After spending the past two months touring Europe and the United Kingdom, the third annual traveling heavy metal festival Gigantour launches Stateside tomorrow (April 12) at the Fillmore in Denver. The 29-date trek -- featuring Megadeth, In Flames, Children of Bodom, Job For A Cowboy and High on Fire -- wraps May 22 at the Mesa Amphitheatre in Phoenix.
Many of the festival's North American dates are already sold out, with tickets ranging between approximately $35 and $40. While Gigantour can't "do what Sharon (Osbourne) did by giving away" last year's Ozzfest for free, Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine tells Billboard.biz that he's doing what he can to keep ticket prices low.
"Having a reasonable ticket price makes the audience feel respected," says Mustaine, who founded Gigantour in 2005. "I want them to see great bands and be able to walk away with money in their pocket."
The most recent edition of Gigantour in 2006 -- led by Megadeth, Lamb of God, Opeth, Arch Enemy, Overkill, Into Eternity, Sanctity and the Smashup -- grossed $1.8 million and drew nearly 70,000 concertgoers to 20 shows, according to Billboard Boxscore. Concert performances captured from Gigantour 2006 will be released on the "Gigantour 2" CD/DVD, which arrives April 22 via Image Entertainment. The CD/DVD offers a behind-the-scenes look at the 2006 jaunt, along with a bonus track of Megadeth's "Peace Sells."
Mustaine recently spoke to Billboard.biz about launching Gigantour, the benefit of a package tour, dealing with hecklers and Megadeth's future album plans.
Since founding Gigantour in 2005, you've played a very hands-on role in choosing artists for the tour. Explain how that process works.
I don't necessarily always locate them, but when it comes down to the final approval, that's mine ... Our ultimate goal was to have bands that have guitar players in them that were guitarists that do solos. So we got this together and we wanted it to be a guitar player's festival -- positive and encouraging for kids to go to so they're safe. Their mom's aren't going to say, "You know what? This isn't cool for you to go to. You have to wait until you're older." Any age can come to these concerts.
Have you ever dealt with younger bands that want too much money to play?
There were a couple bands we talked to last year -- one band in particular from the Bay Area that I really dig. I asked if they wanted to do it, and the numbers they were asking for were unrealistic. I would've paid it, but I don't buy the talent, I just pick it. And that's a good thing, because I would probably overpay some of these guys. The people who pay the talent said they were worth about $2,000 per show, and they wanted somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000. That's a considerable difference if you're losing that over 40 shows.
What response did you get after launching Gigantour in '05?
I can't even tell you how many people thought Gigantour was a stupid name. There's always going to be naysayers. There are people who don't like me just because I was born, and that's OK. You just have to have people who believe in you. You have to work on relationships with people, because we're all different. When you have problems with another individual, you have to figure out how to deal with it.
You've been a touring musician for more than 25 years. What's the benefit of doing a package tour, as opposed to headlining your own shows?
It gives more variety, and makes it a little bit more affordable for the audience. If it's just me by myself, I've obviously got more expenses that I need to cover. As this is a business, you need to think of all these things. If you have another band and they have potential to not double-sell the same tickets, it's going to help me with being able to cover our expenses and move the festival into a larger capacity venue. Our whole thing is playing it safe. We don't want to go into venues and have a bunch of unsold seats.
I hear there are sometimes hecklers at Megadeth concerts. How do you deal with them?
You get the guys out there who pay their $35 to come and try and heckle me. If they think over the past 2,000 or 3,000 years of people having to deal with hecklers in literature, that I haven't learned how to shut people up, they haven't been to a Megadeth concert. I know when people are trying to get my goat nowadays. I just don't answer them anymore.
Do you ever find yourself mentoring younger bands on Gigantour
It's none of my business. A lot of it is self-discovery -- or self-disappointment -- that comes from stuff like that. You need to learn that, because if you don't pay your dues, you're going to be like a lot of these hotshot bands that are selling millions of records, and then getting their asses whooped when they get out on stage. They don't have what it takes. In the studio they're great, but they're complete phonies and frauds, and when they get out on stage you can tell. All of the makeup, tattoos, eyeliner and black outfits may look good in pictures, but when they get on stage they suck.
When will fans see the next Megadeth album?
Roadrunner Records just extended their option for a new record from us. I'm pretty underwhelmed with having to go into the studio right now, because I'm pretty exhausted. As soon as Gigantour is done, I'm pretty sure I'll be taking a much-needed hiatus for a while. But a musician never stops writing. That's like asking a cook to stop cooking.