INTERVIEWS: Manilla Road

MUSIC, MYTHOS, EVOLUTION THEORY AND GERMAN BEER.

What kind of a foreword should be written for an interview with a band like MANILLA ROAD? I guess there are two possibilities: either very long, just like the history of the band, or a very short one. As this interview is meant for the official website, I'll go for the second option of course. No need to introduce the band here, is there? So I'll just write a few words about the circumstances in which this conversation took place. It was on April 9th, the day before the most killer Germany's festival - "Keep It True" and just before the warm-up shows in the sleepy hollow called Oberbalbach. The whole band gathered in a small hotel hall and every sign on heaven and earth indicated that was going to be a nice conversation. I hadn't supposed though how much and how much fun it was going to be. They were obviously eager to answer my questions, the German beer supply was on the table to keep their spirits high and not let their throats dry, and soon it became clear that one tape wouldn't do - fortunately I had a spare one with me. I wanted to the render the atmosphere as closely as I could - that's why I typed it word for word... But it still doesn't do the whole justice - I should have had a video camera to capture them when they were fighting with each other, untying and tying my boots and behaving not quite seriously in general. OK, it's going to be a long reading, so I'll stop babbling now. Just grab a big glass of something you like and enjoy it!

Jowita: Let's start with digging out some facts from the past and the beginning of the Road... Was it in 1976 or 1977? How did you come up with the name for your band?

Mark: It was 1977. And actually the name of the band was thought up by myself and Ben Munkers who was the original drummer for MANILLA ROAD. We were sitting at this kitchen table and we were just making of all the different names we could call the band and it was in the days when...

Bryan: Everything was a colour...

M: Yeah, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, things like that... We decided we wanted the word "road" there, so it would sound like we were going somewhere...

J: Yeah, but why "Manilla" then?

M: "Manilla" to us was sort of like a path of life and that's where MANILLA ROAD came from, sort of like the idea of traversing the road of life. I guess it's the best answer I can come up with, it was sort of just thought up out of our heads, but at the same time I was sort of thinking about there is a highway in Colorado we passed an awful lot of times on tour called Manila Road, but it's spelled with one "L" instead of two...

J: Oh, I see, I didn't really know this... Anyway, it was not your first band... You'd had some musical education and experience by the time you formed MANILLA ROAD...

M: Yeah, I started my musical training because of my mother, she's a professor of music and I was probably about the age of three or four when I started playing the piano...

J: This was early...

M: Yeah, very early.

B: About 1960... (laughter)

M: And thank you. (more laughter by Bryan) Thank you very much there, Bryan. But I went through a lot of vocal training and piano and many other instruments, but my actual first rock'n'roll band was called EMBRYO and that was in 1973... no comment, Bryan. And I also had a band called APOCALYPSE, which was the first band I played guitar in. And I also played in a bunch of other bands around Kansas, one called SHAG NASTY one called TUMBLEWEED - sort of country rock bands, mostly those were just to make money. I also played with a jazz band and I played drums and a band called THE HERD. And the first band that I had - EMBRYO I played drums in, I didn't play guitar...

J: How and when did you get your nick "The Shark"?

M: Actually the nickname was given to me by a guy named Greg Marshall, who was the bass player for a band called STYGIAN SHORE, it was in 1983 and I was producing their first EP for them and they had a habit of calling everybody nicknames based of interchanging the letters of their names - the first letter of their first name replaced with the first letters of their last name. So my name was reversed to Shark Melton, so then they just started to call me "Shark" instead of Shark Melton and ever since then everybody just called me Shark.

J: Why did you decide to release your first albums on your own label ROADSTER RECORDS? Weren't you sending your stuff to other labels? Was it that nobody was interested in signing you up at that time or did you just prefer to stay independent?

M: No, at that time I was actually new to the business and didn't know how to get ourselves released on any other label. The stuff we'd sent to other labels was like you said, they weren't interested in it and it was either too avantgarde or just too crappy. We decided well, the only way we're gonna get an album released is if we do it ourselves and so myself and some of the family members, band mates who were involved in the band at that time, just sort of pulled them all together and started a record label which was ROADSTER RECORDS.

J: Your second album hadn't been released 'til recently (except for being released as a bootleg called "Dreams Of Eschaton"). Do you still consider "Mark Of The Beast" your weakest album? I think it's got a very dreamy atmosphere, it's much more rock than metal, but still some very interesting music...

B: I don't find it a weak album. I find the album very intriguing, because at the time that it was written, nothing was really explored in that type of the area and the music that was written back in that time was so pure and true to how Mark felt at that time and it was really admitted to come out and have a proper release. MONSTER RECORDS did us a fantastic job with the art cover and the whole arrangement and release and distribution of the album. And I'm very pleased with that.

M: They actually bugged me for about ten years to release the album.

J: So why didn't you do it earlier? Does it mean you weren't satisfied with that album?

M: It actually wasn't a finished project. We haven't finished mixing and it wasn't mastered... At that time for some reason I just felt like we could do better and I think the reason for it was because our first album "Invasion" - we were totally newbies in the industry, you know, we had no idea what we were doing. The guy that owned the studio that we were recording - John Miller, he had sound gear that was his instead of us playing through our amplifiers, things like that. So the album didn't sound like us live and it sounded like us in the studio through processing equipment. The "Dreams Of Eschaton" project was done in the same manner and somewhere in the middle of doing it I started thinking to myself "does this really sound like MANILLA ROAD live?" and I would rather bring our Marshalls in and record everything sounding as loud and agressive as it is in the live show. So that's the main difference between "Metal" and "Dreams Of Eschaton" is that we actually set our amplifiers up in the studio and started recording like we would live. At the time when we started doing the stuff, I listened to the stuff from "Dreams Of Eschaton" and I thought it was a world of difference and I decided that I'd rather have the stuff from "Metal", so we just put the other project on the shelf, you know, and I sort of forgot about it and decided it wasn't worth releasing, because it wouldn't sound like our amplifiers. But finally Dennis and Phil talked me into releasing it. I was really influenced by guitar work at that time from RUSH and so that's why all the mellowed passages and things like that sound a little bit, sort of like Rush at that time. And nowadays I feel like it's an OK project, the music, the writing was worthy and I've realized that a lot of the people who listen to our stuff, they don't necessarily listen to the production, they listen to the meaning of the lyrics, what was in our hearts at the time. Back then I thought it was bad or a shabby project because of the production, but now I feel like it's OK, because it has the true sense of MANILLA ROAD to it.

Harvey: Good answer.

M: That was Bryan's brother, Harvey and that's the only thing he will say tonight. (laughter)

J: OK, we'll see. "Crystal Logic" was the first well known MANILLA ROAD album, and after it was released on ROADSTER RECORDS, you signed a deal with the French BLACK DRAGON RECORDS. Were you satisfied with the promotion they did for you back then?

