INTERVIEW: John Reese Discusses Creating KNOTFEST
SoCalMusicToday.com recently spoke with KNOTFEST co-creator, Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival co-founder and COLDCOCK American Herbal Whiskey investor John Reese. John discusses everything KNOTFEST including his involvement with the creation of the festival, collaborating with Slipknot on the vision for the festival and choosing the bands and location. We also looked back on the 2014 Mayhem Festival and the status of COLDCOCK American Herbal Whiskey.
KNOTFEST featuring 5 stages and over 50 bands and includes two headline sets by Slipknot with an entire weekend of chaos taking over the San Manuel Amphitheater in San Bernardino, CA on October 24th, 25th & 26th.
Hello John, great to speak with you again! We last spoke in early June regarding the 2014 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. How did the tour go this summer?
It was huge . . . it was our 2nd or 3rd biggest one ever. So it was really good!
If you could only mention one, what would be your finest memory or story from this year’s Mayhem Festival?
Oh man – that’s a tough one. Probably the first show in San Bernardino because it was so massive. We had 25,000 people, the crowd was insane and it was the launch of the tour. So yeah the first show . . . the fans and the bands were just so excited. Plus seeing Body Count playing live for the first time in such a long time, it was just an incredible day.
Based on our last conversation you already have things in motion for next year’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. Is there anything you can say at this point regarding next year’s festival?
Yeah we are working on it now, trying to confirm our headliners. We have our offers out. I wish I could say who they are but I can’t. We are working hard to try and put an amazing lineup together for our 8th year.
On to Knotfest. WOW – this is without a doubt 2014’s biggest heavy metal destination festival in the USA. Knotfest was initially introduced in 2012 playing two dates. How did you get involved in Knotfest 2014?
Well back in 1998 I actually signed Slipknot to our label, both myself and Ross Robinson. So I have had a 16 year relationship with the Slipknot guys, they had done Mayhem twice and I am really close with their manager Cory Brennan and I am really close with Clown. We were just shooting the bull about doing a festival and creating something that Slipknot could curate and create something that was different than everything else.
So Corey Taylor, myself and Clown starting talking about it back in 2011 and we came up with a concept of putting together Knotfest. Like you said we launched it in Iowa in 2012, I produced it with Corey and the band then the next day we did Wisconsin and had about 25,000 people and it was super amazing. There were a lot of attractions; we wanted to create something that wasn’t only a rock show or a metal show but something that was an experience for the fans. So we brought in elements that allowed for fan engagement . . . and what we are doing this year for Knotfest 2014 is 10 times that.
Everything we are doing this year, we are spending a ton of money to create an unforgettable experience. An apocalyptic experience for all the fans attending. This will be a total fan immersion; this festival will blow people’s minds.
What made San Bernardino, CA the right place for Knotfest?
I think Southern California is the metal capital of the world right now in my opinion. I mean we do our biggest numbers on Mayhem in Southern California and San Bernardino is the perfect spot because it’s close to Vegas, it’s close to Phoenix, it’s close to the central valley, it’s close to LA and San Diego. Plus that venue (San Manuel Amphitheater) just lends itself to people going crazy and having a good time.
There is plenty of space so we can create all our festival attractions. We are doing five stages over that Saturday and Sunday . . . it’s going to be a sight to be seen. We are pulling out all the stops on every level from a production standpoint. It’s going to be massive.
All the bands on the festival are heavy and extreme in their own right but there is a lot of diversity within that heaviness. There is old school death metal from Carcass, a thrash attack from Anthrax and newer heavy metal from Five Finger Death Punch. Was that the original vision for this festival to kind of put together a history of extreme music?
That’s exactly it. We wanted to give people a journey, we wanted people to see great extreme bands like Carcass, to see bands from the 80’s all the way up to now and everything in-between and I think we accomplished that.
We have Glenn Danzig who has been doing music since the 70’s. Originally we were going to go day 1 “old school” metal and day two “new school” then we were like let’s give the fans some of each on both days. So that’s how we came up with the lineup.
I started making offers to bands in April and we had the whole thing booked by mid-May so it took less than a month to book the entire festival. I think that’s actually a record to get that done so quickly. All the bands appreciate Slipknot and their popularity and intensity so it was king of a natural fit for all the bands in the lineup to participate. The weather in Southern California in October is perfect, not to hot, no rain . . . it will be an incredible three days.
The Festival has Slipknot headlining on both Saturday & Sunday. How involved are the members of Slipknot in the overall planning and decision making for the festival?
They were involved in every single aspect of it. From what time the gates opened to when it finished, to what the festival attractions were, the vendors, the vibe we wanted, the production elements. Slipknot, their manager Cory Brennan and myself worked hand-in-hand basically deciding and choosing everything. So the bands involvement was intense. They were right in the middle of finishing the new record while all this was going on as we put it together.
Knotfest is huge as it stands today. Will there be any additional Knotfest announcements of additional bands or activities?
We have a couple more surprises coming over the next three weeks. We’ve announced all but stage 4 which we will announce in about two weeks. There will be some other festival attraction announcements coming as well. We already have a zip-line over part of the festival, lots of fire, freaky performers everywhere, rides, carnival games and tons of vendors.
There will be the Slipknot Museum which showcases all the history of the band which will be a big draw. In addition to the music there will be a lot to see.
What do you feel will make Knotfest standout from some of the other weekend festivals currently in the USA like Rock on the Range and Rocklahoma?
It’s a much more heavy festival from a music and band standpoint and there will be many more attractions than anything else that has been put together to date. Nothing currently can compare to this.
Are there any plans to do an online broadcast of the festival or a pay-per-view type of event to allow fans around the world to witness this history making event?
We are looking into a live web-cast, that is being worked on now but nothing is final yet. Also we are looking at a Sirius XM radio simulcast.
I have to throw in a question regarding COLDCOCK Whiskey as that is a brand you have invested in and which we spoke about previously. How did the mission to further introduce COLDCOCK Whiskey to music fans work out during the Mayhem Festival this past summer?
We had an incredible response all summer, it was just amazing. I’ve said it before COLDCOCK just tastes great and all you have to do is sample it and you will dig it.
When you personally announced Knotfest back on July 5 in San Bernardino during the first day of Mayhem Festival you came out on the main stage wearing a Mick Thomson mask. Is there any chance of you becoming the 10th member of Slipknot?
Not a chance . . . I can’t play a single musical note.
John thank you so very much for your time and I wish you the best of luck with Knotfest! Thank You for creating another amazing event.
For everything Knotfest visit www.knotfest.com.