Interviewer: Cameron Edney - http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com
Ron Marks is no stranger to the music industry. With a career spanning more than two decades Marks has had the pleasure of touring the world on a number of occasions and writing and recording on some of metals most memorable albums. Last year I caught up with Ron to talk about his second Subsonic release ëNo Such Soulí, since our last conversation fans worldwide have been snapping up copies of ëNo Such Soulí and the media response has been none stop. As we speak Subsonic are becoming a household name in the U.K. only recently releasing ëNo Such Soulí and there is no doubt that Subsonic are ready for world domination. Ron Marks recently shot the video for third single ëFixí from the album ëNo Such Soulí and the band which also features ex-Prong drummer Dan Laudo are ready to head back into the studio to begin recording the next album which is untitled at this stage. I recently called Ron to talk about the success Subsonic has had over the last year, we spoke about the book Ron is currently writing ìDonít Miss Oneí, We spoke about guitars where Ron filled us in on his weapons of choice and explained the importance of playing scales and much much more. The time has come to get your ëFixí of Subsonic with Ron Marks.
Metal Fanatix: Hi Ron, how's things
Ron Marks: Hey Cameron, things are good
how are you?
Metal Fanatix: I’m doin' well
mate thanks! It’s been a while since we last spoke and you have
been extremely busy, I guess first of all I want to talk to you more
about your album ‘No such Soul’. You recently shot a clip
for ‘Fix’ The third single from the ‘No Such Soul’
album. Tell me, what’s a day on the set like for Ron Marks?
Ron Marks: Well, we shot for two day’s
in Chicago with Jason Meudt and his crew, and we had a great time.
It was really hot, it was 105 degrees each day and some of the places
we shot in were air conditioned and some were not, but it was great.
We obviously had a few more actors in this one. I’m more of
a fly on the wall in this video, kind of observing the whole thing
from a distance. I just learnt today that it’s finished so I
will probably be receiving that in a few days time! And we’ll
try to have it up on the site as soon as possible.
Metal Fanatix: During the eighties I
can remember seeing so many different hard rock and metal videos on
our televisions but these days they are few and far between, Being
in a rock/metal band these days do you feel it is still important
to spend so much money making film clips that don’t get anywhere
near the airplay they deserve?
Ron Marks: Well, probably not from a
financial standpoint but they’re fun to do and it’s another
creative outlet. I love doing them especially when you can work with
professionals and people who are interested in what you do.
Metal Fanatix: Last time we spoke, you
were hoping to get you new CD out by February 2006 but it seems the
press and fans just can’t get enough of ‘No Such Soul’
you must be pleased with the response you are still getting from the
Ron Marks: Yes, well we certainly had
some renewed interest when we hooked up with Dragon Eye Promotions
from the U.K. which has proved to be a great relationship. We certainly
have some irons in the fire for the future. The album is still pretty
much unreleased in the U.K. so it’s kind of a new thing to them
so of course I’m pleased. We’re also working towards the
next release as well.
Metal Fanatix: Mate you have been in
press mode now for quiet sometime promoting ‘No Such Soul’.
No doubt you must hear the same questions time and time again. Do
you ever think that there has been an obvious question that was never
Ron Marks: Oh boy, no [laughs]
Metal Fanatix: Nothing you can be bothered
thinking about right [laughs]
Ron Marks: [Laughs] No, nothing springs
to mind. They’ve pretty much covered them all but that’s
okay we’re glad to talk to anyone.
Metal Fanatix: ‘No Such Soul’
musically is quiet diverse did you use many different guitars to track
Ron Marks: Yeah, I can’t remember
exactly how many, but it was more than ten.
Metal Fanatix: Wow, really?
Ron Marks: I have a few laying around
and whenever I’m cutting a track I think, well is this heavy,
is this bluesy, is this rock, happy, sad whatever and I’ll just
try to pick an axe that I think communicates that message the best.
Some do it better than others. I’m a guitar freak. I like to
play with different instruments.
Metal Fanatix: You started playing around
the age of fifteen, and I remember you telling me you picked up a
guitar because you wanted to write songs, but I would imagine there
was more to it then that! Who influenced you as a guitar player?
Ron Marks: Well, I bought the first
Kiss live album when I was very young and it just blew my mind. After
that I remember saying “hey I want to do that”. I loved
the music, I loved the sound of it and I just suddenly started writing
songs. Then I went to my uncle’s music store Marks Music and
picked up a bunch of guitars and said “hey can I take one of
those home to play with”? He was kind enough to let me take
one home and the rest is history.
