–By Keith Brake
WHO: BREAKING BENJAMIN AND FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH WITH NOTHING MORE AND BAD WOLVES
WHEN: TUESDAY AUGUST 7, 2018 AT 6:00 PM
WHERE: HOLLYWOOD CASINO AMPHITHEATRE
On August 7, 2018 The Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre will host a rocking 4 band show featuring Breaking Benjamin, Five Finger Death Punch, Bad Wolves and Nothing More. I had the very distinct pleasure of chatting with Mr. Mark Vollelunga, 3 time grammy nominated artist and Guitarist of Nothing More. Mark graciously carved some time out of his demanding schedule to discuss the current tour, the bands current success, the passing of Vinnie Paul and so much more. See you all at the show on August 7th, until then, have a look at our conversation.
KB: You guys got a new single out, Just Say When, how about you tell me a little backstory on that song and the success that you’re having with it right now.
MV: Yeah, the songs pretty different than the rest of our tunes. We get to do something barebones, and really let the lyrics and melody shine. The song was (birthed?) out of a sort of relationship drama between Johnny and his now ex-wife, but you know, being on the road causes a lot of damage on your relationship, being gone. After the last cycle of our self titled record, we all had to come home and rebuild. And that song lyrically came from a lot of that, it came from a place of limbo, what do we do right now. Do we hold on, or do we let go. And I can relate a lot with that with my wife. Sadly we got to a point of coexisting to where it’s like you’re sort of with a roommate. It’s like the spark is gone, and I think a lot of people can relate to that. There are ups and downs in every relationship and sometimes you can fight through it and come out on the other side, but sometimes it is better to let go.
KB: A lot of people look at what you guys do and they have stars in their eyes, but at the end of the day you guys are all people and you have to live a life, and it’s not always easy being on the road all the time. And that song is on the new album The Stories We Tell Ourselves and you guys are having quite a bit of success with that album as well?
MV: Yeah, it’s going great! Last year, we were on tour in November, and we got a call that we were nominated for 3 Grammys. We were all so shocked and proud beyond any means. That’s one of a musician’s dreams and one of the best recognitions that you can ever achieve. Yeah, we’re stoked. We can say that we’re a Grammy nominated band and artists for the rest of our lives. It’s so cool, and we’re so honored and so blessed.
KB: Sure, it makes all the touring worth it. The Grammy nomination would have to be the ultimate reward for all of the sacrifice. Now, i’ve heard about this wild stage prop you have, it’s a scorpion tail, what is that thing all about?
MV: It’s a pretty big looking thingamajiggy. It’s a metal contraption that our bass player welded together at the front of our stage set. It’s basically like a little drum kit that’s sort of steampunk-esque type design. There’s a kick drum, there’s a snare drum and a few other things that Johnny can play, he was our drummer before he took over singing. We’ve always been a band that dives in to the stage show and do things that are a little different from everyone else that we know. We are entertainers and we enjoy that aspect. Johnny came to rehearsal one day with this little MIDI controller device and it was cool, we piped the guitars and bass through it and he was able to glitch it out and try to do some dubstep type things but all in real time. So we thought it was so cool and that we should do this live, the only problem was that this thing looks like a video game controller. So we can’t have you pressing buttons on this video game controller, so Dan got the idea to really exaggerate all of this into a 15 foot giant, metal sculpture that rises way up in the air with Johnny on top of it. So you see him pushing a lever, and then you hear the guitar sweep up an octave, or press a button and it glitches out the guitars and bass. So yeah, it’s something pretty cool that we’re psyched about and it’s been fun to see the response that it’s had.
KB: Yeah, it sounds pretty incredible; I have full intention of being at your St. Louis date at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre. You had musical upbringing, right? I mean, you’ve been doing stuff musically pretty much as long as you can remember, is that true?
MV: That’s totally correct. I got involved in a local scene, they were auditioning for singing/acting jobs. I was around 8 or 9 when that happened. I did that for a little bit, then I joined the San Antonio Men and Boys choir, and I travelled nationally and internationally singing. And then I grew older ( and my balls dropped) and I didn’t have the singing voice anymore, but I still loved music theory and everything about it and I knew that it was my life, but for whatever reason, the lead vocal position wasn’t in the cards for me. So I picked up the guitar and completely fell in love. Since then, I met Johnny when i was 15 and we started the band and that’s the only band that I’ve ever been in. It’s pretty crazy.
KB: It’s a crazy good accomplishment to be a Grammy nominated band with the first band you’ve ever been in. So, I’ve been listening to a couple of tunes and I was curious on what your inspiration and influences are with your part of the project?
