Ron Marks - Subsonic, Celtic Frost - Back
Interviewer: Cameron Edney -

Ron Marks is no stranger to the music industry. With a career spanning more than two decades Marks has had the pleasure of touring the world on a number of occasions and writing and recording on some of metals most memorable albums. Last year I caught up with Ron to talk about his second Subsonic release No Such Soul, since our last conversation fans worldwide have been snapping up copies of No Such Soul and the media response has been none stop. As we speak Subsonic are becoming a household name in the U.K. only recently releasing No Such Soul and there is no doubt that Subsonic are ready for world domination. Ron Marks recently shot the video for third single Fix from the album No Such Soul and the band which also features ex-Prong drummer Dan Laudo are ready to head back into the studio to begin recording the next album which is untitled at this stage. I recently called Ron to talk about the success Subsonic has had over the last year, we spoke about the book Ron is currently writing Dont Miss One, We spoke about guitars where Ron filled us in on his weapons of choice and explained the importance of playing scales and much much more. The time has come to get your Fix of Subsonic with Ron Marks.

Metal Fanatix: Hi Ron, how's things goin’ mate?

Ron Marks: Hey Cameron, things are good how are you?

Metal Fanatix: I’m doin' well mate thanks! It’s been a while since we last spoke and you have been extremely busy, I guess first of all I want to talk to you more about your album ‘No such Soul’. You recently shot a clip for ‘Fix’ The third single from the ‘No Such Soul’ album. Tell me, what’s a day on the set like for Ron Marks?

Ron Marks: Well, we shot for two day’s in Chicago with Jason Meudt and his crew, and we had a great time. It was really hot, it was 105 degrees each day and some of the places we shot in were air conditioned and some were not, but it was great. We obviously had a few more actors in this one. I’m more of a fly on the wall in this video, kind of observing the whole thing from a distance. I just learnt today that it’s finished so I will probably be receiving that in a few days time! And we’ll try to have it up on the site as soon as possible.

Metal Fanatix: During the eighties I can remember seeing so many different hard rock and metal videos on our televisions but these days they are few and far between, Being in a rock/metal band these days do you feel it is still important to spend so much money making film clips that don’t get anywhere near the airplay they deserve?

Ron Marks: Well, probably not from a financial standpoint but they’re fun to do and it’s another creative outlet. I love doing them especially when you can work with professionals and people who are interested in what you do.

Metal Fanatix: Last time we spoke, you were hoping to get you new CD out by February 2006 but it seems the press and fans just can’t get enough of ‘No Such Soul’ you must be pleased with the response you are still getting from the album?

Ron Marks: Yes, well we certainly had some renewed interest when we hooked up with Dragon Eye Promotions from the U.K. which has proved to be a great relationship. We certainly have some irons in the fire for the future. The album is still pretty much unreleased in the U.K. so it’s kind of a new thing to them so of course I’m pleased. We’re also working towards the next release as well.

Metal Fanatix: Mate you have been in press mode now for quiet sometime promoting ‘No Such Soul’. No doubt you must hear the same questions time and time again. Do you ever think that there has been an obvious question that was never asked?

Ron Marks: Oh boy, no [laughs]

Metal Fanatix: Nothing you can be bothered thinking about right [laughs]

Ron Marks: [Laughs] No, nothing springs to mind. They’ve pretty much covered them all but that’s okay we’re glad to talk to anyone.

Metal Fanatix: ‘No Such Soul’ musically is quiet diverse did you use many different guitars to track the album?

Ron Marks: Yeah, I can’t remember exactly how many, but it was more than ten.

Metal Fanatix: Wow, really?

Ron Marks: I have a few laying around and whenever I’m cutting a track I think, well is this heavy, is this bluesy, is this rock, happy, sad whatever and I’ll just try to pick an axe that I think communicates that message the best. Some do it better than others. I’m a guitar freak. I like to play with different instruments.

Metal Fanatix: You started playing around the age of fifteen, and I remember you telling me you picked up a guitar because you wanted to write songs, but I would imagine there was more to it then that! Who influenced you as a guitar player?

Ron Marks: Well, I bought the first Kiss live album when I was very young and it just blew my mind. After that I remember saying “hey I want to do that”. I loved the music, I loved the sound of it and I just suddenly started writing songs. Then I went to my uncle’s music store Marks Music and picked up a bunch of guitars and said “hey can I take one of those home to play with”? He was kind enough to let me take one home and the rest is history.

