Sunday, 26 September 2010

LSD Magazine interviews Pip Rush and Bert Cole - ARCADIA

Seriously now - it don’t get much better than this. Somewhere between intergalactic lunacy, transcendental journeys into the gleaming recesses of imagination and a fat pile of seductive scrap, Arcadia have landed and are launching a multi dimensional sensory assault on the shadowy realms of possibilty. Whipping together bladder loosening feats of engineering with rampant creativity, eye popping performance, a dazzling visual orgy and the visceral rush of raw, uncut vibe, stepping inside the Arcadia matrix strips preconception and the weary cynicism of so much of our age clean away and sends you hurtling into a consciousness bending vision of the future. We know our way round a party here at LSD, but this is pure next generation stuff as every single synapse crackles into a lightning bolt of gobsmacked wonder and the barriers crumble before the onslaught of thousands upon thousands of heaving minds, bodies and souls coming together in breathtaking unity and rushing their fucking nuts and their bolts off. After the spellbinding spectacle that was their field at Glastonbury, we caught up with Pip Rush and Bert Cole - the visionary nutters behind it all for a word

Can you tell us a little about your backgrounds

PIP - I grew up in the countryside in Dorset within a family of artists. My brother Joe had just started the Mutoids when I was born so I got a lot of inspiration seeing their shows as a kid. Tried the school thing but didn’t enjoy the system, Started working on and off with the Mutoids 15 years on, learned how to build big scrap sculptures and enjoyed some wicked parties around the world.

BERT - I grew up in the Dorset countryside with an early passion for mechanics, machines, improvisation and acquiring the skills for making things. I went to my first Glastonbury 20 years ago and witnessed Archaos aged 10 which helped my wheels get turning. I took off on the road at 16 with the tent company, Kayam that took me all over the world in amongst festivals and events and was quickly made a tent master and spent the next 11 years touring the globe in the summers with a motley tent crew moving giant structures for events from orchestras to raves. In the off season I started to put on my own free parties and was becoming more interested in getting people together with music and entertainment outside of the normal system.

How did you come together to create Arcadia

PIP - I started a traveling arts café and traveled round European festivals and squats building party environments. It was hard graft with no funding and we spent a lot of time trying to fix the trucks and acquire diesel... But it was loads of fun, and we met hundreds of creative, driven people. We rocked up at a Spanish festival one day and bumped in to Bert who I vaguely knew from childhood. He was erecting these massive tents, having fun with his crew playing about with serious machinery. I was really inspired to see the possibilities when you had quality tools and good food… and I think he was also inspired by how much fun our freestyle creative lifestyle was…

The next year we scored a good budget from a festival in Ireland and he came out to help with his crew. It was a real potent mix of crews and we built an amazing environment full of sculptures, with a big tent in the middle with bands and stuff. Sometime in the early hours we had a chat about how a linear stage and a separation between the musicians, crowd and sculpture was all wrong, so decided to try and merge it all into one 360 arena…. From the outside we looked like a dribbling mess, but on the inside we’d just hit on an idea that was about to grow beyond our wildest visions!

BERT - I knew of Pip from an early age as we grew up pretty near each other but started to get more in touch as time went on and we realized we had some common interests. I worked as part of a team Pip put together to produce an area at Electric Picnic in 2006 and there was something really positive about working together and the ball started rolling there really as the momentum gathered to try and create, make or produce things in festivals that were nothing traditional but a fusion of influences and elements that combined, made for a full 360 degree all encompassing atmosphere in which people could really let themselves go.This was made relatively obvious from witnessing years of festivals and concerts always following the same old linear formula of stage and auditorium etc. We quite clearly decided to turn it inside out and upside down and create a hub from which effects, music and energy radiates which people are amongst rather than simply watching. Where things have got to now is a mere evolution of what started for us there.

How important is recycling and mutation in within the Arcadia concept

PIP - Hmm, it’s massive. Anyone with a few basic skills and a welder can make amazing things out of scrap with very little other resources. Also the inspiration that comes from visiting a scrap yard and seeing mountains of machines from past generations piled up high is massive in itself.… We get all our stuff from military scrap yards and it's interesting seeing crates and crates of unused military equipment built by the government, and really positive knowing it was designed to cause death and destruction, but could end its life having become part of a massive hub of positivity and bring smiles to thousands of people!

