Interview with Two Head Honchos at Dimensions Festival

We caught up with two ‘higher ups’ at Dimensions festivals about their favourite experiences from the festivals past, the guests they want to book and about running a night. Not only did we speak to them about the festival itself, but also on an important issue in the music scene today. 

With the growing popularity of festivals abroad, festival styled nights at Printworks, Fabric and even smaller university cities, there is an obvious issue – smaller promoters are finding it harder and harder to grow and keep the eco system of promoting smaller, lesser known DJs. Andy Lemay and Dave Martin are the head of marketing and the lead booker respectively at Dimensions Festival who  believe that local level promoters are the ‘life blood’ of the scene and have undertaken a duty to promote lesser known DJs. They are tackling this issue of promoting upstart DJs, through the Dimensions Directory. It is a collective of up and coming DJs who are then given the chance to perform at festivals such as Dimensions with Andy and Dave’s help.  

First could you give a little bit of background into your roles at dimensions festival. When did you start working for them, what is dimensions festivals, what’s your roles, aims?

DM – I’m the booker at the festival and I actually came on board the year before Dimensions started in order to shape the musical direction from the outset.  My role is pretty clear, I think…in terms of aims I always think that it’s our job to make people think, explore and discover music that they might not know as well, of course, as giving them a little something that they already love to allow them to let loose.  Hopefully people come away from Dimensions feeling vitalised and excited about something they didn’t know before they went…

AL: Im head of Marketing for Dimensions. I came to Dimensions as a punter in year one after knowing the guys for many years prior. I fell in love with the initial idea it and decided I had to work for this Festival! I have never looked back and Im still here 5 years later, happier than ever.

What’s your most memorable experience from past festivals?

DM – there’s tens of these every year but as it’s fresh and as it took so long to make it happen, I’d have to say seeing Larry Heard play his first live show in over 20 years is up there.  It felt very personal to me and I was starting to wonder whether I was going to get to hear that music live in my lifetime.  Seeing the response to Larry’s show and where he’s gone with it since, and seeing him getting recognition from a whole new generation has been a pretty good feeling.

AL: I’m with Dave here, the Larry Heard headline show last year will be hard to beat, performing live for the first time in 20 years and the response from festival goers was incredible.   As far as experiences the biblical storm in 2014 was interesting. Floating points and MCDE were one of the last arenas unaffected by the storm and played through to a packed crowd for 5 hours. People just went with it and embraced and it ended up being one of the most special nights we have had. (the Operations department do see it with such rose tinted glasses I have to be honest) 

you can hear the set from that night here >

What has been the best performance you have seen at Dimensions?

DM  – every performance is different but for sheer strangeness, I’d have to say Hype Williams/Dean Blunt in 2013.  If you were there you know!

AL- Theo Parrish into Moodymann in the Void arena in the first year of Dimensions was pretty life affirming for me personally. It’s when I decided I had to work for the Festival (I was a punter in year one!)  

Larry Heard, Moodymann and K’Alexi Shelby

All of these sorts of festivals seem to be in Croatia, why do they all seem to be there?

DM – I have to admit, I haven’t actually been to any other Croatian festivals so I guess you’d have to ask others on their reasons.  In our case, Dimensions is in an incredibly beautiful location and a unique series of venues – Amphitheater, beach, fort – with attendees from numerous parts of the world gathered somewhere to share the experience and it all feels pretty special…so I guess that’s why.

Which guest would you most like to book? Who is ‘the one who got away’?

DM – Hopefully the ones that are still alive are still a possibility so we shouldn’t rule them out…so for me, maybe a DJ set from Ron Hardy.

AL – Dave keeps stealing my responses, Ron Hardy would have been one of the guys for me, for sure!  I remember trying to get in touch with The Electrifying Mojo in year two to see if we could get him to the Festival, never got a reply so he was one that got away but would be amazing and surreal to make happen one day! 

