Interview: Barry Hogan, Creator of All Tomorrow's Parties
All Tomorrow's Parties New York takes place this weekend with approximately 6000 bands and My Bloody Valentine. Tickets are still on sale, though you better have a hook-up on housing because we just took the last room at the Liberty HoJo yesterday.
"We want to try to make [All Tomorrow's Parties] different than everything else. If you look at the line-ups of those summer festivals--good God, Jack Johnson! Who wants to see him? I don't even think Jack Johnson wants to see himself."
Pretty sure we screamed out loud when the first press releases announcing the line-up of the first All Tomorrow's Parties New York went out last spring. Dinosaur Jr.! Mogwai! Tortoise! Polvo! EPMD! Shellac! Built to Spill playing Perfect From Now On! And My Bloody Valentine!
The man responsible is Barry Hogan. Nearly a decade ago, the British promoter founded this egalitarian "anti-festival"--no sponsorships, terrific bands, reasonable drink prices, free parking (!)--as a stark contrast to the bloated UK corporate buffoonery of Glastonbury and Reading. Since then, Hogan's spun off the original ATP into selective events curated by the likes of Slint, Vincent Gallo, Matt Groening. Still, this weekend promises to be the stuff of Other Music rack-banter legend: My Bloody Valentine are not only headlining, but Kevin Shields handpicked Sunday's full roster (Brian Jonestown Massacre, Mogwai, Mercury Rev, Dinosaur Jr., and on and on and on). If the Feds were ever planning publicly to hogtie OiNK users en masse, this is their chance.
We spoke with Barry recently about why everyone's gonna lose their minds this weekend, why Echo & the Bunnymen never should have revived Ocean Rain, and how badly Jack Johnson sucks.
Do you still have a lot of things to do for the festival?
Oh, God, way too much. No, we're pretty prepared. But there're always loose ends to tie up, from getting wristbands sorted out to making sure that everyone's got the right riders--but that's just par for the course.
Have you ever been [ATP venue] Kutsher's?
The best way to describe Kutsher's is it's The Shining meets Cocoon. It's a great, great place, but it's one of those classic Borsch Belt resorts. Obviously, that area of the Catskills has seen better days. It's cool.
I think most people are wondering what it'll be like there--it's a festival in a country club.
Country club--hmmm. It is a country club, but when I think of country clubs I just think of people drinking Cristal champagne and riding ponies. There's a really amazing golf course there and stuff. It's a beautiful sight, you've just gotta remember that it's from a different era. The whole character of it hasn't been updated--it's not a contemporary place. Otherwise, we'd might've just hired one of those bullshit Schrager Hotels or something. That wouldn't have been the same. That would have been super-luxury apartments and stuff. It wouldn't have any character, it would be quite soulless.
But I think the whole nature of it, the bands that're playing and the audience we attract, they're gonna kind of there's a lot of kitsch value there. I think they'll be into it.
Do you know what the concept of ATP is?
Yeah, of course.
Sometimes I get talking to people and halfway through they're like, "What is ATP?" I think the best way to describe it is kind of like an anti-festival. We want to have drinks at reasonable prices, decent bands playing a lot of sets, free programs and brochures, no sponsorship. We don't have a merch rate for bands, parking is free, we treat people with respect, as you'd like to be treated. You know who I'm talking about, those out there who like to milk it to people. The way forward is to keep it boutique.
But also we want to try to make the line-ups different than everything else. If you look at the line-ups of those summer festivals--good God, Jack Johnson! Who wants to see him? I don't even think Jack Johnson wants to see himself. It's terrible. We're going for--about our bands, some people are like, I've seen those bands 100s of times. But you haven't seen it all together in one place! Especially not My Bloody Valentine.
Even to see Les Savy Fav together with Built to Spill, Mogwai, EPMD, and My Bloody Valentine--that's pretty awesome.
You can never get bored of Les Savy Fav. They're fantastic! There one of those bands that every time I see them I'm, 'Oh yeah, they're good. I want to see it again.'
There's too many festivals that I used to go to and you watch one or two bands and then you have to wait around for someone good to come on, then you go home, and you've spent loads of money and it's just really depressing. People should be going there for a good time.
