The Vans Warped Tour founder opened up on the Rock Sound Podcast about 2018 being the festival's last cross-country run, his memories of the last 23 years and what's next.
WHERE DID THIS DECISION COME FROM?
“It’s been stewing in my mind for the last couple of years. I mean I set out this tour in 1995 to promote action sports and music. Through the years it transformed into a cultural thing but I think I’d done everything I could possibly do in the format that it is. Things have changed a lot.
I’m just tired to be honest – physically tired. I’m out there because I believe that me being the presence on the tour has been the stabilizing thing when you have so many bands on the road that you end up getting just fatigued. I’m 57 years old working 16 hours a day for two months straight. I think we can continue what we’ve done with Warped in the future but it just needs to manifest itself in different ways.”
SO IT’S ALL ABOUT ADAPTING TO WHERE THE MUSIC INDUSTRY IS HEADING? YOU WANT TO TRY DIFFERENT THINGS WITH THE WARPED NAME?
“Potentially. We still have a 37-city tour to put out this year, we still have plans for the 25th anniversary, and we just finished a cruise. There’s a lot of work to do over the next 18 months and we haven’t really looked beyond that. Who knows which way it’s going to go.
I have ideas of taking a tour on the road with all the non-profits that we’ve worked with in the past and maybe music is a little bit of a backseat. Really we have to focus on putting out the best possible tour for next summer.”
YOU SAID TO BILLBOARD THAT FOR THE PAST FEW YEARS THE TOUR HASN’T BEEN QUITE AS FUN AND THIS YEAR ESPECIALLY THERE WAS A CHANGE IN ATTENDANCE, SPECIFICALLY WITH MORE CASUAL FESTIVAL GOERS. HAS IT BEEN A BIT DISAPPOINTING TO SEE THAT SHIFT?
“It is in general. I think it’s a societal shift. You think it’s yourself at first. You’re going ‘Where did all the 14 to 17 year olds go?’ They just did not come out this year and some people said, ‘well the line-up is a bit older’. We had Neck Deep and Beartooth and I Prevail. We had all the young bands that should be the up and coming bands within music and the younger kids just did not come out. As the summer went on and I talked to more people and they’re saying their kids just want to stay in their rooms and watch Netflix.”
DO YOU THINK THAT’S GOING TO HAVE A REAL EFFECT ON MUSIC ACROSS THE BOARD?
“We talked about streaming being such a big force in music. Bands are streamed but are they making the connection to want to encourage people to come out and see them live? Early on in technology, people told me that people would live in these virtual worlds and perform and people would just watch from their home and I said you would never replace the live music experience.
I always thought that you’d grow up and want to go out and experience live music but for some reason there seems to be a disconnect right now with that younger demographic. The music is playing in the background while they’re doing their homework and while they’re on Snapchat but it’s not motivating them to want to go and see the bands live. So it’s a challenge we all face in the music business. How do we motivate people to take that streaming and get the emotional attachment to the band to want to go and see them live?”
YOU ALSO SAID THAT THE UNITY BETWEEN BANDS HAS BEEN MISSING IN RECENT YEARS…
“I’ve seen it absolutely in the last four or five years. Before you judged each other, you’d have to meet each other on the road or maybe you’d toured with each other. Now I think people are passing judgments on other bands or jumping to conclusions on other bands just by what they see on social media.
It wasn’t like that through the years when we used to get together at Warped Tour. No one showed up at Warped Tour with a preconceived notion of who the Black Eyed Peas were. You’d have hip-hop and you’d have punk bands and rock bands and then all of a sudden you threw them in that parking lot and they’d find how much they had in common. I’ve always said ‘You’re all musicians, you’re all artists, you may play something different, but you should support each other as much as possible’.
The inner-bickering amongst bands to me is draining and the bickering amongst bands within a scene is not healthy.”
WARPED HAS BEEN INTEGRAL IN THE SUCCESS OF ARTISTS ACROSS GENRES, FROM MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE TO FALL OUT BOY TO KATY PERRY TO EMINEM TO ASKING ALEXANDRIA – AND THEY ALL WORKED SO WELL TOGETHER. IS THAT SOMETHING THAT YOU’RE SUPER PROUD OF?
“Absolutely! Katy Perry was on the same set of stages that year as Bring Me The Horizon. I’d put them side by side sometimes as a social experiment to watch the reaction from the Bring Me The Horizon fans to Katy Perry. Some would drift off, but many turned around and started watching. Likewise, maybe the young girls who were watching Katy Perry turned around and saw Bring Me The Horizon and drifted over and started watching them. That’s an interchanging of fans.
Warped was the way to play for all different fan bases who all found unity in a parking lot. It’s very hard to expand your fan base if you just play with the same type of bands.”
IS THAT SOMETHING YOU WANT TO MAKE SURE DOESN’T GET LOST? ESPECIALLY WITH THE FUTURE PLANS YOU HAVE FOR WARPED…
“I hope to. I just need to reenergise myself a bit. It gets to be kind of routine, and I started the Warped Tour so there wouldn’t be routine! It’s become a routine not just for myself, but in the sense that I think people took it for granted that ‘Warped will be here forever'. Maybe it’ll shake a lot of people up to start doing better, working towards unifying the scene again. I think everyone just depended on us to do it.”
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE MEMORIES FROM THE WARPED LEGACY?
“I’ve been getting emails from artists and people who’ve worked on the tour. It almost seemed like I was witnessing my own funeral in some ways, or my memorial. I got one from an artist called Meghan Wright [about] probably one of my darkest days on Warped Tour. It was the day I’d let Front Porch Step come back and play that one show. Right or wrong, you live and die by your decisions. I guess reconsidering it; maybe I made the wrong decision. But I was going off some professional’s advice, and I’m not a trained therapist or anything. But she also said there was a huge storm that came that day and hit the show and she felt she never felt more part of something. When everyone started pulling together to keep everyone safe at the show.
That’s what Warped Tour has always been. That’s what Warped, to me, always is. No two people have the same experience at Warped Tour. That’s what I kind of created. Warped Tour has always been kind of a contrast. I’ve always said that’s probably one of my worst [days], but when she sent me that it was like ‘Whoa, that’s what Warped Tour is’. I was probably having my darkest days, and she had a great sense of community.”
WE’RE STILL GOING TO BE SEEING AND HEARING A WHOLE LOT MORE FROM YOU AND THE WARPED NAME IN THE FUTURE. WHAT’S YOUR MAIN AIM WITH ALL THAT? IS IT THAT YOU JUST HOPE THAT THERE IS A CHANGE AND THAT PEOPLE DO STILL WANT TO COME OU T AND DISCOVER MUSIC OR BE PART OF A PROPER COMMUNITY?
“Absolutely, I just need to readjust it, and readjusting it means not being on the road for two months putting on the tour in this way. It might manifest in going back and doing some shows in the UK. We’re going to be in Japan again with Warped Tour. We had a Warped Cruise a couple of weeks back, and that was so much fun. The bands had so much fun, the fans did. I was able to be up, part of it and enjoying it, rather than exhausted on the road. Maybe there’ll be more one-offs.”