A lot of students out there are starting their own nights, or are looking to move into a similar area as you both are in now, what advice would you have to these people?

DM – DO IT!!! 100%. That’s how I started (used my first student loan to start a night – at which I lost all of that student loan – but hey!) and it’s critical that new people get involved.  Promoters (especially small/new promoters) are the lifeblood of the scene, they bring opportunity, enthusiasm and ideas to the table.  My advice would be make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons and make sure you’re confident that you could justify your choices to yourself in 10-20 years time.  You can look back and regret the way that an event went or how successful it was but you don’t want to look back and regret that you didn’t stick to your own morals.

AL: Yeah I was djing a lot before I went to Leeds uni but not running parties or playing out much. I went to Leeds met loads of people into the same stuff and started a party with a friend and never looked back. Its a sad fact I have never got a job off the back of my degree… but my experience djing and promoting parties in Leeds  has got me jobs in the past and inadvertently led me to this job now! So go to Uni, go to a very limited amount of lectures, start a party and promote it while you should be studying and will get you a rubbish degree… but maybe a job in music! 

Festivals seem to be a dark art in terms of promotion, because the acts are a large part of the marketing campaign, how do you get your festival across as different? Is it a booking led process or a weird mix of marketing and booking?

DM – In terms of booking it’s really a heart thing…choosing the right artists or deciding on timing is what it’s all about for me .  Sometimes it just feels right to do certain things and other times it just feels right to wait.  I think the Funkadelic Parliament booking was an example of that.  We waited 4 years before we went for that event though we’d been discussing from the very start of AL – Yeah we have some things pretty core to what we do in terms of Marketing the Festival. Amazing lineup (in our opinion) incredible venue, and unparalleled soundsystems. With our marketing we are basically just presenting these to people and allowing them to decide if its for them. We’re not big on £7 for 6 pitchers of cocktails!!!” and gimmiky sales and marketing things. We have a lot of return customers so word of mouth plays a big part, as you will know thats the most powerful form of marketing for us. The most important thing is making sure people have the best time possible on site and fancy visiting us again, maybe with a friend who hasn’t been next time.

What is the best part of your jobs?

DM- for me it’s always the look on peoples faces when they leave the festival.  Having witnessed a new artists that they didn’t know or having played their first festival set as a new artist…it’s always telling when you see people after that.
AL – For me, being one of the very few, very lucky people that get to make a living supporting and promoting good music. Maybe introducing people to new music or artists along the way. 

How do you guys actually plan to promote up and coming DJs?

AL – Dave, Simon Scott and myself represent the festival via our DJ collective, Dimensions Soundsystem. We have been very fortunate to have played all over and we are constantly blown away by the quality of the DJs we were playing with, often the “support/warm up” DJs. There is so much emphasis on producer DJs, and the idea that if you make a hit track you must be a great DJ, that the people who are simply brilliant DJs are sometimes ignored. This was an idea I had to use the platform the festival has to try and expose these talented individuals to our audience of music fans and further afield. We reached out to all our trusted worldwide partners and friends for recommendations to go alongside our selections.  As a result we created the DJ directory.  That was the basis of the idea. We run a mix series to run alongside the Directory too >

What is the aim of this initiative long term?

AL – There is no hard and fast aim, on a basic level we simply want to provide a platform for these DJs and to support as best we can via the channels and assets we have at Dimensions Festival because we think they are shit hot. Some have been booked on our international series of events we do in the run up to the Festival. and many are playing at the Festival proper too. The aim is to get as many people hearing them play out as possible in the hope they like them as much as we do and think about booking them for their own parties maybe?

What genres of music do they all play?

AL – A big mixture, from soul jazz and hip hop, through to house techno and more bass leaning music. All the music we love and have represented at the festival basically.
Who are the most exciting names on your roster?

AL – I would ask people to check the directory and make up their own mind on that >
Check out today’s mix from Andwot – a South London-based DJ, writer and Boiler Room host/programmer

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