Holger Troisch - owner of HT Events and organizer of the Nocturnal Culture Night (NCN), Kasematten and E-Only Festivals
It is always interesting to have the opportunity to look behind festivals' scenes. And that is the possibility that we have got now. At the Kasematten Festival, I was finally able to speak with Holger Troisch, owner of HT Events and organizer of the Nocturnal Culture Night (NCN), Kasematten and E-Only festivals. Here you can find information about the NCN 2017 and many other exciting and interesting things.
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: The first question actually refers to the Kasematten Festival, where we currently are now. Are you satisfied with the festival and the location and how is it going?
Holger: It is the third year we are doing this festival. It is a small festival in a moment of building reputation, but now it starts to establish itself. I'm happy about it. The location, and you got it yourself, is now unique in this way in Germany and I hope we will be able to continue Kasematten Festival here for a while. Otherwise, I am actually satisfied. It went without any problems yesterday, and will be the same today, I hope.
RoD: Now we are going to the NCN Festival. Two years ago you celebrated its 10th anniversary. How did you like the anniversary?
Holger: It was great. It was something special to say that the NCN has been around for 10 years and that we can continue it afterwards. This year the 12th Festival will take place already. It's nice and I hope we will have more amazing experiences at the NCN.
RoD: This is a very, very long time, how was the idea of NCN born and where does the name of Nocturnal Culture Night come from?
Holger: The name Nocturnal Culture Night has developed in such a way that we wanted to find a suitable abbreviation over the years. Meanwhile, it is called only NCN. The name Nocturnal Culture Night is no longer on everyone's lips, but it is basically the Nocturnal Culture Night and the Nocturnal Culture Night Festival. Nocturnal - nocturnal and culture fits the scene like pot and lid. The idea came from a situation that I have supported an event in the Kulturpark in the late summer where I saw the sunrise there. The Kulturpark was silent, everything was quiet, and I only saw birds. I am actually very romantic and sensitive person and I have thought I know the scene well, so why not to try? From 2003 to 2005, when the NCN was launched for the first time in July, I needed the lead time to get an idea of the infrastructure, how to do it. We started with one stage and barely one day. Now we are on four stages and meanwhile three concert-days and one arrival day. You can also say it is four days. Guests are already asking me for the fifth day. And I say, "NO!" In the end, my crew, who is completely behind me, would like to see me no later than the fourth day. Basically.
RoD: Do you remember your first festival? At first many things go wrong, isn’t it like that?
Holger: Yes, but I've suppressed a lot. After the festival I first said to myself: "You never do that again". It's just that you're telling it because it was so hard. To make matters even worse, I had an extreme allergy in 2005 and then in the Kulturpark… where all the pollen were flying. I took medications, but they did not work. On the weekend I could not concentrate festival, my head was permanently blocked because of the hay fever. I just did not know where front and back were… Looking back, you always make mistakes, but you learn from mistakes. I think we've learned a lot, otherwise we would not be here today. The first festival was a total fiasco, also financially. But I can rightly claim that despite everything that happened and the deficit that we got, I have not left anything open to anyone. It's all settled, it's all paid and I can look people in the face.
RoD: After this time, do you have any concept of a "stress-free festival" as an organizer? Is that even possible? If something goes wrong, it is, statistically spoken, rather the technique that fails or are they human factors?
Holger: This cannot be answered in a general way. Well, I'm a controlling man, my team hates me for it, but I've learned over the years to give responsibility to my team. That relaxed me. I have an ingenious employee at my side, who is my right hand at the festival, who could do everything for me if I cannot be there. This is also a relaxing factor for me. Somehow, each year, I want to look at that and that band, find out my highlights of the festival. And I actually can see only a fraction of these bands because, right in the moment, one of the toilets is clogged, there is something to be coordinated with the technique or picking up a band from the airport. And finally, when people are unsure, they always come to me with their questions. So no, it is not stress-free even after twelve years. The stress is different and it has also become a part of positive stress, which I take right into the preparation for next year.
RoD: Each year, you are trying to invest a part of your income into the improvement of the location. Last year, e.g. the new Weidenbogen stage became the second large stage. How do you decide what will be done this year and what improvements do you plan for the future?
