Podcasting and a ‘conch bath’: Steve Pretty on ALSO Festival

Steve Pretty has described his career as “confusing,” given that it includes performance, music composition, music production, podcasting, mixing, photography, writing and now ‘conch baths,’ a version of a sound bath utilising conch shells. This year Pretty, who is also a member of Hackney Colliery Band, is doing at least two things from that list at this year’s ALSO Festival.

He’ll be recording an episode of Steve Pretty’s Origin of the Pieces, a podcast about what music is, where it comes from and why it exists, with the aim of helping people hear music in a new way, as well as running his conch soundbath session on the same day for the early risers at the festival. We caught up with him to find out more.

Steve Pretty Q&A

What does it feel like to be performing at this year’s ALSO Festival?

ALSO is one of those perfect little festivals with a really special mix of all the things I love. Ideas, music, food, drink, nature…it has it all. And it’s run by an incredibly dedicated and passionate team, which just feeds through so well into the rest of the event. So I’m delighted to be there this year, both because I can’t wait to share my own things with people, but also because of the brilliantly-curated programme which I’m going to dive into head first!

How does performing at a festival differ from a ‘normal’ show?

I think festivals are very interesting places to perform because there’s always a sense of possibility and excitement in the air. There’s the sense that anything can happen, and I love the opportunity to connect with new people who might not know what I do; I always have such fascinating conversations after my performances at festivals.

What can you tell us about your plans for the show?

I’m doing two things – a live podcast recording where I am in conversation (and hopefully a little performance) with the amazing singer Juliet Russell for my podcast Steve Pretty On The Origin of the Pieces, which should be fascinating for all the musically-curious people out there, and also a somewhat more unconventional gig…

Believe it or not, I’m doing a morning set entirely on conch shells and electronics! The organisers have seen me play shells a few times and asked me if I’d be up for an early morning ‘conch bath’…! People may be aware of gong baths which are part meditation, part musical experience, and I aim to do something similar with my shells. I did the same thing at dawn for the brilliant First Light festival a couple of weeks’ back, and it felt really special and emotional, so I’m really intrigued to see what people make of it.

What makes a good festival crowd?

People who are up for the sound of surprise. Who go out of their way to hear, see and experience new things, not just the famous names doing the classics. That has a place, too, of course, but for me, festivals are about adventure and new experiences.

Will you be checking out any of the other acts or taking in any of the festival’s other offerings?

My friend and frequent collaborator Robin Ince is also at the festival, so we might end up doing some bits together, which will be fun. And I know several of the people on the brilliant bill, so I’ll definitely be checking them out, too. But as I say – I also want and expect to be surprised by new people and ideas.

Do you have any festival tales you can share with us?

I mean lots… One memorable moment was closing the Avalon stage at Glastonbury with my band Hackney Colliery Band where we had someone propose live on stage. That was pretty special.

Steve Pretty is at ALSO Festival 12th-14th July 2024

Find Steve Pretty on The Origin of the Pieces here