Gimme Your Answers (Beyond the Stage): An Interview w/ Jonny Dovercourt

Jonny Dovercourt

Ever wonder what happens beyond the stage? Well we do. These roadies, managers, guitar techs, lighting directors, publicists (and even positions you may not have known about) make the music you love come alive! In a recent interview, A Music Blog, Yea? spoke with Jonny Dovercourt, a musician, writer, organizer, and the founding director of Wavelength Music Arts Projects. Before the start of 2014’s Wavelength Music Festival, Jonny and AMBY discussed artists he looks forward to seeing, craziest festival moments, favourite venues in Toronto, and more.

AMBY: Hello Jonny, thanks for speaking with us today! We can’t wait to cover WL14 this year. How did you first get into your industry?

Jonny Dovercourt: Thank you for your support and interest! I’ve been involved in the indie music scene since I was in high school, playing in lo-fi noise-punk and “shoegaze” bands. I never really envisioned having a career in music, it was more a bug I couldn’t get out of my system, that’s stuck with me since then. I found a real sense of community and togetherness through music, making true, life-long supportive friendships. Out of university, I started interning at Eye Weekly (which later became The Grid) doing their concert listings, and that immersion in Toronto’s wide-ranging music scene led me to help create Wavelength.

AMBY: Explain to people what you do.

Jonny Dovercourt: I’m the director of Wavelength Music Arts Projects, we are a non-profit, community-oriented concert series dedicated to presenting immersive live arts experience and championing new and unheralded artists from Toronto and beyond.

AMBY: Which artists do you look forward to seeing the most this year at Wavelength?

Jonny Dovercourt: Of course, it’s never fair to ask a curator to play favourites, but I always look forward to hearing Colin Stetson play, I think Gambletron will be really interesting – she had us at “radio-controlled theremins” – and I’m looking forward to getting my ass kicked by Biblical. I’ve also really been digging the Cousins record and haven’t seen them live since they played Wavelength at Sneaky Dee’s 5+ years ago, so that should make for an electrifying conclusion to the festival.

AMBY: What is the craziest thing to happen to you while organizing the festival?

Jonny Dovercourt: Probably still the craziest thing was back in the early days, the year Lullabye Arkestra played a certain long-running rock club, which at that point had just recently opened under its new ownership, who had tried to clean it up and turn it into a “fancy” event venue, which was seen as very distasteful by those of us who were attached to its previous identity as a grimy rock club. Lullabye provoked a hectic, yet loving mosh pit – the kind where everyone is dancing and pushing frenetically but everyone is still taking care of each other, no one is getting hurt and no big dudes are showboating – and this eventually involved pieces of the drum kit surfing across the crowd along with band members…. and a few mics getting dropped. All in good fun, no harm done, or so we thought…. until one of the other organizers and I found the club owner screaming at us, demanding we replace his expensive microphones. We offered to replace the grilles on the mics – a $10 cost at most, but he wanted us to hand over the (over-inflated) value of the full replacement. We refused. I will never forget him screaming at us, “are you not human?!” I appreciate a venue owner being upset with people for being disrespectful towards your equipment, but his reaction was completely out of proportion to sense and reason. We ended up getting his mics fixed for him – if memory serves, it was a long time ago – but we never went back to that particular ex-rock club.

AMBY: Which venues in Toronto are your favourite?

Jonny Dovercourt: Ooh, again, asking me to play favourites… I like various different venues for different reasons. The Garrison is still our home-base and a great, multi-purpose live room. The Monarch is awesome for smaller, quieter shows – and has both a baby grand piano and a good selection of bourbon. Handlebar is a really good hang, and the perfect place for a smaller, anything-goes type show. The Great Hall is wild for its variety of rooms and performance spaces, and it’s been cool to see what Long Winter have done with it over the last 18 months. Creatures Creating is a cool little two-floor gallery/event space with a real sense of community around it. And Dan Burke has been working magic, bringing golden oldies the Silver Dollar and the Comfort Zone back to life in recent years. Small venues are where its at in Toronto, and with the notable exception of Massey Hall, I’ve never really connected with any of our larger rooms. That said, I’m looking forward to doing our first show at Adelaide Hall – a large room by our standards – it’s got a wrap-around balcony and a similar atmosphere to NYC’s Bowery Ballroom, and they’re taking care of a lot of artist-centric details that are setting them apart. Should be a great venue for Valentine’s Wavelength with Marnie Stern and DIANA!

AMBY: What is the best and worst thing about your gig?

Jonny Dovercourt: Best: doing what I love, creating life-changing experiences for artists and audiences alike. Worst: battling against the prevailing attitude that if you’re doing what you love, you shouldn’t be getting paid.

AMBY: What are some of your favourite things to do outside of music?

Jonny Dovercourt: Sleep, drink coffee, go jogging, explore cities, travel outside of cities, read science fiction, watch nature shows, go on bike treks, cook healthy food, read science non-fiction, go to galleries, watch a comedy, mix a cocktail, spend time with my awesome ladyfriend and our hilarious kitten. He’s a Bengal cat – they’re athletic, adorable, smart, mischief-making little leopards.

AMBY: Which three albums changed your life?

Jonny Dovercourt: Hüsker Dü- Zen Arcade, Television – Marquee Moon, Can – Tago Mago

AMBY: What was the best release of 2013?

Jonny Dovercourt: Sarah Neufeld – Hero Brother.

AMBY: And lastly, what’s something about you that nobody knows yet?

Jonny Dovercourt: Whatever it is, I prefer to keep it that way. :)


Follow Jonny on Twitter here. And, of course, thanks to Jonny Dovercourt for giving us his answers! Click on the photo below for more information on the festival.


Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

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