The pony tailed Rob Da Bank is a man whose name is synonymous with the music festival.
Why? Well he’s co-founder of Bestival, and it’s slightly more mature cousin, Camp Bestival, two events which conspire to light up the British summer with astute musical bookings and immersive festival experiences. Prior to this he had a solid musical pedigree, curating BBC Radio 1’s Blue Room and running the Sunday Best. But it’s in big events where he’s more recently made his name.
After Bestival celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2014, he’s now looking at expanding his empire, taking the event to Canada, launching new festival Common People and establishing LEAF in London as one of Europe’s premium electronic shindigs.
The latter is certainly looking good featuring some of the crème da la crème of the dance music world when it takes place on 6-7 March. The likes of Modeselektor, DJ Harvey and new boys Tales of Us will all be visiting Rob at the London’s Tobacco Docks. We caught up with Rob to quiz him on the event, his musical roots and how he helped raise the bar for the festival circuit we all know and love…
How did you first get into music? Was there a song which first sucked you in?
I got into music as an eight year old in my dad’s brass band playing the trombone. I spent my whole childhood touring round the UK and France playing crazy old brass band tunes. Then I switched on John Peel when I was 14 and fell in love with the Smiths and the Fall. The first record I really loved was the Sergeant Pepper album by the Beatles – one of my dad’s few beloved records which I stuck on when he went out. I still love that record.
Where did your passion for electronic music come from?
When I was 16 I started mixing up Madchester stuff like the Stone Roses and Mondays with A Guy Called Gerald and early breakbeat. Then I moved to London when I was 18 and discovered Fabio and Grooverider’s Rage club and Spiral Tribe raves. I was immersed and in love!
What inspired you to start putting on your own events?
I loved funk, hip hop, progressive house, jungle, even early trance in the early nineties but I also loved hanging out in the chill out rooms before that became a dirty word. My idea with Sunday Best was to fuse the vibes of the chill out room with all those musical flavours. This meant it wouldn’t be banging 4/4 in a dark room but loads of styles in a cool place to hangout, eat drink and make friends. It sounds daft now as bar culture is everywhere but back then it was either a banging club or a dodgy old man’s pub! Sunday Best was born, got kinda famous for breaking the mould and then we started Bestival!
Where did the idea for LEAF Festival come from?
My manager Ben Turner and I have spent decades going to clubs and festivals across the world and really felt London was dragging its heels with a premium electronic indoor festival happening! There are plenty of cool clubs, amazing live venues and outdoor festies during the summer but this is a different beast I hope.
What do you hope to achieve with the event?
Honestly I’d like it to become as well known as Sonar for supporting electronic music and the arts. I think that’s totally possible.
What was your highlight from last year’s festival?
Giorgio Moroder’s Q and A was absolutely hilarious with all his stories about Donna Summer and Daft Punk. Then it got even better with his DJ set that evening. A fantastic showman and true icon.
Who are you most looking forward to seeing in the clubs? And on the panels during LEAF 2015?
I can’t wait to DJ with my old Sunday Best buddy DJ Harvey but I’m also really keen to hear Tale Of Us. I’ve heard so much about them but never seen them DJ. Not forgetting Modeselektor or Sasha!
Which other artists do you want to feature at LEAF in the future?
Well basically the cream of electronic music from around the world, new and old, young and classic. Everyone!
Bestival, Camp Bestival and Common People plus LEAF are among the festivals you’re known for – what’s been your favourite festival memory from over the years?
Hanging out with the Beastie Boys who wore their Bestival cardigans with pride, warming up for Amy Winehouse, seeing Kraftwerk’s epic audio visual show, having Elton John and Stevie Wonder on consecutive years and OutKast blew the place apart last year.
From your perspective, is the festival marketplace in good health at the moment?
Ruddy good health I’d say from a punter’s point of view. There’s just so much choice and competition at a massive range of prices. It’s much harder for the promoter but I never complain about this as I love the competition. It’s what makes us make Bestival better every year. But yes it’s a saturated market where only the strong, different and hard working survive … so I’m feeling good!
What else does 2015 have in store for you?
My aim for the next decade is to get into scoring films and doing music supervision for TV and film. I’ve already had a few early successes and am scoring my first major UK film later this year which is so exciting. Funnily enough it’s set at a festival!