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Mark Shelton (Manilla Road)

Interview with Mark Shelton from Manilla Road
by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos at 15 March 2008, 8:36 PM

Voyager is an excellent CD from the cult Epic Metal band MANILLA ROAD that has been around for almost 30 years. METAL TEMPLE was honoured by having the chance to have a nice talk with the band's frontman Mark The Shark Shelton about this album and other stuff. Enjoy it as much as we did doing it!

I have to give you my sincere congratulations for Voyager; to be honest with you although I liked Gates Of Fire I did not expect that the new album would remind me of your old days.

Thank you for the kind words. I think several people were surprised that the album was a bit darker and heavier than the last album. I like Gates Of Fire a lot also. I actually meant for this album to feel a little bit like the older darker style of MANILLA ROAD writing but at the same time I think we did some songs that were a little different for the ROAD also; like Eye Of The Storm. That is a bit different style of acoustic stuff than what I usually do. Also the almost Spanish intro for Totentanz is a new fusion for us as well.

I made some mistakes in my review regarding the band’s lineup; could you please inform me and METAL TEMPLE’s readers about the exact lineup?


Right now it is Cory Christner on drums, Vince Golemon on bass guitar, Bryan Patrick on vocals and myself on guitar and vocals. But, the line-up on the album is a little different. Voyager is just myself, Cory Christner on drums and Harvey Patrick (Bryan’s brother) on bass guitar. Harvey did a little of the back up vocal work but almost all of the singing on the album is me. Bryan had to deal with some family matters a few years back and had to leave the band for awhile but he is back now. Unfortunately he was not able to be in the band while we were recording the Voyager project.

Harvey also had some family issues come up that have caused him to exit the music industry for awhile also. I really doubt that he will return. There were no problems between band members or any bad blood going on so we are all still in touch with Harvey. So that is the picture as far as the line-up goes. We just got through playing the ’Play It Loud’ festival in Italy with Vince doing his first European show and making a fine showing I might add.

What was the contribution of every band member to the new album regarding the music and the lyrics?

I wrote all the lyrics except for the Viking War Prayer of course. I wrote all the music pretty much but we all worked on the arrangements. A Norse friend of mine and I came up with the concept and he and I are trying to write a novel based on the same story line.

How did you decide to use Vikings as the main subject in this album and what is the concept behind Voyager?

Well I just think the Viking thing is cool. Plus it is sort of my family heritage and besides did I mention that Vikings are cool. It is a historical fiction story about a group of Swedish, Norse and Germanic Vikings who are trying to escape the conversion to Christianity during the 12th century. They manage to sail across half the world and end up in Central America where they are befriended by the Toltec Indians and taken for gods in mortal form. They ally together and war against the other tribes in that region and end up on a conquest all the way to… ok this has gone on long enough. The story line is on the CD so if you want to know more than I have told you have to go buy it. And I just want to point out that Vikings are cool.

With Gates Of Fire as a start and then with Voyager MANILLA ROAD returned to the Epic and if you don’t mind my saying their classic sound; did this happen intentionally or it just happened?

Most of the musical changes in the bands history have been a natural progression for the band. But in the case of Gates Of Fire and Voyager they were a bit more planned. After we did Spiral Castle, which was basically a bunch of songs that had nothing to do with each other, I decided that I did not want to do another album with MANILLA ROAD that was not a concept work. So I set out to do Gates Of Fire with Epic and concept in mind. And when it came to the Voyager project I had the concept all figured out before I started writing the music for it. The musical approach was also pre-determined for Voyager. I specifically wanted this album to be heavier and darker than Gates Of Fire but at the same time have a array of styles and approaches to the music. I think by going back to the more epic style of writing has made it feel like we have moved into the older styles of MANILLA ROAD writing.

How long were you working on Voyager? Did you face any difficulties during that time?


Well, I started working on the concept and the music right after our 2004 tour in Europe. Bryan ended up leaving the band for awhile and so it was a little different doing the album without him. He still helped engineer the project but I still missed him singing on the album. And then just as we finished the recording Harvey ran into some family issues that caused him to not be around for the mixing of the album and for that matter most of the recording of Cory and my final tracks. Cory and Harvey took some well deserved time off to be with their families while I started working on the mix for the album.

We signed to Black Lotus records and were about to release the project when the label went out of business. So we did not have a contract all of a sudden and I decided that the mix was not good enough yet. So I went back into the studio and re-mixed the whole project and during that time it became obvious that Harvey was not going to be able to continue with the band at that point. So I went in search of another bass player and luckily my old friend Vince Golemon was available for the job. By now I had got us another label deal with My Graveyard Productions and the re-mix was finished. And also at this time Bryan had finally got to a point where he could come back to the group and work with us again so it was on for doing more touring now here we are.

