The music business ain’t easy. I think that is something we can all agree on: it’s a business that requires extreme commitment and a lot of sacrifices and even then there are no guarantees that you’re going to be a massive success and make a living off this profession. But there is this drive that is born out of passion for the music that you love and love creating, which is what motivates the musician on a daily basis.
Mark “M.E.” Edwards is such an example of a musician that never gave up. His band Overlorde was one of the most influential bands in the 80s musical movement called U.S. Power Metal, which was a harder sound style of what bands like Helloween or Running Wild were doing in that era in Europe. Their self-released EP in 1987 became a underground classic in Germany and that success helped them to regroup to release their 2004 comeback album, Return of the Snow Giant, which had pretty solid reviews.
Since 2005, Mark has been striving to get the back together again, even as far as recording demos in 2017 (which are quite solid, so I recommend you to look them up on YouTube) and now this incarnation of Overlorde is working to make their new album, hopefully getting released this year.
So I sat down with Mark and we discussed many different, but also showing a major trait of his career: perseverance. Hope you enjoy it!
Thank you for doing this, Mark. It’s a pleasure to have you here.
Hello, Kevin. Thank you for giving me this chance to reach your readers. “Hail” from Overlorde!
2018 is over. Was this a good year for you on a professional and personal level?
It could have been better, for sure. But that is life.
Well, I guess congratulations are in order: your band Overlorde is back! What took you guys so long to get back on the music business?
True, we had disbanded from early 1989 until we reformed in 2000. Though we were still involved with music, working on individual music projects or other bands.
Can we expect Overlorde for the long run now?
Yes for sure, though I must say it is frustrating. The nature of the underground metal business model for a band like Overlorde does not make it easy for us to create an album. After reuniting in 2000 and releasing Return of the Snow Giant in late 2004, it was our intent to record at least one more album and indeed more if things went well. But because of how the underground music business works and our specific situation (families, etc), it is hard to keep all the band members focused. Music is not our full time career and we basically need to do this on the side. Band members end up having to move away to afford a home for their families, or need to take a second job and that second job takes away from their music availability. Or they have other personal issues that force music to take a back seat. In the end there is just so much time in a day, and when you are forced to feed and house your kids versus record an album that won’t return any money (if any) for over a year, you go with feeding your kids. We have been trying to get a second album ready ever since 2005, but events like I described above keep delaying things.
What can you tell us about Overlorde’s current line up?
There is myself on Flying V and background vocals. George Tsalikis, whom your readers will know from Zandelle, is our singer. George “Thunderdrums” Janeira on drums, and Bobby Devlin on bass and background vocals.
Focusing on yourself, would you mind tell our readers about your own career as a guitar player and what took you to this point?
I took my first guitar lesson in late 1970s. I never developed good music reading skills and I am terrible at copying other people’s guitar parts. But I did learn all my Greek scales and can improvise very well. I can build interesting solos. In the early 80’s I developed as a song and lyric writer with a sense for how to use dynamics to bring excitement to a song. So while I may never be able to play common cover songs very well, I can write. Which is ultimately more important. I also have a side solo project doing instrumentals in the vein of Joe Satriani (www.meflyingv.com). I have endorsements, including one with Steinberg GMBH. Steinberg has released custom presets created by me for the VST Ampack plugin that comes with Cubase and Nuendo.
When it comes to inspiration, what are the albums and musicians that influenced you when you were younger, perhaps even today?
Queen was basically the first rock band I came to know, and this was around 1975. Specifically the albums Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack. Other bands such as early R.E.O. Speedwagon (Gary Richrath on guitar), Rush and UFO when they released their respective 70’s live albums. Once the 1980 arrived, it was Judas Priest, Rainbow, Iron Maiden, and later, Gary Moore. Around 1990, instrumental artists like Joe Satriani and Vinnie Moore.
You obviously have played for several bands throughout your career. How the time with each band influenced the way you make music and work within a group?
I have only had two bands, really. Overlorde and Breaker M.E., which was a heavy rock semi-solo project for a couple of years around 1990. And also my side solo-project, which isn’t technically a band. Breaker M.E. gave me some cool insight for sure, the over the years Overlorde has shown me that you must be proactive not only when writing a song, but when arranging it. Make sure you make the song as exciting and interesting as possible without getting too technical. And on a related note, I have tended to be the person who handles all the “details” in Overlorde. Arranging and coordinating things, etc. This has helped define how I work within a group on more than just a musician level.
Does it get easier or harder to write music as the years go by?
Given the advances in technology and access to history, in a way it is easier. I like to tell real stories in my music that are history or fantasy based. There is more access to stories that will inspire lyrics now and technology makes it easier to develop and scratch-record those ideas. But on the other hand, in the case of Overlorde specifically, the band itself spends less time together than when we were in our 20s. Back then, all we had to worry about was work and playing. And we all lived in the same area. Meaning we spent more time in a room writing together. Having less time to do that now makes it harder for the band to develop those ideas. It takes longer.
