2009. február 2., hétfő

Mark Lavenia

I think so, Mark Lavenia isn't the most famous person (I hope I don't hurt you bro!), but he made a name for hismself being the members in bands, such as Abhorrent Existence, Incubus and Equinox. Since he vanished from sight for a while, it was natural for me to discover him and making the interview with him. Thanks to myspace, succeeded!

Mark, do you still remember, how and when did you get in touch with metal? What did you find so exciting in this music?
My older cousin, Chris McGlinchy, introduced me to hard rock and metal. As kids (early 80s) our family used to get together on the weekends, and my sister, two cousins, and I would hang out and listen to music. Chris would always prepare a few tapes in advance. The bands that first took hold of me were the usual culprits: Sabbath, Zeppelin, Priest, Maiden. His compilations also incorporated various relatively non-mainstream metal bands (for the time) like Metallica, Mercyful Fate, Exodus, etc. I loved the driving energy and power of these bands. I still remember when he brought over the then-newly released Ride the Lightning; I was blown away. The surge I got from the intro riff of Fight Fire with Fire galvanized my preferences, and indeed, my identity, right then and there.
Did you start listening to immediately brutal stuffs or…? Were you into established, known outfits or rather into smaller ones?
It wasn’t until Pete Slate and I became friends that I became acquainted with the darker hues of metal. He introduced me to Slayer, Possessed, Celtic Frost, etc. I immediately loved the intensity and chunky grooves. Like Ride the Lightning before it, my first hearing of Reign in Blood was a game changer and, for me, completely recalibrated what it meant for a tune to be bad ass. Certainly we’d catch shows with Morbid Angel or Amon (now Deicide). However, bands like Kreator, Coroner, even Testament and Anthrax were fair game. Athiest or Obituary was just as likely to be in the tape deck as Destruction or Voivod. Pete was always more of an aficionado on the underground scene than I was. He would always have me check out this or that demo he just traded for; I can’t say that many the real obscure ones ever really stuck with me, though it was cool to hear the new sounds that were emerging.
Did you always prefer the underground scene compared to mainstream?
So, this is kind of a funny question. When we first listened to bands…say, like Malevolent Creation (’89 demo), I’d say we were steeped in the underground; however, I don’t think you can say that underground still accurately describes them. Digital music and the various Web platforms at our disposal have made terms like underground almost obsolete. Certainly, the ease and exponential rate with which file sharing takes place calls into question whether the number of albums sold is a valid proxy for a band’s fan base. How do you even determine if a band is underground or not (…the number of hits on their Website or views of their YouTube video)? The underground used to carry with it a kind of badge of honor; I’m not sure that it still has the same connotation or if it still makes sense to think in those terms. In the 80s, everything was different; it was all tape trading, low-budget fan zines, and hand-written communication. Hmm? Sorry…I think I went on a little bit of a tangent and veered from the point of that question.
So, yeah, we were witness to the birth pangs and formative throes of Tampa’s death metal scene. And that was cool. As I think many people can relate, it is cool as a kid to know about obscure bands that are not on many people’s radar; it’s as if you have special knowledge. Add to that that the given band is more brutal or macabre than they thought musically possible, and it is as if to say, I live in a world unbeknownced to you, and it is not for the faint of heart. In the sage words of Beavis, “The only thing better than getting chicks, is scaring them.” However, that is all pretty much kid stuff, and I resolved to not get stuck in that. Thus, I enjoyed hearing new bands, but had no particular disdain for a band just because they were or became well known (providing they held to the integrity of the music).
When did you start playing the bass and how did your choice fall on this instrument?
I started playing guitar at 12. I knew the singer for a local speed metal band; they wanted to replace their bass player, and they asked me if I could fill the slot. My dad had a bass; I bought an amp, and was in. I was 16 at the time. Right away, I liked the abuse that the bass strings could take and the ballsy, low frequencies that I could get out of the instrument. I was able to pour all of my energy into my playing, in a very visceral way—more so than I could on the guitar. However, with regard to my technique, I play the bass very much like a guitar. Although every metal band I’ve played with, I’ve played bass, I really don’t consider myself a bass player.
