Alchemy Music Festival in the Country - Episode II - 8th, 9th September 2012

Words by: Peter Adkins
Posted: 3/9/12 7:14

Alchemy Festival 2012Alchemy is not your average techno festival. Set in the rural transalpine plateau of northern Italy, the festival is the brainchild of techno heavyweight Mauro Picotto. The country’s first outdoor dance-music festival and only in its second year, it is already establishing itself as event that transcends your usual festival experience.

A firm focus on the party’s vibes rather than commercial headline acts, a carefully selected location close to Mauro’s hometown and an imperative to offer revellers really good food rather than the usual festival rubbish, has meant that Alchemy is already establishing a reputation that other festivals would kill for.

And with Dave Clarke, Stacey Pullen, Tobi Neumann, Len Faki and Karotte headlining an impressive two-day techno line-up, the musical programme is as well considered as the extraneous flourishes. Ahead of the festival next week, we sat down with the festival’s dream-weaver Mauro Picotto.

You launched Alchemy last year. Did you feel that Italy needed a new techno festival?
I have to say, Italy needed a fresh festival. All the festivals that already existed were indoors whereas Alchemy takes place outdoors, something which for me is very important. Outdoor festivals existed a long time ago in Italy, where people would drink and eat and listen to folk music, a bit like Oktoberfest.

Alchemy is a festival for young people with that same [focus] on the whole experience. People can come and have dinner, then party with music that they will like. The goal for me was to offer something new and fresh, to bring people from the city into the countryside and throw a traditional party. You can hear from my voice that we are all excited.

What weather can festival-goers hope to enjoy?
At the moment its sunny, it’s very hot in the day and fresh in the evening because we are so close to the Alps. It’s usually 18 – 20 degrees in the evening, so you’re still fine in just a t-shirt. The forecast for the festival weekend is on our side at the moment, [which is good] because in Italy if we have two drops of rain it is a disaster! It’s not like England where people will still go out if its raining. If it’s raining here, no chance! That’s the big risk in holding an outdoor festival here and why its unusual to do an open air festival in Italy. To be successful we need nice weather, end of story.

Have the local authorities been welcoming of a big techno party on their doorstep?
Last year, the festival was just myself and a bunch of friends. We had a lot of problems at the beginning because the [local political] opposition were using the festival to [score political points] against the incumbent administration, saying the festival will bring lots of people on drugs to the area. Then the week after the party happened and everything went super-well and was well organised, the opposition ran a piece in the local newspaper saying that the governing administration was too restrictive and should be giving more opportunity to the young people! [Thankfully] this year, we have both on our side for the festival.

Tell me a little more about the festival location itself.
The festival takes place on a big piece of land near the main road between Cavour and Pinerolo. There’s going to be two stages, a covered Alchemist stage which is 3,000 square metres and then an open-air arena which is being hosted by Cocoon Heroes. We’ve also got our national radio station Radio Dee Jay on the site, which is like UK Radio 1.

ProgramHave you found a lot of support for Alchmy?
There’s a lot of good [will] from people in Italy to make this a successful party, because whilst we have a lot of techno parties they are all in clubs or indoors. And they’re all very good and successful, because being indoors you can offer a better service and in Italy people still like to reserve a table and be brought a bottle of champagne. But Alchemy is something completely different. It’s me bringing out my hippy side [laughs]. I prefer lying down in the grass to being at a table with champagne. I would love Alchemy to be a little Italian Woodstock.

There is Timewarp in Milan in a month and people love it and know it is a good party, but again it is completely indoors. It’s nothing like what we are offering at Alchemy. It’s completely different, we have quality music and great food: they don’t have great food, they don’t have any food!

And talking about food you’re having this huge BBQ. Tell me a little about that.
On the 31st August there is a party called Festival Babano taking place at the same location as our festival. During the Festival Babano chefs from this area of the country come and cook 6,000 or 7,000 pieces of meat every night on a BBQ that is like 25 metres long. It’s crazy! Everyone knows that the food there is fantastic and I always go for something to eat.