Metal Fanatix: Tell us about your first
guitar, do you still have it?
Ron Marks: Yeah I do [laughs] actually
my very first guitar was an acoustic guitar that my uncle Carl bought
for me for my birthday. I was about eight years old and it sat around
for some years, cause I was a drummer at the time. Then finally I
started getting interested in it and it was pretty tough to play.
Metal Fanatix: What models are you using
Ron Marks: Well, we have a new endorsement
with Dean Guitars which is great. I’m using the Dean Hard Tail
which is a great instrument. You’re going to hear that on the
new tracks quite a bit. Other guitars I use are a 66’ Gibson
SG that I’ve had forever, my black Les Paul custom that I’ve
been playin' forever and my Epiphone Sheraton which has a semi hollow
body and a Telecaster as well.
Metal Fanatix: What was it about Dean
Guitars that stood out from the rest for you; I mean you could have
used Ibanez, Jackson’s, and Gibson’s!
Ron Marks: I always liked there stuff.
We handle some of their items at my cousins music store Marks Music
now and oddly enough, strange how things happen, when we did the ‘A
Day Late’ video the model that played my girlfriend in that
Angel Dawn Massie did some brochures for Dean. When we were shooting
the video we were hanging around and got talking about Dean Guitars
and she said oh I know Dean and so on. I ended up going to the NAAM
show sometime later and I hooked up with Dean and I gave them a promo
pack and they liked what they heard.
Metal Fanatix: How about pedals, are
you one of these guys who has to have twenty different pedals on a
stage or are you happy to keep it simple and raw?
Ron Marks: Yeah, I don’t do any
rack stuff. I use a few little pedals, a flanger, some chorus, a wa-wa
pedal and maybe a tube screamer for some really extreme stuff. Otherwise
I keep it pretty much straight ahead.
Metal Fanatix: Do you do anything specific
to warm up before you hit the stage?
Ron Marks: Scales man, you’re
never done. I teach quite a few students and a lot of them want to
learn to play solos. You have to learn chords and scales in order
to do all of that, and after some months they go “when can I
quit playing these stupid scales”? I tell them “never”.
It gets you loosened up; it gets your hand eye coordination going.
I can even talk while I’m doin' it now [laughs] but you’ve
still gotta spend about ten to fifteen minutes breaking the ice and
getting warmed up. Otherwise when you play the first three or four
tracks you might go for something and you cant quite get catch it
the way you want to because you’re not warmed up so it’s
Metal Fanatix: Ron, how would you describe
your guitar playing?
Ron Marks: Tight rope. How about that?
Metal Fanatix: Tight rope?
Ron Marks: Yeah, when I was in Europe
Reed St Mark would always say “man when you’re playin'
that solo you’re always one inch away from falling off the tight
rope but you never do”. And he says “I’m sitting
there listening to you thinking, he’s never gonna get back into
the chords in time but somehow you do it”. It’s like I’m
always an inch from falling off the cliff every time. Which I kinda
Metal Fanatix: I guess that’s
really the best way to play though isn’t it, I mean there’s
nothing like improvisation and your own interpretations and just in
time getting it back in tight with the band!
Ron Marks: Yeah, sometimes you miss
but I’d rather take the chance.
Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Hey if you fuck
up, you can always say that was your intentions and part of the show
Ron Marks: Well we say if you’re
gonna fuck up do a big one.
Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Mate, over the
years you have performed with many talented artists. Has these experiences
helped to develop the techniques you are using today?
Ron Marks: Oh yeah of course, everything
you do is another education and you’re exposed to different
ways of thinking and just a different approach to the instrument,
not that it’s a matter of better or worst it’s more like
‘oh wow I had never thought of it that way”, had you not
been exposed to those people you might not have gotten there angle
on it. Which then you try to incorporate into things you like and
your own things.
Metal Fanatix: I believe you are now
giving guitar lessons now as well, what prompted you to start giving
Ron Marks: Oh I’ve been doin'
lessons for years, since I came back from Europe. With my family owning
a music store it was just natural. It seemed a few people around here
sought me out for lessons. I don’t do beginners or anything
like that but if somebody is interested in rock ‘n’ roll
guitar playing and they really want to learn and practice I’m
glad to do it. It keeps me sharp too, my students bring in stuff,
songs for me to figure out, introduce me to artists that I’m
not aware, it’s a two way street, they teach me and I teach
Metal Fanatix: What styles of guitar
are you covering, a bit of everything?
