Interview: Kaptin Barrett (Boomtown)

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It all started 9 years ago with Chapter 1. Has the vibe changed over the years? How would you compare Boomtown 2009 to Boomtown 2018?

Although it definitely feels like it’s evolved organically, Boomtown today is like a whole other world really. Although we keep it playful at heart, we’ve grown up so much. More recently you have the huge epic stages such as Bang Hai or Sector 6 and of course Lion’s Den, which used to be in a tent back in 2009, but over the years transformed into the massive 60 meter wide fire breathing temple we saw in 2017!! This year it’s going to be even bigger and better again and host headliners such as Gorillaz and Die Antwoord.

Today there’s a lot more styles of music from Soca to Psy Trance, Folk to Jazz. In fact we worked it out recently and we’ve got about 80 different musical genres. There’s a couple of talks tents such as Speakers Corner, debating the issues of today, hundreds of workshops, a big area for kids up in Kidztown, which includes a forest school. It’s definitely much more family friendly than it was back then. Now, it’s a proper 60,000 capacity festival for all ages, rather than just a big old 5,000 capacity rave up.

We’ve also seen a massive growth around the theatrical side, which is just on another level now. Our interactive narrative has always underpinned everything that Boomtown is and it’s certainly taken us all on a journey over the years. For Chapter 10 we have 4 new immersive districts this year, with hundreds of actors and infamous Boomtown characters where you can unlock the story and choose to go deeper into the rabbit hole that is The Maze. And of course this year we have Boomtown Springs, which is our new immersive camping area! The first of its kind!

You guys are constantly booking huge acts over the years and continue to surprise Boomtown followers every festival. What’s your decision process?

Well, we have 14 districts and each generally has its own vibe musically; so the Hip-hop and Grime is mostly in Barrio Loco, the heavier electronic music in Dstrkt 5, Americana, Folk and World music in Copper County and so on. Ultimately though I’m interested in energising and inspiring, that’s really where the process begins. Who is going to nourish the people and make them feel alive? Who is going to bring people together and really make them feel like a part of something? Who is going to make them totally lose themselves in the moment? That’s the kind of thing I’m thinking and I’m pretty sure the rest of the programming team are on a similar page.

What do you do in your spare time to help you relax/de-stress?

Well it might sound strange but I’ve really been learning how to enjoy music again recently. Obviously I love music and always have done, but I listen to it non-stop throughout the day, keeping on top of dozens of different styles and constantly analyzing it, often only listening to a few seconds of a tune so the art of stopping and just enjoying listening to music for the sake of it is something I’ve really had to work on. I also mediate, do yoga, exercise, watch films, eat good food, go for long walks, and spend as much time as I can with the famalam, which also includes my dog Marley of course... Oh and dancing, something I don’t do enough of anymore but love to do whenever I get the chance. If a DJ can’t make me dance then you’re unlikely to see them in the festival. I’m not into standing around chatting or taking selfies when the music’s on, I see it a lot these days but it doesn’t say much for some DJ’s tune selection if you ask me.

Die Antwoord seemed to have a mixed reaction, they’re such an original act anyway and thrive on the unusual. Explain your decision to book them?

They certainly push buttons and boundaries but I’m into that. I might not always agree with them, or even like all of their music but like you say, they’re original, they explore the underbelly of human nature in a way that’s exciting and interesting. Anyone who’s been into our Dstrkt 5 area shouldn’t be surprised that we would book them. The first time I saw the video to Enter The Ninja I had to re run it about 20 times and I really couldn’t decide if I liked it or not, but I couldn’t stop watching it. That was back in 2010 and I’ve seen them a couple of times live since then, in Liverpool and Reykjavik. The energy levels were huge both times so I have no doubt they’re going to go down amazingly at Boomtown. I can’t give anything away but I’ve heard some of their plans and it’s going to be pretty epic.

I think it’s fair to say Boomtown put more effort into the aesthetics and the eclectic choice of music than any other British festival. This must be a mammoth task to create in one year! How do you manage it?

We’ve got the best team in the world. Honestly, I’m constantly inspired and amazed at the people around me, it certainly pushes me to make sure I’m also doing my job as well as I possibly can. I also have the utmost respect for the directors and fully appreciate the creative freedom they give me to just get on with what needs to be done music wise.

Are there plans already in place for Chapter 11? What's next?

Of course, I’m generally thinking a year ahead with the line up and i’m pretty sure the rest of the team are the same in their areas. You’ll just have to wait and see what comes next though!

Which is your favourite district of Chapter 10 in terms of line up?

That’s like picking a favourite child, I’m not sure it’s possible. Seriously though I wish I could split myself a couple of dozen ways and spend the whole weekend at each stage. Boomtown can be tricky for FOMO it has to be said, and because I know everything that’s happening it’s even worse.

One act not to miss this year?

Dubioza Kolektiv from Bosnia on the Town Centre. Last time they played it was absolutely jumping and they’re looking to come back stronger than ever. Back home they’re selling out huge stadium gigs and they’re really inspiring guys.

Interview by Eldraw

Matt NevilleComment