Mark Edwards of Overlorde
Interview by EvilG
For those who haven?t followed this US band, you might be surprised to know that they formed way back in 1985. Their first release in 1987 was a 5-song EP released on their own label. However, the band broke up in 1988. As time passed the band developed a cult-like status and in 2000, the band members took note and decided to give it another go. They then recorded a 4-song demo called ?Overlorde 2000?. Using that demo, the band successfully marketed themselves and achieved many glowing reviews. It took them nearly 4 years, but the end result, their signing to Sonic Age and the release of RETURN OF THE SNOW GIANT, was worth the wait.
In this interview I got to speak to Mark about the band’s return, the recording of the new CD, playing live, flying V’s, WWII, etc etc… Enjoy!
M.E. performing with Overlorde at
NORTHERN AGGRESSION I
metalfest in New Hampshire, Oct 1, 2004.
Photo: Rev Aaron, www.returntothepit.com
The obvious question is, why did it take 17 years for this album to come out…and why so long of a gap between the 2000 demo and the December 2004 release?
Hail EvilG! Before we begin let me thank you for the opportunity to do this interview!
The delay between the 1987 EP and now was that we had broken up in late 1988 and did not reunite until 2000. The delay from the reunion in 2000 to now was that we had two serious record label negotiations that ended up falling through near the end of each process. So those took large chunks of time before Sonic Age approached us in the late summer of 2003. That negotiation completed in March 2004.
If it wasn’t for fan interest, mainly from Europe, do you think the band would have reunited?
No, not at all. We had no clue anyone outside of the New Jersey and New York knew who we were since our EP had been a self-release in the New York City area.
In your 17-year absence, a lot has changed with metal or at least with popularized metal. What do you think of some of the trends, good and bad, that we’ve seen?
I don?t like the more extreme styles or the ?nu? styles. I like my metal where the vocalists sing, not growl, and the guitarists play solos. I do like some things, though. Like the power metal related subgenres that have come about.
Despite the changes in metal, you’ve managed to keep this album sounding as if it were written 17 years ago. How do you manage that? Is it just a matter of only being influenced by and listening to 70’s/80’s metal or were many of these songs (minus the re-recordings) first partially written way back?
Every song, with the exception of the intro ?And the Battle Begins??, was written when we were together in the 80?s. Though some new lyrics and music were added. So that?s how we did it. When people asked me the past few years what to expect, I told them our CD would be like a Christmas present left in the attic and forgotten about on Christmas morning, only to be discovered by the child in July. The gift being exactly how it was meant to be in December, but now so much more special with the passing of time.
Sonic Age Records: Full size poster promotional poster
One of the things that I think helps set Overlorde apart from may other bands playing “true/classic/power metal” (whatever you’d like to call it?) is the foundation laid by the drumming of Dave Wrenn and bass playing of John “Kong” Bunucci. It’s not so often that I stop to listen to the bass lines over wailing guitars and vocals in a typical power metal band. Would you agree with this assessment? Can you add to it regarding what makes Overlorde unique from your perspective?
Yes, that?s a very good observation. This has always been a unique aspect to Overlorde. Not only is Kong the best power metal bassist in my opinion, and Dave an excellent drummer, but the two of them together bring a very unique style to the rhythm section. Powerful, and full sounding, they really eliminate the need to have a rhythm guitarist in the band when we perform live. They are really doing things that might be associated more with prog bands.
I?ll say this about Dave also. His timing is always dead on. We didn?t even use a click track when recording the new CD. Plus the drums for about half the songs were recorded in one take, and the rest in two or three max. Our engineer, Eric Kvortek, said Dave was “… a studio engineer’s dream” and ?… that’s how all drummers should be”.
Dave Wrenn recording his drum tracks on Day One of the sessions for
RETURN OF THE SNOW GIANT at Trax East Recording Studios.
What does Bobby ?Leather Lungs? Lucas bring to Overlorde that you might not have had with your previous vocalists?
