Richard Lynn and Ingebrigt Haker Flaten Talk Sonic Transmissions 2017: festival heads discuss adventurous music festival’s 2017 lineup.
Billing itself as “Austin’s Newest, Most Vital Jazz & Experimental Music Festival”, Austin, Texas’ Sonic Transmissions festival is one of the most unusual fests in the Lone Star State capital, showcasing underground music, often in an improvisational context.
The festival, now three years in the running, runs September 14th-16th (taking place at Barracuda, Kick Butt Coffee, and Kenny Dorham’s Backyard & Victory Grill, respectively) features a diverse mix of genres, featuring everything from punk, hip-hop, jazz and cumbia, with acts from all over the world.
I recently had a chance to speak to festival founder Ingebrigt Haker Flaten and presenter Richard Lynn (owner of Austin’s Self Sabotage Records) about what attendees could expect for this year’s lineup, which certainly sounds like an intriguing event.
Enjoy the full Q&A below.
Questions 1-3 by Richard Lynn, owner Self Sabotage Records, Presenter STF
When did you first become involved with Sonic Transmissions and what drew you to the project?
I attended the festival the first two years and loved it each time. Last year, I was sitting there watching Black Spirituals play, and the crowd wasn’t as big as it should have been, and I thought “people would love this festival if they only knew about it.” So I decided to try and help if I could. I believe Ingebrigt has built Sonic Transmissions into the best music festival in Austin in only its third year.
So this is the third year of the festival. How has it grown over the years and what can audiences expect this time around compared to the last two lineups?
Each year has provided incredible performances by artists from around the world. This year we believe that Ingebrigt has put together the best lineup yet. I often say that if someone were to attend every session of the festival, they would be treated to a musical trip around the world.
One thing that separates Sonic Transmissions from other Austin music festivals is its diverse roster: what criteria dictates how the festival is curated, and which acts are you most excited about seeing perform this year?
There simply are no rules, other than bring together the greatest musicians from around the world into a mishmash of music that will blow you away. Many festivals tend to have a narrow selection of bands; Sonic Transmissions is the opposite. Ingebrigt and I were watching Lung Letters at my label’s showcase during SXSW earlier this year, and he loved them. It was his first time to see them, and he turned to me after it was over and said “I want them to play the opening night of the festival.” And I said, “That’s crazy and that’s why I love you.”
I don’t believe there is any set in stone criteria when it comes to the bands that Ingebrigt selects to play the festival. He basically seeks out the best of the best from various musical genres and locales from around the world. One of my record labels, Self Sabotage Records, is presenting the first night with Astral Spirits Records, and not only do we have Lung Letters on the bill, we also have incredible jazz/improv musicians such as Joe McPhee, Ken Vandermark, Susan Alcorn, and Ingebigt himslef, among others. But it’s too hard to pick who I am most excited to see, the festival is full of incredible musicians.
Questions 4- 7 Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, festival founder/curator/ musician
Another thing that makes Sonic Transmissions stand out from the pack is its improvisational aspect. How do you decide which acts will do improv sets together, and how important do you think it is to showcase that aspect of musicianship?
The curation of this festival is based in strong musicianship, everybody we present are masters within their game. So let’s say, when we put together Susan Alcorn, Ken Vandermark and Joe PcPhee, or Charalambides with Joe McPhee –all with almost a lifelong experience within improvisation- we believe this will create new and fresh music because as improvisers their all brilliant and we know that in a meeting between such musicians something special will happen that cannot be planned for! It’s as exciting for the musicians as it is for the audience!!
I’m also a professional musician and travel the world meeting new people all the time through situations like this, my experience in this field help me create a lineup where improvisation becomes an important element and somehow the ‘red thread’ between all the artists on this festival.
I was also curious how the daily lineup is structured given the variety of genres represented in the festival–what is that process like? I imagine it’s more complicated than other more homogenous music festivals.
Our goal is to create a daily lineup with a focus on strong musicianship and which is not genre specific, we wan’t to give the audience a new experience every day by presenting something they will find familiar with something that’s new and unfamiliar. Like having a particular audience that are there to listen to Carmelo Torres being surprised with a set by solo guitar and banjo maestro Brandon Seabrook. Or when people come out to hear local punk hero’s Lung Letters they will maybe also get a surprise when listening to Susan Alcorn playing the Steal Guitar in a way they never thought was possible…and so on!!
I see that there is an Indie-Gogo campaign associated with the festival. What are some of the unique perks that donors can receive for helping to fund Sonic Transmissions, and what other ways can supporters get involved?
Supporters can sign up for volunteering through our website (under Support Us). We can use help with production, artists and more… it’s a great way to get to know artists and to get an inside view of how the festival operates! Everybody who sign up and do a few shifts for us get a free festival pass for the weekend.
And those who donate through the Indie-Gogo campaign get the following:
a unique print by local artists Lindsey Verrill
-a unique EP by Ingebrigt Haker Flaken
-a unique mix-tape with tracks chosen by some of the festival artists.
-a screen printed and signed festival poster
Well that wraps up my questions: Is there anything else you’d like to mention about this year’s Sonic Transmission to potential attendees?
This is a chance to see incredible artists and bands from around the world at a great price!
You can buy tickets and keep track of all things Sonic Transmissions by clicking here for their official website.