What were your influences to become bassist? Were you self taught or…?
When I think of what it means to be bass player, I think of guys like Geddy Lee, John Paul Jones, and Chris Squire. Probably Geezer Butler had the most influence on shaping my ideas of what the bass brings to a band. As I mentioned above, my first instrument was a guitar. My dad is a jazz guitarist, and he showed me how to play. My cousin, Chris, played guitar; and when we got together, he’d show me different rock/metal riffs & licks. When I picked up the bass, I just transferred what I knew about guitar to it. Thus, I truthfully never really took on the work of learning the unique art that the bass is due—and basically approached the bass as guttural guitar.
Pete Slate and you did a brief stint with Kam Lee, in a project called Abhorrent Existence, was it your very first experience as musician? Do you still remember how did you end up joining the band?
So, that speed metal band I mention above was the first band Pete and I were together in. It was called Blacke Rose (à la early Mercyful Fate). After a couple years, it was clear that Pete and I wanted to take the band in a direction that the other guys weren’t up for (and, we knew that the name had to go). The drummer stayed with us, but his heart was never really into it. Pete ran into Kam, told him about what we were trying to do; we all met, hit it off, and started writing new materials and rehearsing right away.
Was Massacre on hold at this point?
I’m pretty sure that Massacre was always in the back of Kam’s mind, but nothing was really happening with it when we first started jamming; however, I think shortly thereafter the stars were starting to align for Kam and Rick to get the band up and running again.
Was Kam Lee only the singer of the band or did he play the drums too, since he was drummer in the early Mantas/Death period?
Kam only sung. However, he would, on occasion, get behind the kit to convey what he had in mind when we were writing. Kam is very comfortable out front, and I don’t think, at that point, he was interested in performing as a drummer.
Have you ever recorded any materials with Abhorrent Existence? Have you ever played live shows too?
I believe that a couple of our rehearsal tapes got circulated. If I recollect, I’d say that our sound was a kind of death/thrash metal: something like a Dark Angel. We played one live show.
Why and when did Abhorrent Existence come to an end?
Pete, Kam, and I all got a long very well, but the re-emergence of Massacre that was concurrently taking place really required all of Kam’s energy. And thus, the momentum for the project just wasn’t there. We’d still all hang out from time to time, and sometimes speculate on piecing something back together, but nothing ever materials. (That is until Pete and Kam, under the name Kauldron, contributed to a 2002 Destruction tribute, with the song Bestial Invasion. It is tight and worth checking out.)
Then you joined Incubus, was it right after Abhorrent Existence's split or did you play some bands in between?
Yes, actually Pete and I both joined, at first. He was corresponding with them (while they were in Louisiana) and learned that they’d be coming to Tampa to audition musicians for a second guitar slot and bass. Spring of ’90, we went down (about a 2 hour drive from where we were in central FL), auditioned, joined, and started driving down every weekend for rehearsal. However, fatigue with the long drive and the sense that his creativity would be constrained, brought Pete to conclude that there was a less than ideal fit. Thus, after giving it a go, he respectfully declined their offer.
For myself, my wheels were out of commission. Thus, his quitting meant my quitting. I continued practicing the material, and told the guys that I was still on board, but needed to save up to get my car up and running. Around October, I did so, and began driving down there again each weekend. However, by that point, they had just gone in the studio and recorded Beyond (with Francis playing all the bass lines). As you might imagine, it was a disappointment for me that I couldn’t pull things together sooner, but…such is life.
Were you the first choice of Incubus being their bass player or did they audition more bassists as well?
I don’t think I ever got a straight story on this (I’m a little foggy), but, I believe that there was another bass player, also named Mark, that joined before Pete and I did. He apparently didn’t work out; not sure why. I learned this through a secondary source; so, it could be totally wrong. Aside from that, I don’t know.
