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Tales From The "Palace" With Malice Guitarist Mick Zane

By Michael Fischer, Writer, Cartoonist
Sunday, February 4, 2007 @ 9:37 AM


Reunion, CD, and DVD in the wo

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If England has it’s Saxon, then America has it’s Malice! A heavy five-piece monster wall of guitar, thundering bass and drums layered with thick, melodic, screaming vocals, Malice is straight ahead power rock, and if you're not careful, a song like “Hellrider” will make you get a speeding ticket in your car.

It’s been at ten years since a sound has been heard from the Malice boys. They’ve been through personnel changes, offshoot bands (Monster, Smash Palace), but the core members, Lead Guitarists Mick Zane and Jay Reynolds as well as Bassist Mark Behn , the band that brought you songs like Godz of Thunder, No Haven For the Raven, Breathin’ Down your Neck, License To Kill and Sinister Double are back, with new lead singer Brian Allen (Last Empire) and long time Portland, Oregon friend and drummer Pete Holmes (Michael Schenker, Black n’ Blue, Black Symphony), and they are ready to launch their long-awaited reunion on the metal world.

Which leads us to our KNAC.com interview with Malice’s infamous Lead Guitarist “Mick Zane.” I first befriended Mick in around 1986 when Malice played a rock club in Nashville my girlfriend managed and bar tended called Sal’s Place. I moved to LA one year later in 1987, and got a job working for a local LA Rock Promoter named Dennis Blanchette. Dennis did live sound for bands like Racer X and he owned a rehersal studio in North Hollywood where I worked babysitting bands and running the studio. At the time, I was looking for a band to play in and found a Malice index card with Mick Zane’s phone number in Dennis’s rolledex. I thought to myself “I’m going to call up Mick and see if he remembers me from Sal’s Place in Nashville?” I called Mick, and he says “Hey dude, where having a party tomorrow night, come on over and bring your guitar!” Over twenty years later he’s still one of my best friends and like the brother I never had. Mick Zane is the kind of friend that will help you move your entire apartment across the valley at 3 am for a cold pizza and a hot case of beer. In the day, you could never out party Mick. He could rock you under the table my friend! Now, to tell us about the past, present and future of Malice, blazing axe-wielder, and original founding member, all the way from the exciting San Fernando Valley in sunny Southern California, please give it up for “Mr. Hellrider” himself, Mick Zane!

(As the crowd goes wild)

KNAC.COM: So Mick how's it going eh?!?

ZANE: “Hello Cleveland!” It’s going pretty good, (Pauses) ah pretty good.

KNAC.COM: You’re a big hockey fan, how was the Kings game last night?

ZANE: It was quite a memorable evening. Many NHL past greats and Los Angeles Kings Alumni players gathered to honor Luc Robitaille (NHL Hockey Player) and retire his number twenty jersey in the rafters of the Staples Center “ya' know eh.” It was a great night until (Sigh) the Kings lost again to Wayne Gretzky’s pesky Phoenix Coyotes.

KNAC.COM: Do you have season seats?

ZANE: Yes, I’m a King’s Hockey season seat ticket holder for the last few years. I like go to see them bash each other around and put the biscuit into the net. NHL Ice Hockey is one of the greatest games. You can drop the gloves, and pound on another opponent. Be assessed a five minute penalty, and get right back in the game! I really like to go to Kings Games because I dig the $10 beers, and $4 hot dogs!

KNAC.COM: Hockey Rocks!

ZANE: It’s a good way to get your aggression out!

KNAC.COM: Where are you originally from?

ZANE: I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. That is the point of origin for the Zane Unit.

KNAC.COM: What was it like growing up in the 1970s Portland Rock Scene?

