Updated: Nov 9
By Brett Hoag Photography: Brett Hoag (except where noted)
Hail, Metal Heads! Years ago, I found The Metal Voice on Facebook. Through The Metal Voice, I became social media friends with a frequent panel member, Giles Lavery. I first met Giles in person at the 2023 Metal Hall of Fame induction ceremony when he took over vocal duties for Impellitteri's short set following Chris Impellitteri's induction into the Hall.
Giles flew into Los Angeles from Germany for a documentary film project he is working on and to touch base with Mark Zonder on the new Warlord album. He was nice enough to set up an interview with the drummer, founding member and the only musician on every Warlord release, Mark Zonder.
First of all, thank you, Mark, for inviting me into your home studio today and Gentlemen, thank you so much for sitting down with me today.
Mark - My pleasure.
Giles- No problem.
Mark, where did you get the name Warlord?
Mark- Bill [founding guitarist/singer/songwriter, the late William J. Tsamis] had the whole concept and name forty years ago, or thereabouts. He was Warlord. He had the songs, the lyrics, the melodies, the stage show concept, the whole thing.
When did you meet Bill?
Mark- We met when I was playing in a pseudo-cover-original band where the girlfriend of the lead singer knew him from working in a bookstore and thought we would get along well regarding the music that we liked and where we were going with it and the rest, as they say, is history. He came out and saw a show, and then I left the band. It was just Bill and me for a few years, just writing and playing.
What year was this?
Mark- 1979-80, right in there.
What are your influences? What sound were you guys going for?
Mark- Rainbow, Black Sabbath, NWOBH bands. Which was interesting as no one else was doing that except the English bands. We were here [in Los. Angeles] when things started to roll with the first Metal Massacre (MM II) we did with Brian Slagel over there at Metal Blade Records and even the first record, Deliver Us, didn't sound like any of the bands here. You know, they were Ratt, Mötley Crüe, etc. and we were a completely different style of band. It was L.A. Metal. I don't like the term Hair Metal, but it wasn't "metal" per se, but that's when we were coming out. There were other bands at the time. Armored Saint was around, and Metal Massacre (MM I) had Slayer and Metallica on it. That's where it all started.
How would you define Warlord's sound?
Mark- Like Rainbow and Black Sabbath.
Classic Heavy Metal, then?
Is that still your sound?
Mark- Oh, yeah. It always will be. That's kind of what it is. It's based on a lot of the minor scales and the European sound, or whatever you want to call it. I forgot what it's called, the whole Greek scales, because Bill was Greek. It has a certain sound. It's kind of like a Rainbow sound to it a little bit. Blackmoore was a big influence on Bill.
Where did you first run into Giles? (turning to Giles), you sang with them in 2013 for some live shows, right?
Giles- Let me give you a bit of background. Bill and I met when I had a band, Dragon's Claw and Bill heard that. He reached out to me and said he liked my voice. We connected that way and through Facebook and got to know each other. We were talking on Facebook, getting to know one another, then emailing, then talking on the phone--
Mark- Then you are dating. LOL
Giles- Yeah, this was before they had Tinder. LOL. This was before Bill and Mark put Warlord back together in 2012. It came to pass that I was asked to sing and do the tour. I think there were a couple of other guys up for it--
Mark- There is an interesting story to that. I had never met Giles. So we had someone else who was going to sing. Everything was great. We turned the songs in to him to make sure he had them. What does it get down to? Two weeks before the gig?
Giles- Something like that.
Mark- Two weeks before the gig, the guy bails out. He went AWOL, and what was scary about it was that it was someone I knew well. We were stressed for a bit and I asked Bill what we were going to do. He called Giles and bing bang, boom, Giles picked up the microphone and away we went.
Giles- It's a bit like what we discussed earlier, where I would have liked to have been a bit more prepared, but we pulled it off and did some shows in Greece and Germany that went well enough. However, Bill's health wasn't great at this time. He had some stomach issues and a lot of health problems.
Mark- Bill always had health problems right from the beginning. You also have to add here that Giles did sing on our 2013 release, The Holy Empire. He sang the song Kill Zone before the tour as a guest vocalist.
Giles- Bill was very complimentary towards me about my voice and that meant a great deal to me as I was a huge Warlord fan.
Mark- The truth is that the guy Bill had singing the rest of the album couldn't hit the higher register and that style like Giles.
I have to say, I had never heard you sing before and you impressed the hell out of me at the Metal Hall of Fame with Impellitteri.
