Heart of Steel: Interviews

Glenn Harveston
Organizer of ProgPower USA


 Interviewed by EvilG
Thanks to Ice Maiden, Los Muertos, Crashtest, 
The Punishment Due, etc. for question suggestions!

Glenn, we spoke about Metal-Rules.com interviewing you last year right around the time of PP III. Since you are gearing up for promotion for Prog Power IV, I thought now would be a good time to get the word out in metal rules about PP with this interview. 

Glenn, although some may know this, please tell us how you are affiliated with “ProgPower Europe”?

Glenn Harveston: Organizer of ProgPower USAProgPower Europe was started as a "fan-driven" festival in Holland by some friends of mine that I had met via the Perpetual Motion Board. They were looking for more of a "prog" oriented festival as there really wasn't a festival in Europe dedicated to that genre. There first year was a mini-success and they have grown every year. At the time of their first show, the States didn't have anything towards the prog/power scene other than Powermad. I had been a faithful Powermad attendee since Keith Menser's 2nd show. I kept waiting for it to take a step up in terms of quality, but it never took off and was starting to die to be honest. With the help of a few beers and some encouragement of some friends of mine, I decided that I'd like to take a shot at running a festival. That's where PP Europe comes in. I contacted them and asked them how they went about starting from scratch. It took off from there.



Do they let you use the ProgPower name for free?

Absolutely. The idea was to get as much international publicity for both festivals since we were in a similar situation. We decided to share the name and present that to corporations in hopes of sponsorships. That part never took off, but the name recognition did. We are 100% complete separate entities and only share a name and a friendship.



Why did you choose to go with that title as opposed to say another famous festival name or one of your own?

I thought that "ProgPower" was a rather cool name as I was able to twist it a bit. The European version is more slanted towards "the power of progressive music." On my side, I went with a hybrid, Progressive and Power Metal. The name is suppose to be read at two words even thought it's written as one.



Do you still travel to other US (or European) metal festivals?

I have yet to attend a European show. I simply haven't had the opportunity, but I hope to visit behind the scenes to see how the big boys pull it off from a logistical stand point. As for the U.S., once Powermad died, I started ProgPower and never looked back. I'm not a fan of the Metalfest series and there really aren't many other metal alternatives that aren't dominated by death/black metal bands. There is nothing wrong with that, but I'm simply not the biggest fan of those styles. I hope to make it up to the Brave Words show though.



Why does PP take place in Atlanta?

The first PP was in Lansing, Illinois. It was a bitch to pull off even on a small scale due to the logistics of the gear, travel, etc, etc. I made the decision to find a city that has a major international airport, public transportation to the venue, and a quality area for the venue. Plus, I wanted a first class venue. After some investigation, I realized that Atlanta was perfect. It also helps that I live about 60 miles from there. You do the math.



Why don’t you take PP on the road and have it in 3-4 different cities? Maybe that is something that you’ll do in the future?

This festival is paid for out of my own pocket. I front all of the cash and take every bit of the risk. This is a very expensive show to produce as it is completely different from every show in the States. I have a first class venue. I pay all of my bands. I pay for hotels for bands and crew. I pay for catering, backline, etc, etc all out of my own pocket. I simply cannot afford to take this on the road without a corporate sponsor. That is damn near impossible here in the States. I'm slowly getting some national attention via recent articles in magazines like "Modern Drummer" and via word of mouth. Once I develop the show to where it is a proven financial success, then I can look at the logistics of taking it on the road. I could see me doing a show on the East Coast and Chicago. I don't think the U.S. could handle more than that to be honest.



Have you traveled to ProgPower in The Netherlands? If not – why not? If so – what did you think of it and how does it compare to ProgPower USA?

I'm afraid not. The only thing that really stands out in my mind as the difference between the two festivals is the type of roster we book. Europe really goes after the progressive acts (across genres) while I book traditional power metal bands. Of course, the big difference is that the headline bands that I get can be booked at a far cheaper price than in Europe. Blind Guardian is not going to get the same payday here in the States as they will anywhere else in the world. Sad, but true.



What do you see as the role of ProgPower in the American metal scene?