BERT - Recycling is a primary building block to our creations. This is fundamentally important for many reasons. Hijacking gear that has been developed by the big powers for what seems to be mainly negative reasons and recycling it into our own inventions which are designed specifically to bring about joy is the ultimate irony and a big part of what its about. Also resources are running low and giving a whole new life to something that is headed for the furnace is environmentally very positive.

Is there an inherent beauty in scrap

PIP - Yeah it all has a specific look to it, 1940’s aircraft panels are the sexiest!

BERT- Yes!! - Scrap scrap scrap. Especially when shapes, contours and profiles become something so removed from their original intention it’s impossible to realize what they once were.

How much of your design process is influenced by the materials you come across and how much do you search for materials to fit your design concept

PIP - A day in the Arcadia office

Step 1

You wake up realizing you’ve promised a festival you’re going to make the biggest most amazing stage they’ve ever seen but you actually have no idea how you are going to do it…

Step 2

You head to the scrappy for inspiration, see something that might work, you drag it home.

Step 3

The next morning, you wake up and notice another bit fits on it perfectly and it starts to look like an old school land speed record mobile, but you need another bit to make it float…

Step 5

You go back to the scrap yard, see a 40 tone amphibious vehicle with a crane on it. You forget about all the other ideas and start rabbiting to everyone about a circus carnival procession down the River Thames…

Step 1 again…..

Step 367

You find some amazing looking cranes that might possibly work if you could figure out how the f**k to get them off and move them about… realizing you only have 2 months left you stop faffing and make the damn thing!

BERT - I feel like we start with outlandish concepts and then search for good bits of scrap as building blocks, slot then in and re arrange them. This allows the concept, design and manufacture to organically and simultaneously develop along an exciting path.

How important is wider team spirit and the essence of collaboration in the bigger installations

PIP - It’s all about that really, building creative stuff, pushing the boundaries and having a big party at the end really brings the best out of people. ‘Arcadia’ has attracted so many amazing individuals and groups into my life, all who have inspired me and shaped how I live. I think everybody must have a similar motive, because they all give their heart and soul to work around the clock and make it happen… and they’re definitely not doing it for the money!

BERT - It’s all about the people, community and spirit. What we do is fuelled greatly by huge amounts of enthusiasm, focus and relentless hard work towards a collective goal by many amazing people who have a huge range of skills, interests, lifestyles and ideals. Together these form a multi faceted, ever changing collective who point in the same direction.

How much creative ego has to be surrendered with so many performers all having an input

PIP - It all moves pretty fast these days and usually there isn’t really time for people to fight about ideas. Everyone is collaborating towards a bigger picture and that’s what makes the magic.

BERT - Ego? Where?

Do you feel that budgets and long set up times have given creativity within the legal scene an edge that the illegal scene could never have reached

PIP - Yeah definitely. I sometimes hear the older party generation saying “you lot got it so easy”… I hope they feel real proud that we do, because it was their fighting that made the scene accepted by officials governing our generation. So yeah, blowing the lid of a massive party and not spending the night at the gate fending off the police is wicked, bring it on!

BERT - Yes I feel we are privileged to have help from great events who help us push the limits in ways we could have only dreamt of if we were doing it illegally.

Are wild flaming explosions a primal rush that no human being should live without

PIP - If used positively!

BERT -Yes! Fire, thunder, lightening and huge get togethers - it’s what we have always done and should always continue do despite censorship from our government, authorities etc. It has great power which is exactly why it’s made difficult and also why large corporations and businesses want to use it to forward their own agendas as with advertising, sponsored venues etc.

Tell us about the background work that went into this year’s Glastonbury

PIP - Seriously hard work, but with a wicked dedicated crew, amazing journeys around scrap yards, swinging from cranes and testing out kit…. But plenty of not so amazing days in front of a computer battling with risk assessments… (The one negative of a ‘legal’ structure I guess)

BERT - An insane journey which pretty much started after last Glastonbury. A relentless pursuit of developing what we did then and making something that really pushed all the limits further out into the impossible. I am still trying to come to terms with it now

Have you finally realised the long term dream of sound, light and jaw dropping spectacle that is the multi sensory transcendental trip

PIP - Nope, just fucking about at the moment

BERT- We certainly reached an amazing place but something still feels like there is much further to go.

Tell us about some of the key members of your team and the skills and passion they bring to Arcadia

PIP - There are so many I couldn’t begin! But most are in their 20’s and all are totally dedicated for the right reasons.

How deeply have psychedelics influenced your visions

PIP - Not massively I don’t think, for some they are a shortcut to bringing ideas up to the surface. Perhaps a realization about the power of the mind, and the link between vision, creativity and reality was a psychedelic influence in the past. These days a physical trip across the desert on a fast motorbike has the same effect, and leaves you hyped-up and ready to bounce out of bed at 8am and make it a reality!

