EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH NEW ENGLAND METAL AND HARDCORE FESTIVAL FOUNDER SCOTT LEE
On April 17 and 18, America’s premiere metal fest, the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival, will enjoy its eleventh year of existence, with acts like Lamb of God, All That Remains, Suffocation, Napalm Death, The Haunted, Kylesa, Shai Halud, IWRESTLEDABEARONCE, and about a gajillion others all playing sets within 48 hours. Which, needless to say, is the very definition of “awesome.”
We recently had the chance to e-mail some questions to festival founder Scott Lee. After the jump, get Scott’s thoughts on the creation of the festival, all the work it takes to make the fest happen every year, his other career as a band manager, his clothing line, and more.
Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the NEMHF? How it originally came together, how it’s grown, etc.
The idea for NEMHF came about when I went the Milwaukee Metal Fest with Shadows Fall. While I was there I saw that the bands were not being treated very well and on the long ride home, Shadows Fall guitarist, Matt Bachand suggested that I do something similar in our area. I got together with John Peters, owner of MassConcerts, and we came up with The New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. The first year had bands like Overkill, Deicide, Hatebreed, Manowar and Earth Crisis. Now the fest has grown to include over 70 bands from all over the world. This year we have a wide range of acts. Everything from All That Remains, Lamb Of God, The Acacia Strain, Have Heart, Terror, Cattle Decapitation, White Chapel and Municipal Waste. We even got Suffocation. In my opinion, this is the best lineup the NEMHF has ever seen and I couldn’t be more excited.
What was it like in the beginning, trying to get established bands on a bill for a brand new festival? Or, if you had already been promoting shows with national acts at that point, how did you get your start promoting?
MassConcerts, the company that I work for, already had a great relationship with most of the metal agents in the country, so it made putting the fest together pretty easy. At this point NEMHF is pretty much an institution.
How does it feel to be so revered within the metal community?
Its all about the bands and the fans. Making sure the bands are treated well and the fans have a good time is my number one job. As for being a “revered” member of the metal community, I’m just living the dream (although sometimes it’s a nightmare!). I’ve been a fan of metal all my life and to make a living by being part of this community is a dream come true.
How do you program each festival? How far in advance do you have to start? Do you feel pressure each year to top the bill of the previous year? Do you often turn bands away?
We sit down to start working on the next year’s festival literally the day after the current festival ends. 365 days of work go into this thing. As for feeling pressure to top the previous year’s bill, it is definitely present. Luckily each year there are new and exciting bands that are up and coming and that makes the job of diversifying the lineup and keeping the bill exciting easy. We try to get the cream of the crop when picking bands for the fest. Sometimes that is easy and sometimes its a mess. Lots of bands are interested in playing the festival and we’ve only got so much room. Obviously some bands have to be turned away.
Why is the festival only two days long this year?
The fest was only three days long last year because it was the 10th Anniversary and we wanted to do something special. When we hit the 20 year mark we’ll go back to three days.
What, in your opinion, is the single most surprising aspect of organizing a festival every year? Is there something you’d imagine would be easy but is actually really difficult, or vice versa?
Its all hard work. Running this festival – and this probably holds true for every festival – is like Murphy’s Law; Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. We just work hard and try to fix it without anyone noticing.
For years, the metal festival has been more or less the exclusive domain of Europe – but now it seems like more and more are springing up in the U.S. Thoughts?
I think its great as long as the people running these fests are responsible and have a clue. An inexperienced promoter trying to run a fest can do a lot of damage to the metal and hardcore community, so they have to be careful.
What are your thoughts on the way the whole Massachusetts metalcore scene that originated in the late 90s, came to prominence in the middle of this decade, and eventually sprung hundreds of copycat bands?
I think it is great. Plain and simple.
How did you transition into artist management? We imagine being a booker makes your life as a manager somewhat easier…?
I liked to help bands out as much as I could, so I figured I’d try to make a career out of it. Sometimes being a promoter helps me in my role of artist management and sometimes it gets in the way.
Can you tell us a little about Scott Lee Clothing?
I always wanted to make a clothing company. I know I’m a big sexy, handsome man so I put my face on a shirt. That’s about it. Check it out at www.allinmerch.com
Anything else you’d like to add?
I want to announce that this year we’ve teamed up with our friends at Chasers, a local Worcester bar, and they’re hosting the third stage of the NEMHF. Chasers is directly next to The Palladium and is owned by some good friends of mine. The place looks amazing inside and we’re psyched that they are interested in being a part of NEMHF.
-AR & VN