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Howlin' Fling Festival Next Month
Christian Eede , June 27th, 2017 13:32

With Johnny Lynch and Lost Map's Howlin' Fling Festival just a month away, we catch up with the man behind it all to find out what makes it such a unique event

With Howlin' Fling, the festival from The Pictish Trail's Johnny Lynch and Lost Map Records, now just a month away, they have announced a selection of the acts set to play across the weekend.

Taking place as ever on the Isle of Eigg in Scotland, which is a tiny Hebridean island off the west coast of Scotland with a population of around 100, the festival will this year see a DJ set from Jon Hopkins as well as a headline debut live show from Border Community boss James Holden with his new live band The Animal Spirits.

Also playing across the weekend are Francois and the Atlas Mountains, KT Tunstall, Withered Hand, The Pictish Trail, Alabaster dePlume, Archipel, Bas Jan and lots more. They will all play at the festival when it takes place on July 28 and 29, and you can find out more information here. You can enter to win tickets for the sold out festival here.

Taking place roughly every two years and attracting a cult following which saw the tickets for this year's edition sell out within just five minutes, we caught up with Johnny Lynch to discuss what makes the festival so special and what he is most looking forward to at this year's event.

What's changed the most about putting on Howlin' Fling over the years?

Johnny Lynch: There’s not been any humungous changes, really - just a few wee tweaks, here and there. I remember at the first one (in 2010) we ran out of food pretty quickly, which meant everyone just had to drink more booze. Guinness for dinner. That was fun, but I made sure there was enough grub at subsequent events. Beyond that, the event has pretty much stayed true to its beginnings. It’s basically a weekend of music that I love, made by my pals and other artists i’m inspired by. Like everything with Lost Map, it’s a very DIY operation, so completely relies on folk willing it to happen. I’m really fortunate that the artists, ticket-holders and islanders have entered into the whole thing in the right spirit - it couldn’t exist without that, really.

One always hears really unhinged stories from the island. What makes it such a great place to do a festival?

JL: It’s usually Quietus reporters that are the most unhinged, ha! Eigg is a stunning location, it’s like being on another planet. I’ve been living here for seven years, now, and the vibrancy of the place still blows my mind: the colours, the wildlife, the welcoming atmosphere. I must sound like i’m brain-washed, but, honestly, it’s a constant inspiration. The island came under community ownership back in 1997, and has continued to foster a sense of self-determination since that time, which is stronger than ever. A lot of folk who visit the island are aware of its back-story, and that definitely feeds into the overall Fling experience, I think - for both ticket-holders and artists. Plus, the journey here takes a hefty amount of time. Once folk arrive you really get the sense that they are escaping from normality. It’s a powerful thing. Every time I come back from tour, the long journey home and a good walk around the island always presses a reset button in my head.

Why have you always kept the numbers low?

JL: It’s a small island, with relatively limited resources, so we can’t go crazy with numbers. People getting over here safely, and enjoying their weekend comfortably, that’s my main priority, really. It’s a completely independent venture, too, so I need to keep tickets at a level that doesn’t make me lose my mind with unbearable, soul-destroying stress. So, aye, keeping it small is good for everyone!

The downside to being such a small event is that not everyone who wants to come can get tickets. We sold out within five minutes of going on sale this year. I hate the thought of excluding people, so I think we might do a lottery for the next one. We’ve got a competition on our website, to win a pair of tickets for this year’s event - which closes at 11.59pm at the end of June. We’ll be picking a lucky winner on July 1.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

JL: There’s so much stuff i’m looking forward to. I’m really chuffed about James Holden coming up to play. It’s his first show accompanied by a full band, The Animal Spirits, and so I know it’s going to be a special one. Can’t quite believe it’s happening, I’m such a big fan of his work, his mixes, his collaborations, and everything else he’s created with his Border Community label, too - all that stuff has been a huge influence. It’s just gonna be surreal to have him play on the island! I’m buzzing just thinking about it.

To be able to say we’ve got Jon Hopkins playing on the bill on the same weekend seems almost perverse. Another equally pioneering electronic artist, Jon is a great pal, and his recent DJ sets have been mind-alteringly special - so I’m thrilled he’s coming back up to Eigg for the weekend. Kate ‘KT’ Tunstall is one of the most excitable people I know, and we’ve been chatting about having her come over to play for years, so it’s so good we’ve been able to make it work. I love that woman, an incredible performer.

I’m looking through the roster again now, all the Lost Map stuff, and François & The Atlas Mountains, Withered Hand, Bas Jan, Lord Of The Isles, Archipel, Seamus Fogarty, Martha Ffion, The Poozies, so much more, it’s gonna be a belter. The main thing I’m worried about is that I’ve somehow got to keep my head together, and play a Pictish Trail set on the Saturday. Pray for me.