INTERVIEW WITH ROCKLANTA ORGANIZER AND BRAD LEE ENTERTAINMENT PRINCIPAL BRAD LEE
Date: January 18, 2019
FOR MANY PEOPLE IN THE ’80S STYLED HARD ROCK / HEAVY METAL MUSIC INDUSTRY, THE NAME BRAD LEE IS SYNONYMOUS WITH ORGANIZING AND PULLING OFF GREAT CONCERT EVENTS WHILE DOING SO WITH A LOT OF INTEGRITY. AFTER PULLING OFF SUCCESSFUL SLEAZY SLIMEY SUNDAY EVENTS THREE YEARS IN A ROW, BRAD LEE ENTERTAINMENT HAS TEAMED UP WITH TRIBAL ONE ENTERTAINMENT TO BRING THE INAUGURAL TWO-DAY ROCKLANTA FESTIVAL ON MARCH 29 AND 30, 2019, WHICH WILL FEATURE 14 BANDS RANGING FROM HEADLINERS WARRANT AND FIREHOUSE; ONE OF THE BIGGEST SLEAZE ROCK BANDS OF THE LAST 20 YEARS — HARDCORE SUPERSTAR; LATE ’80S / EARLY ’90S CULT LIKE FAVOURITES TORA TORA AND DANGEROUS TOYS; ATLANTA HOMETOWN FAVORITE KICKIN VALENTINA; THE RECENTLY REFORMED XYZ; TYKETTO; AND, MANY MORE. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH BRAD LEE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT WHAT IS PROMISING TO BE THE ROCK FESTIVAL OF THE YEAR.
Sleaze Roxx: You have organized a two-day rock festival called Rocklanta. What gave you the idea to organize a two-day rock festival event?
Brad Lee: Well, of course you know that we did Sleazy Slimey Sunday for three years and that was only a one-day festival and we were kind of butting up against [the] M3 [Rock Festival]. We were kind of looking for a different territory to lock down a two-day festival. As you know, I’m friends with the Kickin Valentina guys and they are down there in Atlanta. If we were going to do a two-day festival, where would we do it? Of course, Baltimore [Maryland, USA] was on the radar because Baltimore is where we did all the Sleazy Slimey Sundays every year. Baltimore has a tremendous rock following but we wanted to try our hand in another market so we figured why not go down south and try the Atlanta market? That’s kind of where it started and it kind of grew from there.
In the early stages, we were kind of stamping around what bands to invite and that kind of thing. Who do we want to work with? At first, it started on a smaller scale. We started with eight bands — four bands per day — and we were kind of doing a half day each day. But when we started booking bands and getting interest from other bands that wanted to play, it kind of snowballed to two days with 14 bands.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool!
Brad Lee: That’s where it kind of began.
Sleaze Roxx: How do you go about picking the bands that are going to play in your festival?
Brad Lee: Ummm. You know, it really — there is no reason or rhyme to it. You know, I watch a lot of stuff on social media and I watch different groups. I may not comment but I do watch. I see pretty much everything in one form or another. Either myself or someone in my camp relays a message to me. You know, there’s a lot of buzz about this band. You might want to try booking them eventually. So you know, there’s a lot of factors that go into it. Of course, logistics have to go into it. The bands first have to be available. Secondly, there’s a budget of course. They have to be in the range of the budget. There’s no really polite way to say it. They have to be affordable. We look at what bands have been playing in the area. We don’t want to go with bands that play at every festival because we don’t want to oversaturate. People can get bored. In other words, if a band has a tremendous following, we are not going to ignore them simply because they played the previous festival before that. If a band plays every festival but don’t have a following, there is no need to put them on our festival.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Brad Lee: There’s two different ways to look at it. There’s still quite a few bands that I have yet to work with that I still want to work with. A couple of the bands — Hardcore Superstar being one of them — are pretty much at — it all boils down to affordability. Everyone on the bill is someone that I’ve either worked with before or someone I’ve been trying to work with and the stars have finally aligned. That’s kind of a long answer but that’s the right answer for it.