He brings together the strengths that both Pat and Rod had into one (I won?t count Kong, who sang for us in our first few live shows in 1985 and 1986). Pat had the great metal attitude and lyric writing, but Rod had a great range. Bobby brings both together into one. And like Dave, he’s really consistent and has great stamina. Bobby recorded his vocals in basically twelve hours. Four on one day and eight the next. And during that eight hour stretch he only took one break, for dinner.
You’ve called the new album RETURN OF THE SNOW GIANT, and you have fittingly re-recorded this classic track. Why did you choose to re-record this one and what does the song mean to you?
Dave came up with the name. We always intended our self-released 1987 EP to be a ?glorified demo?, and that we?d re-record all the songs on our first full length. When we reunited we decided to just re-record two, Snow Giant and our namesake, Overlorde. In the case of Snow Giant, it was the most recognized song from the EP. So we wanted to build on that recognition by including the song and incorporating the name into the CD title. And since we had reunited, and ourselves had ?returned?, the CD title fit really well. What does the song mean to me? If you are asking what the song is about, its about a warrior living in the frozen north defending his realm from usurpers. I wrote the lyrics sitting in a park at lunch time on the first beautiful day of spring. Not exactly the perfect setting to write a song about the frozen north. I think I must have been inspired by a print of a Frazetta painting that had been hanging in my bedroom. Called ?THE SILVER WARRIOR?, it is a painting of a conan-style warrior being pulled on a war sleigh by polar bears. One of Frazetta?s best know works is THE DEATH RIDER which was used for the first Molly Hatchet album cover.
If you are asking what the song MEANS to me, then I?d say the following. Since it was the most recognized song on the EP, and the reputation the EP grew to have was the reason for our reunion and thus this new CD, I?d have to say the SNOW GIANT represents all that the reunion is about. The reasons it came to be and what it has now resulted in.
M.E. recording his solos during the RETURN OF THE SNOW GIANT
recording session summer 2004 at Trax EastRecording Studios.
Photo by John Bunucci
Why did you choose TRAX EAST RECORDING STUDIOS for the production of the CD? Was it the case of wanting to work at the studio or was it just a convenient location?
Bobby had worked with Trax East before. And it was local to Bobby and myself. The studio has had a long list of metal clients and was a quality studio that could fit into our recording budget. It really was an ideal choice all around.
How much time did you spend in the studio recording and then mixing etc?
Each ?day? was twelve hours long. I think we spent five or six days recording, spread over multiple weekends, and three days mixing. It really wasn?t a long time.
M.E. and Engineer/co-producer Eric Kvortek recording rhythm guitar tracks
during the RETURN OF THE SNOW GIANT recording session summer 2004
at Trax EastRecording Studios. Photo: Greg Smith
Why did it take so long to find a label that wanted to sign Overlorde? And why did you finally settle on Cult Metal Classics?
We had two record label negotiations, the first starting in 2001, that fell apart right at the end. Plus some other negotiations that did not proceed as far. So we were certainly trying, and expending a lot of effort and time in the process. The label we did sign with, Sonic Age (originally Cult Metal Classics), didn?t start releasing new material until 2003. Before that they were only releasing re-issues. So they approached us in the summer of 2003. We wrapped up the negotiations by early 2004, recorded the CD in the summer of 2004 and that is how it went.
Manos Koufakis, who founded Cult Metal Classics after we had reunited, is the one person we feel is most responsible for our reunion. It was his attempts to track us down in late 1999 or early 2000, and his desire to interview us, that first led us to consider a reunion. He joined our fan club, FORCE RECON, as one of the first members (a Pathfinder) so he was in touch with us constantly after that. So besides our coming to a satisfactory contract, it just seemed to make sense that we sign with the person most responsible for the reunion.
When Cult Metal Classics was absorbed into Sonic Age Records were there any moments when you felt that Overlorde had again been dealt a losing hand or was the whole process a smooth one?
