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PREVIEW: Supersonic 2019
Christian Eede , July 16th, 2019 15:22

Ahead of this weekend's Supersonic, Kevin Martin, Stephen O'Malley and more share their favourite memories of the festival

This weekend sees Supersonic return to its Birmingham base for a 16th year, boasting a characteristically boundary-pushing line-up that includes the likes of Neurosis, Anna von Hausswolff, The Bug with Moor Mother, Godflesh, Jerusalem In My Heart, Guttersnipe, The Body and plenty more.

Over the years, the festival has hosted some of the finest names in experimental music, and picked up an army of regulars, both attendees and musicians - all of whom no doubt have their fair share of stories and favourite memories from the festival's history.

Ahead of this weekend's event, a number of artists from Supersonics past and present have given us their favourite stories and anecdotes from attending and playing at the festival, amongst them Kevin Martin, Stephen O'Malley, Richard Dawson and Natalie Sharp, AKA Lone Taxidermist. Keep reading below for their memories of the event.

This year's Supersonic runs in Digbeth, Birmingham from July 19-21. For the full line-up, and to get your hands on the final tickets, head here.

Kevin Martin, AKA The Bug

"So many great memories of Supersonic Festival… First and foremost, obviously a festival with extraordinary good taste, and killer line-ups, run by Lisa and a group of passionate women, with music and not fashion/money as their god. Highly unusual in the general scheme of festivals where it tends to be male-organised commercial rinse-outs, or hipster pose-athons.

"One abiding memory was playing in 2012, and walking around with my wife, and Miss Red, thinking/saying, 'oh my god, we are gonna die tonight, we are total pop, compared to what's on here', as Merzbow, Kevin Drumm, etc rolled out the noise to an audience of largely black-clad cognoscenti. So it was very pleasantly surprising that the main, large room, went off dramatically, when we hit the stage with Flowdan and Miss Red, as people seemed relieved to actually bruck out and explode.

"Also, incredible musical/visual memories, seeing/hearing Coil play in huge pink bunny rabbit costumes at the very first Supersonic, which I performed at, Hype Williams demanding that a highly-bemused looking leather-clad female motorcyclist sit on a racing bike, onstage, in their maelstrom of noise and strobe/smoke. Lichens, AKA Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, casting magical spells with his audio visual alchemy. And then discovering Nisennenmondai, and Barn Owl, neither of which I had known before Supersonic, an occurrence which happens often when I attend, as the festival unearths many artists I have never seen or heard of before, thankfully. It's a very positive festival, with a very positive audience, despite them often being subjected to the soundtrack of hell (or heaven depending on your taste). What more could you ask for?"

Stephen O'Malley

"In 2005, Masami Akita and I prepared two or three duo concerts in Europe to much failure! Not at our fault but circumstances. Our Greece shows were dropped last minute as the dodgy promoter was fucking Melvins around (who Masami was traveling with). At Supersonic we were set to headline the indoor theatre. We had a vivacious soundcheck late afternoon. Locked and loaded. I believe Sunburned Hand of the Man or Sunroof (one of those post-psych bands) were playing their set before we were supposed to go on and the police stopped the show: there had been a bomb threat in centre of Brum, the pigs were shutting down the city in a gradually expanding radius from the centre. Like a shockwave of swine emerging from the Lovecraftian Octopus building. They evacuated the fucking Custard Factory and we were denied our penultimate abstract glory. Masami and I hid in the building a long while avoiding the cops wandering around. Not so often to be in a vacant building. At one moment we stumbled in to a room with Madame Genesis P-Orridge playing a white grand piano."

Richard Dawson

"The day previous to my first Supersonic appearance I got a bit swept up with the festival in general but particularly by a set from Ruins who I greatly admired at the time and still do now, resulting in me ingesting far too much alcohol in the form of 'lager' which I'm not used to drinking - it doesn't really agree with my stomach or mind, I'm very much a Guinness drinker, which is a very soft sort of a drunk, and easy on the belly - so that when the time came for me to perform early on a Sunday afternoon I had to do so with a big bucket on stage next to me in case I should be sick, or worse.

