Interview: With Andy Clark of Wallapalooza Festival.

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Yesterday the line up for Wallapalooza festival dropped and its creator Andy Clark could not be more chuffed with it this year. Going back to its grass roots and focusing on the amazing musical talent the Gold Coast has to offer, this is one line up that will well and truly rock your socks. Andy’s love and passion for music runs deep “Music chooses you. If music is in your heart and your soul, you can try and fight it as much as you want. You can try and deny it as much as you want. But you will never be at peace with yourself or anyone else if you do…”

So this year sees 10 years of Wallapalooza! you must be extremely excited?

Yeah it’s a little bit bewildering that we have actually been going for 10 years. It started off as a little side project to try and get some exposure for original bands. I think the first year I had five bands and this year we are going to have the fourth year in a row of over 30 bands. I think I have got 34 this year. It is quite humbling when I look back at it.

The First Wallapalooza was back in 2009, how did the idea first come about?

Well I used to book the entertainment for the Coomera Lodge Hotel. I used to do a cover band festival there for a venue manager. It was quite successful; we were pulling upward of 1000 people there. Then in the last year I started getting back into some original music and I started putting some original bands on the line up. The venue manager moved to The Wallaby, we had formed a good relationship and he said I want you to do another festival here. I said I am only going to do it if it’s originals. There is enough cover bands going on in the scene. The Gold Coast at the time had Shark Bar and Cooly and nothing else. There wasn’t much for the original band scene at all. The guys had nowhere to play to bring in some numbers. So he said as long as you make it a success, we will do it! And that is how it formed.

Where did the name Wallapalooza come from?

We were sitting around having a couple of beers one day and we were thinking of names. First we were thinking like Wallastock, Wallastein. Then something came up on line about Lollapalooza and we went yep! Wallapalooza. So it was a bit of a play on words. We wanted something cool. At the time I never thought I would still be talking about it 10 years later. I go down to Melbourne and hang out at Cherry and talk to Muso’s and they know my festival! so from what was just a catchy funny name, it is amazing how far it has come. I suppose I get a little bit choked up about it. I am very much about the bands. I have one band that has done every festival for me, The Molotov. It is amazing to see how far it has come and to see how far the scene has come. There are a few things I love about it. It is seeing the connection that these bands make with punters. If you see one person connect with one band on one song, in the day, and it has an impact on their lives then my job is done. But it is so much more than that. There are people that are following bands to show after show now since seeing a band at Walla. You know, they had first seen them at Walla 4 years ago or 6 years ago. So there is this connection now, it is almost like a family. I call them my Walla family.

Creating something like Walla is a great way to support local bands and musicians, is that one of the reasons you started doing it?

The demise of the Gold Coast industry was absolutely shit. Council started stepping in and the first thing was The Play Room. When the Play Room shut, it began the rapid decline of the Gold Coast music scene. For me it was basically a bit of a f*** you to the establishment so that original music has a place. I wanted to give it a voice. That was the key part about it. I was quite angry with what I was seeing. I had a young daughter coming through as a very gifted musician and I was like seriously in 10 years time, where is she going to play? You look at the changes in the scene now and I like to think that the growth of the Gold Coast industry had a bit to do with people like me who grew a set of balls and stuck it to the system and stood up for the scene. The scene has a voice and The Gold Coast is thriving now.

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Where did your love and passion for music come from?

My Grandfather was a drummer. There was always music around me. My parents are completely tone deaf so it skipped a generation *laughs* I have grown up with playing in bands my whole life since I was a kid and I used to play in a fairly successful band in the 90’s. I was a full time musician until I was 25. Slowly the scene became dilapidated because of all the bullshit that was going on. I still play; I am still an active working musician. As it turns out two of my kids are very musical. Music is not something that you choose to do. Music chooses you. If music is in your heart and your soul, you can try and fight it as much as you want. You can try and deny it as much as you want. But you will never be at peace with yourself or anyone else if you do. So it is in me. Anytime I think am I spending too much time on music? The question just answers itself. You just got to walk into that venue, usually about 10:00 at night and I just look around at the faces that are engaged in the band and that sort of sums it up, that’s enough for me!

