When you try to compose the backbone of an interview elaborated on Mark Reale – guitarist and founder of RIOT – you’ve got to avoid asking questions about his influences or childhood leverage, because when he started his career in 1975, the term “heavy metal” hadn’t substantiated yet and its representatives were treated as aliens. Today, RIOT release yet another masterpiece (whichever way you choose to see it) and Mark sounds more alive than ever. His words must receive special attention.
Mark, what are your feelings towards seeing your new record ready to be released?
I’m very happy for several reasons. The main one is that RIOT finally managed to expel from the production company, as it created troubles for so many years. For the first time I had the complete control of the recordings and the evolution of the album and for the first time I’m completely satisfied with the result.
In ” Inishmore ” you’ve achieved a formidable mix of hard rock melodies with your known metal style, the style of ”Narita”, ”Fire down under”, ”Born in America ”.
I agree, as there are songs that could be classified as hard rock and others as power metal. Overall ” Inishmore ” cannot be described in one word because every song is personalized. I sought to create a straight power record and I think we’ve succeeded.
The introduction of ” Black Water ” is based on the Celtic tradition, promising the story that follows. Who had the idea of dealing with this story?
It was my own idea. In recent years I like listening to Celtic traditional music and get inspired by it, therefore I composed ” Black Water ”. Along the way I sought to write a story, so I read several books about Ireland at the time of the 19th century. There was great poverty at that era and the Irish were forced to move to America or elsewhere to find work. 30 miles from Ireland are three islands known as IRON islands, one of which is the ”Inishmore” island. The story of the album begins when a young lad searches for his girlfriend and reaches the ”Inishmore” island but discovers that his beloved one and her family has gone to America with a ship. The young man gripped by anger drowned his grief and from a hill of Inishmore islands facing the sea, he saw the last ship sailing away and hoped one day his girl would return.
In the previous cover of the album ”The breathen …” there was a native American dreaming of the arrival of the white destroyer of his tribe, as you had mentioned earlier. Your new cover may be more realistic but remains equally dramatic, don’t you agree?
Both covers reek of pervasive sadness. In the one with the native American there is future development, but on the cover of ”Inishmore” the fact of the girl’s departure has already happened and the young lad has become dominated by distress and panic. He cannot believe that the girl that was with him the day before, went away suddenly. The panic is due to the risk of such a trip because the weather was harsh and had been many shipwrecks. The young man had faced the possibility of eternal separation with his girlfriend and at the same time of the hope for her to come back sometime.
I have already asked you the same question before in the past but I think it still applies; do you believe that ”Inishmore” will bring success to RIOT?
It’s been two years since we last talked to each other (what an amazing memory he has!) and all this time RIOT was found between a dispute with lawyers to ensure its freedom. What happened was bad but today RIOT is strong and free. Also we have people on our side who care about us.
What has exactly happened with the previous companies or RIOT‘s management and you oftenly mention the word freedom?
If I begin telling you the problems RIOT faced, not only with the record companies but mainly with the management, we’ll speak for hours. There were several opportunities that RIOT could grab to be successful but unfortunately we had incompetent people behind us. People without will or skills. After ”Breathen …” many companies presented themselves and offered us contracts for the next album. Proposals were tempting, perhaps better than the one we chose, such as the proposal by SONY. But do you know where the difference lies? SONY was pleased with RIOT’ level and nothing more. They wouldn’t do anything to increase the audience’s interest; they would just release the record. After several meetings we signed with Zero corporation, with EMI and Metal blade being responsible for the distribution in Europe – America. The promoters of the company showed real interest in the work of RIOT and started the promotion before the release of the album. They’re pushing me to give interviews, that’s why I’m here (laughs) (Mark Reale was in the offices of Metal blade in Germany). For the first time I feel that people actually help RIOT.
From the primary lineup of RIOT, you’re the only one left, apart from Bobby Jarzombek who returned. You’ve been oftenly alone after the continuous departures of other members but you weren’t discouraged . Did you ever think of giving up?
Perhaps those who read the interview would think I acted selfishly within the group and was responsible too for the musicians’ departures, but the truth is that their frustration led to these actions. When you’re trying to create something good and you fail due to external factors, then how can you continue? With what perspective? In 1993 I was tired and I was ready to give up but the pressure of the fans and their love for our music, helped me to keep going. RIOT exists today because there loyal friends scattered all over. People who yell at you if you give up: “Why are you doing this since we support you?”
