It turns out, the reason was much more practical than we could have imagined. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Coachella co-founder Paul Tollett explained why West dropped out of the festival: it came down to a technical disagreement between West and Coachella.
“He has some great [production] ideas, but we just weren't able to pull them off right now,” Tollett said. Those production ideas, according to Billboard, included a giant, custom-built dome in the middle of the festival grounds designed John McGuire. After Coachella organizers explained to West his dome would be too difficult to construct in four months and require the festival to move a large number of portable bathrooms, West became agitated, saying he was "an artist with a creative vision who shouldn't be spending his time talking about port-a-potties," Billboard reports.
By the end of that day, Tollett and his team were in talks to have Ariana Grande replace West in the lineup. “I'd like to circle back with him and figure out a future plan of what to do with what's in his head," Tollett said of West. "He's very capable of coming up with ideas that work that are pretty great. Up until January 1, we were making a poster with Kanye on it. We started realizing we're probably going to have an impasse production-wise.”
According to Tollett, West’s decision to pull out was “surprisingly mellow” on both sides, although there were “some gasps” when he announced the news to his staff.
In the interview, Tollett also defended his association with Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns Coachella organizer Goldenvoice. In 2017, reports emerged that AEG owner Philip Anschutz had donated almost $200,000 to anti-LGBTQ groups between 2010 and 2013, prompting outrage and calls to boycott Coachella.
Tollett said Anschutz had “made some mistakes” in his charity donations. (AEG later made a statement saying they had “ceased donations” to that organization.) Tollett also asserted that he is the one who ultimately makes decisions about Coachella.
“Anyone who knows me and the Goldenvoice staff, they know we have a very colorful public history,” Tollett said. “They see our 1,400 shows a year. They know our well-balanced staff, diverse from the beginning. Currently more women than men, all races, all sexual orientations.”
Tollett also said he is not a Donald Trump supporter, and he knows Anschutz isn’t either.
This article was originally published on January 12, 2019. Additional information has since been added.