This year’s Coachella lineup drew about as much praise and condemnation as it usually does; the biggest difference this year being that the lineup looked more at the present and future than the past. Major legacy acts were left off the top lines of the billing, in favor of fresh names like Tame Impala, Childish Gambino, and Ariana Grande.
But it almost didn’t go that way. Justin Timberlake pulled out of the lineup due to extenuating circumstances, and Kanye West was pretty much being printed on flyers right up until January 1.
In a rare interview with Coachella co-founder and Goldenvoice president and CEO Paul Tollett conducted by LA Times, the circumstances leading up to Kanye’s departure are laid out clear.
Kanye very publicly bowed out this year. What happened?
When we were going through the stage ideas, he had some other ideas. He’s played Coachella, and he knows it very well. Both times were great, and so different. The last one was pure art. He has some great [production] ideas, but we just weren’t able to pull them off right now. I’d like to circle back with him and figure out a future plan of what to do with what’s in his head. He’s very capable of coming up with ideas that work that are pretty great. Up until Jan. 1, we were making a poster with Kanye on it. We started realizing we’re probably going to have an impasse production-wise.
When Kanye pulled out, what did you have to do?
It was surprisingly mellow. I had my team there. I told them, “OK, Kanye is not going to go this year.” There were some gasps.
A future lineup with West on it isn’t out of the question, but clearly some changes will need to be made. Though, Coachella has made many, many changes over the years, so that shouldn’t present more of a challenge than anything else. After all, it’s most often artists pushing the boundaries of what’s “normal” that creates lasting, sustainable change.
The rest of the interview goes over various topics, including: demographics, Coachella is around 54% female attendees year-to-year; sexual harassment, Coachella initiated its Every One campaign this year; and politics, Coachella is often lumped in with AEG owner Philip Anschutz who regularly donates to Republican political campaigns. Tollett still retains half of Coachella after Goldenvoice was bought by AEG in 2001, and maintains complete autonomy over the festival. Tollett said of the controversy,
“I’m not a Trump supporter. I think people know I’m the owner-operator of the show. I’m partners with AEG. Phil Anschutz is the one they’re talking about, and he owns thousands of companies. He’s so not thinking about Coachella. He has no opinion if I should pivot from dubstep to trap-house. Most billionaires are Republicans. The billionaire attached to Live Nation is a Republican Trump supporter. Ticketmaster, same thing. Madison Square Garden? Billionaire Trump supporter. I know Mr. Anschutz isn’t a Trump supporter. None of it matters to me. I run a show 365 days a year, making all the decisions. Anyone who knows me and the Goldenvoice staff, they know we have a very colorful public history.”
Read the full interview via LA Times here.