Megan Gordon • 15 July 2012

When you think of Big Day Out’s Boiler Room, it invariably calls to mind three things: sweat, dance music and unbridled fun. Over the past 20 years the Boiler Room has become infamous for it’s packed out shows featuring some of the most amazing live music moments in the world. Sweaty fans have witnessed Kraftwork, the Prodigy, Kanye West, The Presets, Underworld and many more amazing artists. It’s no mistake that the Boiler Room continues to serve up to fans, the kind of music that is both edgy and broadly appealing across age brackets.

Groupie sat down and spoke with Ben Suthers, the man behind this now famous festival staple, who’s been working on the Boiler Room since 1993. His current official title is National Talent and Communications Manager at Creative Festival Entertainment, but a more accurate title would be Beating Heart of the Big Day Out (a heart that has a pretty high BPM mind you).

If the Boiler Room had a mission statement what would it be?

It’s always had the same mission. To provide a haven away from the rest of the Big Day Out. A home away from home for people escaping the D-Barricade.

For the uninitiated paint a picture of the Boiler Room…

It’s the place with the bass. The loudest room at the festival with more production than anywhere else.

It’s not the biggest stage at the festival, yet everyone instantly thinks of the Boiler room when they think Big Day Out. Why has it become emblematic of the BDO in general?

As a classic “brand within a brand” it created it’s own legend, as the original festival dance party. By presenting the first shows of Chemical Brothers, Basement Jaxx, Underworld (amongst others) it cemented dance music culture in the largest of Australian music festivals.

Can you list your top 5 favourite things witnessed in the Boiler room?

It’s difficult to distill 20 years of favourite things into a list of 5, but lets have a go.

Prodigy going nuts in 1996 at the Hordern. Liam, Maxim and Keith had the Poison and the Remedy.

Sitting on a sub with Fatboy Slim at Melbourne Big Day Out whilst Underworld dropped Born Slippy.

Near riots every time the Chemical Brothers played.

LCD Soundsystem performing ‘All My Friends’ for me in 2010. I missed it (I was busy with the mainstage fireworks show), but apparently they did.

The honor of being able to present Kraftwerk at Big Day Out.

You’ve worked on the Boiler Room since 1993. What kind of changes have you witnessed during this time?

I’ve witnessed it go from a 800 person capacity room at the Dome in Sydney (next the Hordern) through to the Hordern (1996) to exhibition halls in Homebush (1999) to being the largest indoor dance room in the country (in Sydney). I’ve seen it go from a predominantly local lineup to presenting the cream of dance artists.

What’s kept you in the job for so long?

The energy and enthusiasm of Ken West. The energy and enthusiasm of our incredible audiences. The energy and enthusiasm of my team, some of whom have been with Boiler Room since 1996, and most of whom now work on every dance music festival show in the country.

How do you stay ahead on trends with music?

This has changed a lot over 20 years, but regardless of this the basic rules haven’t changed. Keep your ears open, and be willing to listen to anything. Don’t be afraid to be opinionated and always have a message.

What kind of work/preparation goes into pulling off the Boiler room each year?

First of all, we never stop thinking about music. The lineup for future Big Day Out’s is being discussed all the time. Everything about the Boiler Room is defined by the sort of acts and the sort of music that we put on. Once the lineup’s been decided, we discuss how we’re going to evolve, what sorts of special effects we’re going to use, what sorts of decor, lighting, and video elements are going to go into the show. Designing and Preparing the show along with negotiating production with acts takes four months. Then all of a sudden it’s on the road, and all of a sudden it’s over, and all that’s left is to count the days until the next.

We’re super pumped to see what the Boiler Room has in store for 2013’s Big Day Out.  The FULL LINEUP to the BIG DAY OUT 2013 will be revealed at 12:01am on Monday 16th July 2012.  Check back here for all the details as they emerge.

Who do you think will play the Boiler Room this year? Tell us all your predictions and wish-lists in the comments section below by logging in with your Facebook.