The poster for NYC's first ATP I'll Be Your Mirror music festival
This weekend's ATP's "I'll Be Your Mirror" music festival marks its NYC debut after holding it for the past four years at out-of-town locales Kutsher's in Monticello, NY and Asbury Park, NJ. There, with the help of co-curators like Portishead and film director Jim Jarmusch, Hogan was able to put on 24/7 immersive independent music experience with music ranging from the Stooges to EPMD to My Bloody Valentine to Jeff Mangum. Biz spoke with ATP's founder/impresario about the venue switch, landing Frank Ocean, Greg Dulli's curation skills, how to reunite bands like My Bloody Valentine, the Make-Up and Slint, his festival finances and those tough New York City crowds.
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How's it going with Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs curating NYC's fest?
It's been great. He's very enthusiastic and a real knowledgeable music fan. Some people say they're into music, but he really is. He knows a lot of new bands and honestly with his knowledge he could curate another ten ATPs We were fortunate he was able to do it this year.
He's curated a diverse day with Scrawl, Joseph Arthur, Charles Bradley - it's a bit all over the map.
It's eclectic and that's a good thing. Obviously Marcy Maze of Scrawl sang on Gentlemen and she's going to be there and Greg's going to be there -- you do the math...
There's a scoop!
Also the Roots are playing, we've always wanted to have them at the festival and Godspeed You Black Emperor, Hot Snakes, The Make-Up, and the Magic Band -- I think its the first time that they've played in town since Beefheart. It's really varied.
How did you land Frank Ocean?
It was Greg Dulli. He covered "Love Crimes," which is an amazing cover, and we needed a Friday headliner. He happened to be available because he cancelled his dates opening for Coldplay that weekend. Apparently he's quite selective about what he does and he seemed into ATP, which was great for us.
What else are you looking forward to?
Phillip Glass and Tyondai Braxton collaboration. I heard their rehearsals were great. I'm a fan of both acts. Also the Make-up are of those bands that blow me away. They used to have these uniforms and play this kind of crazy punk rock meets James Brown. They've got new outfits, which hopefully they'll bring.
Did you bring them together?
I asked them to reform in May for something in London and they're going to be selective about what they do -- not like the Pixies.
ATP Founder Barry Hogan (Photo: Deborah Kee Higgins)
How many bands have you reunited over the years?
Oh, I don''t know -- quite a lot.
My Bloody Valentine, Slint, Jeff Mangum….
I guess I helped get [Mangum] out of the house, but maybe it's selfish because I want to see these acts play. I never got a chance to see Neutral Milk Hotel.
We worked with Pavement when they did the reunion shows, but I think they were talking about it anyway. Jesus Lizard we helped reform. Sleep was another one and equally amazing. We don't just reform people because it can sell an abundance of tickets- -- obviously that helps, but our interest is in music and the bands we want to see out there.
How do you approach bands with ancient animosities?
We've got a really good track record and we always present it as something interesting for them to do rather than doing it for a big bag of cash. We're letting artists curate great lineups, putting their record collections on stage, rekindling old friendships and people end up really enjoying themselves.
People tried to get My Bloody Valentine back together for decades and most thought it would never happen.
In creating ATP we were setting up a platform for artists to do something in a more enjoyable fashion than just playing Lollapalooza or something for millions of dollars -- which I'm sure is great. This is not just offering money and letting them play a show; you need to work with them.
Who else would you like to bring together?
I'd still love to see like Cocteau Twins and Husker Du.
What other bells and whistles do you have planned for this weekend?
We're putting a boat on the side of the Pier 36. We're going to have cinema and comedy.There's going to be DJs and a bar. Lapham's Quarterly are having a book club. Authors are coming down to do Q&As. We're trying to see if we can get Philip Glass to do a Q&A. We're also have a pub quiz and bingo.
Are there places to get escape the hubbub?
If it gets to be too much, you can go around the back of the building where the view is quite spectacular and have drinks.
Will there be after parties?
A lot of bands are staying at the Ace Hotel, so we're going to have parties there.
What about food?
We have Brooklyn Flea food vendors.
Why prompted the move from Kutsher's in the Catskills to Asbury Park to money-makin' Manhattan?
