Insomniac CEO Pasquale Rotella on Drugs, Festival Safety, and More

The Insomniac honcho extols his company’s safety systems while decrying the media attention around drugs at dance events.

At the tail end of the festival season comes Insomniac Events’ annual Nocturnal Wonderland festival (Sept 21). Featuring Martin Solveig, Porter Robinson and Bingo Players, the event will dig into its new home about an hour east of Los Angeles at the San Manuel Amphitheater, a venue owned by Insomniac’s new parent company, Live Nation. CODE recently caught up with Insomniac’s founder and CEO Pasquale Rotella for a conversation about his events and the larger issues surrounding dance music festivals today.

Billboard: This is the first year there will be camping at Nocturnal. Are you going to be camping?

Rotella: That’s a good question!

Bring the baby, make it a family event!

I’m probably going to do an RV. The tent thing… you know what would be wack, you know what would suck? If we didn’t let RVs in and then I pulled my RV into the tent area. Now that would be lame. But we actually allow RVs.

If you did that you would just have to accept that the party at night would be in your RV.

Exactly. Which I’d be open for.

Is it possible that Nocturnal will become a multi-city brand the way Electric Daisy Carnival has?

I haven’t made a decision for sure but after this year’s Nocturnal, I think there’s going to be a different kind of buzz – an energy behind the festival.

Are you able to do more things now that you have partnered with Live Nation?

Because they are our creative partners, they save us time in certain cities. Insomniac runs day-to-day and our creative team is all Insomniac. They are definitely more helping us with the strength that is Live Nation. And we can use a Live Nation venue, get through a lot of red tape a lot easier and get it for a more reasonable price at times.

As someone who has dealt with all sorts of issues, including loss of life at an event, what’s your response to the events at Electric Zoo?

It’s sad always to hear when people hurt themselves. But you can do everything under the sun and if [people] want to take the risk – it’s really in their hands. It happens every day, all over the world. It seems like when someone harms themselves at a dance music festival, it’s a little less sensational than if a celebrity kills themselves or hurts themselves on drugs.

Do you think there’s some value for people in the dance music industry to acknowledge the fact that a big portion of what goes on at music festivals is related to drug-taking?

We have acknowledged that it is one of the possible challenges when doing a festival. There are markets that don’t have these problems. Puerto Rico would be a good example. They drink. They have no interest in drugs that we’ve ever experienced. So it’s not a dance music thing. It’s a society thing.

Whether it’s a problem having to do with illegal substances or getting people in the gate faster, traffic issues – this is what we do for our lives. It’s nothing that’s ever been ignored. We’re always getting inspired, always learning, always trying to find innovative ways, creative ways to educate and make things better but it’s a circus out there. The media is just… it’s for people that don’t know any better. That’s who they’re entertaining.

We are going to always have problems. We’re always looking for the best solution to these things and we will continue to. Right now, we are kicking ass. But at one point, you have to put the responsibility on them.

Them being…?

The point is when the city, the producer, the principal of the school, has done the things to make a safe environment for people to be… it’s an ongoing thing. It is ridiculous, the [media] focuses [on when] a celebrity hurts themselves, someone gets hurt at dance music event, it involves drugs. It’s happening every day. No one talks about the Bonnaroo Festival. I don’t know why that is.

Now, [Electric Zoo] wasn’t our show; we don’t know what went on. I would assume it seems like the promoter has a good relationship with the city. It sounded like he had free water, I think that it was 18 and over. We’ve kind of set the bar for these things and we love, love people following our footsteps. We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ID scanners and rent them out to other promoters that have followed our lead. You might have heard all the things we do and it goes on and on. I feel really good about our events. I’m very proud of them and it’s really sad when someone hurts themselves. It makes it tough. But it is a bit of a media circus.

Knowing what you know to the extent that you do about what happened at Electric Zoo, if you were in the same position, if two people had died at the first two days of your event, would you cancel the third day?

I can’t answer that without knowing what they know. I wouldn’t want another producer to do that to me and I wouldn’t want to do that to them. That’s just being respectful of being in the business. I’ll tell you this: the fans that do not participate in that sort of behavior did not deserve to have an event taken away from them. It’s unfortunate that they are stuck in the middle.

Now that you’ve been vindicated with the civil case brought against you by the Los Angeles Coliseum having been dismissed, what are the chances of Electric Daisy Carnival returning to Los Angeles?

I think the Coliseum is hard to do, you know. It was the best thing that L.A. had to offer at the time, but EDC for L.A. would be probably too big at this point. It could accommodate other kinds of dance events if they were up for it.

I hope I was clear about the issues and never letting up on trying to improve. We’re doing a damn good job. I can say that with confidence. Things will happen and we will be ready and prepared for anything and everything that comes our way.