MARK KNIGHT INTERVIEW:
May 24, 2010
Websites: www.myspace.com/markknightmusic – www.worrybeads.com
Bang Tango were one of the most unique bands to come out of the late ’80s Sunset Strip scene, and guitarist Mark Knight was a part of it all. The original Bang Tango band disbanded in the mid ’90s but vocalist Joe LeSte has kept the band alive with a revolving door line-up. Now it is time for the remaining original members to have their own fun, recruiting singer Michael DeMay to play a few shows as Bang Tango Redux. While revisiting his past, Mark Knight is also working on a solo album and has just released a new CD with the reformed Worry Beads. In this interview Mark talks about his expectations for the Bang Tango reunion and why Joe LeSte isn’t involved.
Sleaze Roxx: It was recently announced that Bang Tango were reforming with new vocalist Michael DeMay. First off, what led you and the other original members to get back together after all this time?
Mark Knight: We did a CD in 1994 and it wasn’t released in the States. We never really had a chance to perform or play it live. so we always wanted to do it. We’ve all been doing different things. We did a reunion a couple of years back with the original members and we had wanted to go and do some shows. It felt like the time was right so we decided let’s do it. It’s more about playing the new stuff off the new record and going out and banging it out again — it’s been a while.
Sleaze Roxx: What do you think it will be like to work with the guys again after so much time apart?
Mark Knight: I think it’s going to be like riding a bike. Like I said, we did it a couple of years back — we played together. It was pretty natural. It should be a lot of fun because I can revisit the stuff again.
Sleaze Roxx: How did you decide on Michael DeMay to front the band?
Mark Knight: Michael was in a band with me prior to Bang Tango in the early ’80s.
Sleaze Roxx: So you have known him a long time.
Mark Knight: Yeah, years. He had contacted me through Facebook because he saw the stuff I was doing in my band the Worry Beads and he liked what I was doing. He asked me to write a couple of tunes for him. I was busy doing my solo stuff, and Worry Beads, so I said how about coming and jamming with the original Bang Tango lineup — so that is how it went down. It was kind of a brainstorm, fluke thought, and I threw it out there — and Kyle Kyle had played with him too in bands back in the ’80s, so he knew him. He is kind of a long lost family member. To be honest we haven’t even rehearsed or tried it out yet, it’s still conversations. We are just throwing the ideas around of how it’s going to work. We don’t even know yet as of now, but we are all up for trying it out.
Sleaze Roxx: Was Joe LeSte contacted to be part of this reunion?
Mark Knight: We had tried to contact Joe in 2009 because we wanted to do a 20 year reunion of Psycho Cafe and the release of the band Bang Tango, but no one could really contact him. We tried and tried but there were no returned calls so it never evolved into anything. So we gave up on that.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there some bad blood there? Why wouldn’t he get back to you?
Mark Knight: There is no bad blood with me. It was something we wanted to do with him but he didn’t come around. I don’t really know. There is no communication — it’s gone with him, so I don’t know where he is at with it.
Sleaze Roxx: With this reformation you are going to call it Bang Tango or give it a different name?
Mark Knight: We are going to call it Bang Tango Redux which is a reissued version of it. It’s not like we are going to go out and kick start the band again. I have my own band so I’m busy doing that. We just want to get together and do a couple of shows — that’s really all it is. We will see where it takes us but we don’t have big plans, just go back and revisit it and have some fun — play together again. We are doing it for the music more than anything.
Sleaze Roxx: I know it’s still early but do you have any idea what sort of set list you will play? Do you think you will play anything off Love After Death?
Mark Knight: Yeah a lot of that stuff. Probably the more edgier, heavier stuff rather than the early Bang Tango stuff. Mike DeMay is a bit more of a powerhouse rock singer as compared to Joe’s stylistic style. Mike is a heavier singer I would say, so we are probably going to lean towards the heavier sound. We are looking forward to trying it out. We will see, we just got together.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s still pretty early isn’t it.
Mark Knight: Yeah it’s really early. I’m leaving on tour next week to do my own solo thing in the South — doing a bunch of gigs. I’ve got my band the Worry Beads, which has just released a CD, so that is where my head is at right now but this is something we are definitely going to pursue, Bang Tango wise, and looking at touring in the summer, August actually. Getting out and playing.
Sleaze Roxx: So the Worry Beads are back together again then?