Giles- Thank you, I really appreciate that. It was a little frustrating for me because it was last minute, whereas if I had just had a good night's sleep and not been running around all day, I could have been at 100%. You saw me at like 60% of what I can do. When I watch that back, I can hear the fatigue in my voice. I'm singing the blues, but I was jet-lagged. If you think that was good, you should get me on a good day. LOL. The coolest thing was Metal Hall of Fame inductee Dee Snider of Twisted Sister came up to me and said, "Dude! Where did that voice come from?" Not even ten minutes later, Todd LaTorre from Queensryche came up and said, "Wow. Dude, who are you?" LOL And I'm thinking, "Well, damn. This is nice."
So, what happened after 2015 and the release of The Hunt for Damien?
Mark- Much of this is based on Bill's health. We do these shows in Greece and they are great. Just fantastic. Bill and I are looking at each other, going, "Wow, it took 30 years, but it's happening". So we made plans to do other shows and record another record. Specifically in the Deliver Us vein, and he [Bill] just got sick. He was sick. I'm the kind of guy who wants to move fast and use every available minute and go go go and Bill wasn't even on a good day. LOL. Then you put the health problems in there and it just didn't go anywhere. It was sad. Then, I think a couple of years later, we played a few more shows in Greece and the Bang Your Head Festival and in Bill's way, he got a different singer. When it came to stuff like that, I was just like, okay. It's not a big deal, whatever you [Bill] want to do, I just love playing those songs. It constantly flashes me back 30- 40 years or whatever it is. Even now, when we are getting ready to play next year, I've already started playing a couple of songs and I'm in there going, "Oh, yeah."
How's your body holding up?
Mark- Effin' great.
What have you been doing? Have you been a session player?
Mark- I have a band called A-Z. We did a record about a year ago. It's the lead singer of the band Fates Warning that I was in for years [Ray Alder]. I had to change some musicians, typical band B.S., but it's going well. I still do a lot of recording, but it's about what I'm doing with my band. I wrote with the guys in the band, arranged the music, over-produced things, and just ran that band. Giles and I run it together. We came out of the blocks with a great record that did really well; it charted, the press was great, and everything was great. Then the band basically dropped the ball because one guy wasn't able to go out on tour and the other guy didn't want to go out without him. You know, just band B.S.
Why does that happen? It seems hard to keep a band together these days.
Mark- It's funny because we had an infamous Zoom meeting and the guy said, "Well, you know, I'm playing with my Rush cover band for the next nine months." Okay, that's great. Let's get another guitar player. We all know seven other guys who can play. Then the other guy goes, "Well, unless it's this lineup, I don't want to go." Right there, it was done. This time around, we will not have that problem. We have that covered if it does come up with contingent guys. The album is almost done; it's on Metal Blade and I can't wait to finish it and get it going.
From the outside looking in, it seems to be that the biggest factor in keeping a band together these days is scheduling, not egos. Have you found this to be true?
Mark- I would say it's more ego and all the stuff that comes with it because if people can communicate, that's what's missing. I mean, there are so many bands out there that don't even have one original member and people are coming and going because it's about the music. Put it this way: if you are going to see Deep Purple because you want to see Ritchie Blackmore and he's not there, then you won't go. If you are going to hear the music, it doesn't matter as long as whoever is playing it is on his level. So, I think it's more about the egos because everybody knows scheduling is a problem. The interesting part is when the new guitarist in A-Z has a heavy-duty day job, and he says, "Hey, if I can't make the shows, I will let you know well in advance and I'll give you three guys who can take my place."
When did Bill pass?
Mark, why did you decide to continue?
Mark- Well, when he first passed, I was like, eff it, it's done. It was him and I, and that's the way it's always been. That was my initial reaction and then, to be honest with you, I got sick and tired of it; put it this way, the last thing Bill would have ever wanted was to hear people do a tribute. He would have sat there and said, "This sucks."
Giles (in best Bill impression)- The guy's not playing it correctly.
Mark- Yeah, exactly! LOL So, when all that stuff started happening and people were coming out of the woodwork, it just didn't feel right. It was ugly and stuff. Then, as time went on and I went through the steps of grieving Bill's loss in my way, I would go back and listen to a song or go into my drum room and play one of those songs and think that on a strictly personal level, I love playing those songs. I don't care if you want to hear it or not. I love playing it. The fact that you want to listen to it is even better, but it really came down to the conclusion that I could see myself doing this. I have Phillip Bynoe, bass player, the same guy since 2013 and Giles, the same guy and we have keyboard and guitar players that would be good, so why not? It's a tribute to the music and it's fun to play. Then we got some interest from a label and I started looking at some of Bill's stuff. He had the music down. Giles wrote some lyrics and that's how the new record came about. Bill had music down and we put it together. Giles flew down to Florida all the time to hang out with Bill. It could be said that Giles knew him better in the last part of his life than I did.
Giles, you live in Germany, correct?
How many miles a year do you fly?
Giles- A lot. It's funny you ask that. In 2019, I was on the road doing so many things that I actually added up the days I saw my apartment. It made me change a few things in my life. LOL
Like rent? LOL. How many days were you home that year?
