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From The Ground Up: NeXTones tell us how they transformed a marble quarry into an AV festival

If you’ve ever wanted to spend your holidays in Italy, sipping wine and eating fresh cheese on a hillside, the time has come to book a flight. Taking place between 20 – 21 July 2018 in a breathtaking marble quarry near Lago Maggiore in Northern Italy, NeXTones is a two-day festival that combines all of the incredible landscapes, delicious food and electronic music you could dream of.

The lineup for each edition of NeXTones focuses on edgy live performances and DJ sets, combining immersive visuals projected on the carved marbled walls with experimental tonalities, including the likes of Robert Henke who will present his A/V laser show ‘Lumiere III’, Ben Frost & MFO, Petit Singe, the Italian premiere of Gosheven, plus performances from Max Cooper, Scuba and Tyler Ov Gaia.

We caught up with the festival’s team to find out more about NeXTones’ origins, the associated intricacies of setting up a festival in an open air marble quarry and the Xperience: a brand new format which is being introduced this year, allowing participants to explore the surroundings during the day, and fully dive into the festival’s unique melange of ancestral and futuristic ambiences.

Interview by Vittoria de Franchis

Firstly congratulations on the fifth edition of NeXTones festival. Please can you introduce yourselves and tell us where you are from and how you first met each other?

Maddalena, director and founder of the festival, is from the area (Verbania); Nicola, project manager and developer is based in Milano; Danilo, the artistic coordinator was based in Milano and is now living outside of Italy.

Danilo and Nicola already shared previous projects like MiTo SettembreMusica (Festival based in Torino & Milano) and they worked at the very first edition of NeXTones (still called Tones on The Stones) launched by Maddalena. Now we are a core of long time collaborators and some new ones as well. We are trying to coordinate a team spread over three different regions.

What did you do before setting up the festival? 

Maddalena is an Opera singer, Nicola was mostly a producer with a strong experience in the fields of the performing arts, Danilo is a music promoter and founder of the booking agency Basemental.

NeXTones is part of Tones On The Stones (hence the name), a much larger festival focussed on classical music, jazz, dance and opera. What provoked you to setup an event focussed on electronic music? 

Our aim is to reach out to a younger audience. We would like electronic music to become something a lot more natural. Moreover, digital arts and contemporary music perfectly “fit” in the context of a marble quarry.

Your location is remarkable. There are not many festivals taking place in a marble quarry. Can you please explain how you arranged to host the festival there, its evolution and the advantages and disadvantages of hosting an event in a hole in the earth? 

The area between Lago Maggiore and the Italian Alps (Val D’Ossola) has been an area of extractions for a very long time. When Maddalena – over 13 year ago –  was looking for a venue to host a concert, she found all these spectacular marble quarries just over her head. That’s how everything started.

Every event requires a lot of preparation in order to make the area safe (most of the quarries are in use, their shape is constantly changing every year). The production costs are very high compared to other events hosted in more traditional venues. On the other hand, you can be very creative about how to use a quarry, especially if you change locations. It’s really challenging!

Besides focusing on electronic music, you also offer several daytime experiences to festival attendees, including mountain biking, hiking and zip-lining. What would you suggest in order to fully enjoy both the music program and the side activities? 

We suggest that everybody joins us for the entire weekend, combining at least one of the Xperiences. The evening shows and a tasty exploration of the territory through its food. On the morning of Sunday 22 July you can chill at the brunch in Alpe Devero, a very pleasant way to end a most spectacular weekend.

How easy is it for people to get to NeXTones? Do you have busses or car share scheme in place?

We are setting up camping in the closest village of Montecrestese (walking distance from the venue). People without a car will need to get a public bus from the Domodossola Train Station (20min ride). Bed & Breakfast options are also available nearby.

Last year you had to cancel some shows because of the weather, which is a key element for an open air event. What precautions have you made if the rain starts to pour this year?

Last year we were hit by a big storm just before we opened. We were very reluctant to cancel the event but it was the only option. We also agreed at that time with Robert Henke that ‘Lumiere III‘ would be presented in 2018. For this occasion we asked Robert to stay for the entire weekend, and in the worst case scenario, we will reprogram some of the shows to take place on Sunday evening.

Former NeXTones lineups have been really impressive, featuring artists including Andy Stott, Shackleton, Brandt Brauer Frick, Fennesz, Mala and Holly Herndon. How do you go about selecting and determining who to book? Who’s responsible for that?

Except for the very first edition when Albert Ricca (Bienoise) was a consultant, Danilo is the programmer and he is the one discussing choices with the board. Beside the impact of sound itself, the performative side of a show is the key to achieve an immersive experience in this unique environment. We are inviting artists which are willing to interact in different manners with our special set-up, looking at original solutions.

What plans are you putting into place to make NeXTones a sustainable festival?

As we are in the beautiful territory of the Italian Alps, we respect as much as possible the environment we are in, trying to minimise negative impacts on the surrounding environment. We are working with social cooperatives to hire young migrants that help us. We would like more families participating to our long weekend, as we think education plays an important role in a shared sustainability model. We still could do more, but the production circumstances don’t allow us to develop a big plan.

Every year more and more electronic music festivals are setup in Italy. Apart from being set in a quarry what makes NeXTones unique?

The surroundings, the Xperience, the lineup – especially for the audiovisual performances. We wish we could work more and more on site-specifics operas in the near future.

NeXTones takes place between 20 – 21 July 2018 at Cava La Beola di Monte, Montecrestese, Northern Italy. Tickets range from €25 – €38.

Friday – July 20th

Petit Singe live: Akash Ganga
Robert Henke A/V laser performance: Lumière III * Open-air version
Tyler Ov Gaia DJ set

Saturday – July 21st

Gosheven live: Bivaq * Italian Premiere
Ben Frost A/V live: The Centre Cannot Hold + MFO
Max Cooper A/V live
Scuba DJ set

Discover more about NeXTones on Inverted Audio.