You really don’t imagine outdoor parties on snow covered shipping piers, but that’s one of qualities that makes Igloofest special. Decoded Magazine sent Canadian writers Peter Damian and Mandy Daniels to investigate this unique party at the Old Port of Montreal for their second weekend of 10th anniversary celebrations.
You would expect a winter festival to be cold (real cold!), that you hear some great music, and hopefully stay warm. Igloo was all that and more, almost surreal. As we made our way to the venue for the first time, we walked the last blocks of textured cobblestone streets to the river, and were surrounded by giddy, well-bundled pockets of people making their way steadily to the port. From a distance, the production was unmissable, a welcome mat of multicoloured light, casting its bright glow amidst a dark, (cold), starry, Old Montreal sky. Massive, stacked white shipping containers glistened under the lights and welcomed neon ski-suit clad partygoers.
Once inside Winter Wonderland, for some, it would be a leap of faith to surface from their winter hibernation to venture out, but we discovered why party goers attend this essential Montreal event. Igloofesters were immersed in an unparalleled winter music experience. Roasting marshmallows, riding the lgloofest super-slide, lapping up cans of Sapporo, savouring Jaegermeister, ice sculptures, or just hot chocolate were a few of the activities you could dance to on the grounds. The stages were framed by great visual effects and lighting, all supporting the thoughtfully curated lineup of DJs. With snow falling, you would only describe it as a techno snow globe.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with one of the founding members of this festival along with the excellent Jimmy Edgar. Nicolas Cournoyer, General Director of the festival spoke with passion about the spirit of the event. He was quick to point out that though they had set it up, it was truly the enthusiasm of the Montreal fans and DJs, with their joie de vivre and embracing of the concept, that has made it the success it is today. Nicolas, along with the other organisers and crew are a large part of the genuine hospitality that makes the Igloofest attendee’s experience warm on a cold night. “We wanted to drag people out of their houses in order to tame the winter.” he said.
Hi Nicolas, thanks for finding the time to chat with us at Decoded Magazine. Techno has been on the rise recently and Igloofest has great music curation – where do you see the festival going within the next ten years musically?
You know every year we are trying to gather all sorts of electronic music. Of course we are following current trends but we need to keep a balance of all kinds of electronic music. We have a ‘credo’ so we are not doing too much EDM music, it’s [more] of the underground. But, when you have twelve nights you can’t just go in one direction. So, for the next ten years we’ll follow those currents. To have some new discoveries, there’s a lot of newcomers coming here. The price is pretty affordable, we’re not looking for DJs that are paid a hundred thousand for a gig, so we are finding some locals, some people not known everywhere, who within the next 3-4 years will get bigger and bigger, and then we cannot afford them.
So, some newcomers, some classics, some old school ones, different types of music. A few years ago, dubstep was really popular so we had more. There was a portion several years ago that was more electro, so we just go on those waves. Techno came back… So that’s one of our strengths, to see and foresee what’s the new trend and to try to find and pick up some good artists.
So it started one stage…And now it’s two stages, is there room for more and do you see the festival expanding in the future?
We’ll see because the expansion for the last five years was more by adding more dates. We could not do electronic music seven days a week so we’re pinpointing for weekends. We started with only one weekend and then we moved to two weekends. It was two days at first, four days, six days and then we expanded to have the Thursday as well. We are now at twelve nights. Regarding the space on the quay, we’re a little bit limited because we cannot use the whole thing because the Cirque Du Soleil have a new show every two years, so we’re restricted.
It definitely has a more intimate feel..
Ya and that’s the decision we made a few years ago – [not to] have twenty or thirty thousand people in just one weekend show. It’s laughable to say that some nights we are ten thousand and that it’s still intimate, it remains a lot of people, but for us that’s important. Not to grow too fast, not to have two big stages and only be a show. It’s important for us to have different environments on the side so you can go in the fire pits, you can go in the pavillion to get warm, you have the stages, you have the activities. So those environments are really important for us. We started only as a music show, but it’s an experience, it’s a social experience.
We wanted to drag people out of their houses in order to tame the winter. And that’s what we’ve been succeeding at the for the last ten years. So people come out and play, they go back to their childhood. That was the main spirit behind the event and that’s why it was growing, because there was no offer of that. To do a party outside and to enjoy and embrace the city. So that was the thinking. We’ll see because this year we made a lot of changes on the site – we interchanged the main stage. We’re learning a new set up, so we’ll see after these four weekends what will be the next step next year. We’ll work with this. I’m not sure that we’ll go with a third stage. We’re trying to see if, when we’re closing at midnight or 12:30am, people are keen to go elsewhere. So we might go in that direction and add something more elsewhere, a follow-up, an after-party. We’re doing after-parties with some bars and people go, so maybe that will be the extension after the next few years.
