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An Interview With PSYCHO LAS VEGAS Co-Curator Sean Pelletier

Psycho Las Vegas is going to be the best fucking music festival to ever hit Nevada. Be there or be square motherfuckers.

Psycho Las Vegas is going to be the best fucking music festival to ever hit Nevada. Be there or be square motherfuckers.

Sean Pelletier is a radical dude. He's the kind of guy who has been a part of his scene for so long that he's practically a part of the furniture. He's managed some of your favorite bands, including Pentagram, and The Obsessed, and worked for years at Relapse Records. The dude knows what's up. He's clearly very passionate too, especially about his latest project, Psycho Las Vegas – a festival with a lineup so fucking stacked that it's really more of a question of who ISN'T on it.

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He was kind enough to sit down with me for half an hour and talk about this festival and the work he put into it, as well as sharing some juicy details about his own management career. Sean is one of the good ones, and if you're missing out on Psycho, you're fucking up.

So how are you?

I'm good. I can't wait for the festival! I've been working on this thing since the end of November or December, it's been a lot of work and I've been learning a lot. It's exciting!

I have a ton of deep set questions about this festival – the number one being how the fuck did you get every good band?

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Can I give you some backstory first?

Sure!

Last year, Psycho California was where it started – it was just a bunch of psychedelic rock and roll shows and the booker Evan is one of those people who acts upon his dreams and makes stuff happen. He booked Pentagram a few times and it was a great success. Then he asked me for Pentagram to play Psycho. Then I got my other clients in Bang! on the bill and I got Pentagrams 70s parallel band Bedemon back together. I Djed too. So we became friends and he asked me to co-curate for the next festival. He had a bunch of keystone bands already and we just gelled really well so he hired me to help him. He reached out to who he wanted to book on it and I was planning on doing a festival of my own featuring a lot of early 70s heavy bands.

I wanted bands from heavy blues, hard rock and pre metal. I said, “Well if we have Alice Cooper then we need Blue Oyster Cult!” We put our heads together. Evan wants to do something memorable, which is how I feel. It's not just another festival that comes and goes. Not saying that those aren't fun. They are a blast. But we wanted to bring forward bands from the past that maybe don't get as much attention as they deserve. We just didn't want to have any filler. We wanted to book the keystone bands that started the style and then add the children of that.

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When you are curating something of this scale – I almost have to wonder… what were your criteria? One of my friends commented, “It's not whose playing, it's who ISN'T playing!” How did you decide who wasn't playing?

I can't speak for Evan but I really wanted bands I've always wanted to see and maybe never got to see. That might be a little selfish but I think there are a lot of people that feel that way. We didn't want to book bands already playing stuff. I think one of the main things is looking at what festivals are happening and looking at what we can offer that is different. I'm a huge fan of extreme metal but there are already festivals like that. I wanted to take all of the genres of music that I like and take the cream of the crop. That's what I was thinking.

Obviously you have been doing this for a long time – which is why I was surprised you said you hadn't seen some of the bands… which ones haven't you seen?

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Well I saw Blue Oyster Cult as a kid but I wasn't ready for them. I needed it to sound like WASP and stuff when I was a kid. When I saw the I didn't really pay attention – it wasn't until I got older that I connected with some of those bands. Blue Oyster Cult was a big one. Part of the reason why I wanted them was because I don't see them tapping into this new market. Since Ghost broke you've started to see Blue Oyster Cult patches all over the place. A lot of times when I'm trying to book a band I tell the agent that I'm trying to introduce these bands to a younger audience. Evan doesn't want me to give away too much stuff but let me just say this: We don't necessarily have a genre we are going for, we just want to put bands on there that we would love to see and that we think our bands would love to see. I remember being in the van with In Solitude and in the van they were playing everything I liked, from Swans to country stuff. I was like “How do you guys know this stuff?” And they were like, “The new scene is people liking the cream of the crop of these genres” That's easy to do when you think about it. There's a gateway between a lot of these subgenres. This is something that Psycho Las Vegas does really well – it ignores genres and it's a wishlist of bands we want to see. We get to look at the budget and see what we can make work.

Something that struck me about Psycho California was how perfect the venue was… What made you choose the Hard Rock in Vegas?

Evan already had everything sorted out. I advised against Vegas several times. Pentagram plays to a thousand people in San Francisco but only 50 in Vegas. There is not a big scene there He wanted to do something different though – he's a brave guy. What I like about it, and I don't want to talk down to other festivals, but we don't want to make our fans have to walk from one venue to another. People don't have to stand out in the hot sun. People spend their vacation on these festivals – so how do we make people feel like royalty? I think Vegas for the Psycho people was kind of like that. It's totally different, you can go there and be a sinner for the weekend. You can gamble, there are beautiful people, there are pools which open at night so you can watch bands from jacuzzis under the desert sky. Us dirtbags go into casinos and we are completely welcome. We want to take it over for a weekend and make it our own oasis. Most of the time I'm in Vegas I don't want to be there because it feels fake. So now it's like we have a chance to take over Las Vegas! People tell me that they don't want to be there but lets make them want to be there. Let's have a family reunion there!