[Interviewer’s note: Hardcore Superstar are coming from Sweden to play a rare North American show at this year’s inaugural Rocklanta]
Hardcore Superstar‘s “Last Call For Alcohol” video:
Sleaze Roxx: Now, I have to give you credit because for your festival, you are sort of giving the younger bands or the newer bands a chance to play as well.
Brad Lee: Yeah, I mean I think that’s important. I love the ’80s genre as a lot of your readers, a lot of your followers and yourself. We all love the ’80s genre but it’s on borrowed time. It’s already on its third go around — give or take. It’s not going to be around for 30 more years. A lot of these bands are upon their 30th [year] anniversary tour, some a little more, some a little less, but give or take about 30 years is the average rate for where bands are at right now. Very few bands are around for their 60th year anniversary tour. You know what I mean? So you have to be looking for the next big thing. So the new breed so to speak, or the young blood, or whatever cliche term you want to use, it’s important that we incorporate them into what we’re doing so that they get some exposure and so they develop that following so that they can be the next big thing. It’s kind of a toss up and it’s a hard decision as an agent and as a promoter to say, “OK, we’re going to go with this band” ’cause a lot of your crowd may not have heard of them and they’re going to be reluctant to go see them. And what people have to realize is that the first time you’ve seen every band, the first time that you’ve heard a band in your life, there was a first time that you heard of them. There was a time when you were like, “I’m not going to go see Metallica. Who the fuck is Metallica?”
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Brad Lee: But now look at it. In order for someone to develop into that caliber of a band, we as supporters have to give those bands a chance. So I think that it’s really important that we incorporate that. Luckily, a lot of the younger crowds and younger bands coming up right now are trying to emulate where we’re going. So the passing of the torch is in process, so to speak, right now.
[Interviewer’s note: Babylon Shakes formed back in 2017 and are one of the newer bands on this year’s inaugural Rocklanta roster]
Babylon Shakes‘ “Velveteen Libertine” video:
Sleaze Roxx: Last year or the last couple of years, one festival in particular — the Rock N Skull Festival — switched its line-up quite a bit [see Metal Sludge articles on changes in line-up for Rock N Skull’s 2017 and 2018 editions]. I think that hurts every promoter at the end because if you lose confidence in one promoter, you might lose confidence in others when it’s not warranted.
Brad Lee: Well, first and foremost, I want to throw it out there that being a promoter is like [laughs]… Do you remember the late ’80s / early ’90s, I don’t know in Canada what they had, if they had any version of it or if the same but throughout the US, we had billboards saying, “Virgin. Teach your children it’s not a dirty word.” You know, have that talk with them about sex. That’s kind of what a promoter is. You say ‘promoter’ and people go “Eeeewwww [in a funny voice]. What the fuck? Why would you want to be a promoter? It’s such a slime ball term!” You know what I mean?
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Brad Lee: Part of the reason why it’s looked at as a slime ball term is because quite honestly — and this is not me talking shit or putting myself on a pedestal but — there’s some people that are promoters that give promoters a bad name. Not everyone is on the up and up. Not everyone has integrity. Not everyone is doing it for the right reasons. So there are times, there’s been times at our shows… There was a time at Rocklanta actually when we had Junkyard. Logistically, the schedule didn’t work so we had to pull Junkyard off the bill. We had Atlas I on the Friday and we had to pull them off. We have O.D.D., a local Atlanta band now. So there are times when circumstances make that you have to make those adjustments and unfortunately, it does happen when you announce a line-up and the line-up does tweak or change a little bit. I think it’s important that you communicate with your supporters and the people who have bought the tickets to say, “Hey, this is going on. This is what is happening. This is why it happened and we’re going to move on from it and still have a great show.” I just don’t think that communication was really there with that festival.