According to you, what makes a guitar player?
Inspiration, a good tone, and a love of playing. A desire to put feeling into your playing and convey that feeling to the listener. The ability to make a guitar sing and connect to the listener.
What can you tell us about Overlorde in the coming months? What do you guys have in mind in terms of shows and new music?
Our goal, as it has been ever since 2005, is to release our next album. Once that is done, we hope to play a few one-off shows, hopefully small metal festivals in Europe. Then we will see what happens.
Why the band disbanded in the late 80s after releasing an EP? Why you decided to come back in the early 2000s?
We had self-released our 1987 vinyl EP, but things had not really go much beyond that by late 1988. We had replaced our singer, Pat O’Donnell, with Rod Tyler Loaiza (Rod later sang on the first Symphony X album under the name Rod Loaiza). We had started a demo with Rod in the hope of getting signed to a label, but then drummer Dave Wrenn quit in late 1988. This was followed quickly by singer Rod quitting. Shortly after that, things went bad personally for bassist John “Kong” Bunucci. John had started the band with me, but his mother passed away shortly after those guys quit and her passing had a big impact on him. He was in a bad place, as they say. So the band basically just dissolved.
I mentioned that we had self-released our 1987 EP on vinyl. Just 1,000 copies. When we disbanded, a number of copies were left in stores for sale and we had made a small shipment to Helion Records in Germany. We reunited in 2000 because we started hearing from fans in Europe. People had been buying those records and had been tape trading some of our music. We came to be regarded as one of the top U.S. Power Metal bands from the 80’s. But we had no idea until very late 1999. Once we became aware of this, Dave, John. and I decided to reform and find the perfect singer for us. We did that in late 2000 when we found Bobby “Leather lungs” Lucas. Bobby joined the band as a full member and we released the demo Overlorde 2000. That demo resulted in us signing with the Greek label Sonic Age Records and the release of our album Return of the Snow Giant in late 2004.
What were you doing before forming the current version of Overlorde?
In the 1990’s, before we reunited, I had the band Breaker M.E. and my instrumental project. After releasing Return of the Snow Giant, we have been trying to prepare a new album since 2005. Songwriting, etc. I specifically have been doing whatever I could to keep the band together and make progress. This was especially challenging given that half the band lived far away. As part of this, I identified and obtained technology that would allow us to rehearse in real time over the internet. Rehearsing over the internet is vital for a band as it allows them to spend time as if they are in the same room as opposed to swapping WAV files. Along the way, we had to let singer Bobby Lucas go in 2006. He rejoined in 2008 and things started moving along nicely around 2013 as we began to rehearse over the internet. But then drummer Dave Wrenn left in late 2013 for personal reasons and Bobby Lucas left 6 months after that. Drummer George Janeira joined late 2014 and singer George Tsalikis joined in late 2016. Everything was looking good again and we released the 2017 Demos in July 2017. Serious plans for a new album were coming together. But then Kong quit in January 2018 and was replaced by bassist Bobby Devin a few months later. Given that Kong had done so much songwriting for the new album, we decided to start writing all over again with Bobby Devlin. We currently have seven songs well in process and more in the beginning stages for the next album.
Your 2017 demos had a very classic Heavy Metal sound, reminiscent of what you did with Return of the Snow Giant in 2004. Is that a musical direction that you plan to maintain with your upcoming album?
Yes, absolutely. Some people have noted that we are as much classic Heavy Metal as we are U.S. Power Metal. Both genres are very similar. after all. Basically, we were just a heavy metal band in the 80s that was not singing about girls. We had no idea we were helping to create U.S. Power Metal. We like playing that style, and we have fans that love that style. No need to change anything. We realize that metal will never be our career, so it just makes sense to play what we love as opposed to trying to sound more modern.
Looking back on your career, of what do you feel most proud of?
I am most proud of releasing Return of the Snow Giant. We always knew in the ‘80’s that we had great songs and had a unique approach to metal. When fate smiled upon us and gave us the chance to record and release that music in 2004, it was very gratifying to see the overwhelmingly positive critic and fan reaction. And in 2015, Germany’s Deaf Forever magazine named the album as one of its “Top 100 U.S. Metal Albums of All Time”. It joined albums from Queensryche, Fates Warning, Manowar, and Armored Saint. This all helped to validate what we always knew in the ‘80’s.
Thank you so much for doing this, Mark. Any final message for our readers? Where can we follow Overlorde on social media?
My pleasure, Kevin! To your readers and our fans, I say “thank you” for keeping faith with us. We promise a great album is coming. Meanwhile, if anyone did not already download the 2017 Demos, they can do so at www.overlorde.com. Our social media links and e-mail newsletter signup form are also at that website, should anyone like to follow us.