Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s when music was discovered and appreciated by actually attending shows, buying records, (yes kids, the round black thing made of vinyl) and gigs were a gathering of like minded folk who exchanged information on new music, shared war stories from the pits and formed friendships, the Trash Metal scene was exploding with exciting new sounds. However, none more exciting and versatile as Mordred.
The six piece band consisting of Scott Holderby (Vocals), Danny White (Guitars), James Sanguinetti (Guitars), Art Liboon (Bass), Aaron Vaughan (Keyboards, Vocals & Turntables) and Gannon Hall (Drums) took the Bay Area scene by total surprise and pushed forward creating outstanding compositions that cross pollinated genre’s of music that had yet to be introduced to each other.
Long before Scott Ian had the idea to jam with Public Enemy, Ice-T‘s Bodycount or Rage Against The Machine had even tapped into the idea of splitting atoms with genre’s, Mordred were hammering the hot shit out of this back in the mid 1980’s and with the 1989 debut album “Fools Game” blasting out of the gates with tunes like “The Artist”, “Everyday’s A Holiday” and a Rick James cover of “Superfreak”, there was no question in anybody’s mind that Mordred were the sound of the future.
A small feature on Metal Hammer’s “Hard n’ Heavy” Thrash Metal video and word of mouth introduced them to the European market before they released what was to become the bands most notable 1994 album “In This Life” which took them to many a stage across Europe and North America. What followed was the EP “Visions” in 1992 leading to a few line up changes before the bands final album to date, 1994’s “The Next Room” which eventually let to the disbandment of the group until now.
Present day see’s the original and classic Mordred back in the studio, dusting off the tunes and giving them a well deserved airing. Yes folks, Mordred are back and planing to melt a layer of skin off your face when they hit the stage in Dublin’s Voodoo Lounge in August 22nd. Overdrive had the pleasure of taking with original guitarist Danny White from his home in New York about how this came about and what to expect from the show in August.
OD – How did it come about that the band got back together?
Danny – It’s a funny story. I had not been back to San Francisco in quite a few years and had decided to go back on a vacation. I had spoken to a friend of mine from high school about the possibility getting together and jamming some old tunes. We had a band called something like “Savage Angel” or something like that (laughs). So I made the plans under the impression that I would be jamming with my old high school buddies and I get to SF then find out that the old bass player is in Japan and the plans kind of fell through. However, in the mean time I had been already talking to Scottie (Scott Holderby, vocals) and we just decided that since I was already there we should get together and have a jam over the duration of my stay, which was something like ten day’s or so.
When I got there, a friend of mine offered a studio for us to play in and catch up with everybody. We had a great time. It was not exactly a full line up, but more of an assembly of people that would drop by and jam with us. Art (Bass) was there with Jimmy (guitars) and also Slade Anderson who was a drummer in a band I used to be in call “Mercenary”. We all just hung out and played some tunes and drank. It was a really cool time and when I went back home to New York, I figured that would be the end of it. Out of the blue I get this friend request on Facebook from this guy in Scotland and normally would not take notice, but in this occasion I accepted the friend request. This guy was telling me that we still had a pretty good following over in Europe and what would it take for us to come back over! I was not taking is very seriously at this point but then it started to become a reality.
At this point, I was taken aback with the whole thing and after we had established how much it was going to cost to get us all over there, I had to talk with each member of the band and one by one they all agreed to do it. So that’s were we are with things right now. We have been jamming out the old stuff and writing some new stuff as well. I’m actually heading back to SF on June 2nd to continue to get ready for the upcoming tour and will most likely get over there again in August before we have a send off show in SF.
OD – The reunion show in San Francisco back in 2001 must have been a trip? Do you have any memories from that event or the details that surrounded it?
Danny – I was not part of that show and it was a different assembly of characters from Mordred’s past. I remember getting a call in and around that time. It was around 9/11 I think. I was working as an engineer at Beechwood Studios where I was deep in a project and could not get away to play the show.
OD – Had you any idea that you would be playing shows in Europe since reuniting?
Danny – We did not discuss any kind of touring or recording at any point. We just talked about just jamming again and possibly doing a show in the Bay Area. I had no idea that things were still cooking over in Europe and it was just very surprising when the call came about for us to do this show.
OD – I was at two insane shows in The Marquee back in 91 in London; do you have any memories of those gigs? (Gig Dates – Sunday May 26th and September Saturday 28th).
Danny – I have memories of those show’s for sure. One thing that sticks out for me was that Gannon (Drums) was just playing so fast because we were so hyped up to play. It sounded like he was on five bags of speed (laughs)! And when we got to parts of the songs that just had guitar, I would try to slow it down just a little bit to get a normal speed so I’m not breaking my hand. When he kicks back in, he’s right back up on the train again going 150mph (laughs)! At that point I just knew that I would have to just stick it out and just enjoy the rest of the show.
I also remember that the light show was really great and especially the crowd being awesome. They were having such a good time. Times have really chanced since those shows everywhere. I have heard some really bad stories about the European shows these days with no stage diving allowed any more and that story in the news of Anthony Brewster (Fishbone) being sued by a fan for ¢1.4m is just insane. I hope that people still enjoy the show’s when they go out, but it’s a shame that things have come to this. The recording the gig on the phone thing this is really annoying also, I think that Scottie (Vocals) will have a problem with that. I can see him saying something like “I love you guy’s but put your fucking phones down and let’s get into the music”! You should enjoy the moment during a show, just enjoy the music.
