South West 4 organiser Danny Newman discusses extending the festival to two days, the plans for Get Loaded In The Park and the acts that are still eluding them...
Virtual Festivals: Firstly, why has SW4 now extended to two days?
Danny Newman: "We came very close to making the whole thing a joint weekend last year and to be honest, apart from the name, the two days were more similar than ever with a massive increase in people wanting to go to both days which had never really happened before.
"Get Loaded has always had amazing electronic arenas since it started, but it was the first time last year we made the whole thing electronic and to be fair it was our best year to date, so that was the deciding factor. On top of that SW4 continues to grow and grow; last year we sold out over one month in advance and demand is definitely there for the festival to be spread over two days. This is a completely natural step for SW4 and we look forward to the challenges ahead. I think the big question has to be 'why we didn't join the days sooner?'"
VF: Is this something you think the event has been building up to?
DN: "I never thought it would become a two day event at first. The idea was spoken about but we were all quite reluctant to take that step not without testing the water. Last year was that test."
VF: What’s going to happen to Get Loaded In The Park?
DN: "Get Loaded is going to go back indoors for a while. We had an amazing night at Brixton on New Years Eve and another great show with Black Grape lined up at Easter at The Coronet. The plans are pretty open and we have a couple of ideas which we are trying to make happen. If they come off there will be a big show after the summer.
“We all love Get Loaded and it was never going to be a case of dropping the name. We have all worked too hard to let it go. We do quite a lot of club shows throughout the year that are similar to SW4 musically but we had to wait a whole year to do a Get Loaded-style show. We feel a series of smaller parties throughout the year would serve us much better and will give us the chance to work with new acts and grow with them from club level to concert level. That’s the plan but as I say we won’t force it. We are very happy with the events and ideas that are happening at the moment.”
VF: Do you feel that Get Loaded came to its end in its current form?
DN: "I think you have hit the nail on the head with that question; in its 'current form', yes. But I’m certainly not ruling out a return to an open air space in the future. I would never say never. To understand it fully you have to really know a bit of the history behind it. It was more of a project when it first started that we setup for a laugh more than anything. It started at Turnmills on a Thursday night back in 2004 and we had the opportunity to have Shaun Ryder and Bez DJ, as well as people like Peter Hook and Mani. It was amazing and totally different to what we were used to. We never made money on the night but it was never about that. We did that for around a year and then we got approached to do Clapham Common.
“I spoke to Shaun [Ryder] one evening at the club about the idea and asked if he would get the band back together for it. He pretty much agreed on the spot and before you knew it we were on sale and they were rehearsing with the event just ten weeks away! It was a bit crazy now looking back but I think if we would have given it more thought then it would never have happened. The gig was only ever supposed to be a one off but after selling 10,000 tickets for the Common it was very hard to go back to the small room at Turnmills for a mid-weeker!
“The landscape had changed over night and our ambitions too. The next step was a big indoor show and as we had done the Brixton Academy before for club shows the venue was the obvious choice. We wanted to do a concert style event but an all-nighter. We called it '48 hour party people'. We did two sell out shows there and to this day we still hold the record for the biggest bar spend in the venue’s history – which is quite amazing!
“At that stage we still did not know if Clapham was going to happen again or not and Lock N Load events had not started but we decided to do it again and this time doubled the capacity to what it is today [20,000]. That was the year it turned into more of a festival than a concert. The Mondays played again but we also had lots of other new bands. We also reformed The Farm and Flowered Up that year and had a great cross section of DJs too that I was already working with such as Paul Oakenfold, Armand van Helden and of course Fatboy Slim.
“Norman [Cook, Fatboy Slim] was supposed to be playing in one of the arenas, but it was an slight oversight on our part and the stage was crazy for about two hours before he went on. You could not get anywhere near it so we had to close it down for safety reasons and move things about to try and get him on the main stage. It was a mad 20 minutes of juggling things about but we got it done and it worked out better than we could have expected. That was in 2005 and we vowed that one day we would do it again, but this time properly with Norman headlining the whole event. Although it’s taken us five years to do it, I’m happy to say that he’s finally back.
“After 2005 SW4 and Get Loaded formed a partnership [which is now Lock N Load Events]. Get Loaded after that period was totally new territory for us, me especially, and we were finding our way through without knowing really what we wanted to do. We were just having fun with it and putting on line ups that we wanted to see and ideas that inspired us and acts the meant a lot to us growing up, obviously with a massive influence on the present alternative electronic acts.
