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Image for Big Day Out promoter Ken West: “We won’t make the mistakes of the past again”

Big Day Out promoter Ken West:“We won’t make themistakes of the past again”

The Big Day Out’s 20th anniversary was meant to be a time for celebration and reflection; a time to bask in two decades of unrivalled music history. However, in the lead up to the festival a ‘perfect storm’ of events transpired that would mark 2012 as the straw that (almost) broke the camel’s back.

Despite the dramas of the last twelve months – which included the very public departure of co-founder Viv Lees, downsizing of events and a decline in ticket sales – when I speak to the festival’s fearless leader Ken West he assures me, “Last year was paramount in redefining what [we were] about… it’s why we are in such great spirits now.” And there is no doubt that, having survived the storm, West has good reason to be buoyant.

With a new team (which includes Lollapalooza promoters C3) the BDO crew has put together one of their most dynamic lineups yet for 2013. Not only have they taken a seriously considered approach to the bill but, in West’s own words, they’ve also undertaken “a ground-up rebuild on the total festival experience.”

Throughout an hour long conversation with FL West speaks candidly about just what this rebuild means for the festival faithful, his ‘divorce’ from Viv Lees, booking the Chili Peppers and why there will never be another BDO in New Zealand.

How are you feeling after surviving ‘the perfect storm’ last year?
Last year was paramount in redefining what things were about. So if you eliminate the financial aspects of it, which I have always tried to do as much as possible, it’s why we are in such great spirits now. Because we went through such a difficult stage last year as a unit and once you’ve been through that you can have the fun. If you’ve been through the hard stuff together you can have all the fun stuff together, but it’s very hard if you are out of sync.

You and Viv Lees were obviously “out of sync” how did that partnership end?
It was a very clean break and let’s just leave it at that. It had to be, it couldn’t be any other way. You know, it’s sad and it’s shitty and it’s a shame that after such a long period of time it couldn’t be done any other way and it’s a shame it was public and everything but 30 years in the entertainment industry is a long time, it’s a miracle. So therefore that was the only way it could work. We were getting divorced and [so] other issues [were] really sideshows. And yes it was extremely public but as you know at the end of any of these tumultuous things you come off with a much clearer definition of what you want to achieve, what you think you can achieve and what you did wrong.

I’ve always been the Big Day Out’s harshest critic, and that’s partly because I’ve got to be. I don’t like people around me that high five me every time I come up with an idea, but I certainly don’t like people around me that tell me that ‘We don’t want any ideas’ and ‘We want it to be as formulaic as possible’. We don’t want it to be formulaic; we want it to be well run [but also] changeable and less predictable. But not [unpredictable] to the extent that we would put Kanye on after he had just done Splendour, that’s for sure. Prince would have been unpredictable!

“I’ve always been the Big Day Out’s harshest critic”

Do you feel like the BDO brand was tarnished because of everything that happened so publicly?
Yeah sure, I mean but if you follow the feedback [from the public] that’s been going for a while… it’s been dysfunctional for a while. And it is a miracle that we got the things together we did, considering how dysfunctional the process was and the way we were working and the lack of change that went along with it.

I remember a beautiful movie [Julian] Schnabel made about the life of [the artist Jean-Michel] Basquiat and there is a great line in where he says something like ‘You don’t want to be successful; if you’re successful they’ll make you do the same shit all the time’. And part of the problem with the success of the Big Day Out was that part of it was wanting to reinvent it all the time and part of it was trying to keep it status quo because it [was] working. And that never works. I mean my arts back ground has always been as soon as it’s calm throw a hand grenade in. You can’t work off predictability just ‘cause you think it is the safest way to go – that is the most dangerous place to go.

We won’t make the mistakes of the past again where things are left too late. We can’t be put in a situation where we are waiting for [a band or album] to be successful to decide if we want it – we really need to put our arse on the line and look at the year ahead and see what is going to happen. Part of the problem with the process [in the past] has simply been that it was more of a reflection of what was going on rather than having faith in the great artists that we know and being in direct communication with them and nurturing that process, and going ‘We think they will deliver’ even though the album is five months away, I know what they are up to and I think it’s going to be great. We have about 20 new albums coming out between now and [the festival].

Comments

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jacegalvin

jacegalvin said on the 15th Jul, 2012

"New Zealand should have never happened"
Quote of the day.

TheOriginalSlipdog

TheOriginalSlipdog said on the 15th Jul, 2012

No he makes worse ones, fuck.

Napoleon Solo

Napoleon Solo said on the 15th Jul, 2012

"New Zealand should have never happened"
Quote of the day.

No. Quote of the day.