M: At first yes. They did a very good job for us at first... Agnus and Michael were very good working with us, they paid us for our LPs and gave us statements like they were supposed to, contracts. They did an awful lot of expensive advertisement in the big magazines like "Enfer" at the time for us, they did four page ads. We got an awful lot of potential because of the time and money they spent on promoting us, but as time went on, I think the money got tight and distribution started to wane. And we got to the point where, you know, I hate to say this, but I think they'd decided they needed to keep the money for themselves instead of paying MANILLA ROAD like they were supposed to and that caused problems with us internally. It wasn't just us... It was DAVID CHASTAIN, HEIR APPARENT, CANDLEMASS, SAVAGE GRACE... And it was unfortunate, because they actually had a very good line up of bands on the label. They really had a chance to become a very prominent label if they had done things right, but they never supplied tour support. And that's one of the reasons it took us so long to get over here to Europe, because we never got a tour support from our label. Fortunately now there is, you know, IRON GLORY and some other friends from Greece and Italy are very helpful, supplying us on tour with money, so we can come over here and play live which is what we really like to do the best.

J: Did BLACK DRAGON put the MANILLA ROAD name on the CIRCUS MAXIMUS album with your knowledge? Or was it already too late when you learnt about it?

M: Oh, absolutely yes. It was too late, they were already in production. They'd actually asked me about it beforehand and I told them "No, this is not MANILLA ROAD, this is a different band, so it must be called CIRCUS MAXIMUS". And then they did it.

H: Because they wanted to make the money on them...

M: I don't really want to put down IRON GLORY either, but you know, on our last album "Spiral Castle" we had a song that the label actually pulled off the album which is called "Throne Of Lies". Anyway, they actually pulled that off of the CD and put it on the vinyl release. We got criticized for putting out an album that was shorter than what we usually did. The label said, it did not sound exactly what they wanted from MANILLA ROAD at that time, but at the same time, you know, we've always had a habit that every album sounds different than the last one that we did. You can't take any MANILLA ROAD album and put another MANILLA ROAD album on and say that it sounds the same... We're not AC/DC, we don't play the same song every time (fortunately! - JK). And that's one thing that I like about being in the independent metal market is that most usually we can dictate our own destiny as far as what we play, what we write. The album labels aren't telling us that well, you can't do this, or you have to do this, you have to look like this, you have to dress like this, you have to play like this... For example Mike Varney, when I talked about signing the band to SHRAPNEL RECORDS way back, in 1983, I guess it was... We've written a song called "Flaming Metal System" which is on "US-Metal 3" album and he loved the song and he wanted to sign the band and we had already finished the recording of "Crystal Logic", so I presented him with that album and said "Well, this is what we've just done. Do you wanna sign it?" and he said "No, I don't like it. But if you give me ten songs that sound just like "Flaming Metal System", I'll sign it". And I said "Well, I'm not about that. That's not what I'm here for and not trying to do just ten songs that sound the same. I want to move on and go for the change constantly." And so we agreed with each other that we shouldn't be on his label. And you know, that's always been the thing with MANILLA ROAD is that we sort of do what the hell we want. (laughter)

J: Keep on doing this! Well, back to the BLACK DRAGON records... it wasn't the first and only screw-up done by this label actually... I've read it was their suggestion to use another studio, producers and engineers to record the "Mystification" album, which turned into a disaster. And they had some other "bright" ideas like putting the extra crowd noise on your live album...

M: Yes. It was actually recorded in clubs. There were two big shows and one was for just two thousand people and the other was in the place called "The Indian Center" which was for eleven hundred people, maybe more. We had a decent lot of crowd noise on that, but they wanted it to sound like it was in a Colosseum and of course we weren't an arena band at that point, so it sounded stupid to me, but unfortunately, even though we're in the independent metal market, it seems like independent labels still seem to take your hand and try to decide the fate of the projects somehow. Unfortunately we weren't smart enough to say no.

J: Anyway, it looks like, in spite of all the obstacles of different nature, you've always been the winners, delivering brilliant powerful and atmospheric music.

B: Thank you very much.

J: Oh, well, it's true. If I hadn't read about it on your website I'd have never guessed you had an infection when you were recording the vocals for "Open The Gates" - still one of the very best albums to me. Or that during the recording sessions of your other masterpiece - "Courts Of Chaos" - Randy and Scott were at each other's throats...

M: Very much, yeah. As a matter of fact... Well, first about what we did in 1984 and "Open The Gates"... I was really sick when we recorded the album and unfortunately the studio was booked up for several months... I'd recorded all my guitar parts, the band parts and I was really sick which you can't tell when you're playing guitar, you know, being sick doesn't matter. But when it came to the vocals, I didn't have my normal voice, because of how sick I was. And really had to sing the whole album in one night and I walked out of the studio with no voice at all that night and the next day I still had no voice...

J: Laryngitis or something?

M: Well, from that point on I've always had a little bit of trouble with my vocals, I contract what they call laryngitis very easily. And I went to this vocal specialist at the University in Wichita and they decided I'd really tortured my vocal cords by doing what I'd done at that time. They said I probably have chronic laryngitis, which meant that I used my voice just a little too much and any given time I can have the laryngitic problems again. And they put me on some steroid treatments and stuff like that and I did all the treatments and my voice came back to me pretty good. And as a matter of fact, the time that I actually really went into the heavy vocal treatments with them was right before we did the "Out Of The Abyss" album. The treatments helped give me a voice that I'd never had before which maybe sounds like Rob Halford or King Diamond, so I decided what the hell, if I've got that right now, I'm gonna use it. And that continued on through "Courts Of Chaos" as well, but unfortunately at that time I pushed a little too hard again, I actually ripped my vocal cords...

J: During the "Courts Of Chaos" sessions?

M: No, actually it was at a concert, I did one of those really high screams and my throat hurt really bad, I realized I had injured myself. I went back to the vocal specialists, they told me I'd ripped my vocal cords and they made me shut up for... not say a word, not even whisper for ten days straight until it healed...

B: That's hard.

M: Yeah, he was right (laughter). People called me on the phone with no idea and then I'd go "tap, tap, tap, tap" on the phone or snap all my fingers... (Bryan cracks up with laughter again).

B: He's a mute!

M: Yes, I was. Anyway, I still deal with the problem, because, you know, when we go on tour, I can't use my voice like I used to and that's another reason why Bryan's on board with us, because he's the closest person we've ever seen and heard that sounds like me... And as far as "Courts Of Chaos" Scott and Randy they'd just gotten to the point where they hated each other completely. I guess we'd been together too long, the life styles didn't coincide... Scott at that time was a pretty rampant alcoholic and Randy didn't drink at all and so they clashed because of that. And they got to the point where Randy didn't want anything to do with him and Scott really didn't want to do anything with Randy and so the majority of the "Courts Of Chaos" album was done with them two not even seeing each other. I would be in the studio with either one of them at the time. And Randy was getting pretty strange at that time anyway, because he decided he didn't really want to play drums live in the studio anymore. He wanted to program them, because he was really into the "new age of sampling". And so what he did was he sampled the sounds of all the drums and cymbals and then he actually programmed all of that by computer and they triggered all those samples. So "Courts Of Chaos" is not actually played by Randy, it was all programmed... H: Not saying that he could not play it.

