The idea of a “Winter Warped” was such a no-brainer that Kevin Lyman and John Reese were able to sell Taste Of Chaos to giant venues as early as 2005. Combining Reese’s experience working with Guns N’ Roses, The Used, and Story Of The Year and Lyman’s expertise as Warped Tour’s founder, TOC did big business for five years, sending out packages stacked with bands like My Chemical Romance, Avenged Sevenfold, 30 Seconds To Mars and Underoath. Even when ticket sales softened in 2009, the duo’s prescience never wavered: Pierce The Veil, Bring Me The Horizon and Four Year Strong were openers that year. TOC returns October 3 as a one-day festival in California, featuring The Used, Jimmy Eat World, Thrice and All American Rejects. San Bernardino’s San Manuel Amphitheater hosts Lyman’s It’s Not Dead Festival (featuring Bad Religion, NOFX, Pennywise) the following Saturday, with Reese’s Oddball Comedy tour passing through Irvine the next day and Knotfest (Slipknot, Judas Priest, Bring Me The Horizon, Korn) back in San Bernardino October 24 and 25. A decade after TOC started and roughly a month since the duo shuttered Rockstar Mayhem, Lyman and Reese spoke with AltPress.com about the October festivals, the end of Mayhem and plans for activism at Warped 2016.
What factors led to Taste Of Chaos going into hibernation?
KEVIN LYMAN: For a while we could get bands like My Chem and The Used together. Everyone would take a step backward [financially] to take two steps forward. We had a good run with that tour for five or six years. But it all comes down to packaging. It works if you can do one plus one equals three, which has been the theory of Warped for many, many years. People forget it all of the time. So if one person, producer or artist takes too much off the table for themselves, then things don't work. It became harder to create the packages.
Why bring it back now?
JOHN REESE: There's been a massive resurgence of that music from the mid-2000s. Taking Back Sunday and The Used went out together and did crazy huge business. Jimmy [Eat World] and All American Rejects don’t tour as often right now. We felt like putting this lineup together now would be magical.
LYMAN: The fans that went to Taste Of Chaos are probably 25 to 30 now, right? They’ve grown up on festival culture, but now they're repaying student loans. They have more responsibilities. It's such a commitment to go to the three-day festivals. The bands at Taste Of Chaos will play the songs these fans grew up with; you can go for an afternoon, sing along and go bananas, then go home.
Will Taste Of Chaos return as a national tour?
REESE: We're considering taking it on the road next year. We'll see.
LYMAN: John and I are talking about different things. I don't think we can make it a full-blown thing or make it as long, but we want to do something. We just have to get through these [festivals] next month and then sit down and look at it.
Given the return of TOC, might we see Mayhem again someday?
LYMAN: Maybe. I don't know. You never say never right?
REESE: Man, we're just out of the firing line with this. We haven't really had a debrief on anything as far as what we want to do, where we want to take it, if we want to take it… The biggest problem heavy music has right now is headliners, ultimately. You can't play amphitheaters with this massive production without bands that are hard ticket sellers. There was all this B.S. about it being a shitty lineup this year – but trust me, we beat the streets for a lineup. We didn't leave a single stone unturned. We're going to let dead dogs lie. [Laughs]. We'll see what happens in the future. Who knows what the future holds?
Reese, you're very good friends with Kerry King from Slayer, who never shies away from expressing his opinion…
REESE: That's one thing you can count on from Kerry and Kevin! Neither one of them are afraid to express their opinion. I kind of live more in the gray [area]. They kind of live more in black and white. I respect that about them both.
I saw you as Kirk Hammett in Some Kind Of Monster during that argument.
REESE: [Laughs]. Yeah. Yep.
Kevin came from the punk world, which just operates differently than other genres. I'm sure Country Throwdown was a similar challenge.
LYMAN: When you look back at the country thing, I was right on the edge—Florida Georgia Line was hauling the barbecue! Eric Church. I saw the change in country coming. But yes, I did business differently. And a lot of people don't want to do their business differently because it works for them. With metal it was working for a while but it's getting harder on the bands. They aren’t making money on records. I'm focusing on my lineup for Warped. I'm open to opportunities, but I'm done forcing things. Sometimes I think my passions are the same as other people's; I have to realize they’re not always. But I'm very proud of the country shows. Everyone who goes to my shows says they’re awesome. [Laughs].
Why are there fewer heavy music headliners now?
