|How's it going? Have you been watching college football all day?|
Mark - No, actually I just got back from John Schaffer's in Indiana.
Oh wow, have you been down there listening to some new tunes?
Mark - No we are just doing some work on the DVD with them.
Cool, I'm looking forward to checking that out.
Mark - Yeah its going good. It's pretty close to being done.
I've heard it's got a lot of civil war background on it. I'm looking forward to that. Well Jag Panzer is on the verge of releasing their brand new record, "Casting The Stones", through Century Media. Mark, how did you guys come up with the album's title?
Mark - Ever since I was a kid I've always liked titles that were sort of cryptic sounding with a lot of different meanings, but still heavy sounding. So, I don't know how I thought of the title. I asked a few band members what they thought, I asked our bass player and he immediately thought of that scene in the "Thirteenth Warrior". You got the old woman who is throwing bones or rocks or something to predict the future so he gave it this mystical type definition. Our singer thought it sounded like something right out of the bible with the verse that said "Let he without sin cast the first stone". I had another band member say that it sounded like that thing the Muslims do in Meca where they throw rocks at this black statue that represents the devil. So I thought it was cool because these were all fairly heavy but completely different definitions of it.
I really love the new record. This new one is really interesting to me. It does a lot of things differently instead of just coming at you in one direction. It's not really streamlined in anyway, but more like modern progressive power metal with many different angles...
Mark - ...Oh thanks. That was exactly what we were going for. We wanted something that would hold up to a lot of repeated listens. There is a lot of good metal albums that sort of lose their staying power after a while.
There is a lot to absorb here, it's not really something you can take in with one listen. It keeps hitting you at different angles.
Yeah, I've heard it a thousand times and I'm still picking up the occasional new melody line.
What makes this album different than the prior ones?
Mark - You know we try to do something different with each record. With this one we made a conscious decision to be a little more progressive and experiment with different tunings. Vocally we wanted to do a little bit more with the usual melody lines and tried to get away from traditional metal melody lines. We wanted to get the mix a little more heavy also. Those were sort of the goals, and we set those goals about nine months ago.
With a lot of the reviews I have been reading, everyone is talking about this stellar production job. It's really bombastic sounding at times. To me it almost sounds like something from another planet. What did you do differently this time around?
Mark - We met with Jim Morris, our producer, and we talked to him before we started recording and we told him what we wanted to do to get a bigger, heavier sound. So we actually had to make a lot of changes. Usually to do drums, our drummer lives in Arizona, so we would have to do it in Arizona or we would do it in Florida and he would have to rent a drum kit. You can rent a pretty nice drum kit. The only problem with a rental kit is the bass drums might sound outstanding and the toms will be simply good. So this time I think we rented like four kits and then there was another kit in the studio so we had five drum sets, and we just picked the best high tom no matter which kit it came from. The best middle tom, the best right bass drum. So when you looked at the kit you thought what the hell. You had a red drum, and a blue drum. For guitar amps we used a couple of different tube amps and changed our settings a lot. Yeah, we really planned it out to try to get the best production but still sound musical. We didn't want to sound like a wall of noise.
For me I have always enjoyed the historical and medieval songwriting of the band. My favorite cut of the record is "The Mission". Tell me a little bit about that song, and the history behind the track.
Mark - Well Harry has always been a fan of military history, he reads a lot and watches a lot of movies. Last year he approached me and said he wanted to write about the "Guns Of Navarone" from Alistair MacLean. I think more so the book than the movie, although he is familiar with both. So he started working on it, and he gave me some rough drafts of the lyrics and I thought this really has a Maiden feel to it so I'm going to try and write something that tries to show my Maiden roots. He came up with some lyrics, and I came up with some music, and then he called me and I wasn't home so he sang the vocal line on my answering machine. I thought man, this is really cool so I took his track from the answering machine and put it into my digital recorder and built the song all around his song from the answering machine. So, he shows up in the studio and he forgot what he sang on my answering machine! I had erased it, so he ended up having to rewrite it all based on my music and it actually came out a lot better than what he originally did. I really like that song, I can sing along to the whole thing in my car.
What is your favorite cut of the record?
