Since starting life in a single venue in 2003, Liverpool Music Week has grown into an integral part of the city's musical furniture.
Definitely a man who could do with a sofa for a few hours, we met a very tired Mike Deane, who still managed to talk at 100 miles per hour about his labour of love. Five days in, five years on…
VF: Liverpool Music Week reminds us of Iceland Airwaves, where a few big acts draw the crowds but what really sticks out is the local talent. Would you agree?
MD: “From when we first started up to now, we’ve always had the local bands as the heartbeat of the festival. The huge crowds of Liverpool Music Week fans come every year and they’re all big music fans and I think we give a really good opportunity to Liverpool bands. That is what we will continue to do. Last 2 years we’ve also introduced ticketed shows in order to attract bigger artists and raise the profile of the festival even more. It goes hand in hand with allowing more slots for unsigned and breakthrough talent, which we will always continue to do. So I think the balance this year is very good. The line-up is very strong as is the line-up down at Alma De Cuba (another one of the key venues). Benga headlines a Dubstep night Terser [Mike’s collegue] has put together with great local scene talent in support, over at Magnet in a couple of nights, we’ve got Dan Deacon down at Barfly, we’ve got a’ world-beats’ night, Jazz, Electronica, all at Django’s Riff over a few days.. There’s Hannah’s which has always been the official “Jazz Building”, Barfly & Zanzi for quality touring acts as well as up-and-coming great locally based artists– it’s just a great big party for the city and it’s a great opportunity for the city’s artists but also for the UK’s artists who we’re allocating slots for. James who joined us last year has helped put a great line-up together down at Bumper. Yes we’re increasing slots for Liverpool artists and we’re also making slots available to breaking UK artists.”
VF: You talk about the Liverpool crowd, but do you find more people coming from outside Liverpool?
MD: “It’s going be interesting to see because we’ve built a lot of the shows up towards the closing weekend, with the aim of attracting those who want to travel to come and stay for the weekend. We get a great crowd mid-week as it is. We’re looking to build up numbers across the entire festival, but we should have high aspirations for the numbers we put on the streets for the closing weekend. Tonight we’ve got three venues putting on shows but as the week progresses the number of shows get bigger. It then focuses it all on that weekend and then we’ve got all our big headliners the closing the weekend, which will bring a load more people in to the city and onto the streets. I do feel the crowd is coming from further a field this year. We do lock-in a predominantly local crowd but the festival has got good national recognition over the past 18 months, and hopefully in the next couple of years, continuing with a strong 2008, we will be increasing the numbers from outside the city.”
VF: You call it Liverpool Music Week, but it’s actually 11 days.
MD: “I quite like that though. The only year it was actually a week was 2003 when it started on a Monday night and ended on a Sunday night. The year after we started on a Sunday and we ended on a Sunday. The year after we incorporated more venues and we’ve actually ended up adding a day each year. We didn’t set out to add another day to do that this year, but New Young Pony Club deal came in so we just had to open a day earlier!”
VF: Are you ever going to be called Liverpool Music Fortnight?
MD: “We’re actually looking at running a fortnight next year, but I don’t think we’re ever going to be called that. I quite like the weirdness of it being Liverpool Music Week when it’s quite blatantly not..”
VF: You talk about next year, what have you got planned?
MD: “Some good talks are being had with the right people at the moment, [for 2008]. We’ve been a key part of helping to attract the MTV Awards to Liverpool.”
VF: Next year is a massive year for Liverpool with it being European Capital of Culture…
MD: “Next year is also a massive year for us. I feel like it’s a great opportunity next year because we were a huge chapter in the final proposal for the MTV European Awards (which are to be held in Liverpool). I went over to Munich when it got handed over and they do a thing called MTV Music Week every year – we met all of organisers of that event and they were very taken aback by the scale of things we’re doing here. They normally have around 14 gigs over five days and we’ve got around 60 going on over ten days. The fact that it falls right in our dates is ideal. The 2008 BBC Electric Proms are coming to Liverpool too. Which is also interesting…”
VF: So BBC Electric Proms aren’t going to be in London?
MD: “They’ve announced they are doing one [show] here but in the last few weeks it’s developed and it looks as though they are interested in doing a few things up here. We shall see..
VF: So you thought it was difficult this year…
MD: “Yeah but I feel we’ve got a really good team together now. My team have been doing this for the last few years now, so we’re already used to programming the city centre stuff and the Carling Academy shows. It’s been very good and having the expertise and experience of Cream behind us, not just behind the magnificent Aintree shows they have put together, but just the two teams joining together have really put us in a strong position. Iit’s also been great to have the likes of Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip, Benga, James Yorkston, Kissy Sell Out and Lightspeed Champion all really looking forward to playing the festival and being part of the great line-up. So I think the workload has increased, but it’s only been the same level of stress. It’s not felt like a bigger job than last year because we’ve got more hands sharing more vital responsibilities.”
VF: In terms of the Liverpool scene have you struggled to include everyone, or is this it?
MD: “No, we’ve always struggled. We’ve got 270 acts on, but they’re not all from Liverpool. 160 I think are from Liverpool. We find it very, very difficult to include everybody, but we think this is a great representation in the scene at the moment. It’s the best new stuff that’s coming through at the moment as well as favourites that have been around for 2,3,4 or more years.”
VF: Do you monitor the scene throughout the year?
MD: “Gigs are our business and we definitely mix it with pleasure. There’s a number of people we work with closely who are all on the street, at gigs, all in different scenes, week in-week-out, and all of very high levels new music knowledge and enthusiasm. In the last twelve months we’ve had some fantastic breakthrough acts with Elle S’Appelle being the standout for me.”
VF: Are there any others we should check out?
