‘The Fantastische Vier, Mando Diao and Marilyn Manson play exclusively in Gampel,’ says Roman Pfammatter happily. The merry rappers of the Fantastischen Vier together with shock rocker Manson at a single festival? Would that work? ‘And how. The diversity is precisely what gives the Gampel Open Air Festival its charm.’ Roman Pfammatter knows how to give a large audience exactly what it wants.
Once again, the organisers have pulled off a coup: the Valais Open Air Festival will be the crowning moment of the Swiss summer festival season. But it was not always this way. ‘There was a time when the Open Air festival was decried as a drinking fest.’ The programme was constantly changing, and the audience was put off. ‘Valaisians are very demanding: if it doesn't suit them, they stay at home.’
They needed a new start. ‘We looked for new sponsors, looked at every detail and gave the Open Air Festival a crystal clear orientation.’ Today, the Gampel festival is the ‘iischi’ (our) party, the rocking and down-to-earth Valais party festival. ‘We can't forget that only about 30 percent of our visitors come from Valais.’ The concept, born in Valais, has been well-received all over Switzerland. The 'iischi party’ has room for everyone and enjoys an excellent reputation among the bands as well.
Marilyn Manson and the Blaumeisen
Roman Pfammatter has learned the music business from the bottom up. He began as a drummer in the band The Power of Klosterfrau Melissengeist. Roman laughs and rummages around in a box for an ancient music cassette with a homemade cover: ‘We were the first Valais punk band. And we had a lot of fun.’ After that, his musical interests became more mainstream, and his fan club grew. He played concert halls all over Switzerland on tour with the party band Sixties Club. ‘We put on an incredible number of shows and were very successful. It was in that time they I learned what it takes to excite a large audience. And I made some valuable contacts while I was at it.’
Contacts which he makes use of today, as owner of an artistpool talent agency. ‘The agency is my core business, and is independent of the Gampel Open Air.’ He and his employees represent bands from all over Switzerland, with a wide variety of musical styles. ‘Not a lot of people know this, but we are the market leader in representing Austrian dance bands in the Valais.’ Representing both Marilyn Manson and the Blaumeisen? Only Pfammatter could pull that off. And he does it with aplomb, as if it were nothing at all. Doesn't this mean going against his personal taste in music? ‘I need drumsticks and juice. I like anything that really rocks.’ That's why he's looking forward to this year's Open Air Festival. ‘The mix is right.’
Speaking loud and clear
As a member of the Board of the Swiss Music Promoters Association, Roman Pfammatter is very well-connected. He was there when the parliamentary intergroup ‘Rock and Pop in the Parliament Building’ was created. What does politics have to do with rock and roll? ‘We need a strong lobby to protect our interests, and I work on all levels towards that end. People often forget how important major events such as these can be, especially for regional locations.’ Pfammatter's office is right behind Stockalper Castle in Brig. His wife Irina runs a pharmacy in town, and they have three children together. His roots in the region run deep.
Not only does he love Valais, he loves the Valaisian character. ‘We‘s say what we think. We're straight-shooters.’ And that has its advantages: ‘While people from Zurich, Bern and Basel might go behind your back, Valaisians will speak loud and clear. And they'll get their point across.’ To him, this is the secret of their success. ‘People appreciate our refreshing honesty: that's why there are so many successful‘s all over Switzerland.’ Fortunately a few of them have elected to stay in Valais, and Roman Pfammatter is among them. Someone who sets so much in motion is a godsend, and not just for Upper Valais.