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I think that's a huge part of the appeal. I go to LA all the time but I feel like saying you are going to Vegas is almost sacred… it adds a certain romance and given how ridiculous the lineup is that helps.

I completely agree. I'm a huge KISS fan. They got me into everything. KISS plays there but I could never afford to go. But I thought it would be fun to be at a rock and roll show with all that neon. That's against my nature but for a weekend that would be a blast.

I wanted to ask about you as an individual… I didn't realize that beyond Pentagram you also manage Wino… Those guys have a reputation as being hard to handle… what is it like handling artists like that?

I always tell myself it's for the greater good. I don't want to make myself sound egotistical but I've been in the scene for a long time. I always want to expose music I love. That's why I worked at Relapse for years instead of major labels who offered me jobs. When I discovered Pentagram I was getting burnt out on death metal and it reminded me of where I came from. Getting to know Bobby I saw the potential. I looked at myself and realized I was armed to do it. I had experience in several sides of the music business in radio, magazines and labels and I thought I could guide him. Whenever he worked with someone they took advantage of him but I wanted to give him a second chance and work it like a fan-manager and do it right.

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That kind of is what compels me but it definitely is hard. You need to prepare yourself, and I'm speaking mainly of Bobby, but this is going to become your personal life. You need to be a partner and best friend to them. You need to have an unconditional love and I had to keep telling myself that I knew what I was getting myself into. I always think of it as Big Metal Mountain” but with Bobby I've climbed higher than anyone ever has with him, I just can't turn back! That's kind of what drives me, I've gone further than anybody with this dude, I can't turn back now. He can still do this, he's not dead, he's trying as hard as he can. What helps me too is that I'm a drug addict, I've been locked up. I was given to the state by my parents when I was a teenager. I knew though that I was still a good dude. I could understand where Bobby was coming from and why people looked down on him.

As far as Wino goes… I feel like I'm being egotistical and I hope this doesn't read badly… he's been around for a long time and I've known him for years. I saw him for the first time in 1992 at CMJ and he once in a while asked for help but I was always too busy. When he got busted with meth in Europe I reached out as a friend. If you've seen that movie Crazy Heart he's like that. He packs in his wagon, and he just tours and pays to play the bills. He is the last great American rock and roll outlaw. He's clean now – but that never affected his output he was always prolific. We were always on the same page. We have a real brotherhood and it kind of drives me. Wino has been a joy to work with. We say down and I talked to him. Because he plays so much I thought he might be watering himself down a bit so we decided to concentrate on The Obsessed. He said “I'm not doing anything until it's right, I've got to feel it in my heart!” and at the time he was off the road, jamming with an old roadie and shit started to gel so they went for it! I think for me personally I'm just a big fan so I want to see this stuff happen!

As a manager myself there is a certain magic to standing side stage and seeing all these people gathered for a thing you put together…

This will answer a bunch of questions you've already asked but, the only thing better than discovering amazing music is sharing it. It reminds me of the tape trader days. It's amazing for me to see people wearing Pentagram shirts when for years people didn't know who they were. It's great to know that there are other people sitting at home late at night getting emotional over this music.

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To circle back – what is the future for Psycho?

I'm not too sure. There is definitely going to be a Psycho California next. I am only hired to work on this one festival, but I believe I'm going to get an offer to work on the next couple. I don't really want to work for anybody who doesn't connect to music legitimately but these guys do. I imagine it will just continue. They want to deliver something unique and special whether its from the lineup or the venue. I expect them to continue making their events like a vacation for people. Depending on the success of this next one I would imagine they are going to have the financial stability or whatever to just continue. I could really see them building this brand up to be the go to music festival. I want to say rock and roll but I'm really not sure. I kind of expect it to just be all the best bands.

Do you think it could be like MDF and branch out all over the world?

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I can't speak for them but I would love to see that. I'm not sure how that's going to happen but I would to see that. I'm sorry I can't answer a lot of these questions but I honestly don't really know!

What inspires you to give so much of your life to things that are loud and slow?

I just love fucking music. It's really the only thing I have ever wanted to do. I wanted to be in KISS when I was a little kid. I wanted to be Gene Simmons mixed with Spiderman and then I realized Gene Simmons was a prick. I just completely love music and don't want a regular job so I did whatever I could to be in the business. One thing leads to another and as I built up more relationships things worked out. That's the thing I kind of love about it – surrounding myself with likeminded people from all over the world. I can't believe I'm friends with so many talented people and that drives me. I just want to be a part of this huge clan. I had to do whatever I can to create a job for myself and pay the bills which most of the time is just barely but I really believe that you are on this planet to make a mark and I want to do that by sharing music!

Find out more about Psycho Las Vegas here: http://psycholv.com/

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