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Interview: Mark Morales – Sons Of Texas

Sons Of TexasAfter warming up the crowd gathered round the bar waiting on Seether to appear, I grabbed Mark Morales from Sons Of Texas for a chat. Drinks were drunk, tales were told, and interruptions were made by fans looking for a selfie (with Mark I should add, not me). “Do you want me to take a pic of the two of you rather than you having to take a selfie?”…”Well that’s the whole point of a selfie isn’t it!”…clearly times have passed me by.

Parts of the UK are at the moment getting hit by “Hurricane” Ophelia. Now, while there has been some sad loss of life and damage to property, it’s nothing compared to your home state. Although Sons Of Texas are from South Texas, and close to the American/Mexican border, and therefore missed the worst, how are things now?

“From what I hear from my wife and family everything is swell. We did have a scare with Hurricane Harvey and all the Texas coastline had to get organised. It shifted upwards and missed us, but hit Houston pretty hard. We were spared, but much love to Houston. I’ve got a lot of family and friends up there, and some lost their homes. The recovery effort to help fund and rebuild, it’s beautiful man”

That’s something that America seems to do so well; come together in times of crisis and work together.

“Yeah, it’s crazy. There is so much separation going on back home right now, and the world, that when people come together and show some solidarity and help one another, it’s a beautiful sight to see”.

Now taking Wikipedia and Google maps at face value, I believe that your home city McAllen is practically on the border? Being so close to Mexico, does that influence your sound or songwriting?

“Well honestly, man, we get a lot of Texas influence in our sound. We’ve got a lot of blues and a lot of groove, but also as well, being hispanic, being latino and coming from South Texas, I listen to a lot of Spanish and Mexican music. We all grew up with it, but I think that the only thing that I kind of get as an influence is a lot of the lyric writing. A lot of Spanish lyrics are very powerful, and when you translate them into English, they might not make sense, but there is still some kind of weight to it, some value to it. They hit you in the soul”.

Again thanks to Wikipedia, there is a Scottish connection with McAllen, I gather? The city is adjacent to Edinburg (without the h)?

“Yes sir, it was founded by John McAllen way back in the early 1900’s. I believe that he came over to Texas from Edinburgh and settled down. It’s crazy that there is a connection. It’s fucking insane, man!”

Small world indeed! Now, this is the second time that Sons Of Texas have toured Europe and the UK in a short space of time. That’s not bad going for a ‘fledgling’ band.

“Yeah, it was only last November that we were over with Soil. We are still a baby band, and all these tours definitely help us out a lot. The exposure is incredible. On this tour, we have heard dozens and dozens of people at each gig say that they had no idea who we were, but thank you Seether for introducing us to them. It’s been nothing but a blessing. Much love to Seether, as this has been one of the biggest tours we’ve ever been on. Soil was great last year, but this is so much bigger”.

And after a short break, you go home, and Sons Of Texas are out opening for Alter Bridge!

“I know! We are like, ‘Oh my god, these tours are getting bigger!’ After a month at home, we go out with Alter Bridge and All That Remains!”.

When you are out with a band like Seether or Alter Bridge, what do you take from it?

“Aside from the camaraderie, there’s an etiquette. Like, when to arrive, what and what not to take from catering, but other than that, what I’ve learned from these bigger stages is how to utilise my space. I’m learning a little bit more in how to engage with the crowd. Use the entire stage”.     

Sons Of Texas are very confident on stage, very sure of yourselves. Where does that come from?

“Ha ha! Dude, honestly I am one of the most insecure people ever, but once you get on that stage and the music starts up, the only way that I can describe it is like being possessed by the music! All my idols growing up, like Chris Cornell, Phil Anselmo, all those badass acts, they had that sense of ownership, they owned that stage. I carry that with me every day”

You must have loved opening up for Vinnie Paul and Hellyeah then?