I simply want to bring a quality show to the fans. I'm a fan first and a promoter second. I have found a niche in the U.S. market and I am going to run with it to the best of my ability in bringing over bands that the U.S. would never see otherwise.



According to the FAQ on your site, you broke even with PP III. Does this just include paying the bands and for the venue? I assume your own time is donated for free?

As I stated earlier, I pay for everything. I treat the bands in a manner they would never get here in the States (or in Europe for quite a few of them). I usually put 6 months into these shows. It's a labor of love. Of course like all businesses, you have to establish your name and go through some growing pains before you can turn a profit. I'm almost there....



Besides yourself, how many other people are working behind the scenes to make PP USA a reality?

I have a dedicated crew. I essentially have two generals in Deron Blevins (my webmaster and graphics guy) and Chris Roy (my stage manager). They have helped me turn this festival into the most organized and best run gig in the States. Of course, my faithful crew at the live show keep things running smoothly. We work up to 18 hrs per day to pull this off. How many other festivals can you think of that soundcheck EVERY single band on the roster before the doors open. I am nothing without my crew.



What do the list of “associate sponsors” help with? Are they the ones that actually pay the band’s bills (air fare, hotels, cost to have them play, etc??)

Associate sponsors either donate money or an item needed for the festival that would otherwise cost me money. They do not cover the complete cost of specific band or item.



Some other festivals (NJ Metalfest comes to mind) have made some of the smaller bands “pay to play” with the band having to sell so many tickets in advance or something like that. what is your opinion on that, do you do anything like that with any of the bands?

I think it sucks total ass. Of course, I am not a fan of that style of festival to begin with. Koshick must do quite well with the formula as he's been doing this for quite a while now. I simply have a different philosophy on just about everything in terms of comparisons.



I wonder, do the bands charge the same to play in the US at a smaller venue as they do in the large European venues?

It depends on the band. Most people look at festivals and think that these bands play in front of 40,000 on a regular basis. In truth, the big dogs probably hit the 2,000-3,000 seaters in the major markets and half that in the smaller ones. In the U.S., unless your name is Dream Theater you are going to have to play the shit club circuit to crowds from 200 to 1,000 when you first start here. Those bands that check their egos and bust their ass reap the rewards. In Flames comes to mind rather quickly.



How does it feel to be responsible for being the first place to bring in many Euro prog/power bands who have never played in the USA (or some in North America as a whole) ever before?

When I see them up on the stage, it's pure magic during their set. Of course, as soon as its over, I yell for them to get the fuck off my stage.



Please give us some detail on the band selection process.

That's a delicate process. In truth, I choose. Period. I tend to look at multiple variables including marketability, buzz-factor, availability, track record, and to be honest, I usually have to like the band. That may seem selfish, but those are my balls that are on the line in terms of ticket sales.



Some might say: ”wouldn't the festival grab more fans if you included death and black metal bands on the bill?” BUT, isn’t the whole point of ProgPower to showcase a form of metal that isn't very "popular" in the US, which is what makes the festival different from Milwaukee Metalfest, for example, which is almost all death and black metal bands. That's what makes ProgPower special!! Isn't that right??

Correct. If you want chicken, go to a fast food chain. If you want Filet Mignon, then come to the steak house. That said, I do like to throw the crowd a curveball every year. There will always be one band that I book that makes people go, "WTF?"



Have you ever had a band on the bill that you were not personally a fan of or is your liking a band the #1 criteria?

Cost is the number one criteria. :)



What bands have you tried to get for ProgPower but so far you haven’t had any luck?

To be honest, this year was the first time that I haven't gotten a few of the ones that I pursued. I went after Stratovarius, Iced Earth, and a few others. It just didn't work out.



Have you tried to get either Rhapsody, Lost Horizon, or Stratovarius to play at ProgPower since these bands are fairly popular (outside of North America) but have yet to play in North America???? If you have – what happened? If not – why not??

Stratovarius was my #1 target this year. I tried like hell for months to get it done. No dice. I do not ever see them playing the States to be honest. They are not going to get a better offer than what I made them unless they do a full tour over here and hell hasn't frozen over to the best of knowledge. As for Rhapsody, I could probably get Kiske to rejoin Helloween before I book them. Rhapsody employ guest musicians on the live shows. Thus, Rhapsody is expensive as fuck. Period. Lost Horizon may see these shores one day.



