Ron Marks - Subsonic, Celtic Frost - Back
Interviewer: Cameron Edney - http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com

Legendary Swiss metallers Celtic Frost is included in ‘The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal’ among the greats of all-time a title they truly deserve. Guitarist Ron Marks joined the line-up in May of 1987, after the release of "Into the Pandemonium". Although Ron was only in the band for a few months, his contributions turned out to be quite immense. He was a key element, which influenced & helped change the band's sound. Ron left Celtic Frost in December of 1987 & later returned to unofficially in 1989 to help record "Vanity/Nemesis" in Berlin. Ron's tenure with Celtic Frost at that point would be only the recording of the "Vanity/Nemesis" album. Many fans class the time Ron spent in the band to be what is referred to as the definitive line-up. Ron grew up listening to many styles of music & has had a love for Jazz music since childhood, as Ron entered his teens he found his Rock ‘n’ Roll roots rocking out to bands such as Kiss Led Zeppelin & Aerosmith. For many years Ron has been writing & recording his own material & in 1998 after playing with various bands Ron made a choice to go out on his own & create Subsonic. Subsonic has two releases currently available ‘Super-Vel’ on Outlaw Records & the recently released ‘No Such Soul’ on Sonic Wave Intl. I caught up with Ron earlier this week to talk about his time with Celtic Frost, Life on the road, the recent preliminary Grammy nominations & Subsonic. This is one interview you have to read!

Metal Fanatix: Hi Ron, How’s things mate?

Ron Marks: Good, I’ve been keeping really busy, trying to keep the project moving forward. How are you man?

Metal Fanatix: I’m well, thanks mate. First of all thanks for putting some time aside to answer the following questions for all of our readers.

Ron Marks: It’s my pleasure.

Metal Fanatix: I would like to start right back at the beginning, It’s safe to say that you were born into a life on music isn’t it; I believe that both of your parents were music teachers?

Ron Marks: Oh yeah! My dad was a great Jazz musician as well.

Metal Fanatix: Oh cool; I actually didn’t know that. What have your parents thought about the music you played?

Ron Marks: Well, I grew up on Jazz initially & got into rock later on. My parents were cool with it. My families owned a music store now for years. I’m third generation

Metal Fanatix:
You started drumming at the age of five, & by the age of fifteen you were playing guitar. Why did you decide to change from drums to guitar?

Ron Marks: I wanted to write songs & I couldn’t do that on the drum [laughs]. I needed to pick up something that I could write music on.

Metal Fanatix: I believe you grew up with Nine Inch Nails vocalist Trent Reznor & that you guys played in a band together tell me more about that about that.

Ron Marks: Yeah, Trent grew up about twenty minutes away from where I live. We had a band in high school, a little basement band that didn’t really get too far. We were in it along with Dan Laudo who later became the drummer for Prong.

Metal Fanatix: When you look back on those early days, did you know back then that Trent, Dan & yourself would have come so far?

Ron Marks: No I never knew. Back then there were so many guys that wanted to be musicians. Everybody was trying to do this & that. I knew Trent was really talented, that was obvious to me even at that age, but who knew that any of us would have gone on to bigger & better things!

Metal Fanatix: You have grown up influenced by some of the greatest bands in Rock ‘n’ Roll history such as Kiss & Aerosmith. Do you feel you have played a large role in influencing many of today’s hard rock acts?

Ron Marks: I live in a small town & don’t really get around a lot of people often, but I have been making trips to Chicago over the past two years, & I’ve learned that Celtic Frost & myself later on influenced quite a lot of people. I really wasn’t aware of that so it was very cool to hear.

Metal Fanatix: Congratulations Ron on the recent Grammy nominations. When you first heard that you were nominated I’m sure the reaction would be as crazy as anyone else’s who had been given such great news. Who was the first person you told?

Ron Marks: Oh! I contacted my family & musician friends. I sent out a group email to let everybody know. It was amazing. I doubt that we have a chance of winning considering Subsonic is still a relatively unknown, but to have any industry acknowledgment on that level is great.