M: Yeah, he could play it! Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that he couldn't play that stuff. He could, because he did it live. And I had a problem with that, because I think when it comes to music your band should be recording with live instruments and that was one of the other main reasons that I finally parted with Randy was because he did not want to do live drums in the studio ever again, he wanted to continue programming.

J: And what was going on with you between 1992 and 2000? Mark, you had your own project called SHARK in the late '90s, right?

B: Well, in 1992, right after "Courts Of Chaos" Harvy joined the band after Scott left and Harvey played in the band from '92 to '97. Unfortunately they didn't get in the studio to do any kind of recording, but they did play some live shows around town and at that point I felt it was the best the Road had sounded. You know, Harvey was a very, very strong tool to the sound of MANILLA ROAD at that time... I'm not saying that Scott didn't have, but Harvey just brought more to the table than Scott could do at that time. But we all kinda took a break, you know, I've been with Mark since like 1981, so I've been around for many years and about that time frame I started to have children, Harvey started to have children, Mark started to have children, Randy started getting serious in his relationship and he has children now. And it was kind of, you know, the music got put back on the background. And it wasn't until late 1998 or early 1999 me and Mark met at the golf-course playing golf... We love playing golf. And I looked at him one day and was like "Hey, we gotta get the band back". You know, I missed the band and...

M: Immediately I was like "Oh, I want to do it, man, we gotta do it again"! (in a whining voice) B: Mark said in order for this to happen, I've gotta step up in the ranks. And I was like "What are you talking about, I can't sing!" and Mark said that he couldn't go on singing due to his vocal problems. And at that point it was like, well thank you, but let's just get the band back. If the band's playing, then we will deal with whatever comes along.

M: So we started working on a project that we were gonna call SHARK...

B: At the same time Randy was also programming drum tracks for the new MANILLA ROAD album. And to make a long story short...

M: He dubbed a quick track on one song...

B: ...On one song and Mark, Mark Anderson (not Harvey? - JK)and I had already had eight songs written. And all of a sudden the promoters from Balingen for the "Bang Your Head" festival contacted Mark and said "Hey, we want you guys to come to Germany... Can you do that?". So Mark calls me, tells me the deal. We called Randy and he said yes and all we had to do then at that point was get a hold of Harv and let him know. And all of a sudden...

M: We told the promoters that we were gonna do it. They already started making arrangements, supplying tickets and everything and the next thing I knew Randy told me "Well, I can't go, I don't have enough vacation time"...

B: Randy only had a day and half vacation.

M: I was like what do we do now, we've already told the promoters we're gonna do this, you know, we can't back out now and this is our chance to revitalize our band and first chance to go Europe to play with the likes of SAXON and SCORPIONS and UDO and DORO and... you know, how do you pass that up? Well, he seemed like he was OK with passing that up and we weren't OK with passing that up. So at that time I told him "Well, we've waited almost two, three years for you to just finish drums tracks for the new MANILLA ROAD album and you're not doing it and now you say you're not gonna go and do this tour thing with us" and even though he told us in the first place he would, basically I've just had it at that point, so I told him "Well, now we're gonna replace you".

B: And Balingen at that point was like three months out from the show. And we had to really react quickly and we had a good friend, that was friend of Mark's, his name is Mark Anderson...

M: He was working on the SHARK project with us.

B: And Mark Anderson said "Hell yeah, I'll do it and a good friend of mine, Troy Olson, he can play drums". So we brought Troy Olson and we really just crammed in for two months and in that two months we crammed in, he got married, you know, his honey moon... The guy was a phenomenal drummer as far as he could write any kind of music that you could imagine. He composed every note for note that Randy did on any songs, you know on sheet paper, but that was his problem, he didn't play from feeling, he had to have his music sitting there to be able to play...

M: And to make a long story short, when we got to the show at Balingen, for one thing it wasn't the original MANILLA ROAD line-up, it was just a put together thing, we did the best we could, I had problems with my laryngitis...

B: And after that show was when I decided that Mark can't continue on...

M: I can't sing the whole show just by myself... And so that's another reason why we are so happy to be here in Germany again right now, because we feel like we owe Germany the best that we can do, because we don't feel like we gave it to them the last time. And this time we are doing primarily all old material, out of twenty three songs we're doing on this tour, we're only doing four that are from our last two albums. The rest of them are all from our first several albums, spanning from "Invasion" all the way through "Courts Of Chaos". We're not doing anything of "The Circus Maximus", because I still don't consider it a MANILLA ROAD album, it was another band entirely. But we just sort of felt we owe Germany a good ass kicking, you might say, and that's what we're here to do this time, and this is the line-up we can do that, because Harvey is a phenomenal bass player, he grew up listening to the band...

B: Thanks to me.

M: Yeah. He grew up playing MANILLA ROAD material. And Cory is just phenomenal. He is the best of every single drummer we have ever had with us and he can play the parts of either Rick Fisher or Randy Foxe or Scott Peters and he's got an incredible style of his own too. And he adds a little bit of that into everything he does, but at the same time he tries to stick pretty true to the originals...

B: And he doesn't complain.

M: And he doesn't whine! (laughter) Because our last two band members: Mark Anderson and Scott Peters, we just could not get them to do much of our older material at all ... I've got a lot of respect for them as the musicians, they're great musicians, but they just didn't understand the roots and the fans of the band. They didn't understand that we needed to do what we needed to do.

B: They were looking more for their own interest instead of the interest of the fans. And me and Mark have been around this whole thing together for many, many years and I tried to stress to Mark Anderson and Scott, it's not about us, it's about the fans. You know, we gotta go out and give them what they want and what they've deserved for so many years. These fans have been so die-hard, you know, MANILLA ROAD fans, we've got to deliver the goods.

M: And especially since we weren't here in Europe to tour in the days that we were doing those albums, they still want to hear us do those old songs. So we are here now to try and satisfy that desire to all of our fans that want to hear those old hymns...

B: And be able to let them know, when they hear us play these songs, we want the fans to remember the old times when they first put on that album and for the first time heard "Masque Of The Red Death" or "Death By The Hammer", which is what they are going to hear on this tour. We want them to re-live that feeling again. And that's what MANILLA ROAD of today is all about!

M: Yeah. And for the first time I really do believe that we sound like we can deliver the goods like that, so this is the line-up.

J: Actually I think you have just answered a couple of my other questions, so...

M: It's because we babble! (laughter) It's thanks to the good German beer! (more laughter).

J: So I will not ask them of course, because you have already answered them... So... What happened with the material you composed as SHARK? Did you use it on "Atlantis Rising"?