Were you familiar with their first record „Serpent temptation"?
Pete introduced me to it when he learned that they were coming to FL to audition for a second guitar and a replacement for Scot.
As for „Beyond the unknown", in your opinion, did the guys develop a lot compared to the first record?
OK, I’ll answer this…but know, all the material was written before I joined. With regard to Beyond: I think it is a great album. I pop it in and listen to it on occasion still. In my opinion, it is one of the best albums of the genre. I also think that the guys evolved greatly since Serpent. For me, the quality in their writing is much more mature. For what Serpent is, it is great old-school thrash. In addition, I think Francis taking over vocals was a good move.
Are all the tracks on this album filled with fast vicious riffing and double bass lines without losing focus on song structures?
I think their song structure is one of their greatest strengths. Listen to Certain Accuracy: I think they go 20 or so unique riffs and breaks before cycling back to the main verse/chorus riffs for a second time. Rather than your typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus song structure, many of the songs on Beyond are written more in movements. On the Burial Ground is another one like that. Thus, yeah, it has fast vicious riffing, mixed in with a lot of solid chunky grooves, but, it is the flow and almost organic progression—where each preceding part gives rise to the part that follows—that makes Beyond the masterpiece that I think it is.
Do you agree with, that, most tracks consist of more different paces and riffs than the average death metal groups from that period, the group managed to make every change in pace or key sound pretty natural and this also obviously created a very dynamic and diverse old school album?
I couldn’t have said it better. That’s exactly right. I think they brought a level of intelligence to the writing that is seldom seen. I’m not sure what is meant by the “average” death metal group. There are a lot of bands that I think are hands down bad ass; and there are certainly throngs of others that play like mother fuckers, but just don’t have that hook. Thus, in my opinion, I’d put Incubus within the upper tiers of bands. I hear from fans; and for some of them, Beyond and Serpent are way at the top of their favorite albums of all time. Nevertheless, there is definitely a threshold of global recognition that separates Incubus from other better known bands. You can pick up any compendium of metal bands, and there are certain names that you can be confident will be listed (Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, etc.); however, it is hit or miss as to whether Incubus will be listed. I think that this has less to do with whether their music was just as good, as it has to do with other ancillary matters, such as productivity, image, and serendipity.
Would you say, that Incubus managed, this also goes for their previous effort, to create their own sound of sonic violence combined with a crushing dark atmosphere?
I think they definitely found a unique sound. In fact I’d go on to say that they have a way of continually reinventing themselves. Serpent was straight up old-school thrash. However, Beyond was clearly something different. It still had elements from the thrash era, yet, was arguably in the death camp. Listen to their (now Opprobrium) latest album, Mandatory Evac, and the guitar tone is very different and the riffing is far from a recycle of their earlier material. Thus, Fancis and Moyses approach their song writing as professionals and really try to craft something meaningful in their work. Their adherence to lyrics that are written with social consciousness, if not overt Christian premises, also gave the band a hue hard to peg.
Do you consider „Beyond the unknown" as an excellent album all the way through without any filler tracks?
I wouldn’t consider any of them to be fillers. They each and ebb and flow in different ways. For example, I found the main verse of Curse to be a bit poppy (kind of like the more thrashy riffs you might find on Serpent); however, I think the mid section (bridge & solos) of Curse is brilliant, and one of my favorite parts of the whole album. And the audience really responded to the way the pacing in it shifted to allow the bottom to drop out and then build back. Thus, from a gestalt perspective, everything worked together really well to create the intended effect. Moreover, there certainly are cool riffs throughout the album; however, it is really how the riffs are juxtaposed with one another that most makes it outstanding.
Does the excellent drumming style make this album stand out among all the other death/thrash bands?
The musicianship on both of them is exemplary. But, yeah, the drumming, in particular, is outstanding: Moyses had chops for sure. Some of his favorite drummers are guys like Neil Peart, Stewart Copeland, even Buddy Rich; thus, he brought a lot of non-metal techniques with him that augmented his creativity. Aside from that, he could blast and double bass with the best of them.