ZANE: Well, for the major concert tours, you always felt like it was a big stop over for the bands coming through town. It was always cool to go see the bands you get to hear about. Actually getting to hook up and party with the bands like Van Halen after local shows was like being a kid in a candy store. It was fun because I was a young guitar player. Playing guitar and going to concerts is how I spent a lot of my time in my teenage years because it was always raining in Oregon. Thanks to the sleet and hail, I was inside shredding it!

KNAC.COM: When you were a kid, at what concert or moment did you realize you wanted to play guitar?

ZANE: That's tough, I’d probably have to say when I saw Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush and Judas Priest around the Stained Class era.

KNAC.COM: What was your first concert as a kid?

ZANE: (Laughs), I’m going to date myself on that one! My first concert was Crosby, Still, Nash & Young in 1969. My dad was working the show and took me along. He sat me in a seat and said, “I’m gotta go off and do my work here.” My dad kinda briefed me on what was going to happen. He said, “The lights go down, the band plays, the lights come back up, and I’ll come back and get you.”

KNAC.COM: When did you first meet Mark Behn and the rest of the band?

ZANE: Well, I met them all at different times in different bands and situations. I met Jay (Reynolds) first.

KNAC.COM: Did you go to high school with Mark?

ZANE: We went to rival high schools. He went to Madison High School; I went to Benson High School. I had always heard about him because he was quite the baseball player. It was pure coincidence that we got together. Mark placed an ad in the local paper in Portland called the “Nickel Ads”. The music ad said, “Bass player seeks band!” “Influences Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, and Rush.” And I just thought “Oh my God” what a great three influences right there. And so I had to call Mark up, to get together and jam.

KNAC.COM: So Mark was looking for a new band?

ZANE: Yes. His band at that time called Karma had just broke up with this guy named Marty Albers who was a buddy also. They had just parted ways, and Mark said he was looking for something new just like me. So I called Mark up and responded to his ad and we got together. Meeting Mark for the first time was funny. I didn't know how tall he was until I met him (Mick and Mark are both 6 foot 6 inches tall). I opened the door and looked at Mark face to face and said, “All right, another musician as tall as I am, I can look him in the eye on stage.”

KNAC.COM: (Laugh) The two tall book ends! Is Jay from Portland too?

ZANE: No, Jay is actually from Texas. He moved up to Portland because his dad was transferred there because or work or something. I met Jay actually through another mutual friend and bass player named Matt McCort (Wild dogs, Dr. Mastermind). After I met Jay we started playing together in a band called Rude Awakening. It was like a party band, we played a lot of AC/DC and cover stuff.

KNAC.COM: How about drummer Pete Laufman?

ZANE: I met Pete through Mark. We played in a cover band up in the local Northwest Club Scenes called The Ravers.

KNAC.COM: Did you hook up with your original Malice singer, James Neal in Los Angeles?

ZANE: No, I met James in Portland too. I was looking for another band to play in. I was playing with this one set of guys and we were jamming for a couple months. I wasn’t really stoked about the band and the bass player came to me and said “Hey, I know your not into what's going on here, but I jammed with these other guys, and we’ve got this singer, and you should come over and hear him.” So, I ended up going over to this little house in North Portland, walked down into the basement and there was James. It was funny because the first time we jammed, the drummer didn’t show up. It was me, a bass player, and James. We just started jamming going through some stuff, and then James opened his mouth. Man, and this ungodly, vocal creation just leaped out and I was in total amazement. Although James will not be a part of the current reunion tour, the band would like to wish the best to James and our former drummer Cliff Carothers. Their contributions to Malice are indescribable. James’ on stage personality will always be recognized and infamous with the original Malice image.

KNAC.COM: So what's on tap for the upcoming Malice Reunion?

ZANE: At this point, the Malice Reunion consists of three original members, which include myself, Mark on bass, and Jay on guitar. Throughout the years we’ve played with other musicians in different situations and we’ve decided to bring drummer Pete Holmes into the mix. And then through another band in Portland that Jay recently played in, we decided to audition vocalist Brian Allen.

