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Heavy Music Awards: Q&A with co-founder Andy Pritchard

Celebrating annually since 2017, the Heavy Music Awards not only tip their hat to artists in heavy music, they also give industry professionals behind the scenes the credit they’re due. This year, they might be taking the celebrations online, but nothing – not even a pandemic – will stop the roll of what has quickly become a landmark event. To talk more about how it came together, the importance of this ceremony and what to expect this year, is Heavy Music Awards co-founder, Andy Pritchard.

I guess starting at the beginning makes the most sense. Can you tell our readers a little more about how Heavy Music Awards got started?

We came up with the idea towards the end of 2016. Both Dave and I have worked in music for several years and felt that there were too many people doing amazing things who never got any recognition for it. We knew we wanted to make sure it was democratic and independent, and fortunately people were into that idea as we had 97,000 public votes in our first year. We held our first event at House of Vans in London in August 2017, and since then we’ve been to Koko and O2 Forum Kentish Town.

Heavy Music Awards

HMA20 stage – photo by Tom Russell

Why do you think it’s so important to celebrate heavy music?

There’s just so much talent and creativity, so many people every year doing things that are exciting and vibrant both on stage and behind the scenes – and the quality of work stands up against any industry on earth. We didn’t see that community being celebrated in any meaningful way so we decided to do it ourselves.

You’ve also brought photographers and producers into the fold; why is it valuable to give them recognition?

Times have changed a lot on the photography front – more now than ever a photographer can let people know what they do online, but even then there are people who work tirelessly behind the scenes and don’t get enough love. Producers have it even harder – the musicians  know who’s who but if you don’t go looking you might never know who does what on a song or album, I think it’s fair to say most producers can walk down the street without being mobbed. It’s right that these people are celebrated because they can be the difference between a good and a great album.

You have a very sensible method for selecting finalists. Can you tell us a little more about that process?

Sure! It’s two stages. The first stage is the industry part – we invite people from all corners of heavy music to nominate their top three for the year in each category, so they’ll tell us their favourite three albums released during the previous year, and so on. The criteria are clearly defined – for example a band is only eligible for Best Live Band if they actually performed live in the UK at some point between January 1 and December 31 the previous year – so there’s no arguments.

Once we’ve collated those nominations we take the top 7 in each category, and ask the public to vote on it. We don’t have any say at all in who makes the shortlists, so it’s a nice surprise for us too to see who’s made it in each year!

Heavy Music Awards

Fever 333 at Koko – photo by James North

What are some of the team’s favourite moments from past years?

We don’t get to see too much of the show itself because we’re a small team and we are generally running around like crazy to make sure the show goes smoothly – but in terms of really memorable moments, Fever 333’s set at HMA18 will probably stick as the most seminal HMAs set to date.

To be honest we get a really huge kick out of just making sure the whole thing is fair and gives a good account of the heavy music scene, so if we see a positive comment, or find out that people made new friends at the show, or discovered a new band because they came to vote for Metallica, that’s really what makes it worthwhile.

What can we expect from this year’s ceremony?

Well obviously going online was a massive shift. We resolved really early on that if we were going to take that route it needed to be produced to the same high standards the live show would be, so we have worked really hard for months now to achieve that.

We pre-recorded the live performances at a great place called AfterLive Music just outside London, and we were able to get some great bands to perform – and a really eclectic mix too, which is always our goal with the HMA line-ups.

Our hosts – Sophie K and Jon Mahon – will then appear live from our London offices so they can really interact with the comments from fans watching at home. It promises to be a really fun and memorable night.

Heavy Music Awards

If we can be so formal as to ask the age old (dreaded) interview question – where do you see the Heavy Music Awards in 5/10 years’ time?

Well, COVID-19 has obviously reshaped the landscape for live events. We are working hard on HMA21 already, and I am excited to say that things are definitely getting a shake up, but I can’t say more than that just yet!

Catch the Heavy Music Awards live on twitch.tv/amazonmusicuk from 8.30pm BST on Thursday 3 September.

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