As you're doubtless getting bored/angry with the reams of subjective blather DiS has been throwing up about the UK's flagship festival during our Glastonbury preview week thus far, today we hand the metaphorical mic to a selection of people who, er, know how to use a real one. All performing at next weekend's festival, Maximo Park's Paul Smith, Fucked Up's Damian Abraham, Emmy The Great and Broken Records' Ian Turnbull have all gallantly turned their little grey cells to pondering the meaning of the modern Glastonbury.
Paul Smith, Maximo Park
(Queen's Head Stage, Thursday; Other Stage, Saturday)
DiS: If you had to quickly describe Glastonbury to somebody who’d never heard of it, how would you do so?
PS: A sprawling, many-tentacled musical beast.
DiS: What was your take on all the Jay-Z kerfuffle last year?
PS: It's amazing how rap music can still look like the most radical form in the world when faced with a conservative musical nation. Despite rap's assimilation into the mainstream, people were still reluctant to accept Jay-Z as a viable headliner, which was ludicrous.
DiS: It's got this press as being the 'best festival in the world' - do you think it honestly is? Or at least, should we expect the elusive perfect line up that broadsheet commentators seem so hungry for?
PS: I think commentators need a story and this year they've picked up on the headliners being from an older age-group, which is ageist and, again, absurd. In my opinion Neil Young is one of the best living songwriters, and Bruce Springsteen is one of the most consistently entertaining live performers around (he's the bloody Boss!). There's plenty of hip stuff around the festival site and the atmosphere is undoubtedly more convivial than other, more conventional festivals. You can easily get lost in the Glastonbury experience, as I have done when we've played there. I can't think of many festivals where I can watch Micachu, Rokia Traore, Animal Collective and Penguin Cafe Orchestra (plus there's hip-hop karaoke!)
DiS: You're playing two sets, taking in being the notional 'first act of the festival' on Thursday - are you going to approach the two differently?
PS: There'll definitely be two different setlists, since we've got three albums to play with these days. There aren't many options in terms of our approaching the songs; they're emotional, passionate and energetic so we'll be giving each set our all, as usual. We'll have a think on the day to see if there'll be any surprises in store... [NB Paul Smith is a liar. Or at least, he hadn't decided at this stage that Thursday's set would be all-requests]
DiS: Is it a big deal being asked back? Or is there an element that a band of your stature with a new album out is probably doing something wrong if you're NOT asked back?
PS: It's always good to be asked back, but I don't think we have as much sway as you suggest! To a certain extent, as outsiders we'll always have to prove ourselves, especially with a new album out there, because we want more people to get into our music. There's a lot of pride within the band about our new songs and we'll keep scrapping to be heard amidst the other bands out there.
Damian Abraham, Fucked Up
(John Peel Stage, Friday)
DiS: If I put you on the spot, how would you say you picture the Glastonbury festival?
DA: I would say that I picture it being a teeming mass of unwashed humanity in various stage of inebriation: call it the perfect breeding ground for h1n1.
DiS: The British tend to believe it’s the best festival on the planet; does any of that carry across to Canada?
DA: Absolutely, word of the magical festival has spread to the colonies! I used to own the three-record Glastonbury live album. I think its reputation is pretty assured the world over. It is the stage on which legends are made... the main stage I mean... our stage is the stage on which dreams are broken... (joke!).
DiS: Were you aware of the brouhaha over Jay-Z’s headline slot last year?
DA: Oh yeah! It was big new here too. Ben, in Fucked Up, is a huge Oasis fan and it has kind of spread to the rest of us... he and I are even playing on covering 'Acquiesce' in our new band Papa Bear And Cub... but we all know Hova got the last laugh in that one. I mean I can understand the point Noel, and others, were making but it was a tad old fashioned to make those sort of comments in 2008.
DiS: Accepting that there will be huge amounts of stuff going on elsewhere, but is a festival headlined by Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Blur something you’d be excited about if you weren’t playing yourselves?
DA: Well we played a festival with Neil Young a few weeks ago and I can't stand Bruce Springsteen fans, so the only thing I would be into really is Blur. (My dad used to drink at a bar in London that Damon worked at and when Damon told him the name of his band, he responded that they would never make it with a name like that... he said the same thing about us). The stuff I would most excited about would be stuff like Madness, Ray Davis (maybe the greatest English songwriter ever), Hugh Cornwell, Nick Cave, Horrors, etc. Headliners are never really a draw for me and a festival like this is so big that there really is something for everyone.
