Interview | Wolfkop Weekender Organisers

MCBN: Thanks for taking the time to chat to us guys, we know it can be an incredibly busy time with the festival around the corner – On that very note, how is setup coming along at Matjiesfontien? Could you also give us a rundown on how you transform the town into Wolfkop lovers very own little world for the weekend?

RM: Richard Marshall
WR: Werner Rongten

RM: Set up is going well, we are pretty much ready to pull the trigger! It’s a labour of love for sure, in reality, it takes perhaps three months of careful planning to pull off three days of reckless abandon. For only three hundred people! We treat set up at Matjies much like we do our home site in Citrusdal, which is first things first. This year we are doing the Friday night party at the train station as opposed to the church so we plan this first, and then take care of each zone in the order in which they will be experienced.

There is also a truly wonderful team behind us helping out in the background, and probably my favourite thing that has spawned in Wolfkop culture is the desire of our clients to help us with pretty much anything. It’s very special. There is an array of some of the most creative and wonderful people I know all getting ready to add to this upcoming event, it really feels very lucky.

WR: From the production side of the festival the organising and packing of the trucks start 14 days before the event. We stay there a week before the festival and 2 days after the festival to break down and pack up. All our comfy tent equipment/couches/fire drums/bean bags etc gets loaded up in Citrusdal and carted into the desert.

MCBN: We been massive fans since day one and we’ve watched the steady growth Wolfkop has had and deserves. How did the Wolfkop concept come about, the team must have grown over the years but who was initially involved and how was the seed planted?

RM: I was introduced to Werner by one of my dearest friends after she and him had discussed using the land he operates on as a festival site. It was cute – she had us over to hers for dinner, there was very much an awkward blind date vibe to the whole thing in the lead up to it, but I can confidently say I clicked with Wern immediately.

After what was actually my first ever Afrikaburn set on the Leadhedz bus in 2013, I walked off to find Shirley and Werner waiting for me, and he was like “you’re my guy, let’s do this”. Six months later our first event was behind us. I think we had 120 guests, but Werner’s concept was so solid we also had 120 people raving about the experience for weeks afterwards. Securing Felix Laband to headline our second one, which was our first spring edition, really cemented our faith in the whole idea. It’s here that Werner and I ‘went our separate ways’ in that he took care of what he knows and I took care of what I know. Since then we’ve basically never worked on the same aspect of the festival together. This is also when we invited Holly Jade and Bruno permanently into the fold, definitely one of our more astute moves!

WR: I told a friend that I have been trying to get a festival going at my campsite but no event company was interested so the friend introduced me to Richard by organising a dinner party. It was love at first sight 😉

MCBN: Following onto the previous question. How did the Matjiesfontien event come about?

RM: There’s a long and rather humorous version of this story, but in a nutshell, it was my karmic reward for playing probably 50 f***ing weddings in my career! I’d only ever heard of this mystical Matjiesfontein, mainly as it was my sister’s number one pick for her wedding. Anyway, the wedding I played at ended up being quite amazing and was held in the car museum. At midnight I was relieved of my duties as the couple had a friend DJ who was gonna take it home, so from then, I was free to explore this magical space. I had been dealing with the GM all night, who was still around when I finished and he kindly obliged me when I asked him to show me every nook and cranny of the place. At 2 am I was in his office showing him our FB page, pleading with him to consider the idea of us taking over the whole town for a festival. We were met with some resistance but eventually what was a very smooth partnership transpired and pandora’s box was opened. But the whole concept was literally born on that late night walk, it was just too ripe not to be juiced! 

MCBN: Wolfkop is a very carefully curated event, from the lineup to the stage production and amazing decor, to even the finest little details including a sunrise yoga session and a high tea on Saturday afternoon. We’re big fans of the attention to detail you have and grateful for the effort you put into the festival experience. Give us a teaser of what fans can expect this June?

