Ten Questions with New England Metal and Hardcore Festival Founder Scott Lee
If you live within a five state radius of Massachusetts — an area that extends from Virginia to Maine and from Ohio to the Atlantic Ocean — the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival is the premier metal festival of the year. It signals the coming of spring, the renewal of hope, that it’s time to emerge from a long winter of hibernation to begin getting your metal on once again. Now in its remarkable 16th year (!), the 2014 edition of “Metalfest,” as it’s simply called around these parts, features a who’s who of touring packages all converging in one location for a weekend of brutal mayhem: Behemoth, Whitechapel, 1349, Darkest Hour, The Acacia Strain, Battlecross, Nile and Nails are just a few of the bands that will grace the fest’s two stages over the course of three days.
Scott Lee has been the man behind it all since the festival’s inception, so we recently caught up with him via email to ask him all about how the lineup is assembled, the greatest challenges he faces each year and some of his fondest/craziest NEMHF memories.
Tickets are still available for this year’s fest, set to take place on April 17-19 in Worcester, MA. More info here.
Metalfest is now in its 16th year. Can you talk about how the festival has changed from the very first year through now?
Each and every year we strive to make the festival better than the last. I feel we accomplish that goal every year. It’s definitely grown a lot throughout the years and we’d like to keep that trend going.
What inspired you to launch the very first Metalfest?
I attended another festival a while back and noticed how poorly it was run. I was with Shadows Fall and Matt [Bachand] suggested I do my own festival. The idea just snowballed after that and here we are 16 years later.
How has the metal scene in general changed between 1999 and now?
It’s progressed in a lot of different ways, both musically and technology-wise. It seems these progressions opened a lot of doors for metal to get more technical and kind of gave the genre new life. As far as hardcore goes, they’re sticking to the old school ways and it never gets old.
When assembling the lineup of bands each year, what are your considerations? What do you look for in bands vying for spots on the bill?
Generally we look for bands that offer the whole package for the festival. We really look into a band’s popularity, tour experience and hype, along with a lot of other factors. Our goal is for the line-up to get everybody pumped on the fest each and every year.
How does NEMHF stand out from all the other metal festivals that take place every year?
I believe we are the longest lasting metal festival at this point, which is cool because it makes it easy to stay in touch with different generations of the genre. It’s cool when you look at the line-up and see bands that cover three decades of music.
Besides paying the talent, what are some the other expenses you face when running Metalfest? What are some things you have to do that the average concertgoer might not consider?
Haha, there’s a lot! Between hotel rooms, staffing the venue, extra lighting rigs, the list just goes on and on.
When the day finally arrives, do you sit back and have a good time watching all the bands, or is there still work to be done and fires to be put out?
Honestly, I run around like a chicken with its head cut off. I try to see as many sets as possible, but the work isn’t over until the fest is over. And then, of course, I begin work on the next year. It never ends, but that’s what I love about it.
Who are some of the bands you’re most looking forward to on this year’s bill?
To name a few, Rivers of Nihil, All that Remains, Bleeding Through, Behemoth, Sam Black Church, Within the Ruins, ThyArtIsMurder, Nails, Twitching Tongues.
Share with us one of the craziest or funniest memories you have from all past Metalfests.
One year the power went out, which was wild. I believe it was out for about three hours total. We had to empty out the whole venue, it was the worst!
When do you start planning for next year’s festival?
A couple months after the last one; it’s quite the process and it takes a while. But, like I said, I love it, and I never get sick of it.