We contacted our original singer James Neal, and he said he didn’t want to be involved with a reunion for now. Jay is currently out on the road touring with Metal Church. So Mark and I are writing material and coming up with ideas for the new record here in my home studio sending songs to Brian to write lyrics for our demo.

KNAC.COM: How does Brian sound on the old Malice songs?

ZANE: Brian sounds awesome! (Laughs) I mean. I don’t think I would be doing this if I had any doubt in him. I was originally skeptical, because obviously James created quite a legacy to live up to vocally. James was a top performer and vocalist, and it was after we decided to go with another singer in the Malice situation. It was really difficult to find a singer like James that could deliver that kind of high-level performance that we needed for the Malice material. Jay came to me and said, “I got this guy, and he can sing all this stuff no problem.” My response was like, “Sure, how many times have I heard that before?” Jay said “No really, check him out!” Jay gave me Brian’s bands web site (Lastempire.com). We auditioned scores of singers looking for the right guy. So, for Brian to just walk in, and pick up the mic, and nail it was like a total relief that we didn’t have to endure all that again.

KNAC.COM: What was the story with James when the band broke up back in the day?

ZANE: Well, the band was going through a lot of stress after some of the tough situations we encountered. We were living in New York City touring heavy all over the United States, Canada and Europe. The last straw was when we went to Europe with Slayer. Basically from all the abuse, physical and mental. James' voice pretty much gave up the ghost. Upon returning to the US after the Slayer Tour. We learned that he was diagnosed with nodes on his vocal chords. They are calcium build ups on the vocal chords and require surgery. Nodes come from many situations, but I suppose it’s from James abusing his voice. So we we’re faced with him needing surgery. “What do we do?” Put Malice on hold for two years until he recovers? At that point, there was some real divisiveness going on in the band with our direction and regarding just feelings about members within the band.

KNAC.COM: Atlantic Records wasn’t really helping much either?

ZANE: Atlantic Records was always in the background. I never felt like they we’re totally behind us. They gave us marginal publicity, and very little marketing support. Basically, Malice felt like we we’re number 263 on a list of 500 of signed Atlantic Artists. After James left, Atlantic said, “Look, you can get a new singer, we’ve still got you on your contract, and we’ll do another record with you.” But obviously Atlantic would want the first right of refusal, and they would want to hear the singer. Basically what it said to me was, “We were on our own.” We were just trying to patch up Malice. We were right on the edge of rock stardom, and then everything crumbled right in front of us. It was a tough situation because Mark and I were trying to audition singers and pull it together. And then Jay was kinda going off with his other interests, and was auditioning for Megadeth. At the time it was chaotic, and there didn't feel like there was a lot of one for all, all for one going on. So Mark and I ended up leaving the Malice situation and pursued forming a band with one of the singers we auditioned named Mark Weiss (Yngwie Malmsteen). And then we hooked up with Pete. As we were working with the new project with Mark Weiss on vocals we decided that, “Hey this isn’t really Malice, it’s something else, something new.” So we decided that we’re going to do our separate project, which in time became called “Monster”.

KNAC.COM: I understand Malice is receiving a lot of nice offers from rock promoters eager to get you guys on the Head Banger Festivals in Europe this summer?

ZANE: Yeah, it’s kinda ironic and funny in a way because we worked so hard at it in the 80s trying to get Malice exposed. And back then it was nearly impossible to get anything heavy on the radio. Now the situation’s so much different. It’s cool to get that kind of response that people are even interested, because let’s face it; it was 16 years ago. We’ve got some great responses from promoters looking to book us for European rock festivals this summer and we’ve even got an offer to play The Monterey Metal Festival in Mexico. We are looking at touring the US after Europe possibly in the Fall of 2007 or early 2008. And we’ll probably do even a couple surprise Malice spontaneous gigs in the LA or San Diego area to hone our craft.

KNAC.COM: Who created all the pyro and special effects for Malice shows?