Metal Fanatix: Tell us about your first guitar, do you still have it?

Ron Marks: Yeah I do [laughs] actually my very first guitar was an acoustic guitar that my uncle Carl bought for me for my birthday. I was about eight years old and it sat around for some years, cause I was a drummer at the time. Then finally I started getting interested in it and it was pretty tough to play.

Metal Fanatix: What models are you using these days?

Ron Marks: Well, we have a new endorsement with Dean Guitars which is great. I’m using the Dean Hard Tail which is a great instrument. You’re going to hear that on the new tracks quite a bit. Other guitars I use are a 66’ Gibson SG that I’ve had forever, my black Les Paul custom that I’ve been playin' forever and my Epiphone Sheraton which has a semi hollow body and a Telecaster as well.

Metal Fanatix: What was it about Dean Guitars that stood out from the rest for you; I mean you could have used Ibanez, Jackson’s, and Gibson’s!

Ron Marks: I always liked there stuff. We handle some of their items at my cousins music store Marks Music now and oddly enough, strange how things happen, when we did the ‘A Day Late’ video the model that played my girlfriend in that Angel Dawn Massie did some brochures for Dean. When we were shooting the video we were hanging around and got talking about Dean Guitars and she said oh I know Dean and so on. I ended up going to the NAAM show sometime later and I hooked up with Dean and I gave them a promo pack and they liked what they heard.

Metal Fanatix: How about pedals, are you one of these guys who has to have twenty different pedals on a stage or are you happy to keep it simple and raw?

Ron Marks: Yeah, I don’t do any rack stuff. I use a few little pedals, a flanger, some chorus, a wa-wa pedal and maybe a tube screamer for some really extreme stuff. Otherwise I keep it pretty much straight ahead.

Metal Fanatix: Do you do anything specific to warm up before you hit the stage?

Ron Marks: Scales man, you’re never done. I teach quite a few students and a lot of them want to learn to play solos. You have to learn chords and scales in order to do all of that, and after some months they go “when can I quit playing these stupid scales”? I tell them “never”. It gets you loosened up; it gets your hand eye coordination going. I can even talk while I’m doin' it now [laughs] but you’ve still gotta spend about ten to fifteen minutes breaking the ice and getting warmed up. Otherwise when you play the first three or four tracks you might go for something and you cant quite get catch it the way you want to because you’re not warmed up so it’s always important.

Metal Fanatix: Ron, how would you describe your guitar playing?

Ron Marks: Tight rope. How about that?

Metal Fanatix: Tight rope?

Ron Marks: Yeah, when I was in Europe Reed St Mark would always say “man when you’re playin' that solo you’re always one inch away from falling off the tight rope but you never do”. And he says “I’m sitting there listening to you thinking, he’s never gonna get back into the chords in time but somehow you do it”. It’s like I’m always an inch from falling off the cliff every time. Which I kinda like!

Metal Fanatix: I guess that’s really the best way to play though isn’t it, I mean there’s nothing like improvisation and your own interpretations and just in time getting it back in tight with the band!

Ron Marks: Yeah, sometimes you miss but I’d rather take the chance.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Hey if you fuck up, you can always say that was your intentions and part of the show [laughs]

Ron Marks: Well we say if you’re gonna fuck up do a big one.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Mate, over the years you have performed with many talented artists. Has these experiences helped to develop the techniques you are using today?

Ron Marks: Oh yeah of course, everything you do is another education and you’re exposed to different ways of thinking and just a different approach to the instrument, not that it’s a matter of better or worst it’s more like ‘oh wow I had never thought of it that way”, had you not been exposed to those people you might not have gotten there angle on it. Which then you try to incorporate into things you like and your own things.

Metal Fanatix: I believe you are now giving guitar lessons now as well, what prompted you to start giving lessons?

Ron Marks: Oh I’ve been doin' lessons for years, since I came back from Europe. With my family owning a music store it was just natural. It seemed a few people around here sought me out for lessons. I don’t do beginners or anything like that but if somebody is interested in rock ‘n’ roll guitar playing and they really want to learn and practice I’m glad to do it. It keeps me sharp too, my students bring in stuff, songs for me to figure out, introduce me to artists that I’m not aware, it’s a two way street, they teach me and I teach them.