And that’s where I got my idea, seeing all this well-organised cooking and local people meeting together I thought to myself, “why don’t I do something like this but with music that would appeal to people of my age”. I approached [the chefs] last year and this year they finally said yes, and agreed to our experiment of mixing great food with a techno party.

Mauro PicottoIt’s bringing two worlds together.
That’s my idea. Bringing together quality food and quality music, which is something that no-one has done before in Italy. Italy is famous for its food, yet nobody has done it yet! I know there’s some people who would say that once they’ve had a few beers they don’t care about food, but there are plenty of people who’d like to come, have a nice dinner, get drunk and have fun! I don’t want to put on a festival for 10,000 people. There is just going to be two music areas, with enough space for two to three thousand people in each area. So our goals is that 2,000 people or so will come for the food, and the rest for the music.

So keeping the festival on a small, intimate scale is important?
It can grow in the future because there is a lot of land around. But we are in our second year, we want to build up gradually.

The line-up is impressive selection of techno DJs and producers. How did you choose who to book?
I chose friends and artists who understand what I’m doing here. We didn’t want to invest in big names that would bring in a lot of people who wouldn’t understand the mood and concept of the festival. The DJ should be the cherry on the cake, not the superstar of the party. That way, if the party works it works because of the party, not because we’re bringing in someone famous. We have great DJs, I don’t care about top names and the line-up isn’t costing a fortune. Let the clubs in Italy over-pay the big name DJs, I’m happy for them because everyone makes great money from that. But for my festival it must follow my philosophy.

There’s almost a ‘family’ feel to the line-up you’re constructed.
Definitely. That was our idea behind the party. I want people to come for the party, not the DJs. I am very satisfied with our line-up.

In the long-term would you like to expand beyond the realms of techno?
I want to take one step at a time. I need to see how this one goes. Last year we only had one music area for one day, this year we have two over two day and if it is successful maybe next year we will have three stages – but no more than that. I don’t want anything bigger than that at the moment. I’ve never told anyone this, but after working in Ibiza for so many years planning parties for clubs and organising them, I just want to do something for myself. I’m 45 now and, whilst I’m not sick of clubs (I still love to play in clubs), I want to do something in my country, in my hometown.

And it must feel pretty special to headline your own festival in your own hometown?
It’s very exciting. Maybe once it is all done and Alchemy is where I want it, I will be satisfied enough to put my hands up and say “OK, I can stop Djing”. I remember once a journalist asked me when I was going to stop djing: you need to feel that moment. At the moment I’m still finding enough new and exciting things to want to continue. Fifteen years ago, or maybe more, I was excited by production. Now I don’t care so much about production, because I want to be outside of the studio and spending time with my family. Now it is my festival that is keeping me excited.

Interview With KarotteInterview With Karotte
Are you looking forward to the festival?
Sure, I'm looking forward to the festival. I think it's great that Mauro is bringing this festival to the region that he originally comes from, especially since there wasn’t a festival like Alchemy before last year. [By hosting it in his hometown] he is sharing his success with his people.

Mauro is working hard to offer quality food at the festival, do you think this happens at other festivals?
It depends on the festival. To be honest I expected nothing else from Mauro, he will have us bonding even more with his the good Italian [cooking]!

What kind of set are you planning to play or do you decide this when you are there?
I always decide when I get there. I never really know before what I'm going to play.

Are you good friends with Mauro?
Yes, we’ve known each other for a few years now and like and respect one another. He’s invited me twice to play at his legendary Alchemy nights at Space in Ibiza and we always have a lot of fun together if we meet every now and then at parties.

Do you think this festival will soon be an solid part of our nice e-culture?
I hope so! This year is the second time with a big line-up and spread over two days. So I think It will be successful, especially if the people from the [local] region like it.

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