Manilla Road. A huge band for epic metal. In July they were in Cyprus. Mark Shelton (1977-92, 1994- ), Bryan “Hellroadie” Patrick (1999- ), Andreas “Neudi” Neuderth (2011- ) and Josh Castillo (2010- ). We spoke for over two hours with the members of Manilla Road in Nicosia just before they nailed it live in Cyprus for the Power of the Night Festival. A small portion was included in the Cypriot daily newspaper “Haravgi” (www.haravgi.com.cy). The entire (almost) long talk, rather than a formal interview, is what follows. (Nicolas Nicola)
|The interview as published on newspaper |
"Haravgi" in Cyprus on 17-Aug-2014
Mark: Finally. Thank you very much for your kind words.
Let’s start with the “lost” demo. Does it really exist?
Mark: Yeah it does really exist. We just don’t know where it is! The first ever demo Manilla Road did was 3 songs. It consisted of the very first version of “Far Side of the Sun”, a song called “Manilla Road” and the song “Hermann Hill”, a live version of which is on the “After Midnight Live”. That’s a different version because on the demo we recorded it in the studio.
Did the song “Manilla Road” have lyrics?
Mark: Yeah it had lyrics at the time.
Does it give an explanation about the band name?
Mark: Maybe. It’s so long ago and it’s hard to remember, to tell you the truth. Unfortunately we haven’t found any copies of that tape. We maybe did 50 cassette tapes and sent them out. Back then I had no idea that we will be here now, so I didn’t pay attention in saving all things. It was not a priority at the time. We were still young and we were having a lot of fun. So we just really lost track of these tapes.
We found an awful lot of old staff. Some we didn’t even know we had. But at the same time I would really like to find that first recordings. It was before we released anything. I wouldn’t say it’s excellent staff but it was the first professional recording we ever did.
There is not even one known copy?
Mark: Not that we have found.
Have you been selling this demo or was it only for promotional use? Have you searched local radio stations?
Mark: We didn’t find anything. I remember that local radios were playing a lot the song “Hermann Hill” because it was right after the riot. The song is about a riot on Easter Sunday 1979 in our hometown Wichita in Hermann Hill park during a rock concert. For some reason later they stopped playing it and wouldn’t tell us why. But I haven’t found that demo tape yet and we haven’t found the original masters of that tape. We keep looking.
Neudi: I took most of the tapes we found with me in Germany. I transferred them onto the computer. We found a lot of great stuff there but not the demo.
Patrick: Some of this stuff we found are coming out on the reissues like “Crystal Logic”, “Invasion/Metal” and the ones to follow. There is old staff from these recordings he is talking about. There are many old songs that have never been released or heard by the public. More of these unreleased songs will come out on the next reissues. My favorite is one that it would be on the bonus CD of the next album we are doing. It’s one that I was the happiest that we found. We also have done a new version of the same song. So on the bonus CD there will be the old version of this song and a brand new version of it.
The new album when will it be released? Is it ready?
Mark: It should be out on February or March 2015. We’ve recorded all of it. We are now working on the mixes and the mastering and getting the package ready. We just did a deal with the artist for the front cover. His name is Paolo Girardi.
Do you have a title for the new album?
Mark: Yes, but we will not say it just yet because it’s just months before the release. I’m always worried about somebody taking my ideas and using them before we put it out there. We will probably announce the title a month or two before the release.
Neudi: One title could be TBC. To Be Confirmed (laugh).
What’s your favorite track from the T.B.C? (laughs)
Patrick: I like R.O.D. The new album is going to surprise not just our old fans but also our new fans too. Because there is a bit of every little history of Manilla Road.
Mark: I can say that it is a concept album. A philosophical concept. Sort of historical based on the beginnings of mankind and civilization in Mesopotamia.
Patrick: We will touch a bit on the Sumerians and the Akkadians. A lot of archeological facts. A lot staff that our fans would want to explore and read into. In the past people learned from Mark about the writer Robert E. Howard. There is a lot a bit of everything from the history of Manilla Road in this album. I am very excited about it. It’s gonna be a double CD with bonus unreleased staff from the past. It would be double on the vinyl too. It not something bands do. Bands include bonus from staff they cut off the album. That’s not the case. Why don’t put it on the album from the first. It’s not really bonus tracks. Its tracks they are recording now. For us it will have older staff and maybe some re-recorded.
Mark: The label we are working with now, maybe it can be considered a major label, but they are not telling us what to do. They are not trying to shape our music or to make us anything we are not. They let us be ourselves. That’s incredible. That’s the only way for me to accept being in a big label. Accepting us being ourselves.
