Leftfield interview

Neil Barnes talks festivals

published: Thu 13th May 2010


Friday 27th to Saturday 28th August 2010
Victoria Park, London, E9 7BT, England MAP
both days £70, or one day £40
last updated: Wed 25th Aug 2010

Neil Barnes, the founder of dance outfit Leftfield returns this summer to play a string of festival dates including London's Electronic Dance Festival - or LED Festival. The new dance festival for takes place at Victoria Park on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th August 2010.

eFestivals was lucky enough to get an interview with one of pioneers in the field of dance music, UK dub, and progressive house, whose debut album, 'Leftism' in 1995, brought about a music revolution.

You're playing quite a few festivals, can you tell me a little about each one?
Rock Ness, I made a mistake thinking it was near Loch Ness, but apparently not, it's in Inverness, down the river from Loch Ness. I was hoping Nessie would turn up for that one. I wonder if he likes electronic musically, hopefully. I reckon we can draw him out with our soundsystem, he might feel like sticking his head above water. I reckon people should keep their eyes peeled, just in case he makes a sudden appearance. I do like playing Scotland so I'm very excited about that.

The L.E.D. Festival is another one I'm excited about, it's happening in August which we're doing in London, which is my home town. I've been to Victoria Park before, it's a really good venue. The line-up looks really exciting at that with Aphex Twin on there, which I'm really excited about being up there with.

Another one is Creamfields. Well, it's fantastic that we're doing Creamfields. I mean the Cream guys have really helped put this together, so I really owe them one. I'm absolutely looking forward to that one, big time. I'm very excited about that.

Boardmasters in Cornwall, I've never played in Cornwall before. I've seen pictures of the festival, its a really young festival, and it looks wicked.

Electric Picnic, I've always liked Ireland, and we're playing a couple of warm ups in Ireland as well, before that. I'm really excited about it, it's always good to go Ireland, and we've always gone down really well there. I've never been to the festival, but I've heard good things about it, and again it looks like a really exciting line-up. Bring it on!

You say you've not been to the festival, have you been to many as a punter?
Yeah, yeah. I went to Glastonbury two years ago, camped there with my daughter, and my next door neighbour Don Letts. (We've both got big sheds so we meet down the bottom of the garden and play loud music to each other, he's also into his electronic music on Radio 6). Glastonbury was wicked, apart from the weather, I loved the Park area of Glastonbury, really keen on that. Last year I was at Latitude in Suffolk and saw Grace Jones, she was fantastic, and again I camped at that one. The weather held out there which was a relief. So, yes, I'm familiar with festivals still, I go to festivals, and I enjoy them.

L.E.D. is a new festival, if you were putting on a new festival who would you want there?
I'd have a really, really exciting line-up and make it as varied and different as possible. I think that people want to see variety at festivals, and they really like interesting line-ups. On the bill I'd play, Leftfield would play, and then I'd have someone like The xx, I'd have Public Image Limited, I'd have someone like Joker, he could DJ or play live. I'd probably have LCD Soundsystem up there as well, Fever Ray, and Miike Snow, I think he'd go down pretty well. It would have to be quite a long festival, so I'd have to have it over a couple of days. Oh, and Bat For Lashes as well, I'd have her up there definitely.

You're quite current with the music scene....
I love my music, I'm well into it, I spend most of my time listening to music, to my family's discontent. I'm a fan of new albums and electronic music, alternative music, world music, anything really that takes my fancy.

What advice would you give to someone going to this festival of yours for the first time?
Get wrapped up nice and warm, take plenty of toilet paper and stuff like that for the essentials. Come with an open mind. Get up the front where they sound loudest, and open your ears and enjoy a whole feast of new and exciting music.

What made you decide to bring Leftfield out of mothballs?
The love of music really, and fundamentally, the reaction of people who were encouraging me to do it. For a long time there was a discussion about it, but it never seemed to be the right moment. This year, with the Cream guys really getting behind it, I realised it was an exciting possibility and when I thought about it, and listened to the music I thought it could work brilliantly, and so far it's working like a dream.