Is „Beyond the unknown" one of the true classic albums in death/thrash metal history?
I think so. I believe that it will stand the test of time.
What are/were your favorite tracks from the record?
Hmm…favorites??? Deceived Ones has a very cool groove that is a lot of fun to play. Curse always got the mosh pit going, and thus, the energy from the crowd made it an all time favorite of mine. The title track, Beyond the Unknown, always kicked my ass—technique-wise, and thus was always fun because of the challenge it posed to getting really tight. Burial Ground has to be right at the top: some of the rhythms and beats in that song have exactly the right hook. I’ll stop there before I list them all.
You did tour with Incubus, what do you recall of the shows with them? How did the tour or tours go?
We had only one tour for Beyond: Europe in spring of 1991. Since the label and the touring company were both German, Germany was sort of a home base, from which we spoked out into the rest of continental Europe. Disharmonic Orchestra opened for us (on occasion, there’d be a local band also be in the line-up). We had a great time, and all became fast friends. The audience also picked up on the fact that there was a lot of camaraderie among the troupe. I can only think of a couple instances where the audience was a bit sleepy; otherwise, we were very well received everywhere we went. Note: this was not long after the wall came down; correspondingly, the audiences in the former east were totally into it. We really had a blast.
How many shows were in the support of „Beyond the unknown" exactly?
We had 36 dates booked over a two month period. Another interesting thing about that point in time is that was when the civil war in Yugoslavia first broke out. Thus, we had shows down there that we had to cancel due to safety precautions. Although that sucked for many reasons, one irrefutable one is that, for those days, there’d be no money coming in, no food, or place to stay (because, it was customary for the venue to feed you and put you up). Thus, we holed up at Herwig’s (of DO) house in Austria and did some sightseeing: castles and shit…very cool! We also shot down to Spain, where we could live inexpensively, by sleeping on the beach, etc. Thus, there were some semi-roughing it moments, but, it was all a great experience.
What kind of experiences did you gain in Europe?
Man, I don’t even know where to begin with that. I grew musically, culturally, personally. It really was fantastic. Herwig and I really hit it off, and was cool just tooling around soaking up all that there was to learn about the people and places. Michael Trengert, of Nuclear Blast Records, toured with us for most of the dates. He was awesome: very supportive and super cool guy. Thus, I made some great friends and saw a lot of awesome places (beauty-wise, history-wise, etc.) All that said, nothing really compared to the fans: they are what made the trip all that it was. There really is nothing like that rush of knowing you are making that person’s night, and likely giving them a memory that they will stick with them for the rest of there life. I’ve heard from some of the people that came to our shows, and they’ll talk about how that show was a landmark moment in their life. It really just blows me away! And it is that experience that resounds when I think of the tour.
Did you get on well with the Howard brothers?
We got along great. Truth is, though, it was their band. That is not to say that I had no voice; when I had a good idea or meaningful perspective, they welcomed my input. Nevertheless, as brothers, there is going to be solidarity between them, simply by default. Add to that the irrefutable history that, they established the band, wrote and recorded all the music, and brokered all the deals to initiate the tour. Thus, I had no complaints; though, I always knew, had I stayed with them, I would never have 33% of the decision making real estate. Honestly, I wasn’t worried about it. They were running a tight ship, and I saw no reason to intervene. Thus, my role with the guys was not much more than hired musician. But, I’m not complaining. I got a lot out it, even without bonafide co-ownership.
Were the couple years with the guys a great experience for you? Did you feel that you made a strong contribution to the tour?
I wouldn’t replace it for the world. And yes, I did make a strong contribution to the tour. My performance was solid. And, I think I brought a calmness and professionalism that smoothed through a couple hairy instances that could have gone bad had they been allowed to escalate. Moreover, I think I had the right energy to make everything gel just so.