Holger: So, as you said, we look back a little bit. We found the golden centre last year and brought a structure into the festival which is very beautiful, with the four stages also with the entrances. I would like to leave that as far as possible. We have had regular visitor growth, in a healthy way, it has not suddenly exploded, which is very important. At the 10th NCN, it turned out that we were going to have to do something for the escape routes because there were so many guests. Because of this, the new stage was created for the 11th NCN. So you're never in it, how it develops and what results come. But if you ask me now, if I would like to make something new, I would say that if I had money now, I would renew the access road again, asphalt or straighten it a little. At the campsite I would remove 20-40 trees. To do this, you need a root cutter to remove roots. Per root it simply costs between 40 and 70 euros, which adds up. I would invest in the future to make it even more pleasant for the guests and give them even more possibilities. Every year something small, like new toilets, more mobile toilets. So it will never stop. But the basic substance now stands as it is.
RoD: NCN is one of the few festivals where you can drink delicious young wine. Every year you can find this nice shop in the same place. It has even become almost an unofficial feature of the NCN. How did you come to this idea and cooperation?
Holger: The so-called wine stand. I met Pavel by accident. Pavel fell in love with the location, he is a natural person. From an initial business relationship between him and me out friendship grows, me as an organizer, he as a gastronomy and this friendship is very important for me. Little things, little friendships are very important in life and this creates the communication, which simply means "Come next year again" or something else, "May I then come back". I am the last one who says, "No, you cannot return." On the contrary, I am looking forward to seeing him every year. He's already coming a day earlier, just like that. Or he was even coming a week earlier, because he's mixed up the date. That's funny. You simply realize that we are all human beings and not machines. The stand is cool and as long as the NCN exists, I would like this stand to remain there. This is law for me. But let's see where the path leads.
RoD: When we speak about food: The choice of food is also not a standard one and very versatile. How do you choose the stands, what is their special value?
Holger: Oh, you caught me now. I'll tell you a secret when I tell you this now. I am a strong festival and concert visitor and I try a lot of things. I also go to food fairs and taste a lot there and then I talk with the appropriate dealers. It is important for me to have a lot of food, something for everyone and not 20 times the same. This simply creates such a situation. The beauty is also, of course, that restaurateurs and dealers say "Holger you have a great location and it is such a family feeling with your team and with the audience - we will come back gladly." And I would be stupid if I‘d say “No, you cannot come back" if it just works well. All this has emerged unconsciously and has grown over the years. It is simply beautiful and it should remain that way.
RoD: The NCN always has an interesting line-up. You can always find smaller bands and also those who play very rarely in Germany. Who is usually responsible for the line-up and makes the decision, who plays or not and how can a band be booked for the NCN? There is a request form for bands on the official site, how does this support you and have you found interesting bands this way?
Holger: We've also found bands using this form. The line-up, the festival lives by big and successful names, but also by insiders. I've seen quite a lot in the scene, many bands two or three times, some even ten times. Bands are developing further, developing positively in all directions. I would say from my own perspective that it is a coincidence to find bands that grow big. I now call for example KITE or LEGEND. I said with a gut intuition, we make this band. It's really a hut intuition that I have. We do it, we just test it. I just had luck with my intuition until now. It could have been quite different. But it's just a feeling of happiness when you realize that exactly this band you blindly sought out, and it's a blind book at the moment with such bands that they are accepted by the audience. You have every year 1-2 bands that work like that. Versatility is important for me. I cannot make a whole day electro, a whole day rock and the next day of the medieval music. The whole weekend must be mixed from Industrial, Neo Folk, and Synth Pop to EBM, the selection is huge.
We also have Minimal and Post Punk for two years now, which is also a very nice repertoire. Not for nothing, we had AGENT SIDE GRINDER last year, for me an absolute highlight. Or bands like HENRIC DE LA COUR, where you just look at the audience and you know if you did it right or not when their eyes shine. When people start singing at the 2nd or 3rd song, these are the confirmations. You just have to keep an eye on it, you have to watch the audience and how the bands work with the audience. Then it works as a whole thing. It is me who decides about the line-up and who plays in the end. And my team makes this choice together with me. I introduce the bands to them and await their assessment. We decide yes, that's good, we can take it or no, this one rather not. So it is the community, we are a team. Well, I am the organizer of the NCN, but we are a family, a family of 40 sworn people, who guard my back, give me freedom, and especially go to the festival and take free from work. Everyone has a normal job and says, “Holger, this week, these 14 days we want to do the festival together with you.” This is now also the case at the Kasematten and the E-only festival. I am so happy about this family, no one can imagine. Probably no organizer can imagine that one says, he has friends in the team who help him.
