There’s a lot of talent in the inaugural Metal All Stars tour launching in Europe at the end of March. With Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil appearing on most dates, the trek’s lineup features a bevy of musicians steeped in metal cred, including Phil Anselmo (Pantera, Down), Joey Belladonna (Anthrax), Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society), Udo Dirkschneider (U.D.O., ex-Accept), Cronos (Venom) and Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly). A complete list follows the interview.
While chatting with Pollstar, producer Reed described the Metal All Stars concept and how the outing developed from an idea into reality. Reed also discussed the tour’s future, including plans to play South America as well as the U.S. and Canada.
Of course, every story has a beginning. For Reed, that first step towards becoming a tour producer just might have happened when he was a young lad.
You’ve worked with tours for much of your professional life. But what was the first concert you ever went to as a fan?
KISS. I believe Heart was opening up for them. It’s crazy to [say] but I think I was about 6 years old.
Were you already a KISS fan?
I actually was. It’s a funny story because the first major concert I ever promoted was a KISS concert in South America. It’s kind of a [full] circle. … I always think it’s a little bit funny that … If I had known when I was a kid that one day I would be working with KISS and doing a big concert, I would have told you you were crazy. I guess that’s how life works out.
Where did you grow up?
In Texas. When I was a teenager I moved out to California with my father. When we moved out here it was kind of like the thick of the ’80s Sunset Strip scene. Being like most teenagers I got into a band. We all had our dreams back then of making it happen. … Something I guess I can’t ever live down … I met Penelope Spheeris and she had me in her movie “Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years.” That was a long time ago but whenever I’m hanging out with friends, they’re like, “Aren’t you that guy?”
That’s kind of how I grew up. When I got a little bit older and wiser, hopefully, I [went] to UCLA and ended up being a lawyer. I went to law school in Dallas. I lived in [Dallas] for quite a while. I still live there but I’m in L.A. a lot doing business. But we primarily base ourselves out of Dallas.
Do you think you would be doing what you’re doing today if you hadn’t moved to Los Angeles while a teenager?
I probably wouldn’t have. The music business is a business where it’s all about who you know and building personal connections with people. When I was living in L.A. in the ’80s I met a lot of the same people I know today. Some of them I do business with, others I may not do business with but we’re still friends. I was also … probably the only one they knew from that time period with a law degree that could help them out.
Were you the only heavy metal fan in law school?
No, there were a couple of guys who were big fans of metal, maybe more metal than me. I have one friend that ended up working with me on a few of the tours, in a lawyer capacity, who’s a big Iron Maiden fan.
Will the acts on the Metal All Stars Tour share the same backing band or is the band itself made up of all-stars?
This idea for the Metal All Stars is kind of a fan-focused idea where you want to give the fans the best value possible. So rather than go see a show where you have some filler songs and you wait around for the hits, I thought a great show for myself to see was to have each guy come out and play three or four of his biggest hits. … Basically, how the show flows is you’ll have Zakk Wylde come out and play some Black Label Society and Ozzy Osbourne songs. Then you’ll move on to the Pantera era with Phil Anselmo singing four or five big Pantera hits.
The show kind of moves along and each guy in the band holds his own as having done something in the music business that qualifies them to be an all-star.
Obviously there has been press where people have said it would be cool to see Zakk Wylde play with Phil Anselmo, etc.” [The tour] gives everyone an opportunity to see this, not just in a jam in a club, but in an arena setting where you’re seeing a real show [with] great combinations and various musicians we’d all like to see play together. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see that happen.
We have a backup band that is out there at all times. But it’s more of an organic thing and if Zakk Wylde wants to stay out there and play with Max Cavalera, that’s his prerogative and we’ll make it happen. We try to keep it a little loose so if there’s chemistry there and some guys want to get together and play then the set list can change a little bit.
With some of the musicians having other projects this year as well, how much rehearsal time actually involved assembling everyone in the same room?
First off, with modern technology they all get together from wherever they are. Prior to rehearsals they do some pre-production. Once we get everyone together it’s probably 10 days before the tour. They get plenty of rehearsal time in during that time period.
How do you handle customs during a European tour? Do you call each country’s Customs office in advance to let them know your plans or are you a complete surprise to them when you roll up to the border?
You have to arrange it. We have a guy, that’s all he does, he deals with Customs. Frequently you have a lot of freight. Moving people isn’t as difficult as moving the freight. I’ve had my share of run-ins over that. When you do international tours … it’s a little different than in the United States where you put everything on a semi and truck it to the next city. In South America, Europe and most international shows you have to fly your freight from place to place. The expense involved is usually a lot more than when doing shows in the United States. The other problem is every time you hit a country you have to clear Customs. I’m not completely up-to-date on what all their fees are, it always seems to be a fortune every time you enter a country.
