In the first of a series of interviews around this year’s Fireball Fuelling The Fire tour (which features Reel Big Fish, Anti-Flag, Mad Caddies, Sweet Little Machine plus a local competition winner for just £10), we caught up with James Pattison from Fireball themselves…
The Punk Archive: Hey James. Can you introduce yourself, what you do and how you got into the job?
James: So, I’m the UK Brand Manager for Fireball: the relatively new kid on the block when it comes to shot products this side of the pond. Fireball has been a complete home-run in the US, with it being the most consumed and recommended spirit brand by bartenders, as well as overtaking all shot competitors, such as Jagermeister and Jamesons, by quite some distance back in 2014, and there’s still been double digit growth year on year since then! It’s become a Top 10 World Class Spirit Brand and even led Bloomsburg Business Week to describe it as the “most successful spirit brand in decades”. The potential for this brand in the UK (who LOVE to drink shots) is pretty high, and that’s what I’m here to try and accomplish.
My day-to-day is worryingly normal, really. I’m sat at a desk like everyone else: mostly strategy, budgets, reports. The daily grind. But the events we put on really make my job worth doing. Our inaugural ‘Fireball – Fuelling The Fire Tour’ last year was a great success and I’m so happy to be bringing it back this year for more partying and shenanigans, but also expect us to pop up at a few festivals for fans of punk, rock, metal, and everything in between.
I’ve been with my business for over three years now after coming through the Sales team at Hi-Spirits, who look after a number of really great products including Southern Comfort and Buffalo Trace bourbon in the UK. Previous to that I was in the cut and thrust world of food packaging (hah!) and before that I’d worked in and run bars whilst at University, so I’ve always had a keen interest to get back into the world of spirits. I wouldn’t change my job for the world. I really believe in this product, and I’m so happy to working within a sphere that I genuinely love.
The Punk Archive: So how did you manage to choose the bands for this year’s line-up?
James: It’s been an on-going process since even before the Fuelling The Fire Tour started last year, so we’ve had to keep it under our hat for quite some time. Between myself and our partners over at Academy Music Group, we drew up a shortlist of everyone we thought might suit what we’re trying to do, drawing on our pool of music knowledge, and we’re overjoyed to be bringing a line-up of Reel Big Fish, Anti-Flag and Mad Caddies for year two. I guess the main components in choosing has been:
1. Are they awesome?
2. Are they really, really fun?
And, of course, all the bands on the bill tick those boxes and then some. We really want the tour to be an annual date in everyone’s calendar and I think this line-up goes a long way to making a statement on that front.
The Punk Archive: How tricky was it choosing bands to top last year’s Fuelling The Fire tour?
James: It definitely wasn’t an easy task given how good last year was! Our first year was always going to be a case of testing the water a bit, but the performances from three very different bands really helped the evening become quite an eclectic experience. I don’t think there was anything but a sea of smiles across the whole tour. Mariachi El Bronx are always fantastic fun, and The Skints are just so damned good. By the time Less Than Jake came on each night everyone was really raring to go. This year I hope people are going to have enough energy to keep up with how strong the bill is, because DJ Matt Stocks (our tour DJ) is going to be ensuring people aren’t keeping still even in between the bands.
The Punk Archive: How tight was the competition for the final support slot last year?
James: It was so unbelievably tight. Every city had hundreds of entries that could have ended up winning their way to the opening slots on each night of the tour. In the end, we (panel of myself, Sean Ryman at AMG, Alex Baker of Kerrang Radio, Jamie Otsa of Wall of Sound PR, and Vinnie Fiorello of Less Than Jake) were really happy with our choices, and across the tour they all brought something different. I still listen to them all now! However, the competition is probably set for even more interest this year, and I’m really excited to see who we’ll discover. The cat’s out of the bag now, as we’d picked up one of the local winners to become our Fireball’s Hottest Band 2017, so the prize might not just be winning that opening slot. Sweet Little Machine have won the crown for 2017 and been on tour with both Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Patent Pending, and they’ll be supporting on all Fuelling The Fire tour dates this year, too. Definitely check them out, they’re really good with incredible potential, and we’re hoping to find someone of that level for next year, too.
The Punk Archive: What made Fireball decide to come into the world of music, and what made you want to go into punk specifically with this tour?
James: It was really a perfect storm: I approached the business with a vision for Fireball because that’s exactly where I saw the brand fit in the UK. High energy occasions, memorable events, and of course lots of drinkers! However, it’s a huge personal interest for myself as well, having grown up listening to and going to live music since I was young. Getting bashed around aged 14 years old at the likes of System of a Down, Motorhead and NOFX but being picked up and taken in by everyone else sort of ingrains that love for the music in you, and I’d like to think what knowledge I have of those scenes has helped the brand engage with other fans as well. A couple of brands have worked really well and seen great results within rock, metal and punk, but I’m more motivated by the brands who have been there and done it all wrong, naming no names!
At Fireball we don’t want to act like yet another big brand throwing their cheque book around, which is why our Tour is all about the £10 tickets and giving a bit back to the fans. If they go on to enjoy Fireball, that’s great, if they don’t, no worries! We’ll never be the sort of brand who spends millions on above-the-line advertising at bus shelters or tube stops, and we’ve got a pretty small budget, really, so I want to ensure we use it in creating something special and memorable.
We also work with lots of local bands in helping them get on the road and to their shows. It’s becoming harder and harder to self-sustain in that world. If we’re able to give someone a leg up then that’s great, because we can’t let the world be dominated by whichever pop star the radio is trying to shove down your throat. Real music, real talent and real opinions matter, and I want Fireball to stand for something, so hopefully that resonates with people!
This tour being specifically punk just seems to fit, really. Punk seems to be more relevant than it has for a long time now, and the world is becoming a pretty mad place. We just want to put on the best show possible, and the stars have really aligned for this one. I think we could all use a night to blow off some steam in 2017 and there can’t be many out there offering bands of this calibre for just £10. Each one will be a big party, that much we can guarantee.
The Fireball: Fuelling The Fire Tour 2017 takes place from 11th to 21st October at varying venues across the UK.