Catskillist Interview: Andy Animal’s Meltasia
On a late summer afternoon, not far from where legendary rock impresario Albert Grossman once ruled Woodstock, we sat down to talk with concert promoter Andy Animal about his upcoming Meltasia festival (September 8-10 in East Durham, https://www.meltasia.com/) and other things he’s planning as he brings his brand of the Catskills music scene to life.
Catskillist: So what is Meltasia?
Andy Animal: It’s a three-day fringe music festival that I keep in the spirit of the old weekenders I used to throw for my birthday down at Uncle Pete’s campground in Phoenicia. It’s more of a party vibe than a festival. It’s a really cool eclectic mix of everything from punk to hip hop, I guess a little bit of country-ish kind of stuff, I don’t know, just weird. It’s weird.
Catskillist: It sounds weird. Looking at the graphics and Melty the Possum, it’s like a weird Fantasia.
Andy Animal: Yeah it’s kind of like my Disneyland almost, you know stuff that I like. As you’ve seen from my collection of old weird monster toys and stuff I kind of try to bring that to life as the theme.
Catskillist: So this is the third Meltasia, right? The first one was in Georgia?
Andy Animal: Yeah. First one was in Georgia. I hooked up with some good people out there and it was really cool. People loved it. It was a dream come true. But then we decided to take a year off. My friend Marissa texted me and said, “Do Meltasia again. Please.” I thought, “Yeah, I should do Meltasia again, but I’ve got to keep it up here in my homeland.” I was born right in Woodstock on Millstream Road there. You know, I think it’s a much smarter choice just to keep it out here.
Catskillist: So then you did the second one at the old Catskill Game Farm?
Andy Animal: Yeah, that was a dream come true as well. I grew up going there. I went there till the very last day they were running. And they hadn’t done anything with the place since. So we came in and fixed it up and we gave it a zoo theme. We had some people performing in the cage the Capuchin monkeys used to be in. It was one of my favorite spots there, the monkeys.
Catskillist: This year you’ve got it at the Blackthorne Resort in East Durham, right?
Andy Animal: Yeah, Blackthorne Resort. It’s a big step up for us because we’ve got lodging. Camping is an issue for a lot of city people, we get a lot of city people. I already know people that are coming up that have never been before because we have lodging. And swimming. We had to build a shower at the last one.
Catskillist: One shower?
Andy Animal: (laughs) Yeah. We couldn’t call it a shower because of the Board of Health. We called it Melty’s Arctic Plunge. It’s just cold water; it’s just these tarps with like four different heads. Didn’t get used much. I think people just skipped on showering for most part of the weekend. Who needs showers? Now, we’ve got everything. We’ve got showers, we got a swimming pool. We got a really cool, really amazing creek to swim in, we got everything there.
Catskillist: So who’s the festival for?
Andy Animal: It’s for the Catskills. They need something new and different. ‘Cause the festivals they have to offer for the most part have been hippie jam band kind of stuff. It’s all well and good for people who want that. But there’s a lot of people coming out here. A lot of new places opening and a lot of people are fed up with the city and stuff. At Meltasia, they get to kind of live out the experience they’ve always imagined in the back of their mind, the festival-goers. It’s kind of got this almost like 70s feel to it. Like what they used to call a free festival. Not that it’s free or anything (laughs).
Catskillist: You did all the booking, right?
Andy Animal: Yeah, me and my partner Sean Dougherty, Baby Sean. We come up with a huge list and we just start contacting people. A large portion of the acts are people I’ve worked with before. Death Valley Girls contacted me and said, “you should get Roky Erikson, he’s playing out in the East Coast at that time”.
Catskillist: You’ve also got Raekwon.
Andy Animal: Raekwon, yeah. I really wanted someone from Wu Tang, being from Upstate. They used to come around here and do these surprise little gigs around town, and have barbecues over at Bearsville Studios. I I grew up Upstate but all the New York hip hop was like really special to me. Yeah Wu-Tang have their higher level, up here you know (gestures to head).
Catskillist: How many bands altogether do you have this year?
