‘Festival’ is a word with wide-ranging semantic connotations, be they flower-power gatherings as a form of communal political stance, gigantic commercially-driven happenings for complacent youth, or snobby boutique events for yuppie parents. Creepy Teepee falls into none of these categories: it exists solely to share music.
Established in 2009, Creepy Teepee was born when Prague-based collective AM180 got invited to curate a music event at the Central Bohemian Gallery in Kutná Hora, a picturesque historical town about one hour from Prague whose most famous feature is the utterly unique, bone-festooned Sedlec Ossuary. Since 2011, Creepy Teepee has continued as an autonomous entity, a DIY festival foremostly manifested through avantgarde, thought-provoking and eye-opening programming and a chill-out vibe. Earlier this year, the festival was voted the event of the year by Czech music critics.
Electronic Beats: What is the philosophy of Creepy Teepee, and how does it differ from other festivals?
Št?pán Bolf: The festival is one of our activities at the AM180 Collective, which is active in music, organizing various concerts and running the AMDISCS label, as well as arts through our own Prague gallery. So it’s necessary to perceive Creepy Teepee within this context, which contains the crux of the philosophy of the whole collective: contemporary art with an emphasis on interconnecting music with visual arts, shown for and made by creative people. We have to believe in what others do; that’s the most important thing.
When it comes to music, Creepy Teepee has become the annual culmination of everything we do. This year the preparations have been strenuous bordering on the impossible because we also have day jobs. At the same time, we’ve arrived at a consensus that we don’t want to professionalize things because we feel it wouldn’t be fun anymore.
Like last year, the lineup is a combination of new names, up-and-comers and some older legends. Can you talk a little bit about the programming of the festival?
Building a festival on new names only would be insane, especially in the Czech Republic, where this kind of music still has a niche audience. That’s also one of the reasons why we try to invite bands that resonate outside of the relatively closed fan communities. The main issue is money, since part of the booking business revolves around bands who haven’t even released their debut EP yet, but have been name-dropped by Pitchfork’s “best new track” column. These type of bands usually cost a ridiculous money, which they themselves might not even realize…it’s usually the booking agent who makes this price. First and foremost, Creepy Teepee is a meeting of talented artists and a smart audience, not a show-business project for easy money-making.
We’re pretty adamant about this and never overpay bands. Last year, it was with great pleasure that we invited the living cult figure R. Stevie Moore. This year we have Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Excepter playing. None of them has lost touch with what’s happening around them, so the conditions they set are reasonable. It’s obvious that aside from the pragmatic reasons, they’re attracted to Creepy as an event where they can meet like-minded musicians, witness the immediate responses to their music and meet new people. Jon from Excepter, who played a solo gig here last year, really loved the festival and we still keep in touch. Stevie Moore, Roedelius and Excepter are punks like that. I’d just like to stress that Roedelius is 77 years old, and apart from a live set, he’ll also do an exclusive DJ set this year.
Can you tell us about the Emerging Creepy Act initiative that you have started this year?
The ECA seeks to draw attention to the happenings on the local European scenes in countries that are close to us, but whose music remains largely unknown. We asked some of our friends who are active in their particular scene through their blogs, labels and other platforms to nominate some bands from their region, such as Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Germany and Croatia. Needless to say, the ECA doesn’t strive to be a competition, but a friendly gathering of bands from neighboring countries.
The festival is very inclusive – artists freely mix with the audience and party until the wee hours, which is in contrast to many other festivals that strictly separate the two groups. Why is it like this at your festival?
I think this is a natural thing, mainly because we don’t even think about it within these terms. It’s the same at our concerts that we do during the rest of the year. Our time is too precious to invite bands that behave like rockstars.
Could you describe your favorite Creepy Teepee moment?
Jon Nicholson (Excepter, SSPS) at Creepy Teepee 2011: “My girlfriend works in a small bar in New York. There is a regular, also a musician, who drinks there night after night. I get here to Kutná Hora, enter the festival area – and the first thing I see is the very same guy standing at the bar.”
You do the festival alongside your day jobs and other activities. What is it that motivates you to go on despite all the issues that you experienced while putting on the festival?
The main motivation from the beginning remains the same: encourage interesting happenings in the place we live in and work with people with whom we have something in common: an everlasting and irrational love of arts and music in particular. This has remained unchanged throughout the years, even though it often gets too much, like last year, when the previous organizer pulled out two months before the start of the festival. It was a lot of pressure.
Where do you see the festival going in the future?
We hope that there will be more and more curious people interested in arts and music, who will actively nurture their own tastes, whilst having the media as only one of the sources that can act as a recommendation channel at most. I hope our team will remain working together and that we will embark on preparations of CT13 straight after CT12 closes its gates. It’s also important to have a city that understands such events and is able to support them.