Talk to Kevin Lyman about this year’s Mayhem Festival, hitting Nampa on July 1, and you won’t get any false hype about the annual heavy metal tour’s lineup.
“It was the best available for what we had to work with,” Lyman said. “We had pressure to keep the package at a certain price and make that work, and we had pressure on headliner expenses.”
The festival’s co-founder isn’t mincing words — not about this summer’s tour, headlined by Slayer, its future or the future of heavy metal as a genre.
“I mean, Mayhem’s — it’s at risk of going away at any given moment,” Lyman said during a late May phone interview.
Slayer gives this year’s Mayhem a legitimate headliner, but the rest of the mainstage lineup at the Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater lacks the second big headliner of previous years. Where past lineups have paired the likes of Avenged Sevenfold and Korn, Disturbed and Godsmack or Rob Zombie and Five Finger Death Punch, this year, Slayer is joined by King Diamond, Hellyeah and The Devil Wears Prada.
The bigger issue going forward, as Lyman sees it, is the limited number of headline-worthy acts in metal, a challenge that stems from heavy metal having failed to produce new and younger headlining bands.
And in Lyman’s view, metal will have no one to blame but itself if the genre fades from the scene.
“The bands at the top all demand a certain level of fee to be on a tour. Unlike punk rock, metal never knows how to take a step back to move the whole scene forward,” said Lyman, who knows the punk scene well as the founder and organizer of the long-running, alternative-rock/punk Warped Tour. “That’s how punk rock was. That’s how we nurtured punk rock. Bad Religion would take a little less than they could on their own to bring the whole scene forward, so we could make sure we had a good (touring) package around them. Metal doesn’t seem to have that concern, never has, never has since I’ve been working in the clubs in the ’80s. It’s always about a me, me, me thing.”
The problem with not developing new talent, of course, is that the established headlining acts in heavy metal aren’t getting any younger. And the advancing age has already cost metal a portion of its audience, according to Lyman.
“What happened was metal chased girls away because what happened was metal aged,” Lyman said. “Metal got gray, bald and fat. And metal was about danger. When you went to a metal show, it was dudes on stage, there was some danger in it. And what happened with heavy metal was heavy metal drove away the females because the artists aged.”
The challenges facing the metal genre as a whole are reflected in this summer’s Mayhem Festival.
To start with, this year’s festival has shrunk from four down to two stages — and the entire lineup has been skinnied down by about a half dozen bands.
“Yeah, we had to condense it,” Lyman said. “The expenses of putting on those shows had gotten high so we had to push it all into the concourses.”
Lyman admits there were struggles in putting the Mayhem lineup together for this summer. Some headline-worthy acts were not touring this summer and others were doing their own tours.
At one point, Slayer was ready to back out of Mayhem because the band wasn’t happy with the proposed lineups. But when Lyman was able to secure King Diamond, the flamboyant frontman of his own long-running band (and vocalist of Mercyful Fate), that sealed the deal for Slayer.
“The King Diamond thing I was really into because King Diamond doesn’t play (live) that much,” Slayer guitarist Kerry King said in a mid-June phone interview. “And for him to be a part of this, I think it adds to the cool factor because everything they were coming up with I wasn’t really into. We were at the point once where we were even going to completely back out of it because I hated it (the lineup) so much. We got them to keep thinking and tweak the list a bit. Then King Diamond, for the lack of playing (live), and me being an old-school (guy), I’d rather have Mercyful Fate. But I can’t have Mercyful Fate, so King Diamond is a nice backup.”
Despite everything, Lyman and King both expressed optimism that Mayhem will draw decent crowds this summer.