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Summer Breeze 2017

By: Horst

Metal fans love their festivals. Always have, always will. Big, small, a whole weekend, only a day, it doesn’t really matter. If there’s something to do, we’re there! And we don’t care if it is right next door or hundreds of kilometers away. Every summer counties like Belgium, France, England, Slovenia and especially Germany are flooded with big numbers of Dutch metal fanatics searching for a couple of days of the ultimate metal lifestyle. Now Germany is everybody’s favorite, and that has got everything to do with the easy accessibility, the enormous choice in festivals and of course the great German beer. Wacken Open Air, north of Hamburg, is of course the household name in the metal world, but the competition gets tougher every year. Like what’s happening in the beautiful town of Dinkelsbühl for example, between Stuttgart and Nuremberg, since 2006 home to the Summer Breeze festival that has grown from only 300 visitors in the early beginnings, but nowadays easily draws more than 40,000 metal enthusiasts. Several Lords Of Metal people have visited Summer Breeze in the past, and one thing always stands out in their tales: they are always very positive. Pretty soon Edition 2017 will be held, so about time therefore to get acquainted with some of the driving forces behind this annual metal mega party. Festival boss Achim Ostertag was so kind to take a break from his very busy schedule to have a chat with us.

First of all a small introduction would be nice, because not a lot of folk in Holland will know who Achim Ostertag is. So please tell us who you are and what your function is in the Summer Breeze organization.
I started Summer Breeze with a few friends of mine twenty years ago. Besides that, I did a lot of small concerts and started a small booking agency for smaller bands. In 2001 I started with my label for around ten years. Since Summer Breeze became bigger and bigger I concentrated more and more on the festival, so this is our main job now. I am running the Summer Breeze and apart from booking bands there are many other things that need to be done, too many to mention in detail!

Most people who work in de metal music industry are first and foremost fans of the genre itself, and I guess you’re not an exception to the rule. So I'm curious, when did you come of age (in the music sense), and what bands where to blame for your turn to the metal side?
It started when I got the Guns N’ Roses debut album in 1988 or 1989 for my eleventh or twelfth birthday from a friend. Over the years I got more and more into metal. Of course we listened to Metallica, Nirvana, Megadeth, but also to bands like Helloween, Kreator, Tankard and Sodom. When I started with Summer Breeze I played in a rockband, more like AC/DC and started listening more to death/black metal, so that's why from 1999, 2000 and 2001 on until today we have a lot of darker bands in the billings!

The tale goes that you founded Summer Breeze because there were not enough possibilities to play with your own band. Is this really what happened, or was it more a combination of reasons that you decided to give it a go?
The story is true, I was playing in a band and there were no festivals around. So I decided I do a festival with some friends of mine and have my own band playing the headliner spot. But the second year (two years later) we were opener only, so I thought it would be better to focus on the business behind the stage.

At the time you organized your first festival the biggest name in Europe when it came to large scale metal festivals was of course Dynamo Open Air in Eindhoven (The Netherlands), which at its peak drew a crowd of over 100,000 people. At the same time you started Summer Breeze also Wacken Open Air was already a big name. Did you ever envision your festival becoming one of the big players in the European metal festival scene?
I never thought that Summer Breeze would be that big one day. Like I said, it was just a festival for my band. Of course we dreamt about having an Open Air one day and maybe something like 5.000 people, but I thought even that might be just a dream.

Doing something for the very first time is always a bit scary, and usually a lot of mistakes are made. What was the most important lesson you learned with your first edition of Summer Breeze? And what would you never ever do again?
From the first festival I learned that you better have enough security guys hired, even with only 300 visitors hahaha. I think you learn from every festival, even now we are learning every year and changing the progress.

