Formed after a group of friends got together to perform sporadic music clinics under the ‘Metal Masters’ banner, Metal Allegiance has grown into a bona fide band. Featuring some of the most well-known names in metal, in key members David Ellefson, Mark Menghi, Mark Osegueda, Mike Portnoy, and Alex Skolnick, the quintet have since released their self-titled debut album, as well as this years’ ‘Fallen Heroes’ EP. We caught up with bassist Mark M at Bloodstock, to find out what the busy band is currently up to. Letting darkness fall: Eamon O’Neill.
Hi Mark, that’s a nice tattoo that you’ve got on your arm right there.
This; the ‘MA’ Metal Allegiance logo? I thought you meant my ‘Mike Portnoy loves Mark Menghi’ tattoo. Portnoy actually tattooed that on me at one of our gigs.
The logo was towering behind you here at Bloodstock today. How did it feel up on stage this afternoon?
It was awesome, man. Even though we thought it was a bit early for our brand of thrash metal, we made the best of it. It was an awesome crowd and everything we hoped it would be.
You played a great set today; there were some monumental covers in there.
We tried to cater it to more of a British crowd, with Maiden, obviously, Sabbath and of course, our original music.
You also played two tracks from your most recent release, the ‘Fallen Heroes’ EP.
Yes, that release came out of nowhere. People kept dying, we got pissed, and we wanted to pay tribute to these guys and play their music so fans remember them. I like to think there might be a fan out there who hates David Bowie - and I’m sure there is - and maybe they’ll have heard our version of ‘Suffragette City’ and go; “you know what, that’s pretty cool”, and that will expose them to David Bowie’s Music.
What’s depressing regarding the ‘Fallen Heroes’ concept is that we have lost so many people recently, and you really could have any number of tracks to cover.
I know, and it’s been rough because, we fortunately or unfortunately played Lemmy’s funereal, his memorial service back in January. That was hard, and the next day in the middle of our set, we learned David Bowie passed away, and then a few days later Glenn Fry passed away, and it’s no secret in metal land that I’m an Eagles freak, and it was like; “what the f**k’s going on?!” Mike Portnoy pinned it, he was like; “man, all my heroes are falling”.
I wanted to ask about the absence of Mike Portnoy today, because he was due to play this show with you, wasn’t he?
He was due, but Twisted Sister booked a gig, and he had committed to that, and you know, he’s filling in for another fallen hero – A.J. Pero. You know, he’s helping Twisted out, and finishing their career and two nights’ ago it was their last show ever here, and we told him; “go! We have a pretty capable replacement”!
Yeah, Charlie Benante from Anthrax was with you today. He definitely knows the ropes.
We asked Charlie, and Charlie’s like; “f**k yeah, are you kidding?!” This is one of the first shows that Mike missed, so it is tough for him, it is very tough. But he has the opportunity to play with Twisted Sister, and he can’t say no to that.
Someone else that was missing from the line-up today is Megadeth’s David Ellefson.
Ellefson’s been booked for South America with Megadeth for quite a while, so it’s no secret that he wasn’t able to do it. But we’re fortunate to have [Slayer guitarist] Gary Holt come up and play guitar with us, and I figure with Gary Holt, Charlie Benante, Mark [Osegueda] and Alex [Skolnick], it’s pretty decent. It’s a pretty decent band.
Going back to your choice of material, and there must be so much that you can choose from.
It’s tough – it’s the only time we argue; which Sabbath song, which Maiden song, what do you play?! Shit! We do have one rule though, and that rule doesn’t apply to me, but we won’t do Testament, Slayer, Anthrax; we won’t do any of that material.
Is that because you want to be doing it for fun?
It’s a fun thing, but it’s also a serious band. We’re going to start writing the second record soon, and we’re not stopping soon. It’s going to be the four of us; Mike, Dave, Alex and myself writing it, and then we’ll figure it out from there.
Metal Allegiance originally grew out of the Metal Masters events. Were those memorable shows?
Yeah. There was Metal Masters 2, with Philip [Anselmo], when he first joined us. That was his first time performing Pantera songs since Pantera broke up. That was in the same venue where we did our record release party last year, now called the ‘Playstation Theatre’. You know, New York’s home, it’s where we’re from.
Is it tough following in the line of classic New York bands like; Kiss, Anthrax, Twisted Sister and the like?
Very tough! Where I’m from in Long Island, that’s where Twisted Sister’s from, that’s where Kiss did all there early shows, Portnoy’s from Long Island, Dream Theater’s from Long Island, as is Joe Satriani – the list just goes on, and on and on. Alex is Brooklyn based, I’m Long Island based, so we just consider ourselves from New York city, because that’s where we play all the time.
With everyone in the band so busy, will there be a Metal Allegiance tour at any point?
We plan on coming back here in 2017 for the first run of festivals; that’s the goal. If they’ll have us, we’ll be there. We have a line-up ready to go that we’re proposing, and at the very least you can count on Portnoy, myself, Skolnick and Ellefson; the four of us getting back together. We’ll figure out the rest of it, but we’re looking forward to it.
Is there anybody who you would love to have play with Metal Allegiance that hasn’t already?
Mr. James Hetfield, if you’re listening, the door is always open. What would James bring to the table? Everything; his vocals, his right hand – I mean, that f**kin; dude plays guitar, in my opinion, he’s on the top. We’re, I guess, this thrash metal band, if you will, and we have members of Death Angel, Exodus, Slayer, Anthrax, Testament, Megadeth – I mean, there’s one band missing and that’s Metallica.
What about getting Jason Newstead in, given that he seems to have resurfaced?
He’s playing some acoustic stuff, which is great, I mean, if that’s where his mind’s at. Do I want someone walking in and taking my job? Oh, I’ll put down my bass in a minute! Shit man, Ellefson comes out – here you go! I’m more than happy to step aside.
Finally, what’s coming up next for Metal Allegiance?
We’re going to start writing the second record in the winter of this year, and we go to South America in October for our first time down there. And then we hope to be back here in 2017.
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'Fallen Heroes' is out now via Nuclear Blast.