Pulse Magazine spoke to TOBE WRIGHT, one of ten friends, who organise the UK’s premier psychobilly festival BEDLAM BREAKOUT.
Pulse Magazine: Can you give me a brief history of the psychobilly scene? Why do you think punk and rockabilly merged so well? Are you surprised the genre spread worldwide?
Tobe Wright: Both styles had the rebellious feel to them in the late ’70s and early 80s, although the rockabilly side of things really spawned the psychobilly scene but with the added attitude and fire of the punk scene: a marriage made in heaven for the times, especially here in the UK. Not surprised at all that it spread globally as it’s a release from the drudgery of everyday life for a lot of people that need a distraction and a feeling of belonging to something that no politician/authority could control…it’s street culture at the end of the day.
Pulse: The previous festival was number 25. That’s quite a milestone. Did you ever think Bedlam would last this long? How do you see the future of Bedlam?
Tobe: It always shocks us to be honest! But we have the support of people that are into the scene as much as we are and that shows, I think. The people that come along know that we do it purely for the scene and no other reason. The future of Bedlam is in the hands of the people that support what we do. If they keep coming then we’ll keep doing them. We now have a lot more people coming to the merchandise website to support the way we fund it throughout the year as they now understand how and why we do it all.
Pulse: How far in advance do you start planning each Bedlam?
Tobe: We’re talking to bands close to a year in advance. Because we advertise at one festival who we have at the next it’s a case of having to do it so early on. Especially when arranging for bands from around the globe, with visa’s, trying to let bands fit in small tours to make it financially viable…
Pulse: The festival is organised by a group of ten people. Does this make it easier?
Tobe: Some things are made easier… Some arrange all the equipment we need to hire for the stage, another guy deals with all the food/riders for the crew and bands, another deals with ticket orders and website stuff while a couple of us deal with the majority of booking bands and running the shop side of things that runs all year round. On the actual festival weekend it’s all hands on deck and oddly it seems to run like a crazy machine!
Pulse: How do you decide what bands to put on? What criteria must they fit?
Tobe: We speak to all involved for ideas and suggestions but mainly two of us piece it together as too many involved can cause confusion and miscommunications. The criteria is they must be good! And hopefully they have the same attitude we do to it all. We obviously have to have headliners to bring in the bulk of the crowd but we always try to promote the smaller UK bands so they get a chance to play to a good crowd. Another thing we can do now is bring in smaller European and sometimes smaller bands from further afield to play to he UK crowd which is all helping to promote the scene as a whole.
Pulse: Bedlam has a great friendly vibe but some people might find the horror imagery intimidating. How would you entice these people to Bedlam?
Tobe: I’m glad you find it friendly…it is, genuinely! It’s something we find comical really: yes, it does have a strong link to horror and a comical take on death…but none of us are serial killers in reality! Our scene would appeal to everybody, come and give us a try, you might just enjoy yourselves. It’s a great friendly vibe with people from all over the world just out for a damned good time.
Pulse: The format of this years festival is slightly different with only Friday and Saturday at The Roadmender.
Tobe: Of course it’s no secret that we’ve had a lot of behind the scene changes at Bedlam with the merchandise side of things having to change hands due to ill health with one of the guys. So it was a massive job moving stock, building storage etc and having to learn how mail order ran from scratch really… So we decided to cut back and concentrate mainly on that side of things for the rest of the year. But we knew we had to continue with a festival of some sort to keep our name out there…but it’s only this time around to give ourselves a break! Back to three days again next March!
Pulse: Friday is celebrating 15 years of Western Star Records. What’s your association with that record label?Are all the bands on Friday signed to Western Star?
Tobe: The owner, Alan Wilson, has played for us in the past with his band The Sharks and we deal with his label for the mail order side of things as well. But more importantly he’s been hugely supportive of Bedlam and became a friend over the years giving us advice and encouragement when times have been tough! Yes, all Friday’s bands are on his label with the Long Tall Texans and The Caravans being the most famous names from the early days of the scene to new and up and coming bands like the Epileptic Hillbillies and The Gruffs from the UK and The Test Pilots from Sweden who’re flying in for one gig!
Pulse: Saturday is billed as ‘The Dirty Dozen’. Can you tell me about headliners Demented Are Go? Is it the first time at Bedlam for any of the other bands?
Tobe: Demented Are Go…what can you say in a family friendly article?! Originally from Cardiff and one of the biggest names on the scene that always produce the goods onstage (and off!) with their wild and punked up psychobilly sounds. They’re still producing new stuff to this day since forming in the early 80s. Many tales over the years have made frontman Sparky a living legend on the scene. One hell of a live act and a favourite of Bedlam to be honest! The other main headliner are rockabilly legends the Polecats who were often in or around the national charts in the 80s. But again a band who constantly tour and deliver the goods. We have a female fronted rockabilly band from New York playing called the Screamin’ Rebel Angels who’ve not played for us before. We’ve a German neo-rockin’ band called Blue Rockin’ who’re making their festival debut and a young UK band called Knocksville who are causing real interest on the scene at the moment…ones to watch out for!
Pulse: In a break from recent years Sunday is at not at The Roadmender. What’s the deal?
Tobe: We arranged for The Bear pub to host all the after show events over the weekend…but it’s not a Bedlam thing! We booked the bands for them so all the festival goers have a venue to focus on outside the main festival: it keeps them all in one safe environment. Friday they have two great UK bands: The Moonshine Stalkers and also The Orbitones playing wild psychobilly and rockabilly. Saturday night we arranged for the band from New York to play again which helps them out a little more with funds for their trip. The Sunday is going to be outdoors under a mini marquee with food and an outside bar from around 2:30pm until around 10pm. It’s all UK bands showcasing what good styles we have here: The Mighty Interceptors, Thee Creepfreaks, King of Hong Kong, Henry and the Bleeders and Knocksville playing again to close the weekend. It’s free entry to festival wristband holders. The Bear has always supported us and has been welcoming to all those coming to Bedlam over the years and it’s kind of a meeting place for everyone coming along…