Patrick: It’s important that the boss is a fan.
Τhe title for the album “Metal” was a conscious decision for the genre?
Mark: Even in our “Invasion” album the term was in our lyrics. We were very psychedelic rock n’ roll, hard rock band at the time, but at the same time we were considering ourselves some kind of metal. We were writing our lyrics that way and we knew that was our direction. It was just a matter of our roots at the time and where we were going. I grew up in an area of the USA where country music was the biggest style of music. I was a big fan of Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Hawkwind and staff like that. That’s where most of the psychedelia came from. But at the same time from the Hendrix side I took the style with a lot of guitar solos. Also from Michael Schenker. I got so many influences that is really ridiculous. I just took many pieces from whatever I liked and sort of fuse it together with my own capability and I came up with our style. I think we considered ourselves a metal band when we started in 1977. We were more like space metal.
Patrick: The term metal was been used from the mid 70’s. But the term epic metal wasn’t.
Mark: And in the 80’s when people asked us what we played we didn’t say just heavy metal. We usually said “sort of epic metal”. And it stuck.
I got some of the ideas of what heavy metal was as far as concept-wise from a French magazine called “Métal Hurlant”. If translated in English it meant “Heavy Metal”. It was a comic’s magazine based in adventure fantasy, science fiction and horror staff. Not just the music, but also the artistic side. Heavy metal was not applied just to music. It applied to the story types. It was a more over concept rather to a single music concept.
You also have a lot of references to your lyrics to a lot of writers and stories from literature.
Mark: Yeah, I read a lot. Even now I still read quite a bit. There are some things I’m really knowable about and there are some things I know nothing about.
Manilla Road never wrote songs on politics or love affairs.
Mark: We tried to stay away from it. I don’t like to take sides because I don’t know all of the particulars about political things. The one thing I will always make a stand on is that I think that the human race needs to get rid of greed, money and religion. All the things that cause wars. These things should never happen. It’s not up to me to decide if it’s good for a country to separate or not. I am more concerned with music and people getting along. I think it’s time for mankind to wake up and realize what is causing these huge conflicts. For me it’s greed for power, land, money and resources and difference of opinion about religion. Religions to me are just a control factor for people to control other people. Our technology is so advanced nowadays that we pretty much know that there is no god pulling our strings and there is no god listening to our emails. These were all fantasies that mankind had to explain the things they didn’t understand. We have technology now to understand what the cause of all things is. Even the beginnings of our universe.
Maybe god is not following emails but the NSA is.
Patrick: Yeah. They may even listen to this now. Trust me.
Mark: So it’s time for people to get out of this medieval thinking and start realizing we need to get together and help everybody in the world.
I just found a title for the interview: Manilla Road is denouncing medieval thinking!
Mark: Funny (laughs)
Patrick: Especially our government bases a lot of its war justifying on religious beliefs. It’s just wrong. If you are going to make laws and decisions for the people then it should be for the people.
Neudi: We played in so many countries with different governments and cultures but the fans are all the same. It’s good to know that we can make people happy even if these are people who are not happy for the rest of the week.
Mark: That’s the power of music. To go along I have to say that metalheads are all the same. There is a unification that music brings to the people. That’s why I am so intrigued by music. It can make people happy even though times are very tough for them. We have many people saying to us “thank you for your music because that’s what I listened when I had turmoil in my life and it helped me get through”. We are all like that. I have bands that I listened when I am depressed to feel good again.
I am on the opposite. When I am not feeling good I usually listen to Candlemass!
Mark: (laughs) We are actually really good friends with Leif Edling and the guys from Candlemass. They are fantastic people and a great band. I love Leif.
To get back to music, I think that it is a common thing for all of us. The whole world needs to find common communication and figure out how to get along. Music speaks to the mind, heart and soul of a person. I think music is the best way to communicate. Everyone likes music even if it is different type of music. Just some religions ban kinds of music or dance. But to the most part I think music speaks to everyone.
When it comes to things like people starving, it’s not necessary. There is a lot food in the world to feed everyone. We just need to quit trying to get money of it. There are pharmaceutical companies that don’t release cures or they make it so expensive to get more money. It’s ridiculous to have such companies suing people for cure patents. If people are sick we need to cure them. We should be using all of our capabilities worldwide together to make these things happens. The reason this is not happening is because of companies and people being so greedy.
