Kieran Delaney is the man responsible for one of our favourite festivals of the year, and all it’s cost him is every second of his spare time.
There are countless extra curricular activities one can do from a day job; hundreds of schemes and dreams to keep self-loathing at bay while you make money for someone else. The top ‘company-time-fancy’ is most probably running a club-night inbetween Facebook updates and looking busy, or perhaps starting a small record label, blog or fanzine. For Kieran Delaney, curating alternative festivals has kept him from clock-watching away the past ten years, and his ‘proper job’ isn’t even that bad. He’s a graphic designer, and a good one.
Now in its third year, Offset Festival is a valid distraction shared by a number of Kieran’s friends (including the folk behind Experimental Circle Club, Artrocker, Holy Roar and us) but it remains, largely, a one-man show, pieced together in his spare time. And that makes Offset all the more impressive, as it continues to show up mainstream, money-splurging events by featuring bands far more alternative than a Dizzy/Florence collaboration. It’s “two days of sonic delights; from the influential to the cutting-edge,” says Kieran. It’s just a shame that it’s only two days.
Kieran: “I remember suggesting that we try it as a camping, two-day event rather than a one-day thing, but I don’t think I realised at that point how much work would go into making it two days. And yeah, it takes up shit loads of time, and I bore my girlfriend to hell, and I bore my friends to hell, and even going to festivals over the summer I’m talking about, ‘what about this, what about that?’, and yeah… it’s boring.”
Offset is two weeks away now, how are you feeling about it?
“I’m actually incredibly excited about it now. This time last year, and the year before, I was really nervous but I found myself in Brighton with friends last weekend and they asked how’s it going and I said, ‘well, I’m having a day off, so it must be alright.’”
Is everything on target?
“It’s all on target. We’ve just made another announcement because one of our problems is that we constantly want to put more and more on. There’s a lot of good bands out there and we get a bit carried away – like, ‘we’ve got 200 bands on this year; is there any way we can make it 250?’. It has to get to a point where we say, ‘No!’.”
Why the hell did you start this festival?
“I do quite regularly think, why the fuck do I do this, but on the weekend it makes sense. When we started off doing one day festivals, which was nearly ten years ago now, it was a different state of affairs – there wasn’t a festival every weekend of the summer, and now it feels like anyone who’s got a back garden has a festival over the summertime. But look, there’s so many festivals that seem to be taking off the second stage at Reading, badly, and the only reason we continue to do it is because we feel like we’re representing something that’s not being represented. ‘Artrock’ is the term that we’d loosely use to explain what we do, but it’s something that isn’t done, or isn’t done as well as it should be.”
After the festival how long do you have off before you start thinking about the next one?
“About a day. I want to get to the point where I’m re-booking bands at the festival. I’d like to get to that point where as a band come off the stage I’m like, ‘Yeaaah, well done, you’re in for next year!’.”
And how depressed are you the day after it’s all over?
“To be honest there is nothing worse than that lull that you get after. It’s quite weird, because you’ve worked for a year on something and it goes in such a tiny amount of time, and you just hit a low the day after. You just have to start again. A week after the festival last year I was talking to Paul who helps out on the main stage and I was like, ‘right, let’s start a label’, because you just have to do something to soak up that hatred you’ve got for the loss. I cannot imagine how Michael Eavis feels. That must be like walking out into Sariavo. That man’s life is odd.”
Are there any other festivals you like?
“I really admire Truck Festival if I’m honest. It’s one of those festivals that’s been going for ages and hasn’t had its praise sung. They had shit all money and they’ve just kept doing it and never tried to turn it into something that it shouldn’t be and I really respect that. And obviously it goes without saying that ATP is the one that everyone looks up to, and for Offset, our ultimate aim would to be like a British Primavera, really – to be able to put on lineups that almost shouldn’t be able to sell as many tickets at they do; that are just the right side of wrong. That’s our ultimate aim.”
