With Common People less than two months away and the sunshine psyching us up for the big event, the Soton Tab has spoken to the man behind it all. We bagged an exclusive chat with none other than the legendary Rob da Bank.
The founder of Bestival and big time DJ discussed everything from Common People plans to his secret love for Jesters. Having grown up in Southampton and been a student himself once, he had more than just festivals to tell us about…
Hi Rob! It’s great to get the chance to chat to you ahead of Common People.
No problem. I’m really excited to see the student population get involved!
First of all, we all know Bestival- how will Common People compare?
It’ll be the best of Bestival and Camp Bestival. We’ve got the big headliners- Grace Jones and Fat Boy- and then we’ve also got some great new stuff like Slaves- bands that are just breaking through. Then a lot of the fun and games. We’ve got yarn bombing, marching bands and Brazil orchestras and a lot of the crazy stuff that goes on at Bestival. So for people who have been to Bestival, it’ll feel like a mini Bestival I hope.
What are you most looking forward to about Common People?
Well, I’m looking forward to coming home to Southampton, my hometown. I’m looking forward to it being a day show, where there’s no camping and people just come in and out. I think it’ll make it neat. It’ll be great to bring a new show to the mainland. We love putting on parties and this, I hope, will be the start of something that continues in years to come.
How was growing up here? Any favourite nightclubs? Do you know Jesters?
Jesters (laughs)… Yeah I went when I was growing up there back in the olden days! I also used to go to Southampton Guildhall, which was amazing for bands. I think there were probably a few more bands coming through Southampton at that time. There was also the Rhino club, which is where I did my first ever DJ gig aged about sixteen or seventeen. So yeah, a lot of memories for me from Southampton. I like going to the Frog & Frigate, which has just reopened. I used to go to the Joiners for the Indie bands.
Saying that, I’m really encouraged by what’s happening in Southampton and Portsmouth and the whole south coast at the moment. Between the Isle of Wight, Southampton and Portsmouth, we’re creating quite a cool triangle of bands, festivals and things for people to do that weren’t there before. It’s worth noting that Southampton and Portsmouth have both got a strong student population and that really helps. So yeah, viva Southampton!
Any plans to revisit Jesters?
(Laughs) Yes, I plan on making a return appearance very soon! I want to get back to Southampton as soon as possible. We have the Common People pre-party event coming up and are planning some pre-parties for that with Switch and Junk, and the Joiners as well. So yeah, we don’t just want to sweep in and out, but make it a weekend thing. We want to become part of the social calendar for the whole year in Southampton and with the university, so it’s good to have your support. But yeah, see you in Jesters soon!
Exciting stuff. Now, back to Common People. Of the line-up, who are you most looking forward to seeing performing?
I haven’t seen Grace Jones perform for about five years and she always puts on a great show. Fat Boy, obviously- he always churns out something special for us. I think people often think “oh, he’s just a DJ playing records”, but actually anyone who saw him play a couple of years ago at Bestival will know that it was a huge show.
Then there are also some of the young bands- Band of Skulls, Slaves, and a lot of the ones on the breaking band stage too, which we’re calling the ‘Uncommon Stage’. I booked the whole thing so I’m excited to see everyone really.
Are you using this smaller festival as a chance to unearth some up and coming new talent then?
Yes! We’ve teamed up with Southampton’s legendary Joiners venue who are going to bring some younger bands onto the Uncommon Stage at the event. I used to go when I was a teenager so I’m really chuffed to reunite myself with them. The Pie & Vinyl from Portsmouth will also be bringing some bands up with them, so we’ve hopefully got some of the best new bands from the South Coast coming to that stage. We did the Battle of the Bands the other night at The Joiners and the two winners, Novatones and Bel Esprit, blew me away! Both homegrown talents of Southampton, so good things expected from them.
I suppose the biggest question is, why Southampton for Common People?
I think people may have looked at us and thought we were crazy doing something on our doorstep, but Southampton is halfway between the Isle of Wight, where we do Bestival, and Dorset, where we do Camp Bestival, so it falls neatly geographically. Also, while there are some cool little shows in Southampton, there’s nothing as notorious as Bestival, and I think there’s definitely a gap in the market.
We’ve been welcomed in with open arms by everyone from the council to the ticket buyers- there’s massive interest. People in the south have really gone crazy for it and it sounds like the local students are very keen as well. I’m hoping the timing won’t interfere with exams too much. I know when I was a student exams meant nothing… No, that’s irresponsible (laughing), but I do hope that the students can do their exams and have a party as well!
We now have a few questions from the fans…
I’ve heard you went to uni. What were your best and worst moments of being a student?
I went to Goldsmiths and studied French and History of Art. The best moment… it has to be meeting Mrs. Bank, Josie. And the worst was when in final year, after my year abroad, it dawned on me that I hadn’t really done any work for the past three years. I had to pretened that I could speak fluent French! But yeah I loved being a student. Four years of hedonism and fun and parties and, yeah, I did learn a bit as well so, good times.
How long is your hair?
(Laughs) It’s definitely down to my bum. I think it was a metre last time I checked, but that was a while ago- I need to measure it again! Basically from the age of about 20 I’ve only ever had a few trims. But yeah I normally wear it up or it gets in the way.
What’s the story behind the pseudo name ‘Rob da Bank’?
Sadly there’s no hilarious bank-robbing story! A friend gave it to me when I needed a DJ name and I never thought I’d go on to become any sort of serious DJ, so it’s sort of stuck as a stupid name. My mum even calls me Rob da Bank, so I guess it sort of just worked in some way! Most friends and family know me as Robbie though.
Who can we expect to see big things from in 2015?
There’s a great electronic artist Max Cooper. He’s amazing. Two indie bands called Bear Cubs and Fickle Friends… Saying that, tomorrow I’ll probably have a new list- every day there’s new stuff coming up.
How do you spend your time while your festivals are going on?
I like to watch as many acts as I can. I try to spend most of the time out with the crowd, enjoying the acts that I’ve brought in. Usually during the day it’s a bit more manic and there is stuff to be doing backstage, but in the evenings I’ll always go out into the festival grounds with friends or family, have a drink and soak up the atmosphere. What’s the point in organising these great events if you can’t enjoy them yourself?
Have artists ever been real divas and asked for extravagant things?
Grace Jones wasn’t being a diva but she has a very interesting rider.. Last time she asked for a platter of Oysters, served by proper waiters, Chanel No 5 and Champagne and stuff. But yeah, I guess people want to see these artists, so we want them to come and are happy to fulfill their needs. It sort of comes with the territory.
Can you dish any gossip about Common People or Bestival for 2015?
Fat Boy Slim is doing something special for the people of Southampton. He’s got something up his sleeve that will be unique to his show. I’ll say no more though…
Common People is taking place on The Common on the 23-24 May. You can buy tickets here, and keep your eyes peeled on our Facebook page for a chance to win Common People tickets.