Ahead of the seventh Liverpool Sound City, Getintothis’ Peter Guy chats to festival CEO David Pichilingi about The Velvet Underground, the challenges of programming a festival, growing up loathing the Beatles and the acts he’s looking forward to playing this year’s citywide festival.
The behemoth that is Liverpool Sound City swings back into action next week.
From Thursday May 1 until the wee small hours of Sunday May 4, the entire city will be awash with musicians, ents business heads, technicians, writers, photographers and most of all music lovers, as Liverpool transforms into a frenzied jungle of activity and performance led bohemia.
Pulling it all together behind the scenes is David Pichilingi and his team in a small office in the Baltic Triangle. With just over a week to go, Getintothis caught up with David to talk music, road closures, Bowie, Bird and how a dude in a Japanese Kimono started it all…
Getintothis: Hey Dave, so it’s just a couple of weeks to Sound City – you all set?
DP: I am as set as I can be at this time.
At this stage of the game it is all about making sure we have the right processes in place and to make sure everything goes as you plan whilst also having a strong plan B and C!
Getintothis: Who are you looking forward to seeing from the acts outside of the city?
DP: There are so many but some of them at the top of my list include Gruff (Rhys); I’m excited about both his interview then the showing his film American Interior and then playing live.
Also Bipolar Sunshine, Public Service Broadcasting, Radiophonic Workshop, Jungle, Factory Floor and loads more. What usually happens though, is that I get side tracked and my list all goes to pot and I discover hidden gems that were not even on my radar.
Getintothis: What’s new or off the beaten track at this year’s festival – any exciting new additions or secret stuff we should look out for?
DP: Yes, we have some great new additions this year that includes new warehouse venues, outdoor stages for the first time, road closures and even music on the ferries.
Every year we try to push the envelope a little more and try to present music to our audience in a way that they would normally never get the chance to consume it in a city centre environment.
Getintothis: John Cale and Thurston Moore are very special coups for the festival – I know you’re a huge fan of the Velvets – tell us what makes them so special to you.
DP: Growing up in Liverpool in the 70’s we were told how much you should love The Beatles and how important they were.
The first thing you do when people try to force feed you something (particularly the generation older than you) is to reject it completely. For that reason I grew up loathing The Beatles.
At a very early age I was exposed to some great music by my mum’s son who used to babysit me and my brother. I was about 15 and he used to come round wearing make up and in strange Japanese Kimono clothing. I was fascinated by the way he looked and the magic and mystery that he seemed to emanate. He was so different to anyone else that I knew in my own peer group.
Him and his girlfriend used to commandeer my mum’s radiogram and bombard us with wondrous music. Primarily this was made up of Bowie and The Velvet Underground. This music was so different to anything else I had heard at this time and I ended up becoming completely immersed and obsessed with it all.
Once in this world it opened up to a whole new world of art and culture and way of looking at the world. The Velvets made me want to join a band. Wanting to join a band was the best decision I ever made in life as that was the catalyst for everything that has happened since. I still love the music of The Velvets and Bowie more than any other to this day.
Getintothis: It’s a real challenge booking such a big event, particularly in the current climate, where there any acts this year you really wanted to book but slipped away – and anyone you’d particularly like to bag in the future?
DP: There are so many acts that we look at booking every year.
Much of the time it is to do with may other factors such as touring schedules for the bands and artists and ultimately budgets.
Having said that we are always delighted with the line up that eventually takes shape. We put a lot of time and love into shaping the line ups for Sound City. We endlessly debate the pros and cons for bringing in certain bands over others. We take a lot of time to make sure it has a ‘Sound City feel’ and does not look like one of the other homogenous festivals that are on offer all over the UK.
Inevitably there will be disappointment not just from us but also from bands who do not get on the line up. This year we had over 9000 bands apply to play from all over the world.
We try to bring the most diverse and amazing line up that we can that we believe will excite our audience.
Getintothis: The Wolstenholme Square warehouse hub has been a masterstroke to creating an urban festival vibe – tell us about the new additional spaces being used this year – and where you particularly like watching bands in Liverpool.
DP: This year we are turning the Square into the real heartbeat for Sound City. We have some amazing spectacles planned for this area as well as outdoor stages and buskers stages for the first time ever.
I love seeing bands in unusual spaces. I am not a fan of black box venues. For me they are too clinical and boring. They all look and feel the same. I like seeing bands in unusual spaces. Over the years some of my favourite Sound City spaces have included St Georges Hall, The Bombed Out Church, The Crypt, The Garage and the Anglican Cathedral.
Getintothis: This is the seventh Sound City, what do you think have been the biggest challenges during the festival’s history?
DP: As Sound City grows the challenge every year is to keep it innovative and different.
We have to surprise our audience and keep them on their toes. Otherwise it will become stale and boring and like any other city centre festival. What makes us unique and different is Liverpool itself.
The challenge is to use the fabric of the city in new and exciting ways every year. There are some exciting additions this year.
However I am already excited about our plans for 2015 which aim to set us completely apart from any other festival like us in the world.
Getintothis: It’s fair to say Merseyside music is on a big high at the moment – and seems to be getting even better – which acts are personal favourites and are there any at Sound City you’e yet to see but keen to check out?
DP: I have never known Liverpool music to be as exciting as it is right now.
There are so many great bands and artists coming out of here right now. It is well known my personal faves are those signed to my label Baltic.
They are of course, Tea Street Band and Bird. Jack (Launer, label manager) and I have great hopes for them this year.
I also have a soft spot for The Sugarmen and VEYU. I am looking forward to see if Circa Waves live up to the hype that is currently sweeping them along.
Getintothis: Finally, your band 35 Summers are playing this year – brave move! – where can we see you and have you anything special planned?
DP: This all came about from our bass player (Robbie Fay) suggesting over a Christmas drink that we should ‘get the band back together.’
In true Belushi style he pushed it on and low and behold we are playing The Anfield Wrap stage on Satursday May 3 as part of Sound City. We have had two rehearsals.
The only thing we have planned is playing all of the ‘hits’ and having a fantastic time.
It is actually a welcome distraction in the final mad days of planning and delivering Sound City 2014.
Further reading on Getintothis
Liverpool Sound City 2014: Getintothis presents Jon Hopkins and stellar Merseyside show at Nation.
Liverpool Sound City 2014: Fringe events and John Peel World Cup revealed.
Liverpool Sound City 2014 add The Kooks to festival bill.
Liverpool Sound City 2014: Jon Hopkins, Albert Hammond Jnr, Drenge and more for May festival.
Liverpool Sound City 2014 announce headliners Kodaline plus Gruff Rhys and Fuck Buttons for May festival
Liverpool Sound City 2014: John Cale and Thurston Moore head up Conference speakers
Liverpool Sound City 2014 reveal football, music and style themes
Liverpool Sound City 2013: Top 10 bands and review round up of the festival