The problem with Kutshers was the venue just wasn't good enough to make it work. People got tickets and weren't into their rooms and that became a problem. Then we went to Asbury Park last year -- it's a great space and we love Asbury Park -- but sales dried up. We also had sound logistic problems. We were planning to go to Manhattan next year, and then we were like, "well why don't we move it this year?" When people see this new space in action they'll be into it.
Have the sales picked up since you moved?
Yeah it's definitely moving forward and I think sales will escalate now. There's going to be a lot of last minute purchases, which is a trait of New Yorkers. That was a big problem in Asbury Park or the Catskills because they were too far. Here it's like, "oh, tomorrow I could go."
What percentage of ATP sold last year?
Are production costs higher in the city?
They're kind of similar. The insurance is more. ATP in general is an expensive thing to put on because we don't cut corners.
There was an article that came out in The Stool Pigeon that claimed ATP is bankrupt and owed people money - am I mischaracterizing it?
No, no, no... the problem with the article is that it's focused all on the negatives and it didn't bother to mention the positive. Everyone is quite aware we liquidated ATP Concerts and we got back our assets and started a new [firm]. It didn't talk about cash flow over the past 4-5 years, which has been 5 million pounds (about $8 million) though we did incur liabilities -- but the article is really inaccurate. [n response to Hogan's comments, the Stool Pigeon said it both stands by its story and gave Hogan the opportunity to comment before it went to press, but he chose not to.]
Yes ATP has encountered some problems over the years. The main thing we did was restructure the company. It's now three entities: ATP Festivals in America, England, Australia; ATP Presents which is the concerts we do in London - anyone from Grizzly Bear to Beach House; and then ATP Recordings which is the record label end of it with bands like Fuck Buttons and Deerhoof. The idea is we wanted to separate the three. We now have investment we're about to get. We're probably in the best position we've been in in years.
Coming up in England we have Shellac which is about to sell out; The National is sold out; Australia's on the verge of selling out; and we've got like tons of shows next year that are doing well. [Following this interview ATP announced two new UK events curated by TV on the Radio and Deerhunter]. There's a guy named Jon Dunn who just joined us, he used to put on the Latitude Festival in England. He's booked acts like the National, Arcade Fire, Joanna Newsom and Antony & the Johnsons and he's going to promote acts like that for ATP.
Are we bankrupt? No, of course not. Yes, we were running it at a loss, that's no secret. We're still able to operate because our turnover is high and we have cash flow -- probably the two most important things in the business.
Have you ever considered having sponsorship?
We had sponsorship in Australia in 2009. We're in a sort of changing period now: before you could just rely on ticket sales, but now everyone is spoiled for choice and you have to work twice as hard to get less people to come to shows. If we do get sponsorship I want to make it creative. We don't want big glaring banners and naming rights. I'm not opposed to sponsorship.
The article said Ticketmaster refunded people for the ATP USA.
When we were at Asbury Park, Ticketmaster did the box office at the Paramount Convention Hall. When we moved, we thought Ticketmaster would work with us again but because the new space is not a Ticketmaster venue they jrefunded the money without notifying people. But now you can buy from Ticketweb.
Did you lose people?
Well, because sales weren't that fantastic, not really and people re-bought afterwards. They found out it was cheaper, because Ticketweb is cheaper than Ticketmaster.
One of the most damning things in that article was where they say: "It soon emerged that in the days running up to the liquidation some ticket-buyers had been asked to pay money for future events directly into ATP founder Barry Hogan's bank account, provoking further concerns."
We were in the process of separating the companies and setting up a new company, and the bank accounts didn't arrive on time and people wanted to buy tickets. So I used my account and then just switched it across -it was nothing major.
What kind of mansion do you live in?
I don't live in a mansion. Fuckin' hell, no way. Everyone got their tickets. Basically we're in the process of rebuilding, people are offering to invest in us and our show sales are going really well.
When you say you're turning over 5 million pounds, how many years is that for?
$5 million per year over the last four years. That's an approximate balance.
And that's all just from ticket sales?
Going forward are you planning to hold the festival in New York City every year?
I'd like to -- as long as people are receptive to it, of course. You're a tough crowd, you New Yorkers. We've got artists we want to work with us next year, so if people are into this one and it goes well, I'm sure.