Alain Mongeau is first and foremost one of Montreal’s pioneers in the arts realm. With a history in international music and film festivals, such as the International Symposium for Electronic Music and the Montreal International Festival of New Cinema in the 90s, Mongeau has dedicated a majority of his life to exploring and exporting technological and creative developments in the artistic world. Discussing Europe, festivals, growth, and the role of Mutek in Montreal and the international music worlds, Mongeau shed light on the roots of it all.
After attending Berlin’s famous Love Parade in 1992, Mongeau discovered the Interference Festival – the word ‘interference’ born out of ‘INTERnational’ and ‘conFERENCE’. The festival was the first of its kind to dedicate half of it’s line up to live performance artists. The Interference Festival made it’s mark on the world by being one of the premiere international gatherings that moved away from the stereotypical ‘rave/warehouse’ scene, and divulged into the showcasing of newer and more experimental productions, as well as methods of performance. It wasn’t just about being a DJ vs performing live; the entire mindset of the festival took on a modern form. This was quickly extended to the first edition of Barcelona’s SONAR Festival in 1994, where Mongeau was reminded of the diversity of the European scene again. Mongeau witnessed the trend hit Europe in the early 90s, and after falling in love with the juxtaposing cohesion of art and technology, he decided to found Mutek in 2000.
With little exception, the European electronic music scene has always been years ahead of North America. The cross pollination of ideas from one continent to the next doesn’t always translate. Alain made Mutek his own, strongly inspired by the Europeans perhaps, but catering his festival differently. “Montreal is a test market really. We’re very spoiled here for choice, and we can take things for granted. One thing Mutek has managed to do is become a part of the cultural fabric of the city,” Mongeau said of his 17 year old non-for-profit. Mutek has and continues to be greeted with open arms both within and outside Canada’s borders due to it’s nature; Mutek is a ‘bridge’ between those who have created, and those who seek exposure to the new and exciting. In Montreal, Mutek has laid the foundation for the electronic music scene to grow in a certain direction – with an intelligent, educated background that places emphasis and importance on encouraging the truths of being different.
What we leave behind pursuing our passions is the feeling of great quality, and a beacon on the horizon of hope for those who are keen to discover new things. It’s been awhile since I’ve said this but in a sense we are dream merchants.”
After only it’s first year, Mutek had become an internationally recognized institution, with requests for branches and partnerships that spread from South America and back to where the seed for Mutek was planted – Europe. Today, Mutek also finds homes in Mexico City and Barcelona, and will touch down in Japan for its very first time in November 2016. The organic recognition from friends and peers in the international scene saw the festival touch ground on both continents within the first and second years of Mutek’s inception – a true testament to the thirst for knowledge that exists globally. Of course, the world is not constantly rainbows and butterflies – many potential partnerships unravelled due to fear of competition and the unwillingness to share successes. “I mean, we developed in such an organic way because it really comes down to who does and who doesn’t want to work with you! And we only have so much control over this element,” Mongeau claimed when pressed about how he was able to grow Mutek so rapidly, “… but it’s a lot of work anyway, always. What we leave behind pursuing our passions is the feeling of great quality, and a beacon on the horizon of hope for those who are keen to discover new things. It’s been awhile since I’ve said this but in a sense we are dream merchants.”
Mutek allows festival goers to escape into a futuristic reality that finds it’s base in progress, and moreover, the fiery energy that is music. This year from June 1st until June 5th, Mutek will showcase 10 new live European artists alongside many more, and host a 5 day event at Musée D’Art Contemporain de Montréal (Montreal’s Contemporary Art Museum), proving each and every single year there is always ground to explore, and there are always ways to make each edition of Mutek special. Set in a mix of intriguing venues across the city, with an assimilation of spectacular local and international artists, Mutek has a healthy habit of ‘wow’-ing the crowd no matter where.
We’d like to extend a very special thank-you to Alain Mongeau for taking the time to speak with us!
For more information, tickets and to view the complete program, visit Mutek’s website here.