The promoter whose name is attached to two of Australia’s biggest music festivals has appeared in a candid interview on Triple J’s Hack this afternoon.

Soundwave boss AJ Maddah appeared on Triple J’s investigative program this afternoon to address the swirling rumours surrounding the Big Day Out 2014 tour, in a bid to set the record straight on the many allegations levelled at the long-running music festival and its future.

Many of the questions about the Big Day Out were initially raised by a Fairfax article that suggested organisers were facing losses of between $8 to $15 million, alleging that there was internal turmoil between Maddah and US co-promoters C3 Presents over the festival’s lax attendance figures, which were around half of Big Day Out 2013 and significantly lower than recent years.

In response to Triple J host Tom Tilley opening his interview by asking if he though the Big Day Out brand was damaged beyond repair, Maddah remarked, “I hope not… I think it’s a brand people will come back to.”

The promoter admits that at the point he purchased a 50% stake into the festival, in a surprise move last September shortly after the cancellation of his own Harvest music festival, that “the event was seriously wobbly.”

How wobbly? “It wasn’t going to go ahead this year until I walked in, they were on the edge of the abyss, of cancelling the event,” reveals Maddah. “It wasn’t going to go ahead this year until I walked in, they were on the edge of the abyss, of cancelling the event.”

“I walked into this knowing the full picture, and what had happened,” he adds, acknowledging, “I was under no illusions that it was going to be a financial catastrophe… I got involved for very selfish reasons,” he explains, citing a sense of nostalgia for the Big Day Out having attended the festival himself in his youth.

“To be blunt about it, up until I got involved, the original promoters of the Big Day Out are basically old aged pensioners at this point, and they overestimated some of these bands,” Maddah said.

As for Fairfax’s allegations that the festival is staring down the barrel of a $8-$15 million loss, Maddah tells Triple J that “it’s probably about the lower end of that [figure]” but was still waiting on various numbers to come together; “we still don’t know, but it’s going to be ugly.” But Maddah rejected rumours that he would make his stake insolvent and walk away from C3 Presents to protect himself from financial losses as “absolute nonsense.”

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years now – geez I’m old – and you don’t stick around if you don’t pay your bills.” The festival promoter said that “of course” he would pay vendors, while lashing out at the SMH report that suggested otherwise.

“The thing about Fairfax… they’re essentially enablers of gossip,” says Maddah. “They will take any old rubbish from any idiot [and] run with it completely irresponsibly… they don’t stop to actually think through the allegations that they’re making.”

The SMH piece also claimed that organisers had ‘fixed’ crowd numbers for media, while low ticket sales had left vendors out of pocket – claims that C3 Presents rejected as “simply not the case” in a statement issued this week.

Maddah also emphasised that he offered Fairfax to “come in and go through my emails, to see what was going on [but] they weren’t interested… because the truth isn’t sensational.” The losses are “probably about the lower end of [$8 million]… we still don’t know, but it’s going to be ugly.”

While discussing the high-profile Blur cancellation, Maddah also spoke about the “ridiculous” ticket price of $185, set up before his arrival into the Big Day Out, as “just insane.” A price he plans to reduce to approximately $160 for next year, the 2015 edition will also move its traditional Sydney Australia Day showing; “that’s definitely happening next year,” confirmed Maddah, moving it to the Saturday for next year’s Big Day Out.

Before appearing on Triple J Hack this afternoon, Maddah had already confirmed that the Big Day Out would not be returning to Perth in 2015, citing poor attendance, the high costs of travel and staging, and ongoing battles with local and state government, while also stating the festival’s future in Adelaide was in doubt and that though “nothing had been decided” it was “up for discussion.”

But on Triple J’s Hack this afternoon, Maddah had more positive news on the South Australian leg. “I’m pretty confident that we’re going to go back to Adelaide,” he says.

“We need to go through the financials for this year, which are pretty bad,” before making a final decision he explains, but said its return was “definitely a lot more feasible,” unlike Perth’s situation which he described as “unbearable.”

Maddah also responded to Fairfax allegations that Big Day Out CEO Adam Zammit had been fired ahead of this year’s Adelaide leg only to be rehired. Calling the CEO a “really good guy [who] obviously has got his own style of doing things,” Maddah did say his position was “something that we’ll review with time.”

Referring to his own “brash management style,” Maddah went on to say “had I fired him it probably would have been on Twitter. You can take it on good authority he wasn’t actually fired.”

Before defensively adding that he “didn’t see the relevance” in firing the festival’s CEO or not, but admitted “If he had been dismissed, it would have had wider ramifications.”

Maddah also touched on the cancellation of his own Harvest festival, saying its axing was “completely unrelated” to his joining the Big Day Out. Further to his comments in September that he “didn’t book a good enough festival”, Maddah told Hack that his major mistake with the festival was “I went 90s… [booking] bands that I liked rather than being current, the market didn’t like it and didn’t buy tickets.”

Maddah’s other major music event, foremost hard and heavy festival Soundwave, hasn’t been without its own issues.

Aside from major lineup shuffles – including Stone Temple Pilots pulling out and a dispute over a Sidewave show featuring Megadeth and Newsted – Soundwave is looking to follow in the footsteps of Big Day Out’s last-minute move away from the Claremont Showgrounds, with a similar change of venue to Arena Joondalup.

You can read a full transcript of AJ Maddah’s comments on Hack on ABC’s website.

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