The respected DJ on refusing to cut his hair, the merits of Adele and booking the Village People for Bestival.
Getting up for your 5am show on Radio 1 on Saturday mornings must be tough.
I don’t do it live every week, sometimes I pre-record it. But when I do it live, so long as I’ve had some sleep, I can get through it. I’ve got three little boys aged one, three and five and they get me up pretty early anyway.
Do you decide what to play in advance or is there room for spontaneity?
It’s pre-planned, but only a few hours beforehand – I’m often downloading tunes during the show. In this digital age, things can keep coming up until the last minute and you can still accommodate them.
A few years ago you would know a week in advance what you’re going to play. Now it’s much more fluid – but that means you have to really be on the ball and play the latest Magnetic Man as soon as you get it. You’ve got to jump in quick.
You’re renowned for championing leftfield music – is now a good time?
God yeah, it’s never been better. I’ve been DJ-ing for 15 years and there are so many people making so much great music. If anything, there’s too much of it, not too little. And that’s the danger – there’s so much to listen to that you might play something only once on the radio and then let it drop, without giving it a chance. With so much music around, you need to have your wits about you to decide what’s going to make it ?and what’s not.
How long does it take you to decide whether you like something or not?
Five seconds. I get through such a quantity of music each week – I still get sent 300-400 CDs each week and hundred of MP3s. If you’re listening to something unknown and unsigned, you need to make a very quick call on it. Hopefully, after doing this for so long, you’ll ?get the right ears for the job.
Have you got the right ears for the job?
I hope so; not too big, not too small and perfectly formed.
How did you get your stage name?
I never have a funny answer ready for that one. When I started DJ-ing 15 years ago, someone at the bar where I was working shouted out, “Call yourself Rob da Bank”. It’s stuck. Even my parents call me ‘Rob da Bank’ now, which is ?a bit weird.
You once described your long hair as giving you Samson-like powers, is that why you never cut it?
On one end of the spectrum, I imagine it does, but obviously that’s just total bullshit. I think ?it’s more because I don’t like hairdressers.
What’s your view on this year’s ?Mercury Prize shortlist?
I like it. I’ve heavily supported seven out of the 12 artists and I’ve got six of them playing at Bestival.
I’m a fan of Metronomy, Ghostpoet, Everything Everything, even Adele and Tinie Tempah.
You might look at Adele and Tinie as safe bets but even a year ago they weren’t as astronomical as they are now. They’re still pioneering stuff. So it’s a really exciting list.
You founded Bestival and curate it each year – how do you choose the bands?
?It’s all quite selfish really … I just pick the bands I really love. Bestival is always a good mix between vintage and new – from Brian Wilson and the Village People to The Cure and PJ Harvey, who are all performing at this year’s festival.
But there are also a lot of up-and-coming bands that are heading to the top, so that’s how I try to work it out.
Erm, the Village People – where did ?they spring from?
They were due a bit of a renaissance and their agents got in touch. I’m sure a lot of festivals would turn their noses up at that sort of thing, but I have no problem putting on some daft acts as well as pushing boundaries. Embarrassingly, some of the biggest people we’ve had over the past few years have been Rolf Harris and Mr Motivator. A lot of people just want to have ?fun and the Village People will deliver that.
Would you draw the line at the Wombles? Michael Eavis didn’t seem ?too impressed to have them at Glasto. I’d book the Wombles possibly, yeah.
At Camp Bestival, our family show, I’ve booked Zingzillas, The Gruffalo and Mr Tumble – he’s like Elvis to kids. There’ll be very cool bands like Mark Ronson And The Business International and Primal Scream, but when Mr Tumble comes on stage he’ll get the biggest cheer of the weekend. It’s an odd business.
-Interview by Alison Grinter