The other thing is that it’s the 375th anniversary of Montreal next year so we’ve got some projects going on, and those projects go a bit beyond our borders here on the quay. There will be stuff during daytime, not only because it’s 18+ here, but to have activities. We’re expanding the ‘terrain du jeu’, the playing field, beyond our borders. So there’s two places we might go over the next few years.
Igloo has themes every single weekend over the past couple years, and now it’s the tenth anniversary, which was your favourite theme?
Themes, well we’ve had themes for the last two years and at first it was just the winter snowsuit contest. Once we started, people jumped on the idea and put on those silly suits – the silly, flashy old school [suits], people just disguised [themselves]. And now it’s not only the one-piece suit, but they put wigs on, they put glasses on. Some people make their own team, so there’s a bunch of mascots, a bunch of cowboys, anything goes, vikings. I would say it’s like Halloween during the winter time, a winter carnival atmosphere. And you can bridge peoples thinking where [someone might think], ‘Ah you look ridiculous with this style’, but you don’t mind. And of course with a toque and a scarf, everybody looks a bit ridiculous at the basis of the event.
We say, “Le ridicule ne tue pas” (Ridicule doesn’t kill). And once we thought about the concept of bringing people outside, we said we need to push the concept a bit further and that’s why we came up with this [idea], ‘Don’t take it too seriously, come out and play’ and it helped a lot for the ambiance and the atmosphere of the event, and that was the last ten years. After a few years, we wanted to go a bit further. That’s why there’s the fur team and the bling bling one – we went a bit further because people were keen on participating. There’s people just sewing their own suits!
What do you think attracts an artist to a festival like this?
It’s unique. They played all over the place, the big ones, all over the planet in clubs and bars and warmth, but here it’s something very special and unique. To play in that specific and unique environment helps, but the crowd – the Montreal crowd, the people that come and get into this ambience. There’s something contagious and people are really open minded musically in Montreal, not only electronic music but they’re a good crowd. DJs just feel it, and every year I’m always asking the people at the bookings, when they bring the artist back to the airport, ‘How did they find it?’ And [the artists are] just amazed by the energy that the crowd gives, and the ambiance. You know, when you have a snowy night it gets magical. And that’s why the word of mouth works a lot with the artist and the agencies, and that spreads fast and there’s a lot of people who want to play here.
Last question – besides a jacket, can you name the three things you can’t do without at Igloofest?
Good boots. Boots is the main thing because if your feet are frozen you won’t enjoy your night. The thing is to get an Igloofest hat because you’ll be in the spirit. There’s always flashy colours, weird matches, that came with the spirit of the event and the contest. The other thing is your smile, your good energy. Because we often say, yes we had the idea, we make it real, we set up everything, but the reason why it works is because of the people, and because they just jumped into the experience and make it so cool. It’s a microcosm because you have all kinds of people, ages, gender, orientation and social class and that’s what we like, [being] open minded. That’s why, bring your good energy, your smile and you’ll have a good time. Even if you’re not an electronic music fan, because there’s more to it than that. Of course, the music is there and people are dancing, and you need to dance to keep warm (laughter), but just come with a good spirit!
We had the chance to talk to Jimmy Edgar after an energy filled Friday night. He’s an artist beyond the booth, working on graphic design, painting and photography. After a dynamic set, he shared with us his thoughts on Igloofest, the creative process, energy and his favourite piece of production gear at the moment. Amidst this thoughtful exchange we also touched on sacred geometry, quantum computing and what inspires him.
What are you loving most about Igloofest?
Well, I just like that it’s a different concept. The people who are organizing this had the courage to try something different, in the cold. Whereas, most people, when they think of a festival, they think of summertime and having fun and I think it’s really brave and courageous for them to do something like this so I totally commend it.
Very cool. And you had fun up there?
Yeah, it was really fun. I mean the crowd was really up for it.
It’s not your first time in Montreal though right?
We hear you’re really into studio gear. What’s your favourite piece of hardware right now?
Right now its probably my Surge Modular. It’s like a banana plug modular system.
Is it Eurorack?
No, It’s not Eurorack – it’s its own format. It’s a very, very high quality modular system – I think it’s a Russian designer. I got it for the sound quality – I don’t really know much about it and it’s extremely experimental compared to Eurorack. The way you go about doing synthesis is not as logical or as straightforward as Eurorack modular. It’s very boutique-style. I think the FM on it is very good, which is pretty much why I got it. It’s a very specific kind of synthesis that I’ve used a lot.
