There’s great buzz, excellent speakers, industry shenanigans and plenty of liquid refreshments to look forward to but, ultimately, Sound City’s all about the music. And we’re mightily glad it’s almost here.
And the man who puts the music in Sound City? Step forward Mr Revo – aka Steve Miller, pic r above with Fucked Up’s Damien Pink Eyes – the man who brought us (way back in 2003) Evol and, in its wake, some of the city’s most memorable gigs, messiest club nights and weekly turns at Korova (RIP) amongst a roll-call of stuff we should all be eternally grateful for.
Now at the helm of Sound City – at least where booking enough acts to keep all but the greediest gigger sated all summer long is concerned – we grabbed Mr Ziganda to get a masterclass in all things sound and, for that matter, city…
How to you begin to programme a music festival?
Play a few vinyls to get in the mood… you start with your budget and then you can work out what ballpark offers you can make on artists, build your ideas up, find out what’s obtainable and available and structure accordingly. From the off it’s nice to see if a few wild card offers work, like asking for the Beastie Boys….
Is it a committee decision, or are you pretty much the man?
Ideas-wise on signed artists, I’d say yes, I have a certain amount of free reign on the new stuff that I believe will turn out to be the good stuff later on, but the higher levels are debated and considered carefully, we have to be sure acts are worth the money and are right for what we’re trying to achieve.
Sometimes a collective nod buoys the confidence, we are a new music festival and there has to be a balance of artists that attract the attention and artists that people discover who then become their new favourites.
Yeah, there’s a wish list and year-by-year you get closer to it but it’s hard work and you have to be realistic, but bringing The Black Lips (pic r) back to Liverpool was satisfying because I know their live show will never let you down, and there’s Spank Rock & Amanda Blank that we’ve tried to book for years, which is a coup.
I saw Kurt Vile & The Violators recently in Toronto and can’t wait to introduce them to Liverpool – and from Toronto there’s Fucked Up. Curating the label parties with Young Turks and Bella Union was a step up, but there’s a tonne of stuff I could go on about…
What makes a good festival? Is it a different set of rules to a camping-and-long drop-toilets one?
A great line up and location with the bonus of good weather and a party crowd and good friends.
With an urban festival you almost have to picture each venue as an outdoor stage just to get your head around the idea, and there’s the crawling from venue to venue aspect and having the Groundhog thing of waking up at home and doing it for three days and nights.
You need a good vibe on the streets, a buzz, a good circuit of venues that people can move between easily and a variety of acts that can entertain all walks, with something great going on at all times in all places.
This year with St George’s Hall, the Cathedral Crypt and the Bombed Out Church we’re trying to do something different, using what Liverpool can offer, but is seldom used for live music to build more of an experience.
When do you begin the programming process for Sound City? Any nightmares along the way?
It’s a long road and there’s no turning back, e started last September and the workload is relentless and unforgiving. We’re a small team and have to support each other.
The festival is so expansive with all the bands and the workings of the conference there’s peaks and troughs but when you overcome the obstacles and the festival itself kicks into life it’s all worth it.
If we only see FIVE acts at Sound City, who should they be?
This is kind of hard to narrow down so here’s five new and five I’d happily have play at Evol, but it’s the tip of the iceberg:
Kurt Vile & The Violators (USA)
Spank Rock & Amanda Blank (USA)
Funeral Party (USA)
The Black Lips (USA)
Fucked Up (Canada)
What more can we do to get Liverpool on the map? More/better venues? A more understanding council? Better attendance?
Some more venues would be handy for the festival but then I know they would all be hard to sustain year round as I don’t see the core scene being more than 1,000 people for the types of music I normally work with.
More council support; outside of the bigger events there’s not much going for independent promoters, everyone has to spin plenty of plates, living show to show. Attendances seem fine when you have a ‘buzz’ act on – it’s harder to introduce and break new stuff that isn’t on the radio or telly.
Despite our heritage and musical history Liverpool is viewed by the UK industry as a Category B city, this has always gnawed and I’m happy that alongside Evol, Music Week and Sound City there are new promoters doing things well like Mean Fiddler, Harvest Sun and WingWalker all aiding the attraction to play here and building the scene.
Many touring bands tell me that the Kazimier is one of the best venues in Europe and the crowds here aren’t po-faced, we have a lot to offer. Liverpool should be an essential city to play not just an extended Mancunian hinterland.
There’s a definite buzz in the air right now – where would you like us to be in five year’s time? NXNW?
SXSW is a monster of a festival, the size of it is immense, it’s taken 25 years to grow and they work miracles on repeat. I want to try and help create something that polarises the industry, the bands and the fans in the North of England, make it our Mecca, a window to the world, grow year by year and cement the festivals position on the global calendar and circuit.
We’re doing it there’s no doubt about that I see the evidence daily with how far the tentacles reach. I want next year’s festival to be a milestone, our fifth year and then working through the next five I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t be considered a leading world festival in the future if all goes to plan.
The life of a promoter in Liverpool? Hard? Fun? Knackering? Frustrating? Elating?
All of the above. It’s a survival kind of existence.
What does the future hold for you?
I’m continuing with Evol after the festival and have some great shows coming up with Ladytron, Wire and Metronomy, but I’ll be taking a short rest post-Sound City before gathering my thoughts for the next one, but there’s some interesting stuff on the horizon.
What are your favourite festivals?
Coachella, SXSW, Bestival, Standon Calling, Eurosonic
Who are you liking from Liverpool these days?
Usual suspects really with the Bunnymen, Ladytron and Clinic but there’s plenty of fresh stuff that’s great from Wave Machines, Mugstar, Outfit, Dogshow, Shadow Cabinet, Two Sunsets, Forest Swords, Dustland, Sun Drums, Liberty Vessels and The Verdict, but again I’m just scratching the surface, Fiesta Obscenic at the weekend outlined how much there is in the underground.
Liverpool Sound City, 19-21 May
Various venues, Liverpool