What three performers besides My Bloody Valentine shouldn't people miss?
Well, I'd say someone like Shellac because they don't play that often, but every time they play they just destroy me they're so great. Lightning Bolt, same sort of thing. But I think it would be really good to see some of the kind of--I don't know how popular they are in New York or the East Coast--but Harmonia. I think it's really amazing they got back together and are doing some stuff. I think everyone should go see them because who knows if Harmonia will ever come back to America. Spectrum--they're great. But it's tricky when you ask that question because there're so many things that're really great.
Do you know what I'm really most excited about? And the record that means the absolute world to me? I really, really, really love Built to Spill's Perfect From Now and I think it's one of my favorite records ever. I'm really thrilled to bits that they're doing that. And for them to open, to headline, the first night, is killer. And Bardo Pond doing Lapsed. That's going to open the festival. That record is something else. Although some people might think I'm full of shit because I get so enthusiastic about these things, but these are records that I've bought and cherished and pulled them out from the wall going, 'We've gotta get these guys to do this!' And that's how we operate. We're kind of like mental fans.
Having My Bloody Valentine reunite under your umbrella--where does that rank on your list of professional accomplishments?
I think it's a huge honor for us. Kevin and I have known each other for like about eight to 10 years. He's always been coming to our shows in London. He's just so talented: I remember seeing him do the Patti Smith Coral Sea show and I was just thinking, 'You've got to get out there and do this as the Valentines. There's just too much great talent for people not to see it.' Lo and behold, he came back last year and said, 'I want to do this now.' And we were able to make it work for them by doing a tour across England.
And he gave us this opportunity of presenting this huge tour, which was a big undertaking for us. It's the biggest thing we've ever done. We've sold more tickets than we've ever done in our entire lives. And then he's like, "I want to continue working for you." And I told him that we were doing ATP in New York and he says, "We'd love to be involved." For us to have him as the kind of curator of the festival we're doing out here is--well, I think that's probably gonna set the bar too high now.
The shows [My Bloody Valentine] have been doing, they're the most sonic force of sound I've ever heard in my entire life. People are going to lose their minds when they see it. It sounds 1000 times better than anything you have seen in a long time. You're in for a treat.
I'm serious, I'm not just saying that to hype it up. They really are mind-blowing. We did some more shows with them at the ICA, they were like rehearsal shows, and we did the tour. And I actually went and saw them in Japan. And every time you see it, you just get better and better and better. So I think by the time it comes to New York, they're gonna be on fire.
What surprised you about seeing them finally?
How goddamn loud it was.
I went to see them in 1991. I only went to the show because I fancied this girl and she was a big My Bloody Valentine fan and I went to the show. She wasn't putting out, so I was like, this is waaaay to fucking loud, I've gotta go. It wasn't until after that I got into them. And I was like, 'Shit, typical, my life. I get into a band and they break up.' So it's kind of been a goal for a long time to get them to do something. I have to say, we're super-fortunate.
Now that you've gotten My Bloody Valentine, who's on your ATP wishlist now?
I have got some people in mind and I can't say who they are. Although this isn't one of them, I'd love to see Kraftwerk do it. I'd love to see Neil Young do On the Beach. But if you put that in the article, he'll probably go off and do it himself. Cuz fuckin' Lou Reed--and who else is there?--these other bands, you go to them and say, 'Hey come and do one of your albums' and they always doing it themselves! And they always pick the wrong fucking records! Like Echo & the Bunnymen doing Ocean Rain! It's not their best record. The first three are the best ones. Ocean Rain has got moments, but I don't even think it hits the notes. Good luck to them is all I say.
I'd love to see Neil Young do something. One of those really great albums he did in the '70s. Could be After the Goldrush and On the Beach or something like that, but that might be reaching for the sky. If he fancies coming up to Kutsher's Country Club, we're ready and waiting.
I'd like to see Tom Waits do something, but I don't know if he'd ever entertain an idea like that. Or like Leonard Cohen playing one of his '60s records. Being more realistic, it'd be nice to see someone like Pavement do something. Or some different stuff that doesn't play the circuit every time. We won't be looking for Jack Johnson--put it that way.
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