As Thunder Bitch Action Weekend Festival gears up for its 15th edition, Carlos Espejo, founder of the festival and of Action Weekend Records, sits down with Louder Than War to reflect on how it started and where it’s headed.
Louder Than War: So Carlos, tell us. What’s the idea behind Thunder Bitch Action Weekend Festival?
Carlos Espejo: It’s a festival with full of current bands but with its heart in the 60s that we’ve been celebrating in Santander (Spain) with great strength and illusion, and little funds, for the last 14 years. For the first time we’ve managed to get enough support to turn it into something bigger.
LTW: How did it all get started?
CE: The idea came in 2002 and the 1st edition was around Christmas that year. Yeah, I don’t remember the dates, occasional memory lapses! The festival was totally DIY. We had a club night called Up To You, Baby! at a local bar and organised DJ sessions at a few others in Santander. Some of them are still going, but not all of them continue with the same philosophy as when we started the nights. The festival started as an extension, and as a collective we started a scene that didn’t really exist in the city before. And so we continue.
LTW: Who’s on the line up this year to celebrate your 15th edition?
CE: It’s definitely going to be the most international festival we’ve done so far. I mean in the past we’ve had bands like Les Playboys and Les Tikis from France, The Skywalkers from Holland and Chicos de Nazca from Chilie, but spread out over different editions. This year we’ve got the fantastic King Salami & The Cumberland Three and The Embrooks from the UK. The Embrooks have just released a new record, Amazing! They’re the best freakbeat band around right now. From France we’ve got The Scaners and Shaky Things. And obviously we’ve got a good representation of Spanish bands. Terrier, Juana Chicharro, Mujeres and Las Jennys de Arroyoculebro. And from Cantabria, Ojo Pipa. A real mix of garage indie pop, punk, flamenco garage. It’s going to be a great one this year!
LTW: You and the Action Weekend collective DJ a lot as well. What could we expect in an Action Weekend DJ set?
CE: So many things can happen! An excited frenzy of fuzzed out garage, rock n roll hymns, a good dose of punk I guess, and psychedelia too, rhythm & blues of course.
LTW: And nowadays, with so many formats, how do you like to listen to music yourself?
CE: I prefer it on vinyl, but after my amp bust I’m waiting for some charitable soul to bring it back to life. In the meantime I’m good with my little blue touch speaker that I carry around the flat, but in the car I’ve got a cassette that converts the signal of my mobile to an analog sound to get the effect for those dark sixties garage gems. I’m not into Deezer or Spotify of any of those platforms that suggest songs. I don’t really go with the fashions, but yeah, as a label I guess I have to be interested in knowing the trends. I totally believe that the physical format will last and coexist with the digital.
LTW: What are you listening to right now?
CE: New stuff, the latest from Los Estanques and the last one from Jacco Gardner, although it’s not exactly danceable. It’s not out yet, but the latest from The Safes is fantastic and I’ll get it out on Action Weekend when I’ve got the cash. I’m also all day listening to compilations. USA Garage Greats 1965 – 1967, a collection of more than 160 CDs with 30 songs on each. Yeah, Nuggets, Pebbles etc. They’re like the Bible. They’re not new of course, but there are still so many groups from the 60s to discover that they’re like new for me.
LTW: What song would you definitely play in a DJ set right now?
CE: I’d have to go with I Don’t Mind by The Night Times. Sounds like they’re going to be the next hip thing on the garage scene.
LTW: And what about a classic that’s essential?
CE: So many! Off the top of my head I’d go with Don’t Look Back by The Remains, or I Can’t Hide by Flamin’ Groovies.
LTW: A guilty pleasure?
CE: I have none! I lost my shame with age, and listening to Juan de Pablos. I’m not ashamed of anything, but it’s true that sometimes you need a bit of confidence in yourself to play songs by Los Pasos or Archiduques in some circumstances!
LTW: What about a song you’d recommend to revive your body and mind after a Saturday night?
CE: The next day I’d recommend silence and meditation, eat well, and rehydrate. But it’s a good moment to listen to Curt Boettcher, Sagitarius, Millenium, Odessey & Oracle by The Zombies, Golden Smog, The Byrds, Gene Clark, Lemon Drops.
LTW: Getting back to the festival, apart from the concerts, what can we expect?
CE: We’re going to have quite a few local, national and internation DJs playing sets. A real mix. Greasy R&B, Boogaloo, Beat, Punk. We’ve also got a records fair and food, so tons to see and do.
Thunder Bitch Action Weekend Festival takes place in Santander, Spain on the 5th and 6th of April.
Tickets are on sale now for 25€ here.
All words by Nathan Whittle. Find his Louder Than War archive here.