Patrick: That’s what confuses me about the term mankind. Because man is not kind most of the time. This needs to be addressed. Start thinking about each other. And this is not trying to be socialist or being political. We are together on this earth. Let’s do this. We are destroying this place and it’s going to get worse if we don’t start waking up really fast.
Mark: We try not to be political. We don’t feel political. But we think that as people of the earth we need to do what we can to change things to be better. For us the best way is through our music. Telling people to follow their own path and do what they think right and do not depend on something written 3000 or 2000 years ago when we didn’t have the knowledge we have now.
But all this talk is very much political even though you say you don’t want to be political. Political in the thinking and not in choosing any political party line.
Patrick: In a real sense yeah. It’s a heavy metal political nature. Keep it within the music and the people.
Neudi: When we travel touring we find out many things. Most people are stuck within the thinking of their own country. They don’t understand things going on in other countries. But when you are there and talk to the people you understand. Even if you are not agreeing with what they are doing in their country that’s OK. It’s fine. It’s their choice.
Mark: I just want to summon things up by saying that no matter how advanced our technology gets, I think we should always still be reverent to our ancestry and where we came from. It’s important to know where we come from and to respect our forefathers and our ancestors and the thing they believed in. Even if they were not true things. It’s what they believed. I think it’s important for us to remember our roots and background, just like a band. We worked our way up through the music industry on our own. Holding ourselves up by our own boot. Not depending on anyone else except the fans. We don’t want to forget that this is where we came from. We were and still are just heavy metal fans. I don’t ever want to be the guy that doesn’t want to talk to a fan because I will think, “I am better than you” or anything like that. That would be such a crime for my inner self and myself.
You have mentioned the first version of “Far Side of the Sun” on the lost demo. Then you had one version on the “Invasion” album and a different one on the “Metal” album. Why?
Mark: We kept changing the song here and there. I don’t know. We kept doing it again and again.
In between there were the songs that ended up being “Mark of the Beast”. Why didn’t you release this album in 1981?
Mark: We just didn’t think it sounded complete or as good as we wanted it to sound like. When we first started working in the studio, we were using analog guitar processors instead of actually taping the amplifiers. This was because of the owner of the studio. He convinced us to do it this way. That’s how “Invasion” was recorded. When we went to do the “Mark of the Beast” album, which at that time was actually called “The Dreams of Eschaton”, we recorded it the same way without amplifiers and using processors. I kept on thinking that this does not sound exactly like we sound as a band. So we put that on the shelf and we didn’t use it. We went back to recording using amplifiers and we recorded the staff for the “Metal” album. I liked that sound a lot better. We just didn’t release that staff that ended up in “Mark of the Beast”. I never really planned on releasing it until Monster Records bugged me for at least 10 years for it.
Neudi: Because of the bootleg that was out. It really sounded like shit.
Mark: That was the thing that made me finally to decide to release it. Because there was that bootleg around.
That bootleg by a Greek metal magazine in 1999 was released without your permission?
Mark: It was without my permission completely.
I have it here. It says special thanks to Manilla Road for the release!
Mark: I never agreed to it. I think Black Dragon Records gave them the music. Because Black Dragon had a lot of our demo staff from back then. I would not have agreed to that even if they would be offering me money. I would have said no.
Neudi: Even on that bootleg there are two recording sessions. And the sound is worse than on the “Mark of the beast” release.
Mark: Yeah. It didn’t have everything on it. Not all of the original material for the album. This was taken from a cassette tape for the bootleg. Not from the master tapes. The first three songs on the bootleg (Venusian Sea, After Shock, Time Trap) were actually recorded after the album sessions. And the rest four songs are just a portion of the songs of the original “The Dreams of Eschaton”. I don’t know how they only got portions of it but the first three songs were actually made as a demo after the recordings for the unreleased album. We were still very unlucky in getting someone to sign us and finding a label to work with and so we continued to release our albums by our own through Roadster Records.
When the bootleg came out it was just terrible. It sounded like crap and it was not even the whole album. In response to that being bootlegged I decided it would be ok to go on and release the “Mark of the Beast”. That way it would sound as it should and it would have all the songs.
Neudi: There was also another bootleg “Live by the Sword: The Very Best of Manilla Road” (note: also by another Greek magazine in 1998 with the blessings of Black Dragons but not to the knowledge of the band). When you hear that carefully you can understand it was taken straight from the vinyl!
Black Dragon was circulating the albums you have released on your own through Roadster Records up until “Crystal Logic”. Then they released all your work up to “The Circus Maximus”. You have mentioned some staff but you had other troubles with this label.
