Frank Turner on playing the virtual reality version of Glastonbury’s Shangri-La: “It’s cool as shit!”

Lost Horizon, to be held this weekend, is a VR recreation of the most hedonistic area of the world's biggest festival. The folk-punk singer is on the bill, and reveals how its feels to enter the digital rave – and why you should get involved in the closest we'll get to Glasto this year

“There is no festival in the world like Glastonbury, and Shangri-La is part of the Glastonbury underground. It’s an area of Glastonbury I’ve always loved because it has this outlaw feel and Lost Horizon is as close to that as we’re gonna get in the current climate!

Read more: Inside Lost Horizon, the virtual reality version of Glastonbury’s Shangri-La

It’s still being run by [DJ] Chris Tofu and anything that Chris runs is still going to have the character of Shangri-La, but the VR side of it is a technological wonderland to me. I’m slightly mystified by it, but it seems very exciting and I got to play a show in front of a green screen and that is cool as shit.

Viewers or punters – however you want to put it – go into this virtual reality version of Shangri-La and can walk around and stop in and see different stuff and one of them will be me, playing away as a hologram. You don’t have to have an actual VR headset to be a part of this either, that’s important to stress, you can just do it on an iPhone. It’s not only for people with the big clunky Lawnmower Man headsets.

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I went down to a warehouse in Bow to record my set, which was all very carefully socially distanced – and I’ve got to say, it was extremely nice to get out of the house to play some music. It was nice to remember that there are other people out there – my wife and I have been at home just the two of us for a really long time – and so nice to see people doing whatever they can to keep some form of live music going.

It’s just me and my guitar and it was very much treated like a normal live show. I wasn’t given the option of alternative takes or anything like that, and I’m glad I wasn’t, because I’m a performing musician and I should be able to play a 45-minute set without fucking up! It’s not a smoke and mirrors constructed thing; it’s an actual live set.

I’ve been doing livestreams from home every week, going through my catalogue album by album, so I hadn’t actually written a setlist in quite a long time, which meant I kind of winged it. So my Lost Horizon gig is sort of a medium ‘Greatest Hits’ set, but it’s also quite honest; it’s the songs I felt like playing that day. It’s about 45 minutes long – there are loads of bands playing and I didn’t want to hog the stage and play for too long.

Beans on Toast [aka singer-songwriter Jay McAllister] is also playing the same stage as me – the Freedom Stage – and he’s how I got involved. Jay is one of my oldest friends and one of my oldest musical collaborators and he called me to ask if I’d get involved and that was that, especially seeing as it’s to raise money for The Big Issue and Amnesty International.

This year I was going to go to Glastonbury and do my regular thing at Strummerville, but I was also going to fulfil a long term ambition, which was to go to Glastonbury and be a punter again, because it’s been fucking years! My idea was to go down and set up my tent then play a gig on the first day and then just be a civilian. I usually tend to say yes to about 8000 shows, which means I’m in work mode all the time and I fucking love Glastonbury, but my plan for this year was to play once and then be a punter and watch Taylor Swift with my wife.

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I’ll definitely be having a wander around Lost Horizon instead and seeing what’s on – there’s so much great music involved with it all. Though it might be a bit weird if I bump into a holographic version of myself; I might see the future or something.

I would recommend some warm cans of lager, then put some wet trainers on and shit in a bucket – then you’ll be pretty close to the Glastonbury experience.”

As told to Leonie Cooper

– Lost Horizon is held July 3 and July 4. For further information visit www.losthorizonfestival.com. Sign up to experience LostHorizonin VR or on PC at www.sansar.com/losthorizon

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