The Festival Of Sound In London’s Hammersmith opens its doors to the public tomorrow, continuing throughout the weekend, and so Hifi Pig thought we would have a chat with Phil Hansen, one of the show’s key organisers and ask him what is in store for visitors to this year’s Festival Of Sound.

You can check out some of the news from Festival Of Sound here. You can check out our coverage of last years event here , here and here. Pics are from last year’s event. 

Hifi Pig: Festival of Sound is a great new name for the show, but it’s risky rebranding after two years, why did you do it?

Phil Hansen: We had a great first two years and succeeded in our plan of introducing non hi-fi elements to the show, in order to bring a new set of visitors so they could see what quality audio is all about. We know from our research that many of the people who came were attending their first audio event. What became clear in year two was that the music side of things was becoming stronger – we had music book sellers, guitar lessons, guitar demonstrations, music seminars, the drumathon (around eight drummers closed the show with a battle of the drums) and a number of top flight musicians busking around the show. So, for year three we decided to really focus on the music elements to run alongside the hi-fi and portable audio and that required a name change. Yes, it’s a brave move, but with a strong identity like ‘Festival of Sound’ it’s something we felt very comfortable doing.

Hifi Pig: What’s the reaction been like?

Phil Hansen: From the hi-fi industry it’s been great – the brands we’ve spoken to that are exhibiting and even those who are not for whatever reason all ‘get it’. It’s all about music – that’s the common thread that binds all audio companies together and with the addition of live music and more music seminars the new name was just crying out to be used. I’ll let you into a little secret though, it’s not actually a new name, as we came up with this a year before the first show when we started the original planning but decided to put it on the shelf for future use – well now the future is here.

Our artists all get it too and I think the fact that we have rebranded in such a manner has really helped us secure the calibre of artists we’ve managed to get. I have to particularly mention Chris Difford here, in my first conversation with him when I explained what we were aiming to do Chris immediately latched onto it and was hugely enthusiastic. That enthusiasm has been very forthcoming and he’s been working really closely with us to make much of the music side happen.

Hifii Pig: Talking of live music, you’ve pulled all the stops out here. Where did that idea come from?

Phil Hansen: A while ago, having booked a number of well-known artists to appear at hi-fi shows in the past, I had a crazy idea of running a ‘proper’ music festival with a hi-fi show attached to it, as the whole live music thing just seeming to be a natural fit with the hi-fi side of things, and a great way of getting a music loving audience in front of our fabulous hi-fi brands. For numerous reasons that idea was parked at the time, but when Vernon and Amit (Festival of Sound organisers) came up with a similar idea it rekindled the thought of putting on a music festival alongside a hi-fi show and we’ve spent the last year working to make it happen.

Hifi Pig: So what’s happening with the live music this year?

Phil Hansen: We are really fortunate to have the support of some amazing artists. Starting on the Thursday night we’ve got an opening night Gala Concert with UNKLE’s James Lavelle and Philip Sheppard, who are presenting a new work called Redux. On Saturday we’ve got the first appearance of Chris Difford, who’ll be playing some of his solo work and of course some Squeeze favourites. Showing that we’re genre neutral and want to appeal to a wide range of music fans, we’re really pleased to welcome four up and coming London based urban artists, including Peaky, who might be familiar to people from his media appearances around the Grenfell tragedy.

Changing course again on the Friday night, we have the pioneers of UK electronic music, Art of Noise co-founders JJ Jeczalik and Gary Langan.

Hifi Pig: Wow, that’s quite a line up, is there more?

Phil Hansen: Of course, on Saturday afternoon the Unsung Singers take to the stage. This is a supergroup of the UK’s best-known backing singers, all of whom have toured the world with the biggest names in music, including David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner and Eric Clapton to name a few. They’re also going to host a Q&A session, so they can share their stories from working with the greats.

Saturday night is the main event, and we’ve got an incredible line up. First up is Beth Nielsen Chapman, who is well known to many hi-fi fans, and following her set British soul pioneers Kokomo take to the stage. They’ve got some very special guests lined up too – Chris Difford will join them and the legendary Hamish Stuart and Molly Duncan, founding members of Average White Band will be up there too.

If that wasn’t enough, Sunday sees the incredible jazz guitar of Antonio Forcione, followed by the Guitarfest, which features some of the top UK session guys battling it out on the stage. And then to top it all off, the Drumfest will bring the show to a noisy climax – top session guys again, plus the incredible Mel Gaynor from Simple Minds. Wow.

Hifi Pig: You’ve’ got some big names running seminars too. What’s the idea behind these and what are some of the highlights?

Phil Hansen: We want to put the ‘show’ into hi-fi show with plenty of activities and events that will be of interest to the show visitors. From the hi-fi side we’ve got Peter Thomas from PMC being interviewed by Chris Difford about PMC’s involvement with the music industry. Fellow loudspeaker manufacturers, KEF, will be running a seminar about their technology and engineering prowess with their head of acoustics, Dr. Jack Oclee-Brown. The ever-popular Russ Andrews will be giving his top tips on free upgrades and tweaks to get more music from your hi-fi system, and David Shevyn from GIK Acoustics will present his guide to acoustic treatments.

Music is well represented too, and we are delighted to have three of the best music producers in the world talking about major albums they’ve worked on. Liam Noble recorded Adele’s mega hit album ‘25’, so that’s one not to miss. Chris Kimsey, who has been responsible for 14 Rolling Stones albums, will be talking about the recording of Marillion’s last album with Fish ‘Clutching at Straws’. And we are especially pleased to have Gary Langan take us back to 1974 when he was working in the studio during the recording of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. This one is going to be a real ‘not to be missed’ event as Gary tells us what it was like working with Queen, how the song came about, how it was recorded and deconstructs the track in front of us using the 24 track masters.

Hifi Pig: Anything else?

Phil Hansen: Of course! Kenney Jones, drummer from the Small Faces and The Who will be talking about his autobiography ‘Let the Good Times Roll’. Chris Phipps, who was producer of Channel 4’s ‘The Tube’ will be sharing his life with the world’s biggest artists – the subject of his new book ‘Namedropper’. And we’ve got a seminar and book signing from Dave Lewis who has written the book ‘Evenings with Led Zeppelin’. And for those interested in photography, many rare and never seen before images will be on show by one of rock music’s most renowned photographers, Ross Halfin, and he’s bringing his collection of prized concert posters and merchandise that has never been seen in public before.

Hifi Pig: What hi-fi brands are exhibiting this year and what are they showing?

Phil Hansen: The full list is available on the show website, but highlights include KEF’s new R Series launch, a big event from Naim, PMC’s UK debut of fenestria, new products from Chord Electronics, the new Audiolab 6000 series, Harman’s Mark Levinson and Revel brands and the latest wireless solutions from Yamaha.

Hifi Pig: Any other notable exhibitors?

Phil Hansen: For the first time in many years, Denon and Marantz are back at a UK hi-fi show, together with the Definitive Technology and Polk loudspeakers. We’re also really pleased that Marantz ambassador, Ken Ishiwata will be at the show for the whole weekend. New loudspeaker manufacturer Node Audio will be presenting their stunning designs and Bowers & Wilkins return to the show. There’s something for everyone interested in hi-fi and portable audio.

And as a final thought, our Queen theme continues with the Yamaha grand piano used in the new Bohemian Rhapsody film on display and playing (Queen naturally) plus Freddie Mercury’s own microphone will be there. We will, to coin a phrase, ‘rock you’ at Festival of Sound.

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