Mark Knight: Worry Beads was originally me, Kyle Stevens, Tigg Ketler and a different bass player from Bang Tango. We did that for a while and then I put this band Gravy together and basically got involved back in the Worry Beads again. Worry Beads has been together for three years now and we just released a new CD called Iron Spittin’ Horse and it’s picking up. We got a lot of touring in the South.
Sleaze Roxx: Your projects like Gravy and the Worry Beads are a bit of a departure from Bang Tango so why do you want to revisit the past now? Does it seem like a step backwards?
Mark Knight: That’s a good question. I just feel like doing it. No other reason than I just want to crank it out, play some heavier stuff and go back and do it and reconnect with some of the old fans. I’ve got a solo record that I will be putting out with some pretty heavy cats that played on it. I want to get out and do my old stuff and its part of my history, it’s part of the music I did and now is the time — may as well go out and do something with it.
Sleaze Roxx: I always thought Bang Tango was one of the more original bands from the late ’80s Sunset Strip scene. Back then did you know you were part of something special and different?
Mark Knight: Yeah, I thought we had a different unique sound, image and visual. We were caught in the middle of the alternative, like Red Hot Chili Peppers sort of direction, which is like the other side of the track from the Sunset Strip scene. But we also connected with the Sunset Strip sort of bands, so we were kind of in the middle there. Some considered us an alternative kind of band back then but still the Sunset Strip took us in as well eventually — but definitely different from the run of the mill bands I would say.
Sleaze Roxx: Why do you think Bang Tango were never bigger. Do you have any theories on that?
Mark Knight: I think that some of the reasons were some of the decision making with the label. At the time we were hitting there were a couple of things that just went down, like wrong songs released as singles. We never really quite caught the break on the big tours to really turn it over real big. We were always trying to get on some major tour — we would come up with some, but never the ones that ever really exposed us to the next level.
Sleaze Roxx: What were those early days on the Sunset Strip really like? Do you think we will ever see a scene like that happen again?
Mark Knight: I don’t think in L.A., but I’m sure somewhere. It was madness. I grew up here in Los Angeles. It was like a parade of people on Sunset — hundreds of band members, musicians and girls running around. It was crazy. Every club was packed. It was a huge scene.
Sleaze Roxx: It was a pretty magical time wasn’t it?
Mark Knight: It was a magical time I have to say. It was really an exciting time and probably one of the biggest music scenes in rock history. It was such a huge scene and so much talent was coming out of there. The whole thing kicked off with Van Halen, early Quiet Riot, and some of those bands starting that whole sound out and it all evolved from there.
Sleaze Roxx: What are some of your most outrageous memories of that time?
Mark Knight: Oh man, there are so many. Countless nights on the Strip having fun. Big Rainbow night — The Rainbow is a big bar, we used to hang out there a lot. There would be nights we’d be having wrestling matches on the street, we were so hammered (laughs). All sorts of goods stuff, lots of great gigs. It was cool, it was definitely a pulsing scene. It was cool to be part of.
Sleaze Roxx: What bands from that scene do you think more people should have known about. Do any come to mind?
Mark Knight: There were a lot of really cool bands that were more my style — more blues orientated. I’m trying to think of some bands. Remember the band Shark Island, they are pretty cool. They should have had more exposure I thought — Richard Black was a great frontman. There were a lot of underdog bands. Johnny Crash was kind of like an AC/DC style band. Rhino Bucket, they kind of got a little bit of exposure. There were some really good solid rock bands that didn’t get the breaks. It was a lot of crap that got the breaks.
Sleaze Roxx: Did they have more money or just the look and luck?
Mark Knight: It was a lot of good timing, weird connections and people just liking certain stuff. We were baffled by some of the bands that would get huge record deals that were just ridiculous — like awful.
Sleaze Roxx: Are you going to name any?
Mark Knight: Um nah. I’m not going to talk bad about any of them but there was a lot of them. I’m sure you know that as well as I do.
Sleaze Roxx: When did you realize things were coming to an end with Bang Tango?
Mark Knight: I started writing my own songs, singing, and we did this tour in Europe after we put out Love After Death and when we came back it was a disband sort of feel. Nobody actually quit or broke up, we just didn’t even talk. It was weird — it just went on with Joe who took it on and went on without everybody. I was doing my own thing, I started Worry Beads, started writing, recording and playing different kinds of music which I’m still doing now. That is kind of how it went down, it was weird. There was no official break up.
Sleaze Roxx: Have you heard Joe’s latest Bang Tango CDs and if so what are your thoughts on them?
