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Chatting With ATP's Barry Hogan

The Los Angeles version of the "All Tomorrow's Parties" (ATP) music festival, which was originally set for June 18-22, has been rescheduled for September 26-28 due to poor ticket sales. This is the first major setback for the otherwise successful and innovative alternative music festival, which debuted in 2001 at the Camber Sands Holiday center in England, curated by Tortoise. Last year, founder/director Barry Hogan held festivals in both England (curated by Shellac) and Los Angeles (Sonic Youth). This year he's going for a trio of them. Already, he's scored with a UK event, curated by Autechre, that took place in April; in addition to ATP L.A., which "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening is curating, a New York event, curated by Stephen Malkmus, will take place in September. The other day Neumu's Nicole Cohen questioned Hogan via email about the ATP festivals, including the problematic L.A. event.

Nicole Cohen: I understand the June ATP L.A. festival has been postponed until September. What happened? Was there a problem with ticket sales?

Barry Hogan: Yes, they were slow; a lot of the bands scheduled to play the event ended up touring around it, and the fans from other towns could see most of the bands in the local venues. And unlike last year, this lineup did not boast exclusive performances from acts like Television or Big Star. I really dug the lineup this year, but perhaps I am at fault for not securing more exclusive acts to the bill. Some have criticized it as third-rate, but most of them couldn't book a taxi, let alone a music festival.

Cohen: What adjustments to the organization/planning of the festival do you plan to make in order to ensure the September event takes place? Are you going to sign on bigger artists to make it work?

Hogan: We are going to parade naked around Hollywood with ATP flags wrapped around our genitals and hope that people notice our endearing plea for people to come. No, seriously, we are going to a stronger lineup and make attractive additions to the event.

Cohen: Why is UCLA not the venue for this year's festival, as it was last year?

Hogan: Because the UCLA venues were not right for the event and UCLA is controlled by too much red tape that makes an event like ATP hard to work on,

Cohen: Will Matt Groening still be curating the September event? What has been his reaction to the postponement?

Hogan: Yes, MG is curating the September event. He was very disappointed and frustrated like we were, but he has enough faith that the revised event will work out to be great success.

Cohen: Have the same bands scheduled to appear at June's event agreed to perform at September's event? Who in particular has confirmed?

Hogan: Yes. Mission of Burma, The Boredoms, The Magic Band, Throwing Muses, Daniel Johnston — there are plenty more, but they are just checking their schedules

Cohen: Will people who bought tickets for June be refunded their money, or given replacement tickets?

Hogan: The tickets they have purchased are still valid for the revised date; however, if they decide to seek a refund, they are more than entitled to, and will receive them at the point of purchase.

Cohen: Why do you think ticket sales were slow this year? Do you think the price of the passes contributed, and will the prices be reconsidered for the fall event?

Hogan: Why, do you think they were expensive? We may look at a cheaper option for day tickets

Cohen: Do you think it is too much to stage an ATP festival in England, L.A., and New York, in terms of focus and ensuring the event's success?

Hogan: No, I think L.A. can work. If we deliver a suitable lineup and make it attractive, then people will come. L.A. is full of people who are all about the lineup, and one guy keeps telling me that L.A. is spoilt for choice, that there are all these bands playing every night of the week. He needs to get off his crack pipe, because the L.A. music scene is not very exciting, and that was one of the ideas of bringing ATP to L.A. They make out that bands like The Boredoms play every night. I lived in L.A. for a year and went to about three gigs, so I am thinking these people should appreciate that they will never see a collection of bands like this in one place at the same time again. I like the idea of the event "This Ain't No Picnic," as that has a similar ethos to ATP and delivers decent lineups, but the whole idea is that the lineup is not something picked by morons at MTV who jack off to Korn.

Cohen: I have read that your intention when developing ATP was to create an artist-curated alternative music festival. Why the emphasis on the "artist"? What did you imagine an artist would bring to the band selection that a promoter, critic, or other type of producer would not?

Hogan: Because artists are generally more creative than promoters or critics, and I thought how fresh and different each event would be if the acts were selected by someone different every time. It also can be really challenging if one would experiment with the boundaries by inviting curators from different musical genres. No one will repeat the formula and be as adventurous as we were by inviting Shellac last year and Autechre this year. Not unless they enjoy playing Russian roulette.

ATP is a gamble at times, but I am willing to take chances to push this event into opening up people's minds — I now realize L.A. needs a different approach, and next time around we aim to surprise our harshest critics.

Cohen: I understand you are sensitive to not growing the festivals too large, keeping them a manageable and comfortable size. What is the ideal size of a great music festival experience, in your opinion? Do you plan to create more ATP events around the U.S./world?

Hogan: I like the idea of ATP being a festival of 3,000-4,000 because it becomes more personal and intimate. There is nothing wrong with bigger festivals but those events are so big they lose touch with their fans. I am merely commenting on the events in the UK, because I have never attended a big U.S. festival, but Glastonbury is a horrible experience where soap-dodging crusties all harp on about the good vibes, but the truth is, it is a poorly organized mecca for shitheads. There isn't good vibes there at all, just obscene toilet facilities, overpriced beer, bad food and an huge underbelly of violence and drugs. Perhaps some folks dig that, but that is not my bag. ATP is about a diverse but challenging lineup, selected by a creative artist or band.

Cohen: The name of the festival — "All Tomorrow's Parties" — comes from a song by the Velvet Underground. Why was that song title chosen?

Hogan: It's a great song, and off one of the greatest albums ever. The idea is the festival is all about music of tomorrow — music that will stand the test of time and will not be throwaway music like The Strokes, who will probably cease to exist in two years. I am not too sure the track "Heroin" would have caught on as well, so ATP it was. — [Tuesday, June 10, 2003]

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Chatting With ATP's Barry Hogan

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