about it, but there are said to have been problems with thefts at the Metaldays from time to time, partly by organized gangs. How do you take care here, so that the visitors of the TOLMINATOR can celebrate carefree and without worries?
The thefts are mostly a thing of the past, however our security is always aware that some form of organized crime can enter the festival. Probably the lower capacity will help to avoid this as well, since the criminals usually target bigger festivals. Our security team is very well connected with the local police force, so usually they respond really quick to any related issues.

The site is also designed to spend a lot of time swimming and „vacationing“ – what will your schedule look like, when do the concerts start, how many shows are there per day?
At the moment the plan is to start with the second stage at around noon, while the main stage will start at around 17:00 and it will finish at 1:00 in the morning. We will also have some afterparties indoors until early morning hours, for people that want to party.
The second stage is still planned to be at the beach if the local community will allow that, otherwise it will be near the camping site. Regarding swimming, the beach is located just a few minutes of walking away from the main area. So you can always have a jump in the river whenever you wish. The other sightseeings and activities around Tolmin might take a bit more of your time. If you don‘t want to miss any of the bands, we suggest you do them early in the morning or on the early arrival days prior to the live shows that start on Tuesday. Early arrival is scheduled to be on Sunday and Monday. We will probably have 13 to 14 bands playing each day and DJs or maybe even some different live acts at the afterparty.

Generally speaking, festivals are getting longer and longer – even TOLMINATOR has live bands on four days. Why do you think long festivals are trendy, respectively why was it important for you to schedule your festival directly so long?
For me personally a two or three day festival is enough, but it would be a pity not doing it a bit longer, because of the beautiful venue we will be at. Fans of Tolmin know about it and usually schedule their full week vacation for this.

Besides the classic festival, metal cruises are also becoming more and more fashionable – this is perhaps an attempt to combine „festival“ even more with „vacation“. What do you think about this trend – is it still „Metal“?
I think also we Metalheads deserve a good vacation that is combined with Metal music. I think it is good for us to have different options. Some fans want bigger names and don’t mind the crowd, so they travel to Hell Fest or Wacken. Some fans enjoy the cruise, leisure and exotic destinations so mixing this with Metal became fun. While some fans enjoy a natural paradise of a venue and the boutique festival feeling – that’s what we provide.

Thanks for your time and answers – the last words are yours!
Thank you for the questions! We hope that some of your readers will show interest in our TOLMINATOR festival. 5000 Metal fans, 50+ Metal bands, four days, two rivers, … fun! You’re all welcome to join us!

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