Ron Marks: Oh pretty much everything,
some people come in and they’re blues guys that want to do that
whole thing and blues and rock aren’t too far apart. Sometimes
I get teenagers, sometimes I get people in their fifties that have
wanted to play there whole life’s, but were too busy raising
families and all this other stuff, and now that they have time they
finally want to pick up this interest that they had. As long as they
want to work and love to play I’m all for it.
Metal Fanatix: Is this something you
will be taking on the road with you, I mean I remember reading that
Randy Rhoads would give lessons to kids in various towns he would
play, is this an avenue you are also going to look at?
Ron Marks: If it presented itself I
would certainly consider it but I can’t say that it’s
in my immediate plans. Actually I don’t think I’m really
that well known enough to get that kind of attention but if someone
was ask me to do some clinics yeah I would be glad to do something
Metal Fanatix: Last time we spoke you
were telling me you had already completed a couple of new songs for
the next album “Burn it Down” and Christin”. Over
the last few months I know you have been very busy in the studio,
tell us some of the other titles and when can we expect a release
Ron Marks: Well, some of the other titles
are ‘Treason’, ‘Looking For You’ which I think
will probably be the single, ‘Up For Love’ is another
one and don’t laugh but I’m working on a cover version
of ‘That’s The Way I Like It’ by KC And The Sunshine
Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Really?
Ron Marks: Yeah it’s going to
be really cool actually. I started on it a few days ago. I’ve
had the idea for a couple of months and I finally got a hold of the
track and I was saying to myself “am I really gonna do this
song”? I listened to it and I was saying, give it a chance,
give it a chance. So I did and I think it’s going to be pretty
Metal Fanatix: Okay Ron, there are a
million and one brilliant songs in the world that you could choose
to cover, why choose that song in particular?
Ron Marks: I was at a party, and somebody
played it and I said “ya know that’s sick enough to make
Metal Fanatix: [Laughs]
Ron Marks: I just happened to be in
this room around a bunch of other music fans, I get together with
a lot of musicians and we don’t just sit there and put the radio
on and have a party. We go around the room and we all take turns at
picking what song we want to play next. We go from everything from
a soundtrack to a Broadway play to jazz to rock and metal. Probably
as a gag, to be a smart ass somebody picked that KC and the Sunshine
Band tune and of course smart ass me has to go and do something with
Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] I would imagine
that the new album will be along the same lines musically as ‘No
Ron Marks: Oh yeah! It’s still
gonna be rock and I think on ‘No Such Soul’ I found a
sound that I’m quite comfortable with, not that I want to remake
the last one, but I think that we are going to stick to that sound.
I think the most difficult thing for an artist to do is find some
originality in their sound, and the reason you don’t hear much
of that is because it’s not easy, but I think I’ve done
that for better or worst. I’ve found my place and a place where
it’s not contrived it’s something that I’m very
comfortable with and that’s very natural to me. So it will be
a development, an evolution of the last record! It will still be the
Metal Fanatix: I imagine you are using
the same guys in the touring band?
Ron Marks: Yes, yes, Dan’s still
with us, I have Brandon Park on guitar and we’ll see what happens.
We’re hoping that Dragon Eye Promotions can put some kind of
tour together for us over here pretty soon. The main concern right
now is getting this next release out.
Metal Fanatix: Ron as you mentioned,
you recently became involved with Dragon Eye Promotions from the U.K.
Tell me about your involvement with these guys?
Ron Marks: That was strictly an email
thing actually. I don’t know if we got together on myspace or
exactly how it happened. I can’t remember if they emailed me
first or vice versa, I’m always doing tons of correspondence
with various people and it’s hard to keep track. As everybody
knows you do this stuff a lot of times and you don’t get replies
because there is such a volume of material out there. Anyways they
replied and said they were staring up this company, they had heard
some of my songs on this website and thought they were cool, then
one thing led to another. It’s only been a couple of months
now but it’s evolved into something really quite promising.
Metal Fanatix: I believe you are currently
working on a book about your life as a musician titled ‘Don’t
Miss One’, tell me do any of the guys you have worked with in
the past have reasons to be worried?
Ron Marks: No.
Metal Fanatix: Oh come on, you’re
not going to spill the beans on anything?