Ken West

There were certain bands we couldn’t get. Like Refused; we just had to contact the band direct because we didn’t know what was going on. And they said the guitarist is producing an opera in Sweden, so they said he might have some work clashes but then we thought, ‘Well you don’t get time off for that, he is working for himself”. So that idea timed out and I think they are coming in three months, it’s still in the bidding process.

My pants are heading to explosion town.

Napoleon Solo

Napoleon Solo said on the 15th Jul, 2012



I just quoted the article. I thought it was obvious.

Ironic-Satire

Ironic-Satire said on the 15th Jul, 2012

i hate how he felt the need to accuse aj of offering bands too much money. 1) what's wrong with giving bands plenty of money. 2) they probably prefer soundwave because it has better overall lineups.

loudQUIETloud

loudQUIETloud said on the 15th Jul, 2012



Because it means ticket prices are more expensive and he was talking about Harvest festival and tours not just Soundwave.

jacegalvin

jacegalvin said on the 15th Jul, 2012



Oh, you meant the quote about Refused.
My bad.

doubtfulsounds

doubtfulsounds said on the 15th Jul, 2012

"why there will never be another BDO in New Zealand."

A bit misleading, West only says it is difficult and would be hard to make work but doesn't necessarily rule it out completely.

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 15th Jul, 2012

The New Zealand dollar must make it more difficult to put on the show in New Zealand. Your costs to hold the event there are obviously going to be lower in AUD terms, but the artists will cost the same. When you combine a smaller crowd with a much lower ticket price (in AUD terms), it makes it pretty hard to be economically viable.

They already have to deal with Adelaide and Perth being borderline economic prospects.

deanoss

deanoss said on the 15th Jul, 2012

"We won't make the same mistakes of the past again"

Tell me more...
http://www.theage.com.au/ffximage/2007/07/23/GRINSPOON_wideweb__470x277,0.jpg

Fake Plastic Android

Fake Plastic Android said on the 15th Jul, 2012

Every promoter is making a mistake until they bring out Silversun Pickups for a proper tour.

shazie

shazie said on the 15th Jul, 2012



Words of beauty and wisdom

SeniourButtkiss

SeniourButtkiss said on the 20th Jul, 2012

make it a hard rock/metal festival again and people will come... simple

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 20th Jul, 2012

It never was just a hard rock/metal festival.

BDO has really just followed musical tastes over the years.

Heretik

Heretik said on the 20th Jul, 2012

yeah, possibly the worst lineup so far this time around!

Stugalug

Stugalug said on the 20th Jul, 2012



Surely you meant to say best? Surely?

Maximillian Billion

Maximillian Billion said on the 20th Jul, 2012



Not that I comment much on here, but surely you didn't wait 4 odd years on these forums just to open with that?

bigval

bigval said on the 21st Jul, 2012

This idiot should just stop talking, he couldn't have made a bigger fool of himself over the past 12 months. The lack of professionalism is staggering.

Go and ask Mike Patton why none of his bands will ever play on the BDO again (after Fantomas in 2009) and why Soundwave/Harvest are the festivals of choice for him (Faith No More in 2010/Mondo Cane in 2012).

Quicky

Quicky said on the 21st Jul, 2012

Can you elaborate on that? Not all of us are close friends with Mike Patton....

Oflick

Oflick said on the 22nd Jul, 2012

I'm with Quicky on this. I was unaware Mike Patton had sworn off Big Day Out.

Quicky

Quicky said on the 22nd Jul, 2012

AJ Maddah is apparently good friends with Mike Patton and ultimately at the end of the day, this discussion of "Mike Patton vs BDO" comes to two factors I think at the end of the day:

1) Loyality / more friendly with the Soundwave Team. We need to take into account that AJ Maddah wouldn't of had Fantomas at SW 2009 and Harvest wasn't established in 2009. BDO took the opportunity and provided a good band to play on the side stage during Neil Young.

2) More money on the table - we're in a day & age where people are buying less and less music and illegal downloads is of the highest concern. Lets not forget the bidding wars.

I don't think that Mike Patton hates BDO in any regard. From what I understand from reading articles, there are alot of bands who come off the BDO tour loving it wishing they could do it again because its a holiday with a few shows a week.

Oflick

Oflick said on the 22nd Jul, 2012

The only thing I can imagine that would have made Mike Patton hate BDO would be because they kicked Mr. Bungle off in 2000. But he played in 2002 and 2009, so it would have been a major delayed reaction for him to start hating them now. What you said is probably right Quicky.

But Bigval's wording implied that something happened in 09 with Fantomas:

monokhrome_nite

monokhrome_nite said on the 22nd Jul, 2012

Most of bigval's posting history consists of how Big Day Out and Ken West are the most terrible things to ever happen to Australian music anyway.

Quicky

Quicky said on the 22nd Jul, 2012

Was there ever a reason for kicking Mr Bungle off the bill in 2000?