That’s why international tours … [are] a lot more complicated, with all due respects to touring in the United States. … When you’re going from Chile to Bolivia, for example, you can have a lot of issues pop up. And we’ve had our fair share. We’ve had situations where our freight was stuck in one country and we had to get to another country on the day of the show. For whatever reason it’s been held up at Customs and everyone’s at the venue waiting to do the load-in. … But for the most part you try to keep things streamlined.
Considering all the special effects that metal bands are known for, are there ever awkward moments such as explaining to Customs officials why you’re carrying pyrotechnics?
Sometimes. You have to be very aware as to what the local laws are. To go from one country to the next … the next country might ban pyrotechnics completely and you may have to buy it all locally, which can cause another issue with trying to get all of that done in one day.
The No. 1 rule for touring these countries is preparation. Getting ahead of the ball. … That’s the thing with experience. I can’t say when I first started out doing this that it was always a smooth road. But you learn from your mistakes and after a few years you get it together and try to head off the potential crises as much as you can. … The idea is to take everyone on tour, have a good tour and have everyone go on their merry way after the tour and be none the wiser about all the crazy stuff that had to be done to get them there.
Phil Anselmo of Down
Rock On The Range, Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
May 20, 2012
What about the musicians themselves? Are they also flying or is everybody gathered on one happy bus for the tour?
That’s the whole issue with these all-star type of things. People are spread around the world with their own projects, bands or whatever they are doing. The first show is in Sophia, Bulgaria, so the first few days before that you’re going to have a lot of people coming in at various times. But once everyone is in Europe we’re going to fly between all cities on the same plane. Or where that’s cost-prohibitive or when the next city is close by, we’ll probably take tour buses.
Typically, what I like to do is charter a plane. You put everyone on the same plane, it’s a lot simpler that way. Everyone is getting there at the same time.
Plus, with a plane there’s no chance of someone wandering off during a gas or rest stop.
[laughs] Well … sometimes even the most perfectly laid plans can go awry. We did a tour in 2012 called the Rock ’n’ Roll All-Stars. We had a big plane, everyone was on the plane. But we had about 15, 16 musicians and once they got off of the plane they were roaming the gift shops or whatever. That was always a crisis having to round everyone up and make sure they got on the bus to the hotel. It sounds like it might be easy but sometimes it’s not.
Is this the first Metal All Stars tour?
It is. We did the Rock ‘n’ Roll All-Stars … in that lineup we had Gene Simmons, various members of Guns N’ Roses, Joe Elliott from Def Leppard. We toured in South America. That was a very difficult tour. We had a lot of egos and personalities involved. We had some problems with the promoters in South America. What I tried to do with the Metal All Stars is learn from all of those lessons and try to put together a smoother operation.
The other thing is this tour kind of appeals to a different demographic. … I had always seen that real metal is a worldwide phenomenon. The fans are very loyal. You always get a tremendous turnout for these shows. There’s a lot of respect within the Metal All Stars between each of the guys in the band. They’ve known each other for years and have a lot of respect for each other’s abilities and their legacies. It’s sort of like a traveling circus, “controlled chaos,” I guess you could say, and you have to put together the right personalities. And watch out for these other things like freight, transportation, hotels, Customs, local officials and all of that.
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax
The Fillmore, Detroit, Mich.
April 6, 2013
(Scott Legato / RockStarProPhotography.com)
With the Metal All Stars tour it appears that every musician is stepping out of his comfort zone since the tour isn’t built around them or their own band. Is there a limit to how many people they can bring with them?
The bottom line is important so we try to limit it to essential personnel. … Cavalera, for example, [is bringing] his wife, Gloria, [who] is also his manager. … In large part, in the modern touring business we try to limit expenses as much as possible. It’s all about the bottom line in the end of it. If you can’t make some money you’re probably not going to do this again and the people that will be disappointed are the fans. We try to keep it lean and mean.
About the artists stepping out of their comfort zones … the most repeated thing I hear from the musicians themselves is that they really like doing this. When you’re in a band it’s like being in a marriage. You’re with [the same] group of people for the last 20 years and it’s kind of like clockwork, it works the same way when you do the shows. In this you can step out of the circle a little bit and do something a bit different, play with friends you’ve always wanted to play with. The musicians enjoy doing it and they get paid doing it so it’s a win-win situation. But it’s like a breath of fresh air to step out of your marriage, I guess you could say, and do something new.
So it’s like one big fun trip for them?
Hopefully. We’re trying to make it that way. If they go home and tell other people about it, maybe we’ll have a tour next year with a different lineup.
When assembling a lineup for a tour like the Metal All Stars, is some of the booking accomplished through word-of-mouth? That is, do you book one artist and he tells a friend about it and that friend comes to you asking to join up? From what you’ve been saying, it sounds as if some of the work involved doesn’t necessarily go through normal business channels.
That is actually true. It’s good to put together people who are already familiar with each other, who are already friends. It makes it a helluva lot easier to make things run smoothly if you have guys who don’t hate each other, for example. I’m not going to name names, but there are a lot of bands out there who are successful touring entities right now who all travel separately and don’t want anything to do with each other. It’s always a positive environment to have people in the band who actually like each other and want to be in the same place with each other.