Neudi: Even today we still have problems.
Mark: They were OK to work with at first. But when times got tough for them financially they became very hard to work with. It was then they started letting things go like the bootlegs. But it’s all behind us now.
What problems do you still have with them? I thought they were not operating nowadays.
Mark: We still have problems. Problems for using the original artwork on front covers for the reissues. The artist for “Open the Gates” and “The Deluge” Eric Larnoy is dead now. No one has been able to find out where the original paintings of the album artwork are. I know that Black Dragon does not own them and I don’t either. Now Black Dragon is saying we cannot use this artwork for reissues, even if they don’t own them. The people who would own them are the relatives of Eric Larnoy, but nobody knows where the art is. It is a confusing situation.
Mark: Yes, that is the problem. They said we cannot use the artwork. My point to them was “what are you going to use them for?”. You don’t have a contract with us any more. As far as I know also, they don’t even put out anything anymore. They are not even an active company. So what does it matter to them?
Neudi: We are not the only band to have problems with them. Candlemass, Exxplorer and Steel Vengeance also have problems with artwork for reissues.
Mark: Anyway. The reissue of “Open the gates” will have the original artwork that nobody saw. We had back then a friend of ours in Wichita, Scott Dawson. He did a painting that was going to be the “Open the gates” cover. Then we got signed by Black Dragon and they decided to use the Eric Larnoy painting instead. So the paint by Scott never got used. Now we will use the original painting and keep the Larnoy for the inside. For the reissue of “The Deluge” we don’t know what we will do yet.
It’s confusing times. Even today that the company is gone we still have problems with Black Dragon.
Speaking of covers let’s come to “Crystal Logic”. Is the rumor that you tried to change band name (with Crystal Logic being very much bigger on the first pressing than the Manilla Road logo), true?
Mark: No. It was the way the artist did it. Crystal Logic and Manilla Road were in fact painted on the original piece of art. It was not added later. That was the way the artist decided to do it.
We did try to change the name a few times but not then.
On what occasions?
Mark: For example with “The Circus Maximus” album. Black Dragon again have their idea of what should be done. The project-band was named “The Circus Maximus” and they changed it to a Manilla Road album and called it “The Circus Maximus”… Which did not make any of us happy. They did it because they thought they could sell more albums that way.
When Bryan and I were working on the “Atlantis Rising” album, at the time we thought we were recording my solo project. We were going to call it “The Shark Project”. When we started giving our offers for the album all of the record labels said: “OK we want it, but you must call it Manilla Road”. At that time we were OK with that.
Patrick: It just makes sense with the direction of the band at the time. At that point we were not looking at being Manilla Road again. We just wanted to make music and get Mark back as he was away from playing music for a couple of years. At that time we had family issues and we were miserable inside because we didn’t have music with us. I’ve been with Mark since 1981 and not seeing him playing music it was killing me. So one day we were at the golf course and said “man we got to get the band going on and do something”. He looked at me and said, “we will do something”. We started writing and got 8 out of the 10 songs for “Atlantis Rising”. Then we got as Manilla Road at Balingen in Germany for the Bang Your Head Festival. We got back to the USA and wrote the rest of the songs. The label loved it and wanted it as Manilla Road. I thought the artwork of that album was great.
Mark: So great he put it on his arm (showing the tattoo on Patrick’s arm).
Patrick: In the 80’s I was a roadie for Manilla Road and a lot of other bands in Wichita. Had a quite different shows of my own. Music just is a big part of my life. I could not sit back and not make music. And to see Mark not doing music…
Mark: Yes, I was dying. I was becoming more and more depressed every day.
Patrick: “Atlantis Rising” is a very special album for me. It was the first I really was able to have a chance to sit down and write with Mark. That album was really written from song one to the next till the finish. Every song had its place.
Mark: We actually had an outline of the concept and we wrote and recorded each song in the order it is in the album.
Patrick: The other album that is very special to me because of some family issues at the time was “Gates of Fire”. All the album is very special because we paid tribute with this one to our fans from
Italy and Scandinavia
with the three concepts. It was an honor theme.
How many years were
Manilla Road actually inactive?
