This weekend a whole bunch of electronic music acts will descend on the wonderful city of Canterbury for a weekend of fun and games. They’ll be appearing at City Sound Project, a festival that kicks off the British summer season in style. Blake McCaskill is the man behind it and we caught up with him ahead of this weekend’s festivities…
Hi Blake! Can you start off by giving us a brief bit of background on yourself?…
I’m Blake I live in London and have been promoting club nights and music shows for over 12 years now.
How did you first get into dance music, when and where? Can you remember why you liked it?
I first got into dance music through the jungle/drum’n’bass raves in and around London at the time (showing my age now). Things swiftly moved onto the garage scene thereafter. I was always taken back by the atmosphere of those big events, it was immense. I think that’s what got my into it really, the vibe that dance music can create unlike anything else.
How did you first get into promotion? What did you promote before getting involved with this massive festival?
I got into promotion by accident really. I mean, I didn’t set out to be a promoter. A University friend of my brother’s was doing some nights in the West End one summer, for students on internships. My brother introduced me to his mate and said, ‘Blake knows a load of people in London, he’d be a good help’. We got busy sending out email invites and gathering lists and on our first night 3,000 people turned up (as well as police with emergency crowd control barriers etc) to a 700-capacity club on the Embankment. We had a successful summer of Thursday nights and then set up a student promotions company and promoted to this crowd once they went back to study. I’ve been operating student nights since (although not so ‘cool’, they do pay the bills). City Sound Project came alongside that.
Tell us about City Sound Project. What’s the aim and what is the audience?
City Sound Project came about through frustration, if I’m honest. We were promoting music shows and club nights in a small city, Canterbury, and there was a severe lack of a decent event spaces. Most venues are made up of small 400-capacity rooms so we didn’t have the scope to book the bigger people. City Sound Project was the solution. It meant our mechanics had changed. We could take 10 of these small venues and create a larger, aggregate, capacity. Suddenly we had 3,000 people to budget for. It opened things up and we were able to start booking higher-profile acts.
Tell us about the setting. The historic city of Canterbury?
Canterbury is just lovely. It’s beautiful, old England. It’s a World Heritage Site. It’s stacked with history. Every building has either a historic or religious significance. And then City Sound Project fills it with modern cutting-edge music and world-renowned artists.
What challenges and problems have you come up against in setting up this year’s event?
We always encounter problems during the planning of the festival, because we always try to push the boundaries. This year, for instance, we’ve managed to secure use of a 13th century (the 1st) Franciscan Chapel, to hold ’secret sets’. Obviously that comes with certain obstacles to overcome. But generally, the authorities have been helpful and are being more supportive each year. They know we’re doing it for the right reasons and we work closely with them to satisfy their objectives whilst producing the best event possible.
What is a day in your life life? What sort of jobs do you do on a daily basis?
There are no two days the same! Simple as that. I live in Camden, but my main business is setup in Canterbury now. We have an really cool offie down there where i spend 2-3 days a week. The rest of the time I work from my office at home.
Who booked all the acts and what was their aim? How much thought goes into programming and stuff?
I book all the electronic acts and DJs. Ollie books the live music. Our aim is the same, to bring exciting new music to Canterbury. We try and make every event different, in terms of bookings, and to keep things super-current.
And what about the production side of things? Do you aim to stand out in that regard and if so how?
The production is one of the most challenging parts of the planning of CSP. As I mentioned, we’re dealing with small rooms. Most of these places are hundreds of years old, so we have to deal with low ceilings and difficult spaces to plan around. But, we do pride ourselves on making each of the areas we use feel so different to usual. We spend a lot of time (and money) transforming these spaces both visually and sonically. We know that when it comes to dance music, you want to feel it not just hear it.
What tips have you got for anyone coming to the festival? What are you most looking forward to about it?
Try out all the new areas we’ve added this year; Westgate Hall, The Westgate Towers and Secret Garden are all new additions that you must check out. I’m mostly looking forward to the vibe in Canterbury that weekend. You can really feel a buzz through the city. I can’t wait!