In the Middle with inner city electronic’s Ben Thompson

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“The collaborative nature of the event is extremely important to us as a festival… we want to be representative of a culture, a scene and a city.”

Whether you’re preparing for a dissertation, visa application or Ryanair flight to get as far away as possible, there is only one feeling coming out of Leeds this Easter break: an unfathomable excitement for the city’s most anticipated electronic music festival, inner city electronic. Just this week, a second wave of artists was announced, as well as a number of venue line-ups, including the return of Hessle Audio originator Ben UFO to Wire. It is fair to say that the hype is definitely growing around the city, so In the Middle caught up with inner city electronic founder, Ben Thompson, to discuss the festival in more depth…

Firstly, it is worth commending the diverse repertoire of artists scheduled to play this year. Who should we be most excited for? Anyone in particular from the second release of artists?

Thanks, I am personally excited to catch Leifur James as I am yet to see him perform. His music seems to be pushing the boundaries of how electronic music can be incorporated with other genres, so it should be good to witness something a little different here.

I am also really looking forward to Carl Finlow’s set. I have worked on some of his recent releases via 20/20 Vision and his music never fails to surprise me. Plus when you have seen quotes from legends, such as Andrew Weatherall, praising him so highly you know he is someone you need to check out.

Kelly Lee Owens is also up there on my list. I have definitely rinsed her album since I came across her last year and I am looking forward to seeing what she brings to a DJ set. Octave One, DJ Stingray and Afrodeutsche are all pretty up there for me too; the list could go on. There is also a whole host of great up and coming talent on the bill, Bobby, Kerouac, Baba & Ganoush, Cosm and Pleasure Connection are a few others I will be aiming to catch sets from.

It’s been 12 months since the first edition of the festival, what have you been up to during the past year?

It’s crazy how quickly a year fly’s by… inner city electronic has pretty much become a full time job, so a lot of times gone into planning this years edition. Other than that we have been working on our next run of releases for 20/20 Vision and have some great electro on the way from Carl Finlow, Kosh, Ataxia and more.

We have also just hosted the first ‘Exit Planet Earth’ at Sheaf St, a new event series from the label combining visuals from local artist Paul Miller, with live streamed performances from some of the best emerging electro in the north.

From Resident Advisor to more local, philanthropic hosts like Cosmic Slop or Brudenell Groove, Inner City Electronic truly encompasses a community-focused festival, are you guys involved in any other charitable activities within the local area? 

There are so many great not-for-profit organisations in the city, all doing incredible work. It’s inspiring to see this within the local electronic music community and our focus is to do what we can to help support them through inner city electronic as a project.

Whether that be getting them involved in the line up, contributing to these causes, or hopefully helping to increase exposure and awareness of these projects. It’s something we’re really keen to build on as inner city electronic continues to develop.  

Your core aims focus on communication, cooperation and collaboration – an incredibly refreshing outlook on electronic music events. How important is inter-industry collaboration in ensuring music events and festivals do not become another money making exercise?

The collaborative nature of the event is extremely important to us as a festival, it’s like telling a story, we want to be representative of a culture, a scene and a city. If there’s only one person telling that story then the narrative is going to be limited. It also really adds to the excitement of the project, each person brings a fresh set of ideas and a new take on things.

Providing a platform for artist development through educational insight is one of your key pillars, so what future plans outline your commitment to increase the potential for upcoming talent residing in Leeds?

This is something I’m working on now actually. We have recently announced a collaboration with Music:Leeds who launched an open call for emerging artists of all genres to submit music for support.

This will offer funded recording sessions for 10 artists, which will provide advice on releasing and distributing music, outline live opportunities in collaboration with ourselves and various other festivals, as well as mentoring from a variety of people within the music industry, including Ralph and myself (You can check it out here).

We’re always eager to find new local and emerging artists to join us on the line up for inner city electronic and have a great selection of homegrown talent joining us for 2019. This year we’re also hosting a full series of panels based on artist development, which should allow us to go into much more depth, hopefully providing people with a variety of valuable insights from artists, managers, label owners and more.

Finally, can you tell us a bit about the upcoming Crazy P live show at The Tetley?

I’m really looking forward to the Crazy P show. When Leeds International Festival asked us if we wanted to host a day and night party on the grounds of one of the most iconic buildings in the city, it was pretty much a no brainer!  

...and is there is anything you can reveal about the secret locations for this year’s event?

I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait and see on that one.  

Tickets for inner city electronic festival 2019 are available here. Stay tuned for any more news relating to the event.

(Image: inner city electronic/2020recordings)