Saturday 10 October 2015

Risen From The Dead - An Interview with Mark Greening

There's been a lot of anticipated albums due out this year.

Maybe none more than the self titled debut from With The Dead featuring Lee Dorrian joining up with a reunited Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening, for the first time since the mighty Ramesses.

A lot has happened since Ramesses split and With The Dead formed. With that in mind we recently sat down with Mark to discuss everything that's happened and maybe what the future holds.

SID – Can we talk about the Electric Wizard situation? You're probably not allowed to talk about this.

Mark – Basically the whole EW thing was pretty shitty. To start with I was over the moon to be back in the band, but before long cracks started to show. They’d already fired Simon, the drummer I replaced, then they got rid of the bass player and got Clayton in.

It felt to me like they had to have someone there to stab in the back.

SID – There had to be a scapegoat.

Mark – Yeah and then I got the phone call from their manager.

SID – Is that how you found out.

Mark – Yeah. It was weird because I was in contact with Justin and Liz, but everyone was sort of gutted about the performance at Temples Festival. Unfortunately, I had a few issues going on that night. I had had too much to drink and it was a pretty shit gig. Though in fairness, Liz was half-cut as well and there were problems with the sound, we didn't have a soundcheck

SID – It's a festival. You’re headlining and you've been there all day. We heard a lot of talk about that gig and lot of people were really positive about it. Some people said it wasn't the best Wizard performance but a lot of other people said sometimes that's the cool thing. Sometimes you're going to get the best gig ever and sometimes you don't.

Mark - That's the thing. Back in the early days of Wizard it was exactly that. One night we would play a shit gig and the next it would be totally amazing. The thing was those good gigs would cancel out the bad gigs.

I was gutted to be fired, but at the end of the day, if that hadn't happened there would be no WITH THE DEAD.

SID – That's the thing really. You got to look at that. We will get onto WITH THE DEAD in a second. We have to talk about the Facebook Page – No GREENING No Wizard. That' escalated quite quickly and there was a lot of support for you.

Mark – There was a lot of support from the No Greening No Wizard Facebook Page and that was great. It did take some things a bit too far sometimes.

SID – Yeah it did take things that too far sometimes but it's the internet.

Mark – That's it with Social Media and everything as people latch onto things. I was chuffed at all the support really.

But what happened because of that No Greening No Wizard page became bit of a nightmare.

SID – And that's where the issue started.

Mark. Yeah, I got bombarded with all of these solicitor's letters on behalf of EW saying you can't say such and such got rid of you. It was all about the No Greening page. They were saying that I ran the No Greening page, which I didn't. It was all scare tactics to try to get the page taken down It's disappointing as I've read online that “Mark Greening does things just for the money”, when EW are the ones choosing to pay lawyers’ fees to shut down a Facebook page they didn’t like instead of me. At the end of the day you don't go to work for free.

SID – Exactly.

Mark – I put the same amount of work into the album as Justin did, more than Liz. Justin and I arranged and wrote the whole album in his garage in Devon. I've got demos of us playing some of the songs. It was great and then it went tits up. It's the way things go in life sometimes but why should they get paid and not me?

SID – It's not ideal. Are you still getting these letters?

Mark – To be honest, their solicitor has stopped at the moment. Whether that's down to them not paying him either. I don't know.

I've read a lot of bad stuff about myself due to getting the album pulled but while when I was 20 or so and would do anything to play my drums it was fine, but when you grow up and you're in the real world, you've got to pay your rent and pay for your motorbike and you need money to do that. You can't do stuff for free.

At the end of the day it sucks to stop an album coming out. I think that Spinefarm only made that decision after thinking they’d sold as much as they’re going to. I went to a gig the other day and someone there told me he’d heard EW were going to re-record the drums to get the album back out there.

SID – From a label point of view - and this isn't meant to a dig at them- at some point, no doubt that album will go back on sale and when it does that won't probably harm it sales.

Mark – It’s annoying as Spinefarm (their label now) were well aware of this situation before the album was released, as I made them aware of it. It took them sometime before the album was pulled. A lot of people bitch about it, but I'm only after my fair share. I'm in the process of the next step and we will see where that will go. To be honest, the whole Time To Die and No Greening situation has all got a bit boring now. It's great that people still support me, but it's time to move on from it.

SID – One of the reoccurring topics on the NO GREENING page was if Ramesses was that going to happen again. Obviously Tim is in With The Dead and you were back in touch. Was Ramesses ever discussed.