Mark: Just about two years. Basically the “The Circus Maximus” era that Manilla Road didn’t actually exist. Right after “The Circus Maximus” broke off, I got back together with Randy Fox and Bryan’s brother, Harvey Patrick and we played live round the state of Kansas for 2-3 years. Most people think we were not active at the time because we were not recording anything. There was no Internet or it was just starting. For everyone in Europe it looked like we didn’t exist. We were actually playing live and writing music as well. About half of the music that ended up in “Spiral Castle” was written during that time. We changed the title of the songs we played with Randy and Harvey and I re-wrote the lyrics. “Spiral Castle” song was used to be called “White Goddess”. “Merchants of Death” was called “Holy War” in first. “Seven Trumpets” was actually called “The Gods are Sleeping”. It was changes to fit the concept.
As for the inactive years, it was only the couple of years we were working with “The Circus Maximus”. Other than that,
Road were there except for two years.
You wrote all the songs on “The Circus Maximus”?
Mark: I wrote all of the music, but the melodies and lyrics were written by whoever sang the song. Aaron Brown sang three songs (“Spider”, “In Gein We Trust”, “Hack it off”) and half of “Flesh and Fury”. Andrew Coss sings four songs (“Lux Aeterna”, “Murder by Degrees”, “No Touch”, “She’s Fading”) and the rest of “Flesh and Fury”. I sang “Throne of Blood”, “No Sign from Above” and “Forbidden Zone”.
Neudi: It’s AOR, then it’s rock and then it’s so progressive. It depends on each member. I saw a live video Mark has from a live show from the band of The Circus Maximus. It’s great.
You played any Manilla Road songs at that time?
Mark: A few. We did “A touch of Madness” and “Dig Me No Grave”. We also did a Black Sabbath medley. We also played “Sweet Emotion” from Aerosmith.
“The Circus Maximus” sounds nothing like Manilla Road as a project it was and not Manilla Road as the label choose to.
Mark: Exactly. It wasn’t supposed to sound like Manilla Road. It was a project.
Patrick: But there are a couple of songs in there you can really say, “that has a Manilla Road feeling”.
Mark: The song “Forbidden Zone” is probably the closest to a Manilla Road song on there.
Speaking of songs that sound like Manilla Road. “Feeling Free Again” from “Crystal Logic” has this different lyric line for the band. What was behind Mark singing “hey baby”?
Mark: “Crystal Logic” was the first time we used a producer. His name was Mark Mazur and he was really good. But he thought we needed a song that had radio potential. So he basically urged me to write a song that would be good for radio airplay. And that was what came out of me. I am not proud of this moment at all.
But when it was performed live last year in Metal Assault Festival it was a very nice song.
Mark: Thank you. I really like the guitar parts of the song. I just don’t like the lyrics.
Patrick: It’s fun to sing.
Mark: Every time he sings it he looks at me with that look “you wrote hey baby”…
The previous night I had the luck of seeing you perform acoustic. Does this happen often?
Neudi: Not really. Only when I want to drink and not to play drums (laughs)
Mark: We don’t do it that often. It was a special type of event. It was the release party for our album “Mysterium”. We did an acoustic show in Athens in 2012 and maybe we will do some staff like that at some time in the future. It’s not our main interest. It’s something we do that is different.
Neudi: It was a concert of Zed Yago’s Jutta Weinhold and we jumped ourselves in as a support acoustic act. She was so kind to let us do this.
Mark: It was very nice. We are friends with Jutta. She is a fantastic artist and person. She has a remarkable voice. I am proud to say that I know her and call her friend.
It was an excellent acoustic show. It was awesome to hear songs like “Behind the veil”, “The Book of Skelos” and “The Fountain”. There were also unreleased tracks. Are these old or new staff?
Mark: Thanks. Just to let you know we are recording an acoustic version of “Book of Skelos”. As for the unreleased songs they are actually from a solo project I am doing called “The Shark Project”. I am still trying to do this. I actually have a title for that album and it’s called “Obsidian dreams”. I think I will try to release that in the coming year.
It’s completely different from your Hellwell project?
Mark: Yeah. “The Shark Project” material is all folk acoustic. Not really metal at all. Some are even like love songs.
What’s going on with Hellwell after the album Beyond the Boundaries of Sin of 2012?
We are working on a second album. It’s something that we will continue on, but as time permits. Because Manilla Road is the most important thing.
Did you have any live performances with this project?
No, it’s just a side project with different people.
What made you change direction in each of the album in the long career of Manilla Road? Was it a choice or a natural procedure?
Mark: A little bit of both. There was the choice in it. Most of the bands I admire the most, are band that don’t do the same thing over and over. I really like AC/DC, but every album sounds basically the same. They are great but you can play many of their albums in a row and think you are still listening to the same album. On the other side Led Zeppelin is a very good example of the opposite. Every album has a different thing going on. Different fusion of styles. Different approach. I appreciate that much more because you just not try to repeat yourself. Trying to move forward and do something new. I think that made Manilla Road what we are. We don’t try to stay in one groove. We continue and try to experiment. Try to find different ways to express.