RM: Well June is obviously very different to January and September, this event is actually six parties in six locations over 48 hours. We have chosen Wes Anderson as our ultimate muse and are using six of his films to theme the events around. Musically there are three standout sessions on the way, two of which are unannounced and will have to be found to be experienced. The first is one of the SA music scene’s godfathers playing live for the first time ever. The second is one of SA’s most prolific electronic musicians handing out his home-distilled rum in a dusty old train carriage while playing his dustiest old music. And the third is one of my all-time musical hero’s playing an unannounced set on Sunday afternoon in an absurdly beautiful location. Also one of my favourite painters is doing a live installation on Saturday afternoon. The rest you can read about online but as always we promise more than a few extremely pleasant surprises!

WR: So much fun to work with a theme like Wes Anderson and having 6 locations creates, even more, room to be creative. Part of our production is, of course, a surprise element. This event really allows us to play with the space in interesting ways

MCBN: The Wolfkop venue is an immaculate venue, on the banks of the Olifants River, nestled away behind the mountain, how did you come to this venue and what made it so special to you?

RM: What makes it so special to me is its sheer splendour! We are operating in an area that is so strictly controlled, it’s been a lifetime of connection-building, on Werner’s part, that means we can do a festival in a space that no one else has before or will be able to again. He knows this story better than I do

WR: I was born and went to school in Citrusdal, until the end of high school, so have known the farm owners and have done business with for decades – there is a high level of trust involved. The festival is also being seen as a positive event in both little towns due to the fact that we contribute a lot to the local community and also have a permanent charity arm that donates money every month to the local kindergarten for unprivileged kids. This allows us to keep going in Citrusdal and Matjiesfontein with the full support of the community on our side.

MCBN: You guys have bought some of the most innovative, cutting-edge live producers the world has to offer. Give us an idea of the process you go through when selecting your international acts? By the way thank you for Daedelus, whose idea was that?

RM: Thank you! Yeah, that was no small task and it’s a bit of a story… but you asked! Daedelus has been one of my favourites since as far back as 2001. He wrote a song called My Beau that had indecipherable lyrics that became the staple late night stomper between a girl that I loved very much and me. One day she took it upon herself to tweet him and ask for the lyrics, to which he responded! She was like “erm, Daedelus just DM’d me”. I asked him immediately if he wanted to come out to SA which he said he did, but this was in about 2011 and apart from an association with RA (Resident Advisor) I didn’t really have anything to show him to prove I was capable of such a feat. After our second summer festival (our third in total) in 2015, I emailed him and said take a look. Unbelievably he agreed (with a tiny fee) to get on to the cheapest flight I could find from LA to CPT and the next thing… Daedelus sitting next to me on the N7, Wolfkop bound. He was a gentleman and a scholar and took the whole thing in such magnificent stride. I really feel like I owe him a lot because we were only three festivals in and we could lay claim to having hosted an artist from Ninja Tune. Warp, Brainfeeder, on and on and on that list goes. He took a bona fide risk on us and is now a dear friend of mine and the festival.
This whole endeavour gave me blind faith so I went straight after Frivolous next, who’s album Meteorology had been a landmark in my DJ career. Having the endorsement of Daedelus helped a lot and the next thing… Frivolous sitting next to me on the N7, Wolfkop bound! Unbelievable! Both acts played completely live and set a great precedent for the future of Wolfkop headline bookings. “Never seen anything like it” is the desired response. Then Bruno recommended Clarian who “turned the tent tit-wise” as I heard one punter saying, and just stole the show in winter last year… an absolute gem squash that one. And this past January we handed the 7 pm Saturday slot to Floyd Lavine, a truly worthy local candidate who played perhaps the best DJ set we have ever had there. It must be said that the headline acts have been nothing short of spectacular. Each one has really taken to space and complimented it hugely, all saying that the very nature of the place extracted something special from them. And they all remain very dear friends.

MCBN: Each Wolfkop must hold a special place in your hearts, and we’re sure you’ve got some incredible memories to take away from each event/festival, what’s been something that’s stood out for you as one of those ‘Wolfkop’ moments?