Well it wasn?t a matter of an outside entity coming into the picture. Basically Manos and his partners were finding the CULT METAL CLASSICS name to be limiting. It was giving the impression that the label was still only releasing re-issues. Since they wanted to expand into new releases, they created SONIC AGE RECORDS. CULT METAL CLASSICS remains a division releasing re-issues and SONIC AGE releases new recordings. So it was a smooth transition and actually a very smart one I believe.
Is your deal with Sonic Age a one off deal, or a multi-album deal?
It is a two-CD deal.
M.E., Kong, Bobby, and Trax East owner Eric Rachel at the mixdown sessions
for RETURN OF THE SNOW GIANT. Photo: Joe Bruno
You’ll be playing at the Keep it True IV festival this year, how did that come about?
Sonic Age really wanted to get us over to Germany to play a festival to help promote the CD. Oliver Weisnheimer is a big fan of ours, and he is the main festival organizer. So it just worked out.
This will be Overlorde?s first time playing in Germany and in Europe I believe. I understand you have a great fan base over there, so you must be stoked!?!
Yes, we are! As I type this we are less than two weeks away from the show!
Will you be doing any other shows in Europe or outside of the USA in 2005?
We hope to do some more but nothing for sure yet. In the USA we have a show in Chicago lined up with THE CHASM and TYRANTS REIGN on Saturday, May 28th that looks to be pretty cool.
How well has RETURN OF THE SNOW GIANT been selling over there and worldwide?
It is going very well. Japan, Benelux, Germany, North and South America, Southern Europe all have distribution in place. We are still awaiting Scandinavian and Polish distro though. I think they will be coming soon. Sonic Age has just announced a limited edition Digipack release and a gatefold vinyl release. Plus they have printed up full size promotional posters for use in stores and for marketing.
The album has been very well received by the metal press, has this translated into more sales, offers to tour, etc?
It has definitely helped the sales. No tour offers have come in yet. However, we have been approached about one specific tour that I can?t comment on since it is still very preliminary.
Since you mentioned the metal press I want to mention a very cool thing that happened. As many people know, HEAVY, ODER WAS?! is one of the larger German metal magazines. Probably the biggest for true metal. They had already given the new CD a ?perfect 12? rating in an earlier issue when they decided to include us in the SOUNDCHECK feature of the March/April issue. That?s where twelve critics all rate the same 73 CDs and then the ratings are averaged and ranked. We came in an amazing # 2! And since the top three CDs get their covers reproduced in the issue and the original reviews re-printed, it was great press for us. And to top it off, there was a half page interview with me in the same issue. The issue featured Judas priest on the cover which made it even better.
M.E. tracking his “scratch guitar” track at Trax East Recording Studios
during the sessions for RETURN OF THE SNOW GIANT.
Photo: Greg Smith
Are the band members in a position where they can drop things (family life, jobs, etc.) and hit the road for a few weeks or a couple months?
We are definitely in a position to do some amount of time on the road. Exactly how long of a tour would depend on a number of factors
Unused photo from April 2002 Overlorde photo shoot (same session
from which photos for RETURN OF THE SNOW GIANT were taken).
Photo: T. Parlacoski
I assume Bobby is still in the band Exhibition? How much of his time does that take?
Actually, he hasn?t been in Exhibition since the summer of 2003.
What are your favourite moments on the new CD and why?
I like the way the intro, AND THE BATTLE BEGINS??, came together. The ending of BLACKNESS and the middle of OGRE WIZARD, after the solo. I like the middle of MY DISEASE where the song stops and starts again, and the drum fills at the end of COLOSSUS (ISLAND OF THE CYCLOPS). Dave?s fills are so powerful that I really enjoy that part both onstage and on the CD. Kind of that tingly feeling, you know? I also like the parts I layered with acoustic guitar and Bobby?s scream after the solo in WHEN HE COMES. There?s more I could mention ?