Metal Fanatix:
You must be thrilled to be up for not one but three awards. That is some achievement!

Ron Marks: Yeah! It’s pretty cool stuff. I just want to make this clear, these are preliminary nominations. What that means is that a member of the Grammy board submitted us for a vote. The official votes happen later this month & if we get enough votes then Subsonic will be up for official nominations. The projects not officially nominated just yet!

Metal Fanatix: So how exactly does the next stage work, I mean is there a website or something that fans can visit & vote for Subsonic to run as an official contender?

Ron Marks: Well, no. The Grammy board is a club so to speak & to even submit something you have to be a member. It’s not like I can just call them up & say “Hi, I’d like to submit this for your consideration”. It doesn’t work that way. I don’t exactly know how they do the voting, whether it’s via email or what but you have to be a recognized member for your vote to count. It’s an official thing, it’s not like anyone can just call up or get online & “say I vote for these guys”.

Metal Fanatix: Do you know who else has been put forward as contenders in the categories?

Ron Marks: No, I don’t. I got an email from my label just telling me that I was in the three different categories & so on. But I will get that information.

Metal Fanatix: Now long time friend Dan Laudo has come onboard as the touring drummer for Subsonic, who else will make up the touring band?

Ron Marks: Well, our bass player is Dietrich Thrall from Chicago. I'd also like to announce that Brandon Park is now onboard & will also be playing guitar. We have been offered some tours but none of them have been quite what we wanted. What I mean by that is I just want something that is well organized & legitimate. I want to know that we’re all gonna get paid & have a really good tour.

Metal Fanatix: Oh yeah! You definitely need to have a decent promoter on board!

Ron Marks: Yeah! We know the difference. Anyone who has toured has been on bad ones, we don’t want to repeat that so we’re just waiting for something better to come along & hopefully that’s not going to be too far away!

Metal Fanatix: When you guys do decide on a promoter & what have you, will your tour plans include Australia?

Ron Marks:
Oh I’d love to play there man! I’ve never been to Australia. We had plans to tour there when I was with [Celtic] Frost, but they never materialized. So I’d absolutely love to make that happen.

Metal Fanatix: Now for those who don’t know the story, how did Subsonic get started?

Ron Marks: Well, [laughs] I’ve been writing my own material for years & finally after [Celtic] Frost, I went on to play with a few bands, knocking around here & there, touring; it was all so very temporary & I had no control over it. I said to myself, “I can’t do any worst then any of the other things I’ve been in”. “Why don’t I do my own thing”? That was back in 1998. I had such a wealth of material written & recorded I figured I’d take a shot on my own. I’m still writing a lot of material as we speak. But to answer your question that’s how the project came about.

Metal Fanatix: What other names were you tossing around before settling with Subsonic?

Ron Marks: Oh God, I can’t remember I had a few. I think I called Dan on the phone & said “what do you think of these”? [Laughs] Dan said “choose Subsonic that sounds like a good one” [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Awesome, now I believe you did a lot of the work on the first album yourself?

Ron Marks: I’ve done all of the albums myself.

Metal Fanatix: Oh, o.k. bass, drums everything?

Ron Marks: Yeah man everything.

Metal Fanatix: Dude that is great, how long did it take you to complete the latest album ‘No Such Soul’?

Ron Marks: Oh, a couple of months for sure. It’s not just the writing & then recording of the songs. It’s the arrangements, production, engineering there’s so much that has top be done. It all came about because it was just so hard to find people that would commit & really put the time & effort into the project. I wasn’t sitting on the kind of cash that allowed me to travel to New York, L.A. or where ever I wanted to go to record unlimited. I decided to do it myself, I turned into a little [Frank] Zappa I guess [laughs]. I’m a big Frank Zappa fan & that’s what he ended up doing, he had his own home studio, making the music himself. On a much more humbled scale that’s what I’m doing.

Metal Fanatix: ‘No Such Soul’ consists of eleven tracks. In a few words can you tell us a little about the following tracks?

Ron Marks:

Dream American: Well speaking of [Frank] Zappa that’s a little sarcastic poke at the American dream.

