Leveller Mark Chadwick talks festivals

Guilfest, Beautiful Days, the new Levellers album, and festival favourites

published: Mon 14th Apr 2008


Friday 4th to Sunday 6th July 2008
Stoke Park, Guildford, Surrey., England MAP
£90 for w/e, £100 with camping; days £40
last updated: Wed 17th Mar 2010

eFestivals caught up with Mark Chadwick guitarist and lead singer of the Levellers, who with his band put on Beautiful Days festival and are headliners at this year's GuilFest appearing on Friday 4th July.

Hi Mark, Levellers are booked to play the GuilFest festival have you got any impressions of GuilFest from when you last played in 2005?
Was that the last time? I think we've played there almost every other year, we've played there a lot of times. Yeah, I think it's really good as an urban festival it's probably the best one.

What other festivals do you have lined up?
Oh god, loads, apart from our own one obviously we've got Cropredy, Glastonbury, Cambridge, one in Scotland - Connect, and loads of others really, quite a few, which is good.

Which one are you most looking forward to playing?
All of them. To be honest always ours, Beautiful Days, and Glastonbury which will be good this year. Glastonbury is always cool.

Do you still rough it at festivals?
Do we still what? Rough it? Depends, on how much time we've got but if I'm going to be there for a few days absolutely. Totally, I do like a festival, I really do, get right into them.

20 years, together! Doesn't seem that long does it?
No it really doesn't.

Anything special to celebrate it planned?
There has been one or two things, we've already started we did some big gigs at the beginning of the year, we're going to be doing the Albert Hall later in the year. We're releasing a new album called 'Letters From The Underground' and really maximising ourselves this year, really enjoying it and doing quality gigs rather than any old thing thing.

You're doing a posh houses and castles tour, at prices that most minimum wage earners probably cant afford, to celebrate 20 years will you be doing something more basic and more in keeping with your roots too?
(Laughs) Some cheaper festivals. I don't know if we're going to be any this year, but it's a question of the band really I'd like to do as many as possible and some people don't. But I'd quite happily play every festival we got offered.


Years ago I used to live in Salcombe and your rolled up to play the festival there billed as someone else – do you still do that?
Yeah we do, that was us as the 'Batson Tea Party' wasn't it? Salcombe estuary, good place Salcombe, haven't been there for ages.

You've got quite a back catalogue now, with over twenty years of making music, how do you select what you want to play live?
It depends on where we're playing to be honest, we tailor it a little bit to the crowd and what we fancy playing, and what we’re enjoying playing at the time.

So with this new album - what tracks do you plan to play live?
At the moment we've been playing three of four of them, they're actually available as free downloads, so people know them and we're not baffling them with something new. By the time we play Guilfest and all the other festivals we'll have had a few more out a free downloads. We've written an album which is all completely able to be played live, which is great for us. We'll be gradually increasing the number songs, by the end of the year, by the time the albums out we'll be doing most of it if not all of it because it's bloody good.

Your own festival Beautiful Days is great have you got anything special planned for this year with it being twenty years?
Well the festival itself isn't twenty years old, so probably not. We won't be going too mad, we'll be keeping it fairly low key, just normal really. Actually, to be honest, because we spent the first half of this year recording the album, we haven't actually had that much time to put that thought into it. We've got some really good things that we want to do but I can’t say yet.

Can you describe to a first timer to Beautiful Days what they can expect?
They can expect a simple, basic, nothing too flash, brightly coloured event, with lots of people mingling and no bull shit and not expensive, and not horrible, and not queuing up for this and queuing up for that. Quality at all points really and never really a lack of entertainment. Last year the weather was appalling and it was still great. To be honest it was my favourite one yet. As it develops and we get better at organising it becomes easier for the people to be at it, less hiccups.


What made you decide to do a festival yourselves?
It probably comes purely from nostalgia for the old festivals that we went to in the early eighties, from Elephant Fayre particularly.

That was the first festival I went to.
Same here, and it was a real longing to put on something like that. Elephant Fayre wasn't particularly crazy thinking about it, our festival is probably crazier in respect to what it looks like. But Elephant Fayre was just crazy in the people that attended it and I think we're trying to get the craziness back into the festivals, a little bit more imagination. But now it's such a broad church - festivals, there's 450 or so of them this year.

Do you think kids of today are as politically minded as they used to be, I mean you lot spawned a whole generation of green activists - do you find that still happens?
Yes it does. People, when they get to a certain age find we are their first point of contact. But now it's quite widespread, you only have to open a newspaper these days, but when we started banging on about it, it was all very different. Now it's kind of acceptable, but we as a band are actually angrier now, more to say now then we did say five years ago.

So what are the main political themes of the new album?
It's a broad church of political things really, it's essentially based on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - to terror to disillusionment, to recession, disenfranchisement, alienation, hopelessness, all beautifully put together in a cheerful way. It is actually quite optimistic as a record. It is what the Levellers do best – tell the truth and dress it up really well.

Have you seen any new festival acts you can recommend?
Well, we're getting as many as we can for our festival. If they're new and they’re good they are going to be at our festival.

Can you name any?
Not at the moment, no. When they're announced you'll know, we announce our bills gradually through out the year.

Two years ago during your set, at Beautiful Days you mentioned a protest camp at Titnore woods near Worthing. Did you know it's still there, still holding the developers at bay and quite a growing alternative community?
No I didn't, where is it? Near Worthing? No, I didn't know that. (Laughs) But, Worthing really needs a bypass.

What's the best festival you've been to as a punter?
It's probably Beautiful Days, well I'm not really a punter there am I. Um, so Elephant Fayre or also Paleo Festival in Switzerland.

What are European festivals like?
Well there's billions of them, billions and billions of them but one that really goes for it is Paleo, it really takes a leaf out of the Greenfields of Glastonbury, it has walkways in trees and interesting things that are good. It is very cool actually. It's just unfortunate it's in Switzerland so it's incredibly expensive.

If you could put on any bill throughout history as headliners alongside The Levs who would you chose?
Led Zeppelin circa 1970 opening it on Friday and Pink Floyd circa 1976 Dark Side of The Moon, then us closing the show, that's what I'd love.

Thanks Mark have a good summer, enjoy Guilfest.
And you, cheers


It's only after the interview I realise GuilFest has two thirds of Mark's line-up (well nearly) with both The Levellers (headlining Friday) and Australian Pink Floyd (headlining Sunday) with Blondie replacing Led Zeppelin.
interview by: Scott Williams

Friday 4th to Sunday 6th July 2008
Stoke Park, Guildford, Surrey., England MAP
£90 for w/e, £100 with camping; days £40
last updated: Wed 17th Mar 2010

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