“Oh dude! That was insane! Not only to get to see them every day, but to get to talk to them. I mean, Pantera were huge in my eyes, but Mudvayne were too. To get to say ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ to Vinnie Paul every day, and to get to speak to Chad Gray… I took so much from that. Believe me, I was holding back when I spoke to Chad! I had to stop myself from saying ‘Dude, you were the reason that I wanted to scream!’, but it was incredible”    

On this tour Sons Of Texas played the Bataclan in Paris. That must have been sobering?

“That was strange. It was almost two years to the day, and we played on Friday the 13th, and the attack happened on Friday the 13th, so that was fucking weird. We go in there and they still have bullet holes in the walls!”

Yeah, but they should leave them there as a reminder of what happened. Painting over them would seem wrong.

“At first, I was ‘Why the hell is this place still open?’, but when I walked on that stage and saw all the people, and the unity, and that they were having such a good time, then it dawned on me. Fuck, I’m glad it stayed open. It’s resilience, and had they closed it down, then they would have succumbed to terrorism. Much love to France”

The new Sons Of Texas album, ‘Forged In Fortitude’, seems to be a lot bigger and heavier than your debut ‘Baptized In The Rio Grande’. Is this a result of life on the road, or just a natural progression?

“A little bit of both, man. We wanted to make a heavier record, but being on the road can be frustrating, so a lot of the lyrical content on the new album relates to the last two years on the road. With the first record, the producer Josh wanted to polish it up, so that it could stand toe to toe with everything else. He wanted to make it immaculate, which is cool, I understand that, but I feel that maybe it was a little too polished. But this record is a little more raw, to the point that I was using a different mic. On the first album I was using like a $3,000 microphone, and it was all propped up like I was Britney Spears or something!”.

Like all the stereotypical artist-in-a-studio-we-are-the-world footage you see?

“Yeah, oh my god, that’s the one! But on this one, I was holding the microphone, and all my screams were from myself being on the front foot. I was feeling it!. It was a natural progression and a reflection of life on the road”

There is a lot of variety on the new Sons Of Texas album, from the Texas boogie on ‘Slam With The Lights On’, to the Black Sabbath ‘Planet Caravan’ inspired ‘Wasp Woman’, but for me, ‘Expedition To Perdition’ has a punk vibe.

“It does, yeah… and we have no idea where that came from! Jon (guitarist Jon Olivares) said we should do something “1-2-1-2-3-4”, and go for it. I fucking love that song, man! It’s a little out of our element, but once the groove comes in on the chorus, then it’s fucking awesome”

Now you touched on the division in America and the rest of the world today. Have you caught Eminem’s anti-Trump freestyle rap, and do you think an artist should potentially alienate part of his audience in such a way?

“Oh shit! Yes, I did catch it! Dude, I’ve always tried, with politics and religion, to kind of not get into it, because I know it’s so divisive. Everyone is entitled to their thoughts and beliefs. I could sit right here and talk to a Trump supporter, an atheist, or a satanist… I don’t care. Everyone has their own beliefs and the right to do that. As long as you are a respectable human being. Respect me, and I’ll respect you. But with Eminem? Much props, dude. ha ha!, it was fucking awesome”

Is it a case of sometimes respecting the art rather than the artist? I find Ted Nugent as funny as a kick in the dick, but if ‘Stranglehold’ comes on, it will stop me in my tracks.

“Exactly, I get that totally. It comes down to that a lot. I said before that I am a huge Anselmo fan, he was an idol to me. His art, his music I totally respect, but some of the lyrics that he has written I’m like, ‘weeell’. I come from a Christian Catholic background, so some of the anti-Christian lyrics don’t sit well, but I get it. That’s his bag. When it comes to his standpoint, I don’t know if he is racist or not, but I respect his music, I respect his art, but that’s as far as it goes. I love the records that he has put out with Pantera and Down. I love the music. I think people should put aside their differences, their colour, their religion, and just come together with music… and love, man! And love”.

Amen to that, brother! 

Interview: Dave Stott     

 

 

 

 

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