quarta-feira, 4 de abril de 2012

Interview - Manilla Road: The Road of the Epic Metal Kings

Over 30 years of road and dedication to Metal, the road traveled by Mark "The Shark" Shelton and the band created and led by him, was certainly not easy to be traveled.

But the music and created identity, supported by several themes worshiped and revered by fans and admirers, went through good times and hard times, and time proves that only those who have quality, who is true to his art can have longevity.

Thanks to its quality and identity, mainly created from the lyrical part, something that Mark has always tried to have a differential, and his unmistakable voice and guitar, and, also the devotion of old fans and many younger Metal fans still “discovering" the band.

In an interview recently to the Road To Metal, Mark talks about the latest CD "Playground of the Damned", the band's sound and identity, as long tread this road and move on, even with all the difficulties, continued to produce great albums and, despite not having reached a certain, how can I say… mainstream, is one of the bands most worshiped (though Mark's own find it funny that use the term "cult" for the band) and respected in the Metal scene! Mark and Manilla Road and continue walking the "Road of the Kings," the road of the Kings of Epic Metal! Up The Hammers!!

RtM: Initially i would like to know about the most recent Manilla Road’s Album, “Playground of the Damned”. It’s a strong and actual title! Tell us about the lyrics of the title track, and how was the choice for the album title?

Shark: Playground of the Damned took us a long time to put together. About two and a half years. There was lots of chaos going on in and around the band and that is sort of where the title of the album comes from. It felt as if MR was damned to have nothing but troubles finishing this project.

The playground in my mind sort of relates to our studio itself as being our playground for making the music. And of course we the band would be the damned. It also has to do with the lyrics of the title track which refers to the earth being the playground of the human race who in turn are the damned in that metaphor. I have always liked dualities and the title seemed to have that dual purpose for me and so we went with it. 
RtM: In this work, there is not a conceptual theme. Did you felt the need to write about different topics? There are some different approaches, but without abandoning mythology or fantastic themes.

Shark: Well our last two albums were really huge concepts and I thought it was time to lighten up a bit on the total album concept. At least for one album. I don't like ruts and I don't ever want MR to get into a musical rut or even a niche because that would stifle the creativity of the band.

I just always want to be experimenting with new or at least different directions with MR. I will never abandon the fantasy or mythological approach to the music completely. I just want to keep searching for the lost chord and a sound that no one has ever done before. I don't want to sacrifice my roots though. I love where Manilla Road has been in its career and I don't want to forget that but at the same time I want to forge on into the future with the band. I think both are possible at the same time. As for Playground it was a bit of both experimentation and traditional style at the same time. Even though the album does not have a specific concept throughout the project there is still a lot of epic to the stories that are told within.
RtM: “The Art of War” and “Abattoir de la mort”, are two songs well commented by the fans. “The art of War” are the last track, and seems to make a parallel between the conflicts of today, with the medieval battles, where there was more honor. And “Abattoir”, seems a fiction theme, showing as well the lyrical diversity of this work. Would you Comment to us these two tracks?

Shark: Well you pretty much have the concept of Art of War down. It is simply a reminder that today we don't have to look our enemies in the eye to kill them. You only have to push a button. You don't even have to witness the slaughter personally anymore. Sort of takes the honor out of warfare if you ask me. But that is technology for you. As I said in the song we have made it too easy to slay our own kind. It is also a reminder that there may come a time when all this technology is no more and we will have to once again fight our foes face to face. So the message is to still teach your children to stand and fight for themselves. You never know what is around the next corner. Life is always changing and full of surprises.
As for Abattoir de la Mort....the title itself is a double standard. As I said I love dual meanings and the title translated from the French to the English is Slaughterhouse of Death. I used to be president of the department of redundancy department!!! (laughs). This song is expressly about my studio Midgard Sound Labs. It's about all the sweat and blood and labors of love that have gone into the making of the projects that we have done in the studio. We built it from the ground up and have put a lot of our lives and blood into the place. We have destroyed the world many times over in this place and conceived mystical and magikal things beyond the belief of normal man. It is a story in metaphor about the sacrificial slab that we call Midgard Sound Labs.

RtM: The vast majority of comments about the CD are ok .but has been some question as to sound production, which could have been better, and that occurs in several records of Manilla , and that better production would bring more brightness and power the already excellent compositions. What did you tell us about? Is something purposeful in order to ?keep the vintage sound?

