My Festival Life… James Brown, Pulled Apart By Horses

James Brown, the guitarist for Pulled Apart By Horses, talks pissing on people, lottery systems, Radiohead and the rest of his Festival Life...

My first festival was V ‘98 and I was super young. All I can remember from it is about half an hour of The Verve and being incredibly fucking pissed. It was a really scary thing because I was so young and it was a lot to take in. I don’t think I’d ever seen so many people in a field and heard such a loud stage. It was a bit mesmerising.

I did quite like my alcohol from a young age, so I spent a lot of time running around like a giddy kid at V ‘98. I must have been 15 and a big group of us went. We were saving up for ages from working in pubs and stuff because we were desperate to get to a festival. All we wanted to do was to go, it didn’t matter who was playing. At the time, V was the closest festival to us because it was in Leeds that year. It was the most exciting thing in the world.

One of the best ever sets I’ve ever seen at a festival was at Glastonbury 1997. I was a huge Radiohead fan and they headlined that year. That was a year before I went to my first festival, but watching them play the Pyramid Stage on BBC 2 is what made me want to go to a festival and to start a band. I was just totally blown away by their set. They had loads of problems that night and things broke but they manned up and got on with it. All their jeans and trousers were covered in mud like they’d been there all week, and I just got this cool vibe from it.

I couldn’t get tickets for Glastonbury until 2003 when Radiohead headlined again. I think it was for ‘Hail to the Thief’. They had a lottery system for the tickets that year, so you either got them or they didn’t. Me and my friend managed to go. That year, lot of people did wonder if Radiohead would be able to top what they did six years before, but it was just as good, if not even better.

We got to the front to watch Radiohead in 2003. We’d been waiting an hour, then they came on and we were just so excited. We’d had loads of wine and my friend was so desperate for the toilet. He was like, “I don’t want to go,” and I said, “I’m not going anywhere, you can forget it.” So he just pulled his dick out and started pissing up this guy’s back. The guy realised and turned around, but he didn’t give a shit because he was watching Radiohead at Glastonbury – he just didn’t care. It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.

My favourite festival to play as a band is Pukkelpop – it’s fantastic. We’d never played a festival where you’re so well looked after and they were so excited to have you there. They just appreciated that you were there and it was really warming and nice. People came in every hour or two saying, “Are you happy? Do you have everything you need?” And we were like, “Yeah! We’re well happy, don’t worry about it!”

A lot of festivals in England have everyone set aside. The bigger bands are out away in this huge marquee with security around, you’re cordoned off, and all the stages are miles apart. At Pukkelpop all the bands are in one place; there was a bar and a restaurant, and everyone could just mingle and party.

Truck Festival in Oxford is on a much smaller scale but it’s definitely my favourite smaller independent festival because it’s really well laid out and the people there are just music lovers. They’re not honks or anything, but everyone’s there for the same thing and there’s no trouble.

On the bigger scale, one of my favourites is probably Latitude. It’s so eclectic with so many things going on. It’s an amazing festival because you never get bored. There’s comedy, poetry, so much to do. It’s really well thought out. They obviously have a team of designers who try to make it look spick and span; it’s really pretty and a great vibe. I sound like a girl, but it’s great, it really is.

My strangest festival experience would be as a punter at Leeds festival 2001. We were there for the whole weekend and some of my friends had magic mushrooms. I’d never really done them at a festival before or done them properly and I did them at Leeds Festival on the first night and ended up in the woods. I had no idea where I was or what was going on. 

I was up a tree for about an hour and half then I lost them and I was just up this tree having the time of my life. I had no idea I was at a festival and then eventually it wore off and I came down this tree and walked out of these woods and I was at Leeds Festival and I had no idea what was going on. It took me to a different place but I was having this amazing time up a tree even though I’d spent £150 for a weekend ticket to see loads of awesome bands at Leeds Festival. Least I didn’t find Jesus up there.

My worst festival experience would be the year Radiohead played Leeds Festival in 2009. We were playing Reading Festival on the Friday and I knew full well that Radiohead were doing Leeds on the Friday night and being a fan I was speaking our manager and saying ‘I know we’ve got to do some press after we’ve played but there’s no way I’m missing Radiohead play’. We ended up in Reading for ages doing loads of press, constantly looking at my watch. We got in the van and started driving, it was all looking fine and then the traffic hit coming up the M1.

My face just went white, I was like put your foot down and the driver said ‘there’s traffic, with traffic James there’s nothing we can do!’ We got there and I basically jumped out of the van as we got to the production entrance then I basically legged it a good couple of miles, ran for my life and got to the main stage as they played the last chorus to ‘Everything In It’s Right Place’ and then they finished, and I was absolutely gutted! I’ve never been that gutted before at a festival, I think I sulked the whole day afterwards.

Pulled Apart By Horses are set to play Live At Leeds 2011 which takes place from 29 April to 1 May along with James Blake, Frightened Rabbit and many more.

Tickets are priced at £17.50.

Click here to buy Live At Leeds tickets.

Find out where else the band are playing this summer here.