Metal Fanatix: What styles of guitar are you covering, a bit of everything?

Ron Marks: Oh pretty much everything, some people come in and they’re blues guys that want to do that whole thing and blues and rock aren’t too far apart. Sometimes I get teenagers, sometimes I get people in their fifties that have wanted to play there whole life’s, but were too busy raising families and all this other stuff, and now that they have time they finally want to pick up this interest that they had. As long as they want to work and love to play I’m all for it.

Metal Fanatix: Is this something you will be taking on the road with you, I mean I remember reading that Randy Rhoads would give lessons to kids in various towns he would play, is this an avenue you are also going to look at?

Ron Marks: If it presented itself I would certainly consider it but I can’t say that it’s in my immediate plans. Actually I don’t think I’m really that well known enough to get that kind of attention but if someone was ask me to do some clinics yeah I would be glad to do something like that.

Metal Fanatix: Last time we spoke you were telling me you had already completed a couple of new songs for the next album “Burn it Down” and Christin”. Over the last few months I know you have been very busy in the studio, tell us some of the other titles and when can we expect a release date?

Ron Marks: Well, some of the other titles are ‘Treason’, ‘Looking For You’ which I think will probably be the single, ‘Up For Love’ is another one and don’t laugh but I’m working on a cover version of ‘That’s The Way I Like It’ by KC And The Sunshine Band.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Really?

Ron Marks: Yeah it’s going to be really cool actually. I started on it a few days ago. I’ve had the idea for a couple of months and I finally got a hold of the track and I was saying to myself “am I really gonna do this song”? I listened to it and I was saying, give it a chance, give it a chance. So I did and I think it’s going to be pretty cool.

Metal Fanatix: Okay Ron, there are a million and one brilliant songs in the world that you could choose to cover, why choose that song in particular?

Ron Marks: I was at a party, and somebody played it and I said “ya know that’s sick enough to make into something”.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs]

Ron Marks: I just happened to be in this room around a bunch of other music fans, I get together with a lot of musicians and we don’t just sit there and put the radio on and have a party. We go around the room and we all take turns at picking what song we want to play next. We go from everything from a soundtrack to a Broadway play to jazz to rock and metal. Probably as a gag, to be a smart ass somebody picked that KC and the Sunshine Band tune and of course smart ass me has to go and do something with it [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] I would imagine that the new album will be along the same lines musically as ‘No Such Soul’?

Ron Marks: Oh yeah! It’s still gonna be rock and I think on ‘No Such Soul’ I found a sound that I’m quite comfortable with, not that I want to remake the last one, but I think that we are going to stick to that sound. I think the most difficult thing for an artist to do is find some originality in their sound, and the reason you don’t hear much of that is because it’s not easy, but I think I’ve done that for better or worst. I’ve found my place and a place where it’s not contrived it’s something that I’m very comfortable with and that’s very natural to me. So it will be a development, an evolution of the last record! It will still be the same vibe.

Metal Fanatix: I imagine you are using the same guys in the touring band?

Ron Marks: Yes, yes, Dan’s still with us, I have Brandon Park on guitar and we’ll see what happens. We’re hoping that Dragon Eye Promotions can put some kind of tour together for us over here pretty soon. The main concern right now is getting this next release out.

Metal Fanatix: Ron as you mentioned, you recently became involved with Dragon Eye Promotions from the U.K. Tell me about your involvement with these guys?

Ron Marks: That was strictly an email thing actually. I don’t know if we got together on myspace or exactly how it happened. I can’t remember if they emailed me first or vice versa, I’m always doing tons of correspondence with various people and it’s hard to keep track. As everybody knows you do this stuff a lot of times and you don’t get replies because there is such a volume of material out there. Anyways they replied and said they were staring up this company, they had heard some of my songs on this website and thought they were cool, then one thing led to another. It’s only been a couple of months now but it’s evolved into something really quite promising.

Metal Fanatix: I believe you are currently working on a book about your life as a musician titled ‘Don’t Miss One’, tell me do any of the guys you have worked with in the past have reasons to be worried?

Ron Marks: No.

Metal Fanatix: Oh come on, you’re not going to spill the beans on anything?

