The Menu Venue was pleased to meet with John Giddings for a quick Q & A about The Isle of Wight Festival and about the great man himself. We wanted to ask a few questions that perhaps people had not asked. So here they are;
The Menu Venue: You have achieved a lot in your life so far, but what are your top things you want to do before you die?
John: ‘Well, I think that I would love to do the Three Peaks Challenge, as I think it might be good to do something like that as opposed to having a hangover on my birthday it might be good to do something constructive. I have also tried thinking, what is the worst thing I could do, so I would like to learn to Surf. I thought that would be quite amusing. I have never tried it before, but the hardest thing is supposed to be getting up on your surfboard, my mate says you have to practice getting up on the board…. Now a third thing…. I think that’s two good things isn’t it?’
The Menu Venue: If you there was one band that you could have reform who would it be and why?
John: ‘Pink Floyd, definitely. Because I love them, I grew up with them and have every record they have ever made, I know everything about them I have seen them a million times. They are the soundtrack to my life!’
The Menu Venue: Have you ever met them?
John: ‘Yes, Roger Waters came off stage at Earls Court and I excitedly said to him, like a 12 year old boy, will you come and play at my Isle of Wight Festival and he looked at me and said; No.’ Laughing he continued, ‘My wife said I looked really stupid and crestfallen. I have had dinner with Nick Mason and have met Dave Gilmour a couple of times as David Bowie who we represent sang with Dave Gilmour at The Albert Hall. Sadly though I never got to meet Rick Wright before he died as I think his contribution to Pink Floyd was underrated, if you listen to his keyboard playing he was definitely part of it. I also wish I had met Syd Barrett, but I’m obviously too young…
It’s not all about old groups though as there are a million new groups out there at the moment. The Vaccines are one of my favourite groups, The Band of Skulls are brilliant, I like Zulu Winter, I like Switchfoot, I listen to rock music from past, present and future. I like Razorlight, Snow Patrol, I’ve always thought The Manic Street Preachers are great. We have Primal Scream in The Big Top and it’s going to be wild.’
The Menu Venue: If you could revive one musician, who would it be and why?
John: ‘Jim Morrison, you know I saw him here in 1970 and he was rubbish, I think he had just been arrested for exposing himself on stage and the sound wasn’t very good. I think The Doors are my second favourite and of all time – it’s hard when you’ve grown up on The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks. Do people nowadays have the same affection for music as we did back then? There are just so many distractions now with video games and the internet and 100 channels on the television, it can’t be the same, I am sure people have music that is part of their soul but I think that was the golden age of Rock and Roll with the likes of David Bowie.’
The Menu Venue: We love older bands and our Favourite band is the might AC/DC and so hopefully one day you might think of booking them to the Isle of Wight Festival
John: ‘Well, never say never, but it would be unlikely as they aren’t really my sort of thing….but imagine being brought up in the 80’s though and having to listen to the likes of Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran! It’s funny because everybody listens to the bands that your parents listened to. My daughter is 13 years old and thinks One Direction and The Wanted are really boring, but she sat through a 2 hour set of Genesis concert and was completely transfixed by the guitar playing. Stunning!’
The Menu Venue: So we know you play the bass, but is it safe to say that you didn’t get a call from Pete Townshend when John Entwistle passed away to go and play bass for them?
John: ‘Hahah no, definitely not. The bloke that replaced him was Pino Palladino who was the bass player from the Paul Young Band and played the ‘Wherever I lay my hat’ intro riff. I know him, funny story was that he never trusted banks, always kept his money under the mattress, but sadly for him when they changed the £20 notes, he didn’t know ….. It was quite funny seeing his face. My first group was named after the acoustic interlude in led zeppelins Black Mountain Side and were called White Summer. At school my pal said to me, my group has split up so why don’t you learn to play Bass and we will pull some chicks and I thought, great, but there is this dawning realisation that you’re not actually a musician and you are better off booking the group than being in it. I thought that it was the closest I could get to actually being a musician.’
The Menu Venue: Is there an act, known or unknown that you would like to represent?
John: ‘Well, I would like to represent The Vaccines as I said earlier. But I would like to form a group exactly the same as Free. U2 are a four piece Rock band and Free were a four piece Rock band, that is my ultimate and I spend my life waiting for a new band to come along with that potential. In fact, I was just given a CD by someone on the island of a band called Cardinal Richelieu – I was told they are a brand new Rock band from the island and they’re supposed to be really good so I’m going to give that a listen. My ambition in life is to get a band from the island and make them successfull. That would be amazing wouldn’t it That’s certainly something else I would like to achieve before I die. So far I have seen lots of good bands but I haven’t seen anyone I have thought blimey they’re going to be world famous. I think having the Festival here and the Bestival has inspired young people to musical challenges. I had a meeting with the Headmaster of Medina college and he said that it has really helped having the Festival here because the young kids want to play music, so I’m sure something will turn up somewhere, I just hope I am involved in it.’
The Menu Venue: You have another massive line-up again this year so who are the bands you are most looking forward to seeing?
