Kevin Lyman - Founder of the Warped Tour
Posted Oct 7, 2007, by The Bear.
First broadcast on KSCR on September 18, 2007
INTRODUCTION: I first met Kevin Lyman, the founder and head of the Warped Tour, in May of 2002 when, on behalf of KSCR I was attending the Eat’M Conference in Las Vegas and he was on one of the panels there. That year the Los Angeles dates of the Warped Tour took place at the parking lots surrounding the L.A. Sports Arena near the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. That area is within walking distance of the USC campus where KSCR is located so I thought, well maybe KSCR can somehow help out when the Warped tour comes through seeing as how we’re so close. So after Kevin’s panel I went up to him, introduced myself, and mentioned our station. I was going to say “I wonder if KSCR could so something with the Warped Tour when it comes to L.A.” (Or something like that anyway). I got as far as “I wonder if – ” when he interrupted me with “would you like to have a booth at the Warped Tour?” Rather taken by surprise at his offer I managed to get out “we would love to have a booth at the Warped Tour” and the deal was done. Since then KSCR has had a booth at the L.A. Warped Tour not only that year but in most subsequent years. It’s a fun project for us during the slower summer months when the campus is mostly empty.
This interview came about after I submitted my interview requests to the promotions people who handle interviews. When they sent their confirmation e-mail there was a note at the bottom asking me if I wanted to interview Kevin Lyman. Naturally I said yes. I met him back in the press area near the production office where we sat down to talk. He remembered who I was, which was really cool. There is undoubtedly no one busier at a Warped Tour show than Kevin – he was coming and going all day – but he’s very down to earth about everything. It was August 25th when we taped this, the last date of the tour, and the day on which Kevin added the much talked about “Old-School Stage” an extra stage just for that last show which featured a bunch of bands from the early days of L.A. Punk.
THE BEAR: Hello, this is Barry “the Bear” and you’re listening to “The Bear’s Den” backstage at the Warped Tour, here with the Warped Tour’s founder and head honcho Kevin Lyman himself. Welcome to the show.
KEVIN LYMAN: Thank you. It’s good to see you again Barry, it’s been awhile.
BEAR: Yes, we met in Las Vegas five years ago at the Eat’M Conference.
KEVIN: That’s right.
BEAR: And you allowed KSCR to have a booth at the Warped Tour then, and we’ve done that several times.
KEVIN: Yeah, gotta support people who actually support our music.
BEAR: So thank you –
KEVIN: You’re welcome.
BEAR: – on behalf of KSCR. So how has the tour gone this year?
KEVIN: Today’s the last day and people ask “are you glad it’s over? Or not?” And I say I’m really not glad it’s over; it’s been such a great summer, and I think we kind of got back to a lot of our roots, and a pretty diverse line-up going on out there, we’ve had a great time, really a good time.
BEAR: Has this tour been better than others?
KEVIN: Our attendance is back up, we were down a bit last year but it’s a real music appreciating fan; when you go out to any stage there’ll be a big crowd. A couple of years ago I think we became a little bit more where people were coming for a hit song, and now people are just coming to enjoy the day.
BEAR: Now you have something called the Old School Stage just today here in L.A.
KEVIN: It’s a little bit of something after the first show in June (we started in Pomona) and I had the Adolescents and Circle Jerks play and about three weeks later I was like “man, how do I thank L.A.?” because I worked 12 years in the Punk Rock clubs and how do I thank L.A. for supporting me? And I said “wouldn’t it be awesome to call up a bunch of the old bands I worked with and see if we could rally them and put them together?” And we came up with a pretty awesome line-up. I ran over there and saw Duane Peters; I’ve seen Revolution Mother; I’ve seen Agent Orange a couple of times, but as soon as the Circle Jerks are on I’ll be back over there.
BEAR: Yeah, I think a lot of people will. So this is what? The thirteenth year now?
KEVIN: Yeah, the thirteenth year.
BEAR: Did you expect it to run so long?
KEVIN: No, not really. It was never supposed to go this long.
BEAR: So how exactly did it come about in the first place?
KEVIN: Well I’d been working in the clubs, and I’d been working on Lollapalooza, and then I was going to go one last time; I’d been doing some shows where we put some skateboarding and music together, and I just wanted to go out one last summer. So I got Steve Salva, a few bands, bands like CIV, and Orange 9 MM, Sublime, No Use For a Name, and we went around and did 25 shows, and we did okay. People liked what we were trying to do.
BEAR: Was it a lot more like DIY, low-tech than it is now, so to speak?
KEVIN: We’re still pretty low tech, we’ve just got more of everything, and we have to take care of a lot more each day. We don’t fly under the radar sometimes, but we’re still pretty low-tech.
BEAR: How many stages were there on the first show?
BEAR: Ran at the same time, like two main stages?
KEVIN: Yeah, there was a main and a small stage, and that was it.