Ron Marks: No, no, I mean everything’s cool. Let’s say they certainly showed me courtesy when they wrote there book and to be honest with you that’s not my kind of entertainment anyway. It’s more about the life of a musician; ‘Don’t Miss One’ means don’t miss the downbeat of a measure. And of course that has a little humor in there but you would be surprised with how many people do this all there life and they can’t hit the down beat of a fucking measure. I’ve been working on it for a couple of years now and I’m not sure if it will ever get published, I hope so. I probably need to gain a little more success with Subsonic before that becomes a possibility but it’s great to get your thoughts down none the less.

Metal Fanatix: You recently returned from a trip to Africa, tell me about your trip, was it business or pleasure?

Ron Marks: It was pleasure actually! I went there with my cousin Carl, his wife Maria and there son Steven, they own the music store. We went there on safari, it was great. I had never been to Africa before; we were just outside of Johannesburg. We were there for about eleven days and it was just an amazing experience. It’s like nowhere else I’ve been on earth, it’s not like Europe and it’s nothing like the states. It’s like you went to a different planet, especially once you get out into the bush and experience it first hand. I have read many things and seen many shows on Africa but until you’re there you really can’t appreciate it. There is something about Africa that is really intoxicating.

Metal Fanatix: What are the biggest differences you notice these days in the business compared to when you guys were starting out?

Ron Marks: Well I’m happy to say I think that rock n roll is coming back. It kinda went away for a while but it’s like everything in it’s cycles. My god I’m actually hearing guitar solos in songs again. I’m really happy about that; they have been gone for too long.

Metal Fanatix: How about when it comes to guitars, I mean technology has really kicked in when it comes to all instruments, guitars these days are so light, and there are so many more gadgets!

Ron Marks: Everyone likes to talk about the features and gadgets and specifications of the guitars and amps, pedals and the whole lot. I’d rather focus on writing and that part of guitar. Paying with different tunings, not that I do a lot of different tunings, nothing out of the ordinary but I love to do unique chords. And what I mean by that is that you pick up the axe and you just play stuff that sounds good to you that might be a different take on various chords, rather than the norm. When you can do that I think you can start to build a unique signature to your guitar playing. I’m not just talking about writing songs I’m also talking about soloing obviously. I prefer to play things that will get under your skin a bit I try to appeal to people emotions. I don’t think it matters if it’s a guitar, piano, saxophone or whatever instruments your doing that’s what makes music interesting to me, connecting to peoples emotions.

I’ve never been one for gadgets. I have nothing against them and nothing against technology in general, I think it’s great when it’s applied in a constructive manner. What I mean by that is that technology can allow you to explore creative boundaries that weren’t available before and I think that’s fantastic. When people use technology to conceal the fact that they can’t play an instrument then I think that’s sad. I can’t help it remember, several people that I played the last CD for and they were saying “wow, your vocals are great, what are you working with, pro tools”? And I said “what”? “The intonations really good, what did you use to fix that”? And I said “man, I wouldn’t know how to turn on pro tools if you gave it to me”. “I sang it”. I double every vocal so that’s not even a delay that you’re hearing in the lead vocal, it’s me singing it twice, you have to be able to get down exactly how your phrasing works.

Metal Fanatix: Just doin' it the old school way!

Ron Marks: Yeah, I just like it better, I mean sure you can take a vocal or a guitar and throw a little delay on it to fatten it up but it’s always the same response through out, When you sing it twice or play it twice it kinda weaves in and out of itself and I think it makes for a more interesting sound.

Metal Fanatix: As you said, technology is fantastic in so many ways, but I do believe that many bands these days are using pro tools and those programs as an easy way out, and record companies encourage it because it’s a much cheaper way to record.

Ron Marks: Oh of course they are, that’s what there all about. There not worried about quality they’re worried about the bottom line, so they have forced even more of the artist responsibility. One thing you have to remember if you’re writing a song or recoding a release or doing a video or whatever, you’re going to have to watch and listen to that son of a bitch for the rest of your life. Easy is not the way to go. Good is the way to go. Put the extra time in even if it’s hard, too bad. Everybody’s into convenience and I think quality is more where it’s at. I understand the budgets of various artists including myself, we hardly have an unlimited budget here, but you have to remember whatever you put out you have to live with and you’ll have to listen to it for a long time so make sure you do your homework.

Metal Fanatix: What's your take on this downloading and file sharing? Do you think it hurts artist like yourself or do you look at it as a great way to get your music out to so many more people around the world?

