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Interview: Metal Allegiance

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The best way to describe Metal Allegiance is as a metalhead’s ultimate dream band.

Consisting of Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson, Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick and Winery Dogs drummer Mike Portnoy under the watchful eye of metal mastermind and band founder Mark Menghi, this is the supergroup to end all supergroups.

And in August, Metal Allegiance will play their first show in the UK, appearing on the main stage at the infamous Bloodstock Open Air Festival alongside the likes of Slayer, DragonForce and Anthrax.

“Bloodstock will be our first European appearance ever,” says Mark Menghi.

“We’ve done Asia, Japan, Mexico and the United States, but Bloodstock will be our first European show. There’s no better way to kick Metal Allegiance off in Europe than with Bloodstock.”

According to Mark, this is not going to be any ordinary festival slot, as Metal Allegiance plans on bringing a wealth of heavy metal legends onto the stage with them.

“For that show, we have Charlie Benante [from Anthrax] playing drums with us, [Slayer and Exodus’] Gary Holt’s going to be playing guitar, Scott Ian’s going to play a little bit.

“Alex Skolnick’s coming over for it, Mark Oseguada from Death Angel’s coming over for it, as well as myself.

“Portnoy, I’m pretty sure he will be there. I know he’s playing two days earlier with Twisted Sister. As of right now, Portnoy’s scheduled to be there. So it’s going to be a packed line-up!”

Mark Oseguada and Gary Holt – amongst many others – also appeared on Metal Allegiance’s 2015 debut album. Mark describes working with the latter as simply “awesome”:

“Working with him was a blast. Gary’s been involved since day one, jamming with us.”

“It was nothing but comedy and fun in the studio with him. It’s funny, I just posted a video of the song ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ – which he played guitar on – and he started doing the Disney ‘It’s a Small World’ theme in the middle of the song. I was like ‘Holy shit dude!’

A video posted by markmenghi (@markmenghi) on

"And there was no direction there when it came down to the leads. Alex would orchestrate the guitars himself; when we had a song done, he’d say ‘Right, from this point to this point, I’m doing this solo. From another point to that point, that’s Gary’s part.’

“Within the measures you were given, you could do whatever you wanted to do. Gary would write the solos right on the spot, a lot of guys did. They’d do solos on the spot, and nine out of ten times, we’d keep it. They had complete freedom on that.”

Mark also has plans for Bloodstock off the stage: many of them revolve around watching some of the other acts that are set to tear the house down during the weekend.

“Anthrax and myself, we’re close. I’ve seen them so many times, I’m excited to see them outside of the States. And I’m excited for Symphony X as well, and [Motörhead guitarist] Phil Campbell’s All-Starr band! I can’t wait to see Phil again.

“We had the unfortunate pleasure of playing the services of Lemmy’s funeral back in January. We had [Motörhead drummer] Mikkey Dee jam with us. It was just ironic that we were playing in LA while his services were going on. We were really close to the Motörhead guys, so it’ll actually be good to see Phil.”

With the tragic death of Motörhead’s front-man Lemmy still fresh in the minds of many metal fans, Metal Allegiance plan on using their stage time in the UK to pay tribute to the fallen rocker.

“Lemmy, Motörhead, the whole outfit was huge to me. It wasn’t as much the music as it was the attitude. You could do this no matter what you look like, sound like or even how well you play; if you have the drive and the desire to do it, and you have a core group of guys that are determined like you, then it can be done.

“Basically, Lemmy said ‘Fuck the establishment! I’m doing my thing how I want to do it.’ And that’s what really inspired me and it still does to this day.

“We’ve played a lot of Motörhead. We’ve done ‘Iron Fist’, ‘Overkill’, ‘Ace of Spades’, ‘Chase Is Better Than the Catch’, ‘We Are the Road Crew’, just off the top of my head.

“I’ll guarantee a Motörhead song for sure when we’re over there! I don’t know which one, but we’ll definitely do one.”

But outside of the as-yet-undecided Motörhead cover, Metal Allegiance’s Bloodstock setlist remains a mystery.

“The setlist is always the great debate,” Mark laughs.

“We never argue within us, but when it comes to putting that setlist down and deciding what we wanna play, everyone has their favourites so we usually do that a day or two before.

“We have an arsenal of cover songs we can play as well as the original stuff from the album. We like to do more of the obscure stuff. With Iron Maiden for example, we just covered ‘The Prisoner’. You don’t hear them playing that all the time, it isn’t stable in their setlist, so we like to bring some of those songs out like ‘Ides of March’ and ‘Wrathchild’.

“We’ll do Judas Priest’s ‘Victim of Changes’, with Black Sabbath we’ll do ‘Lord of This World’, we dig into the Metallica catalogue, Sepultura we’ll do… So we’re just all over the map.”

Metal Allegiance clearly has an affinity for classic heavy metal, yet Mark still has eye out for the genre’s young up-and-comers, voicing concern for the next generation of rock.

“There’s some bands that I’m digging a lot recently. A band called Crobot, from the States, I love. They’re like a funky Black Sabbath. A band called Kyng, Monster Truck from Canada… Those three bands are really on my radar.

“But it’s almost near-impossible to break through. You might be able to make it now, but it’ll cost you a shit-ton of money!

“It’s really hard and it comes down to the record labels and new technology like YouTube and streaming services. Music is so accessible now, most people just listen to a playlist on YouTube. I refuse that in my house, I’m like ‘Nope! You want to listen to music? Go buy a record!’

“I instil that into my kids. Every week, I go to a record store. There are so many great bands out there, so much talent out there that we might not ever find, and it sucks!

“Record labels don’t put the money in to nurture an artist like they used to do. How many bands back in the 70s, 80s and 90s had a great first album, the second one was even better, their third record was freaking amazing? Even Metallica: Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning, then Master of Puppets, just because they had the record label behind them to nurture them.

“That’s why you keep hearing Metallica, Maiden, Sabbath, Slayer, Kiss and Priest; they’ll never go away because they’re already established, they’ve had their nurturing. It really does suck, it’s damn near impossible to make a living off of music now.”

Yet, the future of Metal Allegiance remains as bright as ever, not only with their upcoming UK show, but also with plans beginning to be laid down for the supergroup’s second record.

“We’re starting to talk about it now, when we get together we’ll start writing it. We have a few songs already written over the last year or so, but the way we’re going to do it is like we did it last time: just lock ourselves in a room and start coming up with stuff.”

“When Mike, Dave, Alex and myself got into that room for the first time, it lasted for three days and we wrote five songs. But at the end of that we were like ‘Wow! That’s awesome!’

“So then we got together again and wrote more songs. That time it was Alex, Mike and myself. Dave was away with Megadeth at that point. We wrote four more songs. It was working so well, everyone was bringing something new to the table and we just work well together, but we definitely want to work with more people.”

Metal Allegiance will play their first European show at Bloodstock Open Air on Sunday, 14th August.

Metal Allegiance’s self-titled debut album is available physically and digitally now via Nuclear Blast Records.




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