Patrick: Mark is always searching for the lost chord. He is always searching for something that was never been heard or for new ways of doing things. That goes also for recording. Since 2000 we’ve done our entire recordings by ourselves in his studio. Each album it’s gotten better. Little better equipment and we learn better techniques of how to record and make it sound better. We like to do things on our own and we will continue.
Mark: The other way to say this is that I am too stubborn and I want to have it my way!
Neudi: I think that it would be wrong to have an album like “Crystal Logic, part II”. Many bands do that or Manowar re-record their albums. This is a sign that something is not going right in the band.
Mark: It’s a sign that you don’t have fresh ideas anymore. We are always looking for fresh ideas, something different. I don’t want to bore people with our music. I want them to be excited like I am. The way we do it, it keeps us excited about the music. We always had this approach. If it sounded good to us that is what we do. For example I have never been proud of the song “Feeling Free Again” because somebody told me to write that. And it’s not a song that is super-popular for us. So the only time I tried to write something for the radio I failed. But when I am writing staff out of my head then sometimes a hit comes out.
Patrick: He might think he failed at it, but there are many people out there that still tell me that they love that song and want to hear it live more often.
Mark: I told Bryan I don’t have a problem playing that song but he has to sing it! I am not going to sing “hey baby”…
Neudi: In our live show we play longer songs like “Cage of Mirrors” or “The Ninth Wave” and it’s exciting also for us. We never get bored.
Mark: We still experiment a lot on stage also. I don’t necessary play every guitar solo exactly the same. I start it and finish it the same way but what’s in the middle can be whatever the hell I am thinking at the time. That keeps it exciting for us and the fans that travel around to see us. They don’t hear exactly the same song. Words are the same, unless we forget them (laugh)
Patrick: That was you Mark!
Mark: I know. At Metal Assault I forgot the lyrics to “The Ram”.
Patrick: He knows. He was there…
Neudi: Many bands have computerized light show. Then they play exactly the songs up to the second. I prefer not to do it that way.
Mark: I saw a video from a live concert of Lordi and their sound system started screwing up and the next thing you know it was like a rap record. The whole band’s sound was screwed and the band kept playing. They were lip-singing everything. I lost respect for these guys right away.
I think the best response to these kinds of situations was the Iron Maiden attitude in Germany. When a TV studio asked them not to play live and mimic they made fun of it by switching musical instruments live on TV.
Neudi: Yeah. That was great. I was “Wasted Years” and it was on a German Channel. Bruce Dickinson was playing drums at some point and Nicko McBrain did the singer.
Patrick: They turned that around and let it be known. We aren’t really playing it but we will have fun doing this. I admire that.
Mark: I also admire that. It’s the band saying we didn’t want to make it that way but since there making us do it this way we are gonna have fun and let you know about it.
Neudi: Iron Maiden was also the band that forced the Top of the Pops to play really live.
How do you feel playing in Nicosia right next to the medieval walls of the old city?
Patrick: This is the first time
are playing next to a city’s wall. It’s
such an honor to be in Cyprus. Cyprus steel lives.
Mark: It’s fantastic. I really opened the gate of Famagusta last night (laugh). I think is perfect for Manilla Road to perform at a medieval wall for what we write of. It’s always such an honor just to see sights of things like this. But to be able to play live right next to it, it’s magnificent. It’s amazing. It’s a high honor for us.
Neudi: We are doing this without playing the music that Ritchie Blackmore is playing nowadays! And it’s also the first time to play amongst palm trees! As a German is the most exotic feeling.
Josh: We had an excellent welcome in Cyprus. The signs in the festival. When you drive through Cyprus and you see a graffiti of your own band on the wall it just gives you the goose bumps. To see on the wall written “Flaming Metal Systems”.
Neudi you had in the past managed the fan-page of Manilla Road and now you are the drummer. I remember you announced that
were signed to play Wacken in 2001. I was there but not Manilla Road…
Neudi: I don’t remember this. That’s weird.
Mark: We were never invited to play Wacken.
You “spoiled” us in Athens 2012 playing the whole of “Open the gates” in a three hours show. You’ve done the same in 2013 in Metal Assault Festival with the whole “Crystal Logic” with Rick Fischer on drums and then with Neudi again the entire “Open the gates” album and some more in another three-hour concert. What to expect in Athens in Up the Hammers festival in 2015 with Randy “Thrasher” Foxe on drums?