The period that I was with them was either spent rehearsing for the studio or rehearsing for the tour. As I mentioned above, I had transportation issues that precluded my involvement on the first effort. However, once resolved, we had time to get tight on all the material. We would rehearse nearly all of their songs, even ones we never even intended to perform on the road. We all agreed that I needed to know all the tunes, if nothing else, just on principle.
Did the Howard brothers want to start writing the third album after the tours? Were there some new riffs, drum parts or songs in mind at this point?
On occasion there was some new riffing and working out of parts for new material prior to the tour. However, 99% of our time was pretty much about the business of tightening up for the tour. And to be honest, much of that was for my benefit. I only had Saturday and Sunday with them; truthfully, you can really only go through the set in a single sitting so many times before mental and physical fatigue becomes prohibitive; and thus, before I’d know it, it would be Sunday evening and I’d have to bolt.
Why and when did you decide to quit the band? Did you part ways on a friendly term at the end?
When we returned, it was clear that they were ready for a bit of a hiatus. In addition, they were going back to Louisiana. I personally wasn’t up for the move. Furthermore, though I think they were happy with my contribution to the tour, I got the impression that my not remaining in the group was a mutual decision. I don’t think that it is any more accurate to say that I quit than it would be to say that they kicked me out, and vice versa. There was simply a tacit mutual understanding that our arrangement had come to a close. I love the guys and begrudge them nothing. They’ve given me every reason to believe that they reciprocate my sentiments. Sometimes you just know what’s right. I brought an important ingredient to the tour. But parting ways afterward was the right thing to do. I’m sure that I could see them tomorrow without having a moment of awkwardness, and pick up like 1991 was yesterday.
After Incubus, Pete Slate and you put together Equinox, how did you get together again? Does it mean that you didn't lose contact with each other after Abhorrent Existence's demise?
If you couldn’t tell already, Pete was and is one of my very best buds. So, he and I never lost contact. We currently talk infrequently, but the space doesn’t make us at all estranged. Anyway…after Incubus, Pete had met a drummer, Steve Spillers; they were talking about putting together a project that was in the black/death metal vein. Pete invited me in and I was totally into the idea. Although we all loved the vicious riffing and blazing beats of many of the bands of the time, we were all in agreement that something really old-school was what we were wanted to pour our energy into. Pete and Steve were much more familiar with the European black metal bands that they wanted to fashion the sound after, than I was. For me, my influence hailed from more fundamental roots—what I consider to be the pro-genesis to the entire scene: the title track off of Black Sabbath’s debut album. Moreover, we were all after the same construct, though were coming at it from slightly varied angles.
What was the line up of Equinox at this point?
After I agreed, we had a full line-up of instruments. We had jammed only a few times before Matt came on board with the vocals. He was a friend for years, very easy to work with, and an obvious pick. One thing we liked was that he could do the characteristic guttural vocals, but also do some of those black metal style screams. I think everyone was a good fit from the start.
Equinox began their journey during the last months of 1992 and have since gone on to an epic career as one of America1s elite underground Black/Death Metal, how do you explain this?
Elite, huh? Well, I’m glad to hear it, because I think we made some cool tunes. I think our daring to be slow—considering what many other bands were doing at the time—made for a fresh sound. Furthermore, I think we were able to capture a mood that was dark and eerie, without resorting to the low-hanging fruit of hateful, sick, and perverse themes. I know, many people probably think, ‘you say “sick and perverse” like it is a bad thing”’; LOL. Truth is, we love many bands that dwell in that realm; however, it just wasn’t the identity we wanted to convey. And for my part, it wasn’t a mentality that I wanted to purvey. I’m not sure if that helped us or hurt us. Nevertheless, I think our authenticity in that regard contributed to a recognizable identity.