John: ‘Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I booked his first ever show in theUKat the Marquee club and he is beyond incredible. Springsteen – obviously, I think Tinie Tempah is another Jay-Z, I really like him – he is a great entertainer. When Jay-Z was playing I didn’t think an audience could go more wild until I saw when Kanye West came on with him and it went up another 10%, I think that Tinie Tempah has that same ability to control an audience so this year looks to be amazing. This Friday morning I am announcing another act for the Big Top on Friday night; Lana Del Ray who is definitely someone whom I really like.’ I just love music I love U2, I love the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix you name it. I don’t like Jazz actually, I find it a bit boring, you can keep that really.
I’ll tell you one of the best moments from last year that not many people saw as it was raining in the afternoon was Jeff Beck playing ‘Little Wing’ by Jimi Hendrix, that was a magic moment that I urge everyone to watch on YouTube. The effortless way he plays it was just incredible. Again, I booked Jeff Beck because I like him,and he turned up, how cool is that?’
The Menu Venue: So can we assume that most of the bands you book for the Isle of Wight Festival, you like yourself?
John: ‘Yes, because if you are going to succeed or fail you should do it on your own terms, you shouldn’t do it on what someone else has told you. If you fail on your own terms then at least you know why, but if you fail because someone else has told you to book someone and then it fails, well then how stupid are you????’
The Menu Venue: You are obviously very busy when it comes to the Festival weekend. Do you actually get a chance to see any of the bands play?
John: ‘Normally about 20-25. I try and see lots of them although obviously I can’t see them all as there is always some drama going on backstage which means I have to go and deal with it. I make sure I drive around and watch lots of things going on. I don’t necessarily even watch the bands, I watch the audience and the audiences reaction to gauge how much they are enjoying it all, Chase and Status and The Cult, their audiences were extraordinary and they tore the place apart, amazing. I think that Enter Shikari will be like that on Friday night this year.
I just like to see people enjoying themselves because music is a shared experience and even if you don’t know the person standing next to you, you can talk to a complete stranger because you are sharing the same experience. Whereas if you go to a football match you are just as likely to get hit if you say something. I just love to see thousands upon thousands of people having a great time.
One moment that actually made me cry was a Monday morning after the Festival when I went to the ferry port, and as the boat sailed off all the audience were on the deck cheering. That really got to me and I just thought, I can’t wait for next year! It’s that feel good feeling looking forward to the following year. You do know I have a real job as well.’ he says laughing
Looking around him John suddenly notices a U2 album on the wall next to him and he says quite casually ‘ I booked that tour’
‘I have people criticizing me on the website saying that the bands are rubbish and asking why I booked certain bands but I love music and I only book people that I like myself and that will entertain an audience and that covers a lot of different genres, past, present and future and by complete accident that appeals to people of different generations so I think it gives the Festival a different feel that you wouldn’t get at some of the other festivals which is a lot of 18 year olds chucking themselves around and people are more respectful when you are there with people of different generations. I love the fact you can go with your kids and they can go and watch a band in the Big Top and you can watch another on the Main Stage. It is a rite of passage now for a young person to go to a festival.’
The Menu Venue: You meet lots of famous people in your line of work, but is there anyone who could still leave you star struck?
John: ‘When David Bowie talks to me, I am really amazed that he talks to me, and I keep thinking, can I have your autograph?? I don’t have it though but it does cross my mind. I am so in awe of him, he is very funny. I just think it is incredible that I get to meet people like that. Mick Jagger is another really good bloke, we were doing this show in Luxembourg and he was going bonkers because the JumboTron, the big screen, stopped working 10 minutes before they were due to go onstage. Mick turns round in the middle of a field in Luxembourg and says ‘ Get me another one’ which wasn’t funny at the time but when he came to another show a few weeks later he did see the humour in what he’d said as it was physically impossible. It was actually the night to burgle Luxemburg because no one was at home there 70,000 people all standing in a field watching The Rolling Stones.’
The Menu Venue: Is there a question that you have always wanted to be asked, but have yet to be asked?
John: ‘People always ask me about my musical heritage, which is logical. Nobody asks me about my early life, where do I come from? What were my parents like? I’m half Scottish did you know that? My middle name is Blair, well actually I have two middle names; John Blair Timothy Giddings. The reason being my parents couldn’t agree on what my middle name would be so they decided to give me two. I always thought that if I had a son, I would call him Blair.’
The Menu Venue: Finally John, you travel the world watching different bands and representing different bands, where would you say is your favourite music venue of all time?
John: ‘ That’s a hard question… I think Red Rocks in America where U2 filmed, I think there are places which create their own atmosphere. For example this summer in Cornwall I am doing a concert with Suzanne Vega at the Minack Theatre which is cut into the rocks and the background is the sea, that is definitely one of my favourite venues as well, actually Suzanne played in my garden in Ryde.’
The Menu Venue: Well John, thank you for your time and for meeting with us and congratulations on another impressive line-up this year and keep up the good work.
Photography courtesy of Al Marsh (c)