Shark: We just do it our own way. I think the main difference is that we don't use triggered or sampled drums. I want to hear a real drummer playing real drums and that is very unusual nowadays. Most engineers, producers and even bands use sample or triggered drum sounds. And yes it makes the drums sound picture perfect but to me it is not real metal. It is like a disease from the popular hip hop and rap culture that is infecting the metal scene. I just plainly want real fucking drums. 

As long as I am involved in the production of Manilla Road the band and it's recordings will never sound just like anyone else. And why would I want to sound like anyone else anyway. Yes we might be sacrificing some quality of production with my backward vintage thinking but that's just the way it is. I will always try my best to make the music sound as good as possible with what studios and equipment that we have at our disposal and sometimes we miss the mark a bit but it is not for a lack of trying. I also know that some people have reviewed bad sounding rips from the LP that made their way onto YouTube and other sites before the real digital downloads were available (speaking of Playground) and those rips sounded terrible.

We even had a apology from one reviewer that reviewed the album from one of these bad sounding rips and then after hearing the real CD released told us he was so sorry that he had said the things that he did in the review because after hearing the real release decided it was great and had a really good sound. I still stand behind the Playground mix as a good one. Now Voyager is another story. The final release does not even sound like the master that we delivered to the label. Whoever did the glass mastering at the pressing plant played with the EQ and totally screwed up the sound of that release. But there was nothing I could do about that. We just keep on trying to do the best that we can and hope that we get better with each project.

RtM: Know that the band writes in a manner analog, and we hear is what was really played, and also today should be more expensive to record that way, and investing in larger studios and big productions. Did you have already received offers from record labels to do a more expensive production, and better distribution of your albums too? There are many people who cannot find the CDs. The metal fans always find a way, but you deserve a better distribution, that way the younger ones will know your work easier.

Shark: I have turned down some bigger deals in the past because of the labels wanting too much control of the product and what kind of music would end up on the projects. It is always about the art form for me.

That's not to say that if the right deal comes along that I would not take it. What would be my dream deal is to have full control of the music direction with unlimited time and funds to record in a really great studio with a renowned producer. You never can tell it might still happen someday. If not I will just keep on doing it my way.

RtM: And shows to publicize the new album now in 2012? And the Brazil, the band has received some solid contact to come to the country? In April we will have the Metal Open Air, as Manilla has performed at various festivals, hopefully in the next issue you're here!

Shark: I would love to play in Brazil but I really don't have any contacts with any promoters there and have not ever received a really solid offer yet.

RtM: And in these festivals, as has been the fan reaction? You notice that there are many new and younger fans? What are the songs most requested at concerts?

Shark: Yes we are still gaining new fans all the time. Young ones also.

This is very cool because it means that metal will live on for a long time to come. As for the songs that are requested of us it ranges from the really old stuff all the way to our new material. It's very amazing to me that there is still a great appreciation for all our material. Of course there are many songs that we absolutely have to do live like Necropolis or Road of Kings. It's really hard to pick the set lists to our shows since we have so many songs to choose from.

RtM: What is the big difference did you see on the metal scene today, compared with the scene of the 80s? 

Shark: Digital reproduction. Anyone can get our music for free now and we don't make near as much money on CD and LP sales as we used to. That is the way it is for everyone in the industry though. Free bootleg downloads were not around in the 80's. The internet is the big difference these days. It's a double edged sword also. Even though it keeps us from having

as many sales as we should have it is a great promotional tool and we would not be nearly as well known as we are without the internet.

RtM: And the time between 83 and 86, where for most fans and specializes press , you released your greatest classics, what moments of that time you consider the highlights and most memorable? And how was the tours and stage production at that time?

Shark: It's actually funny that people think of it that way because most of the trade magazines back then did not like us. It was only in France and Holland and Poland that we were talked about with any type of reverence. All those albums in that era were not well received in their day of release. Satanic dirge and the ugliest band in rock we were called.

It was not a pretty picture that was being painted by most of the reviewers back then. So to say that those were our best days is sort of funny to me. We did not get one bad review of Atlantis Rising when it came out so that seemed a lot more like a success to me than the albums we put out in the 80's. As for our shows back then....we just liked to blow up anything and everything on stage every night. We did a lot of special effects and theatrical type shit that we put aside a long time ago. Now it's more about the music than anything else.