B: It is known as "Atlantis Rising", yeah. Thanks to Andy Presig from Andy... from IRON GLORY RECORDS...

M: From Andy Records. (laughter)

B: Basically it is his fault that MANILLA ROAD is still alive today, because he stepped in, when we came to Balingen and said "Hey guys, I'm really interested". We gave him a tape of the eight songs that we had written and he loved the music. And I said "It's not done yet, now we've got two more songs to write". And that's when we wrote "Siege Of Atland" and "War Of The Gods" when we got back from Balingen to finish the album and Andy said "Guys, this sounds like MANILLA ROAD, it needs to be released as MANILLA ROAD". The first thing we thought was "Oh great, here we go again, you know, Circus Maximus again". And then me and Mark thought about it and, you know, after we listened, you know, Mark is MANILLA ROAD.

M: We went back and listened to it a lot, too and actually the whole concept was based of the continuation of "The Deluge". Because back when we did "The Deluge" we were releasing albums and not CDs. And the first side of the album was songs and the second side of the album was this concept about the deluge. And all the "Atlantis Rising" except for the first song "Megalodon" was basically a continuation of that concept, sort of a fantasy concept, instead of based just of a true mythology...

B: That's how the song "Megalodon" got written, because I've seen the documentary about this bad monster shark from way back and I immediately told Mark "We gotta do a song about Megalodon and kick off the album" for the SHARK project. It just kinda fit and then like I said, Andy said "We need to release it as MANILLA ROAD" and that's how "Atlantis Rising" came about.

J: OK, so I think you have answered this one and this one... and this one as well... (laughter)

B: That's all right... Go ahead! (laughter)

J: I think you have a very good intuition somehow... or maybe you have read these questions before, because they were more-less in that order... (laughter)

M: Sort of like JUDAS PRIEST "Electric Eye", you know... (laughter)

J: Mark, your voice has been a trademark for MANILLA ROAD for all those years and it's truly unique...

M: I'm sorry.

J: Sorry? (laughter)

B: It's very hard to sing like this. (laughter)

J: Actually I couldn't imagine anybody else singing for this band, but sometimes life brings us surprises. It occured that there actually is somebody who can team up with you... How did it come that Bryan Hellroadie has become the second voice in the Road?

M: I think the best way to answer that is... You know, first, I know a lot of people are very apprehensive about him coming aboard with us as a singer, but I think this tour is gonna really prove that he deserves to be here, because for one thing he can sound astonishingly enough like me to continue on doing that. And maybe just songs like "Road Of Kings" or "Divine Victim" or "Queen Of The Black Coast", basically on those songs I'd come in and help on the choruses, but on "Divine Victim" he sings it by himself and "Road Of Kings" he sings it by himself...

H: He sounds phenomenal...

M: And he sounds great, he pretty much sings most of "Masque Of The Red Death", sings all of the "Up From The Crypt" by himself... He sounds like me, I mean, as close as anybody could sound like me.

B: It's not an easy task. (they start singing now and all ends up in the group laughter again)

M: We've got his nose plugged (more laughter). No, he has been with me for so long, he's mimicked my vocals as well as anybody ever could. And there's things that people don't understand, you know, like on "Throne Of Lies" on the "Spiral Castle", you know, people still when they hear it for the first time, think it's still me singing on it. I didn't sing a note on it. Bryan sang the whole song by himself in the studio. He's phenomenal, he's got a very strong voice, he's got a voice I used to have when I was young, you know... even though he's not...

B: Young! (laughter)

H: He's not a spring chicken.

M: Yeah, but you know, one thing that's actually also good about it is that it makes all a little bit more versatile, because I can actually concentrate a lot more on my guitar parts. It was always really difficult to be trapped to the microphone all the time... I never could move around and do much of a show unless we were in an instrumental section. Now we've got more movement on the stage, we put on more of a show live and it gives me a chance to really focus a lot more on my guitar parts, which I think help the band to sound a lot better. So I think it's a big plus and people maybe realize that, you know, over time sometimes you've gotta change in order to keep things going on. And that's what we're doing, we're trying to prolong the life of MANILLA ROAD, because we believe in it and it's not something that we want to die away so easily and this is the best road to that end.

J: Let's go back in time a bit... Bryan, when did you become aware of MANILLA ROAD? Do remember what you thought the first time you've heard them? I guess it wasn't anything like "One day I'm gonna sing for this band"?

B: Yeah, that was quite far a bit. What really intrigued me was I seen these guys live for the first time when I was very young, I was about fourteen years old and a friend of mine asked me if I would like to go with him to see this band called MANILLA ROAD. When I first met Mark Shelton he was already like a big brother to me the first time we met, he kind of took me under his wings and showed me what Heavy Metal really was, pure, powerful and brutal.

J: So when was it?

B: Aaaaah.... '81?

M: Yeah, he was fourteen, I was forty eight... Twenty, twenty eight! (laughter)

B: You know, I went up to Mark right after the show and said I was just totally blown away and told him how much I appreciated them...

M: He kissed my boots. (laughter)

B: Yeah and you know, he invited me to come on over to the house to the practice and Mark really took me under his wing... I was really into metal music then, bands like VENOM and BLACK SABBATH and DEEP PURPLE. And he showed me so much more about the music that I probably would have never managed upon myself...

J: So... when did you become their "Hellroadie" and manager?

B: Probably around... I don't know, I started being a roadie around '83 and then Randy came aboard. It was probably around 1986 or '87 when I started getting a little more involded with what was going on with the band and kind of get my own insight and interaction...

M: I think he's a little wrong on this, I think he was a roadie in 1984...

B: Maybe, maybe, but you know, my focus was to put on a really good live show. And I was a roadie back then and nobody else that was from Wichita loved this band as much as I did. You know, Mark really taught me a lot of technical things about guitars, amps... Randy was phenomenal, he really showed me a lot about drums, I learned basically how to play drums from Randy, I don't play very well, but...

M: At that time he did play very well, he's a very good drummer and he actually did the drums live on the song "Sea Witch" on the "Atlantis Rising" album...

J: I was about to ask about the drums actually... You've played drums on "Atlantis..." - why only on this album not on "Spiral Castle"?

B: Well, no, I played drums on "Sea Witch", and I wrote all of the "Atlantis..." M: He and I wrote some of them together, but most of them were Bryan's. Because I was a drummer, too...

J: I thought that it read in the booklet that it was you playing drums...

B: That was a misprint!

M: You see, it was him on the original demos, from when we were known as the SHARK project. He really did all the drums. But when we actually did the "Atlantis Rising" album in the studio as a MANILLA ROAD album, he actually only played the drums on "Sea Witch" and Scott Peters played the drums on everything else...

B: Because at that point, you know, Scott was part of the band and we'd already had most of the stuff written, and it was like "Listen, if you're gonna be a part of this band, you need to be on the album". So I kind of showed him the direction he needed to go in...