Mark - You know it changes week to week. This week I'm listening to the last two songs a lot, "The Harkening" and "The Precipice". "The Harkening" really has a lot of energy to it and I really like the chorus. "Precipice" is so doom-like and slow and grinding. I like that also. It's a little different for us, we don't do a lot of tracks like that.
Yeah, the last track, other than the intro...and you are going to laugh at this...it sounds like something from Priest's "Hell Bent For Leather". It has that big, thick guitar sound...
Mark - ...Oh yeah! I hadn't even thought of it like that. Yeah, you're right.
It reminds me of "Burnin' Up" with that thick sound. It's really good. I like that a lot. What songs on here are going to make good live cuts, which ones will you take on the road with you?
Mark - I don't know. I think we have to wait and see what people like. Generally when the album has been in the stores a few weeks we start to get an idea of what people like and don't like.
What are the touring plans for this record?
Mark - It's probably going to be Europe because we have done the US with our last couple of tours. We don't really have anything planned yet. We really need to look at our options. There are a lot of countries in Europe that we haven't been to yet so we are going to have to see what it will take to get there. Are we going to have to open for a bigger band, do we have to go in as a support band to get to some of these newer countries, or is it possible to play some smaller venues to do shows on our own. This one is going to take more planning than prior Jag Panzer tours.
When will your new website be launched?
Mark - I haven't talked to our website guy in a few days. I think he is going to unleash the new site on the release date.
Just recently you guys put out "Chain Of Command", which has been deemed the long lost Panzer record. Why did you choose to finally release that?
Mark - I've actually been wanting to release that for about eight years. Every time we go on tour we would have people asking us to sign the bootlegs and tell me how much they really like it. It wasn't a lot of people, but the album had a following. I would get emails asking when we were going to release "Chain Of Command". The bootleg sounds terrible. When we were in the studio working on "Chain Of Command" we got some cassette copies about three days in the mix of a seven day mix, so it was nowhere close to being a final mix. So it was from those
cassette copies that we sent it out to various journalists and friends and then they got copied and then somewhere down the line it became the "Chain Of Command" bootleg. It is unmixed and just sounds...it doesn't sound like what I remember in the studio. So the day we signed to Century Media I told them anytime they want "Chain Of Command"...you should really come out with it...a lot of people want it. So I've been pushing the issue every year with the label and they asked what I thought about doing it this year and I said yeah, I would like to do it as long as you limit the release because I don't want it to compete with "Casting The Stones". I mean I don't think there is any comparison in the records, but what I was worried about is someone who is vaguely familiar with the band who goes in the store and sees ten "Chain Of Command" discs in the store and thinks this must be the new album. I didn't want that, I wanted them to release enough copies to fill the demand. They did 5,000, which is probably a good amount for that record.
|"We wanted something that would hold up to a lot of repeated listens. There is a lot of good metal albums that sort of lose their staying power after a while."|
How many more albums are you obligated to put out on Century Media?
Mark - One more studio album and a live record.
Any chance of "Ample Destruction" getting a reissue?
Mark - No, probably not. It is up to Joey Tafolla, our old guitar player and he has absolutely no interest in it coming out. At least from what I have been told. I don't talk to him anymore. I know the label was trying to keep in touch with him.
I wonder what his problem is with it?
Mark - I think he's just simply not interested in it. I believe he feels that the record really won't do him any good. I imagine that he's just not really into this kind of music and doesn't listen to it and really doesn't care. It's just an assumption on my part, I really don't know though. The label told me he just isn't interested at all.
I know you have said in the past you don't really want to play lead. You played solos on the "Tyrants" EP. I was curious what other songs you have played lead on?
Mark - Yeah, I played them all on the EP. I'm trying to think of how many I played on "Ample Of Destruction"....I played three or four...the "Symphony Of Terror" lead, I played "The Crucifix" lead, I think I may have played one more. I played four on "Chain Of Command", and then that was it. I realized my interest lied more in the songwriting than solos. Whoever else we had in the band was always far superior in doing solos, so I might as well just let them do their job.
I'm gonna ask you about a couple of cover tunes. Where can we hear "Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald" (Gordon Lightfoot)?
