Approaching its 12th annual instalment, Hong Kong’s Clockenflap is now well established as one of the region’s hottest and hippest festivals. And to earn that reputation, it had to entice a pretty impressive roster of A-list stars to these shores, many of whom are visiting the region for the first time. So what do the stars make of “Asia’s World City” – and what shenanigans to they get up while they’re in town? Ahead of this year’s event, which is returning to Central Harbourfront Event Space from November 22 to November 24, we sat down with founder and music director Justin Sweeting to get all the backstage gossip. Well, the bits we could publish, anyway. From weird rider requests to chartered planes and all-night parties, read on to find out what really goes on behind the scenes at a world-class music festival. Ridiculous rider requests How Heize’s Late Autumn is shaking up K-pop music charts Everyone knows musicians are a peculiar bunch. Just think about it; mix an artistic temperament, inflated ego and a world only too glad to accommodate your every whim, and what do you get? An A-list musician on tour. Nowhere is this better epitomised than in the fabled “rider” – industry speak for the contract outlining the little extra favours and substances musicians expect to find in their dressing rooms upon arrival. Naturally, after producing Clockenflap for 12 years, Sweeting has seen his fair share of weird requests. Thankfully, there were a few savoury stories he was prepared to share. TWICE’s Mina posts new Instagram photo and fans are thrilled This includes the revelation that Jack Black specifically asked for a “hand-painted drawing from a child of a boat in the ocean” – which is a frankly freaky idea if you consider it’s probably always on his wish list. By now, the School of Rock star, who performed at the festival with his comedy-folk band Tenacious D in 2014, must have a pile of badly drawn boat pictures by music promoters’ children stuffed in a drawer somewhere (or hanging on his man cave wall?). Rapper A$AP Rocky asked for fried chicken and waffles to be served on stage during his 2015 performance – a request, we understand, that was met – while a year later The Chemical Brothers needed a chartered a freight plane to bring their dancing robot to the 2016 event, the first blockbuster bill hosted in Central following five editions at West Kowloon. “We’ve definitely had acts who are more demanding,” remembers Sweeting, “and if you don’t get everything checked off on their rider requests, then you’re likely to have a problem.” For reasons that can only be known to them, the all-male Australian electro duo Peking Duk requested framed pictures of Hollywood heartthrobs Nicolas Cage and Keanu Reeves be hanging in their dressing room, ahead of their set last year. Could Taylor Swift beat Michael Jackson’s record at this year’s AMAs? Another anonymous artist demanded an entirely gold dressing room. “We ended up wallpapering the whole space with this incredible gold paper and had the whole place done up with gold items – it looked amazing,” he adds. Then there’s the cryptic case of the baffling band who asked for “three copies of [its] latest album; two of them needed to be wrapped, and one of them needed to be open a little bit, which was just a little bit weird,” remembers Sweeting. “It just raised eyebrows because I didn’t know where it was coming from. It was a three-piece act, actually – so I guess one of them doesn’t like to open it all the way.” Your guess is as good as ours. Erykah Badu’s frantic vegan soup search It’s one thing when you’ve got a list of demands to tick-off, however outrageous, granular or expensive. It’s quite another when an artist comes up with a last-minute special request – especially when they’re a legendary diva on a strict vegan diet with a reputation for late set-starts. We’ll let Sweeting tell you the whole story of the magic soup which got Badu onstage – and on time: “Erykah Badu was one who had a very, very specific rider, but on the morning of the show her tour manager pulled me aside and said, ‘There’s something we didn’t put on the list – no matter how crazy things might get, as long as she can have a bowl of hot lentil soup, everything will be fine’. Taeyeon’s new single dominates the K-pop charts “That afternoon was spent calling around to get the best lentil soup in Hong Kong. Luckily for us, our video director is a staunch vegan, and he has a connection with Hemingway’s in Discovery Bay, and they agreed to ferry over this special container of hot lentil soup. In the end we got a few different options for her, and she was so over the moon, she loved the soup, and it made for an extra special happy artist. And, we can all thank the soup.” What backstage is really like Every A-lister arriving at Clockenflap is met in a car of their choosing – most often, a limousine – and is put up in a five-star hotel nearby (undisclosed for fan-mobbing reasons). On show days, refreshments are served in a communal hospitality area and bar allowing local acts to mingle with visiting stars. Cameras, naturally aren’t allowed, and drinks are free flowing. “Generally, we find that even acts that are so in ‘work mode’ and ‘tour mode’, when they get to Clockenflap, there’s something about it that makes everyone let loose just that little bit more,” says Sweeting. “Backstage tends to be a really fun place to be. We want to create the vibe that allows artists to be relaxed enough to be themselves – so cameras aren’t allowed. Things go on back there that we can’t talk about.” The after-parties While Hong Kong’s strict sound pollution laws mean the festivities normally abruptly shut down at 10.30pm sharp (this year, Japanese metal act Babymetal have permission to push things to 10.45pm on Saturday’s main stage), that’s far from the end of the evening for anyone with a AAA pass. And while there are official after-parties around town, the recognisable and reckless ordinarily choose to steer clear of the selfie-requests of mere mortals. Instead, they keep the night alive