Patrick: Yes, we have played a three-hour show with a 31 songs setlist in Athens in 2012. That was something the organizer Manolis wanted us to do with the all “Open the Gates” from start to finish. That kind of opened up the idea of bringing up Rick Fischer and doing a 30th anniversary show for “Crystal Logic” in Metal Assault.
Don’t get any ideas for 2015. We are not going to do a start to finish “Deluge” album with Randy Foxe. But we are going to do a very special show in Greece in March. A 1.5 hour show starting with Neudi and then after a quick changeover we are going to finish with Randy Foxe. It’s going to be a special night. You can expect something different that night.
Even songs from “Out of the abyss”?
Patrick: With Neudi we are going to focus on our new album and everybody will get a chance to hear some staff live. Then we ‘ll touch a lot of the staff from “Crystal Logic” and back staff. With Randy Foxe there’s going to be a lot staff from “Open the gates”, “The Deluge”, “Mystification” and “The Courts of Chaos”. We are going to focus on staff he was on only.
Mark: There will be at least one song from “Out of the abyss”.
Will it be “War in Heaven”?
Mark: Most likely “Helicon” because of the place we are playing.
Patrick: The Greeks will kill us if we don’t put “Helicon” in. It’s going to be a remarkable thing and it would be the first time Randy Foxe will play overseas. The first time to play in foreign soil. It will be exciting. Also for me personally because I was his drum technician all those years.
I can tell you honestly that I had the best seat in the house every night right next to him. The guy is just awesome.
Mark: Randy is incredible.
Patrick: I ‘ve never seen any drummer ever playing like he does.
Mark: And it says a lot about Randy when Neudi says that he is one of his favorite drummers.
Patrick: He plays so loud and so hard. Then he has his little change things. Oh my God how he did that. He is an inspiration for me. Him and me played in a band together where he played guitar and I played drums. (Note: the band was Bunch of Bozos). That was really intimidating. He wrote something and I tried to figure out the drum piece and he said I might have an idea. I said I might be able to do that. We played a couple of shows around in Wichita but nothing more serious. He does his own recording staff.
Randy is a very unique guy. He doesn’t really like metal but he likes bands like Toto, Sweet, 10CC, King Crimson. They are all great but they are not my sorts of taste. With Randy you will never get down to “hey man have you listened to the new Kreator album”… Forget that. It’s not going to happen.
Mark: Yeah he didn’t like that staff.
Mark: He has earned that in his playing. As a drummer. He is just a thrasher in the way he plays drums. That’s the way he earned the title. He was breaking the drums all the time. He was also thrashing his drum set.
Patrick: I still have problem till this day to hear well because he blow away my ear one time. I tried to fix some staff on his drums while playing live and he continued. He had broke a snare-drum and the only way I could get in to change it was to crawl underneath and go back, reach over, grab the snare, slam it down while he is playing. Crazy staff all the time.
It’s hard for me to get away from this. Today when I see some of my band mates having an issue the roadie inside me wakes in. For instance Neudi had an issue with the snare in Milan and I was holding it so he could play. Then the technician saw and said “what’s going on, we got to get up there”.
Mark: Another example is that in many shows, fans will be getting on stage for a stage dive. Especially in Greece always someone is unplugging me. Before the road crew comes to fix it, Bryan is already there fixing it.
Neudi: When I listened for the first time “The Deluge” it was amazing. He was the first drummer in metal with things that I never heard before or I didn’t expect. Like playing reverse. This is what I like so much about him. I grew up with that and it cost me problems when I recorded with other bands. Because the producer or my band mates were saying “Neudi you are playing way to much here”. Now I finally am able to officially play way to much in Manilla Road.
Mark: He will never get that from me.
Patrick: No, he just get that look from me “what are you doing back there”. (laugh)
Is the D.O.A. cover from the band Bloodrock the only song cover you did?
Mark: On an album yes.
Patrick: The keyboards on “The Courts of Chaos” Randy played them in studio together at the same time with playing drums. And to see a drummer being able to do that is remarkable. He would have it hanging from the cage using his fingers and playing drums.
Neudi: He also plays guitar. Maybe he would have fired you all back then and do everything on his own.
Patrick: Not the bass part. It would be too simple. (laughs)
Do you think that nowadays you are getting the recognition you ought to have in the 80’s?
Mark: I don’t know about that. I think things come to those who deserve them. I am not sure if we were as good as a band in the 80’s as we are now.