RoD: NCN is known for the fact that a band doesn't play the year right after their last appearance. However, there have been several exceptions in the last few years. The first time, as far as I remember, it was a band which was booked for two festivals, NCN and Blackfield, two years one after another. What is so special about LEGEND for which you have made such an exception and also to KITE, in which this has been repeated?
Holger: That is not totally right. We have a voting. Whoever gets the most votes, this bands can play again next year too. We already have it four or five years. For booked bands, that have higher costs due to travel etc., I decide. I took the right to say, as an organizer, I look at a band from the weekend, which I personally like very much. The next year they will come again, on another stage, in another slot, again with more publicity in front of more people. LEGEND was great, KITE has then made a quantum leap, even at other festivals, etc. From last year, ME THE TIGER will come back. This is the third band with which I'm doing it this way, and I've decided to keep this rule. So, this is my personal choice and my wish.
RoD: Holger, to make festivals, a person must also be a great music lover. What do you like to hear privately? What are your favourite bands? Can you name the top three or top five of your favourite bands?
Holger: My family hates me for my CD room. You could use it in other ways, but this is my holy shrine. For the five bands that have determined my life, I can definitely call one and that is U2. I am a very big fan, U2 have extremely formed me, from the beginning to now. My next formative bands are SISTERS OF MERCY, ANNE CLARKE and JOY DIVISION. And if you go to the present time since I first had KITE at the festival they are in my mp3 player, the CD radio and my system at home and they cannot be missed and I run them very regularly. I am very happy about it. I could call hundreds of other bands, but to name a few with which started what is very interesting for me today. Big bands like PROJECT PITCHFORK, VNV NATION are already ingenious bands and genius entertainers on stage, wonderful, wonderful. I am amazed that Steve Nagavi from AND ONE can entertain the audience for three hours, the greatest respect for this. And that's what many other bands do. We can now infinitely continue with the names.
RoD: Which band(s) of this year's festival are you looking forward to seeing again? Do you have any insider tips for the future?
Holger: Oh, 50 bands and I must now again select only one. So what I absolutely want to see, read me briefly, DRANGSAL. This is something quite interesting for me, so Arabic, I have seen them at WGT, at the Kuppelhalle, in the second concert hall unfortunately from far back and therefore it was sound-technically a bit unhappy. I want to get a picture of this band at the NCN.
RoD: Are there bigger bands that have never played at the NCN, but you would like to have them as a headliner?
Holger: A lot. The problem is and I am standing honestly on a limitation, the capacity of the NCN is 2,500 visitors. If you can calculate a little bit, think a little bit economically, you know that with 2,500 visitors the world of the festival scene and the black scene cannot be reinvented. And either it happens that a band says, "Cool location, we want to play there", then you can negotiate about appropriate payment, but there will always be bands, which for me, for the NCN, are unattainable, but I will love to have them there.
RoD: Since 2015, HT Events has also organizes the Kasematten and the E-only festivals. This means a lot of work and takes time. Have these additional festivals influenced the NCN, because you have to plan your time for more events or does the NCN have the highest priority as it was before?
Holger: I try to work with all festivals in the same way, from the way of working. Of course the NCN with the capacity and band selection is the biggest festival that takes most of the time. That's why I say, as long as I enjoy being able to do it, as long as I feel like it, I'll do it. If I ever realize that it is no longer what it is to be, I will, as sorry as I do, stop. When will it be? This can be tomorrow, can be in 10 years, you never know. As long as I have my crew behind me, I will continue these festivals. If my crew says at some point, we can no longer, for professional or for family reasons, which would be quite normal and I speak at that moment of my biggest core crew, which I have. These are about 15 people. If one of them starts saying, “I stop”, I begin to think about how long I will continue, because the friendship is more important to me than my account. I have learned in the last few years that one is much more pleased about a completely different experience than about the bank account. There are much more important things in life. You have to have money to live. But you can also make beautiful things, experiences and live with little money, without fear of the next morning.
RoD: And finally, a few words to our readers and visitors of the NCN Festival:
Holger: Come back, in such good mood as the last few years. Be happy that we can do the NCN. I hope we all have nice weather. Although the weather factor at the NCN is really unpredictable for a September weekend. We had already minus degrees and we had almost 40 degrees in the sun. It is all possible and I say accordingly: from this point of view, we are moving forward, we are not standing, we are developing more and more and it will remain so in the future.
Interview by Daria Tessa
Pictures by Daniela Vorndran (http://www.vorndranphotography.com / http://www.facebook.com/blackcatnet)