10 Questions with ... Gary Spivack
December 8, 2015
1) What made you want to get into the music business? Who were some of your early mentors?
I was a drummer and I felt like it was going nowhere fast. I had a college degree from the University of Colorado and my Dad bought me a briefcase and said "Get to work, son." So I sold-out and it's one of the truly great regrets of my life. I should have moved to Seattle with my college buddy and tried out for Pearl Jam ... dammit. So, if I HAD to get a day job it might as well have been in the music industry. I got a shot to be a local for 24k a year in San Francisco for the famed Elektra Records. I covered a Motley Crue/Faster Pussycat in Fresno and the rest is history. Mentors and peers to this day include: Bill Graham, Michael Lang, Cliff Bernstein, Warren Christensen, Kevin Weatherly, Marc Geiger, Rick Roskin, Danny Wimmer, Joe Litvag and Del Williams.
2) Can you tell us your first music job and give us a rundown of the labels and positions you've held over the years?
Started as a drummer, went to Elektra Records, then MCA Records as Head Of Alternative, Atlantic Records in NY, then Capitol Records as Head of Rock &Alt, Geffen Records and then I left the cocoon of the record label world to start my next career.
3) For several years you worked with Del Williams, and started Rock On The Range with him and Danny Wimmer. Can you share with us the origin of this now iconic music festival?
We were sitting around the old Right Arm offices in the summer of 2006 and started talking about how no one in America was putting on a Rock festival. Sure, there were many top level Alternative festivals and that lane was clearly full but what about Rock? I don't mean Metal or Punk or even Alternative Rock, but just a down-the-middle Rock N Roll festival to serve the underserved. And we knew we didn't want to put on this Rock extravaganza in a New York, L.A., Chicago or even an Atlanta. We wanted the heartland. A true people's festival, man. To its core. And that's where Joe Litvag and his all-star AEG Live team came in. He was my first call. Joe took the bait, he got what we were cookin' instantly, and we've been joined at the hip partners going on 10 years now. The goal, which now sounds naïve and even a little arrogant, was to put on America's biggest and baddest Rock festival. And low and behold I think we're there.
4) Before we talk about the awesome 2016 lineup for ROTR, how did you and Danny Wimmer hook up?
So Danny came to the old Right Arm offices that same summer day Del and I sat down. He brought in Coffee Bean, god bless the kid. Our visions really matched up. At the time Danny was doing A&R for Atlantic. We knew a lot of the same people and are both bulls in a china shop. Guard your valuables when we charge into a room. LOL. Over the last 10 years Danny (which is of zero surprise to me) has become a superstar. A force. Beast mode. And I'm proud to call him my partner. He started DWP; Right Arm is no longer and DWP is now a leading full-service concert company that's putting up multiple wins every year. His energy, passion and festival knowledge is truly hard to match.
5) The 2016 Rock On The Range lineup has been announced and this will be the 10th anniversary of this major national music festival. Besides acts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Disturbed, give us some of the other acts we can look forward to checking out in 2016?
We knew we had to swing for the fences. And what I mean by that is not only going after a big gun like RHCP, but also taking chances. And when you take chances in this business you upset the apple cart. We HAVE to cast a wider net with ROTR. For the sake of the brand and for the sake of Rock in America. To have RHCP and Lamb Of God, To have Pennywise and Shinedown. To have Machine Gun Kelly and Rob Zombie on the same festival. We know what ROTR is ... it's what our tagline says --'Where Rock Lives.' Not where Metal Lives. Or where Active Rock Lives. Its where Rock Lives and we wanted the 10th anniversary of ROTR to cover the spectrum of all that is Rock N Roll to us. Wait, I don't think I answered your question. Too many bands to mention that I look forward to seeing at ROTR this upcoming May. Makes my head spin.
6) Besides the music, what are some of the other highlights we can look forward to for ROTR 2016 in Columbus, OH?