Ron Marks: No, no, I mean everything’s
cool. Let’s say they certainly showed me courtesy when they
wrote there book and to be honest with you that’s not my kind
of entertainment anyway. It’s more about the life of a musician;
‘Don’t Miss One’ means don’t miss the downbeat
of a measure. And of course that has a little humor in there but you
would be surprised with how many people do this all there life and
they can’t hit the down beat of a fucking measure. I’ve
been working on it for a couple of years now and I’m not sure
if it will ever get published, I hope so. I probably need to gain
a little more success with Subsonic before that becomes a possibility
but it’s great to get your thoughts down none the less.
Metal Fanatix: You recently returned
from a trip to Africa, tell me about your trip, was it business or
Ron Marks: It was pleasure actually!
I went there with my cousin Carl, his wife Maria and there son Steven,
they own the music store. We went there on safari, it was great. I
had never been to Africa before; we were just outside of Johannesburg.
We were there for about eleven days and it was just an amazing experience.
It’s like nowhere else I’ve been on earth, it’s
not like Europe and it’s nothing like the states. It’s
like you went to a different planet, especially once you get out into
the bush and experience it first hand. I have read many things and
seen many shows on Africa but until you’re there you really
can’t appreciate it. There is something about Africa that is
Metal Fanatix: What are the biggest
differences you notice these days in the business compared to when
you guys were starting out?
Ron Marks: Well I’m happy to say
I think that rock n roll is coming back. It kinda went away for a
while but it’s like everything in it’s cycles. My god
I’m actually hearing guitar solos in songs again. I’m
really happy about that; they have been gone for too long.
Metal Fanatix: How about when it comes
to guitars, I mean technology has really kicked in when it comes to
all instruments, guitars these days are so light, and there are so
many more gadgets!
Ron Marks: Everyone likes to talk about
the features and gadgets and specifications of the guitars and amps,
pedals and the whole lot. I’d rather focus on writing and that
part of guitar. Paying with different tunings, not that I do a lot
of different tunings, nothing out of the ordinary but I love to do
unique chords. And what I mean by that is that you pick up the axe
and you just play stuff that sounds good to you that might be a different
take on various chords, rather than the norm. When you can do that
I think you can start to build a unique signature to your guitar playing.
I’m not just talking about writing songs I’m also talking
about soloing obviously. I prefer to play things that will get under
your skin a bit I try to appeal to people emotions. I don’t
think it matters if it’s a guitar, piano, saxophone or whatever
instruments your doing that’s what makes music interesting to
me, connecting to peoples emotions.
I’ve never been one for gadgets. I have nothing against them
and nothing against technology in general, I think it’s great
when it’s applied in a constructive manner. What I mean by that
is that technology can allow you to explore creative boundaries that
weren’t available before and I think that’s fantastic.
When people use technology to conceal the fact that they can’t
play an instrument then I think that’s sad. I can’t help
it remember, several people that I played the last CD for and they
were saying “wow, your vocals are great, what are you working
with, pro tools”? And I said “what”? “The
intonations really good, what did you use to fix that”? And
I said “man, I wouldn’t know how to turn on pro tools
if you gave it to me”. “I sang it”. I double every
vocal so that’s not even a delay that you’re hearing in
the lead vocal, it’s me singing it twice, you have to be able
to get down exactly how your phrasing works.
Metal Fanatix: Just doin' it the old
Ron Marks: Yeah, I just like it better,
I mean sure you can take a vocal or a guitar and throw a little delay
on it to fatten it up but it’s always the same response through
out, When you sing it twice or play it twice it kinda weaves in and
out of itself and I think it makes for a more interesting sound.
Metal Fanatix: As you said, technology
is fantastic in so many ways, but I do believe that many bands these
days are using pro tools and those programs as an easy way out, and
record companies encourage it because it’s a much cheaper way
Ron Marks: Oh of course they are, that’s
what there all about. There not worried about quality they’re
worried about the bottom line, so they have forced even more of the
artist responsibility. One thing you have to remember if you’re
writing a song or recoding a release or doing a video or whatever,
you’re going to have to watch and listen to that son of a bitch
for the rest of your life. Easy is not the way to go. Good is the
way to go. Put the extra time in even if it’s hard, too bad.
Everybody’s into convenience and I think quality is more where
it’s at. I understand the budgets of various artists including
myself, we hardly have an unlimited budget here, but you have to remember
whatever you put out you have to live with and you’ll have to
listen to it for a long time so make sure you do your homework.
Metal Fanatix: What's your take on this
downloading and file sharing? Do you think it hurts artist like yourself
or do you look at it as a great way to get your music out to so many
more people around the world?
