Interview Metal Allegiance: Mark Menghi

Artiest: Metal Allegiance

Geïnterviewde: Mark Menghi

Interview afgenomen via: e-mail

Label: Nuclear Blast

Metal Allegiance, een project opgericht door Mark Menghi, Mike Portnoy, David Ellefson en Alex Skolnick, komt binnenkort met een debuuthandel op de markt. Van coverband zijn ze verder gegaan naar een full-time groots project dat verschillende artiesten uit het wijde metalmilieu een rol geeft in hun muziek, zoals Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), Mark Oseguedo (Death Angel), Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) en Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy. We interviewden mastermind Mark Menghi.

The debut album will be released next month, how long have you guys worked on it?

Well, the idea to potentially write a record happened on Motorhead’s Motorboat Cruise last September. So not even a year ago! We have accomplished it in under 12 months, that’s pretty amazing… We gathered up at Mike Portnoy’s house the first week of December (2014) to start writing and see how the chemistry would be, 2 days later we had 5 complete songs written with a lot more ideas. We then got back together the first week of January (2015) and wrote 4 more songs and before we knew it, the album was written. Everything happened very organically and nothing was forced in the song writing process… From there we went on to play a show in Anaheim, California at the House of Blues (January 2015) and then the Shiprocked Cruise (February 2015). We then immediately went from the cruise up to New York where Alex and I live to start recording all the basic tracks. Basically from when we started writing the first note to final Masters it was a 6-month process, which was pretty amazing!

Was this big project your idea initially? How did it grow?

Metal Allegiance as a whole was my vision, which dates back to 2011 under a different name. I came up with the name “Metal Allegiance” in July 2014. I always wanted to see and do something different and that’s exactly what this is. David Ellefson called my in August of 2014 stating that Megadeth could no longer perform on Motorhead’s Motorboat Cruise due to an illness and there might be an opportunity to get “whatever the new name thing is” on the boat… And in 24 hours, I made all the social media pages public and we were on the boat! But the idea for the record was an organic conversation between David, Mike and myself on that boat…

How were all artists contributing to Metal Allegiance chosen or selected?

The “Core 4” as Alex likes to put it, was put together pretty naturally. Mike, Dave and myself were just talking one day and the idea came about to write a record… (see brief answer above) about a month or so later we were looking to find a guitarist to write with and I suggested Alex because of how awesome he was when he played live with us, plus he’s an amazing person… We never wrote a song around a particular singer or lead guitarist. All the music was written first… as we were writing, we would say to each other: “Man, Randy would be amazing on this tune” or “This song has Chuck’s name all over it!” and we were fortunate enough to be able to get the singers we wanted for each song. For us, it was not about forcing a singer on a tune, it was about who would best fit the song.

How did everybody working on the album come together?

We all have been friends for so long, so it was all very natural. When all the guest players found out we were doing this, they were stoked to be involved! I am personally humbled and honored that everyone has taken the time to do it.

How did the recording process go?

The recording process was amazing. The drums were recorded at Mike Portnoy’s home studio in Pennsylvania directly after our second writing session back in January 2015. All rhythm and (most) bass guitars were recorded at this amazing studio on Long Island called Sabella Studios and was engineered by Matt Murphy and Jim Sabella… I was in search for a Long Island studio that had great gear and when I heard Sabella had a Neve Console from the 60’s I was sold! From there, we had a few mixers in mind and we wanted someone who understood metal, the sonic tone behind mixing a metal album like ours… so who better than Josh Wilbur!? He is basically the 6th member of Lamb of God! Just listening to the sonic quality of those records, we knew he was the man. And the last piece of the puzzle is the amazing Ted Jensen of Sterling Sound in New York City. I was very excited to have Ted master the record because he’s mastered 3 of my all-time top 5 records! Between Matt, Jim, Josh and Ted… They were the magic behind the music. They saw our vision and captured it on the record.

What are the lyrics about? Is it different for every song or is there a line throughout the album?

The lyrics are very personal. They are about real life. Not about politics, wars, religion, etc. but about our lives. I co-wrote the lyrics for Can’t Kill The Devil, Pledge of Allegiance, Let Darkness Fall and Gift of Pain… Those four songs have a very common theme… They represent all the struggles I’ve went through. They’re about picking yourself up after hitting rock bottom, facing all the falseness, corruption and accusations one makes towards you and defending yourself and eventually preserving and coming out on top. Basically those four tunes represent one message and that message is to never ever stop fighting for what you believe in and to stand up and fight against the fucked up things others would do to you. I like to hope that people will find solitude in these songs and maybe they’ll even help someone get through some tough times of their own. We ALL go through rough patches in life and I like to think these lyrics will help people stay positive.

How did you end up with the name Metal Allegiance?

When I was searching for a name in the spring of 2014 (months before our first show or the idea was ever official), I wanted a name that represented loyalty. Allegiance is that. Allegiance is defined as to be loyal to a subject or cause. Metal Allegiance was setup to be a brand, a lifestyle… A way of life. So that’s why I chose the name Metal Allegiance. MA is not about one particular person, its about a group of people coming together and doing something special.

Except for the occasional shows, any chance that this project will go on the road on a (world) tour?

Oh yeah! We start with our record release show on September 17, 2015 at the Best Buy Theater in New York City. That’s basically a hometown show for us as everything Allegiance has happened here, plus 2 of the core four live here, one of us are from here and well the other, he lives in the desert of Arizona! Haha… But New York is home to Metal Allegiance… From there we do a lot of press for the album and then head on down to play the Pepsi Center WTC in Mexico City. In October we are playing the 10th anniversary of LoudPark in Japan! We also have a bunch of other shows being worked out now… So Metal Allegiance will be even more of a live act now! We’re still going to have 2 drummers, do crazy covers, etc. but at least we have some original tunes to play now! The one thing I have always said about an Allegiance live show is: “you never know who’s gonna show up or what you’re gonna get.”

In cases of live performing, which artists are selected or how does it go? Are the songs or the setlist adapted to the available artists?

Metal Allegiance live performances are based around schedules. As you know, everyone involved in Allegiance has their ‘day job’ which is their main band(s). So we work around those schedules… In the case of LoudPark, all those bands are playing one show together so it makes it easier for us to come together and play. Regarding set lists, we start group text or email threads and start kicking around ideas! That’s the fun part because we’re all fans. For example, when the idea came about to do Judas Priest’s Victim of Changes Alex shot right back and said: “Of course we’re doing the Unleashed in the East live version, right?” ha ha ha that’s how intense we get… The fan comes out of all of us!

Are there any plans for a follow-up album?

Absolutely. Songs have already been written for the second record!

Often a project or band like this is associated with the label ‘supergroup’. What do you think about that label?

For me personally, we are the opposite of a supergroup. We are a bunch of friends that love metal and love creating and playing music together… There is nothing ‘super’ about that. It’s fun. The moment we start losing that mentality is the moment Allegiance will fall apart. Fact is, we still have a blast together; we still have so many ideas that we haven’t even scratched the surface yet… So the term ‘supergroup’ to me is something that people make up when well-known people get together. We’re all just friends that have known each other for a long time trying to leave a dent in heavy metal history, while having a lot of fun.

Also often such a ‘supergroup’ is related to a good cause initiative. Is or can this also be the case for Metal Allegiance?

Our initiative is unity. Bringing all the sub-genres of metal together under one roof. Its not very often you get a record with Philip Anselmo and dUg Pinnick on it! Or Randy Blythe and Cristina Scabbia! Our initiative is to show the world that metal is a brotherhood. A lifestyle…

Thank you for your time! I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors and lots of fun!

Thank you for all the support!