Image Credit: Dom Bowman
Barry Ashworth needs little introduction, he’s the frontman to the Dub Pistols and has collaborated with nearly everyone in the industry at some point in his life. He’s also renowned for his ability to party, so it’s no surprise he’s expanded from his early club promotion years and drawn deep into his little black book of contacts to throw one of the wildest parties on the festival calendar.
The Mucky Weekender is in it’s fourth year, having grown modestly from a small gathering of just over 1000 people in the first year. I was fortunate enough to go to that one back in 2019 and I had an absolute blast. It’s more a gathering of friends and family than big festival vibe, and it’s intimacy is something Barry is keen to nurture rather than to push the boundaries of ticket sales and build it into a monster.
We caught up with the man himself to find out more.
We’ve put a lot into this year, which is a bit risky I suppose, everything has gone up in price, and it’s a tricky time for everyone as the country is in a mess. With Interest rates going up it’s another hammering blow to the industry that’s been on it’s knees since covid. I just felt like we were in a corrupt and an uncertain time, like pretty much going back to the punk 1970s, Ska era, Margaret Thatcher in charge, interest rates through the roof, a corrupt government that didn’t give a flying fuck, and I feel like that’s where we are now. It’s not the case now that people don’t want to go out and party, but that people just don’t have the spare money. We took the decision that even when we sold out our next tier ticket allocation, and we moved into our final tier that we would just keep the price the same and try and save people money.
We’re a fiercely independent festival and I’m lucky enough that most of the artists and performers are people that I know, have a relationship with and trust which does mean we can put on a really solid mix of artists. We’ve moved sites since the first one, and the current site is beautiful pristine parkland, we are the only festival using it and it’s a lovely setting. It’s the perfect size, it’s not far between everything, so you don’t have to spend hours trapesing about from the campsite to the stages. We’ve got four stages so it doesn’t take long to move around so you don’t miss anything. It’s really something I’m proud of from the whole team involved.
There’s obviously a lot of people you’ve collaborated with, your new Album which features quite a few of them. There’s definitely a bit of a blurring line between performances, which I felt at the first Mucky Weekender, with people coming in on stage, people like Rodney P and other collaborations, is that something we can expect this year?
Rodney P @ Mucky Weekender 2019 (Image Credit: Matt Day)
It’s fantastic, because it’s not very often that we can afford to put on, or I can afford to do a show with all the artists that work on our album. This way I get to put some independents to do their show and then do a finale with the biggest dub pistol show that we can possibly have ever pulled off. Which you’ll get to see more of the artists and hear more of the tracks that you’ve ever done. I mean our show at Mucky, for a festival set is probably one of the longest festival sets that you’d expect to hear. That because we’ve got all those artists coming on.
Image Credit: Dom Bowman
So was the new album something that came out of lockdown?
I think I’m a bit of a workaholic, I finish one thing and I start another! Lockdown was really hard for everyone. The music industries been thrown under the bus! The hospitality, the arts are very much part of the British DNA. It’s one of the great things that we’ve always had, and to be told like we were at the time that we were unviable we need to go find a new career it’s just like, what? It’s just heartbreaking and it caused a lot of people to lose their mind , I think it’s driven the mental health situation through the roof.
Before it was perhaps a more taboo subject, but suddenly I think people who didn’t understand mental health, suddenly found themselves suffering from their own anxiety and stress. So if there can be a good thing that came out of it, is that it got more people talking about this.
That Brings us nicely onto ‘Tonic’ and your involvement in that charity?
I can’t remember how many years ago, but a long, long time ago, along with Terry Hall. I went down just to do some fundraising for them. They asked me if I’d become a patron for them. I sat down and talked to them, understood what they were about, what they were trying to achieve. And for me, you know, music is the most basic, primitive way of expression. It does leave you euphoric, it can lift you up, take you down, take you in different moods, and you know, the mantra of recovery for music just made total sense to me.
So, I got involved, I became a patron, I do a once a year flying circus, which I get a load of people strapped to a bi-plane. It’s the most incredible experience and I think to date we’ve probably raised over £100,000 doing it, so I mean that’s something I’m immensely proud of.
Seanie, who’s in my band, he’s an ambassador for the charity now and while he won’t strap himself to the aeroplane because he’s too scared, but he runs a charity football match for them now, so it’s something the Dub Pistols are very close to.
Many musicians are introverted, I think the industry itself is littered with cases where things could have been avoided. But I think obviously the lifestyle doesn’t help, the late nights, the drinking, the substance abuse that most bands have all been through. That rejection, bad reviews, it’s a vicious cycle and it’s a vicious industry.
So just being able to help anybody that’s gone through it, having gone through it all myself, for many, many, many years. And it’s actually the thing that gives me the most therapy, is being able to help other people, and seeing that you’re helping other people. So for me, it’s my therapy.
So what more can you tell us about Mucky Weekender 2023?
This year we’ve gone with an outer space theme. We’ve thrown so much more into the production, staging and lighting. There’s a spaceship! Everythings just gone up a whole different level. Having The Selector there obviously great, and 2 tone was a massive inspiration to me, so that’s going to be quite special.
We’ve got Goldie and Mungo’s Hifi, but we’ve really mixed it up this year. We’ve got Faith takeover which is the old ‘Boy’s Own’ crew of Terry Farley, Smoking Joe, Stuart Patterson. We’ve got Bez with his ‘Acid House Party’. It’s a real mix up.
We’ve got the shack up in the woods, which is just beautiful and we’ve just put a lot more production up into that now. We’re fully ready to launch into space this year!
Tickets are running low now, so don’t delay in getting your ticket. See you in the field!