All Tomorrow’s Parties creator and festival promoter Barry Hogan has a penchant for making peoples’ dreams come true. He’s the best kind of record nerd: a guy who uses his utter infatuation with obscure sounds, thirst for strange backstories, and strong grasp on indie rock’s expansive history to bring joy to like-minded audiophiles by the thousands. His All Tomorrow’s Parties festivals have reunited loads of bands and created a vehicle for the live performances of dozens of cult records by acts nobody thought they’d ever hear from again, let alone see live.
This year, Hogan brings ATP’s latest installment to the US. A non-holiday camp ATP spinoff festival, aptly titled “I’ll Be Your Mirror”, will take place in Asbury Park, NJ, from September 30th to October 2nd. And, this time, Hogan has really outdone himself. Prayers of seeing one of music’s most deified, and easily most reclusive, songwriters in concert will be answered. Along with live-circuit rarity Portishead curating and playing at the shindig, Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum will perform two separate sets at the festival. Some will call it a miracle, but Hogan is no god, just a guy with great taste bent on creating great events for those who care as much as he does. This year is proof of that.
We caught up with Hogan to discuss his powers, how it all works, his aversion to Blur, what it took to drag Mangum out of his annex, why Liam Gallagher’s Beady Eye would be out of place at ATP, and why his ATP festivals tend to never suck. His gentle tone and delightfully unpretentious answers helped shed light on the true spirit of Hogan’s ATP vision. In a 30-minute phone conversation, it was easy to figure out what ATP is and always has been about: taking great care of the folks who will do anything in the name of their record collections, including the artists.
As always, you guys have a lot of stuff going on this year: Jeff Mangum, Portishead, Animal Collective, Battles. All of the lineups are just amazing this year. How do you decide which artists you get to curate, and what does that process usually entail?
It’s generally just everybody who has ever done anything for us is an extension of my record collection. So, it’s just me picking out records and saying, “Hey, why don’t we get someone like Jeff Mangum to perform something new from Neutral Milk Hotel.” Or, we’ve had film directors as well, like Jim Jarmusch, and we love his films. And Matt Groening from The Simpsons. Sure, like everyone else, we love The Simpsons. Saying that, though, they are all people that I read somewhere that they sort of have good taste in music. I mean, we do have to kind of ask people in advance sometimes if they can get an idea of what they are thinking of. But, so far, along the way, we’ve been fortunate with the people we’ve picked. We haven’t had any terrible lineups. Some better than others, but, you know, on the whole, they all fit within the same aesthetic of what we are trying to do.
Yeah, they are always so amazing whenever I see them listed, and, unfortunately, I never have been able to go. It always seems like somebody behind it, the curator, really put a lot of thought into it, and there are always these left-field artists that I am really interested in figuring out how you got them.
Yeah, well, I guess we are very persuasive. The one thing is, you know, when you get the kind of artist, say Jeff Mangum, or Slint, that kind of thing, or My Bloody Valentine… all these bands kind of reformed specifically to do shows with us, or reformed specifically for ATP. And it needs to be presented to them in a way so that it’s not just performing for money, and it’s not just about who is doing a show. It’s about presenting it to them in a way where they’re kind of selecting lineups of bands that they endorse, that may have influenced them, or things that they are supportive of. It’s good. Some of them get more excited than others, but we’ve kind of reformed everybody we’ve wanted to see, really. I mean, there’s a handful of bands we haven’t got yet, but I think there’s not as many as there were about five years ago, because we’ve kind of done them all [laughs].
Have there ever been any artists that you have just been dying to get, but you couldn’t get them to commit to it?
Well, we’d always love to have Kraftwerk play. We’ve never had them. We’re massive fans of Kraftwerk. We’ve never asked them to curate. I don’t know if that would be something that they would be into, but maybe that’s the way we should approach it, but yeah. Or Neil Young would be great. We could get him to do something — as long as he plays with Crazy Horse, though. That’s the best band. I saw him once; it was okay. But, it was just like… I just think when he’s with Crazy Horse, that’s the natural shape for him.
And you never approached either of them about it, right?
We have asked him about doing stuff in the past, but it’s always bad timing, or budget, or something. There are always some restrictions. It’s just a bit frustrating, but I’m sure one day we’ll get them. I said to Deborah, my wife, she runs ATP with me, if we ever got Kraftwerk or Neil Young, then we would retire.
So, my big question, being a huge Neutral Milk Hotel Fan, is what did it take to get Jeff Mangnum onboard? What was the process like? I imagine you kind of dragged him out of some attic crawl space or something?
You know, we have been talking to him for years, and it’s no secret that we love Aeroplane. It’s one of our favorite records and stuff, and I like all those previous records as well. But, I always thought that he would be the perfect kind of curator and stuff. From when we started the festival, I just thought he’s the sort of thing I would like to present at it. And I guess, as time went on, we just kept asking every year. Kind of like Pavement, we kept asking them every year. And Jeff came to the one we did, the first one we did in Upstate New York, which is where My Bloody Valentine played, and he had a really great time. And I think, again, he’s someone that wanted to not just come back and do some gigs for money but to do it in an environment he felt comfortable with. And no better way, I think, than doing it around really great bands that he selected and stuff. So, yeah, I guess gentle persuasion and persistence is what really paid off. And I’m so glad that we got to do it, ’cause he’s such a great guy. And also, his curation in England, the stuff that he’s kind of… the ideas, they flow so much and so well. He’s got enough ideas to kind of stage three or four ATP’s. It’s good. We’re really excited about seeing it. And, you know, I’m just pleased for him that he’s able to get out there and do shows again.