RockNess 09: Festival boss Jim King

United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Justin Madgwick, Steve Jenner | 13 June 2009

Virtual Festivals: how has RockNess been for you so far?
Jim King: Flaming Lips were unbelievable last night, unbelievable, I mean they're one of my favoutite bands anyway, but they just nailed exactly what we wanted for that Friday, as we've never done a Friday so we didn't want to do a whole day of entertainment. What we wanted for RockNess was for people to come and enjoy the campsite, meet their mates, make new ones, so by the time the arena opens they're already on their holidays, you know what I mean? Rather than charge in, dump your tent and then shoot off down the front with your mates - you never get to meet anyone that way. We wanted to have a band on the main stage who could do a long, extended set. Because no-one else is playing that slot they can do a really good production without being compromised at all. Often at festival bands have to compromise which is exactly what we didn't want to do. They had all day Thursday to set up, we got the full Flaming Lips and they played for an hour and 45 minutes, playing everything from hits to covers.

VF: They did seem to be rather relaxed.
JK: They came up on Thursday, were here all day, they were out in Inverness Thursday night, it was like they were the house band, really cool.

VF: Our headline was 'a blissful ending to a perfect day'.
JK: Yeah, it really did feel like that, they're not a huge stadium act, I mean no offence and they wouldn't take any, but they won a lot of new fans who came see what they were about. We're a long way North, it's not in the middle of London where any band can fill two Brixton Acadamies, we're the furthest North City in the UK I think and for them to come here and win the fans like that is a fantastic achievment.

VF: The weather was money well spent for you today, I don't know how you pulled that one off...
JK: (Laughs) We've got this micro-climate here, but we have to hold onto this (the weather) as it can change (clicks fingers) just like that but it's fantastic and we've been very lucky the last three years and it covers all the cracks.

VF: One of things we've noticed walking around the site is the incredibly friendly atmosphere, no agression or unease at all, what do you think it is about this festival that creates that holiday atmosphere?
JK: I think the fact we're a long way North, in the Highlands, a lot of people here are from the Highlands and they are a very hospitable population who are really up for a good time, and you lose a lot of that anger and agrerssion you get in major cities because you want to have a good time. When people then come from the major cities the good vibe rubs off on them. The slow opening on Friday contributes to that, you are not in a rush, you meet people, pitch your tent have a laugh and then we open Nesstival, which isn't about headline acts, it's not about any of that, it's about great entertainment - it's very Bestival, you know, we work with Robbie (da Bank) and all that to create that vibe and it really shows.

VF: What are you looking forward to tonight?
JK: I'm looking forward to seeing David Guetta on the main stage, I think he's going to smash that, tonight is largely about big DJ's, left over from Norman (Fat Boy Slim) really, so looking forward to that, I looking forward to Dizzee too, and I saw the Jaxx a few weeks back and they'll be awsome. Orbital too, but we're old (laughs). Tom played last year and smashed it. And the Super Furry Animals, they're a bit of an indulgent booking for myself, personally.

VF: Yes, we're going to be running around a lot from 6pm tonight!
JK: Yeah, it's not far though, you've got the triangle of stages that's easy to get between. And there's Edbanger Records Party tonight too at Bollywood, and if you're not in there now (5pm) you're not gonna get in - so there's loads of little things on.

VF: We have met quite a few fans out there who have told us RockNess has stolen them away from T in the Park. We can see how it could grow to be as big - the setting, the atmosphere etc. - is that your ambition?
JK: Well, you know, we'll take all compliments, and T in the Park is a massive event. We never set this up to be T in the Park 2, they have a very, very, very popular festival and sell out in a week, we have tickets on sale for months so have a long way to go, we don't want to be another T in the Park.

VF: Do you want it to be as big as T though?
JK: No, no we don't want to be, big isn't always better, and I think you can reach a point where you risk changing, and we're enjoying the way it is, I'd like to sell some more tickets though, maybe up to 40,000. We're about 30,000 this year, you know, so it's kind of boutique compared to those guys.

VF: So What's next for RockNess?
JK: Well, obviously we're mid-show so it's making sure everything runs smoothly, we have a good weekend and then debrief really. We want to have closer links with our customers, debrief with them and listen, we always want to make changes, you know, but we try to face challenges head-on and will continue to do that. There's a few things I'd like to change already to be honest with you, you know you walk around and think "err, I didn't do that right".

VF: Like what?
JK: (Laughs) I don't want to say in case everyone likes them and then it looks like I'm the only one moaning about it then! One of the nice things about this is that it's a simple set-up, you come in, park your car, walk a very short distance to the camp site, loads of space to camp, short distance to Nesstival you know and we want to keep it that way. At other events, you travel all those miles to get there and then have to lug your stuff miles, turning up angry. We don't want that here.

VF: Any bookings in mind for next year?
JK: There's some people we've missed out on this year who weren't available, I don't want to say too much or they'll go up 4 or 5 levels on T in the Park's must-get list, no it's fine, there's some electronic stuff we'd like to get, Ju Justice is live next year and we really want to take that and if Daft Punk ever tour again we'd like that; it's about what fits and getting the right indie bands to balance with it. I think we've got that right this year; we've got Placebo and I think they're going to go down really well, I'm really looking forward to seeing them. They're not going to be a shock, but for our audience they'll be good, they've got a new album out and I like that, so they should do well.

VF: Are you looking forward to The Prodigy tomorrow night?
JK: Yeah, we've obviously worked with the guys lots and we tried to get them last year and couldn't, which was disappointing, but they're the perfect RockNess act really and it will work well for us with the new album out which I think is one of the best for a long time, so timing is perfect for us; a lot of people bought tickets for the Sunday especially, and I think them with Biffy (Clyro) will work really well, it's going to be a great close to that main stage; but, I think The Prodigy are going to smash it.

VF: Well, they've just apprently smashed the Isle of Wight last night, our Editor Dan said it's the best festival set he's seen in three years.
JK: Well, that's good, they were first act we booked for this year along with Biffy and it's what we wanted for the close, we always felt that was the perfect act for closing, I'm really excited about that now, I'm glad you've told me that!

VF: Do you have a 10th Birthday message for Virtual Festivals?
JK: Are you really 10 years old? I wish you'd warned me before, I can't belive you're 10, just keep supporting us (laughs) and we'll support you; No, listen, happy birthday, congratulations, well done, 10 years, wow, well this is RockNess 4, so we've got some way to go to catch up with you, well done.

Click on the RockNess 2009 link on the right for our coverage of the event including news, reviews, photos and other backstage interviews.

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Send to my phone!Photographer: Justin Madgwick

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