In addition, what they’ve gone on to do since I left has sent the intensity of their song writing through the stratosphere. Although I really loved Steve’s drumming, the addition of Gabe to the line up had a transformative effect on the band: his technique gave them a sound that was ready for the world’s stage. Just to be clear, I personally like listening to Steve’s drumming just as well, and found it to be perfectly well suited for the sound we were going for in the early years of the band. However, Gabe’s highly technical playing and phenomenal chops gave them a sound that was less “underground,” if you will; and thus, was appealing to a broader circle of fans.
All that said, I think the secret ingredient to their success has been Pete’s unrelenting perseverance and commitment to the music. I am totally impressed with his ability to hang in there and keep plugging away month after month, year after year. Furthermore, his creative wellspring has not even remotely been depleted. Pete is the real deal.
Your first effort was the „Anthem to the moon" demo in 1993 can you give us details regarding on this tape?
I’m honestly coming up a little short on details. In fact, I’m not even assembling a mental picture of what the studio looked like. It was July 1993, and we were in a small Orlando studio. We recorded three tracks. Err…next question?
Did this tape really represent the goals of Equinox that you wanted to achieve?
I think so. It had the ancient, occultesque mood that we were going for, where the grooves and tones were firmly grounded, yet fully cognizant of the ethereal. We wanted to paint a picture in sound that contemplated the nexus between worlds, while using the kind of heavy riffing that gave it a gravity that was resonant and palpable. I think for many people of the time, the pace of many of our songs proved to be too slow; however, for us, it was spot on with what we wanted to do.
A year later you released your next demo called „Equinox", what can you tell us about it?
Actually we recorded it only four months later: November ’93. We recorded this time at the famed Morrisound Recording in Tampa, engineered by Tom himself. The function of this session was to record a better sounding demo, plus record Kiss’s The Oath, a song slated for a Kiss tribute album: Kiss of Death. Working with Tom was great, and we were generally happy with the recording.
How much promotion did you do for both demos? I mean, were they shopped around to attract labels interests? Through which channels did you spread them in the underground at all?
Admittedly, that was Pete’s thing and he could more adequately address that question. By that time, he was plugged in with an extensive network of contacts; consequently, they were disseminated thoroughly.
Interestingly, all of our early recordings, including tracks from these demos, have just been compiled and released through Grim Nocturnal Records (www.grimnocturnalrecords.com), titled, As the Moon Swallows the Sun. It also has some really rough sounding live tracks. In addition to The Oath, it has several other covers that were originally on different tribute albums: Sabbath’s Hole in the Sky, Slayer’s Haunting the Chapel, and Mercyful Fate’s Gypsy. These were all recorded after I left the band. The exception being Hole in the Sky, where Pete asked me to make a cameo appearance and play the acoustic guitar coda, Don’t Start (Too Late). It’s fun too, after 15 years to have some of this stuff released, and the assembly of all of these tracks was really well done.
How do you view, that the unique style of Equinox's music combining majestic interludes, epic melodies, and sheer brutality sets them light years apart from their fellow Floridian counterparts?
Wow! First “elite,” now “light years ahead”; that’s news to us! Going on the premise that that is even true, we did make a concerted effort to do something different than many of our local peers. I’m a D&D geek from way back, with a fascination for all things mythological and mystical; so, blending my love for heavy music with, as you say, “majestic interludes” and “epic melodies” was a natural fit for my interests and general sensibility. However, I think most credit goes to Pete and Steve. It was very clear to them, from the outset, the kind of motif that would come to typify the band. In addition, I think the unusually melodic solos that Pete used to complement the predominance of dark, brooding rhythms, gave our early songs a sound that was unique.
Did you play some live shows at this point?
We played several shows in the Orlando area.
Why and when did you leave the band? What were the reasons of your departure?
Around ’94, I let the guys know that my involvement in the band was going to have to be only tangential. What that amounted to, was availing myself to them to help transport the gear (as I was the one with the van) and to help out however they needed, such as, taking photos during gigs, etc. My reason for quitting was multifaceted. Primarily, I went back to college full-time, and knew that I wasn’t going to have the time and availability needed to really be there. My experience is that the band has to come first if it is to be a fruitful endeavor; and I wasn’t going to put the guys in a position where they had to work around someone who wasn’t going to make the band the utmost priority. In addition, I had some misgivings about whether my efforts were well placed.