You have taken all the vocal duties for the band; how did difficult is that for you taking into account that there is great variety in some of the songs?

Well after doing this for 30 years you can imagine how toasted my voice is nowadays. I have chronic voice problems stemming back to 1984. I ripped one of my vocal chords in 1991 or 92 while doing a show with CIRCUS MAXIMUS. I have to be very careful with my voice or it just goes away completely. So doing all the vocals by myself was a bit of a challenge. But I must say it is easier to do the recordings because you can take your time and you don’t have to kill yourself in one sitting. That is one of the big pluses to owning your own studio. I am lucky that I still have enough voice left to be able to still do a whole album and wow I actually can still sing live also. Age has not conquered me yet.

You have been around for more almost 30 years. Are there any regrets? Are you satisfied with the way things worked for you and the band?

It would be nice to be rich but other than that not happening yet I am happy with where MANILLA ROAD has been and is today.

What is your opinion about the Metal scene nowadays with all theses trends? Can MANILLA ROAD stand economically against this situation?

Economics have never had anything to do with us staying around. The band will be alive and playing and recording as long as there are fans that want to see us play and hear new material. I have never made a lot of money doing this but it doesn’t matter because I just love playing music. I will always do it until I die.

You have recently signed a new record deal with the Italian label My Graveyard Productions; for how many albums did you sign and are you satisfied with them because (I think) it is a new label?

We just signed this album for now and yes they are sort of a new label but I am very happy with the way things are going with them. They have been very good to us and it is an honest label that does what they promise. That can be hard to come by these days.

This question comes from personal interest; is Voyager going to be released on vinyl too?

I think the answer to that is yes. My Graveyard Production has told me that they are going to work out a license deal with another label to provide the vinyl version of the project.

Expanding the previous question do you feel that with all the advances in technology (MP3, DVD, downloading) some of the magic in Metal has been lost?


It is harder to make money with all the CD burning and file sharing going on because the labels and the musicians don’t make anything off of free. Even the major labels are starting to feel the noose tightening around their necks. I think the technology is cool (and did I mention that Vikings are cool also?) but if we don’t watch out all the free stuff is going to destroy the music industry as a way of making a living. But it still has not put a damper on the music itself.

 

How is the situation in the Metal scene in the US?

Actually I think the underground and Epic Metal scene in the States is growing again. It seems we are having a lot more response and new fans popping up all over the USA.

What are the touring plans regarding Europe and US?

We will be playing the ’Keep It True’ festival on April 5th, 2008. We do a show in Colmar, France on April 7th. Then on to Greece for a couple of dates in the North of Greece and on April 12th we headline the ’Up The Hammers’ festival in Athens. On August 9th we headline the Kansas City Metal festival here in the states. That is all we have planned at this point.

Have you ever thought a reason for the fact that MANILLA ROAD have a strong fan base here in Greece?

I have been told it is because of what we write about. The whole glory and honor thing is huge with the Greek audience I think. It might have something to do with Vikings being really cool.

You have only one DVD in your catalogue from the ’Keep It True’ festival; are there any thoughts of making another one?

Well, I expect there will be another one from the ’Keep It True Festival X’ that we are about to play at. And we are thinking of doing one ourselves also but we will have to see what the future brings.

Are there any plans for side projects or anything that is outside MANILLA ROAD?

I have been recording acoustic material of mine for the last several years and eventually I plan to release that stuff.


Have you ever thought of stop playing/writing music?

I thought about hanging it up once but then I realized I was of the Viking bloodline and that it would be impossible to put down the Hammer being so cool and all…oh you probably wanted a serious answer didn’t you? To tell the truth I can’t give it up ever. I have always felt that this was my true calling in life and so I will do it until there is no breath left in my body.

Excuse my ignorance, but how did you get the Shark moniker?

Mike Palmer and the boys in STYGIAN SHORE gave me the nickname. They had a thing where they would take the first syllable of your first name and your last and switch them around. So Mark Shelton became Shark Melton. After they started calling me Shark it stuck with everyone that new me.

Thank you for your time, it was an honour for METAL TEMPLE to do an interview with you. Feel free to add anything to close this chat.

I would like to thank you for taking the time to review the Voyager album and to do this interview with me. It was my honor. Also I would like to add a message for our fans. Thank you so much for your undying support and for being there for us all these years. And to the new fans welcome aboard. If not for you we would be nothing. It is you our fans that make all the crap we go through and have gone through worth while. If not for you we would not still be on The Road. Thanks and May The Lords Of Light Be With You.Up The HammersShark



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