Kevin Lyman Interview – Creator of Mayhem Festival

Kevin Lyman Discusses This Year’s Mayhem Festival

Photo of In Flames

“heavytothebone2” of recently conducted an interview with Kevin Lyman – creator of the Mayham Festival.  Here’s his interview…

Kevin Lyman has had a hand in the creation of Warped Tour and Mayhem Festival, to name just a few of the noteworthy projects he has been involved with over the past two-plus decades. Starting out as a club promoter in Los Angeles, his idea to have a yearly outdoor summer festival conducted in parking lots with Warped Tour has turned into one of the most well-known tours out there today. Along with John Reese, Lyman started the Rockstar Mayhem Festival a few years back to give the spotlight to metal and hard rock acts.

This year’s line-up is a powerhouse, with headliners Godsmack, Disturbed, and Megadeth on tap, as well as Machine Head, In Flames, and Trivium supporting. I had the chance to talk to Lyman in early February about the semantics of running a major festival, the process behind choosing acts, and the possibility of taking the festival overseas in the near future.

Heavytothebone2: Can you give me a little background on how the Rockstar Mayhem Festival started back in 2008?

We’ve been working on Taste of Chaos together, me and John Reese, and I had a lot of metal bands wanting to play on the Warped Tour that I had. We started seeing bands crossing over into that audience. We were sitting around talking one day, trying to figure out what was going on in the metal scene, and how maybe we can help some of the young bands develop over there. We were looking at maybe, ‘Hey, if they had their own festival for metal kids, that really focused a lot on developing acts and side-stage bands in some way, maybe we can develop some new headliners for that scene.’At that point, Disturbed and Slipknot were talking about getting together, maybe try to figure out a way to work together. Started some flights back and forth, a bunch of meetings, time talking through it, and kind of came up with the first Mayhem Festival.

Heavytothebone2: What did you want to do with the festival originally that made it different from other metal tours like Ozzfest?

One of the things we did was try to identify the best side-stage bands possible. I think one of the things we would do is…paying the side-stage bands was a big thing and sitting with the labels and trying to decide what would help them in developing their artists. We tried to involve the whole metal community. We sat with people like Revolver Magazine from the beginning and said, ‘Hey, if you had your own festival, how would you like to see it?’ So we got a lot of input from the community before we started it.

Heavytothebone2: Did you use that approach for the other tours you started, like Warped Tour and Taste of Chaos?

Warped Tour was pretty much something I started. I worked in the clubs of LA for 12 years and I thought it was a way to bring together that community. I grew up a little bit more in the punk world and that’s what Warped Tour was. Taste of Chaos was an indoor Warped Tour with some of the heavier bands, merging bands like Killswitch Engage with My Chemical Romance, and things like that. What I like doing is trying to deliver the best package for the price you can and I think once again this year’s tour is going to develop and bring value to the metal fans.

Heavytothebone2: When did you start getting into metal?

Working at the clubs in LA back in the 80’s, I worked two-three nights a week at the punk clubs, and three-four nights a week at the metal clubs. My exposure on a level of production, my background was doing production, I used to do…the big heavy metal conventions when they were held out here in Los Angeles, I used to do all the production on them. So I’ve always been exposed to the music. As those bands were starting to drift over to Warped Tour, like As I Lay Dying and Every Time I Die and that type of music wanting to play on the Warped Tour, I started to get reintroduced to metal in a lot of ways.

Heavytothebone2: What kind of process do you go through each year to select the bands for the festival?

It’s interesting in metal because I think there needs to be development of some new headliners. If you really look at it, a lot of these bands have been around many years now and kind of repackaging as headliners. Trying to move that up to hopefully one day where we’ll get a band like Five Finger Death Punch, who started out on one of our small stages, they moved up to a main stage next year. I think they are a year or two away from being a headliner. Obviously, you get so much instant feedback from kids as you look to see who they are talking about and finding bands like Unearth, who have been around for a while, but they could maybe come back and really blow up that side-stage. Trying to find something new, like Straight Line Stitch, with a really strong female voice, is going to be pretty cool.

To read this interview in it’s entirety, go to

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