“Moogfest will always be a celebration of Bob Moog’s legacy.”
After a short one year break to adjust the new festival concept, Moogfest is back for good. And with a line-up which sets the standards high for this season, including such exciting artists like Hieroglyphic Being, Black Madonna, Robert Hood, Actress, Laurel Halo, Tyondai Braxton Blood Orange, Grimes and many more.
Thomas Venker talked to the festival director Marisa Brickman.
Marisa, the last Moog festival happened in 2014. Why the little break?
It was the year that Moog Music decided to do the festival themselves in-house in Asheville and bring in and build a team to do that. Building synthesizers is their core business and adding production of a major festival on top of the team there was not an ideal scenario for anyone. They learned a lot in the process, met some great partners along the way and formed a new company to own and operate the festival. That’s the company I work for. So 2015 was a year of transition, moving to a new city, create a team from the ground up, building relationships in a new community, creating a new brand, trying to prove a new festival concept… It’s taken a minute.
So what’s the new Moog Festival all about?
It’s not a ‘new’ Moogfest, it’s really a continuation of what was built in 2014 – the concept of day to night programming with artists involved in multiple parts of the program. A platform to premiere new work, facilitate collaboration, blow people’s minds …
After the „New York years“ the festival used to take place in Asheville, where Moog founder Robert Arthur Moog lived. How has it arrived in Durham?
Durham is a city widely regarded for innovation, entrepreneurship and its progressive reputation. With so many neighbouring universities and a burgeoning tech scene, it’s a great fit for our long-term goals. We were actively recruited by the the public and private sector to relocate to Durham. Every smart city going through change and expansion the way that Durham is, takes special care to make sure that they continue to reinvest in culture. We really hope that Moogfest can shine a light on what’s happening in Durham, embrace the talent and culture that exists here and continue to build an event and a business that is recognised around the world. RDU is also a much more convenient airport than Asheville and we have a ton of great hotels (with more on the way!).
How much of the Moog spirit will be present on the festival and in which ways?
I assume you specifically mean, Bob? Moogfest will always be a celebration of Bob Moog’s legacy. During the day we explore the tools being used for creative expression – whether those are physical tools like effects pedals, arduinos, and new instruments, more practical skill-based tools such as coding, or even the human mind. Bob was an engineer first and foremost and he worked with artists to realise their visions so they could make the sounds they could hear in their head. That powerful combination of engineer and artist is something that always results in inspiring new ideas. Quite literally, Moogfest always falls around Bob Moog’s birthday (May 23). Each year we honour someone with the Moog Innovation Award – this year it’s Gary Numan!
Looking at this year’s programming, it’s a pretty stunning list of big names and just-happening newcomers. What’s your approach to building the bill?
Our team really comes from a lot of different angles, each person with different objectives. This often makes things challenging and take longer than maybe they should but ultimately we get to a good place. We have a proramming committee that really divided things up between day and night but everyone had a say.
Being in a new city and essentially building a new brand (despite the history and the legacy, it is kind of year one) we wanted to have some big pioneering pop acts like Grimes, Miike Snow, Blood Orange and Odesza to help draw broader attention and really draw people in who may not really be considering an event like Moogfest, legacy artists like Gary Numan, synth legends like Suzanne Ciani, more established avante-garde artists such, indie icons Explosions in the Sky … The newcomers are because our talent buyer is up on what is new and fresh and is into music more than anyone else on the squad.
It seems that by splitting the whole thing into „Future Sound“ and „Future Thought“, you’re bringing music and ideas onto a nice level playing field. Also, very ambitious! Could you explain your thinking on this?
The theme is really the Future of Creativity … During the day it’s Future Thought, at night it’s Future Sound. Over 250 participants – artists, futurist thinkers, engineers and technologists will descend upon a one mile radius for a mind-bending schedule of more than 300 workshops, conversations, masterclasses, film screenings and performances + 15 interactive art installations scattered around the city.
Well, perfect – a festival for mind and body, ears and feet. Marisa, thanks for your time here.
Moogfest 2016 takes place May 19-22, 2016 in Durham, NC, USA