Knotfest has concluded its second Southern California edition this past October (and third year overall) with successful results, giving the heavy music scene an outlet for rising bands to be heard on a larger scale. Plus with one of the genre’s biggest acts to have an event of this size designed around them and hand selecting many of the acts on there, it opens up new opportunities for others.
For hardcore Slipknot fans, having their own festival event became a given for them to put on such an event. Veteran prodocer and event coordinator of the festival, John Reese, plays a huge role is making sure the show goes on smoothly.
He gave his thoughts on what makes them such a likely candidate to hold such an event and becoming successful at throwing a two day event with multiple stages of heavy rock and metal bands, a museum of band related items and even a roller coaster.
“Because I think Slipknot’s so visual. They’re so visual in what they do and it has that crazy side show kind of element that made itself defensible more than most other acts. So they wear masks, it’s dark and it’s visual and their videos are very intense. From the standpoint of creating this giant apocalyptic carnival, which is what I like to refer it to, there’s really no better band on the planet to create something around.”
Working alongside the band, Reese played a key role in making the event runs smoothly. Best known for also producing the summer annual Rockstar Mayhem Festival, his experience producing events such as these helped put together such an event.
“It’s not that different. The differences are the substantial amount of curation and involvement with Slipknot. They’re involved in every single decision and I would want it that way because it represents their brand.”
“They’re involved with the curation of the talent. They’re involved in everything that basically puts this thing on. I run all of the attractions by them. I do the leg work. They’re intimately involved in the curation of the event with Cory Brennan, the manager and the band,” he said, explaining his role alongside the Slipknot band members.
Being involved in the production of Knotfest, Reese himself admitted he did get some say on the selection process of the talent. “Of course – I work on it and send them a submission list. If I feel there’s somebody worth fighting for, I’ll fight for that act. So I’m intimately involved in everything, trying to make sure we pull off the right show all the way down the line.”
2015 was the third edition of the Knotfest (and second in Southern California), he explained how they made changes and fine tuning things to ensure it to run better and giving attendees a better experience.
“We basically really wanted to deliver a similar kind of thing to what we did last year because we felt that it worked. We lost a couple of attractions. We lost the zipline and two lane Monster Trucks. We’ve done a lot of different things to make sure that the fans wanted to see and do we did. We felt last year the show was an hour and a half. The show was too long so we reduced the show by one hour.”
“We added acts to the extreme stage. That was an important part. We added a couple of more stages up in the top of the lawn at the Thunderdome with the fire. We added two more stages up there. We tried to adapt and engage and do stuff that we felt like created a good slow loop in the festival and gave people a lot of different things to see.”
When it came to selecting the talent, they took on the challenge of finding acts they felt would best round out such an event, while balancing availabilities and not repeating names from the previous year.
“We have to try to find which artists are available. We didn’t repeat a single act from the year before. Everybody that played this year was entirely new with the exception of Slipknot. That was important and we threw in the hip hop element in there with Mobb Deep and Ghostface Killah. In my business that’s always finding out when bands are available, how much they want to get paid and all of those things necessary to be able to book one of these things.”
Reese shared who he was personally excited to see during the Knotfest weekend. Being that he was involved in the selection process in booking talent, he himself talked about who he was excited to see performing on his event.
“I loved seeing Judas Priest. There’s this new band Khaotika that I wanted to see….Belphagor…there’s probably 15 or 20 that I wanted to see. I’ve seen most of them through playing on the Mayhem Festival or other stuff that I do.”
“I hadn’t seen Judas Priest since the early 80s so I was really stoked to see them. I always love seeing Korn. I loved the hip hop collaboration between Mobb Deep and Ghostface Killah. I loved that. It was great seeing Clutch. I hadn’t seen them in forever. Suicidal Tendencies – I’ve never had them on any of my festivals so it was great to see them. Love Cannibal Corpse. I could keep talking but…”
Overall, he was happy with the results with Knotfest and the hard work put in by the members of Slipknot. “I’m just so proud of Slipknot. I actually went and signed them with Ross Robinson back in 1998 and watched them become arguably one of the biggest heavy bands in the world. They stick to their guns and they never compromised. They took a big risk and a big shot with putting Knotfest out there and I think what they’re doing for heavy music should be commended.”
As for a 2016 edition, Reese would not give a definite answer at this time, but was positive about its future.
“Well we’d love it to be an annual thing so we’ll see. We’re going to have a debrief and we’ll sit down and decide what we’re going to do next year if anything. Obviously I hope it comes back. The plan is for it to be an annual event in San Bernadino. That’s the plan but stranger things have happened. So that’s our plan and we’ll see what happens.”
As for Rockstar Mayhem Festival or any other hard music related festival tour in the near future, he did not have anything definite at the time and said “I’m working on some stuff. Who knows? Once again, never say never. I don’t know yet. Nothing’s in stone yet. We’re still working on some things. We’ll see what happens.”