Mark – There was talk about Ramesses and Adam was the first person I spoke to after I was booted out of Electric Wizard. I was quite upset and I didn't know who to speak to. Ramesses could always be on the cards.

SID – How WITH THE DEAD started was cool, the way it was announced: here it is and BANG it's ready. I remember that it was going to break the Internet that night, being shared and appearing everywhere on my newsfeed. The quality of the people involved. You've got yourself, you've got Tim and then you've got Lee from Cathedral and Rise Above. That's pretty damn exciting.

Mark – It was just an idea. Tim and I always said we would do our own band together one day. When I was left in the lurch with EW, I was thinking “shit, what do I do now?” Ramesses was on the cards, but I thought it would be nice to do something different. I knew that Lee had had a bit of a carry-on with EW - that was all kicking off when I re-joined EW with them and I still don't know what the grudge is – but I got hold of Lee and said I want to play drums in a band and all this sort of business. I told him I'd been in contact with Tim again and asked if his label would be interested in releasing something. He was like –yeah, that would be cool.

I contacted Tim and said Lee from Rise Above Records was up for putting something out if we put a band together. Originally I was going to do the vocals.

SID – Oh really. (Sounding really surprised)

Mark – That was the idea as we just wanted the two of us. Just the ex-Wizard Rhythm section. The original idea was to record an EP. Tim did 3 or 4 tracks and sent them to me which I thought were really great. We sent them to Lee. We were unaware that Lee would be interested in doing the vocals. It was on our minds to ask him but we thought he had a lot on his plate running the label, but we mentioned it to him.

I did try to write lyrics for some of the tracks, and I've never written lyrics before. I could sort of hear it in my head what it should be like. If I could’ve actually done it, I'm not so sure. But I was in regular contact with Lee about the whole thing.

Lee flew Tim out and we went into a studio and recorded. Lee came down when we were in there and talked about doing the vocals.

Unfortunately the studio we recorded them in didn't have that dirty raw and grimy sound.

SID – When you hear your name and Tim's name. You imagine a certain heavy filthy sound.

Mark – Yeah, Tim didn't get all the bass done as one of the amps was playing up, so we ended up not having time to record the bass. Tim was going to record it back in the States. Then Lee said come back over into one of my studios and we will record the whole thing again, with him on vocals and that will be it.

Tim came back over again and we went to London and rehearsed for 4 or 5 days. Lee came to the rehearsals and did a couple of tracks with us. That was the first time we heard him sing with us. Then we went into the studio and recorded it. Lee came to the studio every day to see how things were going and did his vocals

That's how WITH THE DEAD came about. I went to Lee for help really as I wanted to drum. Tim was up for it, came over and Lee got involved with it really.

SID – The name. WITH THE DEAD. How did that come about.

Mark – We had quite a few names for the band. We wanted something that stood out and one that looked and sounded nasty. We had a long list of names and everything sounded the same. It was a nightmare as none of us had tried to think of a band name in a long time.

I've got an obsession with Ouija Boards and things to do with the dead. At the time there was a shit film called Ouija - there were trailers for that film and one had the cheesy over-the-top American voice-over saying how that Ouija boards have been around for centuries and are used “to communicate” - and then he pauses to say – “WITH THE DEAD”.

I thought that sounded cool. I told Lee and Tim about it and we continued looked at other things but kept coming back to it. Also my favourite horror film is The Exorcist, so I was happy with how it all worked out.

SID – It's a cool name and with the imagery and the outfits. It looks cool and fits together.

Mark. Yeah it does. Tim and I were a bit sceptical about it being a bit cheesy and stuff when we did the photoshoot for the album cover. But then we realised it's good to have something that stood out, instead of being a band just stood against the wall. Not that there's anything wrong with that. We just wanted something different.

SID – Live. Is that something on the cards with Tim not living in the UK?

Mark – Well it does make it slightly awkward but another issue is Tim played bass and guitar on the album. At the moment I can't really say too much about gigs.

SID – Talking about the performing side of things, a lot of interviews I've read and playing with people in bands. People always talk about gear. You've definitely got a distinctive sound, is there anything in your setup that's key to your whole sound?

Mark – I keep my setup pretty basic, as that's how I think it should be done. I never would’ve dreamed of using a double bass drum pedal or stuff like that. The thing is I have the two 30” cymbals which I don't think anyone else is stupid enough to use.

