Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman
The Hunger Stage is back, and this year it’s bigger than ever.
We’re popping up at festivals up and down the UK, playing games, and even sneaking backstage to chat with some of your favourite artists about all things festival food.
Yup, we’re firm believers that the food at music festivals doesn’t get nearly as much love as it deserves, and we’re on a great big mission to change that.
So far, we’ve chatted to rapper Crystal Millz at Parklife and Murder On The Dancefloor hitmaker, Sophie Ellis-Bextor ahead of her Camp Bestival gig.
But next up is the one and only Zak Abel, reminiscing about all things music festivals ahead of the release of his new album, Love Over Fear, and his upcoming UK tour.
He might know What Love Is, but does he know his way around the summer’s festival food trucks?
The Hunger Stage Meets… Zak Abel
Twisted: What food would you pick to headline the Hunger Stage and why?
Zak: “One of the best bits of food I’ve ever had festival was a falafel that came from a stall called… falafel.
“There was some humous, there was a little bit of chilli sauce in there, tahini was in there and they were generous with the bits of falafel.
“They were making the falafel right in front of you, too. It wasn’t any sort of prepackaged nonsense. They were fried and had a healthy green centre.
“I’d pick that. What more could you want?”
T: What festival food are you avoiding?
Z: “Things that strangers give you. You must never eat those things because you don’t know what they could be!”
T: At Twisted we’re all about fusion, if you could combine two festival foods together to create a mashup dish, what would that be?
Z: “I like Ital food [a diet of veg and unprocessed food coined by Rastafaris], so it would be cool to get the Callaloo involved [a Caribbean speciality], or maybe some plantain, and mix that with Indian food.
“There are so many options – Aloo Gobi, Sag Aloo or Daal. I think Indian flavours would go quite nicely with a bit of the old Ital.”
T: If you were a festival food item, what would you be?
Z: “Wow, that’s a tough one. I have no idea!
“[After a long think…] I’m gonna be I’m gonna be water, because it’s loved and needed the world over.
“So egotistical, but I love it. Can’t get enough. Everyone would be 70 percent me!”
T: You’ve travelled around gigging, what country do you think does it best in terms of food?
Z: “So, I probably have a slightly different food journey to most people because whenever I go anywhere, I’m just searching for the vegan options.
“Certain countries are better than that than others. Korea was actually a game changer. I did a gig in Seoul and so much of the food that was coincidentally vegan.
“You could get Bibimbap without the egg. So many of the noodle dishes and so many of the vegetable dishes like the kimchi can be made vegan too, just by skipping the fish sauce.
“India is great as well. Vegan food there has so much flavour and and it’s really not expensive.”
T: What food and drink is on your rider throughout festival season?
Z: “Coconut water, always. After a gig, when I’ve exerted a load of energy, I’m missing electrolytes. You could just have like a sports drink but I prefer coconut water.
“We also have vegan protein bars. It’s [a wholesome rider] because I don’t drink when I’m touring at all.
“Sometimes if the band wants some beers or something then they’ll be put down the rider. I usually ask for lemon and ginger!”
T: Now on to music, who is the best person you’ve ever seen perform at a festival?
Z: “Childish Gambino. He just had everything – stage presence, sex appeal, vocals, lighting, choreography, the way that the show flowed as well.
“There were moments in it that were really inspiring. I think it was at Lovebox – so good.”
T: If you had to camp with one music legend at a festival who would it be?
Z: “It will be Rick Rubin [American record producer]. Firstly, I think he create really nice zen space but he would be really conscientious.
“I think we’d have really nice, deep meaningful chats just before bed and his voice itself would send me off to sleep and put me in a nice calm state.
“And then feel like you know when when the morning comes. He wouldn’t wake me up either. It’d be super respectful.
“Of course he could [produce some music with me] as well, but I’m not even thinking about that. I’m just thinking about who would who create a nice peaceful environment. That’s him!”
T: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Z: “Yeah, I think about what my intentions are for the performance.
“So, what kind of feeling I want people to have, what kind of energy I want to be coming out with myself as well.
“I think it’s a real big opportunity and kind of a responsibility that I put on myself going out on stage.
“You know, people can watch whoever they like and if they’re coming and giving their time to watch me then I need to respect that and do my best.”
T: Has anyone thrown anything crazy at you whilst you were on stage? (bonus point if it’s a food item…)
Z: “I’ve had a fair share of bras. Luckily, no panties! I’ve dodged that quite well. But yeah, bras have been plentiful.
“I don’t think I have had any food thrown on stage but occasionally someone will bake me a cake and give it to me. Definitely don’t throw the cake!
“It’s nice [to be given a cake] but as I mentioned earlier, you just never ever eat food that some random person’s given you!
“It is always such a strange feeling because it’s like ‘oh man, this person spent time baking a cake.'”
T: What is the song you’re most looking forward to playing at gigs this year and why?
Z: “I’m excited to play a song called Winging It on tour. The song’s all about how growing up I had a lot of insecurities and doubts about myself and I assumed that once I became an adult, all of those doubts and insecurities would go away.
“I looked at other adults and somehow they seemed like they had their shit together, and I realised that as I became an adult myself, everyone is just winging it, and no-one has any idea what they’re doing.
“That was a really liberating realisation to have, and it’s been very freeing in my own in my own life.
“It’s a kind of cool, stoic thing to think about for myself. You know, every so often, when things get a bit intense, tell yourself: ‘Oh, sh*t, yeah, no one actually has any idea what they’re doing. Don’t worry about it.’
“There’s a there’s a real kind of call and response bit in that song with the audience, too. I’m excited to perform that.”
Get tickets to Zak Abel’s tour and see where he’s playing here.
Featured image: Getty