Love Is: I guess it’s about longing. It can be interpreted in so many ways depending on how you look at love. Love is so many things to so many people.

Play the Fool: There’s a lot of traps that people fall into, whether it’s becoming a slave to money or the American dream etc. Whatever it is that makes you lose your identity. Nobody wants to admit that they’ve given up their mind & soul to whatever it is & they sure don’t want to know that they play the fool.

Fix: This is another song about desires & addictions. I’m not just talking about drugs, there’s many addictions; religion, money even material possessions. People get so hooked on them, they need that fix.

A Day Late: That’s the guy who’s a born loser. I don’t know if Australians are familiar with the television show The Honeymooners which starred Jackie Gleeson, he was the guy who always had the brain storm & got one inch away from pulling it off but of course never quite got there. That’s what ‘A day late’ is all about.

Metal Fanatix: When it came time to record ‘No Such Soul’ did you approach it in a different way to albums you have recorded in the past?

Ron Marks: Yes actually I have. To be honest with you on some of the other Subsonic releases, (as a lot of bands are guilty of all though they never admit it) you try to chase what’s going on stylistically & I might have been guilty on the earlier stuff of doing that. When it came time to do this album I said “I’m gonna do what I think I do well & what I enjoy doing”. It seems very honest to me to do that.

Metal Fanatix: Ron honestly I think that’s the best way to do it. It seems to me that artists that do that last a lot longer in the business then those bands that constantly ride the coat tails of others & ultimately they make better albums. You see plenty of bands these days, they all look the same & they all sound the same. You have these up & coming bands trying to emulate bands that are getting airplay but by the time they get signed & get airplay the trend is something else. I take my hat off to anyone that just does what they want to do & I hope that by the time any of those artist release their material, the public will be ready to take it on!

Ron Marks: It’s the only way that you’re being true & it’s the only way you can find an original sound. You hit the nail on the head, so many bands sound like each other & you think to yourself “ oh no, not another one of those” [laughs]. I’m sure you can hear influences in my music of people I have listened to but overall I hope that it’s my own sound. I think that’s valuable & I think that lasts.

Metal Fanatix: Have you started writing for the next album yet?

Ron Marks: Yes I have. I actually started to record tracks as well. One of the tracks is called ‘Burn It Down’. One that I am currently working on is called ‘Christin’. Like I said there’s a big archive of material & usually I’ll write about ten songs, pick four or five of them then look back in the archives & think of what other stuff might fit well with the sound of this record. Then if I come across stuff that’s fits well I’ll re-record some tracks that have been done but have never been released.

Metal Fanatix: When are you looking at releasing that album?

Ron Marks: Well I started recording it about a month ago so realistically I’d say January /February!

Metal Fanatix: What does the future hold for Subsonic? Where would you like to see the band in five years time?

Ron Marks: We are looking for management as we speak. I’ve had managers that were not so good & never really got us anywhere, so that’s really the next step. I’ve taken the project just about as far as I can on my own now. I’d like to see us still making great CD’s & touring for as long as we possibly can. I also have aspirations beyond that to write for television & motion picture soundtracks. I would love to produce other bands, I’ve been doing it myself for years & I think that would be fun. Who knows where it will go? I’m pretty well self-contained & can take it pretty much any direction that I prefer, so I’m open to a lot of suggestions.

Metal Fanatix: I’ve actually read that you’re interested in composing for movie soundtracks & television, producing other bands & so on, are there any offers currently on the table?

Ron Marks: Nope, there was one band that wanted me to do their record & there was a problem with the budget, this & that. Believe me I wasn’t asking for a large amount of money. I know I’m a very new name as far as a producer. Like many things in the entertainment industry for every ten maybes one might come through. We might have to wait a while for something concrete.

Metal Fanatix: I want to talk to you a little about your time with Celtic Frost; what comes to mind when you look back on those experiences?