Giles- I spent 17 days inside my apartment in one year.
Holy road warrior, Batman!
Giles- There were so many things going on and I just said, "This has got to change." I got tired of coming home after three months on the road and finding out my coffee maker didn't work for no apparent reason. When you leave a house empty for long periods, it falls apart. You walk into the bathroom and find that the crown molding has come loose and fallen. I got sick of that.
You mentioned you had a bass player. Who is that?
Mark- Phillip Bynoe.
How long have you been working with him?
Mark- Since the early 2000s with my band, Slavior. He's out with Steve Vai all the time.
Ah, so he can actually play. LOL
Mark- Yeah, you can say that and he's the nicest guy in the world.
Giles- Yes, he is.
We have Phillip on bass, Mark on drums, and Giles signing. Who's your guitar player?
Mark- It will be a couple of guys.
Giles- Our primary guy will be lead guitar player Eric Juris, currently residing in Germany, from a Polish band called Crystal Viper.
Is he German?
Giles- I don't know. I'll have to ask him. He speaks with an accent and he lives in Germany, but then so do I LOL
Where are you initially from?
Giles- New Zealand. Now, getting back to the lineup, we have our good friend Jimmy Waldo on keyboards from Alcatrazz. He's what I call a keyboard player's keyboard player because he's not just doing the scales all the time. He has atmosphere, ambient parts and stuff that adds color. I love that Tony Banks Genesis kind of stuff.
Mark, you mentioned that from the beginning, the whole thing was Bill's. I assume, with his untimely passing, this time it is yours?
Mark- No. It's still Bill's concept and everything. We are not planning on changing anything up. Warlord never had a problem with egos because we were fortunate enough to have guys playing with us who wanted to be there. Everyone understands their role per se.
You said the new Warlord album is done and is coming out on High Roller Records, though I can't mention when right now. What's the name of the new Warlord record?
Giles- XXXX XXXXX XXXXX Due to contractual obligations, I cannot reveal the name now. We can play you a song if you'd like.
That was amazing! Let's talk about that new single. You said that was all Bill's music, and Giles, did you write the lyrics?
Mark- Yes, it is Bill's music.
Giles- Yes, and the vocal melodies.
For those who may not know, what do you mean by vocal melody?
Giles- Well, you can take a piece of music and rap over it, or you can sing something in triplets or melodic, or you can do a chant. The vocal melody is what you will do with your voice over the music.
Mark- It's important to note that with this recorded, Giles was dialing into what Bill was saying with the music. Everyone who contributed to it went down that road.
Giles- Jimmy was analyzing the old records. The mini Moog and synth that was on Deliver Us. We were consciously keeping in tune with Warlord. I didn't write anything that I thought would have been something that Bill would not have been comfortable with; it had to sound like Warlord.
Mark, you are still a beast, as evidenced by that new single.
Mark- Thank you!
How are your knees? Your wrists? Your back? I see a scar on your right knee. Did you have surgery?
Mark- That was years ago. I had an allograft. I'm 65 years old. I never drank, I never smoked and I work out every day. In fact, I was at the gym before I picked up Giles. I do a lot of cycling. I think the real key to your answer is two things. One, I was taught the right way. I came up in the public school system and private lessons. You had to perform and pass tests. I've never had a problem. The second key is playing every day. If you're playing every day, you are not coming out of retirement, so to speak, when you do play.
And you've been playing every day since you were how old?
Mark- Seven. Well, you know, back when I was a kid, I wasn't playing every day as there was basketball, girls, school and a job.
How's your shuffle?
Wow. What a great question! No one ever asks me that. It's a perfect 7/7. I actually teach it in my drum seminar.
You also have a beautiful house. You said earlier that there wasn't any money in the music business. I assume all this came from other ventures?
Mark- I've owned a building in North Hollywood for about 27 years with ten recording studios. It was a rehearsal space for nearly 15 years and then the music business changed and I went back through and made them all little recording studios. The same guy who did this (gestures to his home studio) did those.
Are your studios busy?
Mark- I've been very fortunate that they have been booked for several years.
Warlord was going strong in the late 70s and through the 1980s. You said that you never drank or smoked. How did you avoid all the rock star excesses for which the 80s are infamous?
Mark- It was all around. It was just the way I was raised and I have this expression, "Life is complicated enough as it is without being high. I can't imagine what it would be like trying to navigate if you were high." I wasn't a Saint by any means, but I was never into anything heavy. I never bought anything.
How difficult was recording the new album with Giles living in Germany?
Mark- It's not just him. It's everybody and something I've done for years. When you have professionals, everyone is prepared when they get there. You will have a few days of rehearsal, but you better come prepared. With Fates Warning, we did that all the time as everyone lived in different states. You had to be ready for rehearsal. You better not come in and go, "How did that one part of that one song go again?" Rehearsal is more about getting the band tight.