M: The drum parts were actually the drum parts that Bryan wrote and played before. It's just that Scott played all of them instead.

J: Have you ever played in any other band, recorded a demo or an album?

B: Yeah, I did as a matter of fact.

M: It was a bunch of bozos... They were a bunch of those clowns.

B: It was me on the drums, Greg Marshall on bass guitar and Randy Foxe played guitar, you know, one of the original MANILLA ROAD drummers. It was a lot of fun. And then I played with a band called INFERNAL NOISE. We played a couple of live shows and we were pretty good, but at that time, like I said, my direction at that point was Mark, I was trying to keep the dream alive for him and do whatever I could going for him and here we are today. (at the time Bryan was elaborating on his past projects, Mark was fighting with Cory)

J: You know, I should have a video camera...

B: You know, it's already here. (pointing at my head) (laughter)

M: She's not used to our antics which are really stupid and crazy. (laughter) See, what nobody knows is that I'm really a dope, I don't write all the lyrics, I have these intelectuals at the University for me and I just come out on tour. (more group laughter)

J: OK, let's say I believe you. Can we expect the "Out Of The Abyss", "Metal", "Invasion" and "Roadkill" re-releases on CD any time soon? If so, who's gonna do it?

M: Yes, CULT METAL CLASSICS RECORDS out of Greece.

J: So it's yet another label... You've got quite a lot of labels releasing your stuff...

M: Yeah, we like to be on a lot of labels. We actually signed those projects for re-issue through IRON GLORY, but they struck up other deals on their own. They have a licencing agreement to move those projects to other labels if they want, if they think those labels can do a better job... And I believe they're coming up pretty soon.

B: I think it's like June, hopefully that will happen in June.

J: What about "The Deluge" which was to be re-released by UNDERGROUND SYMPHONY in 2001? Has this re-issue ever seen the light of day or not?

M: It has been re-released, I just don't think that UNDERGROUND SYMPHONY has really strong distribution. It's out there, I've got a couple of copies of it. We'll make sure you'll get one soon.

J: Well, thank you in advance. You have covered an incredible song from BLOODROCK, the one that always sends shivers down my spine and freezes my blood whenever I listen to it. And I guess it's the only cover song that you have ever recorded, correct? Why did you decide to cover this particular song?

M: Actually I wanted to do a cover tune and it was the only that all three of us could agree on doing for some reason. I really love the lyrics to the song, because it's one of the first and only songs that really had an eerie feel to it and a dark sense to the lyrics, because it's about a plane crash and blood and gore and horror, that you're gonna die, but you're not there yet... your girlfriend lying dead beside you and you've got pain running through your back...

J: I must say I'd heard the original version of "D.O.A" before I heard yours... Anyway, the lyrics are probably the creepiest I've ever heard. Just too real.

M: Yeah, it's about a plane crash. And before we actually did it, I got in touch with one of the band members of BLOODROCK that actually still had the rights to the music and talked to him. And he was very excited about it, he loved the idea, he was really eager to hear it and I sent him a copy of it after it was done and...

B: That was last I ever heard from him! (laughter)

M: I don't think he liked it at all! I think he expected it to be very keyboard heavy and instead you know, we put this more metal style to it.

J: Didn't they know your band before?

M: No, not really, I think he had no clue, he was still rooted in the old days...

J: Your lyrics are no doubt one of the most mysterious in the metal history. The influence of the masters of horror and fantasy such as Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard are substantial here. You have perfectly incorporated the Cthulu Mythos into your songs...

M: Yes, madam.

J: Mark, I know you've studied anthropology - what influence does that have on the lyrics you write?

M: It has all the influence. It has everything to do with the lyrics, because for one thing Edgar Allan Poe's one of the the first guys that really... well, you know, Mary Shelly with "Frankenstein" of course and Bram Stoker from way back, but it wasn't dark enough for me. I'm just really enticed by mythology, I mean, sort of mythos that we have in Europe especially, that's some of the best horror writings ever. I mean, there's great fantasy and adventure and heroes, monsters, gods and goddesses... Well, for one thing, you know, America doesn't have much of the folklore, you know, the only folklore we have is the American Indian folklore basically. And you know, I try to take away from that, but there's not the huge mythos structure that has happened in Europe of course. And my family roots are from the Benelux countries of Europe pretty much anyway, I've got the Scottish and English blood, but mostly Norse, Swedish and Germanic, so I tend to gravitate towards the European mythos structures as far as my sense of anthropologic interests. And I've always been interested in dark weird stuff...

H: Weird shit...

M: Weird shit, you got that right, brother, thank you very much. And... (laughing) this is why I hit these guys! But back to this very serious topic that we are talking about. People like H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Allan Poe seem to really take a serious approach to doing horror and mystery with a good sense of tying into real mythos and legend and history and folklore. Robert E. Howard I think did the best, because with his Conan stories especially, he would take real places, real names, real people, real myths and real legends and he just changed them slightly, you know and it was always conducive to life's history which made it seem almost real. So I think it may be the Conan character in the Hyborian age just that much more easy for anybody that was reading the stories to attach to and say that "Hey, this could have been". And I've just been totally enthralled with those writers, especially Robert E. Howard... H.P. Lovecraft I love for his weird mental aspect in his writings. And all I can say is that the anthropological studies that I did at school basically taught me how to research things, for I can study enough that I can figure out how to derive some sense of reality based of a folklore. "Atlantis Rising" is probably my perfect example as far as our albums go, because it's not really a real myth or a real legend or a real story... It's a fantasy story that Bryan and I could dub together...

B: Hours and hours and hours...

M: Yeah, we spent two years bulding that project together. And we would sit at nights just going over what we could do as far as a concept for this thing. And actually we probably had more fun doing that than anything else. The thing is that we put in our own story-line based of real mythos, real legend and then also the fantasy writings of Howard and Lovecraft and we sort of tied it all in together and just came up with our own thing. And the whole reason for it was to just come up with this fantastic idea that was another possibility in the legendary epic fantasy adventure. And so we started off with "The Deluge" which was a telling of the real tale of the myth and then we extended it to the part two which is an existential tale, what we came up with is a possible conclusion to it all for the future or all the past or for the present or... maybe it's just a bad dream I had! (laughter)

B: That would be possible, too many beers!

J: Do you believe in the supernatural? Things that can't be explained from the scientific point of view, at least not at this point? Have you ever experienced anything that made you think "Hey, there IS something that's not of this earth"?