OD – Were those shows filmed? If so where can we pick one up?
Danny – Yea, we filmed those Marquee shows and put them out a while back. It’s called “In This Live” and we are actually planning to re-release it as a re-digitized and remastered very soon. We should have them on sale when we do the shows this summer.
OD – I believe there are plans to release some new material; can you talk a little about a possible release date and album title?
Danny – I have been writing quite a bit. I have about five or six songs at this point but everything just goes in the pot and it’s a full band decision if we choose to use them or not. It’s kind of a back and forth thing with us all when writing music and each person seeing what they can bring to the table and make it better if you know what I mean. I have actually played a couple of tunes to Scottie (vocals) and he has really liked some of my ideas and not so much with others (laughs)! He just suggests that I should go back to the drawing board with some of them (laughs). We have one that we just finished called “The Barroness” which is pretty cool. (listen below)
OD – For me growing up, one of the most memorable album covers was for “Fools Game”. Can you talk a little bit about the artwork on that album?
Danny – Scottie (vocals) would know more about that than me. I can’t remember the guys name who painted it. All I know is that it was an original painting and we all just really liked it. There is actually some really cool sketches of that album cover that we just put up on our Facebook page, which you should should check out. It’s very cool.
OD – Mordred were one of the pioneers in the melting of Metal/Rock/Funk genre’s together which now has become something that is done quite regularly. Did you encounter a lot of people that just didn’t know how to classify you back in those days?
Danny – When we first started writing music and putting ideas together we didn’t want to be just a Metal band. We all listening to different types of music and wanted to put that into our music. I grew up with Thrash and love that genre. I was there when Metallica came up to SF and Exodus were knocking around across the Bay. I know Gary Holt from back in the day and remember seeing Testament when they were Legacy. I was just in love with that music and at the time just prior to it all kicking off I was in LA in the Musicians Institute and a good friend of mine called me and told me to get my ass back up to Bay Area because there was a new type of music happening and he played Metallica for me and I fucking loved it! Saying that, I still love all different types of music. I love Jazz, Soul music, Funk as well as loads more types of different things.
For us collectively, we just wanted to incorporate all the different styles that we love and it just made sense for us to write those different styles into the music. A little bit of it was a conscious decision to put these different styles together and see if it could be done and make it sound natural. I’m a metal head and have been since I was in high-school and with those times there was a lot of negativity in the scene towards bands that were not just straight up Metal. The general feeling around that time was that if your not playing Metal, then your a poser. Thankfully things have changed and people are a little more accepting now. It’s so funny just thinking back, there was a famous interview that James Hetfield gave a while back where he said that when he’s chilling at home with his girlfriend he likes to listen to Sade! People were so pissed off about that, it just made me laugh when I heard it and I was thinking “right on James”!
OD – Coming from San Francisco, can you describe what it was like back in those days of where so many iconic bands have emerged?
Danny – We were all just part of this thriving music scene and we all knew each other. All the high school’s knew each other which was great. I went to McIntyre High School and new guys that were attending Washington and Lincoln high schools which led to us all knowing each other in the clubs. When we would play shows is was great to see everybody. We played the Rock on Broadway, the Kabuki, the Stone, and before that the Keystone in Berkeley and used to go to shows ourselves at Ruthie’s Inn which was more for Punk at that time but then was host to loads of Thrash. Mordred didn’t actually play a show in Ruthie’s if my memory serves right. We used to hang out there all the time, in fact Green Day used to play there quite a bit. We used to play with a lot of Punk Rock bands at the time as there is a real element of Punk in Thrash and it’s a good fit.
Those times were amazing and have giving me such great memories. I remember a local radio station called KUSF with Ron Quintana, who was the DJ. He was the one who was credited with naming Metallica. There was just so much that went on during those times and we just used to hang out at the radio station until five or six in the morning just playing old tunes and having a blast.
When I go back it’s great to see all the old faces. Even though things have changed, all those people still see each other and knowing that there is still a connection through the music, is very cool.
OD – Will there be any new material performed during this tour?
Danny – We are most likely going to play at least one new tune (The Barroness). It all depends how tight we are together. So if we have the time to do some writing between now and the tour then, yea for sure. Our main concern is that we just want to concentrate on playing all the classic original Mordred stuff from “Fools Game”, “In This Life” and “The Vision”.
OD – At Overdrive we are all big vinyl junkie’s and would like to know about the possibility of some exclusive vinyl or merchandise on the tour?
Danny – Yea, we are planning to have some stuff available but we’ll just have to see.
OD – Can you comment on any long term plans for the band at this stage? Will you be doing a North American tour after Europe?
Danny – At this point we are just taking it section by section. We are going to have to see where we are at when we finish the tour. We all have family’s now and careers etc, so the most important thing is that we all have a happy good experience and a good time and we can then see what happens after this show. I think that if we can continue that in some capacity there might be a follow up series of dates, but I just don’t know as of this moment.
Overdrive can safely say that this really is going to be one of the hottest shows of the summer in Dublin, so make sure you get your tickets ASAP and let’s show some support to a ground breaking band that shaped and contributed to our beloved global Thrash scene
Find out more about Mordred.
Words – Oran O’Beirne