I was brought on at the early stages of it when Ted Poley and all those guys were a part of the festival [for Rock N Skull’s 2017 edition]. Ace Frehley, Steel Panther, the list goes on and on of people that were promised to be the headliner. You know, I was brought on as an event manager. I was going to be part of that festival. I was going to help them out behind the scenes and organize some things. For different reasons, a lot of the things that were promised at the beginning didn’t happen. You can chalk some of it up to funding, you can chalk some of it up to poor planning, poor communication. Whatever you want to chalk it up to but at the end of the day, I feel that certain things weren’t handled correctly. That’s not me throwing Rock N Skull under the bus. Do I think that the intentions were there? Hell, yes!
Whenever somebody puts a festival out there, puts a new show out there, I love getting excited about it. I think it’s important for the scene that we have these shows. If we’re not going to give people the opportunity to come out and see these shows, then the whole scene dies. It’s important that we have these festivals. Don’t get me wrong but it’s important that they are planned out accordingly. Just think that there’s some festivals out there that are just planned poorly — quite honestly. Look at Loud N Lima. They spent $400 grand to put people, VIPs in the mud. Who didn’t think of that? Who said, “OK. This is a nice area and everything. It’s a big wide open space and would be great for a festival. What happens if it rains? Is there a back up plan for that?”
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Yeah.
Brad Lee: I mean, how can you spend $400,000 and not take any accountability. I’m not saying… I have yet to go to a perfect show. I don’t know if you have. I cannot say that I’ve been to a perfect show where something didn’t happen that went unplanned for or where the accountability wasn’t there. These things happen you know? But to spend half a million dollars and to be a mud fest, that’s got to be hard. It’s almost laughable now but I’m quite sure that people behind the scenes aren’t laughing. It’s heartbreaking because the intentions were there. Who thought that it would be a good idea when you have all these variables to take into account and it creates bad ideas sometime. It is what it is.
Sleaze Roxx: One thing that I was really impressed about with your Sleazy Slimey Sunday 3 is that you already had a set line-up but then you added L.A. Guns as a headliner. You really didn’t have to do that because I think that you had sold quite a bit of tickets leading up to that. Why did you go ahead with that decision?
Brad Lee: Truth be told, Sleazy Slimey [Sunday] 3, we were in black on the very first day of sales. The line-up was great. We had Junkyard as the headliner last year. The reason why people liked that line-up so much last year was because everyone that [the] M3 [Rock Festival] did not have or that M3 had but people wanted more because they only had a 25 minute set in past years. We gave everyone a full set and put them on the bill. I was contacted by L.A. Guns. When the whole thing happened with the group with M3, Merriweather Post [Pavillion] had a weather problem where they lost their roof and they had to rebuild. It caused a lot of setbacks with the festival. It caused some concerns with the second stage and things like that. L.A. Guns were scheduled to headline the second stage at M3 last year.
When the thing happened and they [M3] lost their roof, they decided to go — if we’re going to rebuild the roof, let’s upgrade everything and go down to one stage. Then they go down to one stage. For that move, L.A. Guns said “Fine.” When you’re playing out these festivals and bands accept the terms of the contract, whatever they accept, and I’m going to give you the short version to it. I’m not going to go into the specific details but logistics go into play. If you have a show the night before, let’s say six hours away, and you think, “OK. We have until 9:00 o’clock [pm] to make it to the venue.” Alright, now you find out that you are going at 3:00 [pm] instead of 9:00 [pm]. That’s a six hour difference that causes… You have to go to bed early the night before. You have to get up from bed earlier the day of. You have to put in time for travel and if anything happens. God forbid that you’re on the interstate, there’s an accident and the interstate shuts down. Now you’re running behind schedule. There has to be enough allotted time there for all these variables to occur and it just wasn’t up for that.
