Interview: Carlos Giffoni on No Fun Fest '09
"At No Fun I would say that ninety-five percent of the people are there to see the bands and for most of the bands, this is the most people they have ever played in front of. So the amount of energy feels completely different--the bar is much higher."
On Friday, Brooklyn noise-musician and erstwhile promoter Carlos Giffoni announced the line-up to the 2009 edition of his No Fun Fest. This year, the annual noise festival is slated to include, in addition to the usual, degenerate entities (Merzbow, Skullflower, Bastard Noise), some actual, recognizably melodic bands--Sonic Youth, Bardo Pond, Blank Dogs. We caught up with Giffoni to ask about the fest's change in direction as it enters its sixth year, what makes No Fun different from a regular gig, and whether further surprises still await.--Steve Lowenthal
There are a lot new faces in the lineup this year. What was the thought process in selecting acts for 2009? Has the rationale changed?
Well the thought process is always similar in the sense that I am inviting bands that I enjoy seeing or bands that I've always wanted to see. In a sense I feel like if I am satisfying my own needs I end up putting a good festival together that other people can enjoy too. I think I have pretty high standards for what can be considered good electronic music, noise, free-form, etc. This year I made a special effort to look into things that I had missed in previous years. How could I change things around a little while keeping the energy and excitement level of the fest's past years? What bands were obvious choices that I had not seen before? So I tried to concentrate more on bringing something new and less on the stuff I had seen already.
Some of the artists selected--like Bardo Pond or Blank Dogs--use more traditional rock structures than have been seen before at No Fun. Are there parameters to what can and cannot appear at the festival?
The parameters are quite simple: I have to like the band and feel like they can present something unique live that can be a moving experience. I think the more rock-oriented bands just show that my taste has grown in that area a little bit more. But even though some of these bands are considered more 'rock,' they generally have something unique and interesting that separate them from other bands working within similar parameters.
You're deeply connected to various forms of underground music. How have you seen the climate change over the last five years of doing the festival?
I feel like some of the American bands that have played the festival since the beginning--including myself, Wolf Eyes, Hair Police, Prurient, and others--are somewhat more established and are becoming the elders of at least the part of the underground that is the more experimental zone. And there are a lot of new bands coming in now that are doing amazing stuff and who are ready to keep pushing things. So I think overall things are very exciting.
Since the festival began No Fun has become a record label and sponsored various smaller events throughout the year. Do you have plans to expand the idea further into other areas?
Well, not anything really outside of music, but I toyed with the idea of some more art oriented things, and I am actually working on something with a gallery space around one of the days of the festival that is not confirmed yet. Last year the art show that Thurston Moore curated around the fest was a great way to offer something different. Also, we are working on doing some international events (outside of the US), and at the time of fest I'll very likely be announcing the first of these events, which just got confirmed. This is something that I've worked for years to make happen and finally the right conditions came along.