Michael Lang: His Hair Remains The Same, So Does His Energy

by Şermin SARIBAŞ | translated by Ali YILDIRIM
Hürriyet newspaper

Tarkan's International Manager Speaks to Hürriyet Correspondent

From the ’68 generation of flower-power children, the well-known festival Woodstock revolutionised the festival concept. For the first time in 1969 hundreds of thousands of people came together at a music festival and had the time of their lives. The name Woodstock was never forgotten.

The festival was repeated in 1994 and 1999. The interesting thing was that in all three festivals the organiser was the same: Michael Lang. He didn't give up his hair, his energy or his love of music. His name has become synonymous with the name Woodstock. He was in Istanbul last week. Taking this opportunity we interviewed him. It is best to mention we found out he is Tarkan's international manager, that he had a 7 year relationship with a woman from Istanbul, that he has travelled all over Turkey and that he loves köfte (Turkish meatballs). The only thing we couldn't learn was his age. To this question he only answered "old"...

We hear that you have been visiting Turkey for the last 30 years. Why do you like Turkey so much? Is it love, business or friends?

- I first came to Turkey in 1979 on Christmas vacation. A friend had invited me. I fell in love with the people, the history and the food. Later I met a Turkish lady and we had a relationship for 7 years. Her family lived here, so we were always coming and going. The relationship ended but we remained friends. I met Görgün Taner from the Istanbul Art & Culture Foundation. I mean I made a lot of friends here.

In the Woodstock festivals of 1969, 1994 and 1999 you were the organiser. Throughout all these years what are the biggest changes you’ve seen?

- Nothing was the same. Even if you had differing opinions, you could come together with people your own age, the good and the bad, that was the same. The only thing that never changed was that. But the thing that changed the most was becoming a less innocent world.

What type of personal fulfilment did it give you to be at all those legendary Woodstock festivals? Is your ego a little swelled up because of it?

- The festivals for me were a big test. We were a 15 man crew and we turned into a team with 14,000 members. When the festivals finished I would feel the pressure lift and think “Thank God that’s over”. But having my name known everywhere was a great source of pride for me.

What are the greatest problems with festivals of this type?

- If you are going to give a huge festival, your biggest problem comes from the government. Another problem is the hundreds of vehicle convoys. After partying for two days, people can forget where they parked. That’s why you have to have road signs at the place of the festival. But for example if you name a sign the Rolling Stones Street, that sign will be stolen as a souvenir. That’s why you have to give them ordinary names like Blue Street or Red Hotel. But this has problems too. We had organised a festival in Marseille. No one could speak French. Due to this, like I said before, we gave names to the hotels and buses. When they went with our buses there was no problem. But when you went with a taxi and asked the driver to take you to Blue Hotel, the taxi driver didn’t know what you were talking about. Because of this we had lost half the group. Now they have mobile phones, it’s easier.

When organising the festivals, what did you learn about group psychology?

- A great dynamism… take as many security precautions as you want, but it is impossible to control hundreds of thousands of people. But because where there is fun and music there is positive energy, even if there are small scuffles, everyone else looks to have a good time and doesn’t ruin the atmosphere. The crowd has its own crowd control.

You are no longer young. Don’t organising teen festivals create contradictions spiritually?

- Just because I'm old it doesn't mean I'm brain dead. There is great satisfaction from the things I've done and learnt. My interest continues.

Well, if we didn’t ask someone visiting Turkey about shish-kebab we’d be failing in our job! We hear you like köfte (Turkish meatballs) too, is that right?

- I haven’t seen any place in Turkey I didn’t like. Köfte is a world wonder in itself. I love it! I cook it for my friends in America. I collect köfte recipes off everyone.


My friend Fırat Kasapoğlu who took part in the 1994 and 1999 Woodstock Festivals and who is now organising the Rock ‘n’ Coke Festival, mentioned Tarkan to me three years ago in New York. He told me that Tarkan was in need of an international consultant. I wasn’t a stranger to Turks anyway. I loved Tarkan’s music and I became his international manager. Tarkan is a great singer and his performance is great. His current success is only the beginning in my opinion. He’ll be a star in five years time and he will not fade away. Know this, he is here to stay. He always wants to learn more, he isn’t satisfied with what he already knows. He has an indescribable charisma.

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