Neil Jones is Business & Marketing Manager for the Cambridge Folk Festival/Cambridge Corn Exchange and a presenter of the Star Radio Rock Show…
How did you become involved in the music business?
I’ve worked in theatres and music venues all my working life in one form or another. I started out working in Box Offices at major theatres in Llandudno and Bath. I made a move to the marketing and press departments working in Cheltenham on venues and Festivals and for the last 13 years in Cambridge atthe Cambridge Corn Exchange and Cambridge Folk Festival.
Alongside this I ‘fell’ into radio in 1996 and have presented a weekly rock show ever since – for the last 12 years on Star Radio in Cambridge.
Who are your musical heroes, and why?
Among my musical heroes are Steve Harris of Iron Maiden. He has steadfastly taken Maiden from the pubs of the East End to the stadiums of the world, without a single compromise along the way. Determined, driven, uncompromising and the creator of the soundtrack to my life. Up there is also Angus Young from AC/DC. Why? It’s AC/DC right? He’s Angus Young OK?
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
As far as the radio is concerned I would have to say the late, great, radio DJ Tommy Vance. I used to listen to his Friday Rock Show as a kid and wish I could do the same. I got to meet him a handful of times before his death and he was a true gent on every occasion.
Venue/Festival wise I would strangely have to say someone that I have never met – Sir Bob Geldof. A reminder that if you set your mind to it then anything is possible and that drive, determination and often sheer bloody-mindedness can often count for more than years of experience at something.
How did you become involved in the Cambridge Folk Festival?
I worked as a Marketing Manager for the Cambridge Corn Exchange for a number of years. The venue is run by Cambridge City Council who also run the Festival. As is the way with local authorities, restructures have a habit of rearing their head and I ended up marketing both.
Which artists/bands are you most looking forward to seeing this year?
One of the best things about working at the Cambridge Folk Festival is stumbling across an act that I have never heard of before and being blown away. So, I look forward to that moment again this year.
How early does the planning start for the promotion of the festival?
Festival planning, in some areas, is already underway for the 2013 Festival before we have even had the 2012 one! For example, we go on sale immediately after this Festival has happened. In terms of the line up, Festival Manager Eddie Barcan normally starts in earnest in the new year.
How has the rise in social media and music websites helped promote the Cambridge Folk Festival?
Massively! As well as the obvious marketing benefits, I think the best part is that it gives us year round contact with our Festival go-ers and helps create a real sense of community. It also acts as a great piece of year round market research as Facebook and Twitter give the punters a forum to tell us what they do and don’t like about the Festival. It’s also very useful during the actual Festival itself and we embrace that by often planning one-off ‘tweet-up’ moments during the Festival where we will get Twitter and Facebook users to go to a part of the site where something unique will often happen.
How did you start off presenting a rock show on Star FM? Which DJ’s do you admire and why?
I was working as a Press Officer at a venue in Cheltenham and a brand new radio station opened in the town. I used to go on air every week and talk about what was happening at the venue. One day the Managing Director casually mentioned that he was looking to set up some specialist shows. I ‘casually’ mentioned that I had a sizable rock CD collection and I knew ‘one or two things’ about rock. He gave me a two week trial. As far as I know I passed as that was 16 years ago and I still haven’t heard officially!
Of the rock stars you’ve interviewed who has been the most fun to talk to and who was harder to talk to?
Difficult question as there have been so many. Interviewing Lemmy whilst blind drunk was not my cleverest move (yes, he made mincemeat of me!) and being made to listen to Gene Simmons‘ ‘not-particularly-good’ solo album with the man himself sat opposite me watching my reaction was certainly one to remember….for all the wrong reasons. I’d have to say on all the occasions I’ve interviewed him Slash has always been a genuine pleasure to chat to. As down to earth a rock legend as you could hope to meet.
What have been the best bands you have seen live and why?
Iron Maiden – a band who have never delivered a bad gig that I have seen;
AC/DC – high voltage rock n roll every time and I think you’d be hard pressed to beat KISS for a sheer live spectacle.
What has been your most embarrassing moment?
I’ve had my fair share of moments, from talking ‘off air’ when it was in fact ‘on air’ to the moment my recording equipment failed during an interview with a well known international rock band. Both me and the interviewee realised what had happened. He was too polite to stop the interview. I was to embarrassed to admit the mistake. Truly cringe-worthy to recall.
Any good rock ‘n’ roll tales to tell?
A great memory was when Fish rang me up on stage mid way through his live gig to get the audience to say hi to me live on air. Being flown by Bruce Dickinson on the Iron Maiden place wasn’t too shabby either. On a more rock n roll note there’s a few that will stay with me but the time I was locked in a room with the band Feeder, a bleeding man in a nappy and a semi naked woman with a 10 ft boa constrictor was an interesting afternoon.
Is rock music in a healthier state now than ten years ago? How important has it been to have a specialist magazines ‘Classic Rock’, ‘Fireworks’ in the High Street stores raising the profile of the music?
I don’t think it’s in a healthier place, more of a ‘different place’. I think the changes in the music industry in the digital era have altered the playing field completely. I salute the likes of Classic Rock for continuing to fly the flag for sort of music we all know and love, but that the mainstream media often ignore. It always makes me laugh when people say ‘rock is dead’ or ‘rock is back’. Rock never dies or goes anywhere. The mainstream occasionally pays attention and then moves away again. The majority of rock fans are ‘lifers’ and carry on regardless.
Anything else to add…
If anyone asks. It wasn’t me.
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