“It was the first real dance/indie show of its kind. We had Elbow and Snow Patrol DJing alongside Norman, the year after De La Soul, Lily Allen, Babyshambles and The Buzzcocks with Tiga and Green Velvet in the arena. The year after that we had Dizzee, MIA and The Streets. In 2008 Iggy Pop, 2many DJs, Gogol Bordello and Gossip, then last year with Orbital. That for me was the final piece of the jigsaw, one of my all time favourite dance acts. The event had gone full circle for me and in a way it was always finding its way back to where we all felt comfortable and that was dance music. It kind of felt like we had come a long way with Get Loaded and we was not sure where else it could go, besides of course just doing it by the numbers and booking acts and putting on events for the sake of it. I think we all have to believe in them a bit more for that and I for one was not prepared to go down that route, putting on acts that we did not really believe in.
“The decision was made straight away after last year’s show to stay with the style of music, long before we finally decided on the name change. The name is not that important after all, it’s who is behind the event and it’s the same people and same ideas and same approach. SW4 has always been exciting to book and promote and it’s a challenge every year and equally exciting. Maybe the ideas for Get Loaded were running out. For me personally I had pretty much done everything I wanted to do and seen all the acts and booked all the acts that inspired us at the time. We dipped our toe in the water for a few years but I think we came to the end of the road with it as you say in its current form and it needed a change and that change was New Years Eve.
“To be honest it was the best thing to happen to Get Loaded since that first year on the Common. It felt right again, it felt like it felt in the old days. We put on the music we loved and it worked and we want to do some more shows like that. We will just go with the flow for now and maybe when the time is right we will come back as an open air event but for now it’s going to be dark, smokey rooms and lasers for a while.”
VF: Now with an extra day for SW4 have you got any big changes afoot for the festival itself?
DN: "The worst thing about SW4 every year is never having enough space or arenas for all the acts that we want to put on. That has effectively doubled now. It has been fantastic to book this year and we have really pushed the boat out. It’s going to be a great mix over the two days and there is always such a fantastic array of talent that comes out of the electronic world year on year. It’s great that we now have the opportunity to do a lot more.”
VF: You had Orbital headlining the last Get Loaded, are you going to have more live dance acts at SW4?
DN: "SW4 has always been a DJ day. We have never had a live act that was always kept for the Sunday. This year over the two days there will be a good mix of both, we want people to make a weekend of it.”
VF: Obviously there’s no camping, what do you plan to do with your two-day revellers over the weekend?
DN: "No camping thank you, not for these type of shows. If you look at many of the major European festivals like Exit, Benicassim, The Garden Festival, Sonar etc, they have hardly any camping. The site is central London, so no matter where you are you are not far and only a short train journey away. It’s still better than a massive hike to a campsite.
“We have teamed up with lots of local hotels that are listed on the website where ticket holders will get the benefit of a 20% discount. Weather is never guaranteed at these kind of events, although we have always been lucky on the August Bank Holiday, but one thing you can guarantee is if you do choose the hotel option you will get a warm dry bed, hot running water and room service! There’s going to be a good discount on weekend tickets too so we expect a lot of people taking advantage of that and coming down for the whole show. I think once people see both days it will be hard for them to choose between the two anyway, so we are expecting this more than ever this year."
VF: You’ve hit big with your first headliners for the two-dayer, are there any names you’re still trying to entice to play but haven’t managed to get over the years?
DN: "There have been a few names over the years. Two names in particular that we are speaking to at the moment for this year have so far eluded us but where there’s a will there’s a way. One is a DJ and one is a DJ with a band. All the signs are good and I am very hopeful. This year of all the acts that we have booked so far there are around twenty names that have never played at the festival before across the two days."
VF: Where do you see the festival in five years time? How do you want it to progress?
DN: "As long as we are doing what we are doing in five years time I will be happy. It’s been great to have been part of if all from the very start and no matter what happens in the future we can always be proud of what we have achieved so far and totally independently as well, which for our size is quite a rare thing these days. I think it’s important to be able to not get caught up in it all and not to lose sight of why we are doing and what motivated us in the first place. It’s still great fun at the moment and when its stops being fun, I guess that’s when we will stop and do something else. I can’t see that happening for a while though, we have a great team and we all love what we do."
VF: Is there a tinge of sadness leaving the Get Loaded festival behind?
DN: "Not at all. It’s a new chapter so it’s easier to let go and look forward. It’s exciting times ahead and the only thing that has changed really is the name. It’s a new beginning for Get Loaded in many ways."
VF: Anything else to add?
DN: "We would like to thank everyone that has supported the festivals over the last six years and hope to see you all on the Common this August and also at the Get Loaded shows. We will continue to try and put on the very best events that we can. Make sure you come and see Black Grape at Easter it’s going to be on hell of a show. See you down the front!"