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Frank Kimenai talks about the Incubate Hardcore Fest

Every year in September, for a week, the city of Tilburg (The Netherlands) is the place to be if you’re into underground music, artists and movies. Besides lots of shows in venues all across the city, the Incubate festival also organises debates, art exhibitions and performances in the city centre as well as in the country side. Unlike every year the upcoming edition also features a hardcore fest on saturday. Reason enough to ask Frank Kimenai, one of the organisors, just how much of Incubate goes back to his own hardcore roots.

One of the ‘rules’ or reasons why you guys started with Incubate was to have people come and watch bands they normally wouldn’t see. In previous editions hardcore and punk bands would be playing all over the city in different venues and on different days together with bands from other scenes. So why did you decide to concentrate a large part of the hardcore bands in one venue on one day?

Well, that’s basically a very practical reason. I really wanted to book the Trial package, since I used to be a pretty big fan of the band. However, I also wanted to create some value for money, since the daytickets for Saturday are 22,50. I thought of a way to do that from a hardcore fan’s point of view, namely to put up a hardcore festival like the ones I used to visit in de mid nineties. We also wanted to program some cool bands in the Hall of Fame, which is an excellent venue for this kind of music, so therefor, I thought of the idea to put together a “festival in a festival”. Besides 8 cool hardcore bands, ranging from different styles and backgrounds, we also have distro’s, a bookshop, vegan catering from Just Like Your Mom, and the people that have an Incubate ticket, can also use one of the Netherlands biggest indoor skateparks, the Ladybird Skatepark, which is situated in the Hall of Fame, for free. All in all, I think this is good value for money, and also a cool way to have an overall “hardcore experience”.

It’s questions like this that make me realize how privileged I am to have this job, by the way. In the speed of things that go by, you tend to forget the things you accomplished.

Trash Talk, Paint It Black, On, were all bands that played on previous editions. Which hardcore and punkbands that played Incubate so far did really drop your jaw? And why?

Well, to be honest, I didn’t manage to see all of them, since that is the burden of a festival organizer; you need to work during the shows, and therefor miss out on stuff you booked yourself. Besides that, I already saw most of the bands before I booked them, so I kinda knew what to expect. But, from the top of my head, Trash Talk was insane. Gewapend Beton proved in 2008 to be one of the best Dutch punkbands ever. Also the total punk nihilism of Adolf Butler and the beerbottle throwing Polish punks, will stick to my head, as well as the WIRE show in the Muzetuin. And ofcourse, one of my favorite Swedish punkbands ever, Masshysteri. Too bad they recently broke up. Both records are instant classics and these guys played 2 shows on one day during the fest in 2009. Amazing band. It’s questions like this that make me realize how privileged I am to have this job, by the way. In the speed of things that go by, you tend to forget the things you accomplished.

Incubate is always looking for the lesser known bands I think. Yet this year you have Trial headlining and a band like No Turning Back on the bill as well. Why did you really want to put these bands on the Incubate festival? 

I was talking to Martijn of No Turning Back earlier this year, and we both agreed that 2011 should be the year that NTB finally plays our festival. I’ve asked them five times in a row, but these guys are just never around…hehe… Besides that, Incubate is indeed about getting to know new bands, but we always place new bands in a historical context of older bands. We always booked old time favorites, like Radio Birdman, The Damned, Wire, Neu, Sun Ra Arkestra, etc. We want to show both the old influencial bands that made a difference, paved the way for the newer bands, and show new developments in music with new and unknow bands. Besides that, better known bands sell more tickets…

I also remember last year discussing with you about having a Youth Of Today reunion set on Incubate, which you thought wasn’t really something that Incubate should do. But a year later you have put up another reunited hardcore band from the States. What’s the difference?

Good one, I forgot about that one. But indeed, I didn’t really like the Youth of Today reunion. Mainly, because it was their second reunion, and the reviews of the first one weren’t that good. And I doubt their motives. Don’t know what the motives of Trial are, but they are affordable, bring over 2 new bands that people are siked to see, and sound sincere to me. I guess that there’s not really a big difference, besides the fact that this booking feels right, and booking Youth of Today just didn’t. Don’t know if my intuition is right, but there’s no real rational reason for it.

Besides music Incubate is a lot more, like movies and debates. How did you get Steve Ignorant from Crass to come and do a lecture?

We are really proud to have Steve over. Crass and their heritage of DIY attitude has always been an influence. Directly and indirectly. When we were thinking of doing the DIY conference, we immediately thought about Steve and Crass. He’s had a little controversy over him last year, but he’s a clever guy with an outspoken opinion, and he wrote an excellent autobiography, “The rest is Propaganda” about DIY ethics and standing up for what you believe in and be outspoken about it. And face it, we need a little engagement in these days.

Popculture and counterculture, 2 cultures from which we thrived, come from an activist and outspoken background. We want to be more than just a platform for a lot of bands.

There’s also a lot of media coverage about Why Deny Fascism a conversation with Rob Riemen, do you think politics still have a place on festivals and is this something you took with you out of your nineties hardcore roots?

