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Interview with the organizers of Maifeld Derby festival

30.05-01.06.2014: A festival in Mannheim, Germany by music lovers for music lovers
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After introducing our Greek readers the idea of Maifeld Derby festival, it is just the right time to have an interview with its organizers. Timo Kumpf (a member of the fabulous German band Get Well Soon) and Matthias Rauch talked to Mix Grill about the idea of the festival, its first three years of life and the anticipation just two weeks before Maifeld Derby 2014 starts. Timo Kumpf is the head of organization and booking and basically the person responsible for the entire festival. Matthias Rauch works for the Clustermanagement Musikwirtschaft Mannheim & Region, a department of the City of Mannheim supporting all the people working in the music industry in Mannheim.

1. Can you briefly describe us the idea behind the festival? How did the "field of May" start?

Timo Kumpf: It all started as a childhood dream. I’ve always wanted to start a festival and after some years of working in the concert business I finally convinced my partners to start this project. Of course, the idea changed during the years, adapted to our personal preferences. We like to host the party we’d love to go to ourselves, that’s our motivation.

Matthias Rauch: The festival is really a big communal production. The city of Mannheim offers a great number of music festivals all year round, ranging from electronic music, classical as well as jazz and world music. However, a proper indie pop festival had been missing for a long time. This and the fact that the city of Mannheim provides a very extensive network of contacts and support made it apparent to start the Maifeld Derby Festival in Mannheim. I think there is a unique combination of municipal support for music and creative industries and a great network of sponsors from the business world and, of course, this interconnectedness and interdependence is what we are trying to strengthen and enhance at the Clustermanagement Musikwirtschaft.

2. You define Maifeld Derby as a "festival for lovers" (Liebhaberfestival). What else apart from music should such a festival incorporate? How do you complete the festival experience?

Timo Kumpf: This expression mainly refers to music. We introduce a lot of new bands and we expect music lovers to pay attention and give them a chance. But there are, of course, also other details: for example sustainable area management – we were nominated for the Green Operations Award at the European Festival Awards 2012. We are always trying to ensure short distances, high comfort, local food etc. For us, it’s a family thing and the family consists of all musicians, the crew, partners and us.

Matthias Rauch: Timo’s programming pays close attention to detail and I think it becomes obvious. He always tries to come up with an interesting and surprising musical script for the festival. He also looks to incorporate other genres such as literature or film and is thus working on providing a very multifaceted cultural experience.

3. Do you have any festivals as a paragon?

Timo Kumpf: We’re influenced by a lot of international festivals as we’ve been on the road for many years as musicians of Get Well Soon (and we still are). We made some great experiences in France, Spain, UK, Benelux and, of course, Greece, too. Those festivals are lovelier in a way when compared to most German festivals.

Matthias Rauch: I think there is probably not one particular paragon, but we are trying to create a very special and intimate atmosphere at the festival, because that is what we appreciate as festival audience members ourselves.

4. What is the biggest problem or challenge that you have faced since the beginning of the festival?

Timo Kumpf: Unfortunately, it’s money. We’ve been working for almost 5 years on this project and never made a penny. But as we decided to work as professionals in this business, we have to change this without reducing the quality of our program. Follow your heart vs follow financial calculations. It’s a challenge every day.

Matthias Rauch: The festival is a big communal event in the true sense of the word and we rely on over 130 volunteers in order to make this happen every year. Although we certainly have to come up with ways to put the festival on more stable financial grounds, it is clear what an important part of the cultural landscape of Mannheim the festival has become in the last years. People believe in this festival, because they believe in the concept and the music. Mannheim would definitely not be the same anymore without the Maifeld Derby.

5. German radios keep playing Cro, Sido, Kraftklub, DieToten Hosen etc. all the time. Some of them sound interesting to us and other completely dull. How do you perceive the German music production during the last years?

Timo Kumpf: Do you want an honest answer? Most of the stuff played by big radio stations is crap; always the same songs and no courage to play good music. But, of course, there are smaller radio stations with good taste, too. We have great bands in Germany, mostly influenced by electronic music. I am thinking of bands like Hundreds or Moderat, for instance.