ZANE: Frank Pope! “The ole’ Green Beret himself!”

KNAC.COM: Didn’t Frank used to work on classic TV shows like “Emergency” blowing up stuff?

ZANE: Yes! Frank was a Television Movie and Special Effects Technician. He did everything from bullet hits to flipping cars over, and blowing up gasbags to create huge fireball explosion effects. He was good, and he knew his craft. Not only that, Frank trained in the Vietnam War for it. I was always confident in Frank that he knew what he was doing and wasn’t going to catch us on fire or blow up my amps or anything.

KNAC.COM: I heard James got into a fist fight with singer Jack Russell from Great White once?

ZANE: Yes unfortunately. That happened at a party in Redondo Beach, California, on New Years Eve. I just heard everything second hand from Don Dokken. James and Jack Russell were at a party going note for note belting out screams back and forth and as ego maniac singers will have it. It was pretty much like drawing the line in the sand and saying “Hey, here’s what I can do, now step over!” So, I guess Jack took offense to James showing off his high octave range and they ended up bar room brawling. I saw Jack several times since and mentioned the fight with James. Jack had a few good laughs about it. It did make the local papers when we were living down in Redondo in the early days of Malice.

KNAC.COM: You have some crazy stories about opening for Slayer in Europe. I hear those were some rough crowds.

ZANE: Yeah, there was defiantly some excitement, and artillery. There was a lot of shit going on over there. I remember before going to England to open for Slayer, Chris Holmes (W.A.S.P.) told me to get some plastic squirt guns, and fill them up with urine. Then leave them on the drum riser in case any of the fans harassed us. I was thinking “Yeah right, it’s not that bad. It can’t be that bad?” I also remember guitarist George Lynch (Dokken,Lynch Mob) telling me “To just forget about stage clothes.” “And get yourself a garbage bag, poke two holes in it for your arms, and pop one in the middle for your head, and pull it over you.” Because at the time in England, Slayer crowds throw so much stuff, and spit and throw beer. I learned the hard way after the first night we played in New Castle with Slayer. I’m out front with the spotlight on, starting the song “Godz of Thunder” getting hailed with a shower of everything from cigarette butts, and coins. Slayer fans tossed glasses at me with beer still in them, spit, you name it! What ever they could get their hands on they we’re throwing it at us. So the next day I went out and bought a couple squirt guns, and proceeded to follow Chris Holmes’ instructions. Before the show Mark and I pissed in them, and put them on our drum riser and told the band, “Hey if you get any shit from any of these fucking wankers, there’s the squirt gun!” It didn’t take long. I think the next show was Nottingham England. There was this particular fan that was harassing our singer, he was pissing him off spitting at him, and flipping James off as he performed on stage. I was looking at James, and pointing at the squirt gun wondering when he was going to break. And finally James grabbed the squirt gun (full of piss) and went up and started pumping the guy in the head with it. The guy must have thought it was something to drink. Because he opened his mouth for a few short seconds until his eyeballs popped out of his head when he realized it was my piss.

KNAC.COM: That's funny! You don’t see that on “VH1’s Storytellers!”

ZANE: Then, later in the tour we played Belgium and unfortunately during Slayer's set a fan was stabbed to death in the mosh pit. Malice had already played. The local Belgium police had to call in their version of the American National Guard with full artillery and shut down the whole arena and search everybody leaving the concert. I was watching the Slayer show from the balcony and saw the whole mosh pit just kinda smoothed away from one area. And there was a body lying on the floor in the middle.

KNAC.COM: Tell us about the framed photo hanging in your studio of you as a teenager playing guitar along side your hero Glen Tipton (Judas Priest). How did you get to meet Glen Tipton and get your picture taken with him jamming?