on-site, where the communal free-flow bar runs, presumably, as long as the last A-lister is in the house. Last year, Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker kept festival staff up so late they eventually had to turf him out sometime close to dawn. “Jarvis Cocker was holding court until we literally had to kick him out, because we needed to get in there and clean up for the next day,” remembers Sweeting. “But that’s exactly what we love and that’s what we want to see. We have artists who just want to spend time together and just be – talk, collaborate, connect. It happens all the time and it’s great.” Why is IU posting new photos of herself? Taking it one step further were trip hop forefathers Massive Attack who elected to bring their own party zone to the 2017 anniversary event – complete with a kicking sound system and fussball tables – and, says Sweeting, they even let other people play. Stars in the city Criss-crossing the globe on sleep-deprived world tours is gruelling business, and A-list musicians are renowned for inhabiting an air-conditioned bubble, ferried between an endless stream of hotels, aeroplanes and stages so uniform they frequently forget what city they’re playing in. But Hong Kong is different, claims Sweeting, with many artists arriving armed with a list of must-see sights and attractions. And naturally, eating out is high on the list. “It’s such a foodie city that normally acts have very specific wants, wanting to check out specific chefs and restaurants,” he says. Sweeting says he has “lost count” of the number of artists who’ve requested to extend their stay – including British indie darlings The Libertines and MIA – while Quan Yeomans, frontman of Aussie party-starters Regurgitator, who return to Clockenflap this year, was even inspired to move to Hong Kong following his performance. And, just maybe, the festival itself plays a seducing role in enticing our A-list visitors. This year Bombay Bicycle Club insisted Clockenflap must be “a key date in their plans and strategy” after memorably playing in front of a lunar eclipse at the 2013 event, and everyone has gone on record declaring Clockenflap their favourite festival in the world. “I forget the number of times acts have come offstage and just been so blown away – one, with the audience and how amazingly open they are, but also the setting,” says Sweeting. “And when you marry those two things it really becomes something very special – and that’s why many acts, from Nile Rogers to New Order and The 1975, have all come out and said it’s [their] ‘favourite festival to play in the world’.” Last year’s awesome line-up all fell together because David Byrne agreed to play for cheap The highlight of last year’s Clockenflap for many – me included – was the athletic spectacle of David Byrne’s frenetic, theatrical American Utopia tour. But it wasn’t just the former Talking Heads frontman’s only date in Asia – he did it on the cheap. “We had everyone – from Japan, Korea – everyone was wanting to book him, and to be fair, [they] had a much larger budget,” says Sweeting. “But he specially wanted to do Clockenflap – he understood what the event was about, he understood it was the right place for him.” View this post on Instagram In his piercing, peerless book How Music Works, #DavidByrne retrospectively traces the inspiration, artistry and logistics of his conceptual staging conceits, from #TalkingHeads’ seminal Stop Making Sense concert movie (Dir: #JonathanDemme) right up to #Byrne’s embrace of modern dance – employing trendsetting choreographers and advertising for singers who could/would “do some movement”, on 2008-9’s Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno Tour – where the story stops. . From here it’s a clear trajectory but a hefty compute to arrive at the majesty of this year’s #AmericanUtopian tour – a boggling music/dance/theatre affair which landed in #Asia for the first time at #Clockenflap after an ecstatically received run – and moments after co-headliner #JarvisCocker dubbed it “maybe the best show I’ve ever seen”. We wouldn’t disagree. . The whole 12-piece troupe in constant choreographed motion, garbed in grey suits and cosmically swaying like some marching band from the future, the technical ferocity of Byrne’s jugband review is jaw-dropping – the six-part polyrhythms of I Zimbra and Born Under Punches pulsing with pinpoint precision while the players spin dizzyingly in a merry synchronized hoe-down. . Yet for all its theatrical flamboyance and haughty conceit, it’s mighty fun – a sense of rustic, round-the-campfire singalong drives the knowing stomp of Road to Nowhere – and there’s not a shudder of perceptible obligation or malice in repurposing the ’Heads most flagrantly crowd-pleasing material next to the bulk of the new record – which sounds just as good as the vintage stuff anyway. David Byrne – this guy just can’t stop making sense. . #Clockenflap2018 #artrock #musicfestival #gigphoto #HKmusic #CFvibes #Television #PattiSmith #DEVO #postpunk #newwave #CBGB #Pulpband A post shared by HK Beats & Eats (@hkbeatsandeats) on Nov 10, 2018 at 7:01pm PST But this self-described coup had a domino effect when approaching other bands: headliners Wolf Alice and Jarvis Cocker both accepted offers to play only after hearing Byrne was booked. And it wasn’t the first time. “What’s so endearing, all the time we hear from acts who want to be involved because of the other artists playing,” he adds. “I remember when New Order played [in 2015] the Pet Shop Boys came in to watch them from the side of the stage. They were so excited. “Jack Black joined Flaming Lips onstage when they had their show – you have these moments that just come about – it’s unique in the history of the universe, it will only happen then and there; because all these pieces happen to be then and there at the same time – so those are the things that make the festival so special.” Clockenflap takes place at the Hong Kong’s Central Harbourfront Event Space from November 22-24. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .