Four Electric Picnic 2012 performers tell LAUREN MURPHYwhat they’re up to at the moment
ORBITAL: (Phil Hartnoll)
You last played Electric Picnic in 2009, not long after youd reformed.
Yeah, we’re very much looking forward to going back there – it’s one of my favourite festivals; very creative, just lovely. I had some free time the last time, and I was wandering about and looking at all the impromptu stages where people get up and do poetry. It’s very cultured. Mind you, we’d just come back from doing Creamfields and playing to a load of people off their heads in a massive car park . . .
You’ve played your fair share of big gigs at festivals over the years – how much does your set change with the size of the crowd?
Well, it’s all about the energy and the atmosphere. We improvise with the structure of the song, so we can make a song last a minute, or an hour. We’ve got a small studio set-up on stage, actually, so every instrument has got its own button. It all means you can change the overall sound; if they’re really enjoying a bit you can sustain the energy, take it away from them and build it up again. There’s so much you can do when you’re feeding off the audience. It’s a unifying thing, really; they do play quite a large part in how we perform, really.
Is it annoying to still have to play crowd-pleasers such as Chime and Halcyon after all this time?
Nahhh . . . they’re like our children, arent they? Theyve helped us along. We put them out to work for us at a very early stage and they got us where we are [laughs]. So no, not at all. I understand it. I mean, if The Cure don’t play Let’s Go to Bed, I will kick [Robert Smith] up the arse! Our set is gonna be splattered with quite a lot of the new album, but we are gonna play the old favourites. It’d be rude not to?
What’s the first thing you do when you get to a festival?
Well, it really depends on if it’s raining, or who’s on . . . but I’m hoping to get over there on the Friday as well, so I’ll get a chance to muck about and maybe tuck into the rider early [laughs]. No, I normally go on stage pretty sober, actually – how things change! Well, that’s the party line, anyway!
Where are you in terms of material for your next album?
I think I’m halfway. I have one project with a friend which has been in the works for about a year, and that’s about 10 songs... and then I have my own album. The dilemma is trying to figure out which one I should focus on to bring out next! I guess it’s time for a new one of mine.
I did go to a cabin in the woods for about a month with the dogs, to write. It started out really good, but then it descended into terrifying murder ballads about people in the forest [laughs]. I decided after the last album that I only wanna do really uplifting songs for this next album. In terms of arrangement, I suppose most of them are closer to Tales of Silversleeve – a little more lighthearted. But itll be next year, for sure.
What’s the first thing that you do when you get to a festival?
Oh, I’m a real pig, I go straight to the canteen. I’m one of those people that piles up two platefuls of stuff – I just get so excited about free food! I just love food so much, and I’m so excited about that because there’s always loads of different types of fish, and different types of cake, and . . . oh my God. That’s the best thing about Electric Picnic, it’s like a huge school cafeteria but with better food.
Then I see if I know who’s next door, then act awkward around them if I see them. And then I put on too much make-up, because I always have a bit too much time – and when you’ve too much time, you just keeping putting on your face . . . and then I play. I think that’s generally it. Eat a shitload and whack on the warpaint.
That sounds like Robert Smith’s pre-gig routine, too.
Yeah. I’ll see him in the cafeteria, haha!
Who are you most looking forward to seeing at this year’s Picnic?
D’you know what, I’d love to see Grandaddy; I’d say they just have a really nice quirky thing going on.
The thing I don’t like about festivals is all the posturing that goes on; the ‘my ego has to grown tenfold to match the size of the audience’ sort of thing. So there’s a lot of bravado, and I know that’s supposed to happen and that’s what people react to, but I never enjoy it as much as seeing somebody in a smaller space. But I don’t think Grandaddy are the sort of band to do that. So, them.
I hear you’re also playing drums for someone on the Salty Dog stage...
I’ve been told not to say who it is! But it’s after my show, I can tell you that. And if anyone goes, please tell them not to look at me while Im drumming, ’cos that will just put me off.