The RIOT’s case, with so many LP masterpieces while being a non-recognition case leads to the conclusion that it’s not enough to produce good songs.
There were a lot of presented opportunities for RIOT. In the course of the band, capable people, with knowledge on the field appeared to help us but because of predatory contracts we had already signed with other companies when we were young at age, we didn’t have the right to use them. New production company, new management, new record label and something else, a new and unprecedented… concern for RIOT.
I would like you to clear up for us an incident that happened a few years ago. If you remember, there was a concert scheduled in Athens with participation of RIOT, VICIOUS RUMOURS, METAL CHURCH, ZODIAC MINDWARP but suddenly it was announced that RIOT won’t come without explaining why.
(Mark obviously annoyed) Now you get what I was talking about just now. Another huge example of the irresponsibility of the last 15 years. I feel terrible now that you’ve reminded me of it. If only it was just this! Hundreds of similar incidents have happened to us and crushed our nerves. In this case we were ready to play in Greece because we know that we have many fans in your country but suddenly the concert company decided that RIOT shouldn’t perform. They control everything from dates up to money. And you know what excuse they told to the Greeks? That RIOT demanded more money. BULLSHIT. They themselves took the money and used it as they wanted. That is why so many members of RIOT left the group, such as Bobby Jarzombek. That fella I want you to write it in capital letters! Bobby and I begged the tour manager and the production company to allow us participate in this festival in Greece and also in many other places. It was the period they ripped apart . the consistency of RIOT. Then I believed that RIOT was finished and if the two lawyers I hired to sue those responsible for the tragic situation didn’t work things out, be sure that we wouldn’t be no more. The engagement contract was finally broken and RIOT was free.
So, you will travel to all places you were denied.
In January we’ll visit Japan and will record a live album. In spring we’ll play in Europe and of course in Greece.
RIOT is primarily a live band, judging from the constant live releases like ”Riot live” in ’82 or the second CD as a gift along with ”The breathen of the long house”.
For any sunject we’re going to talk, I’ll immediately find past mistakes. Let’s talk about the second CD with ”The breathen …”. Neither of us agreed to its release but who heard us? That recording wasn’t intended for release and its sound quality wasn’t the expected. The new live record will be a real live record and not a tape some cunning speculators want to release.
Let’s change the subject. Bassist Pete Perez participates in Spastic Ink as well?
His brother Bobby plays at Spastic Ink and when Bobby returned to RIOT and met the new members, Pete Perez played in the project of SPASTIC INK.
Which do you think is the best LP of RIOT?
There were three main periods for RIOT so I’ll tell you three albums. First is ”Fire, down, under” because we found the desired style on this album. Second is ”Thundersteel” for the second phase of the group’s development and the third would dare to say is ”Inishmore” because it was created in ideal conditions.
What has changed in America since ”Rock city” (attention, it’s a record!) till today?
The big difference is that today companies such as Metal blade promote metal and there are magazines that help the underground. In the 70s i.e. America as dominated by disco and if you talked to the leaders of the companies about rock, hard rock, heavy metal they would look at you as if you were crazy. And don’t think that the situation has changed. Metal in America will never be accepted. Only bands having a fashion respective progress now. In America curiously enough, television monitors young children and leads them to trance music.
If you had to organize a metal festival who would you call?
Ha, ha … I’m in the old style of metal. I would call Judas Priest with Halford on vocals, Deep Purple, Rainbow them with Ronnie James Dio. Such bands. I was affected by the first album of Ronnie Montrose. From the new bands I would call Metallica, although I didn’t like their new album.
Which albums disappointed you last year?
Metallica’s “Re-load”. Hmm… what else, maybe Gary Moore’s new album, although I haven’t heard it because all my friends described it badly.
What will you remember forever from your career at RIOT;
The first time we played live in Japan in 1989. I couldn’t believe my eyes watching the volume and the reactions of our fans.
Have you anything to add that probably I missed asking?
I want to thank our fans for their long-term support. Finally we’ll find Greek metalheads to our new tour to make amends for something we are not responsible.
Eventually Mark, watching once again the cover of ”Inishmore”, it is worth waiting for a girl so many years?
You left the best question for the end, right? This question isn’t just difficult… It depends … if we compare the girl with a chance, a release like RIOT’s contract, then it probably deserves it.
Give me a perfect title for the interview.
RIOT’s freedom after 20 years.