In the meantime Summer Breeze has grown into one of the biggest and most successful metal festivals in Europe, which draws about 40,000 visitors yearly (info from Wikipedia, correct me if I'm wrong). That's quite an achievement, given the competition in and outside of Germany. Can you explain what it is that has made Summer Breeze the success what it is today where other festivals have failed?
I think it was very important that we grew in small steps and kept kind of a family feeling. We still don't have the big headliners and so it is kind of the festival itself being the headliner. But I am also sure nowadays this wouldn't work again. I think we started early enough and did the right steps at the right time, so there was also a lot of lucky situations like moving the festival ground in 2006.

Summer Breeze nowadays takes place near Dinkelsbühl, a small town with about 11,000 inhabitants. You are located there since 2006, so I guess the town doesn't mind at all that they're flooded by heavy metal fans once every year. Now on your website a complete section is dedicated to the town, so I guess the relationship is quite good. Or are there still complaints every year?
The relationship is really good, we made a lot of good friends and there are so many people there helping and working with us. Of course some were a little bit afraid in the beginning but I think most of them changed their mind after the first one or two festivals.

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Maybe a silly questions, but here in Holland we're used to festivals that run the whole weekend, including the Sunday. A lot of German festivals however don't run on Sundays. Why's that?
I think there are still a lot of festivals here who also have the Sunday included. But I think when we started with the three days, we were pretty much the only festival doing three days from Thursday to Saturday. Wacken was only two days around that time. I always thought the Sunday is good for travelling home and recover, before going back to work on Monday. Some festivals might have changed that or had the same thoughts here hehehe.

Recently you've announced that all the bands for the main stages are booked, and I must say this year's selection sounds great. I mean, Moonspell, Nile, Epica, Amorphis, Amon Amarth, Dark Tranquility, Delain, Children Of Bodom, Korn, Hatebreed, Kreator, Megadeth, OverKill, Obituary and lots more, it's an awesome list that has got something for every fan of every metal niche. I think you covered the whole metal spectrum quite well this year, or are there bands you would have liked to book but where unavailable?
Of course there are always tons of bands who are not available and you wanted to book first. But I am more than satisfied with the result of this year’s billing. And I am already a little bit afraid of what I should do in 2018 hahaha.

According to my colleague Wim Strijbosch, who visited your festival a couple of times, Summer Breeze Open Air is by far the best organized festival in Europe (and yes, he has been to A LOT of festivals in his life). Now you will hear that quite often I guess, and that is quite nice, but the real challenge of course is maintaining those standards and even improving them. How do you and your staff stay focused so every year will be an even better year?
Wow, thanks a lot. To be honest, we don't hear that often, maybe it is because negative feedback gets more attention. But we do our best, to do the best organization possible. We are all metal fans, we all went and still go to tons of festivals and we all have our ideas what has to be better and so I think we got a real high standard from ourselves over the years. But of course this is the biggest challenge, that everything runs smooth. And some things can and will happen on a festival in that size, which some people dislike. There will be at least one unfriendly security guy or there will be at least one totally dirty mobile toilette or a beer which is not cold enough... And if too many of these things happen to one of our guests, he will be really pissed and he will think this is the worst organization ever. So we try to find out, who is the unfriendly security guy and give him a break and we try to clean our toilettes as often as possible and we hope to always have cold beer!

All the information potential visitors need to know about Summer Breeze can be found on Summer Breeze Homepage and it's social media channels, that's very well been taken care off. So know it's time for you to convince every Dutch headbanger to come to Summer Breeze this year. Sell it as best you can!
Holland and Germany both have a long common history in metal. Both country's metal scenes exist very close to each other. That was the case in the early days and it still is. Despite the fact that we do like the Dutch for their attitude it would be great to get another lesson in taking things easier! As metal does not exist by borders the Summer Breeze is a perfect place to party for all metal fans, no matter where from. Especially this year there is a lot of good reasons to come by and celebrate with us. You never know who you may bump into, who you get to know and become good friend with. Don't miss this opportunity, all under the flag of metal! What else would you need? And hey, we do have good beer!


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