I think Faith No More seemed like a reunion for funds for Patton projects and SW threw alot of money at them so therefore SW wins at the end of the day.

Oflick

Oflick said on the 22nd Jul, 2012



The Red Hot Chili Peppers hate Mike Patton and/or Mr Bungle.

Quicky

Quicky said on the 22nd Jul, 2012

[FONT=Arial,Helvetica][SIZE=2]Good read from http://www.bunglefever.com/faq.html#I.14

What is this about a feud between Mike Patton and Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers? Did it really get Mr. Bungle kicked off of a festival?
[FONT=Arial,Helvetica][SIZE=2]Based on various interviews with the people involved, it seems to boil down to this: In 1989 Faith No More released an album called "The Real Thing," and several singles from that album for which videos were made. The video for "Epic" became very popular, and Patton was suddenly seen in silly clothing, swinging his long hair around, rapping to Faith No More's funk-metal sound, all over the world. Anthony Kiedis seems to have been oblivious to the fact that this sort of combination of funk, metal, and rap (always accompanied by bad clothing and hair) had been the trend on the West Coast for some time, and wasn't actually invented by his band. Envious of Faith No More's success, and angry that it seemed to have been achieved at least in part due to the wild frontman who he thought had stolen his "moves," he accused Patton of ripping him off in the press. Members of Mr. Bungle responded by gleefully threatening Kiedis with bodily harm in the press. Eventually Patton and Kiedis met in person, were polite to one another, and everyone lost interest.
Many years later, after Faith No More was long gone and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were hugely successful, the release of Mr. Bungle's "California" was pushed back by Warner Bros. so it wouldn't come out at the same time as the Red Hot Chili Pepper's similarly-named "Californication." Then, when Mr. Bungle were asked to play at some European festivals in the Summer of 1999, Kiedis threatened to cancel his band's appearance, and Bungle were dropped. That Halloween, Mr. Bungle retaliated by playing a show in Pontiac, Michigan dressed as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, complete with freqent heroin injections and covers of really bad songs. This resulted in Kiedis having them kicked off of some Australian festivals.
Fun quotes:
"OK, here's what happened, 'cause I know he has his opinion, now here's mine. In that interview the writer said, 'Are you guys sick of people ripping you off?' I said, 'Who are you referring to?' and he said, 'Well, Mike Patton in Faith No More.' So I told him what our drummer said, and yeah I watch that 'Epic' video, and I see him jumping up and down, rapping, and it looked like I was looking in the mirror. The thing is, I had no problem with him personally. I mean, I love 'The Real Thing,' and I liked his vocals on that record. I mean, when I heard the record I noticed subtle similarities, but when I saw that video it was like, 'Wait a second here, what the fuck?'" -- Anthony Kiedis
"I mean, the Chili Peppers is something I hadn't really thought of in years. And I'll go ahead and tell you this. Why not? I haven't told anybody else yet. We were looking at booking some Mr. Bungle shows in Europe this past summer, some big festivals, which is something we'd never done before. We figured it'd be a good thing: We'd get to play in front of a lot of people who wouldn't otherwise hear us. Our agent was in the process of booking these festivals, and it was becoming apparent that we'd landed some pretty good ones—one in France, another one in Holland, some big-name festivals. Turns out someone's holding a grudge! We were booted off several bills, including a really big festival in Australia, specifically because Anthony Kiedis did not want us on the bill. He threatened to pull the Chili Peppers if Mr. Bungle was on the bill. Now, rationalize that one! That's so fucking pathetic! I mean, this guy's selling a million records! We are not even a speck of dust on this guy's ass! What's the fucking problem? It's unbelievable." -- Mike Patton
"I would not have given two fucks if they played with us there, but after I heard about some Halloween show where they mocked us and read another interview where Patton talked shit about us, and I was like, you know what, fuck him and fuck the whole band." -- Anthony Kiedis
"We were booked, months in advance, to do eleven festival dates in Europe. Come Summer, we get a call from the three biggest of those festivals, all of them the same day, saying that we can't play, because the headlining band retains the right to hire and fire whomever they wish. We found out it was the Red Hot Chili Peppers, so our manager called their manager to find out what the hell was going on, and their manager was very apologetic, and said, 'We're really sorry, we want you to know this doesn't reflect the management's position, or the band's for that matter, it's Anthony Kiedis who wants this.'" -- Trey Spruance

bigval

bigval said on the 23rd Jul, 2012



Something did, I don't know what that something was but was told by a person who spoke to Patton on that tour that none of his bands will ever play at the BDO again.

When there was speculation in late '09 about FNM doing an aussie tour in early 2010 the same person assured me it would be Soundwave and not the BDO regardless of what kind of money was on the table.

jacegalvin

jacegalvin said on the 23rd Jul, 2012

Something did, I don't know what that something was but was told by a person who spoke to Patton on that tour that none of his bands will ever play at the BDO again.