M: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that we've all been here before. And everybody's had a dream that came true or had some idea of something happening right before it happened, you know, I think we've all prestidigitated one way or another. I also have a scientific belief system about it all too. I believe that if there is a god or if there are gods, they would probably present themselves or himself or herself to every culture in a way that that culture would understand god. And I also believe that anything that we can create in our mind, no matter how far-fetched it is, is possible. And I think we've proved that over the centuries by fiction and science-fiction writers writing all sorts of fantastic things about the stars and space and stuff like that. And now it's not just fantastic ideas anymore, it's actually reality. We had people like Arthur C. Clark and Isaac Asimov and maybe other writers that wrote about things that were not even possible to the human mind, or the idea of being possible at all to the human race until the last ten or twenty years and now it's all come true. I believe it's all possible, I have had a lot of things happen to me that I would think were either magical or mystical power... But I also believe that our essence is based out of the electro-magnetic type of energy that connects us all together, like everything in the universe is connected to the same type of energy. And I believe in reincarnation, I believe in all sorts of crap that most people think is heretical or blasphemy according to the christian religion. And I regard the christian religion just about as much of the mythos as any other religion, because organized religion is a way of trying to control other people to believe in things we believe, the religious sect. But at the same time I believe the faith and the spirituality is necessary.

J: So... I don't know if it's supernatural, but it was actually my next question about religion... so thank you, haha!

M: See? I just prestidigitated your next question. (laughter)

H: He's psychic.

J: Yeah, it looks like that... Mark, if you could go back in time and choose an epoch in history to live in - which one would it be? Would you like to see the life of some ancient civilizations?

M: Well, if I had to choose... I'm gonna go to the first thing first, because what intrigued me was the first part of that question. Well, like I said before, I actually believe in reincarnation, I believe we've been here a lot of different times and centuries of the human race... Medieval times for one thing. Very cool. I'd just love to chop the people's heads off (Mark says it all in a very serious, thoughtful voice which effects in another burst of laughter).

J: Have you been an executioner maybe?

B: No, he would be the one that could be executed! (laughter)

M: I'd probably be the one being executed, yeah.

J: You heretic!

H: Black Knight!

M: I believe there's more history to mankind than what we actually know. And we keep on digging up stuff, you know, archeologists and anthropologists keep on finding stuff from long before we have thought was real. You know, at one point men thought the world was square, well, could that be wrong? Then the American Indians came across by land migrations to the Americas and we pretty much decided that there's an ocean way of migration instead, because they found a proof that they were settleing in South America long before the tribes in the North America... The further our progress in technology gets, the more we start realizing that our history of civilized men goes back much further than it does. I think there's a huge connection between Angkor Wat, the pyramids of Giza and the date 10,500 BC. I am convinced that there was civilized life and geographic knowledge of the world that existed long before recorded history happened. I don't know if it was Atlantis, but I think there was some kind of civilization that actually sailed all the seas of the world back when it was more of a Pangea type the world, the land masses more together than it is now. And we've proved through our scientists that plate tectonics is a natural event and that land masses are moving and separating even more now. I think we've had a very narrow outlook on what the past of the human race has been like, where our origins were. You know, Darwin was definitely wrong, he thought we're all from ape... I think our evolution came somewhat differently than that, that there's still a lot we don't know. And I would just think, I would hope it... Basically, a lot of what my music and my lyrics have been about is to inspire the thought process, the investigating process of looking to find what you can find for yourself is true and what you can believe in. It's a lifelong attitude, it's a lifelong search and it won't stop and until I'm dead or re-living another life... But if I had to pick any specific time frames that I'd live in, that I wanted to be back in, I'd say the medieval age, maybe the Civil War, the Hyborian Age. I'd love to be a gunfighter...Playing poker, drinking booze. Fast living, fast guns!

J: I've noticed you've got some "underwater" inclinations. "The Deluge" album, all the Cthulu Mythos themes in your various lyrics, the concept about Atlantis... Even most of the roads in Manilla are below the sea level, did you know that?

M: Yeah.

J: Do you feel particularly attracted to that what lieth beneath? Or is it just a coincidence?

B: And she has done her research! Jesus Christ! Man, everything!

M: Actually I think it's probably just more like I have been trying to understand how we've evolved from the primordial ooze... I think life itself probably happened in the water originally and that's where we all came from, we evolved out of the seas basically. At one point the "fish" started crawling out of the water trying to figure out how to breathe and eventually they evolved into a state of living where they could do that. And before you know it, we had fish standing on two legs! (laughter)

J: Now this is a heresy!

B: That is none just a Shark! (more laughter and applause)

M: Megalodon with two legs. Beers! (leaning over my recorder)

J: (trying hard not to choke with laughter) Have you ever tried diving with the full gear? Would you agree if somebody (let's say a diver who's a die-hard Manilla fan) offered you a participaton in an expedition searching for some hidden underwater treasures?

M: I'd go.

B: Yeah, I would too!

M: I've actually done some scuba diving before. My stepfather used to be a scuba diver. I've never done it in the oceanic water, so I'd love to go diving for an ancient treasure, especially off the Florida Coast or something like that, you know, or the Bermuda Triangle, I'd like to go see all those lost ships in the water. That would be really great to find some Spanish treasure fleet and...

B: ...Get real rich! (laughter)

M: (leaning over my recorder again) That's because I don't make enough money as a musician!

J: Should I put that in small letters or big letters? OK... Yeah, this kind of has had something to do with my next question! What were you doing when the Road was on hiatus? What's your everyday job, if you have one except being a musician?

M: I'm an accountant. I work as a financial adviser.

J: This was a short answer...

M: I'm a bank keeper!

J: And you don't have enough money?

M: It's because I'm a bad bank keeper! (laughter) I'm a better musician! Somebody wants to pay me?

J: What do you like to do in your spare time? Do you have some other than music interests?

M: Oh, we play golf.

B: We play golf, drink beer, raise children.

M: Raise children. Drink beer. Play golf. Drink beer. Drink beer... I think we have mentioned beer? (laughter)

J: Can you say you're a happy person? Are you living the life you've always wanted to?

B: You know, you always wish that things could be always better, but I'm happy with where I'm at today. Very happy. I wouldn't go back and change anything, but you know, I'm always trying to strive and do better. And that's just the key of life.

M: My answer to that is that I'm always happiest when I'm either with my children or playing music. And if either of those two things are happening, then I'm cool, I'm fine. ...Of course, I like being with Cory too... (laughter)

J: He's like a son to you. OK, how does it feel to be (righteously) acclaimed the Godfathers of Epic Heavy Metal?

M: (some confusion) Ummm, yes.

B: Did she say: grandfathers of heavy metal?

J: No! I said: godfathers! Beer?

M: Aaaah! Godfathers!

B: He's humbled, he's honoured.

M: Yeah, I really don't think I deserve the title...

B: There's so many other bands out there...