Andy Animal: Man, I don’t know. Is it 30? I don’t know; I haven’t counted. But enough bands to go all day till about midnight on Saturday and Sunday. We got the bands starting later on Friday; bands start around 6 on Friday. Then we got some secret bands. Some secret acts playing late night in the bar right next to the Night Flight Theater. Night Flight Theater is going to be a weird. We’re going to show old episodes of Night Flight, you know the old music video variety show. Old Kung Fu movies and old B movies and stuff like that. Like a cool-out zone. I don’t know maybe it’ll be the opposite, I don’t know (laughs).
Catskillist: You’ve got some special hosts, too?
Andy Animal: Yeah, we got people from my childhood, from television, Randy of the Redwoods from MTV. Then Pete and Pete from the Adventures of Pete and Pete, which is the legendary cult Nickelodeon show. Danny and Mike, they have a podcast now, “Danny And Mike Have A Podcast”. They’re fun dudes, that show is really cool. It’s a cult show now. They had people on it like Iggy Pop and Steve Buscemi.
Catskillist: So what would your dream line-up be if you could book any three bands for Meltasia?
Andy Animal: They gotta be existing bands?
Catskillist: Or unless they exist in your mind.
Andy Animal: (laughs) Maybe AC/DC. I’d love for the remaining Beastie Boys to get their hardcore band back together with Darryl Jenifer from Bad Brains on bass. I’ve been told that’ll never happen, though. I don’t know, The Damned? Oh, but the number one thing that I’d like to have for Meltasia is Danzig do an Elvis tribute. I know he’s got an album coming out of that. That’s the number one. That’s my number one act I want at Meltasia.
Catskillist: You mentioned before, you’re kind of done with the city. Was it about the Catskills, in particular, this part of Upstate. What is it that makes people want to be here, people who’re done with the city? What does this place have going for it?
Andy Animal: Swimming holes. It’s the whole history, this being an arts colony, you know, Woodstock and the amount of things that have come out of here. Bob Dylan and The Band, Jimi Hendrix and people just coming through. There’s a lot more to do out here besides go to bars. Which is what I’ve found happening in the city after years as part of my 20s hanging out going out to bars all the time. But you know I needed more than that. And especially these days the amount of like-minded people that are moving up here.
Catskillist: Yeah, it’s changing a lot.
Andy Animal: Booking stuff is a lot more fun, people are a lot more inviting and want you to do things out here. I can get something going in like an old barn or something or a weird old restaurant or a cool new restaurant that a friend opened.
You know there’s this great new resort that I got something that I’m in the works of doing in autumn. A thing at the Glen Falls House. It’s in Round Top right near where we did the last Meltasia near Catskill. I think I’m gonna call it November Coming Fire. It’s going to be outdoors, autumn, like all day. I’m looking into some more sound track-y sounding bands, you know like these vintage soundtrack kind of bands that have been going around to make a kind of John Carpenter and a Ennio Morricone music, and some psychedelic bands. Like The Nude Party who just moved up here from North Carolina, who were a huge hit at the Kool Keith show at the Colony.
I’m pulling together some kind of a free Meltasia promo thing at the Chinese restaurant, the Wok ‘n Roll. I like that place, that’s like the real dive bar in town and they have good Chinese food. That’s where all the freaks hang out, I like it there.
Catskillist: No kids at Meltasia, right, except for the ones that are playing there?
Andy Animal: Yeah, the Paul Green Rock Academy kids are doing a Kiss tribute. That’s like one of my dream things.
Catskillist: So if you had to create your own scented candle, what would it smell like?
Andy Animal: (laughs) The scented candles. My favorite smell in the world is freshly used fireworks. That’s my favorite smell. That brings me powerful feelings. Fireworks (laughs).
Catskillist: You gonna wear them again this year?
Andy Animal: Oh you know about that (laughs). No, I’ve kind of toned it down a little bit. The clothing stays on these days (laughs). Who knows. Who knows. Whether the clothing’s on or off there’ll be something involving fireworks.