Ron Marks: That’s kind of a mystery
to me! I think its great that the exposure is there, I think it’s
great that it’s accessible to everybody, I think it’s
a shame if artist’s don’t get paid royalties, which I’m
sure is still going on quite a bit because people are still ripping
this stuff off. The other comment I can make about that is that it’s
a little sad that no one has to wait for anything anymore, because
nothing is special anymore
Metal Fanatix: You’re right there!
There’s is no anticipation these days!
Ron Marks: You don’t have to wait
for anything. Everything you want is at the click of your finger.
I certainly remember before all this came about, when a band was coming
to tour, you were out of your mind for six months until the day came,
because you didn’t get to see them, everything was not instantly
accessible so you valued it and you were really excited. I just don’t
know how excited people get anymore about it, because anything they
want is available to them anytime they want it.
Metal Fanatix: Mate, just going back
to where you were talking about writing your melodies on the guitar,
lets use the latest single ‘Fix’ as an example, how do
you come up with something that is so catchy, how do you get into
that mode where you’re just sitting there with a guitar and
bang next thing you have this fantastic track?
Ron Marks: I have no idea how you do
Metal Fanatix: [Laughs]
Ron Marks: [Laughs] I’m serious,
that’s one question I get ask a lot, “well how do you
do it”? “How do you write”? There is no set method,
sometimes it starts off with a guitar riff and you say to yourself,
oh that’s cool and you build it from there, sometimes you’re
driving down the road and a melody will pop into your head, sometimes
it’s a bass part, sometimes it starts with a drum part. I can’t
sit here and say there’s any pattern. When you start doing things
the same way you start cutting off options. You have to be receptive
to it twenty four hours a day. I don’t know how you do it, it
Metal Fanatix: Ron over the years, what’s
the craziest rumor you’ve heard about yourself?
Ron Marks: It was actually pretty funny
some fan wrote to me and said I heard from some journalist that you
were very difficult to work with in Celtic Frost and I said really,
me? That wasn’t exactly a wedding band [laughs] everyone was
difficult to work with in Celtic Frost believe me there was more than
one day when I saw chairs going over my head!
Metal Fanatix: Really?
Ron Marks: Oh my god, it was never one
band member against the other but it was just after months and months
of getting your head kicked in, label pressures, the frustrations
came out and there were a few chairs flying around, we all had our
moments. To just single me out was just laughable. Where do you think
I learned how to act that way [laughs]? I can’t believe we all
held up as well as we did, but we’re all human too and you crack
at some point. There are millions of bands that could tell ya that.
That’s nothing new.
Metal Fanatix: When you do have spare
time, what do you like to do?
Ron Marks: I’m a motor head. I
have a 67’ triple black Cadillac I like to play with a little
bit I’ve had quite a few muscle cars and corvettes and porches.
That’s my passion. I'm really an avid sportsman". I'm not
into sports like football and golf and all that. I'm into hunting
and the outdoors as I’ve mentioned in some other interviews.
I have a cabin in the mountains of Pennsylvania where I like to visit
a lot. I actually do a lot of writing there, almost every song that
is going to be on the next release was written up there and that’s
where I work on the book.
Metal Fanatix: Awesome, Ron, what’s
the one band you never want to hear again and why?
Ron Marks: Oh there’s too many
[laughs]. As soon as some songs come on the radio I just go “you
can’t be serious”, and I don’t even know who these
bands are [laughs].
Metal Fanatix: That’s because
too many bands sound the same!
Ron Marks: Yeah and at that point it’s
like “who even cares”, just change the station. I don’t
know Cameron, I don’t want to single anybody out, and I’d
feel bad if someone did that to me so we’ll just let that one
Metal Fanatix: Fair enough mate, Ron
that’s all I have for ya today, mate thanks again for your time
as always it’s a blast speaking to ya. Do you have any last
words for our readers?
Ron Marks: I just thank everyone that
supports the project. This is a one man band right now as far as writing
and recording. I love doing it, things are looking great right now
with the new relationship with Dragon Eye Promotions and we’re
looking forward to big things from that. Thanks to everyone who continues
to support the band, don’t be afraid to get on the forum and
the website and say hello, we’re glad to talk to everybody.
Subsonic’s latest album ‘No Such
Soul’ is out now, grab your copy where all kick ass albums are
For all the latest news on Subsonic make sure you check out the following
- Official Subsonic website
http://www.myspace.com/subsonicmusic - Subsonic MySpace website
- Inside Out 666: Dedicated to 40 years of hard rock & metal music
© Cameron Edney September, October 2006 Not to be re-printed
in any form without written permission.