ZANE: Yeah, that was pretty cool! That was just another chance occurrence. The first time I met him was when I was a kid and my dad worked the local rock concerts up in Portland Oregon. I had full backstage access and got to work some of the shows myself. I met Glen during a local Judas Priest show in Portland I was working and said “Hey, we have this rehearsal studio all set up with Marshall Amps, and drums.” “We have twenty cases of beer so come over after the show and we’ll party and jam”. Glen said, “Give the address to my chauffeur.” So, I gave my address to Glen Tipton’s limo driver never expecting them to show up. This was during an early Judas Priest Tour when they were touring with UFO. So that weekend, me and my high school friends were all hanging out in our rehearsal studio. We had told our friends so I had about 15 people hanging out waiting for Glen to come over. It’s midnight. At 2 am, there’s a knock at the door, and I open it! The concert promoter is standing there and he says, “I have members of Judas Priest and UFO in the Limo. Is if safe to bring them in?” I laughed and said, “Hell yeah! Bring those guys in here!” So who walks in? Glen Tipton, UFO singer Phil Mogg drummer Andy Parker, and guitaristPaul Chapman. They all came in and we ended up jamming with them until the wee hours of the morning drinking beer and partying. I got to play “Red House” with Glen, which was really a treat.

KNAC.COM: How old were you at this time?

ZANE: I was 19 years old.

KNAC.COM: I heard you got pulled over by the Police once on your way home after a Malice concert, still wearing your stage clothes.

ZANE: (Laughs) Yes, that was a funny incident that happened when Malice was playing the Long Beach Arena with Saxon and W.A.S.P.. At the time, I had a girlfriend that lived in down in Palos Verdes. Rather than change clothes, shower and do all that stuff at the arena, I thought, “Well, I’ll just grab my stuff and jump in the car, and drive over to Palos Verdes and get cleaned up at my girlfriends house.” Well on the way speeding from the Long Beach Show, I got pulled over by the cops (I don’t think I was going that fast) on the Vincent Thomas Bridge. The two cops come walking up as I’m getting out of my car on the bridge, and I’m all decked out in my Malice stage clothes, leather boots, and my long hair standing straight up in the air. I had the whole metal regalia on! The two cops were looking at me like I was from another planet. That was funny. Needless to say, I still got a ticket.

KNAC.COM: Any chance of a Malice DVD?

ZANE: Yes, we will be also releasing a new Limited Edition DVD of some never seen before Malice concert footage from the early 1980s and maybe if your lucky with James in the cage!

KNAC.COM: So, we hear you’re going to be a proud father soon?

ZANE: Yes, my significant other half Michelle and I are very excited and pretty stoked. I’m actually going to be the father of a little baby girl here in March. I’m currently building her a Custom Anvil Crib complete with Sesame Street and Malice graphics!

KNAC.COM: Do you have a name picked out for her yet?

ZANE: No, we have names picked, but we just haven't settled on the final name. So far we’ve already ruled out “Rosie, Paris, Oprah and Wilma”.

KNAC.COM: When your daughter is sixteen, will you ever let her go out with a musician?

ZANE: (Laughs for about one minute) Ya’ know what? I’d have to reserve judgment on that question. We’ll see what happens. I’m sure, ya' know (pauses) there’s some really nice musicians out there. (Laughs again) We’ll just leave it at that!

KNAC.COM: How is the new material sounding for the new Malice?

ZANE: For me it’s sounding great! When you have a killer new singer like Brian that can really rip balls…I can feel free to write as slamming as material as I want to put out, and know that he’ll come up with something that will match it in intensity. It’s been cool. I got a bunch of great ideas stewing now. I’m obviously going for guitar oriented material so that Jay and I can interact on material together with solos, harmonies etc.

KNAC.COM: I know hard core 80s metal fans are salivating to see some old school straight ahead rock like Malice. Low tuning knuckle bands are a dime a dozen these days. It’s a great time to be rebellious!

ZANE: Love us or hate us! We’re Malice!

www.MaliceMusic.com

Interview conducted by Michael Fischer. check out his site: ToonsOnIce.com


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