Stephen Rehage Talks “Voodoo Music Experience”
Tue, 18 Oct 2011 09:57:29
"New Orleans is the greatest musical city in the world," declares Voodoo Music Experience creator and producer Stephen Rehage.
Voodoo is emblematic of the city's boundless musical spirit. Now in its 13th year, the festival boasts one of the most diverse lineups out there bringing rock, electronica, heavy metal, folk, indie, traditional New Orleans music and more inside what Rehage refers to as "Musical gumbo". This year's installment is the tastiest yet. The lineup boasts Soundgarden, My Chemical Romance, blink-182, Mastodon, Snoop Dogg, The Raconteurs, TV on the Radio, and so many more. Don't miss Voodoo when it casts its spell over New Orleans City Park October 28-30.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino, Stephen Rehage talks organizing the festival, hosting R.E.M.'s last show, and so much more…
How do you choose the lineup for Voodoo Music Experience? When do you start looking at acts?
It's a year-round process. We'll start right now and work our way back. There are some things in the pipeline that we've discussed this year rolling into next. It starts with the closing acts and then you slowly sprinkle in some magic dust and end up with a full lineup.
Is it important for you to balance being eclectic and cohesive?
If you look back at when the event started and the concept we built, a lot comes from the fact that I was born and raised in New Orleans. You grow up with music everywhere. It's just part of your environment. You wake up in the morning and you hear music on every street corner. When you start to travel and talk to different people about music, you realize people typically like a certain genre of music, whereas in New Orleans, music is just music. We embrace it all. Around the late '90s, the whole iPod generation was beginning. It was getting a lot easier to discover music. It's not so much about genres in New Orleans, you just know great music is great music. Musicians play five gigs a night and jump in with any band at any time, there are really are no rules to it, and that was really the linchpin to starting the event. The first year was Wyclef Jean and Moby in the middle of Dr. John. It's a celebration of music.
Back in the '60s, you could see Jimi Hendrix and James Brown on the same stage. In the '80s and '90s, music began to fragment. It seems like nowadays, audiences are more likely to embrace Soundgarden and Steve Angello playing on the same stage.
Exactly! If you look back at the landscape in the '90s, there were the historically big traditional music festivals. Then, '99 came and both Coachella and Voodoo popped up in that year. Coachella in the West, Voodoo down in the South, both building on this idea of a shared experience with great music of all kinds. It's not about specifics or radio formats. We put everything into what we call a "Musical gumbo". You throw everything in a pot, stir it up, and see what comes out.
Voodoo hosted R.E.M.'s final performance.
I hope that's not true [Laughs]. It was a special moment. I remember Dr. John played the year before, and Mike Mills [Bass, R.E.M.] was standing on the side of the stage watching him. Mike and I had a quick conversation there. I said, "I'll see you guys back here when you're headlining next year". He started laughing and was like, "I'll see what we can do". A year later, when they were routing, it looked like they were going to be in Europe for the fall. Their agent Buck Williams said, "The guys are supposed to be in Europe but they keep telling me they have to be back to play Voodoo!" [Laughs] In hindsight, as music fans, we all hope that is not their last show.
Soundgarden this year should be a memorable performance.
I saw the guys at Red Rocks and they are on fire! They're just really tight. I kept watching Cornell going, "If I tried to hit one of those notes, I couldn't speak for a month" [Laughs].
Have you done anything differently this year?
We caught fire for a little while after things kick-started in 1999. Then 2005 came and the world as we knew it in New Orleans was gone. We ended up producing the festival literally 60 days after the hurricane and 59 days after the levees broke. We came back, didn't put a fence up, built everything in Memphis, shipped it down and with the help of Trent Reznor and Marc Geiger, made some noise. We really started from scratch the following year in 2006. The city needed help and the music scene that had given so much to the world was in jeopardy---as was the festival. Then the Chili Peppers confirmed, ended their performance onstage with the Original Meters. And our musical gumbo was given a second life. Sort of like the city itself.
Will you be going to Voodoo this year?