Matthias Rauch: I think this phenomenon is not limited to Germany, though. It seems to me that it basically comes down to mainstream vs. independent radio. Of course, it would be desirable to have commercial mainstream radio play more interesting, ambitious and courageous music, but I am afraid this is not going to change very soon as long as the paramount goal of commercial radio is “continued listening”.

6. Is Maifeld Derby a place for young German artists to express themselves?

Timo Kumpf: Yes, we have some young bands in our line-up. The request of those slots is huge and we focus on our region. This year, we will feature for example Bled White, Laura Carbone and Eau Rouge, some very promising acts from South Germany.

Matthias Rauch: Of course, Timo does not solely do this for German artists, but the entire line up offers a lot to discover and there are plenty of artists that certainly will be huge a few years down the road. So you can always say you saw them first at Maifeld Derby!

7. The National is most probably the biggest name ever to come to Maifeld Derby. How did you manage it? Do you see it as a step towards maturity?

Timo Kumpf: This is huge and we still can’t believe it. On the one hand, this was very lucky, because we asked at the right moment. On the other hand, it’s a result of the very good reputation that we were able to establish for ourselves during the first years. But I don’t see it as a step to become a big player. We don’t want to become bigger than a 5.000 capacity. I personally don’t like bigger festivals.

Matthias Rauch: Same here. I believe that the most important is to maintain what Maifeld Derby stands for: integrity, a cozy atmosphere, good people, good food and great music. I don’t think we are willing to compromise any of those aspects in order to grow. If you desperately intend to grow you have to make aesthetic compromises, which, I think, we are not willing to make.

8. Could you name:
- the best concert that has taken place at Maifeld Derby?

Timo Kumpf: I have never seen a complete show in three years, so that’s hard to tell. But especially in 2013, I was overwhelmed by a lot of shows, for example Daughter, The Notwist, Sizarr, Royal Canoe, Gold Panda, Sophie Hunger, Efterklang. That was a very good year!

Matthias Rauch: I really enjoyed CocoRosie, Efterklang, The Tidal Sleep and Daughter last year, just to name a few.

- the artist that you haven't achieved to bring to Maifeld Derby despite your persistent efforts?

Timo Kumpf: It took me 15 months to get Daughter and it was a great feeling when they finally confirmed. Maybe someday that will also happen with Foals, who I’ve approached four times now.

- the artist that you die to bring to Maifeld Derby but haven't approached yet?

Timo Kumpf:  Last year I might would have answered The National.

- a highlight of the three first years of the festival, apart from its musical part?

Timo Kumpf: It’s always great to connect bands and people that first met at Maifeld Derby. Daughter and Notwist seemed to like each other, Efterklang and Royal Canoe collaborated afterwards and there are many further examples. Music connects people.

Matthias Rauch: Even though I might sound like a hippie, my personal highlight is simply to see so many happy people in one place celebrating what they love: music. We weren’t all that lucky in terms of the weather for the first three years, but that didn’t seem to bother anyone. People had a splendid time, nevertheless, and this, I think, is because of the special atmosphere at Maifeld Derby.

9. Do you aspire to have foreign visitors or is it satisfying just to attract the attention of the German "music-Liebhaber"?

Timo Kumpf: Of course, we’re also aiming to have foreign visitors. We’ve been working on some cooperation projects (hotels, travelling, etc.), but, as we’re only a small team, we haven’t reached all our goals yet. To be honest, we weren’t even able to have some English news on our website. That’s a long process, but we’re working on it.

Matthias Rauch: Being the humble person that he is, Timo is understating this aspect a little. There have been international visitors to the festival from the beginning and the international response to this year’s line-up has been amazing so far. The international media attention has been very good so far, too.  The best indication might be that we are doing this interview with you right now.

10. Why should someone visit Maifeld Derby 2014?

Matthias Rauch: You should visit Maifeld Derby 2014 because of all the reasons mentioned above. If you are looking for great music and great people in a unique location and a very laid and intimate atmosphere then Maifeld Derby is the place for you to be from May 30th to June 1st.

11. Any last minute surprise that you would like to disclose?

Matthias Rauch: There is going to be an after-show party for the first time this year with some very special guests.

Mix Grill will be at Maifeld Derby 2014 and will keep you updated with everything that will happen in this Liebhaberfestival!!

Maifeld Derby official page
Maifeld Derby @ facebook

Enjoy the Spotify list featuring artists that will appear in the festival.

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