Mark - Right now I think you can get it...it's not linked on our site anymore...I think you can get it at www.jagpanzer.com/edmund.mp3 but that may go away. There is talk of it coming out as a bonus track on some limited edition stuff in Europe. I don't know though. We just did it for fun one weekend, you know a lot of times we just like to record. We are musicians and we should be playing so if we aren't doing anything we like to record a song and throw it up on the site and that's a good example of it. It's quickly done, it doesn't have a slick production or anything. I like it and I think it sounds cool.
What made the band decide to cover "In A Gada Da Vida" on the "Chain..." album?
Mark - We were actually asked to do it back then. I think it was Def Jam or something, whatever label was putting together the soundtrack for the movie "Less Than Zero". They had called us up and I guess they had contacted a few bands who they thought this would work for. So they asked us if we were interested and we said sure, so we went in and recorded it first as a demo with Harry and it went over really well live, and we sort of forgot about the Def Jam thing because they picked Slayer anyway for the soundtrack. But the song just went over incredible live so we kept it in the live set. When we had our new singer Bob in the band he asked if we could just do it for the album. He liked the song before he joined the band, so we did it and put it on that record.
Canadian metal journalist Martin Popoff put together a book called "The Top 500 Metal Albums Of All Time"....
Mark - ...Oh, I've heard about that but I haven't seen it.
The book has "Ample Destruction" listed as 254.
Mark - Wow, that's a compliment. That is cool.
How do you feel about being included in that list?
Mark - Man, I feel great. I'll bet four hundred out of the five hundred had ten times the budget as us. So that is really cool. I know Martin listens to a ton of music and is really into it so it's a compliment to make any list that he puts together.
What's your top album of the year thus far?
Mark - Shoot, that is a good question. You know it's probably "The Glorious Burden" and a few journalists have asked me that and told me I had to pick something else because I'm doing work with John. It doesn't make any sense to me. I wouldn't have worked with him unless I really liked the album. You know I'm a history buff so for me, if I'm going to do something based on the Civil War then I'm going to put a ton of work into it. If I'm going to put a ton of work into it I better like the record. That's what's cool. I like John personally and I think it's a great record.
That album is a catch-22 for me because I like the second disc so much that I can't get past it to listen to many of the other songs. I like the Gettysburg trilogy so much.
Mark - Yeah, it's great.
What is in your player now?
Mark - "The Glorious Burden" for enjoyment and work reasons because I just got back from John's and there are several changes that I have to make. Anytime I do that...he pointed out some things in the melody lines that are played by the orchestra that I hadn't noticed before that need to be accounted for visually. With these things you really have to listen close to pick them out.
You are basically orchestrating the whole video, right?
Mark - Yeah.
There has been a lot of buzz lately about Judas Priest, with their reunion tour and the soon to be released new album featuring Rob Halford on vocals. In your opinion, do you think this type of reunion is too little, too late, or will this be successful like Maiden's comeback?
Mark - You know it could go anyway, but I think it's going to be successful. I don't have any concrete evidence of that, just a gut feeling. I think it will be really good. Halford has done a lot of different things and he knows where his future lies. Priest knows their fan base is built on the Priest sound so I think it's going to be pretty solid.
Before I let you go, let me ask you a question about the digital age we are in. A lot of people are missing out on good production jobs in favor of convenience. With many people listening to MP3s and I-Pods in lower quality than CD format, do you feel that this is having a negative impact on the recording industry?
Mark - I see the value of MP3s, they are kind of cool, but they don't sound anything like the CD. I mean it's the song, the fullness isn't there. The cymbals sound absolutely different and I have had people tell me this MP3 sounds exactly like the CD. Well maybe your CD is just recorded really bad. To me, a well recorded CD compared to an MP3 sounds totally different especially on the top end. I think the recording industry of America, the ones that are complaining the most about pirating, needs to spend some money educating people about the differences. I think people would buy the CD if they really knew what they were missing. So many kids, especially when I talk to teenagers, they think an MP3 sounds just like a CD.
Any props to newer, unsigned bands out there?
Mark - I really like Ezra Stone out of Orlando. They sent me their CD and it's very cool. Just classic, in your face metal. They have a great guitar player, and really good songs.
Well, that is all I have now. We really appreciate it and thanks again.