Interview with Rob Durand about the history of Psy-Fi
The first Psy-Fi festival took place seven years ago, in 2013. But the real start of the festival was before that, when a birthday party got slightly out of hand. Or maybe even before that, when organiser Rob Durand went to his first psytrance party in the outback of South Africa and finally felt at home again.
Ever wondered how Psy-Fi all started? How much fun it really is to organise a festival? If being a party organiser makes you filthy rich? Let’s travel back in time!
Hi Rob! How the hell did you come up with the idea of starting a psytrance festival?
‘Well, it actually started in Capetown, South Africa, where I lived for seven years during the Dutch winters. When I arrived, I had never heard of psytrance. To be honest, I hadn’t even danced for quite a long time. But somehow I ended up on a party, I got to know some people, amongst them a local Shaman and I started to go more often. In the beginning I didn’t really like it, in terms of music. I loved the atmosphere though. The people were so friendly and social, I felt very comfortable. The music however… I didn’t understand it at all, it was just noise to me. That changed when I had my first MDMA experience and danced like I never danced before. The music started to take me away into other dimensions that I had previously not experienced. I suddenly understood the music and realized how important dancing is. The people there at that time regarded a psytrance festival as a spiritual experience, as an opportunity for personal growth. This really resonated with me, and I felt at home in this scene.’
Well that’s nice, but where’s Psy-Fi in this?
When I came back to the Netherlands, I started looking for similar parties here. There weren’t a lot of festivals, actually only one. So when my birthday was coming closer, I thought about organizing a little psytrance party. I invited some DJ’s I got to know, and made an event on Facebook. Before I knew it, five hundred people had registered. The party was a blast and left me wanting for more. The next time I walked my dog in the city park I started fantasizing about outdoor parties. This eventually lead to the first Psy-Fi festival, in Groningen. Two thousand people turned up, it was insanely chaotic, but a lot of fun!
Why did you move to Leeuwarden the year after?
A friend told me about the location in Leeuwarden, I went to check it and it looked absolutely badass. How awesome would it be to make a festival here? So I took my idea to the municipality. Try to imagine explaining to a gray city clerk what a psytrance party is! Five days?! 24 hours a day?! But somehow we managed to convince them and there was Psy-Fi number two. The local government has been very helpful ever cince.
Well in terms of organization it was actually kinda tough. We were completely stressed out. It just grew too fast. We went from five hundred people to two thousand to fourteen thousand the first time in Leeuwarden. And we had zero experience. There was so much stuff involved. Traffic plans, safety plans, tons of permits you name it. We had storms and lots of rain… Eight hundred volunteers got a wristband and a bunch of coins on arrival, and we never saw them again. We worked 20 hours a day for two months to make it happen. I really wondered why on Earth I started all this. We felt the entire time like we were operating in totally unfamiliar terrain, completely clueless.
Why didn’t you stop?
When it was over, people started telling me the festival was great fun. They really enjoyed themselves. We received so many compliments. That really gave us the motivation to keep going. Besides, we were in big trouble financially, and we didn’t want to quit before we had earned enough money to pay off all the debts. Well that took some years, haha. But we’re still here. It’s getting better every year. We managed to put a great team together to make it work, it’s a lot less stressful now! In early 2015 my current partner in the festival Arjen jumped on board and we’ve been working full power ever since.
Can you still enjoy the festival?
Well, not like the visitors do. But I try to walk around a lot and get an idea of the atmosphere, to see whether the festival is a success. One of my criteria for that is the number of naked people. This may sound strange, but if people walk around naked it means that they feel comfortable and free, which in turn means that all other people around give them that feeling of freedom and acceptance. Another key aspect is if people are connecting with each other. If I see people talking to each other at the food court, sharing food, or hugging on the dancefloor, I’m happy. A festival is a great place to connect with others without any preconcieved notions regarding religion, gender or whether the person in front of you is rich or poor, it all doesn’t matter. We unite as one and that is so important.
And last but not least, are you a millionaire yet?
No, not at all, haha. Moneywise, I might as well go to work at a supermarket. I think there’s potential to make money with events, but not so much in the psytrance scene. But as long as we enjoy doing this, we will continue! Money is one of the worst motivators you can have, it leads to nothing but greed and stress. Do what you love, follow your heart and make people happy.