If, like me, you were hiding under a rock somewhere during the pandemic and didn’t tune into Pop Mutation’s online festivals, have no fear. They are back and taking on the real-life realm for a raucous weekend of music by artists from Glasgow and beyond. One thing that the Glasgow creative scene does so well is collaborate, borrowing from different and sometimes disparate elements of visual art, music, and performance and meshing them together to create something avant-garde yet unpretentious; provocative, but always fun. With a line-up that includes bands, DJs and performance artists, Pop Mutations is not one to be missed.
SNACK sat down with sound, performance, and visual artist Andrew Milk of Pink Pound and Current Affairs to chat about Pop Mutation’s stellar line-up of pop mutants.
Pop Mutations is a non-profit events promotion company dedicated to elevating new artists and combating the issues they face. What are the various issues artists experience when trying to gain exposure, and how is Pop Mutations helping to remedy this?
We’re a CIC (Community Interest Company), so we have the music community and the larger Glasgow community at the core of everything that we try to do. So as you say, we’re not for profit. We try to create opportunities for artists who keep wider audiences, and to help them grow creatively.
Part of the festival’s and our wider events promotion aim is to give artists a space on a stage that they wouldn’t necessarily have at this point in their career or in their creative development: the opportunity to play in front of hundreds of people. We don’t sacrifice a fair rate of pay in return – it’s not quid pro quo. Exposure isn’t their payment and we pay everyone accordingly. We want to see the music community in Glasgow grow and become a more diverse and interesting creative space, and I think that only happens if you give space on stage for more diverse line-ups.
People don’t necessarily believe or trust that someone like them can take up space on stage until they see people like them on stage, myself included. Part of the core concept of the festival is to provide space on stage for a more diverse line-up of musicians, to be a more diverse festival than what we see so often.
Otherwise it’s just a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Glasgow music scene is really welcoming to new artists, but doesn’t always provide the big stages and audiences.
I think the music scene in Glasgow is great. There are a lot of opportunities for people who are starting out to play and to make connections. Because of the pandemic, those opportunities have lessened quite a lot, and no matter how good a scene or community is, there’s always room to grow and improve.
And I think with Scotland being quite majority white, especially if you want to talk about ethnicity, then you need to make an extra effort to showcase and highlight people of minority backgrounds. It’s crucial, because as I said before, if you don’t see people like you on stage, then you don’t believe that there’s a route to performance for you. It’s important to make that sort of extra effort.
Pop Mutations started online, during the pandemic. Are you still about doing more online streaming, or is it only a real-world phenomenon now?
I personally would like to see more of a hybrid situation developed, but we haven’t. For now we’re focusing on what the community needs in immediate terms. Previously we did a lot of streams and a lot of very accessible online events. With this festival we are centring on real life, being present in the room. We haven’t got a sort of hybrid model, not because we wouldn’t want to, but because of the logistics and the engineering involved in doing that. But I definitely stay tuned in the future for more hybrid events and ways that we can bring streaming into what we do.
It was really important, as we eased out of lockdown restrictions, to get people back to performing live. I play music as well, and did a bunch of streams during the pandemic. I think the only way that it’s going to work is if we can develop a logistically possible hybrid stream while also performing live. But currently it’s no substitute for being in a room of people and getting that energy.
It’s great to see a festival that pays its artists properly and is much more economically accessible for its audience, too.
Because it’s a multi-venue festival, if you can’t afford a weekend ticket, you could curate your own weekend. If you just wanted to just see the DJs in the clubs you could pay just over a tenner. If you’re interested in guitar bands, you could pay £15 for the full day ticket at Mono, which is a standard price for just one gig these days. If you have a touring band playing you’re likely to pay 12 to 15 quid just to see a couple of bands, whereas Pop Mutations costs the same for a whole day event where you get bands, DJs, and performance artists. So, if you’re on a budget there’s ways to make the festival work for you.
What would be your top picks for those looking to create their own festival line-up?
I’m a bit biased, because I’ve been focusing on Mono’s day on Sunday. It’s like my baby, so obviously I’ve got to say it would be my top pick. It’s a great, diverse line-up of bands and DJs.
Junglehussi is always a real superstar in the Glasgow DJ scene and they’ll be playing tunes in between all the acts in the evening. We’re kicking things off with Current Affairs, and Sacred Paws are finishing the day. It’s not the kind of thing where you just want to come for the headline acts; phenomenal local and international talent is peppered throughout the whole day. And there’ll be food and everything so you can kind of just camp out there.
Apart from Mono’s day, the most diverse and value for money option might be to get the Saturday daytime ticket where you split between The Old Hairdressers and Stereo. There’s really great stuff on there, especially Nape Neck, from Leeds. There’s a band called Grave Goods, a supergroup made up of people who were in Pins, Girls Names and September Girls. So they’re a Belfast, Dublin, and Manchester supergroup; the kind of band you’re only going to get to see when they tour because obviously they’re all over the place.
You mentioned a bit earlier that there’s going to be performance artists too. It’s really exciting how the line-up mixes music with all the other stuff that Glasgow has to offer, like it’s weird performance art scene.
Although we are predominantly a music promotion company, I think part of the joy of the Glasgow music scene is that it is so intertwined with the art scene, so the DIY aesthetic runs across these various creative practices in Glasgow and they all intermingle.
Quite a lot of the people in bands playing over the weekend are making a name for themselves already and are established as performance artists or fine art artists. Eothen Stearn, a well-known artist, is playing in Nightshift at Mono. The music and art scenes naturally mingle and intertwine quite a lot in Glasgow. So that’s something we have to show because though there are a lot of international artists playing the festival, Pop Mutations is a homegrown festival, which showcases the best of what Glasgow has to offer, and that would always include a bit about their performance, for sure.
Definitely. Because you’re showcasing lots of new artists, if you had to recommend one up-and-comer for people to see who they might not have heard of before, who would it be?
The thing is, I know how biassed I am about the Sunday line-up at Mono, and I don’t want to do the other people involved in the festival dirty! I’m gonna highlight Gynoid 74, who’s playing at The Flying Duck on the Friday night. That’s Izzy, who may be better known under her DJ moniker, Miss Cosmix. She co-runs the Rush club night. She’s a high energy techno house DJ. She does live electronic analogue synth, which is just incredible. The last couple of times I’ve seen her bring her own full 32 channel mixing desk, which is quite a set-up: it’s like bringing your own mini club to the stage. She’s got a few tracks online, but hasn’t really got a huge presence yet. If she didn’t get pointed out, you might not discover her stuff.