M: There's a lot of pre-ancestors before me, you know, because before I was recording and doing what I we do, I think there was a lot of bands doing it right already. Some people just don't know for what they did back then, like RUSH in their early days, they were just monsters with "Fly By Night", "Caress Of Steel", "2112". Excellent, epic heavy metal time stuff, especially things like "The Necromancer", "Trilogy" and "Caress Of Steel". You know, there were a lot of bands, I realize that BLACK SABBATH doesn't consider themselves epic heavy metal, but they really were back then. I mean, I've heard Tony Iommi say "We are not metal, we are just rock'n'roll", but he was the real godfather of power chords, you know, that really dark and sinister sound that you hear in heavy metal music nowadays. If it wasn't for BLACK SABBATH, awful lot of this might not be happening the way it is... The thing is that I think epic metal was derived from awful lot of music that was done before us. It's just we've taken things to the next level. It's a compilation of all the things we grew up with that we were influenced by. It's hard to consider ourselves like a starting point of anything, it's just like we're one of the midway creators that kept trying to keep everything along, but... You know, I'm honoured by somebody calling me that, you know, grandfathers of epic metal, that's really cool, but there's an awful lot of bands out there doing really good metal too, like OPETH. Fantastic band, you know. Those guys are really good and they're very epic in some ways too, but they're not really in the fantasy-adventure epic thing like you're talking about, so... *G* I guess, I'm just honoured. B: And winded.

M: And winded. ...And I need a beer.

J: How many beers have had so far?

M: How many beers? In my life? (laughter)

J: No! Just today!

M: That depends on when you start today, I mean, I started drinking at the airport before we got on the plane in Wichita and I really haven't stopped yet, so... with the time change and all you might say I have been drinking for two days now.

J: But you're not going to drink that much tomorrow?

M: No!...

(just at this moment BlitzKrieg enters and says "Aaaaaah no, some big American drinking stories...", unaware that we're just doing a very serious interview here... and it didn't help to keep this thing serious)

M: Actually we don't drink before shows...

J: Yeah, that's good!

M: It's only after. You know, the day before the show we'd drink.

Cory: (in a low thoughtful voice) ...It's always before a show... Oh, no...

M: Then you'd forget your lyrics...

Cory: But I mean, it's always before a show until your death!

M: But it could always be "after a show", it depends on how you look at it.

J: What adjectives would you use to describe yourselves?

M: To describe ourselves? You want me to describe them? ...You're an asshole (pointing at Bryan)

B: Shut up!

M: (pointing at Cory)...You're a bird... Mascot...

J: Yeah, but I meant adjectives, not nouns! But it's also interesting... What about you?

B: Bastard!

M: Bastard! (laughter) We are all bastards.

B: Well, I'm a control freak. I battle the demons daily. And me and Mark, we clash all the time and it's like "No, we're doing it like this!", he's like "No up yours!" And then we're coming together and it's like "Oh, you're right". And it's been like that for twenty years.

M: It seems like we are always doing things this way and we always end up with the best outcome.

J: So you're probably very stubborn...

M: Both very stubborn...

B: Very. Very.

M: Obviously I'm a very difficult person to work with, because look at me, freak and bastard ...And nobody likes me... (starting to sob) (laughter)

B: No, it's been a good relationship, me and Mark have good relationship. I can look at him and he can look at me, we know exactly what we're thinking at that point of time. As far as me and my brother go, you know, it's a sibling blood, we know what each other's thinking and I'm the oldest, so I rule and he doesn't and... (laughter) And Cory...

M: As far as Cory, we just tell him what to think...

B: Yeah, and Cory's up for anything, he's been a very big inspiration to this whole deal.

J: How did you find him, by the way?

B: Mark gave birth to him a long, long time ago... (more laughter)

M: He's actually my son. Darl thinks that it is his son, but he doesn't know that I was with his wife a long time ago.

B: No, Mark's friend Darl is Cory's father and Mark has known Darl for many, many years.

M: Darl is a professional musician in Wichita and plays more about pop and mainstream music, but he has been very, very popular in Wichita and they've been around forever.

B: Not only Cory's dad, but also Cory's mother who's a singer. So Cory's kind of grown up around music.

M: Basically what happened was Darl came to me and said "Well, my son is a drummer and he's got this band called HARDSET. He's looking to do a demo CD." And so I engineered and helped them produce the CD. And he just killed me with his drumming ability. I listened to this and it was like "Man, the drummer is what really appealed to me about the band". His skill was just fantastic. He wasn't even nineteen yet. And I was like "Man, I hear the best of all parts of drummers". And we did our first show with him in Wichita on March 6th and it was one of the best shows we've ever done in Wichita. We have sold out on it and everybody accepted him just totally right on the spot, because like I said before, he's just so killer. He can play any drum part that this band put out, anything from "Invasion" all the way up through "Spiral Castle", he can immitate any of the drummers we have ever had, but at the same time he's got this individual style and he's definitely fireball of energy, that's brought us back to being what I would consider the powerhouse that we've always wanted to be at the times in the past.

J: OK, back to that question... Try to say three adjectives to describe yourselves...

M: Methodical...

B: ...Lazy! (laughter)

J: Is this about you, Bryan?

M: No, about Mark! (laughter)

J: So speak for yourself!

M: At the same time... diligent... and... stubborn.

B: Creative.

M: I have a hard time when I'm looking at myself in the mirror and describing myself, I guess. I'm not the most creative, I think, all these guys are. I don't look at myself as favourably as a lot my fans do...

B: We're just normal.

M: I guess a good example would be the "Mark Of The Beast" album... You know, I never thought it was good enough to release, but now when it's out there, people say it's really good. You know, I don't most always feel that way about everything that we ever did. I wish people understand, when you're a musician you're always trying to go somewhere. What you've done before is already done. I do understand why people want to hear the old all the time, because I'm the same way. When JUDAS PRIEST shows up in my home town, I wanna hear "The Ripper", just like anybody else! I wanna hear "The Green Manalishi" or "Beyond The Realms Of Death". So I understand where it comes from, but at the same time as a musician, I wish that the fans that aren't musicians would understand that when you are a musician, you always strive to find that lost chord, that new sound, that new something that's gonna make your band much better. And you always think you're almost on the verge of death wnen you're working on new music. And when you're working on new music that's what you wanna present to people. I just hope they understand when we do a new album and we play half of it live, they don't get mad, because we're just trying to express what we're into right now. It's like when we did "Out Of The Abyss" and they thought we were selling up to the thrash market. At that time it was just what we were into, what we were being excited by in the music industry. It wasn't because somebody told us to do that, it was because that was what we were enjoying. But there is an awful lot of epic material on that album: "Helicon", "Return Of The Old Ones" or "War In Heaven"... Those three songs are very epic in nature and they aren't thrash metal, so we still stuck to our roots at the same time.

B: OK, back to your question... I'm basically blatantly fuckin' honest. If I think there's something, I'm not gonna just hold it back, I'm gonna let you know, what I think. And maybe sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, but you're always gonna get honesty with me.

M: I would say Bryan's very aggressive in nature too. It's good that he is, because we have a pretty good balance right now. We don't fight amongst ourselves at all.

B: The only fighting that goes on is me and Mark. That's it. And that's just because I like to fight with him.

M: It's just because it's a tradition, I mean, we really don't have any reason to fight anymore. (...and here they go!)