Mark Knight: No, I have no interest. I don’t like that. I don’t know if you have heard the Worry Beads, I’m doing a more of a Black Crowes southern rock sort of sound. I’ve been doing it for years and I have Matt Abts from Gov’t Mule who are some of the spin off guys from the Allman Brothers. Matt Abts is the drummer and he just played on my solo record, so I’m kind of in that whole scene — a lot different from the ’80s rock thing. It is where my interests are more, I pay attention.
Sleaze Roxx: Are you going to tour to support your new solo CD as well?
Mark Knight: I think so. I’m going to do some stuff. I’m just finishing the record right now. I’m real close to finishing.
Sleaze Roxx: Where will people be able to buy your new solo CD?
Mark Knight: I’m dealing with possibly getting it out with the record company. As of now I can’t say for sure. Through Gov’t Mule and different people we’re going to start shopping it and throw it out there and see what we come out with.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s funny you mention record labels. The music industry has changed quite a bit since Bang Tango first came on the scene. In what ways do you think it has changed for the better and the worse?
Mark Knight: For the pros I think we have the capability of selling our stuff independently with no middle man or people in between, because you can make your own records pretty easy these days with the equipment that is out there. You can use different passages to sell it. But then again, as far as the old big record companies, the big machine pushing it to more people is lacking now. So that whole thing is making it worse as far as really getting the exposure to mass audiences, it’s a lot harder to do on your own. With iTunes, and people just buying one song at a time, you don’t sell the whole CD like you did back in the day with the labels.
Sleaze Roxx: With all the downloading you must wonder if it is even worth it to put out an album.
Mark Knight: Yeah, pretty much. You have to go out on tour and sell it out of the back of your car. You have to play it, perform it and sell it and that is where your money comes. It is a hard working way of doing, but it is kind of how it all started. On the other end of things it’s tough. You have to make a living doing it once you are constantly touring and get it out there. Just putting stuff on the internet — you’ll get a handful of people buying your stuff, but without proper promotion and someone shoving it down people’s throats it’s tough. People aren’t going to throw money out for something they don’t know about.
Sleaze Roxx: I was reading today that Bang Tango had sold close to a million albums in their career and now the big name bands can barely sell 20,000. It’s quite a difference.
Mark Knight: I know, it’s not the same anymore. People can get it online and get it on MP3. They get on there and steal whatever they want. Even putting out this Iron Spittin’ Horse, the Worry Beads new CD — we spent three years making this and it’s done well. Even putting that out, people that I’ve sold it too are just copying it for other friends. I have friends who go, ‘oh yeah I got that from my buddy, he burnt it for me’ and I’m like yeah, there is a sale I lost.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s got to be frustrating.
Mark Knight: Yeah. It’s guaranteed at the shows — sign an autographed copy of your CD and you sell some. They got a personal copy and you look them in the eye and go there you go. That’s grass route level, that is what people are doing now. There are still labels out there. It’s still going on.
Sleaze Roxx: Is it hard to get people out to the shows these days too or have you been getting good crowds?
Mark Knight: I did pretty good out in the South because we have kind of a real smoky blues country kind of twangy thing going on with our music. The Black Crowes would be a good example. So we have a bit of an interest out there and I’ve done a lot of touring on my own, just acoustic. I’ll sit down on a stool with me and Mark Tremalgia, my guitar player, and we’ll do a set. People are grabbing on and gravitating towards my songs. So I’m starting to get a bit of a following that way. But to answer your question, it is really hard to get people out. But we keep getting asked back and we kind of build it up. It’s a different world out there.
Sleaze Roxx: Back to Bang Tango, what are your expectations for the tour. Do you think you will get many people to come out?
Mark Knight: I have no idea to be honest. Like I say, we are starting with a couple of shows in town and then we will see what evolves. If it builds up and starts rolling we will do more dates. Joe has been doing it for many years with other members and I don’t even know his attendance out there — I’ve heard some things. But I figure there is going to be a handful of interested fans that will probably be like, ‘lets hear this done by the original guys’, and it will be interesting to see. I really couldn’t call it. It might be just dismal.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you worry that by calling it Bang Tango that you might confuse some of the fans with two versions out there?
Mark Knight: Yeah that has been kind of an issue, which is why we are calling it Redux — which is like a reinvention of it. So we are going to tag that to the name so it’s something different, it’s not Bang Tango straight out. The main reason we want to use it is we want to connect with the people — that this is what it is, rather than using another name. Like I said, we’re not trying to kick start a career here. We are doing this so it’s just throwing it out for the fans. We are going to play it for our own reasons and then call it a day and move on. I’m sure it’s going to be weird, but we will see what happens.
