Be Prog, My Friend
Opeth, Steven Wilson, Magma, Between The Buried And Me, The Pineapple Thief and more descend upon Barcelona in July. They play the third edition of a rapidly evolving festival that celebrates beautiful and intriguing music in and beautiful and intriguing setting (pictured below). We speak to festival cultivator Juan Antonio about all things Be Prog.
Interview: Phil Weller
So first of all, when did idea for Be Prog, My Friend first come about – talk us through its history?
Be Prog! was an idea I’ve had in mind since around 2010. If you open my old notebook you can see notes, ideas and budgets written from the very first page. Finally in 2014 we started with the first edition and a clear concept: A mix of the old and new celebrating a great kind of music that wakes up your senses and is played with incredible talent and technical precision. This kind of music is called “Prog” and we take the widest sense of the word.
The setting is a very unique, what made you want to host it in Poble Espanyol as opposed to the traditional ‘festival in a field’?
From the beginning my intention was to create something different. I’d rather do nothing than book another “copy/paste” festival you know? So, for a “classy” festival with great music and talented artists, the location was a very important choice. I was looking into different places, thinking and deciding on the possibilities, and when I visited Poble Espanyol my decision was immediate. It’s the right place for the festival and the festival is the right event for that place. It fits perfectly.
Poble Espanyol is close to the centre but not in the very centre of Barcelona. We have very good transport links by, car, train and the subway. It’s easy to get to by plane from all over Europe and from a lot of places all over the world so, the location is the right one and the city is probably the best choice you can have for a festival in all of Spain.
Opeth co-headline the festival this year which is their second appearance at Be Prog, the first band to do so. What is it about the band you like so much to invite back?
Opeth are co-headlining alongside Åkerfeldt’s friend, Steven Wilson. Opeth as a band represent perfectly the different types of music we love so they’re a very important band for the festival. We love all their eras, from the very beginning until the present day. We love bands who take risks, innovating and creating different music without caring about what people could say, just creating their art for themselves. Artists with these values are always welcome at Be Prog!
You’ve also got Magma performing this year, what does it mean to you to have such a prestigious, classic act on the bill?
Having Magma is a very big honour! They are living legends and a very important band for the music scene, unfortunately without the recognition they deserve. For this year edition I wasn't sure in which “classic” artist to include and it was Steven Wilson personally who recommended me to include Magma. So he made up my mind for me and we went straight for them. We are very glad about this!
Across the three line-ups you’ve assembled for this festival, you’ve had a nice balance of classic prog (Magma, Camel, Fish) and modern acts (Tesseract, Devin Townsend) and had a great mix of light bands and extremely heavy bands, how important is that diversity to you?
It’s the key to the festival. We need and we want diversity for the festival so the audience can see new bands they’d probably never see before. I know a lot of the people who come to the festival and many times tell me “Dude, thanks for discovering X band for me, now I can’t stop listening to them” and things like that are very gratifying.
What is the progressive scene of Barcelona and Spain like, is there much scope for the festival to showcase local, underground talent?
Definitely. There are a lot of great bands doing a very good job. Not as many as in other countries because in Spain we don’t have “legends” of prog like there are in the UK. But we do have some very good bands building their musical careers here and starting to gain popularity in the rest of Europe, which is great...
An incredible band with an great capacity of innovate and create with every album they do. With Mantiis they impressed the world and with A Year With No Summer they reconfirm that are a band with an incredible potential. Don’t miss them at Be Prog!
Exxasens Not a “Prog” band but tags are not necessary… Back To Earth is a great masterpiece of instrumental rock which if you like bands as Mogwai or Explosions In The Sky (just to make an idea…) you should try with Exxasens! Catch them also at Be Prog! 2016.
Nowdays the most important instrumental rock band in Spain. Their melodies and passages will drown you in a beautiful atmosphere… essential.
What does the term ‘progressive music’ mean to you?
For me it means the “progression” of a band throughout their career and how they can innovate and create without limits or any restrictions from the tags or the labels that the press and audiences might try and attach to them.
I love the bands who are able to do whatever they want, whatever they feel without fear and this for me is “Prog” music. Of course it needs to be well played and accomplished, but this should be applicable to most of the music, even if you’re in punk or garage band the music needs to be well played.
This is just the festival’s third year in existence and already it seems to be gaining a strong following and a favourable reputation, where would you like the festival to progress to – if you’ll excuse the pun – in the next three years?
It’s going as planned. The festival needed a few years to become known to the potential audience out there and the plan is to keep working hard to convince the fans of the amazing music we have to come. We strongly believe in this project but of course it’s nothing if the audience don’t want to come. Being established without losses and a good reputation, bringing great artists to play every year is a good plan for us!
Be Prog takes place in Barcelona 1st-2nd July 2016. For more information head to http://beprogmyfriend.com/16/en/home-2/