BEAR: And how quickly did it grow into what it is [now]?
KEVIN: Well the second year I got bands like – when Pennywise and NOFX came I think they lent a lot of credibility to the tour, and it started growing. We grew quite a bit that year; it still was not successful on a financial level – it took about four years to do that – but then it just kept going, and going, and you’re wrapping up this year and people go “wanna do it again?” and I’m like “yeah I want to do this again! I might have to go get a real job [otherwise]” I’m not that old yet.
BEAR: How exactly did it grow? You have two stages the first year, and how many the next year?
KEVIN: Two, and then I think we went up to three, and then four, and then at one point a few years back there were sixteen one day and I said “that’s too crazy,” and ever since then we’ve been kind of backing off to where we have eight stages today.
BEAR: I remember last year it was like twelve.
KEVIN: Yeah, that was too many.
BEAR: I remember the first years I went it was usually four, two main stages and two smaller stages, and then it was six, and then it was eight.
KEVIN: Yeah I always felt the Warped Tour could collapse from its own success, and we want to help young bands, and we want to support the DIY as much as we can, but it was just getting to be too much.
BEAR: ‘Cause I actually did notice that a few years back, when you had gone up to about ten stages, but instead of having headliners on all the stages as the number [of stages] expanded a lot of more local bands started to appear on them.
KEVIN: Yeah, and that’s great, but I also want to keep the Warped Tour somewhere special to play. And this year I feel the quality of music on every stage is great.
BEAR: So how did the battle of the bands to get on the Warped Tour come about?
KEVIN: Oh that was Sterling Ball from Ernie Ball, and Brian Ball came to me and they wanted to start it, and I said if you can run it we’ll do it, and eleven years later they’ve been doing it now, and fifteen thousand bands signed up to play one spot one day.
BEAR: Wow. How many bands total were on the tour this year? Including those who only played maybe one or two dates?
KEVIN: Probably six hundred or seven hundred bands.
BEAR: That’s a lot of bands.
KEVIN: Yeah, a lot of bands.
BEAR: So do you schedule everything?
KEVIN: Yeah, well a couple of the smaller stages are now scheduled by Ernie Ball, but everything else I book and schedule myself.
BEAR: And what exactly is the concept behind the Kevin Says stage?
KEVIN: It used to start out when all the bands would come to the office and say “Kevin says we can play.”
KEVIN: They go “Oh, we don’t have you on the list.” “Well Kevin says – ” “Kevin says you can go play over there.”
BEAR: I see. So eventually you made a stage out of it.
BEAR: And how has it worked?
KEVIN: It’s been great. We find some good young bands, we kind of keep things rolling, and it’s really cool.
BEAR: Nice. Now where do you see the Warped Tour going in the future?
KEVIN: I don’t know. The Warped Tour going in the future? We have great people out here that work and run this tour, we all love it. I think it could go on as long as we want it to go on. But it’s like how old - ? We’re gonna look pretty crazy when we’re 60 year olds running around this parking lot putting on Warped Tour.
BEAR: Yeah, but Punk is not for sissies.
KEVIN: Yeah, we’ll see.
BEAR: [My band] did a couple of shows last year on your stage and I noted how much work it was to cart everything down, and basically you have to break it all down every night, move it and build it all up the next day.
KEVIN: Yeah, I think we amaze people some times. They think we have two sets of things. They don’t realize that we pack it all up and go.
BEAR: How do you have the stamina to do that?
KEVIN: I don’t know. I think if you love what you’re doing you can keep getting through it. I mean it’s harder some days to get up and drive across L.A. than it is to put on this tour.
BEAR: That’s true. Have any people collapsed?
KEVIN: We’ve lost a few people here and there, but you know if you’re on this tour you come from a gypsy or a pirate background I feel, so probably you’re used to long hard days.
BEAR: Are any of the people who started it with you still around?
KEVIN: Yeah, a couple of them; Shelly the caterer, she’s been with us since the beginning; but most people have been here a while with it.
BEAR: Now over in the lunch / dinner area I understand there’s usually a band who does a lot of the cooking or caters?
KEVIN: Yeah, there’s people that come and help, kids come and help, there’s some bands who have fallen in to help set up the tents. That’s bands we really look out for and when we can slide them in on a stage we will.
BEAR: Cool. Well I know you’re very busy so I’ll let you go. Thank you for talking with me. One more thing before I forget. We always do a music set, so since obviously you’re not playing in a band yourself we can’t spotlight your band, but you can name a whole bunch of bands that you think we should play on the show when we run this interview.
KEVIN: You should feature the Old-School Stage: Circle Jerks, Manic Hispanic, Fear, STICKies, Agent Orange, Duane Peters – any of those and you’ll have a great show.
BEAR: We’ll do that. Thank you Kevin.
KEVIN: Thank you Barry.