Yes. I definitally think that politics have a place on festivals. As a matter of fact, this question is the very reason we booked him. Popculture and counterculture, 2 cultures from which we thrived, come from an activist and outspoken background. We want to be more than just a platform for a lot of bands. We want to make people laugh, cry, enjoy themselves, and ofcourse, think! There’s place for a lot of opinions and political points of view on our festival. This year’s theme is “We Are Incubate” which basically deals with participation in culture,  doing things yourself and doing things together. We believe that this will make better persons of people. If you have common experiences, you accept people easier, and you get along better. You learn from each other. This lecture is basically what happens if you exclude people, stigmatize them, and corner them, to a point that they can’t defend themselves. We see developments like this in our society and political system nowadays, and thought it was time to stand up against it.

Furthermore, I have to say that in the ‘90’s, I wasn’t that politically conscious as I am nowadays. I was outspoken, ofcourse, but it seems that today, in my own way, politics bother me more than in my early twenties. I have more direct relationships with the political climate nowadays, and all that right wing fascist neo conservative so-called “Christian moral” political shit talk that is sold today, it makes my blood boil. So yeah, fucking stand up against it, I say!

Journalist Micheal Azerrad will also attend the festival. He’s known for books as Our Band Could Be Your Life. This book is about the eighties DIY scene, do you think the things he has experienced are still valid today in the age of digital music and setting up shows through facebook? Or will his keynote speech be largely about how great and exiting things used to be in the past?

His keynote will not be a blast from the past. He will talk about new developments, and compare these with his old experiences. Ofcourse a lot has changed, communication is faster, and worldwide. It might be easier to get contact with people abroad, but I think the competition also increased due to this. So, part of his experiences are still true, I can only confirm from my own experience that bands are still poor and drive around in crappy vans for miles and miles, from one shithole to the other. I guess that will never change. But building and maintaining a worldwide network of kindred spirits has become easier. And that’s a good thing. I’m siked for the speech by the way, I devoured his book. Really enjoyed it. I might get fanboy on him, and ask him to sign it. It has been lying in my desk for weeks now…

In times of financial crisis, everybody has to contribute. However, the way the cultural sector has been framed as “subsidy addicted” and “leftwing hobby” really got me angry.

There’s been a lot of rumor in the Netherlands about the government cutting back on the cultural budgets, Do you fear this will also have an influence on next year’s Incubate? Do you think you’ll have to be more commercial in order to stay in the black numbers?

Yes. This will indeed influence us. Part of our income comes from the different art funds in the Netherlands. However, we never took that for granted, and since we are an organization that found it’s way from the bottom up, and never had much money, we can produce things relatively cheap, compared to the big cultural organizations that will be hit hardest. Besides that, we always tend to spread our income model to as much partners, sponsors, and funders as possible, not depending on one big government funder. I think that we basically have been financing our festival in a form that most festivals need to adopt, to survive the cutbacks. And that gives us a small advantage.

Another thing about the cut backs is, that I’m not against the cutbacks itself. In times of financial crisis, everybody has to contribute. However, the way the cultural sector has been framed as “subsidy addicted” and “leftwing hobby” really got me angry. They basically took a piss at the whole sector, fucked it over, and fucked it in the ass after that.

To answer your last question. Being more commercial is not a bad thing. I think it is our duty to organize this festival with as much money derived from the market as possible. We’ve spent the last few years developing an artistic identity by investing in art, music and other things we stand for. That costs money, and there are subsidies for that. We built a solid base with those subsidies. In the next few years, Incubate will grow, and is going to program bigger bands, expo’s and activities. We want to increase the impact of the festival. But we do this from a steady artistic base. And we will also keep in touch with the more obscure side of things. One thing doesn’t rule out the other. But by programming bigger, and creating a bigger impact, we are able to generate more money from the market, which I think is a good thing. We will stay true to our values though, and maintain our ethics and esthetics as much as possible.

If you look across the border in Belgium, they have hardcore and punk festivals every weekend during the summer periods. Why do you think this is much less common (if not almost extinct in The Netherlands?) Is it really so hard with all the regulations etc to organise a festival here?

Pfff, that’s a tough question. When I grew up in the hardcore scene (old fart alert here), we had festivals everywhere, both in Belgium and in the Netherlands. That is indeed not the case anymore, but I don’t know why there are so few festivals in the Netherlands, because it’s not too difficult to organize something. I mean, just go to your youth center or local bar, and drop the idea. These things can be put up relatively low budget, all you need is a lot of drive and enthusiasm. But that might just be the thing that lacks here in the Netherlands. Belgian kids seem to be more driven than Dutch. Last time I witnessed that, was with the whole “Dead Stop / Justice” wave of hardcore, in the mid 2000’s. These Belgian kids were all over the place. Organizing shows, getting US bands to Europe, doing fanzines, starting record labels, etc. I haven’t seen that in the Netherlands the last 10 years. I think it’s basically a mentality thing. Maybe Dutch kids are too spoiled and lazy. But I don’t want to end this interview with a negative note, because there’s examples of pro-active bands and kids in the Netherlands as well. Martijn of No Turning Back, Jonne of New Morality, you guys with this zine, but also more contemporary hardcore scenes, that we tend to talk down on. Bands like Forget to Forgive or Haribo Macht Kinder Froh might not be your thing, but these kids really do stand out, and are active doing stuff. That is definitely a good thing!

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