By Carl Neumann
Supergroups seem to be all the rage at the moment, they are popping out from everywhere. Take a gander at this beast called Metal Allegiance. The band features four full-time musicians and a growing portfolio to impress any Metal God, including Phil Anselmo, Scott Ian and Kerry King, It also includes members from Lamb Of God, Machine Head, Sepultura, Testament and a stack more guests from the best metal bands on the planet.
Who’s got the gumption to pull off something like this? Who’s the mastermind behind it all? Looking though the list of notorieties finds an odd man out – a name that is not yet known in the broader metal world, Mark Mengzi. So who is this man and where did he come from? Carl Neumann had a casual chat with none other than Mike Portnoy recently about the origins of Metal Allegiance.
“Mark Menghi is somebody that all of us knew because he worked at an instrument company for many, many years. He worked at Hartke bass amps and Samson and Zoom Electronic products. Through the years, he’s kind of been the artist relations guy for a lot of us in the music industry. About four years ago when the whole concept of Metal Allegiance began, Mark was the guy that put it together.”
“In its very beginning stages, it started as a clinic with only four of us. It was myself and Charlie Benante on drums, and Frankie Bello from Anthrax and David Ellefson from Megadeth. The four of us did this clinic for Mark Menghi around the Big Four show in California. Then it was really successful. Six months later when the Big Four played in New York, he put together another one and joining the four of us was Kerry King from Slayer and Philip Anselmo from Pantera and Scott Ian from Anthrax”
“We went from four people to seven people. Then the next few we did another version with about 12 people, and it just kept growing and growing and growing. Mark Menghi was always kind of the business man behind all of it every time we did these shows. When the idea came to doing an actual album of original material, we narrowed it down to a core band of myself, David Ellefson, and Alex Skolnick.”
“Mark Menghi also became a part of the core team on a creative level. Once we started making this record, Mark Menghi went from being a behind the scenes business guy to being more of a creative element within Metal Allegiance. Now the four of us together, along with Mark, were the ones that wrote this album, and now Mark is even part of the live show as well.”
So how does such a mega allegiance of talent do a tour?
“The live line-up changes from show to show. The line-up that we’re doing at Soundwave is the only time that that line-up will happen. There was just a line-up that happened in Japan last week. The line-up we had on the motorboat was a one off. Every time Metal Allegiance plays, it’s going to be a different line-up depending on who’s available.”
Mike Portnoy has been at the top of the music game for most of his career. But aparretly that’s not enough for the percussionist, “Everything I’ve set out to do after Dream Theater I’ve been able to. Everything from a metal project to a classic rock power trio like The Winery Dogs to something that’s more like alternative and pop like with Flying Colors. I still have all of my prog outlets with Transatlantic and The Neil Morris Band. I’ve been able to go on tour with Twisted Sister. I’ve been able to go on tour with Avenged Sevenfold. It’s really just been a dream career of different outlets and opportunities and people to work with. I’m a workaholic. I love playing, I love working, I love so many different styles of music. For me, it’s been an amazing ride with so many incredible opportunities.”
With so many live performances back to back, year after year, one has to wonder what musician’s pre-gig rituals are. Mike chuckles when posed the question and happily discloses, “There’s usually three things that happen: I slam a Red Bull. Then I usually, no matter what band I’m in, I try to have a little bit of a group huddle where we can all just kind of get our heads together and get psyched up for the show. Then the last thing I do is I go take a piss. Those are pretty much the three things that always happen before I hit the stage in that order.”
And what would happen if he missed one? “I’d probably end up pissing myself!”, he gleefully admits.
The All-Star Line-up for the Metal Allegiance Soundwave 2016 Tour: