Pick any popular artist today and there’s a good chance Christopher Roberts has either scouted or worked with them directly. From The Raveonettes, The Black Lips and Action Bronson, to Bloc Party, The Streets, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Death From Above 1979, his influence is strong in the music industry. Formerly Head of Artist Relations for VICE Media, he’s also collaborated with even bigger artists including Arcade Fire, Interpol and Kendrick Lamar. But enough of the name-dropping – it’s clear Roberts has an impressive list of credentials, but the one we think most significant is his tie to Ottawa.
Now, he takes the helm at NXNE 2014 as Festival Director, a 10-day Canadian festival extravaganza featuring music, art, film, comedy and digital technology. And he’s no stranger to large-scale musical events. Roberts has curated The Creators Project at Coachella, the SCION Garage Rock Festival and the VICELAND project at SXSW 2013.
“All of my experience really boil down to this idea of creating a brand around something and VICE is especially good at that – they know their voice and how to use it in a clever way,” he explains. “That’s what we did for all the bands we signed and that’s what I’ll bring to NXNE. We want to sharpen the brand and make it even more interactive.”
Acts confirmed to perform at this year’s NXNE include Spoon, Sleigh Bells, Spiritualized, A$AP Ferg, Metz, Ryan Hemsworth and many others. While the event takes place in Toronto, Roberts gave a nod to Ottawa’s own arts scene, which he thinks, is thriving more than ever.
“Ottawa’s scene is pretty vibrant – there’s some great local bands like The White Wires and Hollerado and obviously important institutions of art like the NAC and National Art Gallery,” he said. “There’s lots of opportunities to rebel against government and bureaucracy and that’s where a lot of arts and culture can potentially come from. I don’t think it’s lacking in arts and culture, it’s doing just fine.”
Before leaving the Capital to pursue his career, Roberts attended the theatre program at Canterbury High School, where coincidentally, he also met his wife.
“Jim McNabb and Paul Griffin from Canterbury really helped to shape my ambition and taught me that anything is possible if you work for it,” added Roberts. “They really defined my career.”
As for describing his own brand, Roberts said he is first and foremost, a husband, then a hometown boy and a music fanatic.
“I listen to music in the morning, in the shower, on the way to work, at work and on the way home – it’s a lifestyle to me, there’s no distinction between it and my life,” he said.