Sometimes you just can’t help but feel like you’re a fish out of water. In 2011 I attended Tomorrowland in Belgium. I had heard many great things about the event’s production and the promoters, all of which were true. But when it came down to the music, well, let’s just say the artists on the lineup weren’t my dream bill. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt that way as the following year organizers tapped techno legend Dave Clarke to curate the second stage. Clarke’s stage went so well that he was invited back in 2013. Having brought everyone from Jeff Mills to Ben Klock to his stage, the mighty Clarke will curate the second stage at Tomorrowland for the third consecutive year this time around featuring Green Velvet, Heidi, Seth Troxler, Marcel Fengler, Octave One (live), Vitalic (live) and many more. We asked Clarke aboutthe genesis of his association with Tomorrowland and how the artists he books come strictly from a place of musical respect, not obligation or self-promotion. “Nepotism is a real bug bear of mine.”
Dave Clarke hosts the second stages at Tomorrowland on July 20 and July 27 in Boom, Belgium.
Congratulations on your third year hosting a stage at Tomorrowland. I attended Tomorrowland in 2011 and felt that the music programming needed some proper techno (ie. too much EDM). How did you get involved with Tomorrowland? Did you ever fantasize about doing something like this in the past?
Dave Clarke: They have wanted to work with me for some time before my first hosting. For whatever reasons I never heard from them or it didn’t get to my agent. Then I had a meeting with the main guy at ADE and the deal was done over a cup of tea. In Belgium they always had an understanding and respect for underground music. I have been playing there for over 20 years so I think in their hearts they love having a bit of punk spirit on a very successful EDM festival, for me it is an honor to be entrusted in doing an alternative stage.
What’s your favorite memory from Tomorrowland 2012 and 2013?
The Juxtaposition of playing techno with a giant butterfly behind me and bubbles being blown everywhere; I actually find that a great memory. The fireworks are killer too.
You’ve booked artists who you have no professional affiliation with (ie. they aren’t signed to your label, serve as your proteges, etc.). Do you think that impartiality plays a role in the your role as a curator?
Thank you for bringing that up. Nepotism is a real bug bear of mine. I still approach this as a fan, a true fanboy if you like. I don’t have to support a flagging career by “representing” a label’s “beliefs” which are almost always camouflage for the artist at the top of the tree not being relevant. I love music, which after all the years in the business is a real blessing….there are a few people that are still like that Laurent Garnier, Carl Cox, etc.
“I don’t have to support a flagging career by ‘representing’ a label’s ‘beliefs’ which are almost always camouflage for the artist at the top of the tree not being relevant.”
What’s the biggest challenge of putting together lineups? How long in advance do you need to begin getting your wish list together? Do you have carte blanche, or were there limitations?
Of course availability of the artist is one. Book far enough ahead though and it is not an issue. Sometimes a [booking] agency will try and push an artist you do not want in return for an artist you do, but that does not work for me. You also have to work with the promoter and be prepared to be be democratic as it is their event after all, generally it is an easy series of phone calls and e-mails. Tomorrowland are easy to work with. I hope they can say the same about me. [Laughs]
How involved are you in the decor and production of the stage?
Not at all in this case. The stages are an extension of the festival brand and look, plus they have to support different artists on different nights —it would be nigh on impossible to change for an artists whim when the stage is the second biggest on the festival site.
The lineup for both weekends is brilliant. Tell us about the artists you selected and what you think they bring to the table.
They all bring something to the table that is why they are there. I am very excited to have them all play, but I would really like Seth to “bring something to the table” as he is an excellent cook.
How did the past two festivals inform your choices for this year’s event?
Each year is a different event, a fresh start, but having Green Velvet is always a pleasure.
Seth Troxler is on the bill. Great artist and someone who certainly speaks his mind. In a recent article he wrote that “dance festivals are the best and worst places in the world.” What do you think about Seth’s comments?
I do not read much press these days — it is too fragmented, although some of Seth’s comments come on to my FB timeline when I occasionally log in. Everything he is saying to some degree is what I was saying 20 years ago. In those days raves were very commercial, and I was saying what I thought about them and rubbing people up the wrong way. Seth is a credible artist with great heart, but he is more toward the center ground than me and my music which probably causes confusion for people that read his comments as they are less tribal and confrontative as techno fans. I understand where he is coming from, kind of a rave version of the opening line of A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens.
While there’s a lot of great names playing your stage lest we forget that you’re on the bill. Do you approach this set any differently than other festival gigs? What can fans expect from your set?
I never prepare. Some people find that weird. I like to be on my toes and be instinctual and “live,” so I will deal with each gig as it comes. Of course some are more “pressured” than others, but as an artist you feed off that.
Is there a particular song you’re particularly itching to play at Tomorrowland?
Maybe on the day, who knows. Maybe you want me to play “A Tale of Two Cities” to bring together Archive One, Seth and me in one fell swoop?
Aside from rain, what are your most nervous about?
No sushi and people using my toilet on my tour bus.
I own an unopened copy of Archive One on vinyl. Do you think that any of those tracks would go over well during your upcoming set at Tommorowland?
Maybe, but I rarely play my own music — makes me feel funny. I will be playing a lot of _Unsubscribe_ material though, which is a project I do with Mr. Jones.
Any final thoughts?
An American mag asking me questions whilst I am not and never have been part of EDM has to be an honor.
We’d be the last to ask anyone about EDM, but the honor is still all ours.