Sleaze Roxx: If the tour does half decently can you picture yourself writing some new music for it?
Mark Knight: That will probably come if it seems to click. If this works out, with Mike singing, and we are feeling it and it feels like the time to do it then we will. Since we started this it’s just baby steps… let’s just talk about it first, then we’ll figure out rehearsals and see if it even works and then we’ll see about the gig. We are just taking it like that. As far as writing new music, I don’t see that in the near future. But it’s possible — you never know.
Sleaze Roxx: How many dates do you have set up so far?
Mark Knight: Just one on August 6th at Paladino’s in Tarzana, then we have a couple that we aren’t even mentioning yet because we haven’t confirmed to them. We have been offered some stuff but we are still unsure if we are going to take them. So just that date in August right now and new ones… we will see when we get together. We will see what it sounds like — I know we are going to kill it though because the singer is amazing and we’re all competent players. We’ve all been doing it for years so it should be really fun. We are just going to click again.
Sleaze Roxx: Late last year Joe had a stroke. What did you think when you heard that?
Mark Knight: There was one time he was hospitalized for something. Like I’ve said, I haven’t been in contact with him and I’ve tried to reach out to him with no response. I was concerned, and then I heard he was hospitalized two times in the last couple of years — I think for different things according to the tabloids. I don’t really know what to say. I don’t know what his lifestyle is like. I’ve heard a lot of things… it is what it is. He is out there still dogging it and living a life I guess. He must not be taking care of himself or something, but I don’t really know. I was concerned though. I have no bad blood with Joe.
Sleaze Roxx: Well… you spent a lot of years together.
Mark Knight: Yeah we were like brothers and he just disconnected. Some broken promises went down with him and nothing really evolved after some discussions we had years back and he is out there doing his thing. I don’t think he has any interest in talking to any of us. That is how it’s kind of worked out.
Sleaze Roxx: That’s too bad. Maybe someday though.
Mark Knight: Maybe. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. This would be like… we even reached out to him on this one through some different people — to do this with us again and he never came round again, so it’s like whatever. What can you do?
Sleaze Roxx: You can only try so hard can’t you?
Mark Knight: Yeah, I’m not going to have anyone tell me I can’t do this just because somebody doesn’t want to do it — we have every right to do this. We wrote the music, we made the records, we toured many years on it — so we are going to do it. Nobody is going to tell us not to do it.
Sleaze Roxx: Plus he’s been doing it for years without you…
Mark Knight: Absolutely. There is probably going to be some misgivings and some controversy. But you know what, by the time it gets anywhere we probably won’t be doing it anymore anyway (laughs). I got some stuff going on. I’m looking forward to doing it and like I said, you never know. Baby steps, one step at a time. If it snowballs into something we are going to keep rolling, if it doesn’t feel right and it’s not going anywhere it’s fine. We did it and I’m back to my own band and my own music.
Sleaze Roxx: At least you have something to fall back on.
Mark Knight: Yeah I’ve been doing my own stuff for 12 years, so to me I have nothing to lose by doing it — and I don’t think any of us do. We are all doing our own things and it will just be nice to hang with the boys again and go bang it out and see what we come up with. Try a different singer — just because Joe isn’t coming around to do it. Mike has got some pipes and he can pull it off. He is kind of an unknown singer which makes it even more interesting because we aren’t going out and using one of these guys that plays with every other band from that era. Which may be interesting for the fans, maybe they will wonder who this guy is and what the hell is he about — but more a little bit of a story behind it.
Sleaze Roxx: Have the rest of the guys being playing music this whole time too or have some of them stepped away for a while?
Mark Knight: Kyle Kyle does some stuff, he has been playing with some bands in Vegas. He does some different stuff out there. Tigg our drummer has been playing in a couple of punk bands down in the Orange County area. So they have been playing music. I’ve been doing original stuff and touring, writing and recording since Bang Tango broke up in 1995. I think everybody has been doing it.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you have anything else you want to say to your fans?
Mark Knight: Just letting everyone know I’ve got a solo record coming out and Worry Beads have a record coming out called Iron Spittin’ Horse and you can get it at the website www.worrybeads.com. I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing everybody soon and we’ll see what happens with this Bang Tango thing. We are anxious to get it out to people and let them hear the music again.