I play left-handed and open-armed as well, so I have my ride on the left. I just do what I do.

SID – It looks quite natural and an easy thing. But at the same time it looks like you're hitting them quite hard.

Mark – Well you may as well hit them hard if you're going to play them. If not just give up. Obviously I'm no spring chicken anymore but I still try to hit them as hard as I can. You've just got to hit the living shit out of them.

For the music that I play you generally need to beat the shit out of them. I'm not the type of person who listens to other drummers and thinks I'm going to do that. I taught myself to drum. I used to listen to a lot of Keith Moon and Ginger Baker and other drummers that stood out in the 60s and 70s like John Bonham. Even Ringo Starr, and people slag him off, but if you add a different drummer to The Beatles then it wouldn't sound like The Beatles. When Ringo Starr plays, you instantly recognise that it’s him. The same goes for Keith Moon, John Bonham and Ginger Baker. It's those distinctive little characteristics of drummers that you sort of latch on to. Otherwise you're just sat at the back keeping a beat.

SID – Apart from the music you're obviously a Hollywood Movie Star. As you did – Welcome To Cannibal County.

Mark – Well yeah but now it's been removed from YouTube and has disappeared.

SID – Has it?

Mark – Well the music in it was Electric Wizard. It was only a short film. It wasn't great but it had a few moments. Will Wallace did the film. A lot of us in the film were really young. It was good for what it was and it's only 15 minutes long.

SID – It kind of had that whole vibe and I assumed that it was meant to. Almost 70s style slasher movies.

Mark – Yeah, that's exactly what it was.

SID – I didn't think it was taking itself too seriously.

Mark – The thing was it's the basic story of – Kids going camping and I was this acid crazed gypsy. That had done too much acid and gone mad. We were going to make a full length sequel called – Acid Eater.

Will did the crowd-funding thing, but unfortunately didn't quite reach the goal. It was a real shame as Will had written the whole script and it was really going to be quite a good film and based around how I become this Acid-Crazed maniac. It was going to have a lot of death scenes. A lot of gruesome goings on. Unfortunately that's been put on hold.

SID – Maybe it's going to be like what we said about Ramesses. It's not necessarily a done deal but could happen in the future.

Mark – Yeah, it could still happen.

SID – We've talked about this recently. The whole situation with Black Sabbath reformed without Bill Ward, releasing 13 and doing that massive tour. A lot of people weren't happy Bill Ward wasn't included. He went public about it. There's been a bit of back and forth between them. Maybe it hasn't been as one-sided as we thought. We've seen recently – No Ward, No Sabbath. And we've seen that with you this No Greening No Wizard. Where do you stand on it. Is Black Sabbath still Black Sabbath without Bill Ward.

Mark – Coming from a drummer point of view. I would’ve loved to see Sabbath with Bill Ward. I find with a lot of drummers who hit hard that when you get older, you just haven't got as much energy you once had. Whether that would’ve been an issue with Bill Ward, I don't know.

A lot of people were bitching about it. At the end of the day people should have been happy Sabbath were doing it with the 3 other members.

Personally it would have been better with Bill Ward. Whether would he been able to pull of the live gigs. Who knows.

SID – I've read a lot about his health issues. None of them are young guys anymore.

Mark – That's the thing. There’s a lot of bands from the 60s/70s that all have a young drummer now. Occasionally there’s one with the original drummer but most of the time it's a younger guy who has the energy to do it all.

I saw Ginger Baker and his Jazz Band, which was amazing to see as I love Ginger Baker to bits. He just says things the way it is and doesn't give a shit. But at 70-odd years old he would never be able to play “Toad” or perform a drum solo for 10 minutes. As much as I probably won’t be able to do it at his age either.

SID – It's not like playing the bass or playing the guitar. You're up on stage. You're moving around and there’s hot lights on the stage. You're having a workout.

Mark – That's it. You're hitting the drums and fucking going for it. Sometimes I'll be fucked after 5 minutes. I need to get rehearsing regularly again. It's one of those things. I didn't even bother seeing Sabbath. I wasn't really arsed. Haha.

Words by Simon Ross Wiliams and Mark Greening

Thanks to Mark Greening for taking the time time out to talking to SID at Outlaws Of The Sun. With The Dead debut S/T album will be available to buy from Rise Above Records from October 16th 2015.

With The Dead Links

Ramesses Links