When there was speculation in late '09 about FNM doing an aussie tour in early 2010 the same person assured me it would be Soundwave and not the BDO regardless of what kind of money was on the table.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPuSJeVOw7I




Fixed, your original post didn't have enough.

sarcasm_mister

sarcasm_mister said on the 23rd Jul, 2012

finally got around to reading the interview and thoroughly enjoyed it. the right questions were asked and the appropriate answers were given, albeit rather candidly. i think Ken West really understands the importance of staying onside with the media so giving half-hearted interviews or playing his cards close to his chest is a thing of the past now.

a couple of aspects stood out to me. i had no idea how much control bands had over sideshows. i always figured it was a case of ok if the festival sells well you can do a sideshow. the festival+sideshow combo is probably one of the best things about being a music fan in this country so i hope it stays strong for a while.

he has taken a bit of a gamble by putting acts near the top of his lineup before they release an album. but all he really needs is for two or three of them to have a big hottest 100 track and he'll be cheering. the chances of that seem very high. so good on him for taking a punt i'm confident it'll pay off.

and he shouldn't be disheartened by last year. a lot of people including me had an awesome time at the 2012 event. half the reason im going again this year is because of the great experience i had last time.

Bandolier

Bandolier said on the 25th Jul, 2012

big day out is a gather. of 15 year old kids.

HardcoreMusic

HardcoreMusic said on the 25th Jul, 2012

to be honest big day out has been prretty gay for the past few years but i still went to the last four (in auckland). its wasn't always the best lineup but its about checking out something new and supporting artists. however i would still heavily prefer soundwave over big day out (i've flown over to that fine country you call australia twice for it so far) and so long as the lineup is great again in 2013 i might make that three years in a row. so now that ken west has said nz sucks, aj should fly his epic soundwave to my doorstep. :)

Stugalug

Stugalug said on the 25th Jul, 2012



What do you mean? Do you think the Big Day Out is similar to a Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras?

Quicky

Quicky said on the 25th Jul, 2012

I thought this year's BDO was fairly ordinary - Best Coast, Kanye West, Papa Vs Pretty and Nero were the real standouts to me. I'm just hoping a shit timetable doesn't result with this lineup.

liquidtopaz3

liquidtopaz3 said on the 25th Jul, 2012

This year's BDO was one of my favorites. I was only at the Main stages for Boy & Bear and Kanye, so spent most of the day in the shade, and had great views at the front of the crowd for plenty of sets at the Green and Converse stages.

01seb

01seb said on the 25th Jul, 2012

This year was amazing with no crowds. Wondered in 15 mins before Royksopp started and got barrier, got 2nd row at Kasabian and got centre barrier for Noel Gallagher after everyone left at the end of Foster the People.

tyler07

tyler07 said on the 25th Jul, 2012

This year's BDO I thought was pretty awesome with lower crowd numbers and some killer performances.

Yeezy, Parkway, Frenzal, Royksopp, My Chem, Soundgarden. Was definitely an awesome time.

jacegalvin

jacegalvin said on the 25th Jul, 2012

This year had Regurgitator.
Nuff said.

tyler07

tyler07 said on the 25th Jul, 2012

So did BDO 2008, which was my first and still best BDO I've been to.

sarcasm_mister

sarcasm_mister said on the 25th Jul, 2012

Battles --> Kimbra --> Kasabian --> Soundgarden --> Kanye --> Noel was near perfect. actually would've been perfect had Kasabian not been so boring.

tyler07

tyler07 said on the 25th Jul, 2012

My ex-girlfriend made me see Kasabian.

We broke up because she cheated on me, but dragging to me to Kasabian was by far the worst thing she ever did to me.

sarcasm_mister

sarcasm_mister said on the 25th Jul, 2012

the friend i saw Kasabian with never paid me back for the ticket.

jacegalvin

jacegalvin said on the 25th Jul, 2012

I really liked Kasabian's performance....

Quicky

Quicky said on the 25th Jul, 2012

They were great at their sideshow. Otherwise really average at BDO.

liquidtopaz3

liquidtopaz3 said on the 25th Jul, 2012

They were great at the 2010 BDO, but couldn't be bothered seeing them this year. I think we decided to have a dinner break when their set was on.

monokhrome_nite

monokhrome_nite said on the 25th Jul, 2012



Pshaw. If anything, BDO has not been gay enough as of late.

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 26th Jul, 2012



Totally. Rammstein has really been the only homoerotic band to play in recent years and the crowd loved them.

Miss Pye

Miss Pye said on the 28th Nov, 2012

yeah yeah yeah, iv just been stabbed in the heart....