On any tour, especially on an international tour, most of the time you’re traveling. You’re playing a show for up to two to three hours but the rest of the time you’re on the plane, in the bus, waiting to get through Customs, whatever. But if you’re shooting the shit with your friends, it takes a lot of that edge off of having to wait around.
With all the various musicians, how do you arrive at a setlist?
When we put together the setlist, what we try to do as fans is figure out which songs we in particular would like to hear this guy singing. We’ve all been to a show where [the act] will play their entire new album. To be honest with you … these days tickets are not cheap so if you’re paying $150 to hear an hour of whatever this guy’s new album is, you’re frankly disappointed even though I respect their wish to play whatever they want. The thing is, we all like to hear the hits, we all like to get our money’s worth out of a show. So when we put together a setlist we, of course, [check] with the artists and make sure they’re OK with it. But we try to concentrate on the [artist’s] four biggest, well known songs. Those are the songs we’d like him to perform.
Typically, every artist knows what is his bread-and-butter and they know what fans want to hear. So everyone is usually pretty cooperative about it. The interesting thing is … they get to play with a different set of accomplished, legendary musicians. That puts a new twist on it. It’s not like the same song they’ve been playing for the last 20 years.
Wolf Den, Uncasville, Conn.
November 10, 2012
You have Vince Neil appearing on most shows as a special guest with the exception of Bulgaria, Romania and Belarus.
Due to some scheduling problems he couldn’t do those shows. I’ve worked with him in the past and he’s a good friend of mine. He brings a lot to the show and to the table. He puts kind of a new dimension on the show. You’ve got a lot of metal guys going up there and Mötley Crüe, obviously, isn’t heavy metal, but I think they’re more of a harder rock band than people give them credit for. So I think he’s going to fit right in.
So booking Neil was one of those instances of who you know rather than calling his reps and making a pitch?
Actually, with Vince it was a different situation. The promoter in Russia had a special request. He actually went out and communicated with Vince and asked him if he would like to be a part of the tour. So it organically came about. But after the fact everyone said, “What about Vince going out? That would be great.” So we worked it all out and, thankfully, he was nice enough to go out on the tour with us.
What is the ticket price equivalent in American dollars for this tour?
The thing is that it’s in Euros, but we’ve tried to keep the ticket prices, on average, around $50. Of course, as always, there’s going to be more expensive and less expensive tickets. We’ve tried to be competitive. Kind of the original focus of this from a touring business standpoint was give the fans a valuable ticket where they could see the equivalent of seeing ten of their favorite bands in one show. Ordinarily they might go to a festival and pay a lot of money to sit there for two days and hear all these songs.
Do you think there will be a Metal All Stars next year?
Definitely. After Europe we have plans to go to South America. We are working on putting something [together] to tour in the United States … all this year. Then next year we’ll do the Metal All Stars again. Due to people’s obligations and things like that, I’m sure we’ll probably have a different lineup or a partially different lineup. That’s the complicated thing about doing these all-star tours – getting the availability of all these different artists. You have to work around their schedules. It’s not always an easy thing to do.
We look forward to getting out there and seeing all the fans. This has been a project that originated from just being an idea. Now it’s reality. And it becomes more of a reality once we get out there and do some shows – put the pedal to the metal, so to speak. We’re all excited to get out there and see the fans. Hopefully they’ll enjoy the show.
“There’s a lot of respect within the Metal All-Stars between each of the guys in the band. They’ve known each other for years and have a lot of respect for each other’s abilities and their legacies.”
Metal All Stars lineup:
Phil Anselmo (Pantera, Down)
Joey Belladonna (Anthrax)
Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society)
Udo Dirkschneider (U.D.O., ex-Accept)
Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly)
Brian Fair (Shadows Fall)
Ross The Boss (ex-Manowar)
Blasko (Ozzy Osbourne)
Nick Menza (ex-Megadeth)
Jasin Todd (ex-Shinedown)
Matt Bachand (Shadows Fall)
Kobra Paige (Kobra And The Lotus)
Jon Donais (Shadows Fall)
Jesse Billson (Heaven Below, Level Zero)
Aaron Rossi (Ministry, Prong)
Bones Elias (Rock Of Ages)
Here are the dates:
March 23 – Sofia, Bulgaria, Arena Armeec
March 24 – Bucharest, Romania, Romexpo
March 26 – Lodz, Poland, Atlas Arena
March 28 – Gdansk, Poland, Ergo Arena
April 1 – Minsk, Belarus, Palace Of Sport
April 3 – Stockholm, Sweden, Hovet
April 5 – Riga, Latvia, Arena Riga
April 6 – Helsinki, Finland, Hartwall Arena
April 8 – St. Petersburg, Russia, Sport Hall Yubileiniy
April 9 – Moscow, Russia, Moscow Arena
Special Guest Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe appears on all dates except March 23, 24 & April 1.
Please visit MetalAllStars.com for more information.