Using those favourite moments, what kinds of things inspired them lyrically?
Hmm, well if you look at the moments I listed the lyrics don?t really play a direct part. But if you ask me what my favourite songs lyrically are, I?d mention MARK OF THE WOLF, TRAPPED BY MAGIC, SNOW GIANT and METALLIC MADNESS.
M.E. and mastering engineer Alan Douches, owner of
West West Side Studios, during the mastering
for RETURN OF THE SNOW GIANT.
Alan and Mark graduated High School together
and it was the first time that Mark and Alan
had worked together since then!
One of my fav newer songs is the lengthy ?Mark of the Wolf? ? what inspired that one?
Musically that just ?came together? in late 1987 or early 1988. We called it ?The Epic? and formal lyrics were really never written for it. The singer at the time, Rod, I swear he made up words whenever we played it. Then when Bobby joined in 2000 he used his love of horror films to write lyrics about a man going through the process of becoming a werewolf for the first time.
Your original 1987 EP is a rare find these days and can run into the hundreds of dollars. With that in mind are you planning on re-releasing it or putting it all online as mp3’s to cut down on people making more money off the EP than the band?!?
Well we do want to re-release it someday. That?s just not a priority right now.
In your first go round in the 80s, metal had very few subgenres. Today metal is greatly fragmented with many people feeling the need to fit bands into one of the many subgenres. Where do you feel that your brand of traditional metal fits into the overall metal scene and how do you feel about the fragmenting of the metal scene in the new millennium?
Yes, that?s true. It was all so very simple back then! I think we appeal to a range of fans because we have the classics/true/power metal style yet we are aggressive enough to be liked by extreme metal fans and our talent can be appreciated by prog metal fans. We approach our music in a way that a prog musician might, making the parts interesting, etc, but we keep the songwriting simpler and more importantly, dynamic. That is something that is often overlooked. Examples being the previously mentioned ending of Blackness or the middle of Ogre Wizard, after the solo.
How did you get the “Flying V” in your nickname, and what is it about flying v’s that continue to attract you?
While registering for forums I had to come up with a nick and it just kind of flowed when matched with my initials. M.E. + Flying V. Flying Vs are my guitar of choice mainly because I like to solo way up on the fretboard where the body comes together with the neck. But with most guitars, there is a cutaway and my big left hand can?t fit in the ?pocket?. With the V, there is no cutaway so no problem! And of course it looks cool, too.
Do you mainly play the Gibson Flying V, or do you have others….how many others would that be anyway?
Both my V?s are Gibsons. I have two V?s (white and black), a Fender Strat, a 1968 Gibson ES-335, and a Takamine acoustic. On the CD I used both V?s, layered, for rhythm. I used the white V for solos, and the Strat for some of the clean layering along with a Tacoma acoustic that Eric Kvortek let me borrow.
Do you use stock guitars as they are off the shelf, or do you do any customization?
They?ve all had some work done to them. The modification process of my newest V was actually photo documented. You can see it at www.meflyingv.com, which is my solo website, on the EQUIPMENT page.
You recently re-released a guitar orientated CD that came out sometime in the 90?s and this re-release has a few new songs as well. How has that side of things been going and do you have plans for more solo material?
I had dedicated 100% of my musical efforts to Overlorde since 2000 and in the summer of 2003, before Sonic Age approached us and after the second failed record label negotiation, I felt the need to do something outside the band. Both to keep me sane and also to avoid wasting more time if for some reason Overlorde were never signed. So I took the eight songs from my first 90?s instrumental cassette demo, added five additional tracks, and re-released it as a high quality CD-r demo.
I haven?t done too much with it. It has gotten some very good reviews. People really seem to connect to the songs much more than the average instrumental CD. I guess it?s that ?dynamic? aspect coming into play again. And the fact that I try to create enjoyable songs, not shred-fests. Anyway, I do hope to eventually do more with the instrumentals, as well as other music projects outside Overlorde, but only when and if time and the opportunity allows. I do have a ?live, in studio? instrumental recording that could be released without much cost or effort if a label were interested. Again, www.meflyingv.com has some samples for people to hear.