RtM: If you were to submit an album Manilla Road to a new fan, which would you choose? I think it's a tough question!

Shark: Gates of Fire or The Deluge. In my opinion the two best overall projects that I have ever done with MR.

RtM: The Manilla Road had a large gap between 1992 and 2001, then there was the back and reformulations. Did you come to think that never return to the band or on stage? How was that time far from Metal scene, and then, the return and Band reformulations?

Shark: There was only 3 years that MR did not exist. Randy and Harvey Patrick and I played together for many years during that time without recording any projects. We just did not have any label support at the time. 
It was not until 2000 that interest in MR started growing so much that it warranted paying attention to. The Metal scene in the state was really hurting and it was the European fans that really kept the band alive. It was the demand from Europe that caused MR to reform and give it another shot.

RtM: When did you decided to make Manilla Road a quartet? And how you came to Bryan Patrick?

Shark: Bryan has been working with MR since the early 80's, and it was in 2000 that it became evident to me that he should be singing in the band.

RtM: Some people feel that the band has changed a lot the sound. I personally 
think that Manilla Road has kept the identity and main characteristics. Despite reformulations of line up, keeps characteristics that earned him titles like "Riddle Masters" and “Epic Metal Masters”. What did you thing about?

Shark: Like I said before we have always been into experimenting with the sound. There is not one MR album that sounds exactly like another so I'm not sure you can say that the band ever had a specific sound. It has always been changing. But at the same time we have tried to maintain a certain aspect of the roots of the band. 
We do have a distinct sound because of my voice sounding like no other and my guitar playing being quite different in it's own way. So because of that there will always be a bit of a familiarity to the sound of the band but for the most part the music and sound of MR has always been in a state of perpetual change.

RtM: And about the future? What can we expect? There are plans for a DVD? Was so great to see the band on Keep It True and Headbangers Open air DVDs. especially for those who cannot go to a show!

Shark: Yep, we are working on some DVD stuff and I'm sure there will be live footage to come out before too long.

RtM: Well, Mark, really thanks for your attention and words, We could probably write many books with band historys, or made an interview with hundreds of pages, but we will save your time! he he hehe! It was an honor for us! Hope to see the band in Brazil, and we expect many new Manilla CDS!

Shark: Thanks so much for doing this interview with me and for supporting Manilla Road. I would also like to thank our fans and supporters and friends that have made all this possible for us because of their undying faith in Epic Metal and Manilla Road. Blessed Be to you all.

Up The Hammers & Down The Nails !

Shark Attack!!

Manilla Road are:
Mark "The Shark" Shelton: Guitar and vocals
Bryan Patrick: Vocals
Joshua Castillo: Bass
Andreas "Neudi" Neuderth: Drums

Neudi Neuderth

\ m / "Hellwell" is a project that Mark and some friends and other members ofManilla are finalizing, and will be released also by Shadow Kingdom Records.The vocalist and guitarist says this band is like the Manilla's evil twin.

\ m / 
Neudi Neuderth, who replaced Corey "Hardcore" in the sticks of Manilla,  joining the band in late 2011, always cited Manilla Road as his favorite band! Born in Germany in 1971, 16 had a TV show called "Metal Battle" on a local channel. He played in bands like Sudden Darkness,Savage Grace, Seduction, and Viron Roxxcalibur, NWOBHM tribute project.

\ m / 
Bryan "Hellroadie" Patrick, who now does most of the vocals live in Manilla, is a friend of the band since 1981 and has done a bit of everything from roadie to guitar tech and drum, and met the band through the album "Invasion", and as Shark said, after a while it seemed obvious that he should be on stage!

\ m / At the beginning of his career Mark "The Shark" 
came to play drums in a band called Embryo, for the jazz group of his stepfather, called The Heard and also in some small groups of country.

\ m / About the lyrics inspiration, Mark says that it comes from his habit of reading and study, is on historical themes, mythology, fantasy and horror tales (the latest album, "Playground of the Damned" for example, "Into the Maelstrom" was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe tale) and that gives great importance to the lyrical, always trying to do something different than usual.
In the album "Gates of Fire", which cites as one of your favorites, talks about the fall of Troy, based upon the poet Virgil, and says he had read and translated poems in Greek!

By: Carlos "Up The Hammers" Garcia
Editing: Carlos Garcia
Review: V. "Butcher"


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