Do you expect the festival to grow larger and larger every year?

Hansi - Blind Guardian - Live at PP IIII do, but not by much. I'd like to move it to a 2,000 seat venue and leave it at that. The intimacy is what makes this show unique in the world. All of the bands hang out and party the entire weekend. They mix and mingle at the local hotels, in the lobby, and at the bars with the fans. In fact, every single band from ProgPower III attended the pre-party on Thursday night at the local bar. You couldn't turn around in there without bumping into someone from one of the bands. How many other festivals can brag about that?



I've heard the festival is going to be in a different venue this year. Last year at Earthlink Live it was the most well-run show some of our reviewers had ever been to. Logistically, how will adapting to a new venue affect the show??

I decided to stay at Earthlink. I have the forumla down to a science and it's hard to move unless there is bigger ($$) motive.



Edguy - Live At PP IIILast year ProgPower was the "point of entry" for various European bands who had never played America before. For future festivals would you prefer to get European bands that have never played the US before, or host other bands that have been on US soil for a while??

The list of "name" bands that have never played the States is getting smaller. Thus, it's going to be a challenge to put together a roster that keeps everyone happy. I have the pickiest damn fans in the world and that is fine with me.



Regarding last year’s line up, do you regret having DEVIN TOWNSEND on the bill since his music didn’t seem to go over well some of the listeners?

Devin Townsend - Live at PP IIIHell no. In fact, I loved it. You are never going to please everyone. I'm certain that Devin's fans loved his performance. On an aside, Devin is simply the greatest guy in the world to work with and he has been my favorite artist to work with. You wouldn't believe how awesome his sound-check was. I was in tears from laughing so hard.



At the 2002 festival, the CD vendors, promotional people and even the interaction among the fans themselves was an extremely important aspect of the experience. What goes into selecting what labels, zines, etc. will be represented?

Well, I could give you some bullshit political story about the good of the scene, etc. The bottom line is that it really works itself out on its own. I don't do much but offer the opportunity.



Perhaps you can share a little more info on yourself. I'd like to know what are some you YOUR favorite bands.

The festival is a hobby that I'd like to turn into some sort of business one day. As for my faves, I'll list ten of them: Nightwish, Rage, Symphony X, Evergrey, Circle II Circle, Vanden Plas, Secret Sphere, Mercenary, Pagan's Mind, and Redemption. Otherwise, I've been a Jimmy Buffett fan for 20 years now. I'm a parrothead till I die.



When did you get into metal and what bands first hooked you on metal?

I grew up in the glorious 80's. I was a hair band freak that started off on Pyromania, Bon Jovi, etc. Somewhere along the lines I found Iron Maiden and Queensryche. I never looked back (ok, I still listen to Jon Bon baby!)



Do you only listen to prog and power metal?

No, but they are my main concentration. I dig all sorts of music except for pure death/black metal. I can't handle the vox.



What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a result of being in the “business” end of the metal industry as opposed to only being a fan/listener?

It's a dog-eat-dog world and I'm wearing milk bone underwear (credit Norm). In the biz, you better have your shit together or you get eaten alive quick. Your reputation is everything so you had better deliver what you promise. It's also quite the experience to work with bands that you idolize. Of course, you have to kick a few of them in the ass after you kiss it.



Do you promote or work on any other smaller concerts throughout the year? If so – what bands have you worked with? If not - why not?

Nope. PP is a big enough pain in the ass.



What do you do when you are not “progging and powering”? Ha! Do you maintain a 9-5 job to keep your metal habits alive?

I'm a trauma nurse in the ER. Thus, you can see where I get my "take no shit" attitude.



Where do you see yourself in say five or ten years in terms of your work in the metal field?

No clue. I'm just going to try and enjoy the ride.



Did you always dream of being a concert promoter? How did you get into this, was it haphazardly or did you “learn the ropes” from someone?

I've always wanted to do something in the music scene, but I never knew what. This promoter stuff basically fell into my lap. As for the ropes, I learn something new every year. I like to think that I set the standard instead of following it.



Any closing comments for the metal-rules.com readers?

Tickets for PP IV go on sale May 5th. See you in September!


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