I know you are interested in WWII history. Was the band named after Operation Overlord (the Normandy Invasion)? Are there other references to WWII history in your lyrics?
In part, yes. Kong and I were brainstorming names on June 6, 1985, in the parking lot of Earthquake Studios in Scotch Plains NJ. I knew that June 6th was the 41st anniversary of D-day and blurted out ?Overlord?. At the very same time Kong said it too, but because he had been listening to Zeppelin?s ?Immigrant Song? that day, with the line ??we are your Overlord?. So it seemed like fate. We just added the ?e? to make it less likely we would have trademark problems later on and to make it look more ?medieval?.
The only WW2 song we have so far is THE LONGEST DAY from the EP. This song is about D-Day and inspired by the Cornelious Ryan book and movie of the same name. I do have other songs I have written or started writing about other WW2 events.
You will note that FORCE RECON, our fan club/cyber street team/ community of supporters is named after a military unit in the U.S.Marine corps. Within FORCE RECON we have been giving each block of 100 members ?Unit Assignments?. The first 100 were ?Pathfinders? (inspired by the first airborne troops to land on D-Day), the next 100 ?Rangers? (Point du Hoc on D-Day) followed by ?Raiders?. We are currently recruiting ?Marauders?. Anyone interested in becoming a Marauder can read more at www.overlorde.com.
Do you read many fiction or non-fiction WWII novels or watch WWII movies and documentaries? If so, what books or films have you seen lately or over time what ones stand out for you?
I used to read a lot of fiction and non-fiction books on the subject, though I haven?t read any in quite some time. There was a book named TRAMP IN ARMOUR by Coiln Forbes that I read in the early seventies before High School. I found that book again in the library in the 90?s and it was a great re-read. It?s a fiction novel about a British tank that finds itself behind German lines in France in May 1940. Also coming to mind are the Cornelius Ryan books about D-Day, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle for Berlin. I do love the topic and often watch the history channel and such. I liked ?Band of Brothers? and ?Saving Private Ryan?. My big gripe is when they don?t use historically accurate equipment. ?Band of Brothers? was pretty good in that regard. Many movies from the 60?s didn?t even try, they used Vietnam or Korean-era American tanks as German tanks. It was always a joke with me and my dad that I?d always say ?hey, that?s not a real German tank!? ?Saving Private Ryan? lost some of its initial luster for me because some of the tactics and equipment was unrealistic. And is it me, or were those Tiger Tank mockups the same ones they used in the movie Kelly?s Heros?
You appear to be quite a driven individual with Overlorde, your solo recordings, and promoting your band. What is it that continues to drive you and what are some of your ultimate goals?
I guess what drives me is that I feel so lucky to be given what is basically a ?second chance? with music. I?m getting older and time is not so much a luxury any more. Plus I?m the kind of guy who sees the potential in every tool, like the internet, PC based recording, etc. My day career is in the IT/MIS field so I can really take advantage of these things. Ultimate goals? While making music my career would be nice, I realize at this point that?s now unlikely. But if I can strike a good balance between my IT career and music, that would be great. Some people make extra money or have fun playing in a band at bars on the weekend. Well this could be the same, only we are releasing CDs worldwide as opposed to playing in bars.
What is next for Overlorde? I hope we won?t have to wait too long for the next album?
Well besides hoping to play some shows or do a short tour in support of the current CD, and maybe an event or two related to our 20th anniversary this June, the next thing is to start preparing for the second CD. I?d say the soonest we?d release the next CD is sometime in 2006.
Thanks for your time Mark, all the best to you and Overlorde!
Our thanks to you, EvilG, for your support and the chance to do this interview. Hail and huzzah!