DiS: Fucked Up seem to have a propensity for being booked at almost any festival under the sun. Er, what’s your secret? Shouldn’t people be more afraid of you? There’s a swearword in your name!!!
DA: I think for a lot of bigger festivals we fulfill a freak factor. We are always the fat kid that gets invited because he is entertaining. And don't get me wrong, I'm very happy to be that. I love freaks. I think these festivals are scared of us... I mean I always get a lecture before we play about not "going too far". That isn't always true and I certainly wouldn't say that is true for things like Supersonic where we came off pretty conventional. And with ATP, I'm convinced that the only reason we got asked to play is because I have forced Kevin Shields to be my friend against his will.... joke... sort of.
Emmy The Great
(Queen's Head Stage and Guardian Stage, Saturday, John Peel Stage, Sunday)
DiS: If you had to describe Glastonbury to somebody who’d never heard of it before, what would you say?
ETG: I have a vague theory that probably needs some actual thought, but I've always thought Glastonbury is a little like a simulation of living in a medieval village, where you buy food and provisions from the market and walk quite big distances to get to the next village. And queue up at the water source, and go to the toilet and wash communally, etc. And people become more basic when they're there, and there's a higher probability that you'll know the people you walk past. Also, people stop and talk to each other, and meet at night to swap stories with strangers. And I would mention that there is music.
DiS: What was your take on all the Jay-Z kerfuffle last year?
ETG: I'm not completely up to speed on what happened but it seems pretty incomprehensible that people would have a problem with one of the most successful entertainers in the world headlining Glastonbury. Did they mind when Kylie was booked to play? If not then it's music snobbery to the highest degree.
DiS: Some papers have moaned again about this year’s headliners – do you think that Glastonbury actually is or ought to be the best festival in terms of line up?
ETG: I think they could get every single band in the world to headline Glastonbury and someone somewhere would still moan about it. It's like the Turner Prize, part of what it's there for is to drum up some debate in the papers during quiet season, in case there are no really juicy murders to report. In terms of lineup, it's such a huge festival that even if you think the lineup's shit, you'll inevitably find something you really wanted to see every day. Last year I didn't even notice that Joan Baez was playing until I read the small print on the programme. That's how epic the Glastonbury lineup is. Joan Baez is in the smallprint.
DiS: Did it feel like a big deal personally being asked to play last year? Or is it more a kind of 'phew, I'm in the club' type feel?
ETG: Last year was our second time, but it was the first time on the John Peel stage so it felt amazing. I remember my first Glastonbury, walking past the new bands tent (which is now John Peel) and thinking 'I want to start a band so that I can play in there'.
DiS: What are your hopes/expectations/thoughts/dreams/fears with regards to this year's fest?
ETG: The hopes and the fears usually end up turning into each other as the weekend goes on.
Ian Turnbull, Broken Records
(Queen's Head Stage, Saturday... probably someplace else as well, according to his answers...)
DiS: How would you quickly summarise the festival?
IT: Mud, music, and a lot of people in a field.
DiS: What was your take on all the Jay-Z blah last year?
IT: Storm in a teacup.
DiS: Should we/do we expect it to have the best line-up of any festival..?
IT: I'm not sure Glastonbury has ever had the coolest line-up, although it's probably the most eclectic. Something like ATP usually has the best line-ups. That's not to say the headliners and other choices of acts aren't great. Jamie's insisting the whole band goes to pay their respects to The Boss, although a few dissenters are tempted by Animal Collective...
DiS: As a Scottish band, do you feel like there's anything particularly English about it? It seems to have very much become colonised by middle England in recent years, at least in terms of the extensive BBC and broadsheet coverage...
IT: I don't think there's any different Scottish take on Glastonbury. Festivals are festivals and this just happens to be the biggest one around, so it get's the most BBC attention. Having said that they do all have their own character. Latitude is probably seen as a more middle-England/Guardian Reading/Radio 4 kind of thing, with a nicely left-field music line-up. And T in the Park is a decidedly Scottish thing. Although wanting to avoid the Scottish stereotypes, you do see a huge amount of empty Buckfast bottles lying around over the weekend.
DiS: Has it always been an ambition to play?
IT: It is quite a big deal to be asked and we're really pleased to be playing two stages over the weekend. It's the biggest festival around and has a sort of legendary status so it's always something you're going to say yes to if you're asked!