28 April 2014

A chat about Fat Out Fest 2014, a damn fine reason to go to Manchester this May

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fomainIn 2011, this here journalist slash DJ happened across a festival held in an old mill in Salford, Manchester. Being a fan of urban location festivals my ears pricked up. I was further hooked when I saw some of my favourite bands on the bill, some of whom play live only rarely on these shores. That year I had a splendid time seeing he likes of Mothlite, Manatees, Bong, Gnod and many more, all while enjoying some nice grub and too many bottles of banana beer. I was gutted to miss the 2012 fest that had a stellar line up including Jarboe, Lydia Lunch, Grumbling Fur, Alexander Tucker and so on. After a year off, 2014 sees the team of Emma and Verity bring the festival back with a vengance. The line up speaks for itself, but the festival is about so much more than heavy sounds…..

JES – Thanks for agreeing to have a chat to us here at the Dark 3rd of the Midlands Metalheads. Introduce yourselves and tell us a little about Fat Out Fest.

My name is Emma Thompson and I founded the live music promotion Fat Out Til You Pass Out back in 2007 with my partner Verity Gardner.
Fat Out Fest is now in it’s third year and this year we have slightly moved away from out punk and metal roots taking the festival in an exciting new direction celebrating experimental music and art. Another difference with this festival is that we (Fat Out) are only curating the main stage and have given the second and third stages away to other collectives making it our most diverse and collaborative line up to date.

JES – How did you go about arranging Fat Out Fest? How long have you been planning this one and how did it compare to organising the others?

I was traveling the states for most of last year which is why there was no 2013 festival, however since the 2012 event we knew that a third festival was definitely on the cards. We began discussing ideas pretty much as soon as the 2012 festival ended – what we would do differently, what worked, what didn’t and who would be on our wish list to play festival number 3.
We had the venue confirmed and had chosen where the three stages we were going to be at the beginning of last summer and by September we began contacting the bands on our wish list. However we had the big obstacle of applying for Arts Council funding so everything was put on hold until we heard the outcome of our application. We were very fortunate to have out funding application accepted so from January this year we went full steam ahead to getting everything organised.
Compared to the first two festival this time it has been more complex as we have almost double the amount of acts playing, over 40 performances over the three days.

fobillJES – You have an interesting line up, something for everyone with a penchant for left of centre sounds. Catching my eye are Melt Banana, Terminal Cheesecake and Nadja amongst others. Does the line up reflect your own personal music tastes? What else has steered the selection process?

The line up definitely reflects myself and Verity’s diverse music taste. It brings together what music excites us at the moment and what bands have caught our attention over the past year. This can either be through a live performance or artists that we have been listening to. The festival line up is made up of bands or artists that we know will bring something special to the Fat Out Fest and will challenge our audience with sounds they may not have heard before.
I saw Terminal Cheesecake for the first time at Supernormal festival last summer and they completely blew me away – they took me to an incredibly hypnotic place and as soon as they finished I hunted them down and asked them to perform at the festival.
Giving smaller bands a platform is also something that is really important to us as promoters. Just booking acts because they sell tickets is not in our ethos at all so as long as the music we see or hear does something to Verity or myself we will invite them to play. Minimal Bouge is a band that is playing on the Friday night that Verity saw at a small DIY show in Manchester while I was in the USA. They are an incredibly original and very interesting band that excited both us so much that the fact that only 20 people came to the show did not matter, we had to book them! Hear our Fat Out Fest Dark 3rd special podcast here:



JES – So are you going to be in the crowd enjoying some of the performances? Is there anything in particular that is getting you slobbering at the chops?

We most certainly will be in the crowd. We are hoping this year because we only have one stage to run it will give us more time to actually enjoy the festival and be able to watch all the bands – not sure if this is wishful thinking?!

Charles Hayward is performing three times over the weekend and the festival is the end result of his Samarbeta music residency that he is doing at Islington Mill the week leading up to FOF. The Friday night performance will be a completely new composition made up of his time in Salford collaborating with local musicians. This will be a one off performance and completely unmissable.

Barberos will be opening up the main stage on Saturday performing a special audio visual performance with HOWARD BE THY NAME. Barberos always amaze me with their uncompromising energy and with the addition of visuals projected on to some kind of life size human sculpture it will be a really incredible show.

Headlining the VideoJam stage on Saturday is AHRKH KHOM FT. SAM WEAVER performing an installation piece ПОТЕРЯЛИ КОСМОНАВТ. The inspiration for the piece stemmed from the 60’s space race and 2 amateur radio astronomers picked up a frantic Soviet SOS signal of a Russian cosmonaut, traveling away from Earth to his death. The concept fascinates me and with visuals from Jamie Robinson (Khom) accompanied by Alex Macarte (AHRKH) and Sam weaver producing the soundtrack it will be a fascinating and very moving installation.