Ron Marks: Pride! Like with any musical movement, something happens & a million bands jump on it. [Celtic] Frost has faired very well as time goes by. I’m really glad that the legend continues & all the rest of it, but the thing I am most proud of is that you can put a [Celtic] Frost CD on today & it still sounds really cool, it’s still competitive & sounds fresh to me. I’m a musician to a fault & that always comes first to me. Tom & Martin are geniuses when it comes to writing; I love how intelligent the lyrics are. Reed St. Mark is one of my favorite drummers on the planet. I was a lucky s.o.b.; I knew it was great band when I sent them my demo. I could have been in a lot of other bands that were apart of that movement that didn’t fair as well as [Celtic] Frost. I was very fortunate that they asked me to join.

Metal Fanatix: What can you recall from the first performance you did with Celtic Frost?

Ron Marks: [Laughs].The very first show we did together was in a nightclub in Zurich before we officially went out on tour. It was really cool & was on a smaller scale of course. The first tour we did was in the U.K. & we headlined, it was amazing. I still have fans emailing me & keeping in touch from the tour. We played this amazing show in London at the Hammersmith Odeon; a lot of my heroes had played there so that was a big honor to me. The morning of that show we were sleeping on the tour bus. As we pulled up at the Hammersmith I woke up & the bus was shaking back & forwards. There was a bunch of kids outside the bus waking us up [laughs]. I loved that, we went out & said hi, signed some autographs & we were the centerfold in Kerrang that month as well which was a really cool thing. About six months ago I received an email from one of the fans saying “I was one of the kids shaking the bus” [laughs]. It really warms my heart that all these years on they would remember something like that. I have great memories from that tour.

Metal Fanatix: Are there any funny stories you can share with us about the time you spent on the road with the guys?

Ron Marks: Oh there was one show were we opened up for Anthrax on the U.S. tour. We were playing in Boston & after the show we went out & had a little party & the bus call was for midnight. We had to be back because we were heading to Philadelphia. So about two, three o clock we all came back to the bus. When our road manager walked onto the bus he was wearing a policeman’s coat with a badge, we’re like “what are you doing”? Laughing he said “a cop gave me a ride home & I was cold”. The bus takes off & he had passed out in the back, when we finally arrived in Philadelphia some seven hours later, we went to the venue & it was lined with cruisers ready to take us all away [laughs]. It was one of those fun little Rock ‘n’ Roll stories [laughs]. There are other ones but I don’t know if you can print those [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Mate I’m happy to print anything that you want to share! What’s the most ridiculous thing you have ever asked for on a tour rider?

Ron Marks: We were pretty cool that way I don’t think that we ever asked for anything out of the ordinary, just the usual stuff; food, drink & girls [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: All the good stuff!

Ron Marks: [Laughs] yeah we were pretty boring that way.

Metal Fanatix: How about the funniest thing that has ever happened to you on stage?

Ron Marks: Oh that’s easy [laughs]. Once again with [Celtic] Frost, we played the London Hammersmith again & it was Halloween night so as a gag on the last night of the tour, doing the last song I think it was ‘Procreation’ one by one the crew started tearing down our gear [laughs]. By the end of the song we each had one marshall & Reed had one kick drum, a snare & that was it [laughs] we’re playing this heavy stuff & we looked like we were playing in a little jazz combo [laughs]. We didn’t know this was coming. They just started taking our stuff! That was pretty funny. Another great [Celtic] Frost memory [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] For a band like Celtic Frost who are considered one of heavy metal’s greats. What do you think most people would be surprised to learn about the band?

Ron Marks: I’m going to say not speaking for myself, but the other three guys were the most cultural & educated people you’d ever want to meet. We used to joke around and say things like “hey give me an album cover with skulls & flames”. [Celtic] Frost was much more adult then that.

I remember when I was in the band there was a big movement in America against heavy metal mainly. I was watching one of these broadcasts & one of the people protesting held up a Celtic Frost shirt. I mean Tom & Martin didn’t drink or smoke, anything. I was saying “you’re crazy, this band is nothing like you think it is”! I’m not saying that we were angels by any stretch on the imagination but we certainly weren’t the stereotypical heavy metal band.

Metal Fanatix: Is that the P.M.R.C. you’re talking about?

