The first thing I want to get right for this festival is the location – the post industrial backdrop of the former coal mine at Big Pit in Blaenavon. It’s a reminder of what made us – the Industrial Revolution. I can see all these relics of industry cutting stark shapes against the night sky.
Another thing that would set it apart is a nod to the film Repo Man. Whenever you saw products in a supermarket the packaging would read “bread”, or “meat”. It reminds me of Richey’s lyric from our song All Is Vanity: “One bread, one milk one food, that’s all.”
I like the idea of redressing the balance. Taking away the distraction from what you came to the festival for in the first place. So there will be a stall – bread. There will be a stall – meat. There will be a stall – soup. There will be a stall – beer. And there will be a stall – spirits. Every product will have to be sourced within 20 miles (32km) of the site. There will be no more than two of everything, which gives you a choice, but also reminds you that it’s not why you’re there. We’d play, but it’s not about us in any way. The line-up is very uncompromising. We’d have to include Russian Circles, who are an instrumental post-metal band, Golden Void, who have a heavy psychedelic rock sound and White Hills, who are almost beyond categorisation.
Then there are artists like Titus Andronicus, Deerhunter, Royal Blood, Courtney Barnett, Bill Ryder-Jones and Gary Clark Jr. There would have to be a Reincarnation tent for older bands. Rush are invited. So are Einsturzende Neubaten, who have been together since 1980 and use scrap metal to make their music. Dinosaur Jr have to be on the bill too. The big attraction however, would be Budgie, from Cardiff. They were one of the first heavy metal bands. They’d have to play.
I can sense the instant reaction: “Oh it’s just white guys with guitars is it…” and that might be a criticism that sticks. But the lines are so blurred now that there’s a real value to what bullet-nosed guitar music can actually do to a few thousand people in a field.
With that in mind, the festival takes its name from a rare Gretsch guitar produced in 1957 called The White Penguin. The White Penguin at Big Pit will keep people guessing; and I kinda like that.
There is only one other distraction from the musical fare and that’s a gallery of art. Featured artists include Kevin Sinnott, who paints these wanton romantic versions of his experience in the valleys. Mike Jones portays people who have grown past their usefulness; and then there’s Neale Howells, who just rips everything apart and refuses to give you the instructions on how to put it back together again.
The main focus, though, will be on the music. It will be a recognition of just how important it is. There’s hardly anything that ignites 20,000 people to feel the same genuine emotion as one. This festival will bring that feeling back.