Monterey was about the music — Woodstock was about the weather. Not many people remember the music that came out of Woodstock. They talk about the rain and the amount of people. Just the fact that it was East Coast and the sheer numbers is why it's talked about. But when anyone wants to talk about the music that was created during that period or the iconic groups that came out of it, they were at Monterey. Some also performed at Woodstock but not with the impact they had at Monterey.
Did other festival producers — like the people behind Woodstock — ever ask your advice?
John Phillips and I were asked to be involved in Woodstock, and we decided not to. I don't remember the real reason. They already had three or four people that were involved, and I think the fact that we were joining something as opposed to starting something probably was the reason for the decision.
What aspect of Monterey's legacy are you proudest of?
I'm most proud that the legacy of Monterey after 45 years that there are iconic artists like Otis Redding and Janis Joplin and Hendrix and the Who — artists that were introduced on one level or another at Monterey still have an impact on music. And above and beyond that is the foundation. It was the first rock and roll charity established and maybe it led to Live Aid and Farm Aid. And the fact that we are still writing checks, giving money to causes on behalf of the artists that appeared at Monterey.
Do you remember how much did the tickets cost back then?
Orchestra, the evening show was $6.50. The cheapest seat was $3. That was the bleachers. We were seated [on chairs]. I showed my 12-year-old a couple of photographs, and the first thing he said was, "They got seats?"
You've had a track record of being in touch with the zeitgeist throughout your career, e.g. "Rocky Horror Picture Show," which still has legs. What would you look for in finding acts and shows to produce?
I never really looked for an act. I was living the life and keeping my eyes and ears open. If it struck me as something that wasn't out there already, like in the case of Cheech and Chong, that was so totally different than anything that was out there. I found them at a hootenanny. The Mamas & the Papas were brought to me by Barry McGuire. Even though Carole King was a very successful songwriter at the time I started recording her, she wasn't a well-known recording artist by any means. It's a cliche, but I was in the right place at the right time.
Who do you listen to these days?
I have a house full of kids. I listen to what comes out of their rooms. Out of one room is coming electronic music, and I listen to Deadmau5 out of that room. In another room I might be listening to Coldplay. I listen to Adele, who I think is tremendous. When I'm in the car, I'll listen to the '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s, and I'll jump over to Siriusly Sinatra. I listen to pretty much everything. I hit the buttons.
What else are you doing?
I just finished, last week, an animated film with Cheech and Chong based on the old tracks we did at that time, for theatrical release. My wife and I have established a camp with Paul Newman called the Painted Turtle for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses, so I spend a great deal of my time fundraising. I have seven boys — I spend a lot of time with my children. My oldest boy, who runs the Roxy on Sunset Boulevard, his name is Nicholai, he's 38; my youngest son is 10 years old.