Interview mit Crt Batagelj von Tolminator Metal Fest

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The TOLMINATOR METAL FEST in Slovenia is going into its second round this year. We discuss with organizer Crt Batagelj what can be improved on this year’s successful debut – despite the bad weather – what the cancellation of MetalDays means for TOLMINATOR and what the future holds for the festival in Tolmin.

TOLMINATOR is taking place for the second time this year. Let’s first look back at the first edition: Were you happy with how it went?
Yes, I think we successfully did our first edition of the TOLMINATOR festival. We had some great bands playing and we introduced the TOLMINATOR mascot. Of course, as with almost every first edition we were far from the sold-out status, but I think everyone that was present had a great time. This showed quickly with the number of the early bird tickets sold at the festival itself. We can also see the good rumor spreading now, which results in a good ticket sale already for the second edition.

Was there anything that didn’t work out perfectly and that you want to improve this year?
One thing for sure was the weather, which you can’t do much about. But we had good communication with the visitors to warn them about the storms at the festival start. The other days were OK, though. Although me and Matej have more than 20 years of experience in the festival and club shows production, we never had a complete overview what is exactly happening in the backgrounds here, but we learned a lot this past edition. Now we know which departments need more work on, so it should go smoother this year. We have many more plans about upgrading various festival parts, but we will do this step by step. Expect some new things this year!

What is your general promise to metalheads who are considering attending TOLMINATOR? What makes your festival so special compared to others?
The festival location promotes itself. Everyone that was already in these parts knows that it’s an ideal holiday location, which you would need to pay a lot just to stay at the place. Just to describe the location – imagine the main stage between the trees and the second stage at a beach where two rivers are colliding, behind all of this there is the mountain scenery provided by the Alps. Combined with the shows, other cool Metal fans, various activities etc. this should be your perfect holiday.

TOLMINATOR has a capacity of 5,000 visitors. How many visitors are you expecting this year? Will it be sold out?
Personally, I don’t think it’s going to be sold out, as it’s still just the second edition. It can, however, still happen. We are at about 60% sold at the moment.

You already have a very colorful billing. Like last year, my question is: Which show are you personally looking forward to the most?
Thank you! This question is always hard to answer as it involves my personal taste and the frequency of seeing a particular band live. Last year we were more Death Metal oriented, this year I guess Thrash Metal took the lead, as we have two headliners Testament and Exodus, alongside it will be great to see Tankard, Asphyx and Toxic Holocaust from this genre. I always had big respect for Behemoth and I will really enjoy Dark Tranquillity as I haven’t seen them for years. Can’t wait to see Electric Wizard, Primordial, Gaerea and Misery Index. Oh, and of course my friends from Gutalax and Milking The Goatmachine – both bands know how to throw a party. Actually, the more I think about it, I like them all, as otherwise I wouldn’t book them in the first place. I and Matej were talking the other day, that we really want to see everything, but of course we will get called to the office all the time. The curse of being a festival promoter and a fan.

Compared to other festivals, you work extremely hard with social media, posting lots of information, but also memes and the like. How important is that, or why do you think that’s the right strategy for a metal festival?

As I said before, we are working on events for more than 20 years, and we got this promotional routine already – how to get as much exposure as possible with a lesser budget. Regarding the info posts and communication with the fans, I think this is very important, as I would wish for that if I was a visitor as well. We have most of the questions answered on our website on the Festival ABC section, but even with that some points might not be completely understandable, so me and Matej are personally replying to everyone that has questions. With the memes, it’s another story. When we said we are going into this festival adventure, we agreed with each other that we really don’t want to make it look serious and generic. That’s how the TOLMINATOR was born, an antihero, a cartoon, basically a metalhead that wants to party and have a good time. That’s pretty much our whole philosophy.

Last year there were severe floods in Slovenia at the time of your and other festivals. How did you take precautions for this year?
Yes, we had to cut the first day headliner Dying Fetus early because of all the water on the stage, and there were several storms on the early arrival dates. We have two buildings at the festival area – which are meant for the comfort upgrade zone and the after-party. When we had the storm alarm, we quickly noticed all the fans through social networks to get prepared and move to these buildings until the storms pass. We had a many great reviews on how we handled the situation. Weather problems can be always expected at open air events, and you can’t do much about it, but you can be prepared for various scenarios. I can say we have these scenarios already planned.

Another festival – MetalDays – was cancelled for 2024, and to be honest, it’s questionable whether they’ll hold it again, isn’t it? Is it an advantage for you to be the only metal festival in the area now?
I won’t lie that it’s not better to be the only one in the country, but I think the whole concept is quite different. We have this boutique idea of the festival with more Extreme Metal bands, while there you could see many big names. It’s quite different doing a festival for 5000 people or 15,000.

On the other hand, I’ve read that TOLMINATOR also has an „expiry date“: You announced on Facebook in March that 2027 will be the last year for the TOLMINATOR Metal Fest in Tolmin. That gives you planning security for the time being, but at the same time it’s a shame because you can’t build anything long-term. How are you dealing with this, and what are your plans for 2028?
For someone that doesn’t know the background, this news surely doesn’t seem good, but actually it is. Before this news, we never knew how long we could stay on these grounds, so it was always a bit of stress after the festival season ended each year. Now we at least know we have a few years without any worries. The expiry date is also the expiry date of the mayor of Tolmin due to local elections. In reality, he can’t promise more than his mandate as a mayor. I believe that if we follow the rules demanded by the municipality of Tolmin and if the local will be happy, this story can go on also in the future.

You also announced a substantial increase in the festival tax-alternatively known as the tourist tax-which has risen from 7,500 to a staggering 40,000 EUR starting this year. What does that mean for you or the festival?
This is currently the biggest problem, as we didn’t have this new tax planned in the overall festival expense and the ticket price. We will have a meeting with the other two festivals soon, to discuss what can be done regarding this. I expect all three festivals will do the same thing.

In general, everything is getting more expensive – what about the price development of the TOLMINATOR, especially when it comes to food and drinks on the site?
Yes, the prices are insane lately. The production expenses of the festivals in Tolmin skyrocketed in the past two years. I don’t think the food and drinks will get more expensive than last year, though. If they will, the difference won’t be more than 50 cents. But for now, it is not planned.

For the second stage, you only accept applications from smaller bands directly on site at the info point – not digitally. Why is that important to you?
The reason is mostly to give back to the Metal fans community who are frequent visitors to Tolmin. So, fans attending the festival can present their band to the other fans of the festival. We noticed this way also more people come to check the early bands, as they are interested in seeing their friends play. The Metal community in Tolmin is really just a big happy family of Metalheads.

Thank you very much for your time and your answers – the last words are yours!
Thank you for the really cool and up-to-date questions regarding the TOLMINATOR festival! If you need a proper Metal Holiday, TOLMINATOR is the place to be! Stay Metal!

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