Ron Marks: It was around that time, but I don’t remember if it was that group exactly. There was so many around at that point. Once they got some exposure & power you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a group that was protesting against Rock ‘n’ Roll. It was the fifties all over again.

Metal Fanatix: There was talk about a [Celtic] Frost reunion & possibly new album at some point. Do you see that ever happening?

Ron Marks: Well Tom, Reed & I met in New York some years ago now & there was talk about it. Tom is pretty much the point man there. He has the say in when & who! I’ve heard that they are doing some work, I don’t know exactly what’s going on but I’d certainly love to be apart of it, if they’re doing something.

Metal Fanatix: So you keep in contact with the guys?

Ron Marks: Yeah, it’s been some time since I’ve talked to them but we’ve kept in contact over the years!

Metal Fanatix: Ron after all these years in the business what goals have you set for yourself these days?

Ron Marks: Just to keep doin’ it man! I love it more than I did when I was sixteen. I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I love doing. Unlike being an athlete it’s something you can do for the rest of your life. It would be nice to get paid a little more this time [laughs] but that will come in time, I’m just a lucky guy that gets to do what I love.

Metal Fanatix: Which album or song would define Ron Marks to a complete stranger?

Ron Marks: The new album, it’s as honest as it gets for me. I just put my neck out there & figured they’re either gonna love it or they’re gonna hate it, but this is it!

Metal Fanatix: In your honest opinion what do you think about the direction that Hard Rock & Heavy Metal music has taken over the last few years?

Ron Marks: I think it’s fine. There are a lot of sound alike bands but that’s o.k., that’s always been the case. I think bands are writing songs again & by that I mean I certainly like to hear a decent melody in a song. There are a lot of really talented writers out there & there’s a lot of crap there too. So many people will say that the new stuffs no good blah, blah, blah. I think they really need to dig a little deeper. There’s more great music out there then you can listen to.

Metal Fanatix: Are you currently listening to any of the newer hard rock/metal bands?

Ron Marks: I’m open to anything. I like the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’s; I like all the new rock bands. This is going to sound a little strange [laughs] I have a bad habit of getting a little to diverse with my stuff so I’ve been trying to discipline myself into a lot of radio which I know has a pretty limited rotation as far as songs, I like a lot of new bands. Some that I like I don’t even know who the hell they are [laughs]. I still listen to a lot of Jazz bands too, which is what I grew up on. When I say Jazz I don’t mean elevator Jazz. I listen to Jazz trios & big band Jazz. I’ve always listened to a broad spectrum of music not just rock.

Metal Fanatix: It’s no secret that you’re a fan of many musical styles as you just mentioned. Do you feel that it’s important to listen to a range of styles to help develop as an artist and continue in an ever-changing industry?

Ron Marks: Yeah I do. I think it’s a real advantage to do that. By doing so you can introduce aspects into your music that does give it originality and does set it aside from the other rock bands that are out there! As an example, the songs A Day Late & Delilah’s have a [Frank] Sinatra feel to their melodies. Not the swing-era big band sound of his later years but his earlier style of singing known as crooning, which made him the original "rock star". I was listening to Sinatra & that kind of music as a kid & I think it’s interesting to wrap Rock ‘n’ Roll around different genres of music. Not that I’m gonna do that all the time. I think that if you only listen to one style of music then you’re cutting your options.

Metal Fanatix: What do you think you would you be doing if you stopped playing?

Ron Marks: Wow! I’ve never thought of it [laughs]. I love cars so probably drag racing.

Metal Fanatix: From all the albums you have appeared on what one would be your favorite to listen to & why?

Ron Marks: Oh, these are tough questions [laughs]. Overall, I know this is going to sound cliché but I think the latest album is my favorite. Not because it was all done by me but because I like those songs the most. I can put the album on & say ‘that’s cool”. I’m proud of Vanity/Nemesis with Celtic Frost. Anything connected with them is a big honor. I’ve done others here & there but I have to say the latest album ‘No Such Soul’.