Your shows at Glastonbury were pretty legendary, what do you remember about them?
Well, funnily enough I remember a lot about Glastonbury. That was our second tour, and it was a balmy, hot evening. It was a fantastic day and one of the most memorable moments of my life. I can remember most of the set, and remember every moment. Looking out and seeing 80,000 people, it was before they put the fence up, it was an extraordinary feeling.

I also remember doing some of the other gigs too, in Scotland particularly, at Barrowlands, and T in the Park. I remember a lot of the tour, when you're up there it's a special feeling.

What have you been doing in the interim period?

I've been taking a break from music most of the time (laughs). I've been recharging my batteries for about five years, and watching my kids grow up, and then over the last five years five years I've been working on a couple of projects that are starting to get closer to fruition. Electronic things which I have on the back burner at the moment because of this. I've done the music for quite a few adverts for TV, and stuff like that.

Anything we'd remember?
What on the advert front? Yeah, a couple of quite big ones. I did the Audi gymnast power advert last year, which was quite popular and a few others. I've been crafting music and things take a while to get right, and I'm still doing it.

Is there any chance of any new Leftfield material?
At the moment, no. I'm just concentrating on the live show and getting that right. As you can imagine, that's a massive job.

How do you rehearse for a festival appearance?
Well, you get a really good group of people around you to start off with, that are capable of playing that type of stuff. It's really difficult, because it's so programmed, and every sound has to be just right, we have to work very hard to put the right sounds in. For instance, my drummer, we've had to build a special kit for him, it's unique, and he's playing lots of sounds off the records on it. He's got about thirty drums in it, something ridiculous like that. It's the only way it can be done. Because every track has a unique sound on it, we can't just have one drum kit. That's the same for what I'm doing, and for what my other keyboard player, Kwes, is doing as well. We build it up gradually and have to put all the bits in the right places for it to be able to work.

What about the visual side of things?
Yeah! I've got massive, really, really big visuals, that's really important. They're running at the same time, and I'm working on all those all the time, it's essential we get that right. Technology is so improved in that area now. When we started doing this, it was early days. But now, everywhere you go has got great screens. We've got a couple of fantastic screens, and all the festivals are fantastically well kitted out now. We've got cameras as well on us, so that people can see what we're getting up to. Each track has got its own story, and each track is treated differently, and it's all coming together very nicely.

What do you least like about playing festivals?
The problem with festivals in this country is just the weather, that's it. There's nothing else wrong with festivals. Sometimes I think they should be louder. I think they should put better sound systems in, and I think they could. I think most punters, and that includes me, unless you are in the first 15 feet, it's just not loud enough. They could learn a lot from some of the European festivals who really do get it going. I think they're starting to put Turbo Sound at quite a few this year, it's so important, we're trying our utmost to get decent sound in where we're playing, but people just don't respond. You don't want it to be deafening, but you do want the volume to be up there, otherwise... it's a music festival, we're not back at the cinema. When I go to a festival I want to be blown away.

I remember going to see Bjork at Glastonbury a few years ago, and I managed to get near the front, and it was awesome, as soon as they turned it up it was great!

Have you been warned about how loud you can go?
We don't take any notice of what anyone tells us about sound levels.

I remember Brixton...
Editors Note: In June 1996 Leftfield rocked Brixton Academy until the plaster started to fall from the roof and the band were allegedly banned from ever returning to the venue. Leftfield ignored the ban returning to shake the rafters again in 2000.
We break all the rules, all the laws, and long may it continue. I'm planning to break them all again (chuckles).

Lastly, do you have a plan for Leftfield after the summer?
We're doing a big autumn tour, that's the plan. The dates aren't in yet, but they will be. We'll be going all around the country, hopefully.

Thanks for your time Neil. We look forward to being blown away.
Thanks a lot, I hope you are. See you then.

Tickets are on sale for LED Festival headlined by Leftfield, at the earlybird price of £37.50 for either day (full price £40), or £65 for both days (full price £70).
Tickets can be bought from here.

The event will run from 2pm til 10.45pm on the Friday, and midday until 10.45pm on the Saturday, with the last admittance at 9.30pm on either day.
Note: LED Festival is an 18 plus event.

interview by: Scott Williams

Friday 27th to Saturday 28th August 2010
Victoria Park, London, E9 7BT, England MAP
both days £70, or one day £40
last updated: Wed 25th Aug 2010

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