Mark: A lot of people would say that this is not true. But this line-up can play whatever this band has ever played. That’s very important.
Patrick: That didn’t happen in the 80’s.
Mark: For example Randy didn’t like playing the old Manilla Road staff before him.
That’s the reason for the setlist of the live album “Roadkill” being the way it is?
Mark: Yeah. That’s the reason why we didn’t play things from “Crystal Logic” at the time. We just did “Far side of the sun” from the work before Randy. It was just the songs Randy would want to do. And they were very few from the old days.
Patrick: It was songs he could re-write on drums and just thrash it. He would never play songs such as “Crystal Logic” or “Necropolis”. Neudi plays his way on them but really close to the original.
Neudi: Some times I think what it would have sounded if Randy have played “Necropolis”.
Patrick: It would have been destroyed (laughs).
Mark: We had the same problem with other band members throughout our career even after the reformation. With Scott Peters (drums 2000-03), Mark Anderson (bass 2000-02) and Cory Christner (drums 2004-11). They had songs from the old days that just said they didn’t want to play. Peters and Anderson really just wanted to play new staff. But today with these guys we can play anything. They are really prepared to play anything if the fans want to hear it.
I would like to say thank you so much to all our fans. They have given us their undying support all these years. Without you we cannot do what we do. And Manilla Road would not have existed if it were not of our fans. They almost are as important to us as the music itself. The music will always be the most important thing in my life but right next to it is our brothers and sisters in metal that support us. We cannot do this without them. It is an honor to be still here doing it. The only reason is because the people honor us for it.
What’s your favorite track from each record?
After Midnight Live (recorded live in 1979, released in 2009)
Mark: “Dream of Peace”
Patrick: “Herman Hill”
Mark: “Cat and Mouse”
Patrick: “Centurian War Games” or “The Empire”
Neudi: “The Empire”
Mark of the Beast (recorded in 1981, released in 2002)
Neudi: “Venusian Sea”
Mark-Neudi: “Cage of Mirrors”
Patrick: “Out of control with rock n’ roll”
Crystal Logic (1983)
Mark: “Crystal Logic” and then “Necropolis”
Patrick: “Crystal Logic”
Neudi: “Dreams of Eschaton” and as a bonus “Flaming Metal Systems” from the CD era.
Mark: My favorite song from the compilation “U.S. Metal Vol. III” would be “Flaming Metal Systems” (laughs)
Open the Gates (1985)
Mark: “The Fires of Mars” or “The Ninth Wave”
Patrick: “Road of Kings”
Neudi: “Witches Brew”
The Deluge (1986)
Mark: I love the whole album. Just to choose one maybe “Friction in Mass”
Patrick: “Taken by Storm”
Neudi: “The Deluge”
Mark: “Masque of the Red Death” or “Mystification”
Patrick: “Dragon Star” and “Up from the Crypt”
Neudi: “Dragon Star”
Out of the Abyss (1988)
Mark: “Whitechapel” and my next would be “War in Heaven”
Patrick: “Midnight Meat Train”
Neudi: “War in Heaven”
The Courts of Chaos (1990)
Mark: “Into the Courts of Chaos” or “The Prophecy”
Patrick: “Into the Courts of Chaos”, but I really like the cover of “D.O.A.”
Neudi: “Book of Skelos”
The Circus Maximus (1992)
Mark: “Forbidden Zone”
Patrick: “Murder by Degrees” and “No Sign from Above”
Neudi: “In Gein We Trust”
Atlantis Rising (2001)
Patrick: The whole album for me. If I have to choose one it would be “March of the Gods”
Spiral Castle (2002)
Mark: “Merchants of Death”
Patrick: “Spiral Castle”
Gates of Fire (2005)
Mark: That’s so hard, I love every song. Maybe I would have to choose “The Fall of Iliam”. I must say though that the song “Behind the Veil” I still think is maybe the prettiest song I ever wrote.
Patrick: “Riddle of Steel” is very special for me with some family problems.
Mark: “Voyager” or “Conquest”
Playground of the Damned (2011)
Mark: “Abattoir de la Mort” and “Grindhouse”
Neudi: “Brethren of the Hammer”
Mark: “Mysterium” and “Only the Brave” would be the next one
Patrick: “Only the Brave”
Neudi: “The Battle of Bonchester Bridge”
Beyond the Boundaries of Sin (from Hellwell project, 2012)
Mark: “Keepers of the Devils Inn”
Patrick: The three songs for “Acheronomicon” because I sang on the second part.