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Interview with Jonathan Scratchley, Director of Outlook Festival ahead of AD at Outlook 2013

Festival season has finally crept upon us and we can hardly contain our excitement. With so much to still look forward to and memories already to look back on, we spoke to the man responsible for introducing sound-system music lovers to what is known as one of the biggest summer events in Croatia, also known as Outlook Festival. We caught up with Jonathan Scratchley, one of the main men behind Outlook & Dimensions Festival(s), to chat about the history of the festival, exciting acts that are playing this year and top tips for those that have never experienced raving in that spectacular abandoned fort!

How did Outlook initially start?

Well basically it was really just by chance. One of the organisers of Outlook got contacted by a friend of his, who had moved out to Croatia to set up a festival site called The Garden. They had been running a festival for a couple of years and they were looking for some more promoters that could come with a crowd to fill up their venue and a line-up of artists that could play through their rigs. They had a really beautiful location and we were just club promoters at the time, so we just thought we’d take a punt on it! It was a nightmare in the first few years, but that certainly motivated us to continue and put more effort in, so it just developed from there really.

So, why Croatia as a chosen location?

It really chose us I suppose. Without trying to make it sound like too much of a fairytale. The thing is once you go out to Croatia once, then I challenge any of you to not get hooked!

How did you guys find the abandoned fort that you use now when planning the festival?

I suppose it was quite a bumpy road to begin with. The first place we used we got kicked out of after the first year because 1. We were scaring the fishes because it was in a little fishing village and we were obviously making a lot of noise.

So, yeah we got kicked out of there after the first year and then we found another place which was half way up the coast and we did it there for the second year, but that wasn’t right either. So at that stage after our 2009 festival we started to make more contacts in Croatia and one of them was this guy Pedram, who ran a reggae festival called SeaSplash out there. So we linked up with him as he said he would help us find a new venue, and the first place he took us to was this fort that they used for festivals a long time ago, but they knew the people that owned it. So we got taken out there in November 2009 and we walked around it, got really excited and quite scared! So yeah, we just then decided to try and put on another event there because it’s just so beautiful.

Now that you are on to your sixth year, have you guys got any new ideas up your sleeves for the festival this year, with any new layouts or stages?

Well it changes every year. I don’t know, there’s some surprises that I wouldn’t want to spoil at this stage! But all I can say is when people come out that have been before; they will see that it’s really fresh compared to other years.

The festival has got so much bigger year after year. What changes have you noticed in the festival and its crowd recently?

Well I suppose the biggest thing recently is the result of the global music scene as a whole and the way that that’s affected us. We’ve always tried to stay true to what we feel in our music choice and our whole approach towards programming, but that changes according to the songs that are being made that we’re really into every year. So I suppose that’s the biggest thing.  Like we were at the heart of this explosion of Dubstep around 2008/2009, so that had a knock on effect within the artists that we booked. That meant the festival exploded really quickly and then it was really successful.

Now, the interesting thing that we face with Outlook festival is we’re still staying true to the music that we love and booking the line-up that we love but the crowd changes. So the music lovers that were listening to Dubstep and Drum and Bass four years ago, are now listening to House and Techno which means that our crowd and line-up has had to develop and expand into more diverse areas. So this year we’ve gone heavy with hip-hop as well as Drum and Bass because we think there’s some wicked DnB tunes being made.

Yeah, I mean you still have loads of Drum and Bass acts on the line up.

Yeah, big time! I suppose it does change every year and we just do what we do and we try and put on a good event and book a line-up that we’re really feeling and that we’d like to go and check out. Then the people that buy the tickets in that year is what makes each year very individual, but we’ve got no control over it!

What acts were the Outlook team most excited about booking this year?

Well, I mean for all of us every year it’s so exciting to book a line-up of artists that people desperately want to see. It would be the top line artists because those are the ones that are a big part of our lives, so to get a chance to book them at a festival is just incredible.

So you know to get Talib Kweli and Mos Def to come is like a dream of ours you know. Amazing. And personally, Anthony B is one of my favourite artists of all time and we’ve got him coming out to play which I’m just really hyped about seeing really! But it’s also being able to diversify like I mentioned earlier. We have the opportunity to book artists that we want to book and so we can go and get like XXYYXX as a very experimental, electronic producer and that’s very exciting to see how that will sit in the festival and how it will be received.

As you know, we’ll be hosting our own boat party this year. Have you got any advice for Outlook boat partiers this year?

Well it’s going to be the advice that I give out on most years with the boat parties. Don’t drink too much, because ultimately you’re on a moving boat going through the ocean and it’s deep! (Laughs) Make sure you bring sun cream with you otherwise you’re just going to be stuck out in the sun for four hours and when it’s blazing hot it’s real easy to get burnt. Just a little bit of thought and then you can go and enjoy it!

What advice would you give to Outlook festival virgins this year?

Make sure you bring a good pair of shoes! There’s no use going around in your trendy flip flops up in the fortress because you’ll just end up stubbing your toe! And make sure you COME to the amphitheatre show because that’s the huge introduction that we’re doing this year, it’s the launch of the festival and for that we’ve got The Wailers, Grandmaster Flash and Earl Gateshead to play which we are unbelievably excited about.

Wicked! Last but not least, what’s your best memory of being at Outlook?

I’ve got a lot of very intense memories from being at Outlook. (Laughs) But there are two that really keep coming back to me and I think they are both from the 2010 festival. Congo Natty was playing in the main arena on one of the nights and they played Notorious by Turbulence. They were singing it accapella, for maybe five minutes! And to see 1500 people who had been listening to electronic music for the last few days, you know big heavy basslines and big sound systems and then for it all to be stripped back and to just hear two amazing female vocals singing a brilliantly written song, it was really emotional. I got a little stone in my throat after that!

And then I also remember Mala playing the last tune of the festival that year and it was like six in the morning on the Monday and it had been boiling hot throughout the whole festival. It was dusty in the air and a really intense environment. All of a sudden literally for the last tune it started raining and it wasn’t like rain here in the UK, because when it rains out there it’s a really good thing because it’s so hot! It started raining and the air just completely cleared and Mala dropped a Bob Marley tune and the whole crowd were singing it at the top of their voices. It was amazing for me to see that. Really, really special.

Outlook Festival takes place from the 29th August – 2nd September.

Full 2013 Line up HERE

Buy Outlook festival tickets HERE

Watch the highlights from last years Outlook Festival below…

Interview by Tania Kabbani

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