Q+A: T In The Park Boss On Noel Gallagher Booking, 2015’s New Location And Female Acts On Festival Bills

This week (February 19) T in the Park have announced a strong trio of headliners for this year’s festival: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, The Libertines and Kasabian. In 2015 the festival will also be taking place at a new site for the first time, leaving Balado, Kinross where it’s been since 1997 to move to Strathallan Castle. NME caught up with organiser Geoff Ellis to discuss headliners, women on festival bills and their “picturesque” new location:

NME: Which acts are you most excited about that you have booked for the festival this year?

Geoff Ellis: The headliners, Noel Gallagher, Kasabian, and the Libertines. I think Prodigy closing the Radio 1 stage on Sunday will be a real highlight, I think their new material is going to be as intense as their early stuff. They, along with Noel Gallagher, will have played all three T in the Park sites. And I’m really looking forward to seeing St Vincent. I like what she’s done, musically it’s not like anything else, it’s different and refreshing. St Vincent I think is one of those moments when you lose yourself for about fifty minutes in the music and the atmosphere. I did it with Royal Blood last year, they were one of the few acts I spent a bit of time watching during the day. I knew I was seeing something I hadn’t seen before.

NME: Which act are you most pleased about getting?

The Libertines. They just played to 65,000 people in London. We tried to get them last year and it didn’t happen.

NME: Are you worried The Libertines might sort of fall apart before then or are you confident they’ll play?

I think that’s part of the excitement with The Libertines. But I’ve been keeping in touch with their managers; this has been a long time in conversation. We asked them last year and they said ‘no, actually we want to come back and headline in 2015’. They’ve been really on form and getting on well together, we’re seeing that energy that perhaps they had when they first formed the band. I saw them at the NME Awards two or three years ago. I went up to get a drink at the bar and the two of them (Pete and Carl) were deep in conversation and I thought ‘ah better get in touch with them and find out who’s gonna be representing The Libertines because they’re gonna get back together’.

NME: Do you think Noel Gallagher is ready for a headline set without Oasis?

Absolutely. Most of Oasis’ songs are his songs and he’ll play them as well as his own material, and I think it’s all set up well with the new album and everything. I spoke to him months ago and he was saying how excited he was about the album. You know when you can pick up from somebody that they’re not just going through the motions, that they’re really pleased with it. He was saying he can’t wait to get out and get working and it’s like, good, the time is right. He’s now the spokesperson for a generation. Paul Weller was perhaps a spokesperson for my generation and Noel’s now taken up that mantle from Paul. He’s very outspoken, he’ll probably slag off most of the people on the bill, that’s Noel for you.

NME: What did you think about Glastonbury booking Foo Fighters? Did you try to get them?

I was interested in Foo Fighters because I think they’re the ideal session headliner, but they needed to be back in the States for July 4th and just weren’t available. And they could’ve done without getting Royal Blood to be the support because it meant we couldn’t get Royal Blood either. That’s two acts I would’ve had but haven’t got.

NME: Did you try to get any women headliners? Do you think Florence is ready?

Florence has done T and played second to last, and I think we’re already quite far down the road this year with The Libertines, Kasabian, Noel, so we wouldn’t have been in a position to offer her a headline slot. She merits it and she is headlining festivals and the new material sounds good so I think Florence is a definite headliner but you’ve gotta book acts when you’re booking them. I’m not saying we’d never have her as a headliner and I’m sure we’d be delighted if that could happen one day. There are women on the bill but you know, it’s never about tokenism I mean we’ve got Jessie Ware, St Vincent, Annie Mac…

NME: What’s your opinion on women not getting enough space on festival bills?

There’s not that many women in the rock’n’roll sense, there’s not a huge amount of women who are festival headliners, Florence being one but I mean someone like Kate Bush doesn’t like touring, she isn’t going to go out and headline festivals. But people like Ellie Goulding, they’re high up on festival bills but that’s again coming from more of a pop angle. Ellie’s someone who’s been put on the main stage at T in the past. Paloma Faith is fairly high up the bill, and merits that, and she’s sold out an arena but she’s not on the same level as Noel and Kasabian and The Libertines but she merits a high slot on the main stage.

NME: You said T is going to be more of a boutique festival this year? Could you tell me a bit more about that?

I’d use the phrase “feel of a boutique festival”. We’re not making it any smaller. The term I’d use would probably be more “picturesque”. It’s a very picturesque site. It’s surrounded by mature woodlands and the topography is different, whereas the old site was a very flat site as it was an old airfield. There’s a lot of rolling hills and everything and you’ve got a castle so people will be watching the main stage with a castle in the background. It is a country estate – it’ll have that whole kind of feel about it. So I was kind of trying to be evocative of that feeling of a boutique festival but no, we’re not making it any smaller. It’s still going to be T In The Park. It’s got the same energy, the same passion and the same vibrancy that we’ve always had there and that’s because we’ve got the same audience and it’s the audience who bring that energy to the party.

NME: Where will people camp?

The camping kind of arcs around the arena, so it kind of curves around and it sets in where the castle is as well so quite a lot of the campers will see the castle and the lake from where they are. It’s lovely. It’s a beautiful location. There’ll be more than one entrance to the campsite so people may have less walking to do but being part of a festival is just wandering about and discovering new things and meeting new people.

NME: You said you wanted to create areas that are similar to Glastonbury’s Shangri La. Is that going to happen?

Well yeah, I think this gives us a bit more scope because we’ve got copses of trees where you can create things around them – a mixture of lighting, seating and music and dressing it all and putting in that kind of vibe. This site lends itself to that more than the older site does. We’re not going to try and mirror other festivals particularly because we will still be T In The Park but it does allow us to be creative. The old site was a bit too open to create.

Do you think you’ll be trying to get Blur back on the bill at some point soon now that they’re back together?

Yeah, I’d love to have Blur back at some point. Last time, Graham ended up in hospital with food poisoning so they nearly had to cancel. We had to change around a bit of the running. Guy Garvey and Gary Lightbody were rehearsing in the cabin while I was discussing with the managers what we were going to do if Blur didn’t make it. We managed to get them a police escort from the hospital and they raced to the site and I gave them a massive hug when they got out of the minibus and they ran straight to the stage and played. It was a great moment to see because the rumours had gone round. I think NME had posted something after they’d heard that he was in hospital saying ‘looks like Blur aren’t going to play T In The Park’, so I was up on the main stage saying, “hopefully they’re still coming!” and the doctors were saying ‘don’t go and play – we’ll discharge you but don’t go and play a music festival’, but Damon said they weren’t going to do it without him so they literally came from the hospital, straight to the T In The Park site and played. That merits a rebooking!