Year in and year out, Coachella draws massive attention around his coveted line-up release. In 2019, that attention was centered around as much praise as grumbles. After viral leak revealed that Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, and Childish Gambino would top the bill, a few fall outs would lead to some nervousness for Paul Tollett, the longtime president of Goldenvoice, co-founded the festival with his late partner Rick Van Santen in 1999.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, Justin Timberlake dropped out after bruised vocal cords disrupted his tour. Then, on January 1, a very abrupt, very public statement was made by Kanye West that he would be pulling out of his headlining slot at the Indio, California festival due to its “artistically limiting” stage design. This came at a time when Coachella organizers had already printed West’s name on the bill.
With two legacy acts bowing out of the headlining slots, it would look like the show must go on for Coachella without its signature established acts, which in the past has included Beyoncé and Eminem, Prince and Radiohead, and Paul McCartney and The Ramones. Instead, Coachella’s 19th edition would feature fresh names like Tame Impala, Childish Gambino, and Ariana Grande on the top lines.
“This lineup is very 2019,” says Tollett, who told the LA Times he had a nervous 36 hours before the lineup reveal. “It was a little hard this year but, man, it worked out.”
In the rare interview, Tollett explains the circumstances leading up to Kanye’s departure.
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.”
Tollett also goes on to speak about Beyoncé’s historical performance, the issue of female representation on the line-up, and what Coachella is doing to create a safe environment to reduce sexual harrassment, especially considering how the event’s crowd is 54% female. Tollett also touches on partnering with AEG, the radius clause controversy, and his ties to AEG’s unapologetically conservative chairman Philip Anschutz, a link which has spurred mass boycotts around Coachella in the past.
Read the full LA Times interview here.