Giles- People make too big of a deal about the whole Europe/America thing. I got on a plane yesterday and here I am.
Are any gigs on the horizon?
Giles- Yes. We have some upcoming festivals booked for next August, but we can't name them as the Festival hasn't been announced yet and we will book some gigs around those.
Are they in Europe?
Giles- Yes, Sir. That's where the audience is. We might do something over here, but predominately, traditional metal, particularly of the early 80s, is far more popular in Europe than it is anywhere else.
Where has your most significant success come from?
Mark- Both with Fates Warning and Warlord. I mean, Bill was Greek and Jim, the guitar player in Fates Warning, is Greek. I think that the Greek fans are crazy about their metal. I will never forget the first time I was there with Fates Warning in the early 90s. It was like being in The Beatles. It was nuts. We were there with Sanctuary and the fans followed us everywhere.
Where's your favorite place to play?
Mark- Japan, probably. I've only been there once and played in a tiny, no-nothing venue, but Japan was the one completely different place. Europe is Europe. It's all kind of very similar. There is a homogenous European culture. But the one time I went to Japan with my band, Slavior (Philip Bynoe was there), it was really different.
Giles- It is very different.
Mark- It's not Western civilization.
Giles- It's a different way of doing everything. I've been to Japan about 20 times with and it is a different way of saying hello, another way of saying goodbye. It's almost like you can upset somebody by making a gesture that is second nature in the West. I mean, they know that about us, so they don't expect you to walk in the door and be Japanese. But there are certain dos and don'ts.
What was your least favorite place to play?
Mark- Chicago, the Vic Theatre.
That was without hesitation. LOL Why the Vic?
Mark- Fates Warning was opening up for Pantera. Remember, Pantera used to be a Glam Metal band and our manager at the time thought it would be a great idea to bill Fates Warning and Pantera together. We were doing the fluffy shirt thing at the time and all that, doing really well. And I think someone forgot to tell him that Pantera had changed and was now hard-core. We went on wearing our little fluffy shirts. People were throwing cigarette butts at us, along with money. I think I made about $1.25 that night! LOL The place was packed and there was one Fates Warning fan. You know, and the guy all into the mathematical rock with the button-down shirt, short hair and the Pantera fans were giving him tons of crap. When we realized the situation, we were like, okay, cut that song, and that one, and that one, and that one. LOL Then the promoter got upset because we cut our set short. We were like, "Dude, we were fearing for our lives. Are you kidding us?" That is the one gig that stands out that I will never forget.
I have to ask you my go-to drummer question. Krupa or Rich?
Mark- Buddy Rich was the first to make the drums a lead instrument. Buddy Rich is the guy who made being a flamboyant drummer and having that rock star attitude cool. He was one of the first guys from behind the kit running the show like this was my band and this is my gig. You are playing for me. Do you know who was an exceptional drummer and a far better entertainer than all those guys (Krupa, Peart, Shaughnessy)? Sammy Davis, Jr. Sammy was the best performer I've ever seen.
Giles, who is your favorite vocalist?
Giles- I don't have one. I have a whole list of them.
I don't want a list. I want one.
Giles-Well, for metal, I will have to go with Ronnie James Dio.
The thing that amazed me about Dio was his power. Why did you pick him?
Giles- It wasn't just his power, but his phrasing, his songwriting. He was the whole package. When he joined a band, he elevated that band.
Mark- The thing that people overlook is his control. He had all that power, but man, he could control it. When he kicked it in, it didn't go up to a falsetto; it was deep and manly. There are a million great singers, but he has to be in the conversation.
Giles, who is your favorite, regardless of style?
Giles- Lou Gramm. He's the A-Z of singers, in my opinion. Everyone else I could name comes from that Lou Gramm area.
Mark, who is your favorite drummer?
Mark- Ansley Dunbar. I stole a lot of stuff from him when he was in Journey. I grew up in the Bay area and played along with those first three Journey albums constantly. I stole all his riffs, high-hat stuff, and all of that.
Giles, you also manage a bunch of bands as well. How many are you working with at the moment?
Giles- I'll give you the main ones: Girls School, Onslaught, Alcatrazz, and I do A-Z with Mark.
How difficult is it to manage those bands while being in a band?
Giles- Here's the biggest nightmare for a manager: a band that doesn't have a record deal or a booking agent. because then they are looking to you for everything. I can't call every club in Europe trying to book a band. I only manage established artists.
That's a wrap, Gentlemen. Thank you very much. This was awesome.
Mark- It's been my pleasure.
Giles- Hey, no problem. You're welcome.
Bills Place Studios--
Giles Lavery Management--