22 Jul 2010
I guess Ben Eshmade and his Arctic Circle gave me some of the best musical experiences in my life. Whether the Daylight concerts at the Union Chapel in Islington, the Bubbly Blue and Green Festival at Kings Place or the Explorer’s Club compilation, it has always been and will always be something unique and absolutely brilliant. So when I had the chance to join one of his weekly radio shows at Resonance FM in London with Arch Garrison as show guest, not even the TFL could have hold me off getting there.
Not a promoter, not a record label, not a radio station…what exactly is the Arctic Circle and who is/are the face(s) behind?
Arctic Circle seems to be an ever-evolving entity that has taken the best parts of being a promoter, label and radio station. It’s a community of like-minded musicians and music lovers who I try and bring together to create new and wonderful projects. I suppose it is easiest to think of me (as in a play) as the director of Arctic Circle with an alternating cast of supporting musicians and friends.
What would you say is THE one exceptional thing about Arctic Circle?
I would say our penguin identity. Being a fan of animation and in particular Studio Ghibli films such as Spirited Away to have something that so identifiable as the Arctic Circle penguin is really important. This was designed originally by Miho Ashima of Pika Pika. It is also great to see how this has developed over time. Damian O’Hara is taking the artwork to a whole new ‘3D’ level this year. He’s even building Tate Britain out of paper at the moment.
Tell us a bit about the beginnings of Arctic Circle. Was there something like an initial spark? Where did the idea come from?
Well that’s a long story. The idea evolved out of my experiences of producing a radio show called the Chiller Cabinet on Classic FM and from having a strong desire to see the artists I was playing perform live. I also suppose I was trying at this stage in my life to find a niche, something I could pour my heart and soul into.
Arctic Circle recently celebrated its fourth birthday. It all started in 2006 with a debut event at the Hayward Gallery. I reckon a lot of things have changed since then. So where did you start and where are you now?
Alongside the initial Hayward Gallery show, we were running monthly nights at the Notting Hill Arts Club even at this stage. The NHAC is where we learnt all the hard lessons on how to attract an audience, how much we could pay an artist (without going bankrupt) and how sweets can make people happy!
What is Arctic Circle’s musical vision?
To put together once in a lifetime concerts and promote music which helps to inspire and to make people dream of wonderful things.
Would you say there is something that unifies all of your artists in a musical sense?
A sense of fun or a huge amount of musical talent.
In december 2007 the first compilation named “That Fuzzy Feeling” in collaboration with Loaf Recordings was released. Would you say this was bound to happen?
I suppose most people have the secret desire to release a record and I am not any different. It meant that the Arctic Circle could say – we are very serious about what we’re doing. And it also meant that we could shout ‘THIS IS AMAZING MUSIC’ and you should listen to it.
Your latest coup is the “Explorer’s Club”, also a collaboration with Loaf Recordings. With a subscription you get the Explorer’s Club Survival Bag with a cotton tote bag, calender, poster and some other bits and bobs plus a monthly e-mail with songs and a digital booklet. I think it’s a brilliant and forward-looking idea.
Do you think it’s necessary to think of alternative ways and special offers to make people spending money on music?
The Explorer’s Club is a project that I’ve been working on with Loaf records for a few years. We both liked the idea of doing something that was a bit different to the usual way records are released. It is our spin on an idea that has been done before with 7inch records. It’s a great way of bringing some of the great artists we have worked with from around the world. Above all it’s about the music, we just try and make the delivery as fun and exciting as possible.
And last but not least: the Arctic Circle Radio. Tell us a bit about it!
Well as a radio producer I decided that what I can bring to Arctic Circle and make it more unique is a real wealth of audio. I’m determined to build a massive archive of audio which people can explore. We already have interviews and live sessions and soon we will even have recordings of whole concerts. This also allows us to move beyond our mostly London based promoting activities to share this music around the world.
You’ve done a lot of things so far, so the obvious question: what’s coming next? Any ideas buzzing in your head?
It’s our 5th anniversary next year. I have far too many ideas for what I’d like to do next year. I’d like to expand upon what people expect from us – moving maybe into more theatrical areas for our performances. A performance of Faure Requiem and a postmodern Christmas Symphony are also ideas I’ve been trying to make happen…
Apart from ideas, what are the concrete upcoming events, releases an so on?
We’re at the Tate Britain on Friday 6 August with a free event (as part of Late at Tate) called ‘The Lovers, The Dreamers and Me’. It will be involve more exploring with a musical journey into a lost world. Look out for dinosaurs, rainbows, mountains and rivers as a cast of musicians, puppeteers and artists bring the galleries to life.
Then we have two sets of concerts which are part of the Kings Place September Festival. On Saturday 11 September Outer Circle Bristol – with Rozi Plain, Eyebrow and Francois & The Atlas Mountains. On Sunday 12 September Outer Circle Manchester – with Nancy Elizabeth, Homelife and Denis Jones. These concerts feature some of Manchester and Bristol’s most exciting and genre defining contemporary musicians.
Finally there’s one thing I’d like to know: without any restrictions, what would be your ideal event?
I love the idea of taking over an old theatre. Pretentious scenesters or anyone trying to be cool will be turned away at the door. This would be where all my friends (a lot of which are in the Arctic Circle) would come together. We’d have the most amazing cakes in London and strange flavoured milkshakes. And we’d have all of the best musicians who have come through Arctic Circle doors playing, from Nils Frahm to Adrian Crowley, from Emily Barker to the Notwist. Oh and I’d love to do a Penguin-themed festival. But that’s another story…
photos: (c) Rosie Reed Gold
Tags: Adrian Crowley, Arch Garrison, Arctic Circle, Arctic Circle Radio, Ben Eshmade, Bubbly Blue And Green Festival, Classic FM, Damian O'Hara, Daylight Music, Denis Jones, Emily Barker, Explorers Club, Eyebrow, Francois & The Atlas Mountains, Hayward Gallery, Homelife, Kings Place, Late at Tate, LOAF Recordings, Miho Ashima, Nancy Elizabeth, Nils Frahm, Notting Hill Arts Club, Notwist, Outer Circle, Pika Pika, Resonance FM, Rozi Plain, Spirited Away, Studio Ghibli, Tate Britain, That Fuzzy Feeling, The Lovers The Dreamers and me, Union Chapel Islington