"I look back on it fondly as that show turned out to be a real milestone for me. I'd not been part of such an amazing line-up before, or played to such a large enthusiastic audience, and things really started rolling for me in a new way from that point onwards. Thank you for this amazing energy, Lisa and team! I've performed at Supersonic several times since and it's always magic - the playing for sure, but just as important is the hanging about in the record-bit afterwards, the traumatising ear-damage, and the crying in the shower."

Valentina Magaletti of TOMAGA

"I am honoured to admit that I have played or contributed to this wonderful adventure almost every year for the last 15 years. As a Supersonic 'veteran' I have never lost enthusiasm for what this festival entails. A real cultural hub for healthy fun, fantastic art and a sense of community second to none. It's safe to say that Lisa and her incredible loyal team have a knack for booking the most interesting sonic adventures from around the globe for the festival, filling the city of Birmingham with sublime music for three days. One of the best summer festivals in the UK."

DJ FOOD

"I have so many memories of that gig [Supersonic Festival's debut in 2003]; Kevin Martin lugging an entire mixing desk into the venue for soundcheck. Meeting James Murphy and Nancy Wang from LCD Soundsystem backstage and telling them that 'Losing My Edge' was an instant classic (they'd only just released the follow up, 'Give It Up', at that point - it was one of their first UK appearances I believe) to which James deadpanned, 'oh no, the only way is down now'. Of course we now know that that was far from the case. Laughing with Kevin Martin during my set as I dropped a brutal mash-up I'd made of one of his Razor X instrumentals with Tom Jones' 'It's Not Unusual' over the top.

"Then feeling bad for Coil who were performing Time Machines outside at the same time as people came and went between the venue and the outside and the sound inevitably leaked, probably ruining it for some. Catching up with Kid Acne backstage, meeting Chu who designed the poster and booklet for the event (I still have it) and getting a custom-painted 12" sleeve from Req One outside in the daytime. You remember the good ones and the bad, this was definitely the former."

Natalie Sharp, AKA Lone Taxidermist

"At Supersonic 2017 when I performed Trifle, we could not have predicted temperatures of 32 degrees! We were playing in a glass ceilinged room and I made the performers wear latex. It was by far the sweatiest show I've ever done. Add to that aerosol cream and a room covered in PVC plastic and we seemed to get close to heat asphyxiation. When Lisa saw me after the show I looked like a melted sex clown and she proclaimed, 'She's a professional make up artist you know!'"

Justin K Broadrick

"Since its inception, Supersonic in Birmingham has collectively supported all my projects and countless others; it has been an inspiration in representing underground music in all of its colours. The second Godflesh reformation performance was at Supersonic, and of course was probably the best performance Godflesh ever played in their birth city! This performance also inspired us to progress with the band after a disappointing and fruitless initial reunion show. The underground music landscape, not just the Midlands but the the whole of the UK, would suffer greatly without Supersonic. It has been central to the scene for many years, and I hope for many more to come."

MC Dalek

"My fondest memory of Supersonic Festival was in 2005. (Full disclosure, Mike Manteca reminded me of this as my memory is garbage.) After we performed, Mick Harris had heard there was a party going on somewhere in Birmingham. So a gang consisting of me, Oktopus, Still, Mike Manteca, Justin Broadrick, and Mick Harris begin wandering the desolate streets of Birmingham at 2AM. After about an hour, and out of drinks, we arrived at a house where the inhabitants were all on acid. They answered the door only to see our gang. They were scared... probably because our faces were melting. We may have forced our way in... only to find out there were no drinks and no party. So we left. It felt like high school. Except I was in high school with Justin Broadrick and Mick Harris."

Conny Prantera

"The first time I went to Supersonic, I took a train with a whole lot of people I didn't know too well. I remember that I was wearing a pair of new trainers, they were bright yellow and hardly used. I was sitting with my feet slightly resting on the seat in front, aware that we stood out as a group, louder and more colourful than the average traveller and as the ticket inspector walked by, I could tell he looked at my feet but as he walked on...I thought I got away with it. A few minutes later, I heard his voice through the loudspeaker announcing, 'Hey, you with your bright new yellow trainers, I know you think they are cool, but take them off the seats!'

"Here they are, my shoes a good 10 years on... still looking cool!"

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