RM: There are simply too many… just way too many! Walking into the BYO camping glen at night for the first time really blew my mind. People had gone to town decorating and vibing the place up, it was like an electric forest, you could tell the place was full of Burners! Standing with some of the SA artists I respect the most while Daedelus just absolutely destroyed us was a moment I will never forget. Having Frivolous stand next to me while I played ‘C:/ My Consciousness’ late on Sunday afternoon is one, as is Clarian closing with ‘The Invisible’ because he knew my friends and I were all nuts about it. Felix Laband’s sets (all of them!) have been game changers for us. And experiencing Matjiesfontein last year was just mind blowing. It really hit home how lucky I was – less than six months before it was an idea locked in my mind, all of a sudden thanks to Werner, Holly, Bruno, Tessa and a team of really caring and daring party technicians it was this absurd reality that was like something out of a Lewis Carroll book.

WR: Our crowd by far for me is what makes the events so special. After that location and weather has always been on our side – especially the last Lilo River Flow the weather was literally perfect for Saturday and Sunday

MCBN: You’re known as a boutique festival for a reason, you’re never put in a position where it’s too full or the dance floor is over packed, you’ve really put the punter in mind first with this one. But have you ever thought about expanding or increasing the size of your venues?

WR: Well, we have grown so organically we have never had to worry about this. The last two events in Citrusdal we feel were pretty close to our max comfort zone, personally, I am quite strict about it because I believe it’s such an easy rule of thumb to follow and it’s the first thing that fucks an event up – overselling it. Whether it’s to sponsors or punters, just don’t do it. We make it our mission to create the type of environment that’s comfortable to arrive at on Friday, and by Sunday afternoon you know most of the people you’ve been partying with all weekend. Money is not what we base our successes on, and the fact that we have a team who genuinely believe in this is something I truly treasure. I like to think that the trick is to deal in commodities more valuable than money.

WR: Currently both venues are too small for it to expand to a too large group and our guests are a group of people that like their personal space, so I don’t see Wolfkop Weekender in Citrusdal becoming much bigger than what it currently is. For Cooked Sister we can go up to 400 people but then that is also the max.

MCBN: Are there are secrets we should know about or any tips you can give us to prepare us even further for the upcoming weekend in Matjiesfontien.

Bring your A-game, and bring something to wear on Saturday that makes you look like you are headed to a Wes Anderson casting call! There are tonnes of little secrets we could share, but we won’t. The cat gets let out the bag in Matjies for those who are there, those who aren’t will find out all about it after we have no doubt. What I will say is that we threw a very loose idea at Ziggy Francesco a couple of weeks ago who has come back with a scavenger hunt that is going to get completely fucking out of control! In fact, we are so enamoured with the idea that we have decided to make the prize if you win gigantic, to get people into really behaving like… you know… naughty bloody children! It includes tickets and tented accommodation for four in September, booze, food, tours, the lot. I even want to win it for crying out loud.

WR: The secrets are always only revealed at the festival. Tips would include that the Matjiesfontein event should not be seen as only a party but a weekend filled with loads of significant corners that no other venue can create as there is only one Matjiesfontein concept in South Africa, so don’t spend all your energy on the dance floor but explore the town’s museums/post office/pool/ garden… there are tons of things to do.

MCBN: Tell us a bit more about this event’s theme and what festival goers are encouraged to represent?

RM: The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, Rushmore, The Fantastic Mister Fox, Darjeeling Limited… Any Anderson film ties to our theme. His wardrobe and production design is second to none and it’s easy to imagine him using Matjies as a location so we are running with it. Every member of the Wolfkop team has a penchant for fancy dress and we find our clientele do too, so let’s see. Also, Margot Tenenbaum – despite her morbid eccentricities – is one of the sexiest characters I have ever known, so personally I am hoping to see Margot’s. Lots and lots of Margot’s!

WR: Wes Anderson’s movies have got some of the quirkiest outfits and each dance floor has a different theme so do get involved and dress up as much as possible for each theme.

MCBN: Let’s end this off on a light-hearted note – tell us your favourite joke guys.

RM: It’s not my favourite joke, but I’m choosing it because I ‘invented’ it. I am so bleak because I found out the other day I didn’t actually invent it, but I had never heard it before so it did dawn on me as an original: What do you call a man with a rabbit up his arsehole? Warren. Ba doom doom tsh. See you soon Cooked Sisters and Brothers x

WR: A dyslexic guy walks into a bra…


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