Monday, 22 June 2015

Aye, aye, Kaptin - Jack meets the man behind BoomTown's music

As the world gears up for Glastonbury, and those of us who didn't manage to get a ticket start to feel those pangs of jealousy and #FOMO, I thought I'd try take your minds off it by reminding you that there arejust a couple of months to go until BoomTown Fair. I spoke to Kaptin is Dead, one of the men behind BoomTown and one half of Big Swing Soundsystem, to get his story and his take on the festival. Read on to find out why BoomTown knocks Glasto into a cocked hat. Glasto-goers, fear not, most of the artists mentioned here are also playing this week at Worthy Farm, though you might have to look a bit harder for them.

Jack the Cad: Afternoon Cap'n, thanks for agreeing to chat. First of all, can you let everyone who you are, in terms of Big Swing Soundsystem and BoomTown?

Kaptin is Dead: I'm the Sheriff of BoomTown, but I also get to programme most of the music at the festival. Matt The Hat and I started Big Swing Soundsystem but we've also been DJing together since 2004.

JtC: You're a pretty big deal in the festival world - how did you first get involved?

Kaptin: I knew I wanted to be involved with festivals the first time I performed at Glastonbury in 2004, I was rapping with a band called Dark Chunk and also a contemporary Dance group called Reform Dance, although I'd been to Glastonbury a few times before, that weekend changed my life. The next year Matt and I took an Inflatable Church to Bestival and through that many festival friendships were formed.

JtC: How did you first come to be involved in the Vintage Remix scene?

Kaptin: We first began as The Chaps back in 2005. We dressed up in boaters and blazers and played a mixture of Old Swing, Nu-Swing and what would later be classed as Electro Swing. We even had an extremely short lived band, playing silly swing covers. We carried that on until we ran out of Pimms and moved on to the next incarnation, which I seem to remember was a Swedish Apres Ski duo called Stefan and Jurgen. 

Big Swing Soundsystem Summer 2014 from Something Creatives on Vimeo.

Many years later Chris Tofu introduced us to the idea of Electro Swing and we realised it was just a continuation of what we'd been doing as The Chaps, so we instantly clicked with it. We started a night called In Full Swing at a club we were running called Cardiff Arts Institute, and as we didn't actually know many Electro Swing DJs back then, we booked various bands that fitted the bill and took up most of the DJing ourselves. Eventually the brewery shut us down for being too outrageous and we realised we'd have to find other places to play.

JtC: You're a proper muso - what is it about VR that grabbed you?

Kaptin: I think more than anything it was the excuse to be silly and have fun. I think both are incredibly underrated ways of being. I was raised on Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and Spike Jones and his City Slickers, and I'd say both of those were instrumental in my love for Vintage Remix. Even now, although I play all sorts of music under different hats, I have the most fun playing Vintage Remix.

JtC: There's not many festivals with such a huge area dedicated to the VR sound - to what extent are you responsible for BoomTown's MayFair Avenue?

Kaptin: Well Chris Tofu and the Word's Tallest DJ are responsible for bringing Vintage Remix to the festival and they still run The Ballroom, which is our main venue in Mayfair Avenue. Even though I do the music programming there now, I still make sure I run everything by them and take on board any of their recommendations.

JtC: Vintage Remix, and in particular Electroswing, seems to be a bit of a Marmite sound, especially given the recent Eurovision travesty - why do you think it causes such differing opinions?

Kaptin: Because it's such a broad spectrum and different sides of it appeal to totally different people. I was chatting to someone on New Years Eve who kept stating that he hated Electro Swing, but then admitted he came to all of our In Full Swing nights and loved every minute of it. Plus you do have to dig through a lot of tripe to find the good stuff, but as an old vinyl digger, I quite like that.

JtC: I'm going to be picking my 'Don't miss these guys' list - which acts would you, with your intricate knowledge of the line up, recommend for readers of this blog?

Kaptin: Well I love everyone on the bill but as a lot of the French acts don't get to play here that often, with maybe the exception of Caravan Palace, I'd say definitely catch them. I went to see Deluxe (part of the Chinese Man Records family) in Bourges a couple of months back and they are one of the best live bands I've seen all year. Also a Gypsy-Swing Hip-hop band called Soviet Suprem are a lot of fun, or if you like Electro Blues then Scarecrow are not to be missed. Plus there are some great French DJs such as Bart & Baker, Grant Lazlo and Kiwistar.

JtC: For those who haven't been before, tell us why BoomTown is so different from other festivals.

Kaptin: It's actually really hard to explain for anyone who's never been. The whole concept of a pop up city seems to baffle a lot of people, especially when you start trying to explain the Post Office, the Job Centre, the Leisure Centre, the Town Hall, etc. It's definitely something you're a part of, rather than simply an observer and it's a completely different, rather twisted, but ultimately magical land indeed. It's worth reading up on the storyline that runs though the festival, I hear there's whisperings of revolution this year. Plus even if you don't like Vintage Remix, we have lots of different stages with all kinds of music. There's no focus on cool and trendy bands whatsoever, the bookings are all based on the quality of music and performance.

JtC: Finally, where can we catch BSSS and what can we expect from your performances?

Kaptin: Unfortunately I don't really get any time off during the festival so we shall be closing The Ballroom on Sunday night and going out with a bang. We shall, of course, have our partner in crime Hypeman Sage with us, but also plenty of special guests as well.

You can also catch us at Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, WOMAD, Camp Bestival and Bestival.