But this is a really old friend of mine, and we have so much fun, and I like everyone in the band . . . so for fun? Yes. For glory? No.
Le Galaxie have a reputation for their energetic live shows – was it always the plan to make each live show a big occasion?
We never had a plan. It was as much a surprise to us as it was to the people who first came to see us. We started playing. Then we started flapping around. Then the people watching us started flapping. It was a flap-off.
What’s on your rider to keep your energy levels sustained?
Well there is no illegal stimulation, if that’s what you’re asking! One or two of the lads like to drink revolting piss like Red Bull, but I’d rather you shattered my back with a hammer. Let’s say 20 per cent alcohol, 30 per cent fear, 49 per cent joy and 1 per cent jealousy.
What’s the first thing you do when you get settled in your dressing room?
Have a beer (two-beer limit before a show), feats of strength, dance to Giorgio Moroder, Google ourselves, watch Aliens and text Johnny Logan.
What’s the best thing about Electric Picnic?
What’s your favourite Picnic memory?
As a musician, it’s every one of the 30 minutes we spent on-stage in 2011. The entire gig was some kind of amped-up, high-octane bliss-bomb that had a life of its own for months after.
As a punter, LCD Soundsystem on the main stage in 2007 and The Redneck Manifesto on the Big Tree stage in 2006. There are no words.
Will Le Galaxie be slumming it with the masses and camping this year?
Some of lads will head to the artist campsite for some booze, mud, laughs and dancing, as well they should. I’ll be staying at a Stradbally BB in my Uggs.
What’s your one festival essential?
I want to say wellies but that’s boring, so Im going to say Crocs. They’re a great way of spotting an absolute bozo.
If you weren’t a musician and had to bluff your way onto the bill somehow, how would you do it?
Do they do Puppetry of the Penis? Always fancied myself in the phallic arts. Or maybe “Punch Judy Make A Porno”?
It’s been a massive year for you. How much of it were you expecting?
Well, this time last year, I would have been happy with finishing the album, releasing it and then continuing on. I didn’t think I’d get to travel so much to so many new places, and meet so many new people with these songs. It’s mindblowing, but really exciting.
Everywhere you go, you get the Otis Redding/Al Green/Bill Withers comparisons. Flattering, sure – but do they do more harm than good?
Sometimes the pressure can get to you if you think people are coming to the gigs and thinking ‘this guy is supposed to sound like this amazing singer – I wonder if he does?’. But most of the time you can only do your best. I don’t feel the pressure that much, because I know what I can do and how good it can be, and if people don’t like it or don’t get what the fuss is about, you can’t really help that. So it’s not too bad.
You collaborated with Black Keys man Dan Auerbach earlier this year.
Yeah, he reached out to management when the first EP was floating around and asked if I wanted to meet to talk about making music – so we said, ‘Well, why don’t we just do a track straight away?’ So when played a few nights in London, we met up and went into the studio in North London and recorded this song, Lasan, that I had left over after finishing the album. It was great.
You’re playing your third-ever Irish gig at Electric Picnic. Considering the intimacy of Home Again, how do you deal with the bigger shows?
Yeah, you definitely approach them differently. There are some songs that you just can’t play at festivals because they won’t work – so you have to make sure that you have something else to fill up the time. But the feeling of a good festival show is almost even more exciting than the feeling of a good pub show. I really enjoy festivals.
Have you ever had any bad experiences, though?
There was one in Norway . . . I feel bad saying this, actually, because the place was beautiful and the setting was amazing. It was on a small island and loads of cool bands were playing, but the people that were there seemed new to festivals – like, 17- and 18-year-olds. So they weren’t really interested in watching anyone – the headline act would be playing to a half-empty field, because people were just too busy waylaid in the bushes [laughs].
Well, Electric Picnic-goers are certainly a bit more civilised than that. What are you expecting from your first Irish festival?
I love playing in Ireland, so I’m sure it’ll be a great time. No Norway-like experiences, I’m sure.
* Electric Picnic takes place in Stradbally Hall, Co Laois, from Fri Aug 31st to Sun Sept 2nd