Tell us about Wine Gate [an incident in 2008 when a certain band demanded certain ridiculous wines in their dressing room] and what you learnt from it.
“What I learnt from it was that you can spend 10 or 15 years of your life worshipping a band and believing every single word they sing on your favourite album and have all of that wiped within a minute of dealing with them. I won’t name the band, but it was a big post punk band who were very left-wing in their beliefs but when they turned up they asked for the most ludicrous rider I’ve ever seen in my life, which had specific wines on that meant we had to phone around wine warehouses only to find out that the cheapest wine was two hundred pounds a bottle, and they wanted around eight of each. The thing is, it’s hard to get to a band to explain to them what it is that we’re doing and how small the festival is, and how it’s good for them to do it, musically.”
Who’s worth checking out at the festival this year?
“I think the one for me is Cluster. It’s quite special to have them. They’re playing on Sunday daytime and it’s going to be really interesting to see these guys that have achieved so much, musically – just absolute legends. One of the guys was forcibly conscripted into the Hitler Youth and we’ve definitely never booked someone that was in the Hitler Youth before.”
I’m in a band and I want to play Offset, what’s the best way to get your attention?
“What I’d say is definitely send me an unsolicited demo CD or cassette with badly scrawled writing on the front… No, I mean, I know this sounds like a load of shit but we do listen to every single band that applies to play Offset, and there are some absolutely awful bands in this country. There are people scraping the bottom of every barrel of every genre there is. BUT we have found some great bands that way, like Death In Planes who we brought over from Italy last year. Basically, the point of our festival is… there’s no way we can’t be personal with everyone that gets involved. Our email addresses are easy to get hold of, you can find me DJing in a shitty bar in London most weekends, so just come and hand me a CD and I’ll pretend I give a shit. Ha! No, I’m joking. Just be good.”
What if I’m in a reggae band?
“Then you get double of my time.”
You need a bit more reggae, I think. Pato Banton, maybe?
“Well, as soon as he becomes as influential as he deserves to be, he’ll be there.”
Do bands approach you in the street and ask to play?
“Yeah, it does happen. Sometimes people will hand me a CD while I’m DJing and say, ‘play my song next’, which is quite hard to deal with. I’m not nasty enough I don’t think. I’m not very good with confrontation. But yeah, people sometimes approach me. I guess it’s not that annoying.” [laughs]
What’s new to Offset this year?
“In the past we’ve focused too much on music… well, not too much but we spend too much time arguing about bands, so this year we’re going to try to bring other stuff in. We’re having more arty stuff this year – a bigger vintage clothing fair, a Victorian funfair, things like that. We just want to make it so that there’s more things to do other than music… but to be honest, just go for the fucking music – there’s so many good bands there and it’d piss me off if you spent your whole time shopping for clothes.”
If you could book anyone, who would it be?
“One of the guys in Sonic Youth said he liked the sound of the festival. That’d be good, wouldn’t it? Yeah, that’ll do me.”
N-Dubz, The Courteeners and Jamiroquai. Which would play Offset?
“N-Dubz. Definitely. They’re genuine innovators. Mind-blowing. I think the problem for us is that they’re just a bit too obscure for us at the moment. If they move a bit towards the mainstream then they’d tick all our boxes.”
If someone said to you, I’m going to start a festival, what would you say to them?
“‘Oh piss off!’ No, I’d say, do something different. Just look around and see what’s been done and if what you want to do hasn’t. Y’know, a bit of reggae maybe. Actually there’s a reggae festival on Offset’s site in a couple of weeks. It’s called One Love after the Bob Marley song.”
What kind of horror show would it take for you to give this up?
“All I know is this – at the worst moments of doing Offset, when I’m saying things like maybe I won’t do it next year, it’s complete and utter shit; I will always do Offset. It might be to 30 people in a hovel somewhere, but I’ll always do it. I’m damn sure about that.”
By Stuart Stubbs
Originally published in issue 20 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. August 2010