When they went down to one stage, L.A. Guns had to pull out of the bill because logistically, it doesn’t work out now with the timeframe. So I was contacted by their management saying, “I know it’s two weeks away from the show and the show has already sold but we were going to play M3. We’re not going to play M3 now. Would you be open to the idea of L.A. Guns being the headliner?” Junkyard agreed to go into the direct support slot and L.A. Guns was put on as the headliner. The reason why? I thought that it was the right thing to do. You know, there’s a lot of people that go to M3. I am one of them. I have never missed an M3 yet. There’s a lot of supporters that wanted to see L.A. Guns. L.A. Guns were part of the line-up and now unfortunately, L.A. Guns had to pull out of the festival. It felt right to give the fans what they deserved, number one, and what they wanted, number two. It turned out to be good for Brad Lee Entertainment and good for L.A. Guns. They had a phenomenal show. They played extra and longer than they had to. You were there. They played an extra 25 to 30 minutes at the end of the night. It was a phenomenal show. I give props to the guys for handling it the way they did. Everything was handled in a professional manner.
L.A. Guns performing “Sex Action” at Brad Lee Entertainment‘s Sleazy Slimey Sunday 3 at the Cancun Cantina in Hanover, Maryland, USA on May 6, 2018:
Sleaze Roxx: Getting back to Rocklanta, can you tell us a little bit about the venue and stuff like that? What can people expect when they go to the festival?
Brad Lee: Well, we had a couple of different venues in mind for Rocklanta. I flew up to Atlanta and met up with Tribal One Entertainment who has partnered with me in this venture. Tribal One Entertainment is on the poster with Brad Lee Entertainment. Met up with them and went to a couple of different venues. We took out Center Stage. Center Stage has a lot of history, some for music, some for different wrestling organizations. So basically when you go in, there’s three different venues. So when you walk into the entry level, you walk in and I wouldn’t say small but a medium sized nightclub that holds maybe 250 people up to the back called Vinyl. So that was good because when we walked in there, we had the vision for a VIP area for before [the] show for a cocktail hour or whatever it may be and afterwards. It’s not necessarily how it worked out but that’s what our vision was. And afterwards, we can have a jam in there ’cause they have a stage and all that kind of stuff. And upstairs, there’s a bigger room called The Loft, which I think holds about 800 people in there. We don’t need anything that big so we let The Loft go. We’re not going to use The Loft and there’s not anything above it on the third floor.
When you walk straight past Vinyl on the entry level, there’s a merch[andise] area and a bar and things of that nature. You go around the corner and you can make your way around both sides. It’s kind of like a horseshoe shape. You go down steps like stadium seating. You walk down into this bowl and that’s where Rocklanta is going to be. That’s actually the Center Stage area. It’s an open GA [general admission] pit floor. The seats are all going to be GA. I don’t think that we will have the option of sectioning it off for VIP, to have a seat assigned to this person. It’s just going to cause too much of a headache. So we will make the whole event GA seating. The only different things with the levels will be different perks. The acoustics in there are phenomenal. It’s a great venue for music. It’s a great music venue. It only holds about 1,200 people max and I think we’re slated for 1,050 so it’s going to be packed to the gills but it’s also going to be very intimate. At M3 or a festival of that sort, you can be in the grass or away from the stage. This is going to bring people in for a more intimate feel no matter what kind of seat or particular level they are at.
Brad Lee Entertainment wants to thank its Rocklanta partner — Tribal One Entertainment. You can purchase tickets for Rocklanta via Ticketmaster.
[Interviewer’s note: Kickin Valentina, Dangerous Toys and headliner Warrant are all playing Day Two at this year’s inaugural Rocklanta]
Kickin Valentina‘s “Turns Me On” video:
“Turns Me On” is taken from the album “Imaginary Creatures” out worldwide 11th of August 2017 on Mighty Music on LP, CD and digital (ex. Japan by Bickee Mus…
Dangerous Toys‘ “Scared” video:
Music video by Dangerous Toys performing Scared. (C) 1989 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT
Warrant‘s “Louder Harder Faster” video: