THE INTERVIEW: All Tomorrow’s Parties founder Barry Hogan
Do you love attending concerts but loathe spending money on huge, corporate/sponsored music festivals? How would you like to spend an intimate evening with one of your favorite bands, along with a bunch of other artists from this band’s favorite record collection? Let me introduce you to All Tomorrow’s Parties; a music festival inspired by the 1967 Velvet Underground song and created in 1999 by founder Barry Hogan. Here, Hogan and I discuss how All Tomorrow’s Parties was created, what fans can expect from the film and why it’s better than large-scale festivals like Glastonbury.
For those in the dark, what is “All Tomorrow’s Parties?” How did this concept come about? What was the ultimate goal when creating ATP? (“Our True Intent is All for Your Delight”)
All Tomorrow’s Parties is an organization based in London that has been promoting festivals and concerts throughout the world for around ten years. It was founded in 1999 in preparation for the first All Tomorrow’s Parties festival, the line-up of which was curated by Mogwai and took place in the unusual setting of Pontins Holiday Camp, Camber Sands.
Since then, the festival has appeared every year, and continues to set itself apart from festivals like Reading or Glastonbury by staying intimate, non-corporate and fan-friendly. Another vital difference is that the line-ups are chosen by significant bands or artists, resulting in unpredictable and exciting events which combine performances by legendary and influential acts with appearances by the latest crop of experimental artists from any (and every) musical genre. The All Tomorrow’s Parties festival has become more successful with every passing year, moving in 2006 to a larger holiday camp. It has taken place in the UK, USA and Australia, and has been curated by the following artists: The Breeders, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Mike Patton & Melvins, My Bloody Valentine, Explosions In The Sky, Pitchfork Media, Portishead, Dirty Three, Sonic Youth, The Shins, Sleater Kinney, Dinosaur Jr., Devendra Banhart, Mudhoney, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Mars Volta, Vincent Gallo, Slint, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Stephen Malkmus, Mogwai, Tortoise, Shellac, Autechre, Modest Mouse, and Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening.
That’s an extremely impressive list of musicians! The festival has definitely come a long way… So who or what company was chosen to film ATP? How does the film compare to the festival itself? (Did you film entire sets or only include certain songs from each artist?)
ATP was filmed primarily by Jonathan Caouette, Jason Banker, Vincent Moon and Marc Swadel. But we also used contributions from fans, bands and ATP staff, as well as stuff sent in so many different formats. The film is a bricolage using Super 8, camera phones, hand held and various other cameras.
Interesting! Now compared to other large-scale festivals like Glastonbury or Bonnaroo, how does ATP match up?
I have never been to Bonnaroo, but I have experienced the hell that is known as Glastonbury. It is about 20 times the size of our event. It’s not intimate like ATP and the event attracts a horrible crowd. It’s like a Mecca for shitheads, and the reason we started ATP came about after attending this utter bullshit. I think the toilets in Guantanamo Bay are more humane than what this place offers.
I bet! I’ve never been to Glastonbury but have attended Bonnaroo, and while it was a great time, I definitely got the same vibe. You could tell certain people weren’t there for the music… which boggles my mind to this day. Were you aiming to attract a specific demographic of people to ATP?
Just people who like good music. The event was designed to be something I would want to attend myself, and I am pleased that ATP has developed into a community of likeminded souls.
For those that dream of creating their own festival, can you explain the time/effort/energy that was involved in making ATP and pushing it to succeed?
When ATP started, there weren’t any other alternative festivals. We were pioneers of bringing together decent music and presenting it in a fashion that wasn’t dictated by cheap, nasty lager companies or what was trendy in magazines. All you had then was big festivals like Reading, V, Glastonbury, etc. so we started ATP to offer an alternative. I think the reason it has remained successful is the fact that it has remained true to the concept of presenting a curator’s wish list on a live stage, so that each lineup is still exciting fans and bands that play at it. Nowadays, anyone who has been to a gig at their local pub thinks they are a festival promoter. There are hundreds of events every year, and most have one motive and that is to make money, which is pretty sad really.
It definitely is, especially for us live music lovers. So what exactly influenced your choices of artists/bands? (Are you a fan personally? Do you feel the “indie” music scene needed its own festival? Were these artists easy to band together?)
All of the curators we admire for their music, art, acting or whatever they are creative for. And the whole idea is to find people who we think will reflect a creative wish list of music and film and create a mix tape that is both interesting and exciting. Yes, the indie music scene needed a festival. Of course it did, otherwise what would you be left with? Festivals that are made up of shit like U2 and Weezer?
Most likely, yes. What was your favorite performance overall or what performer do you think achieved the best reaction from concert goers overall?
It’s hard to say any one thing, but I was blown away watching Sleep in May. It was like Black Sabbath had babies and they formed a band performing the heaviest shit I have seen in years. I like seeing bands wander round the site checking out new music, and I remember Nick Cave saying that ATP reaffirmed his faith in music. Both he and Warren Ellis were running around from one act to the next, and it was exciting to see people get that psyched about music. That’s why we got into this business in the first place, because we were moved by records or bands that changed our life. I don’t know if ATP will ever change people’s lives, but it’s definitely influenced a lot of events that take place now and opened new parameters about what can be presented.
For more info on All Tomorrow’s Parties, check out the website.