As part of our short series on cult festival All Tomorrow’s Parties, we spoke to festival founder Barry Hogan about what’s made the residential indie shindig one of the most beloved festivals in the world.
You said a few years back that the Dirty Three-curated ATP was your favourite – is that still the case?
“Yes, for many reasons, I still love the majority of the events we have worked on, but the D3's stands out the most for the relationship we developed with the Dirty Three and also their choices and their attitude towards the whole project. This was where Grinderman played their first ever gig and that whole weekend is remembered fondly.
Animal Collective’s line-up is one of the weirder in recent years – did they surprise you with their choices? Did they have any really strange requests that you had to veto?
“I like their line up, yeah its pretty esoteric but those guys are hardcore and knew exactly what they wanted. So many people suggest stuff for the curator to consider but they were like, we get one shot at this and we want stuff we truly love and adore so no third party submissions were considered. Two acts they hoped to get were Daft Punk and Björk which I think would have been amazing, but neither were available. Regardless there is a lot of good stuff on this weekend and I am excited to see Omar S and The Entrance Band, not household names but great nonetheless.
Les Savy Fav, Caribou and Battles are curating one day each of one of the December weekends. Have you noticed any competition between the bands?
“Yeah, they are trying to work out who has the most handsome band member amongst them all.”
Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum is doing the other December weekend – was getting him to curate a long time in the making?
“I guess like my desire of having Pavement, having Jeff Mangum was a final pay-off after years of persuasion and persistence. I think ATP is able to offer these bands more than just a fee for playing but a creative process of picking all their favourite films and music for the festival. Obviously, we can only get the bands that are available but the end process is generally a satisfying one.”
We’ve heard that Wes Anderson is a dream curator too - any luck with asking him whether he’d curate?
“Not as yet but I think our approach needs to be unique to make it seem like an appealing prospect, but watch this space…”
What kind of reputation do you think ATP has these days?
“I think for our loyal fanbase we have a good reputation, hence it still going after 11 years. I hope people see that we put blood, sweat and tears into each event.”
For anyone who’s never been before, how would you sell it to them? Or do you prefer that it stays more secretive and word of mouth?
“It's a music festival to act as an alternative to the bigger corporate events and it's designed for the more discerning music fan. The idea is to make it open to everyone and we do more small events than one big massive event so it still retains its personal boutique approach.”
You’ve expanded the festival in a whole host of different ways, into other countries and stand-alone shows – are there any other ways you’d like to develop ATP?
“Yes, it would be great to open a music venue that endorses the ATP ethos, a place where bands could play good music through a great PA, be treated well and not have to be subjected to the obscene merch commissions that so many venues enforce.”
I’m always amused by how much the Butlins/Pontins staff seem to hate all the bands that play – Monotonix a few years ago was a brilliant example – how do you persuade them to have ATP back again and again?!
“I don't think the staff of Butlins and Pontins hate the music as much as you think, Yes, Monotonix was frowned upon because they decided to play on the floor. It's pretty straight forward that if you play on the floor - you are likely to be breaching health and safety and the venue are just trying to protect their license. But bands that play on the floor need to realise that it's ok if less than 50 people are in attendance. Beyond that it's shit as no one can see and it sounds bollocks. Butlins they have been good to us over the years and I guess that's why they let us come back every year. I have heard from some staff that our crowd are better behaved that some of their regulars - how true that is, is anyone's guess.”
Read Laura's interview with curators Animal Collective here.
Read Laura's interview with Les Savy Fav's Tim Harrington on what makes ATP the best here.