Mad With Power is a yearly Power Metal/Heavy Metal fest in Madison, Wisconsin. In 2019 the fest will be held for the third time, and PowerMetal.no asked the man behind it all, Ty Christian, lead singer of Lords Of The Trident, what this arcade/pinball/heavy metal fest is all about.
Who are the people behind Mad With Power Fest?
Ty: That would be me! I’ve created, organized, and ran the last three years of the festival myself – and of course with the help of a bunch of fantastic volunteers on the day of the show!
What are the main purpose behind Mad With Power Fest?
Ty: I wanted to create a festival that would combine two of my favorite things: heavy metal and arcade games, and we’ve definitely achieved that! I also try to focus more on up-and-coming acts in the US Power Metal community. There’s a lot of absolutely mind-blowing talent out there that doesn’t get a lot of attention from a number of the US-based festivals, and I wanted to try to correct that.
Tell me a bit more about the concept «arcade+pinball+heavy metal» festival.
Ty: The whole idea of the fest is that we take the venue and completely line the walls with arcade & pinball games. That way, fans have something to do in-between bands, and it adds a level of uniqueness to the fest that not many other festivals out there have!
The first festival was held in 2017; can you tell me about the years before that? When was the idea behind MWPF planted, and how did you manage to go from idea to a real festival?
Ty: Mad With Power is largely a fest built out of spite! I was angry with a number of booking agents for some other festivals around the country for making promises to my band and then going back on their word, so I took that energy and put it towards something positive – my own fest! From attending a number of festivals over the years, and watching how some grew and some struggled, I knew I had to start small and local, so the first fest was made up of primarily Midwest-based power metal. Once we had our first successful year, we expanded and booked bands that were further and further out.
What kind of challenges did you encounter when planning and organizing for the first festival?
Ty: Really, the biggest issue was just getting the word out. That continues to be a challenge – to make sure people know that this is something they should plan for every year. Other than that, we’ve been lucky – our fans have been incredibly supportive of the fest, and partnerships with local businesses make the fest run amazingly smoothly!
Can you guide me through the history of the festival? Let’s start with the first year, 2017, where you had six bands playing. What do you remember from that year; did many people attend, and how satisfied where you with the lineup? And did you run into situations you hadn’t thought off beforehand?
Ty: In 2017 we had around 160 people attend the fest, and I was very happy with the lineup! The first two years actually felt like we were pulling together some of our favorite small-to-mid-level bands that we had played with in the past, so it was sort of like a «band reunion». I coordinated all of the hauling of the arcade machines the first year, so one of the moments that stands out in my mind is returning the uHaul truck at 3:30am, haha! All in all, it was a fantastic start, and it was proof that this was something that the people of Madison wanted.
In 2018 there were seven bands playing, and already here we can see the festival getting bigger. Am I correct? How would you describe the lineup, and did you think «bigger» this time?
Ty: Absolutely – this year was definitely bigger, and was probably the biggest challenge yet. I (semi-foolishly) decided to make this year’s fest our CD release party, so I was coordinating a fest at the same time I was running a kickstarter and coordinating everything for the CD release (shirts, merch, etc.). It was incredibly stressful, and the whole night when by like a blur. That being said – it was undoubtedly our best year so far, because we had 270 people through the door, and we were about 20 tickets away from completely selling out! The lineup was way bigger as well – we had bands from ALL over the Eastern US who came, and thankfully the crowd absolutely loved the lineup. We also added pinball to our array of games, which I think people really enjoyed.
This year the lineup seems pretty amazing, with bands such as Theocrazy, Helion Prime, Judicator and Lords Of The Trident. Are you satisfied?
Ty:Very satisfied! I’ve been chasing Judicator and Helion Prime since the fest started, and I’m glad we can finally get them on the fest. We’ve been good friends online (and in the case of Helion Prime, in-person) for a while, and I’m happy to finally host them! I’ll be completely satisfied if we can sell out the fest this year.
I also see that you’re not only having music at the festival, but also Dr. Phillip Ahn from Mortal Combat. What’s the story here?
Ty: Well, since the fest is centered around arcade games, we had to get an arcade game celebrity to be a special guest! We ran into Phillip two years ago at the Midwest Gaming Classic (by accident – we had no idea he was Shang Tsung!!), and became friends. We’re beyond honored to have him at the fest this year.
Have you managed to evolve the festival to the point you first had in mind, or do you think that the festival can get even bigger?
Ty: I think the fest can get even bigger. I’ve been in talks with production companies behind-the-scenes, and I have a five-year plan to grow the fest to the point where we can compete with some of the other larger festivals in the US.
What are the plans for the future? Bigger venues, more bands, more pinball machines, bigger bands?
Ty: First and foremost – I want to completely sell out this year, and hopefully the next few years. The bands will get bigger and bigger, and we are considering adding on a «day two» to the fest, perhaps next year. Once we outgrow the current space, I’ll be able to add more machines. As it stands right now, we’ve got the place COMPLETELY full!
If you could pick: who are the top three bands you would like to play at the festival?
Ty: Unleash the Archers, Blind Guardian, and The Protomen.
More generally: what do you think, or how would you describe, the power metal scene in USA?
Ty:It’s definitely nowhere near as big as it is over in Europe. A lot of the US-based power metal bands don’t get the attention that they deserve, which is one of the things that (hopefully) this fest will help. However – although we don’t have a lot of power metal acts, the bands we do have are tremendously talented, and can hold their own against a lot of the big-name acts you see touring Europe!