I think discontent is an impetus for many people that choose heavy, dissonant music as their medium of expression; at least, I think that explains my psychology. And so, in many ways, the latent aggression in much of the music I most enjoyed playing, bestowed a sense of empowerment. I enjoyed that, and it gave me an edge against that which pronged my discontent. Correspondingly, I viewed the vicious riffing and dark tones of black/death/thrash metal to be largely cathartic. However, my experience and observations began to bring that into question. When we’d play gigs and hear from fans, I saw some things that affirmed my theory, but, I also began to see contradictory evidence. Hence, I began to think that, not only were my efforts making no contribution to the empowerment of the people that came to see us, but, worse yet, the possibility that I was contributing to a mentality that was actually debilitating to them. Thus, after much soul searching, I concluded that my efforts were bearing bitter fruit.
Does that mean that I think all those who continue to play said music also bear bitter fruit (or dare I say, are about the work of the devil)? No, certainly not. It just became saliently clear to me, that, for myself, my efforts were misplaced. Consequently, I turned to academia to help me identify my calling.
Does it mean that the studies played a more important role in your life than being a member of an underground band?
Yeah, I’d say so. Immediately thereafter, I finished my baccalaureate degree and was a teacher for nine years. Primarily, I worked with students that, in Florida’s system, were identified as Emotionally Handicapped. That amounts to students who, for reasons biological and/or environmental, have limited success in regular classroom settings. My personal experience was that school (K-12) was very unsatisfactory, and I have since been obsessed with the thought that it didn’t have to be that way: that there is a lot that we yet know about how best to reach and teach kids; and that a better informed educational system would better serve our youth. I returned to graduate school in 2006, to pursue my doctoral degree in educational leadership, with a specialization in quantitative research methods. If all goes according to plan that should be wrapped up by the end of 2010.
Did you follow their career after you quit them? Are you still in touch with Equinox's members by the way?
As I indicated previously, I leant a hand for a few years after quitting: helping transport gear, taking photos, and even recording on a track. However, it wasn’t long before my work consumed more and more of my time and energy, and thus, by necessity, became less and less involved. Pete and I are still great friends and stay in touch; though we haven’t actually been able to get together in quite some time.
If I'm correct you took part in Kauldron around 2000 with Kam Lee and Pete Slate again, which fell apart around 2001 due to the inability to find a stable drummer, does it mean, that you never recorded any stuff with this outfit? What can you tell us about this period?
Actually, I had no involvement in that. However, I think they captured a bad ass sound and would have probably enjoyed the opportunity to have. As I indicated above, that Destruction cover is fucking tight.
Did you keep an eye on what's going on in the underground scene? Are you still into aggressive, brutal music? What kind of materials do you listen to these days?
Truthfully, I am completely out of the loop; I don’t even know half the mainstream metal bands anymore. I picked up a Metal Maniac the other day and, aside form some the old-timers that are still doing it, I had no idea who most of the bands were. My musical preferences are all over the map depending on the purpose of the music at that moment: I’ll listen to everything from Bach to Black Sabbath; Miles Davis to Ministry; Gypsie Kings to King Crimson; Crosby, Stills , & Nash to Chemical Brothers. If I had to give my top five most listened to rock bands, it’d look something like Zeppelin, Sabbath, Floyd, Yes, Beatles (hardly underground stuff). Sometimes I do want something aggressive and driving, but seldom will I turn to a death metal band to deliver it; but rather, will fall back on one of the early heavy/thrash metal bands that first captivated me: hardly is my mood so intense that it isn’t something that Master of Puppets can’t cure.
How much did the whole underground scene change or develop compared to the mid/late '80s-early '90s?
