Boomtown’s Head of Music
February/March Chart 2022Listen
Meet Kaptin Barrett… DJ, festival programmer, and all-round music addict based in Bristol, UK, who just happens to be the Head of Music for one of the UK’s largest independent music festivals, Boomtown.Read full Interview
BRISTOL, UNITED KINGDOM
Kaptin Barrett is a DJ, radio presenter and also head of music for Boomtown Fair, the UK’s fastest growing and most ground breaking festival.
His latest alias (pron. Triple A Badboy) is a nod to his long term involvement with festivals, dating back to the days of manning the Glastonbury gates as a 5 year old (with his Dad’s supervision of course).
The term is used by festival crews for an Access All Areas pass but Kaptin also wanted a project that allowed him to explore across his wide ranging musical tastes, so don’t expect the same mix twice.
Under many other pseudonyms and projects, Kaptin plays regularly at most major alternative UK festivals such as Glastonbury, Bestival, WOMAD, Secret Garden Party, Green Man, Festival Number 6 and of course BoomTown. He has also recorded mixes for various radio stations including BBC Radio 1 and BBC 1Xtra.
Kaptin Barrett INTERVIEW
IRIE. Take us back to the beginning… how did you get involved in the music industry?
KAPTIN BARRETT. I’ve been a music lover since I was little. My very first memory is Notting Hill Carnival, as we used to live right in the middle of it, and I’ve been following those heavy basslines ever since! It wasn’t till much later that I realized music could be a career, though. I left school at 14 when my school refused to let me do my work experience at Spillers Records in Cardiff as I was too naughty. About five years later, I became manager of a record store in Swindon, increased my collection by about 500%, and became a DJ. That was it for me then; I was in for life! I started putting on lots of events, hosting radio shows, and working with troubled kids, teaching them how to rap and DJ. Then, when I performed at the Glastonbury festival as a rapper in 2004, I realized that I wanted to work in festivals.
IRIE. Do you remember your first year at Boomtown Fair? Was it smooth sailing for you?
KAPTIN BARRETT. Haha, not at all; it was very hard work. I always say that putting on festivals is basically just problem solving with added music. You really have to be resilient and have the attitude that you can fix any problem that comes your way. It’s all worth it in the end when you see everybody’s faces having the best time of their lives.
IRIE. How do you keep up-to-date with the new bands coming out that will eventually perform at Boomtown Fair?
KAPTIN BARRETT. I am constantly plugged into music; I spend a lot of time checking magazines, websites, radio, new releases, live gigs, streaming platforms, and I also get sent hundreds of new tracks each week. Of course, I also have a number of people I trust to recommend me music. I think that organic approach is important.
IRIE. As the Head of Music, how do you decide on the final lineup for each chapter?
KAPTIN BARRETT. This year it’s been an equal collaboration between myself and James, who used to be in charge of the more electronic stages but now we share most of the festival between us. We each have our areas of expertise, and then of course we have other programmers who we pretty much trust to deliver a great line up. There are lots of things we have to think about: availability, ethics, diversity, crowd flow, cost, and of course, if the artists give 100% live, we don’t want anybody looking at their phones!. Thankfully we have decided not to release the lineup this year, so it’s not about the brand name; it’s just about the music.
IRIE. What are some of the important factors that need to be in place to ensure you put on the best Boomtown Fair?
KAPTIN BARRETT. We are a fully immersive festival; we create a whole imaginary world for people to get lost in with incredible stages and theatrical performances. There’s about 50 of us in the office, and it takes thousands of people on the ground to make the festival before any of the public arrive. We need to make sure that everyone has done their job to the best of their abilities, so we have all the licences, staff and equipment we need, and a great lineup of course!
IRIE. Are there any highlights from past chapters of Boomtown Fair that are most memorable to you?
KAPTIN BARRETT. So many! Every year there are a number of mind-blowing moments because we are a theatrical festival. We’ve had elections, protests, revolutions, corporate takeovers that eventually get shut down, and so much more, you really do feel a part of it when you are there. Some of my favorite live performances over the years are Gorillaz, Lauryn Hill (even though people got upset she was so late), Anthony B, Kabaka Pyramid, BCUC, Amadou & Mariam, Chronixx, Toots & The Maytals, Jimmy Cliff, Lady Saw, Dubioza Kollectiv, Cat Empire, so many more, it’s hard to remember. That’s before we even start with the DJs.
IRIE. You DJ under the name AAA Badboy! Will you be performing this year?
KAPTIN BARRETT. Yes, absolutely! I’ll probably pop up a few times. Maybe a Reggae set on one of the sound systems, a Soca set in one of our street parties, and a Jungle set in the Woods, perhaps.
IRIE. For someone who’s never been to Boomtown Fair, what can they expect from this year’s event, which is five days?
KAPTIN BARRETT. Yes, this year, Boomtown is a five-day event. We’ve had a two-year break, which allowed us to pause and reset the festival for the next decade! It’s been a great chance for us to look at things creatively, and really embed our values and the things we feel passionately about into everything we do.
Anyone coming this year can expect a festival experience that is even more magical than ever before. As always, we have the hugely creative set designs, art, and immersive theatre with our most diverse lineup yet. All the action takes place within our fictitious city, which is split up into different themed districts. For 2022 we’ve got brand new districts and of course the return of some old favorites.
Each district is made up of a main stage which is a new concept and a whole host of smaller more intimate venues. They’re full of hundreds of actors and performers who, alongside the programming, bring it all to life! In fact, we’ve just announced our districts with a series of trailers, which give you an insight into what you can expect! You can find it on the website!
Alongside this, each chapter has a storyline that underpins everything we do and plays out during the show. Chapter One: The Gathering introduces Boomtown’s vision of a new world, one that focuses on reflection, acceptance, respect, and reconnection with yourself, each other, and the planet. It is a time of celebration, a time to come together, a time of gathering.
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to share with our IRIE audience?
KAPTIN BARRETT. Just in case anyone was worried because we are not releasing the lineup this year, reggae has always been an important part of what we do, and that hasn’t changed. We have some great live bands, incredible sound systems, and selectors. We cover so much music but I would say that we still have the best reggae selection of anyone else in the UK. Long may that continue!