Ron Marks: That’s kind of a mystery to me! I think its great that the exposure is there, I think it’s great that it’s accessible to everybody, I think it’s a shame if artist’s don’t get paid royalties, which I’m sure is still going on quite a bit because people are still ripping this stuff off. The other comment I can make about that is that it’s a little sad that no one has to wait for anything anymore, because nothing is special anymore

Metal Fanatix: You’re right there! There’s is no anticipation these days!

Ron Marks: You don’t have to wait for anything. Everything you want is at the click of your finger. I certainly remember before all this came about, when a band was coming to tour, you were out of your mind for six months until the day came, because you didn’t get to see them, everything was not instantly accessible so you valued it and you were really excited. I just don’t know how excited people get anymore about it, because anything they want is available to them anytime they want it.

Metal Fanatix: Mate, just going back to where you were talking about writing your melodies on the guitar, lets use the latest single ‘Fix’ as an example, how do you come up with something that is so catchy, how do you get into that mode where you’re just sitting there with a guitar and bang next thing you have this fantastic track?

Ron Marks: I have no idea how you do that!

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs]

Ron Marks: [Laughs] I’m serious, that’s one question I get ask a lot, “well how do you do it”? “How do you write”? There is no set method, sometimes it starts off with a guitar riff and you say to yourself, oh that’s cool and you build it from there, sometimes you’re driving down the road and a melody will pop into your head, sometimes it’s a bass part, sometimes it starts with a drum part. I can’t sit here and say there’s any pattern. When you start doing things the same way you start cutting off options. You have to be receptive to it twenty four hours a day. I don’t know how you do it, it just happens.

Metal Fanatix: Ron over the years, what’s the craziest rumor you’ve heard about yourself?

Ron Marks: It was actually pretty funny some fan wrote to me and said I heard from some journalist that you were very difficult to work with in Celtic Frost and I said really, me? That wasn’t exactly a wedding band [laughs] everyone was difficult to work with in Celtic Frost believe me there was more than one day when I saw chairs going over my head!

Metal Fanatix: Really?

Ron Marks: Oh my god, it was never one band member against the other but it was just after months and months of getting your head kicked in, label pressures, the frustrations came out and there were a few chairs flying around, we all had our moments. To just single me out was just laughable. Where do you think I learned how to act that way [laughs]? I can’t believe we all held up as well as we did, but we’re all human too and you crack at some point. There are millions of bands that could tell ya that. That’s nothing new.

Metal Fanatix: When you do have spare time, what do you like to do?

Ron Marks: I’m a motor head. I have a 67’ triple black Cadillac I like to play with a little bit I’ve had quite a few muscle cars and corvettes and porches. That’s my passion. I'm really an avid sportsman". I'm not into sports like football and golf and all that. I'm into hunting and the outdoors as I’ve mentioned in some other interviews. I have a cabin in the mountains of Pennsylvania where I like to visit a lot. I actually do a lot of writing there, almost every song that is going to be on the next release was written up there and that’s where I work on the book.

Metal Fanatix: Awesome, Ron, what’s the one band you never want to hear again and why?

Ron Marks: Oh there’s too many [laughs]. As soon as some songs come on the radio I just go “you can’t be serious”, and I don’t even know who these bands are [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: That’s because too many bands sound the same!

Ron Marks: Yeah and at that point it’s like “who even cares”, just change the station. I don’t know Cameron, I don’t want to single anybody out, and I’d feel bad if someone did that to me so we’ll just let that one go.

Metal Fanatix: Fair enough mate, Ron that’s all I have for ya today, mate thanks again for your time as always it’s a blast speaking to ya. Do you have any last words for our readers?

Ron Marks: I just thank everyone that supports the project. This is a one man band right now as far as writing and recording. I love doing it, things are looking great right now with the new relationship with Dragon Eye Promotions and we’re looking forward to big things from that. Thanks to everyone who continues to support the band, don’t be afraid to get on the forum and the website and say hello, we’re glad to talk to everybody.

Subsonic’s latest album ‘No Such Soul’ is out now, grab your copy where all kick ass albums are sold

For all the latest news on Subsonic make sure you check out the following websites: - Official Subsonic website - Subsonic MySpace website - Inside Out 666: Dedicated to 40 years of hard rock & metal music

© Cameron Edney September, October 2006 Not to be re-printed in any form without written permission.