The lineup is amazing this year; you must be over the moon with the lineup?

Yeah I think I am a little bit more than that. I am a little bit chuffed with this one. It was only about 3 years ago I started bringing in some heavy hitter bands, like King Of The North was one of the first big bands I brought in. I had Area 7, I love Steve and the boys, they are amazing. This year I wanted to bring it back to its grass roots. Its grass roots are Gold Coast bands; I mean that is what I started it for. I made a decision not to bring in a touring headliner. I wanted to make it about the people that made it happen *pauses* Sorry I get a bit choked up about it. Those guys are the reason I did it. I’ve chucked some bands in there that a lot of people don’t know that well and they are going to knock some people the f*** over because there are some seriously talented musicians in there.

What is the first thing you look for in a band when you are creating your line up?

For me, the first thing I look for is all about their work ethic and professionalism. If your head is up your ass, I won’t come near you. I get over 400 bands a year apply. You’re a local musician, the ones that come to me and get my attention are the ones that come to me and tell me what they are going to do for Walla, not what is Wall going to do for them and tell me why they want to be a part of Wallapalooza. Because that shows they are passionate about what I feel. If you’re passionate about the local scene and are active in the local scene and you promote bands, then they’re the sort of people I like. I have never announced set times for Walla ever. You can’t find out the set times until you get to the venue. You are there to support all the bands, not to just play your set and then f*** off.

You have a lot of talented and creative people helping make Wallpalooza the best it can be, it must be great to be surrounded by such a great team of people?

Yeah my crew is like my family. My stage managers and my production team, they’re my rocks. Walla doesn’t run without good stage managers, you can’t do 34 bands on three stages and run on time without great stage managers and I have got the best. I love my guys. My production team, I never skimp on production. The biggest part of my budget goes into production. Last couple of years I have got my little army of volunteers, this year I am calling them my Wallanteers. And I only have one person for merchandise and that is the queen of merch, Jo Bushing.

So this year Walla will be held at both the Gold Coast and in Brisbane?

The Gold Coast will go over three nights. Thursday night is the Wallajam. I look for artists that haven’t made the bill; especially young bands. As I said I get over 400 bands every year and there is not enough time for me to get out and look at all the bands. So last year I said you can come to me, so I had a night where the bands could come and try out. There are three bands that are playing Walla this year that all came from the jam night. Then the Friday night is Wallaprelozza, it is a nice heavy little lineup; which you know about. Let’s just say it becomes a little bit of a Crises To Collapse, but if he keeps his Level H up, he’ll be right until he gets to the Goldblooms…

 What does the future hold for Walla?

I don’t have plans. Each year I sit down and it gets near to Walla I ask myself what the f*** are you doing? You said you weren’t going to do this again. And then I get to the end of Wall and I have such an amazing day and then two days later when I am in the fetal position and I think I am never f***ing doing that again, and then I shut myself off to the world and social media for about 2 weeks and then by the end of the 2 weeks I am already starting to think of the next thing. So I can’t really tell. I promised everyone I would go to 10 years. Where I go from her I honestly couldn’t tell you. I think the more support I am starting to get now is great. I used to have one offsider, Lish, she was awesome. We used to do it all by ourselves. I used to do 5 or 6 cities in a row. I got a bit burnt out and lost my way. Last year I put my hand up for some help and I had an army of wallanteers come out and help me and that made a huge difference. Last year was the easiest one for me. So if I keep getting volunteers of people helping on the day to share the workload with me then the sky is the limit. Brisbane is the test. We can’t say a lot about the Brisbane one yet, but we have a lot invested in the Brisbane one this year, so we will see how that goes.

GC Live loves Wallapalooza and chatting to Andy was an absolute pleasure and honor. Wallapalooza festival hits The Wallaby on Saturday the 15th of September with WallaJam on Thursday the 13th and Wallaprelooza on Friday the 14th. Make note of these dates and make sure you can get there because this is going to be Walla’s best one yet!

30+ bands. Awesome Metal DJ. 3 stages. Free entry. Gold Coasts biggest Toga party (that’s right it’s a dress up party this year!)

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