eFestivals spoke exclusively to John Giddings, festival organiser for our annual discussion about The Isle Of Wight Festival following the announcement of the first acts for next summer's event.
Hi John, I'm sure you're happy to finally have the first headliner out of the bag?
Yes, I saw Biffy at Reading last year and they were the best headliner by far, they've really grown, and taken the ground really. They are a rock band that will be headlining stadiums in 20 years time, and to have a combined headliner with them and Calvin Harris is fantastic, because Calvin has nine singles off his album, and so the young people are going crazy!
Calvin Harris is playing after Biffy is that correct?
Yes, he's closing the show. Lots of people have said to me the last couple of years that some of the best shows we've had have been The Prodigy or Faithless on Friday night, a dance act. So. I thought, Rudimental, Biffy, and Calvin would kick it out the park.
You've got two dance acts on the main stage bill, will there still be a dance stage as well?
Yes, there will be a DJ area, what we're going to do is... I don't want to say too much about the rest of the festival at this point in time, but I'm looking at every different area, and either refining them or moving them around. When you come to a festival year in and year out, you don't want the layout to be the same it becomes boring. So, you need to develop different areas, and move things around to make it interesting to the punters, because a festival is not just about watching 10 acts on the main stage all day long, it's going around and discovering things... maybe I'll have a DJ open air arena, I don't know yet.
Regular Isle Of Wight festival goers can expect something a bit different next year then?
It will definitely look different.
We look forward to hearing more. You've obviously got two more headliners to find yet, have you already got them in the bag?
I'm not commenting because loose talk costs lives and it's such a fragile experience in the music business. If you mention anything to anybody it appears on the internet in 10 seconds.
Especially if it's us! I was going to ask if they were festival exclusives as well, but there's no point asking that, as last year all three of you headliners were festival exclusives.
I don't know yet to be frank, but i don't want to say anything yet, it tempts fate. When I've got them I'll tell you, until that point, well, I'll tell you they will be good. The hardest thing is to achieve the same level as Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Muse, after 12 years where do you go?
There's still a few headlining acts out there you've not booked yet.
Exactly, it's all to be had.
The press release said that attendees can expect on site surprises and special treats, is there anything you'd like to say on that?
No, I'm only going to talk about the acts who have already been announced, because everybody said, “announce before Christmas, your Friday night, because everybody will want to buy tickets for Christmas presents.”
There's an early bird for the next month, until mid-January where the ticket is cheaper, and lots of people want that so we are doing it.
Obviously, the world Cup rolls around again next year, the obvious question is, will you be showing the football?
Yes, we will be showing the football, there will be a BT Field Of Dreams. England's kick off is at 11 o'clock at night but there are also matches on earlier on and we'll screen them too. The Field Of Dreams doesn't have to be football all day long. It's the same idea as last time, but not exactly the same thing.
Looking at a wider perspective, what sort of shape do you think the music festival industry is in at present?
I think it's healthy actually, ticket sales are buoyant judging by all the tours we've (Solo) put on sale for next year already, and the economy seems to be picking up. I think the worst is over, and people want to go out and enjoy themselves. The prediction that we were going to have a dreadful summer, weren't true, it was a great summer and it was a really good feeling. We had a fantastic festival this summer, with fantastic weather, and people are chomping at the bit to come out again next year.
Are there any acts on tour next summer that you're personally looking forward to seeing?
The Justin Timberlake tour has virtually sold out, that's doing fantastic business. I saw the start the tour in New York, it's an incredible show. Nobody has seen it here yet, it is an incredible show. There's a bridge on the stage that rises up during the show and travels through the arena, and lands at the other end on the B Stage where there are two bars and he dances on them. It's absolutely fantastic.
Having been in the industry for some time, you've obviously seen a fair few acts, are there any acts that you've had the chance to see?
I never saw The Beatles, and I never saw Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett and neither of those are physically possible now, but I think I've seen everyone else. I can't think of an artist that I haven't seen. I've seen Pink Floyd more times than I've had hot dinners, I used to hitchhike to see them when I was a school kid. I saw Led Zeppelin in The Cherry Tree, Welwyn Garden City, which was the back room of a pub, when they were called The New Yardbirds. They took over all The Yardbirds bookings.
You've also got some new acts on the line-up.
I think Passenger, that guy is brilliant, his turn of phrase is incredible, that song he does about the X Factor (I Hate) is hilarious, and The 1975 I think are a great new rock band, and The Waterboys are in a class of their own.
Do you think the current crop of breakthrough acts are just as good as we've seen in the past?
I think the likes of Imagine Dragons, and Bastille are fantastic, and we had both of them this year. Ellie Goulding is fantastic. The Isle Of Wight Festival is primarily a music festival, it's about music, past, present, and future. But the one thing that joins them all together, is the fact they are all good at what they do. I think they're a new wave of people, the last wave I remember was Snow Patrol, Razorlight, Starsailor, that lot.
Talking of Starsailor, I assume James Walsh will be there again?
James Walsh is always there, he presents the event, he will play in your tent.
You mean actually in someone's tent in the campsite?
He may do, if someone wants him to yes. Suzanne Vega has done it before, we'll do anything for a laugh. There you go, secrets you see, pop up gigs.
You had Beady Eye in 2011, and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds in 2012, a lot of people are hinting at Oasis making a reunion this summer...
I'd love to get them, but to my knowledge they are not reforming. I do think it will happen, I think all groups reform, it's better than working at the Wimpy isn't it. The only ones I know... well the ones I would like to reform are Talking Heads, and The Smiths.
Both of which are unlikely.
Morrissey is slightly unreliable form, in my personal experience. I booked him once and he cancelled two weeks before the show, claiming I'd never booked him. He said he didn't have a drummer, and I offered him Phil Collins.
Talking of which there's rumours of them returning to the music scene.
Phil's going to tour, yes.
What has been your personal favourite festival appearance?
Everybody asks me that question, and I have to say I get off on the audience enjoying an act more than the act. I spend more time looking at the audience. There has been some magical moments – the B Stage for The Rolling Stones, Jay-Z when Kanye West came on, the Foo Fighters, they are eleven out of ten, they're all different moments.
And, as this an interview for a festivals website, and I asked you last time what stall you would run, this time I'd like to know what would be your favourite festival food?
One that doesn't make me ill, I remember when I had David Bowie at Glastonbury, I made the mistake of eating an egg baguette, and I threw up in my car on the way home. Anything that's edible and healthy, I'm too busy to eat at a festival. but I do know that people want quality food, they don't want junk.
I agree entirely, I think that's something that's greatly changed at festivals, and it irks me that people still publish stories about rubbish food at festivals.
For the last five years toilets, and food at festivals have really improved. We spend a lot of time and energy in that area, for want of a better expression.
Thanks John, and on that note I'll leave you to get on with your day.
The dates for next year's Isle of Wight festival are from Thursday 12th until Sunday 15th June 2014 at Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight.
Biffy Clyro will headline the Friday night as an English festival exclusive. Also confirmed is DJ Calvin Harris, who will be closing the night, with Rudimental also confirmed for the main stage on Friday, with Passenger, The 1975, and The Waterboys completing the first names.
For the latest line-up details as available please click here.
Early bird tickets are on sale until 8am on Thursday 16th January.
Early Bird Prices:
Early Bird Weekend: £170
Early Bird Day Tickets (Fri, Sat, Sun): £70
Early Bird Campervan: £100
Children 12 and under: free
Full Ticket Prices:
Weekend Tickets: £190
Day Tickets (Fri, Sat, Sun): £75
Weekend Car Parking In Advance: £15
Per Day Parking: £10
Children 12 and under: free
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