BERT - Mmm hard to say really as they have not been an active part of it but possibly have played a part in the development of how to think completely out of the box.

Tell us a little about electricity and its manipulation within the show

PIP - I know it fries PA equipment if it is earthed to it, And the Lords of Lightning wear chain mail suits which the electricity sparks between… you are totally safe in there so long as you are dry… but if you break in to a sweat........... ….Anyone want a go??

I think it was discovered in the 40’s. And if you haven’t experienced it you must, it is another dimension!

With so much structured, dedicated work required to bring one concept like the Spider alive, how difficult is it to resist new ideas halfway through

PIP - It’s all made up as you go along really; we do little off shoots along the way and were always scheming ideas. But yeah it takes discipline to stick to one and see it through!

BERT - It’s a critical path. We do whatever is possible to maximize the potential of our projects. The exciting thing about the spider as a structure is that it’s really just a huge foundation for some much greater possibilities.

Who put together the sound for this years Glastonbury and how fascinating was it collaborating to lock sound and visuals into one heaving matrix

PIP - Audio Funktion do our sound, they are a wicked crew that grew out of the Bristol free party scene (used to be called DMT) They put up with loads of complicated everchanging logistics and always came up trumps with a crystal clear sound. The essence of Arcadia is collaborating and coordinating audio and visual stuff, and I think that fascinates everyone.

How much could be planned to the last detail and how much of the final mystical live spark brought the show to life

PIP - The more spontaneous it is, the better I reckon (don’t tell the production crew I said that) There is a lot of stuff which needs to be organized in advance with so many people working on top of each other, but there are always amazing bits which are spawned on site when the creativity is really high and everyone is bouncing off each other…

How important was the lighting and how did the design process work around everything else

PIP - As important as everything else. Again it’s totally non-traditional with so many strange rigging logistics and masses of orange light from the flames.

How did you set about putting together your musical lineup?

PIP - For the show we chose the most successful electronic act from the year before (Freefall Collective) - had a meeting with them, realized they were right on it and understood where we were coming from. We got a rough sketch together for the show and chose a rough order of tracks, they went away, worked their socks off and came back with the music, which we then worked the show around…. I don’t know if that was the best way to go about it but it worked for this show and the crowd close to the structure danced all the way through, which is important to us.

Who really brought it all together for you this year when they were on stage?

PIP - Black Sun Empire rocked it!! Had never heard of them before they played, they seemed like they were almost part of the crew, properly bought everyone together, bigged up the crowd, got all the crew on stage, the last hour was epic (and none of us fell off… actually Wizza did but the crowd threw him straight back!)

BERT - Sunday night was epic! Everything came together, crowd, music, effects; timing and took the vibe to previously un attained limits. Black Sun Empire (last act) took things to a whole new level.

Do you have artists queuing up to live the experience of playing Arcadia

BERT - Yes there is a great deal of interest from across the board. It’s great that it does function so well as a stage even though it has so much more going on. We get incredible feedback from the artists who play and its obvious that them getting off on it all helps to push the whole experience even further for all.

What would the logistical possibilities be of doing Burning Man

PIP - Anything is possible

BERT - Anything is possible.

How do you define success

PIP - A balance of friendship, creativity, fun,challenge… and time to appreciate it all.

BERT - Waking up each day with total joy and enthusiasm for what’s ahead. If you’re not enjoying your day then do something else

Do you find that these spectacular new visual realities are to some extent replacing hallucinogenics

PIP - I think what’s important at these events is to relax and tune in to what’s going on, because below the surface its pretty massive. But it’s totally personal whether people need to take drugs to do that or not.

BERT - I feel that what we produce stimulates real natural highs which are open to all walks of life and further boosted by a critical mass of people all letting go of themselves together in one huge party.

What does the year ahead hold

PIP - A few small gigs then a rerun of the show at Bestival.

BERT - Not sure but its very exciting.

Where the fuck do you go from here after such a legendary show at Glastonbury

PIP - To the scrappy

BERT - To the mountains.

Do you feel that you are proving to yet another generation that the DIY spirit, aloving vibe and eccentric creativity will always stand taller and burn brighter than commercial constructs

PIP - Yes, and I reckon DIY, community spirit and creativity will become the essence of survival in the future…

BERT- Definitely we should all push for what we believe and not what we are told.

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