Rob Star is the man behind mulletover and Eastern Electrics, two events that have become iconic brands within London’s club landscape. He has been involved with large-scale events for almost 20 years now and is currently preparing for this weekend’s third edition of the Eastern Electrics Festival, which is taking place at Hatfield House just outside of London. As many of you will know, last year’s overly ambitious three-day festival ended in disaster when Rob’s company went into liquidation – the event lost tonnes of cash and it seemed as though it was all over. However, Rob remained determined to carry on despite what happened and has managed to bring the event back for a third year, scaling it back down to a one-dayer, but boasting a stellar line-up, a fantastic location and the professionalism that only Eastern Electrics can offer. Ahead of Saturday’s event we chatted with Rob about the whole thing…
How’s it looking for this weekend coming?
It’s looking really good, tickets sales have been great, which is nice. The site’s looking good, the weather (touch wood) is holding out at the moment. It’s all looking ok.
How are you feeling about it all?
I’m feeling good you know. Although we’ve scaled it back, we’ve managed to keep a lot of the production elements from last year – we’ve got the Switch Yard and Electric City, and the site’s beautiful as well – so I’m feeling good, I feel confident.
How did you go about clawing everything back and getting yourself ready to go at it again after last year?
I didn’t want to just end it there, it seemed such a shame to consider doing something like that after the event, especially from a punter’s point of view. Everyone seemed to have a nice time and, although financially it wasn’t a success, from the punters’ perspective, it was probably the best feedback we’ve had from any event that I’ve done. From there, I felt like I couldn’t go, ‘Well, we’ve lost money that’s the end of it’. From the moment the festival finished I was trying to find a way to make it happen again, initially I thought maybe partnering with bigger companies, having them buy in and contribute financially would work but that wasn’t happening. Then Will (Paterson) decided he didn’t want to be involved anymore, so he walked away from everything.
I suppose it was having lots of conversations with agents and other people who were involved in the event and just saying, ‘Look, this is what’s happened, we wanna move it forward, we need your help to do so’. I’ve been in this industry a while now and people now I’m not out to rip anyone off, plus the fact that a lot of the loss was my personal money or money I’d put into the event. Anyone who would have read the financial report from the receivers would have seen that, so when I was explaining the situation to people I could say to them, ‘Look how much money I put into that event to make it happen’, so people were very supportive. There were people who were obviously very upset because they didn’t get the money they were supposed to but most of those people have come back on board and are working on the event this year and will obviously get paid and get looked after. Even though we were late getting the site, booking the acts and putting the tickets on sale, we still got a good response so… it’s good.
This might be a bit of a personal question, but how did it actually feel when you realised what had happened after last year’s festival?
Yeah, I mean the amount of money that was involved was colossal and, when you lose that amount of money – some of it I had borrowed, some of it wasn’t even mine to lose – you feel sick. All I was thinking was that I wanted to pay back everyone I needed to and to make things right really. The best way to do that was to carry on with the event, I could have turned my back on it and paid the money back through the pubs gradually and sort things out that way. It still came back to the fact that people had a good time at the event. If we’d had lost the money and people said the event was shit and they didn’t have a good time then I think we probably would have knocked it on the head and gone, ‘Ok, well we had a crack at it, it didn’t work, we lost a lot of money, people have lost faith in the brand..’ but because people were supportive of it, it made sense to continue. At one point I did think maybe I should call it a day and concentrate on the pubs and my other businesses but I’m not the sort of person who gives up so after I thought about it for a while I thought, ‘Nah, I just want to carry on and build something’.
Excellent. How did you come by the new site?
Well, it’s not a million miles away from Knebworth and The XX did a gig there last year and Loudsound, the production that worked on that event, also worked on our event last year – so I was aware of the site last year. It lent itself better to the daytime format that we wanted to do down there and it’s still a great site, closer to London than Knebworth. If you’re getting a taxi to or from the site it obviously helps to be that bit closer, more crucially the train station is just across the road from the site, so you can literally step off the train and you’re there. Logistically it’s a better positioned site – it’s still beautiful, you still have the rolling British countryside, there’s the stately home in the background… when I went to look at it, I was like, ‘Wow, yeah this definitely works’.
How do you feel about the way Eastern Electrics has evolved, where it is now and what it stands for in comparison to when it first started?
Even when we first started with the initial warehouse parties the intention was always to put on a festival event, so we’ve always been building towards putting something bigger on. Musically, it hasn’t changed much – we’re still putting on underground house and techno. If you look at the bookings right from the beginning we haven’t really deviated from what we were aiming for back then. We might have more variety, but musically it’s still what we stood for in the beginning. Obviously if you’re moving from a warehouse to an outdoor event in the countryside it will change the dynamic of the event but we always wanted to put on a big festival event that represents the kind of music that we love so it’s definitely heading in the right direction. It’s still in its infancy, it’s only year three – it’s got a long way to go so you’ll definitely see it change, evolve and adapt in the coming years.
So, is there a long-term plan with the whole thing then?
Yeah, I always wanted it to be the UK’s best underground electronic music festival. To put on the kind of levels of production we want to then it has to grow. In terms of the different stages, light, sound and non-musical entertainment we want to put in there, it’s definitely only the beginning of what we want to do.
How do you feel about the snobbery that still seems to persist among certain people who associate Eastern Electrics and other brands with attracting the so-called ‘wrong crowd’?
If people are into the music and they’ve come to dance and be respectful to other people then they can come to my party, if people are there and they want to cause trouble, they want to fight, to rob people, be rude to people or abusive then I don’t want them there. That’s as simple as it gets. If people don’t like others because of the way they dance, the way they dress or they way they look then, as far as I’m concerned, they’re the narrow-minded people – raving has always been about accepting people of all different cultures and backgrounds. If you’re into the music and the vibe then come. The only people I have an issue with are the ones who are there to spoil that vibe. So if people don’t want to come because there are shufflers or people they perceive to be ‘chavs’ or whatever then that’s up to them, that’s their own narrow-mindedness and they should go somewhere else. It’s as simple as that really.
What are you looking forward to over the weekend? Are you going to be able to dip your toes in and have some fun?
Yeah, it’s important to me to experience everything that’s going on from the customer’s perspective. If I can’t be in the middle of that dancefloor to feel that vibe and to hear what does and doesn’t work musically, it’s hard for me to improve things. Although I’ll be running around meeting artists, talking to people and making sure thing are okay with the production I’ll also be on the dancefloor as well – otherwise how else am I going to know what people are experiencing? It’s a really important part of a being a promoter, being in the crowd and experiencing your own event.
How does it feel to be the face of an event that has been around for so long, become part of the London clubbing landscape and evolved now into what it has become?
It’s not necessarily about me. It’s about putting an event on that people wanna come to. I guess the reason we started it was because the music we were into wasn’t represented on a large scale and that’s what it’s all about for me. There are lots of people still who are doing great things in London and the rest of the country, but I think it’s great to have big events that are really pushing that kind of music. I don’t sit there and think, ‘It’s great I’m doing this or doing that’, I’m not the kind of person who will go and shout about it too much.
August 2 | 11am – 10pm | Hatfield House |
Line-up: Kerri Chandler | Art Department | Craig Richards | Laura Jones | Ali Love | Daniel Avery | Derrick Carter | T.Williams | Pinch | Mumdance | Waifs & Strays | Dyed Soundorom | Dense & Pika | Agoria | Ellen Allien | Geddes | tINI | James Priestley & Giles Smith | Mano Le Tough | Maxxi Soundsystem | Steve Lawler | Monika Kruse & more!…. |