Having Melt-Banana perform in the enchanting and intimate location of the mill will be incredibly special and very rowdy. I have never seen Cut Hands perform before so again I will be at the front zoning into his noise, especially as that is that last performance of the weekend. Raikes parade, Gum Takes Tooth, Farewell Poetry – too many good bands playing over the weekend to pin point what I want to see. I hope to be able to catch at least 10 mins of each set!


JES – Fat Out Fest is in an urban environment rather than a muddy field. I am personally a fan of the urban festival, combining urban convenience and architecture with a music festival. Was Fat Out always going to be in an urban setting or did you consider a more traditional rural festival?

I don’t think Fat Out will ever move to an outdoor field – I personally don’t think that the festival would translate into an outdoor space as Islington Mill is its home and the building gives so much to the vibe of the festival. I think if we did move it from the mill the festival would taken on another form. I too like the comforts you get with an indoor festival and although I have enjoyed a field festival in my time, (Supernormal being at the top of the list) I have also hated my time at some of them as my enjoyment is so weather dependent.


fo1JES – Have you taken inspiration from other festivals when planning Fat Out Fest?

Definitely. Supersonic is a massive inspiration in so many ways. Their line up always excites me and I have never left their festival without a list of newly discovered bands, some of which we have asked to play FOF. Also the festival was run by two women, now just run by Lisa Meyer. To me supersonic is at the top of its game, promoting music that celebrates what is exciting in the world of alternative and experimental music and art and the fact that is organised by woman is incredibly inspiring and shows women doing wonderful and very significant things in a male dominated music industry.


JES – Fat Out Fest seems to be about so much more than the music, tell us a little more about what is happening over the weekend?
FOF this year has an interactive sound installation in the gallery space created by Harry Taylor and Don Mclean of Action Beat fame. The installation is called Contact Hz and is an immersive experience set in a room with 1000 contact microphones suspended from a ceiling. Speakers above and below the participant feed back the sound of the microphones being walked through. The sound is mixed to provide a different sonic experience depending on your location in the room: there is proposed a “treble” end and a “bass” end. It is hypothesised that different participants will have different “favourite” spots in the room, depending on their tolerance to harsh noise. We want our festival to be as interactive as possible and the audience to feel they are apart of program and not just a spectator, which this installation will definitely be a big part in helping us create this vibe.

The Videojam stage is insane, they really have outdone themselves curating their stage! – You have 9 performances of musicians/bands scoring 9 different short films, as well as three installation based performances. Videojam seek to explore and re-examine the relationship between sound and moving image and it is fair to say they will be doing this ten fold on the Saturday on Fat Out Fest.

Having Opal Tapes head honcho Steven Bishop curate a stage at Fat Out Fest is an absolute honour and he will be expanding the diversity of the program massively by brining artists playing dark minimal electronics that his label is renowned for. Musical additions like the Opal Tapes stage is why the FOF line up is so diverse this year and why us opening up our festival and collaborating has been so successful in bringing together lots of different genres of music in many different mediums.

David McLean’s Tombed Vision stage is another one to watch out for. He is pairing up different musicians and collectives for a one off completely improvised set so nobody can predict what the outcome will be all I know is that magic is going to be made in the yoga room that day. David has worked with us on as a valued part of the Fat Out team for many years now and we are immensely proud of the success of his label and some of the beautiful music that has come out of it.


JES – You have the splendid Gizeh Records involved. How did that happen?

Richard Knox who runs Gizeh Records moved the label into Islington Mill last year so we got to know him on a personal level as well as admiring a lot of the bands on his books. When discussing who we would ask to curate the second and third stages Gizeh records seemed to be an obvious choice and when we heard his idea for the stage it cemented his involvement it the festival.
On Sunday May 25th Gizeh Records will host a four hour continuous improvised performance on the 5th floor loft space – “The Eternal Return Arkestra of Gizeh.”
Featuring up to 20 musicians at one time with each hour will be lead by a different group or artist. Hour one led by Horrid, Two by Charles Hayward, Three by Nadja and the final hour by Farewell Poetry. I am very excited by this stage as I adore improvised music and it also gives people a chance to get involved and play at Fat Out Fest as anyone can contact Rich through the Gizeh and Fat Out websites and ask to be involved in this performance.


JES – Is there going to be a 2015 Fat Out? Can you tease us with any tasters of what is to come?
I hope there will be a FOF 2015 – We have not begun discussions yet as we need to focus on this festival but I’m sure there will be another one coming your way! We are constantly looking to develop ourselves as promoters so whatever the next instalment of FOF brings you can be sure that it will showcase how we have creatively grown as promoters.


JES – So, finally, give us your hard sell! What do we need to know? How do we get tickets?

Well FAT OUT FEST takes place at Islington Mill on 23/24/25 May 2014.

Weekend tickets are only £30 which for over 40 live performances is an absolute steal.
Friday day tickets are £12
Saturday and Sunday day tickets are £15.

Tickets are available online from

In person:
Piccadilly records (Manchester)
Bay Horse (Manchester)
Jumbo (Leeds)


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