REESE: Heavy rock bands aren't overnight sensations. It takes a lot of time, a lot of touring, some big songs. The business from publishing and recorded music is just in the toilet. Bands don't make any money, whereas a DJ can put a song out there and fly all over the world with a backpack. A pop artist can get on KISS FM or Hits 1 on SiriusXM. They can be in commercials and blow up quickly. When you're an aggressive rock band, there are fewer channels. It's sad because Mayhem was a great avenue for the smaller bands. A lot of major labels are out of the rock business. They'd rather sign a DJ or a pop artist to a 360 deal, whore the song out all over the world and see a big return on their investment in a shorter period of time. The heavy rock space just doesn't work that way.
The Oddball Comedy Festival is genius. It’s the perfect time for it.
REESE: We got super lucky. The first year I got [Dave] Chappelle on his comeback, the second year we had Louis C.K., and this year we have Aziz [Ansari] and Amy Schumer. Comedians are gunslingers man. They're up there completely and totally exposed. If you're in a band, you've got other things that prop you up and allow you to give your best performance. If you're a comedian, it's you and a microphone. If you suck, the crowd is going to let you know.
Let’s talk about It’s Not Dead Festival.
LYMAN: That's going to be awesome! As anyone knows, the past year wasn't the easiest one of my life, mostly from outer influences that came down on me that weren't created by me. [Laughs]. I was working through them. I was struggling with the whole Mayhem thing. [It’s Not Dead represents] an amazing time in my life, a time when we got together, rallied, and supported each other. These are guys I still have in my phone–[NOFX/Fat Wreck Chords founder] Fat Mike, Bill Stevenson [Descendents, ex-Black Flag]. These are my peers! This show is feeding my soul. That's what you have to do to keep yourself interested when you have to deal with a lot of the bullshit we have to deal with in life everyday.
It's like George Clooney and Matt Damon. “I make one for them and then one for me.” The big blockbuster, then the cool art movie…
LYMAN: I've got options. I can do other things. But I still believe in music. I still believe that without Warped, there would be a lot less opportunity out there for people. This is where I come from—13 years working in the clubs of L.A. My socialization was that time and period. I don't get to hang out with those people that much anymore. We're all doing our thing. Maybe a few will come to my Christmas parties or my barbecues once in a while. But this will be a stamp that punk is not dead. This is what we were about! We took our shit seriously, but we didn't take ourselves that seriously. When you realize how much time has been wasted on bullshit in your life… We waste a lot of each other's time in this business. I’m at the point in my life where I don’t want to deal with the bullshit.
You were very engaged with each individual on social media. Isn’t that a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” proposition? You don’t want to seem inaccessible. You also can’t make each and every person happy.
LYMAN: It was absolutely draining. It was the first year where it just really wasn't fun [for me]. During the last couple of days, everyone was telling me how much fun they had. The nonprofits signed up so many kids. It was still that Warped Tour that I've always delivered. But the minutiae just [wore me down]. I don't know how I will approach it next summer. If I can't go out and enjoy myself doing it, then I don't need to do it anymore. Everyone knows I work really hard on these things. But I can always buy a bait shop and be happy. I was one of those lucky people where if I'm working, I'm going to try to find happiness in my work. [This year] was good for the last few days. All the things that always happen on Warped Tour were still happening. It was just these distractions. Some of them were very important, but a lot of it was just fucking clutter out there.
What are you doing to address all of the issues that came up?
LYMAN: We're launching these PSAs, Words Can Hurt. We shot about 50 of them this summer. We're having them edited and we’ll be going to all of the websites in our scene and asking them to run them during November. I met with about twenty organizations while I was on the road to try to come up with a plan for how to deal with some of this stuff, because it is very new. It explodes very quickly. There's a whole world of misinformation. How do you find out the real facts? How do you react to it? It's also going to have to come from the managers and agents, too. They're going to have to have legitimate sit-downs when they sign bands.
Kevin, did you take any kind of break after Warped?
LYMAN: I spent two or three days unloading trucks and getting stuff returned. Then I went to New Orleans for a week to help my daughter [move]. I'm on the board of the L.A. County Fair, so some of the pre-Fair stuff is already going on. I’m also involved with Saint Archers Brewery in San Diego. We’ve launched a bamboo toothbrush company. You can find those at Whole Foods everywhere.
Reese and I did go fishing for a couple of days off of Dana Point.
October must look like a breath of fresh air to both of you.
LYMAN: We're going to have a couple of weeks of California music history, that’s for sure. You know, we did that Taste Of Chaos show at Long Beach Arena the first year, which is still the largest general admission show in modern history!
REESE: Southern California is kind of spoiled because it’s the music capital of the world, with the best shows and the best venues. Yes, we've got some pretty amazing weekends coming up in October. It’s going to be great! alt