MEOKO Catches up with the Organisers of Epizode Festival after they complete their huge lineup with [A:RPIA:R], CRAIG RICHARDS, GUTI, PAN POT, PEGGY GOU, STEVE LAWLER, THOMAS MELCHIOR and many more

Epizode is one of the leading festivals in Asia, taking place on the Phu Quoc island in Vietnam for eleven consecutive nights, between the 28th of December and the 8th of January. While the northern hemisphere will be freezing into the new year, on the beaches of this mesmerising island underground electronic music will be celebrated dancing under palm trees with sunglasses on. The festival’s line-up ranges from house and minimal to harder techno and drum n' bass, including plenty of electronic music icons such as the A:rpia:r sound system, Ricardo Villalobos, Sonja Moonear, Maayan Nidam and Pan-pot, among many others. We are delighted to host the organiser Artem Kharchenko for a few words and insights on the festival.
 
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Q1: Hi Artem! Thank you for taking the time for this interview, it is a pleasure to have you on Meoko. Epizode is now at its third edition! I guess it has been a huge challenge to organise this kind of event in a country where it’s not too usual. Why did you choose Vietnam and what was the biggest obstacle in planning a leading festival in this country?
 

Hello, and thanks for the invite :) Yes, organization of Epizod3 is challenging and sometimes unpredictable, but also rewarding in the same time. We’re creating something completely different in the region, a format new by it’s length, music, concept. Lineup that we’re presenting consists of many artists that never played in Asia, or they do it rarely. Some of them are playing music that people from the region are not that familiar with. So we have a big task: not just to locally promote a new sound and concept, but also to educate and hopefully, broaden horizons of the crowd. Also, we invest a lot into local community, showcase many regional acts. Underground scene is emerging, so does Epizod3 :) We see this relationship as a two-way street, and it’s exciting to be a part of one growing organism.

 

Circumstances in the region sometimes can be unstable and uncertain, indeed. Rules and laws are not the same as in Europe, neither the treatment of the big music events. Phu Quoc is a perfect place though, as it’s big island, well geographically located, prices are much lower than in Europe and USA and, needless to say - it’s stunningly beautiful. It has international airport and all important infrastructure, hotels, transportation, exotic food and friendly locals :) So far we’re happy to be having Phu Quoc as Epizode home.

Q2: The line-up of this year is astonishing. The festival will feature some legends such as Villalobos and Sonja Moonear, however I see some huge acts from different genres such as Goldie or Black Sun Empire. I think it’s great that you cover such a wide spectrum of quality dance music. What is the aim of your line-up choices and where does the inspiration come from?

 We are focused on the quality sound from different electronic genres, indeed. We do have house, techno, minimal, but also d’n’b and breaks, as an important part of the lineup. The idea is, simply, to gather top-notch artists from different music worlds, Dnb and break artists that we booked this year,  are the biggest legends of all times in their genre; they will set the beach on fire and we’re happy to welcome them.
 
Ricardo Villalobos
use, techno, minimal, but also d’n’b and breaks, as an important part of the lineup. The idea is, simply, to gather top-notch artists from different music worlds, Dnb and break artists that we booked this year,  are the biggest legends of all times in Q3: Art installations and daytime workshops on site are also a great part of the festival. What do you have in store this year for this aspect?
 

On the territory of Epizode, the construction of art installations and architectural structures is already in full swing, the infrastructure is getting more comfortable and intuitive. Artists and architects from different countries are taking part in this magic work. The festival literally turns into an incredibly magical place -  in our eyes, all the details are piecing all together, and it seems that Epizode is about to breathe, like a huge fairy-tale creature.

This year we are planning a diverse daytime program. In addition to sports activities, which include yoga, volleyball, SUP, frisbee, there will be creative workshops, body art, a movie theatre, colorful Holi battles, other fun activities and of course open decks for those who have always wanted to play at Epizode. We want people to come to the festival not only for night dances, but we also want them to discover and to be adventurous during the day. Epizode is a 24-hour fun :)

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Q4: Is the festival on site preparation and assembly something that happens just the weeks before, or progressively throughout the whole year?
 
On site preparation starts with a field visit in the summer time, and building of the new site and all production starts 2,3 months before the festival. We are in Phu Quoc for a while now, building our new house for this edition.
 
Q5: You will also perform at the festival with your solo project Tyoma. Why you decided to settle on it after performing and producing under different monikers? What can we expect from your set at the festival?
 
II have a theory that, the first record that’s played at the festival, needs to be the right one, as it will define the energy of the whole festival. That’s why I do the first soundcheck, and then the first sunset - opening set of the festival. I will play a few more sets, as for me as a general producer, it’s important to feel the crowd, to get familiar with the vibe, to know what’s going on on the other side. 

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e a theory that, the first record that’s played at the festival, needs to be the right one, as it will define the energy of
Q6: Epizode is hosting some cool pre-festival parties all over Asia. India, China, Thailand, Singapore… How is electronic music perceived in Asia nowadays? Is there an underground music scene you would like to particularly recommend our readers to check out?
 
Underground scene in Asia is definitely emerging. Some countries are already developed and pinned on a world clubbing map, hosting various artists, underground as well as headliners. Big party brands and festivals are coming to Asia as well. Some other places though, are developing in a moderate pace, but getting there. There are more and more artists, clubs, promoters, and they are all contributing to the growth of the scene. All this is not just important, but also revolutionary, as Asia is known for it’s massive EDM scene, and 20k people events happening every week. That circumstances makes growth of underground scene more difficult, and certainly more valuable. That’s why, our job is not easy, but it’s simply rewarding to help bring and build a new music trends, focused purely on quality.
 
Q7: Could you share your own personal highlight from the last edition of Epizode?
 

ll afterparties last year were off the hook. Needless to say - the epic Ricardo’s morning set was the one for the books, as well as Luciano’s sunset set. Then, all Asian artists at Eggs stage, really showed what quality sound and good fun is. Also - I will never forget the moment when I walked in at the venue, heard many different languages and realized we created a truly international event. 

Q8: Can you summarise the vision behind Epizode for the readers? What makes it different than other festivals?
 
Apart from the fact that we are a long running and unique music and art spectacle in a paradise island in Vietnam -  we are also a parallel universe bringing cinematic experience, as the title Epizode says. We call our visitors - actors, superheroes, directors and the lineup is - soundtrack. Everyone can write their own scenario and enjoy in all frames of Epizode.
 
Thank you again for your time, we wish you all the best for this year’s edition.
 
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art from the fact that we are a long running and unique music and art spectacle in a parad
 
Epizode2ise island in Vietnam -  we are also a parallel universe bringing cinematic experience, as the title Epizode says. We call our visitors - actors, superheroes, directors and the lineup is - soundtrack. Everyone can write their own scenario and enjoy in all frames of Epizode.
 
Thank you again for your time, we wish you all the best for this year’s edition. 
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Words by Giovanni Bodrato