I’m going to confess that I’m really not an authority on that. (You should ask Pete that question; he could probably write a book on the subject.) Aside from my general commentary above, on how the advent of various Web platforms has completely revolutionized what a band was capable of doing to publish and promote itself, I really don’t have any for-instances to discuss. By the mid ‘90s, I had only superficial interactions with what was going on in the underground.
Equinox released a material last year featuring all of their early demos, covers and stuffs, how much were you involved into the making of the CD? Does it satisfy the needs of the Equinox fans?
Yeah, that’s the CD I mentioned above, As the Moon Swallows the Sun. It was just released last October. I have some mixed feeling over it, because, as demos, they never were intended for professional publication; and had I had my druthers, I’d rather they were re-recorded and done right. Nevertheless, it is kind of cool to see them released, warts and all. I had no involvement in making it happen; Pete simply called me last summer and informed me of the project, and asked if I had any old pictures I could send him for the sleeve. I was, of course, fully supportive of his decisions; and had the utmost confidence that he would not be part of anything that wouldn’t be well done. That said, there were a few typos in the liner notes, but nothing that is the end of the world. Regarding the needs of the fans, I think they’ll like it; if for no other reason, just for nostalgia sake. Furthermore, much of early material was consistently slower than the stuff they started writing after I left. Thus, fans might enjoy hearing the sound that first epitomized the band’s direction. For myself, I enjoyed listening to those songs again for the first time in a decade and a half. I know that I’m a bit biased, but I think we had a cool sound going that any fan of the genre will like.
Incubus changed its name in 2000 to Opprobrium and they released a record titled "Discerning forces" and the follow up of that material came out last year, how much do you like those efforts? I think, they haven't anything to do with the classic Incubus sound...
For me, Discerning Forces has some very cool riffs on it. When I listen to that, I hear some things that are reminiscent of Beyond, but much of it is clearly reaching for something different. The latest release, Mandatory Evac, took a few listenings to before I got it. Francis’s guitar tone was very different; likewise for the drum production. It’s almost an old-school mix, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. The guitar tone has grown on me, and I think that there are some cool moments on it. Between the two, I think I prefer Discerning Forces because it still hails from that Beyond sound. For Mandatory Evac, I commend them for going for something different. One thing that they haven’t lost is that Francis still has a tremendous talent for writing awesome hooks, catchy turn arounds, and tasteful passages of bad ass shredding. I think that the writing on Beyond was phenomenal and will be hard to match up to. Thus, I think they are in the right direction: they are not running with the pack; instead, they are trying new sounds and riffing; and, thus, in my opinion, both Opprobrium albums are notable works.
Are you still in touch with the Equinox members and with the Howard brothers? Is still Pete Slate your best friend?
I’ve lost touch with the other guys from Equinox; though still consider them all dear friends. I’m sure if we bumped into each other we could pick back up where we left off without missing a beat. Regarding Pete: I think that I’ve made it perfectly clear throughout this interview the high regard with which I hold him and the great value I place on our friendship. He’s as much a brother as a friend. I regret that I have lost touch with the Francis and Moyses; I consider them great friends and have great memories of my time in Incubus.
Mark, thanks a lot for the interview, any closing words?
Lászó – I want to thank you for this interview. It is clear that you put a lot of thought into what you wanted to ask; and it was a pleasure for me to address your questions. I’m aware that my perspective might be a bit atypical, as compared to some of your other interviewees. Being an individual that basically removed himself from the scene, some of your readers might even wonder the value in this interview. Although I expect that there may be more than a few readers of that opinion, I do hope that, on the whole, your readership finds this interview to be interesting.
I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to write and perform with some of, what I consider to be, the best talent in the business: Francis, Moyses, Pete, Kam. Through these contacts, I was put in the enviable position to informally hang and bullshit with many of the other legends and leaders of the scene. The time and place in which I grew up was at the center of many developments in our genre. It’s neat to look back and say, I was there when… Correspondingly, though I didn’t stick with it, I carry the music and memories with me always.
Thank again for this opportunity.
Best, Mark

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