B: You know, sometimes it's got me in trouble, but the majority of the time, the people that know me, know I'm a good-natured person...

M: I've got a very good word for Bryan: protector. He has always been a protector of all of us. And if there was ever anybody to have your back or jump in there and take a bullet for you, it is Hellroadie.

J: It's good to have somebody like this...

M: Yes, because I don't wanna get shot. (laughter) Save me! Shoot him!

H: Thanks a lot! I don't want my brother shot!

J: I guess you have a lot of interesting stories from the road life to share... Anything that makes you laugh whenever you think back of it?

B: Yeah, yeah, I've got a story! Our last show we played in Wichita, Rick Fisher came out to see us and he was sitting in the audience. I didn't know at that time he was out there, but Mark did and after a couple of songs Mark said "Hey, I wanna bring everyone's attention, Rick Fisher's in the crowd, our original drummer... Ricky, stand up!" and Rick stood up and everyone applauded to him... And I remember the time, way back when it was after the show, it was a small club, and Mark was talking to people out of the crowd and Rick was starting to step out from the drum kit and all of a sudden this van comes through the brick wall and crushes drums, pushes everything out...

M: The whole wall just comes in on top of all this...

B: Well, the van that came through the wall was HIS van that a drunk driver had hit on the parking lot and forced into the building. So it was his van in there that got the drums demolished!

M: Rick jumps out through this big hole, crawls over the van, runs to the car and starts beating the hell out of the driver!

J: It must have been spectacular!

B: Yeah, that was a grand finale, you know, our explosive ending to the night.

M: Our special effects!

B: And so when Mark introduced Rick at the show, I said "Hopefully tonight we will have no vans coming through the wall!" and everybody just burst out laughing!

M: What was funny was that there was so many people who actually had been at that show. That's a good story.

J: Yeah, indeed, it was.

M: I lost my guitar in Paris... My Warlock guitar has actually been lost three times and it's found its way back to me every single time, including being stolen from my house. It's been lost on the road twice, been finally gotten back to me...

B: We'll show you just so you have a little eye-witness... (Bryan goes to the room and comes back with the famous guitar)

H: ...Here's a tape on it that police department put on it.

B: It says right here: "Please, hold for Mark Shelton". That was put on it by the police department, that was taken to the pawnshop on the day that it'd gotten stolen. And a pawnshop is a kind of a flea-market type thing, we can take stuff in and take money for it, so people take stolen goods in and get money for it. Well, it was about a little less than twenty four hours, I found it!

M: That was all due to Bryan's searching the whole city for it, looking in all the pawnshops and giving out pictures of live photos with me and my guitar.

B: ...Of him on stage with the guitar and they in the pawnshop said: "How can you prove it it's this guitar?" and I show him the picture of Mark and he's like: "I got the guitar". And that was it. So we called the police and they took a video tape of the guy that sold it to the pawnshop and then he went back to jail for it and all that stuff. And the guy that stole it we never knew and he just broke into the house and took it...

M: And it's sort of weird too, because it's like a 5000 USD guitar.

B: ...and he got 27 USD for it...

M: And he wasn't a guitar player.

J: Now, you can say you're a lucky owner of a boomerang-guitar. OK, what does the songwriting process look like in the band? What does usually come first: lyrics or music? And how much do all the band members have to say when you're writing new material?

B: Just me, I have all the saying. (laughter)

M: OK. We're gonna fight now. (more laughter)

B: No, everybody pretty much puts around deal, we're really open to all ideas and if I don't like the idea, then I let them know! It's pretty much that everybody can tribute to the song.

M: We usually write the music first and then we match lyrics to what we think the music sounds like conceptually.

B: It's a lot easier to do.

M: When we did "Atlantis Rising" it was a little different though, because we actually sat there and worked up the concept and then started trying to write the stories and the music together. It seems to work really well for us too, so I think that's sort of a new approach to what we gonna be doing things in the future like. We like to have all the musicians in the band contribute. But most generally the concepts can come from all of us, then I usually am the one who sits down and writes the lyrics.

J: What's been spinning in your CD players lately? And what are your all-time faves?

B: OPETH has been going through mine...

M: Yeah, we've been playing a lot of OPETH lately.

H: I like some old DREAM THEATER...

M: What else... GRIP INC. I was listening to BLACK SABBATH, DEEP PURPLE, PINK FLOYD, JIMMI HENDRIX, JOHNNY WINTER...

B: But if you were to go to my house right now and open my CD player, it'd be OPETH.

M: JUDAS PRIEST, RUSH... The last thing I listened to before I came over here was... I just bought a 2DVD set of MANOWAR from the "Monsters Of Rock" in Brazil. But I don't consider them an influence. I just sort of like Eric Adams and Joey DeMaio.

J: "Spiral Castle" was released two years ago... I guess you have some new songs written by now? Could you reveal something, tell us a few words about the music and the lyrics? Is it going to be a concept album? When can we expect your new opus?

M: I sort of touched on that when I was saying from here on now we're gonna do nothing but epic material. We're not gonna do albums that we call "collage albums" where it's just a bunch of songs put together. We're planning on doing three big epics that are all trilogies, so it's sort of like a trilogy in trilogies for our next album. And this can span from concept on Rome, concept on Greek and a Robert E. Howard story.

J: Oh, by the way: you've got this triangle symbol apearing on your albums...

M: It's called a Volknuter. It's actually a Norse symbol for three planes of existence and three worlds that are on each of these planes. It's not something we made up, it is actually a Norse symbol. Each point of every triangle represents a world within a plane of existence. So it's also sort of a symbol of trilogies...

J: Three is my favourite number, I mean it's actually nine, but three...

M: You did the "horns"...

J: No... oh, maybe... But anyway...

M: Don't deny it! (laughter)

J: OK, OK, I have been unmasked, I'm a satanist. (laughter) OK, so... I think that's it.

M: Beers!

J: Thank you very much for your time...

B, M, H, C: Thank to you!

J: It's been an honour talking to you and I'd never supposed it would be so much fun... Is there anything I haven't asked about which you'd like to add?

M: I just want to thank you and all the fans of MANILLA ROAD, old and new, that have helped keep the MANILLA ROAD spirit alive all these years. If it was not for all of you, we would not be able to continue on like we are. Our Hammers are raised on high to all of you. Down The Nails and May The Lords Of Light Be With You. Blessed Be.

B: Sorry Mark, but I always get the last word ...hahahaa. Jowita you will always be part of our family, Poland should be proud of their daughter, because we are very honored to have you in our lives! Thank you so much for your devotion and support for MANILLA ROAD! You always have a home here in the United States! If anyone would like to come to Wichita Kansas and visit us in our city, our doors are always open!! No words can describe how much our fans mean to me!! Thank you so much!! Until we meet again!

Lauda-Koenigshofen, 9th April 2004
Copyright by: Jowita Kaminska