Could you tell us a bit about your creative process as a producer or as a performer even?
I like to think of myself as an energy manipulator, in a way, because producing music is like sculpting vibrations to invoke some kind of energy. And typically it’s a personal relationship I have with it because I usually make music alone but as I’ve been DJing more and more, my relationship with other people has really improved and changed. (laughter) I feel like it’s a collaborative effort when I DJ. As much as a lot of DJs don’t like to admit that you play for the crowd, I’m an advocate for playing for the crowd. It’s very much like an exchange of energy, so it’s kind of like a dance, you’re like dancing with someone. So yeah, I’m fascinated by it and DJing has inspired a lot of my tracks recently, because when I DJ so much, then I get back into the studio, all of a sudden I’m still in the mode of performing so, it has yeah, a tremendous effect on my productions.
It’s definitely energy manipulation – that’s like a textbook definition…
I mean, you could look at anything as energy manipulation, to be honest. I actually read this amazing book recently, it’s called ‘The Mysticism of Sound and Music’ by this man called Hazrat [Inayat Khan]. He’s like a Sufi Master and that really inspired me because he has this very spiritual belief that music is like connecting with your highest self because of the way you lose yourself in music. It’s like a meditation, in way. The book is amazing, I highly recommend it. It goes on to explain how improvising with music and being musical and using vibrations is such a good way to connect with yourself and connect with other people. So that’s really inspired me.
Could you tell us more about your visual art and where you’re going with that right now?
I started out doing graphic design, painting and photography and doing things like this but more recently I’ve gotten really into sacred geometry and finding geometry within the human face and the human body. So, a lot of my work is trying to find shapes within the face, like circles, squares and triangles that make a certain ratio; it’s like trying to find the perfect architecture in a face.
Is that like Fibonacci’s Sequence?
Yeah, Fibonacci is used quite a bit in it. Because the ratio is like here to here [pointing to different areas on his face] and you know between the eyes, like if you measure the eyes, there should be one eye here and then two eyes here to the back.
Somewhat symmetrical, right?
Yeah, well, I mean basically the inspiration comes from 80s and 90s air brush artists, but I kind of wanted to take that a couple of steps further and use my graphic design background to develop an architecture behind the faces. So when I start on a piece, I basically start with just shapes and lines as though I’m an architect and then I go and in and airbrush and paint the rest of it.
I love how you talk about vibration, I think it’s a really powerful start.
Quantum physics really inspires me because it’s the scientific version of how everything’s connected and how vibration connects everything. But on the flip side it relates to spiritual teachings that have to do with intuition. I’m not an expert by any means, but it’s just a subject that really interests me, both on the side of quantum computers and also quantum theory.
By the time quantum computers come around, not that music will be irrelevant, but at the same time the whole world will change once it happens.
Well that’s a big question I have: When computers are able to get to that tipping point where they can sort of have that capacity of our brain power and they’re able to make music, what will be the defining factor between computer generated music and like fully human music. I think that at that point, we will be able to see the dynamic between something that’s artificial and something that’s dead. Maybe has something more than that like a human. And that could be a certain point where people could be like, “Oh yeah, actually humans do have a deeper capacity than something that’s artificial”
So we’re not going to go that deep anymore but…What inspires you?
I mean, to be honest, I’m really into internet culture. I’m always doing research on what young people are doing and saying. I have some friends that create memes and I find that fascinating, like the whole virtual culture that’s happening. So, not that that really inspires my music but for inspiration we would have to nitpick different things that I’ve done and then I could pinpoint different inspirations, but as a whole it’s you know, everything.
You make music by yourself, but if you were to collaborate with anybody, dead or alive, right now, who would it be?
Dead or alive? Off the top of my head it would probably be Luther Vandross. Because I think he’s got an incredible voice and he was an incredible writer and from the interviews I’ve seen of him he seems like a really cool guy to work with.
What should we watch out for from Jimmy Edgar in 2016?
I’m working on an album right now and I’ve been working on it for a while. It’s going really well so far but it’s a lot of work.
It’s a labour of love, right?
Yeah definitely. I’m focusing on that and my record label, Ultramajic. That keeps me really busy. I try not to tour so much because I like being in the studio. And actually living in LA, it’s pretty far from everything so it can be exhausting to do a lot of travel.
Well thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us Jimmy. We wish you the best of luck with everything.
Thanks, no problem.