Vivian Lees has hit out at Soundwave promoter AJ Maddah‘s handling of the Big Day Out, which Lees co-founded in 1992. During an appearance on Triple J‘s Hack, Lees, who previously criticised Maddah’s management style, mourned the cancellation of Big Day Out 2015.
“[It] doesn’t surprise me after the way that it ran last year,” Lees told host Tom Tilley. “It’s pretty tragic that it won’t be coming ’round next year, but I think I and any keen observer [would know] that it wouldn’t be coming back [next] year because of the problems between the producers.”
Lees described having Maddah on the ground and running the festival in Australia, whilst liaising with Austin-based promotions company C3 Presents, who now own 100 percent of the event, as “a very dysfunctional arrangement,” before adding that “what’s happened is just pretty tragic.”
Lees described Maddah as “a mega-dickhead,” and said that his previous claims of the Soundwave promoter “playing fast and loose,” having “no commitment to the careers of Australian artists,” and being an “odious character” has been proven by his recent sale of his Big Day Out shares.
“He’s led the race to the bottom and it’s blown up in his face,” said Lees. “All I can say is I wish him well, [and] he should stick to what he’s good at which is Soundwave and stop trying to be a megalomaniac.” Lees also suggested that Maddah had a vested interest in seeing the BDO go.
“He professed to love the event, but I think at the end of the day, he held the cards and considering he was the owner of the competitive event [Soundwave], he wanted it every which way, which is: if the Big Day Out worked, great, if it doesn’t work, well, you’ve gotten rid of the competition. And he’s sitting there with the only event that’s big and means anything to rock fans,” explained Lees.
Maddah disagreed vehemently with Lees’ assessment, which he called “absolutely rubbish,” saying, “You don’t get involved in something that’s already dead and buried to take a punt on whether it works or not. The point where I got involved the festival was already an absolute catastro-fuck.”
“The only reason I got involved is [because] if I had not gotten involved, they would’ve cancelled the festival and it would’ve been well and truly dead,” said the promoter. “Which coincidentally enough, in the same position in 2012, Vivian Lees, who had actually booked a disastrous lineup that brought the festival down, ran for the hills the minute he thought he was gonna lose any money.”
“At that point, Ken West had to assume full financial responsibility for the enormous losses and that’s the reason they had to sell Vivian’s shares to C3 and try to recapitalise. So I find Vivian and all his claims rather hypocritical at this point, since he’s the one that actually abandoned the festival.”
Maddah also rubbished Lees’ suggestion that the departure of the BDO is a boon to his flagship event, as each event caters to a different crowd. “The fans aren’t 100 percent mutually exclusive, but the crossover is very minimal,” he said. “Big Day Out’s always been about mass appeal.”
“It’s not really a situation that caters to the Soundwave crowd. Big Day Out’s always been about mass appeal and Soundwave has been about a special set of rock bands,” he said. “But that’s absolute nonsense, it just shows [Lees’] complete lack of understanding of the marketplace.”