MV: We all really try to be sponges. We try to soak up all the good that comes out of every style of music or art, movies and books, philosophers, all sorts of teachers. So when we’re writing, it doesn’t really limit our creativity. We know we’re a rock band and that is, at the end of that day, what we’re gonna write. Some of the influences that really got stoked me early on are like Metallica, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, all the greats, but then the current artists like Incubus, Ben Folds, Our Lady Peace, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Joey Eppard, and I could really go on. Elton John, Alanis Morissette, I love her lyrical input.
KB: When you listen to the album, at least for me, I love the construction of the album because I can’t exactly put my finger on anything, and I mean that in the most complimentary way. Hearing something new and unique and refreshing. I listen through the album and I hear new things to me, and I’ve been listening to music and covering music for some time, and going to shows, but you guys jumped out at me upon listening to your material, but for someone who’s never heard what you guys are doing and may read this interview, how would you explain to someone who’s unfamiliar to the band, how would you sum up what you guys are doing?
MV: That’s a great question. First of all, thank you for the kind words, it’s exactly what we’re trying to do. We really try to let each song be its own journey and to not put limitations on wherever it may go, and if that rabbit trail doesn’t work, then we’ll find another one. I guess I would tell someone, at the end of the day we are a rock band, but what you get will be something a little different. We are willing to take these risks of being extremely emotional, and vulnerable, and tell stories like The Beatles and Ben Folds; and you talk about these characters in order to fall in love with stories, and we as people love stories since the beginning of time. It’s really exciting for us to be storytellers and do that. That’s a very hard question that you asked, but that’s how I would describe it to somebody.
KB: Like I said, it’s refreshing to hear since so often music kind of falls into a rut and you guys are certainly not doing that. I am anxiously awaiting your live performance; I’m really anxious to see how it portrays and how it plays itself out live. Speaking of that, you guys are touring with some heavy hitters.
MV: Yeah, we are. Right now, this tour is with Five Finger Death Punch, Breaking Benjamin, and Bad Wolves. So it’s definitely a heavier tour, and I think it’s cool for us to stand out in that type of tour. We can still play some of our more metal leaning songs but we are still playing songs like Just Say When too. A good song is a good song, and everybody can hear and understand that. But yeah, after this we’ll go to Europe and go do a tour with Bullet for my Valentine and Of Mice & Men, and when we come home from that it’ll be Thanksgiving and we’ll hit Canada with Three Days Grace, so we’re not stopping ‘til the end of the year. It’s work season.
KB: You guys aren’t stopping at all. It’s work season for me too, concert season has a special way of getting incredibly busy. So, Breaking Benjamin and Five Finger Death Punch are cool to tour with? They’re some of the bigger names out there so the exposure has to be awesome for you guys.
MV: It is great. It’s probably an average of like 15,000 people a night, and that’s extremely awesome. We’ve done tours apart from this tour before with Breaking Benjamin, and Shinedown we did a run, and 4 years ago with Five Finger, Hell Yeah, and Volbeat. So yeah, just because of that history from day one we came in it was just good times. We had already seen all of these people so it’s like “Alright, summer camp, here we go.” There’s no awkward hellos, or I’m gonna see your face for the rest of the tour and not know your name type of thing. It really helps having that history.
KB: You brought up Hell Yeah, what a terrible loss with Vinny Paul, that was a shocker to the music world.
MV: Oh yeah, it’s so sad. I know we weren’t that close with Vinny, but we did get to hang out and have some great conversations. He really was committed to his art and I think his legacy will definitely live on, just like his brother. They’re both tremendous players and extremely influential to the rock and metal scene from here on out. It’s so sad, he was 54.
KB: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. That shook my world a little bit when I woke up and heard that news. Yeah, that’s much too young for anyone. I have a couple more for ya. So, what do you want to say to the St. Louis folks? Like, if there’s people on the fence that are coming out early to catch your set and maybe think “yes, no, maybe so”, what would you say to them?
MV: I would tell them that we’re a band unlike any other band. We care about our stage show, and you’re gonna see some cool things, you’re gonna hear some good songs, we will stand out in this tour as it is more of a metal tour, but I think that’s in the best way. So come listen and jam with us.
KB: Sounds good. And two more quick ones. What’s your least favorite part of being on the road?
MV: That’s easy. It’s just being away from my wife and son. It’s hard and technology has gotten a lot better with FaceTime, and we get to play video games with each other, but i still miss them greatly.
KB: Yeah, I do understand that. And what’s your favorite part of being on the road?
MV: Being able to travel and go to places people only dream of going to. And establishing relationships with some amazing people that you would never meet unless you have a traveling job. Plus, we get to play music, and we get to tell these stories and watch them connect and relate with people and get them through hardships in their life which is the reason that I got involved in this in the first place. Music changed me and I’m so happy, and honored, and fulfilled that people can connect to my words and my music.
KB: I get that, that’s a special feeling for sure. Mark, it’s been a pleasure. That was a great conversation and I wish you guys all the best. Safe travels.