A festival should always be much more than some bands on a stage. It should be a meeting of minds, a celebration of the music we love and one hell of a good time. No one understands this better than Rob Da Bank.
From the life-changing carnival experience of Bestival to the electro love-in of upcoming London festival LEAF, Bank curates an event like no other.
Held at London's legendary Tobacco Dock, LEAF takes in live performances, DJ sets, films talks, lectures and more from the likes of Nile Rodgers, Giorgio Moroder, Rudimental, Black Butter Records, Modeselektor and many more to really shine a light on what it is we love about electro music. Throw in a pop-up restaurant from Gordon Ramsay and you've got yourself a pretty perfect weekend.
We sat down with Rob Da Bank to discuss his love of electro, his relationship with Nile Rodgers and what his dream Bestival line-up would be.
Gigwise: What first drove you to start LEAF, and what did you want from it that you weren't getting out of Bestival or any other UK festivals?
Rob Da Bank: Myself and my manager Ben have spent decades going to festivals, clubs and raves around the world and always thought London lacked a really thorough and arty electronic festival with a world class electronic line-up and some great talks. Its also in a legendary venue and no chance of mud or wellies at all.
One of the centre-pieces of this year's event is a talk with Nile Rodgers 'Unmoderated, Uncensored and Unlimited'. How's that going to work? Will you be giving him jumping off points or does he just have free reign?
Nile has done a couple of talks with Ben through his IMS conference but Nile loves talking and doesn't like being interrupted, so we thought 'Let's just take away the moderator and let him talk for as long as he wants'... which is actually three hours! Its gonna be some journey.
How would you describe your working and personal relationship with Nile Rodgers? Have you heard much of his new material and what can fans expect?
Well, I started booking Chic about five years ago before they really had their comeback..it wasn't rocket science deciding on that! They're the ultimate party and festival band so it made sense. Nile always very kindly says that helped the whole Chic revival, but that's not what's important - but it is crucial that Nile and the band are now getting credit for writing some of the best songs in the world and smashing it every time as a live act. I’d say Nile and I have become mates. Yes, I've heard some of the new material and yes, it's Chic and it's awesome!
Beyond that, what other talks are you particularly looking forward to?
Personally I'm looking forward to interviewing DJ Harvey, one of the finest and most skilled DJs ever. He's a big influence on me as he used to come and kindly play at my club Sunday Best two decades ago. He and Andy Weatherall show me you can take risks when you DJ and you don't need to stay in the same genre/BPM or vibe for a whole set.
You've chosen a pretty remarkable location. What do you think the Tobacco Dock lends to what you intended LEAF?
It’s a classic London venue which hasn't been overused and is bloody big too.. that's quite hard to find. We're very excited to be there with the second LEAF. The acoustics are great too.
How would you say the atmosphere changes between day and night at LEAF?
The daytime lectures are very well mannered and genteel with loads of great interesting people listening to loads of great interesting speakers…then about 5 or 6pm the bar starts getting a bit busier and bosh we're into the night-time vibe! The evening party and concert will be riotous no doubt. LEAF is very unsnobby - it’s essentially some great informative and often very funny chats in the day and then a big old-fashioned rave in the evening."
What performers are you most looking forward to at LEAF this year?
I’m a huge 808 State fan so seeing them perform a classic album will be unmissable, Modeselektor never fail to smash it up and I've never seen Tale Of Us DJ so cant wait for that one.
What do you think films like Bjork's Biophillia give to LEAF?
Our film curator Chris is a massive music head too so he picked some cracking films to interest music lovers too.. i saw the Biophilia show live which was incredible but this is also a brilliant film of that show - highly recommended.
Now, tell us about the food.
We're lucky enough to have a Gordon Ramsay restaurant in the venue and you can book tables there for a hearty meal before entering another dimension for the evenings knees ups!"
Who would be your dream booking for LEAF?
WIth Giorgio Mordoer and Nile Rodgers we've already nailed two.. but we have a big hit list which we're not giving away. The amazing thing about electronic music is that it touches so many other genres and disciplines in some way so its a fairly big playing field to explore.
Who would be your dream booking for Bestival?
Prince, Dolly Parton and Arcade Fire. Those are today's choices anyway!