Ahead of the eighth edition of Liverpool Sound City – which runs 22-24 May – CEO Dave Pichilingi talked to Access about the festival’s move to the Liverpool Docklands, South by Southwest, ‘Blurred Lines’, The Beatles, and much more.
This is an extended interview with Pichilingi, which first appeared in the May 2015 issue of Access All Areas, out now.
NORTH WEST RENAISSANCE We launched Sound City in what was the first year of what turned out to be the global recession, but in Liverpool it was a good year, because it was the year that we were the European Capital of Culture. Even though the world felt like it was going off the edge of a cliff, Liverpool felt a very positive place to be. It felt like a renaissance for the city.
MAJOR INFLUENCE It was only when I went to South by Southwest (SXSW), going back now 15 years, that I thought they’d shaken everything up. It sounds a bit dated now, but there were using the fabric of the city in a way I hadn’t seen anybody else doing.
OPPOSITE DAY With the conference, what we didn’t like were panels full of middle-aged blokes and they just talked and listened. We said, ‘Right, we don’t want do anything like that’. So it was really easy actually, because we knew everything we hated about those types of conferences, and we said, ‘Let’s try and do quite the opposite’.
UNSUNG HERO [Conference headliner] Wayne Coyne is a fascinating individual, beyond his music. He’ll certainly be talking about how that friendship [with Miley Cyrus] came about. Certain artists are ageless, are timeless, are boundary-less, to some extent. He is one of those artists who is not bound by any of those restrictions.
UNDER DOG CHAMPION I’ve worked with many bands over my career, and the start of their career is usually when they’re the most exciting, because the hunger is there, the determination is there. It’s all about the art of it and the friendships. It’s only further down the line, where success generally taints that, and the artists themselves become jaded with the way that their career might have changed them.
LIVERPOOL STATE OF MIND For many years, Liverpool had a population of under a million people. We said, ‘You don’t have to go to London, you don’t have to go anywhere actually’. You’re a nanosecond away with technology – we just tried to give people the desire and the confidence to stay in Liverpool and do what they do, really.
KEEP MOVING Nothing should ever stand still. If we get bored or if we believe our audience are getting too comfortable, then we will change things. That’s always going to be what we do.
JACK-OF-ALL-TRADES I’ve worked in publishing, I’ve worked at labels, and I’ve owned venues and worked at festivals. I always call myself a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. But I’ve got a good understanding of the business.
IN MEMORIUM The person who was a huge influence on me in terms of looking at the aesthetic [of Sound City] and always changing things was the late Tony Wilson (pictured right). He was a big influencer on the way I approach things.
GLOBAL ATTACK In 2006, I went to SXSW. The British had parties, the Welsh had parties, the Scottish had parties – everyone was putting parties on. I spoke to Tony and said, ‘We should be doing a party at SXSW’. We had this idea of ‘The Best of the North West’ – the best coming out of Liverpool and Manchester. Tony agreed with me that Liverpool is a very good international attack ground.
THE BEATLES AFFECT The Beatles, that’s a very strong and powerful brand. If that band generates tourism and brings money into Liverpool, that can only be a good thing. Having said that, as a city and as a person, I’m not interested in looking back. It’s all about redefining Liverpool for the 21st century and creating a new business and cultural sector within what I believe is one of the greatest cities on this planet.
LOOKING AHEAD We’re very ambitious. Sound City has grown beyond our beliefs in the short space of eight years; in the next eight years we want to become the biggest event of its kind in Europe.
EDGY COOL Liverpool is one of the edgiest but friendliest cities on the planet. You feel slightly unsafe but safe at the same time.
MUSIC’S WOMEN PROBLEM We’re bringing in 3,500 delegates at Sound City, of which around 2,000 will be young people. A lot of them will be women. The last thing we want them doing is leaving Sound City and saying ‘I had a great time, but most of the music business is old middle-class fellas’. We are presenting as many people that young females can look at and say, ‘Yes, I can be that woman, I could be in that role in the next five years’. We do feel we’ve got a role to play in that.
BLURRED LINES I think it was a very odd decision and a dangerous decision because it seems like the floodgates are going to open now, and this very intangible thing of ‘vibe’ that people can now begin to level all kinds of accusations. It strikes me that the only people who stand to make some money out of this are the lawyers, as usual.