Metal Fanatix: Ron besides the recent preliminary nominations for the Grammy’s, what would you say have been your greatest achievements to date?

Ron Marks: Being a member of Celtic Frost of course & continuing to do with my life what I choose to do rather then what I am supposed to do according to everybody. The greatest achievement is doing it period & not giving up when you’re twenty-five. It wasn’t a phase that I was gonna grow out of like everybody thought. Everyone used to say to me “one day you’ll get some sense & grow up, get a real job” [laughs]. I am grown up & this is it. That’s my single greatest achievement.

Metal Fanatix: What advice do you have for up & coming rock/metal bands?

Ron Marks: Jay Leno once said that the worst thing a person who's trying to break into show business can do is get a job making thirty grand a year doing something else. Simply because you'll then live at that level & become a slave to the income. Income that requires time you should be spending working on your dream instead. I couldn't agree more. Tough it out and, for God's sake, don't take advice from normal people! Being successful means routinely doing things at an exceptional level, not a normal one. Normal people are reactionary personalities by nature. Meaning they react to what happens around them rather than influencing it & are, therefore, bad sources for advice regarding exceptional accomplishments of any kind.

Write what you love, try to get it out to as many people as you can. The best thing anyone can do that wants to get into this business is go & buy there own recorder. It doesn’t have to be expensive, there’s no need to go out & get an elaborate set up. For years I recorded on an eight track. It’s about getting your thoughts down & honing your craft & honing your writing skills.

Lyrics are super important. The more you write the better you get at it. When bands write ten songs then go into the studio, record them then don’t bother writing again until the time comes to do their next record, I think that’s a waste. I never stop writing, whether it’s for an album or if it’s for fun. It’s always going on & the coolest thing about that is after a while you realize that you’re not depending on other people doing things for you. You can have a lot more control over the outcome. Anytime you can achieve control over your music or your career I think its healthy cause lets face it no one’s gonna look out for your ass like you are! One person believes they can & another believes they cannot & both are correct. Which one are you?

Metal Fanatix: If you could put a band together consisting of musicians passed and/or present who would they be & what would you call the band?

Ron Marks: Oh dude I would want Buddy Rich on drums.

Metal Fanatix: You know I’d say that was an out there choice but you are really into different styles of music [laughs].

Ron Marks: [Laughs] Right, I saw him when I was ten years old & he just blew my little mind. He was such a freak drummer. I’ve seen him several times since. He really shook me up, it was beyond music or notes it was like “what planet are you from”? He’s so cool.

So as I said I’d have Buddy on drums, I’d want Stevie Ray Vaughn on guitar, who’s gonna play bass? Ray Brown. Do you know who he was?

Metal Fanatix: Um! No mate, I have no idea!

Ron Marks: He was one of the greatest Jazz players of all-time. He played in the Oscar Peterson trio & he played on many of the Frank Sinatra television specials. I’d have a real freaky band [laughs]. I don’t know what I’d call it. It’s tough to name bands.

Metal Fanatix: Ron thanks again mate for speaking with us today do you have any last words you want to share with our readers?

Ron Marks: Yeah sure, a big thank you to everyone who has been so complementary & kind, My publicist Alex Zander, he’s a very good friend of mine & he arranged the meetings for me to get signed with sonic wave he also arranged for both of the video’s to be shot, he’s been a great friend & continues to be a great friend, a huge thanks goes out to Dan Laudo who flew in to do the first video. Dan’s been my best friend & has been my brother since we were fifteen and just everybody that’s been cool & who has stuck with us. Hopefully we will go forward from here. It’s been really great doin’ this interview with you Cameron, thanks for the support.

Subsonic's latest album ‘No Such Soul’ is out now. You can buy your copy where all rockin' albums are sold or order online

To keep up to date with all the latest news on Ron & Subsonic, check out the following websites:


http://www.subsonicrocks.com - Official website
http://www.celticfrost.com - Official website
http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com - Inside Out 666 Past Interview’s
http://www.metalfanatix.com - Metal Fanatix

© Cameron Edney October 2005 Not to be re-printed in any form without written permission.