Watching Vinnie Paul and Hellyeah walk on stage is one. Vinnie hasn't stepped foot in the state of Ohio for over 12 years and he personally choose ROTR to make his long-awaited return. That will be such a moment. The return of the ROTR Comedy Tent is another. That comedy tent is fucking awesome. Always packed and such a nice change of pace from the beautiful chaos that goes on the music stages. We're upgrading the Beer and Food villages and we are working on a ROTR Photo Museum that will be placed in the heart of the vendor village that will celebrate each of the first nine years of ROTR. We have over 12 professional photographers contributing their very best ROTR photos from years past. A must-see.
7) Besides the ROTR concert, you guys are doing several other major concert festivals around the country. Can you give us the events and cities you have lined up for 2016?
2016 will be DWP's biggest and busiest year yet. Of course there is the World's Loudest Month that includes Ft Rock, Welcome To Rockville, Carolina Rebellion (wait until you see THIS lineup!), the Northern Invasion (going to two full days after selling out in year one) and then the busy September/October season will be here before you know it with Sonic Boom/Madison, Rock Allegiance/Philly, Louder Than Life/Louisville, Aftershock /Sacto and at least four more summer rock festivals that I can't discuss at this time. Very soon though. No Xmas break for this cat.
8) You guys have a great reputation for working closely with Rock radio stations across the country for all your events. While some promoters don't give radio the time of day, why is Rock radio so important to the success of your music festivals?
It's no secret we cater to Rock radio more than other promoters and for great reason. Cause they all wave the rock flag high and mighty, 24/7 and 365. And we want to help them raise it even higher with our festivals. Here's a simple fact: There is simply NO better way to get the word out about your show, your band, your event or whatever than a Rock radio station. A LIVE (not taped) DJ talking about your festival is ... priceless. And we simply do not take that for granted ... Evah. Thank you, Rock radio, for supporting and being there for us.
9) While we're on the subject of Rock Radio, give us your honest take on Rock Radio bands and music as we head into 2016?
This will probably come off as negative, as there are some solid programmers NOT doing what I'm about to say. But you asked, Ken. So I say: Stop the "formula." Rock N Roll was invented to be ANTI-Formula. To rock bands: Please stop making music cause it "sounds like it will be on the radio." Mistake #1. Did GnR try that with their first CD? Did Metallica try that .... ever? Make music to push your own boundaries ... test your limits. Like Slipknot does or Rage Against The Machine did. Fuck man, you are ARTISTS. BE artists then.
Having said that, test you limits but do it within a SONG structure. Hit songs win. To rock radio: Stop with the round pegs for round holes. Again, that formula ain't exactly moving mountains these days. If it "sounds like something safe to you," STOP right there. And champion bands such as Bring Me The Horizon, Royal Blood and Death From Above 1979, as well as Jack White and bands like Cage The Elephant. How does rock radio not play Alabama Shakes? How is Brittany not considered a rock n roll force of nature? Anyway, that's my soap-box moment. I guess the bottom line is to musicians and rock programmers alike. Don't do this job to keep your job. Do your job to get fired. Take risks. It worked well for Howard Stern. He did his job to get fired. Blow up the system. Again, it's supposed to be about Rock N Roll.
10) What can we look forward to from Danny Wimmer/Rockhouse Presents in the future? Care to share any exciting new ventures with All Access?
I've said too much. It's almost 10p and I need to eat and do my sit-ups. Rock On The Range is on sale. Carolina Rebellion is going on sale Dec. 11th and Northern Invasion Dec 18th. Not to mention Rockville, Ft. Rock and all the great radio Xmas shows that are around the bend. Oh, it's already 2016 for me. It's time to start looking for great bands for summer and fall. You got any?
I understand you and the Rock On The Range family were big fans of the late Scott Weiland. Any final thoughts on his passing?
Scott Weiland's passing has hit me hard. And it strikes a nerve to all the Rangers as Scott is forever joined at the hip with Rock On The Range. Scott played the very first ROTR with Velvet Revolver then returned in year two as STP headlined in their very first show in over seven years. THAT was a moment that will NEVER be forgotten. Scott always showed up for me and always gave it his all...even if he wasn't 100% at times. We lost a rare breed and true Rock Star with his passing. May he finally get the rest and peace that his body and mind longed for. We love you, Scott.