AJ Maddah interviewed: “Soundwave is an international festival”

On the eve of Soundwave Brisbane, festival boss AJ Maddah took some time out from Twitter to talk to broadcaster Andrew Haug about the mainstream media, his survival tips for the day and why you won’t be seeing a bill full of Australian artists anytime soon.

Relaxed and candid, Maddah certainly didn’t sound like someone who had just gone round-for-round with Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker on Twitter or was about to embark on a run of five sold-out Soundwaves across the country. But he did chat briefly about a similar Twitter stoush with Good Charlotte’s Madden brothers that’s now been resolved. He also reiterated his rather controversial position on booking Australian bands, echoing claims he made at the Face The Music conference last year that “”Soundwave is not Australia’s Got Talent””:

Below is an abridged transcript of Maddah’s conversation with Haug on his 24-hour online rock and metal station It’s published with express permission of the interviewer and you can listen to the full interview below.

Lets talk about the line-up this year. How do you think it fares from previous Soundwave festivals?

Being our 10th festival, with the line-up that it is, it’s definitely a one-off. Everything is a lot bigger and brighter. There’s more lights, there’s more machines that go bling and what have you. It’s been fairly hectic mate. Basically all the bands are in Australia now so we’re feeling good about it.

Every year it gets bigger and bigger, and again this is the sort of music that mainstream media pushes in the corner but every year just keeps thriving…

To be honest we’ve thrived in spite of the mainstream media not giving Soundwave a go, or the type of music we have at the festival. We don’t get any mainstream radio, or media support. We’re the unfashionable hoodlums in the corner – and that’s completely fine with me. It spurs me on to make the show better and better every year. I still drive a 20-year-old shitbox. We put a lot of money back into the festival every year to make it bigger and better for the audience.

Now you are quite infamous among the festival, but a lot of fans don’t get to see you much. Do you get to see any bands while actually running the festival?

Yeah. I see every band at least once through the festival. The trick is: Once the festival’s over I head overseas and that’s where I spend most of the time with our artists. I’m at other festivals and have no cares or responsibilities, I can actually enjoy the show. While in Australia I try to get around to every band even if it is just to make sure they’re being looked after by the production people, and that the crowd are into it. At any given time you’re worrying about five or six other things so you can’t really enjoy it as much as the audience does…

There are some Aussie bands who are starting to crop up on the bill this year including Confession and The Amity Affliction. There’s always been a long-standing argument that there’s got to be more Australian heavy music acts on Soundwave. Are we looking at something that might improve in the years to come in terms of having more Aussie acts on the Soundwave bill?

To be perfectly honest, fuck no. Soundwave is an international festival. We book international bands. Those international bands can be from Australia, New Zealand or Papa New Guinea for all I care. They need to be professional bands that are bands for living and that are doing it seriously. What happened during the early days of Soundwave is that we did put on a lot of Australian bands and we ended up paying a price because a lot of those guys thought, “This is our chance to party”, rather than treating it professionally. We ended up having a lot of problems with people backstage stealing international bands’ riders and various shenanigans, down to one Australian band whose guitarist tried to kill Chino [Moreno] from Deftones because his girlfriend was trying to blow him. It just became really really problematic.

Bands like Parkway Drive, Confession and Amity [Affliction] – these guys tour internationally, have done a lot of supports for international bands. They understand how to behave backstage, how to behave in front of the biggest artists in the world. They respect the festival and they respect the opportunity. That’s primarily what it’s about. You also get a band that prices themselves way out of contention while they’re doing seven other tours and it’s not really providing the audience with anything exclusive or anything fresh. Amity Affliction are welcome anytime, and bands like that that are professional – we’d love to have them. As more Australian bands step up their professional level … you’ll see them on Soundwave.

So I guess the tip is to keep a professional head on stage and behind the scenes as well, to keep the band business in check.

Correct. If it’s a hobby and you’re going to end up being a plumber, then good luck, party on brother. But if you actually want to make it as a band then you need to respect the environment you’re in.

What’s some of your advice for those attending? Some of those attending have never been to a Soundwave festival. What are the tips and pitfalls to avoid?

I discovered something last year. It’s a thing called Salvital. It’s an electrolyte tab that you can buy at Coles or Woolies. If you have a couple spoons of that in a glass of water before you leave for the festival and as soon as you get home, it makes all the difference to your recovery. You’re going in packed full of electrolytes – a bit of sweat, heat, or humidity doesn’t bother you. Check the event website because it differs from state to state. In Queensland the police don’t want people to bring in sunscreen because somebody tried to sneak in drugs in sunscreen one year. Of course as soon as one person fucks something up, the rest of the population get punished.

We’re providing gallons and gallons of free sunscreen to make sure you don’t come home looking like a lobster. At the end of the day the most important thing is stay safe and look after each other. We’re one community, it’s our annual event. It doesn’t matter whether you’re into rock, punk, metal, sad pandas, emo wankers, whatever. We all come together to make this events happen … We need to respect each other and look out for each other and help each other – that’s the only way we can keep going…

One final note, you’re quite renowned for being outspoken on your Twitter account. You’ve solved the little tíªte-í -tíªte with the Madden brothers and there is a petition out there to get the Madden brothers out of Australia. How long do you think they’ll be here for? Because they’re still here.

I don’t think we’re going to get rid of them anytime soon. And quite frankly, leave the fuckers alone. If they weren’t here, who the fuck else is going to flog KFC?

Related: Everything you need to know about Soundwave 2013

Soundwave 2013

Saturday, February 23 – RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane SOLD OUT

Sunday, February 24 – Olympic Park, Sydney SOLD OUT

Friday, March 1 – Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne SOLD OUT

Saturday, March 2 – Bonython Park, Adelaide SOLD OUT

Monday, March 4 – Claremont Showground, Perth SOLD OUT