MD: “Eugene McGuinness. I think is very underrated. He’s been based here for the last couple of years, so we’ve taken him to our hearts. Also Gideon Conn, he’s from up the road. John Smith – king of the acoustic instrument – whatever it may be… He’s going to get onstage with James Yorkston and do a few numbers with him (on some sort of Mandolin). Ezra Band and the Hot Machine, who opened it all up, Young Kof at Djangos, and 6ix Toys who are a great jazz-funk-hop act – I’d check them out.”
VF: Do you think there is a future for urban festivals? Especially in the winter?
MD: “There’s a more competitive market for the summer ones, and possibly the market has dried up a bit because of the amount of new festivals appearing every year in the summer months – it’s mad how they all survive. There’s not as a wide a market in the winter, because it’s not the summer and people aren’t looking to go to festivals. I think that we’re creating our own little market here and I do hope for the next couple of years we do start attracting huge amounts of people to the city. It’s a new concept. There is The Great Escape and The Camden Crawl but, in the UK again, its summer months and summer times.And of course, SXSW the pick of the international festival scene is a huge inspiration for anyone..”
VF: Down the road there is Manchester In The City which is a very industry event. Have you thought of going further up that road? I know you to have seminars…
MD: “We’ve always had a element of workshops, seminars and guest speaker panels with some really good appearances, but and we want to continue developing that for next year. But I don’t ever think that should take away the experience of the main part of it which is all about new music and live music – a big party for a week basically.”
VF: Now you have the Cream backing who are your ideal headline acts for next year?
MD: “Aww cheeky. Who knows? You’ll always strive for a Nick Cave, a Bjork, a Daft Punk, a Flaming Lips, a Beck. But important new acts like The Young Knives and Architecture in Helsinki all interest us. I think what we have pulled together for this year across the city indicates how we’d like to develop over the next few years.”
VF: It’s all your favourite bands, isn’t it?
MD: “Yeah it is, isn’t it…?”
Five years of Liverpool Music Week…
2003.. MD: “We started in a venue a similar size to this [Bumper] called the T-Factory on Wood Street. It was predominately a plush cocktail bar and I got in there to raise awareness to the students and the musos and promote the bar in a credible way. So we did a few band nights, a northern soul night, a little comedy night and a few bits and bobs that went really well. Then they gave us a little budget and said: ‘Do what you want with it'. So I did what I’ve always wanted to do, a week of music in one venue. The venue was also big enough to fit three stages in so we were able to get up to eight bands on per night. We didn’t manage that in the first year but by the second year we definitely pushed our luck with how many bands we had on. But having three stages in one room is an easy show to run because you have up to an hour change over time on the stages. We did that in 2003 and it was very good and I just carried on doing part-time work and carried on working on Music Week because I fell out with the T-Factory over a couple of issues with the sound guys not getting paid and stuff. I just carried on."
2004… MD: "I wanted to do it again the year after. We managed to convince T-Factory to do it again . after we drummed up a bit of local interest. Ian McCulloch [Echo and the Bunnymen] was a fan of the venue at the time, and was behind the concept o the event. I asked him if he wanted to get involved, and he agreed to play a set of his all-time favourite six cover songs. It was fantastic – we had queues round the block for the full eight nights we did. We did Sunday to Sunday again and had around 90 bands on that year all in one venue and it was chock-a-block. Ian McNabb came and did something with one of the local bands a the time. There was interest and people thought it was a great idea and they wanted to help as much as they could. Most of the good strong local bands joined in that year and it was very, very busy."
2005… MD: “In order for the plans for the event to go ahead, we had to set up as a company “Liverpool Music Week” and ask the T-Factory to contribute to the new festival. In 2005 we realised we couldn’t do it in just one venue again and the natural thing to do would be to theme a few venue – working directly with the city’s venues and promoters. So Hannah’s Bar became the self-named “Jazz Building”, we did all our electronic and new fusion sounds in Korova, which had just opened and we did a load of the best stand-out Liverpool acts that have played in Zanzibar and Metropolitan.. We had The Kooks come and play on the Monday in Zanzibar when they were still a £6 band. John Power [The La’s] got behind it and did a similar thing to McCulloch where he came down and played for us and he actually got Lee Mavers [The La’s] on the stage and the announcement as he arrived onstage (to play drums) was something magic. The venue was rammed – it was quite the little show. So that was where we started the multi-venue thing in 2005 and due to success we only did one show in each of the smaller venues. It was also when we got the taste for doing more gigs in venues that aren’t actually ‘venues’ – if you know what I mean."
2006… MD: "Again we were over subscribed in terms of numbers and artists who wanted to play. We took it up another level in the amount of artists we had playing, the level of artists we were trying to get to play and we incorporated a couple of ticketed shows. Korova hosted a Modular Records party, We had a BBC Big Screen elecronica outdoor stage, at the time Bromhead’s Jacket were a buzz band and we had them at the Barfly doing a £7 show. It’s just about finding the bands between the new music and Liverpool’s heritage, you we’ve kept that going through to 2006. Then we had Hot Club De Paris, The Wombats, The Aliens, Son Of Dave – just someone I was made aware of through my mate Nick on Jools Holland and I had to fucking book him. So he came down and he did the Monday night. We did an acid-bluesy night with was quite good. Longcut, and Blood Red Shoes played, who nobody had really heard of at the time. We had 16 venues including a couple of shows at the Philharmonic Hall as well. It was sort of the most high profile thing we did last year. We had two Gilles Peterson shows while he was touring and we had Seu Jorge, the Brazilian ‘favela’ hero, he did a show and the night before it was The Heritage Orchestra. So we had a real good variety of shows last year but we still have the huge heartbeat of free-entry fresh talent events.As well as this, we increased the number of slots for Liverpool artists andwere able to accept more demos from across the UK & beyond”
2007… Watch this space…