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A Dirty Dozen with MARK ZAVON from KILL DEVIL HILL – September 2023

| 14 September 2023 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Preparing for the release of their upcoming album, Seas of Oblivion, out September 20th, Kill Devil Hill releases their new single “Pharmaceutical Sunshine”- a song that speaks to the current opioid epidemic currently affecting countless families across the United States. With Johnny Kelly on drums (Type O Negative), Mark Zavon on guitar, Dewey Bragg on vocals, and Matt Snell (ex-Five Finger Death Punch) on bass, Kill Devil Hill combines gut-punching guitar riffs and hard-hitting vocals to create a uniquely modern take on classic doom and metal. The group is best known for their ability to deliver thundering doom in their music, with strong spiritual messages behind the lyrics. This track in particular promises to be one that stops audiences in their tracks, as it covers topics that hit close to home for many around the country, not to mention, one that band members have experienced first-hand.” We get guitarist Mark to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through? Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Kill Devil Hill was established in 2011 featuring Black Sabbath and Dio drummer Vinny Appice and Pantera bassist Rex Brown, Kill Devil Hill has gone through various member alterations, ultimately leading to their impressive current lineup: Johnny Kelly on drums (Type O Negative), Mark Zavon on guitar, Dewey Bragg on vocals, and Matt Snell (ex-Five Finger Death Punch) on bass. The group has teamed up with Chris Bianchi and Legend Recordings to release their new album out September 20th titled Seas Of Oblivion. The name Kill Devil Hill came from legends of Caribbean pirates smuggling rum, so it felt pretty natural to use that history as a conceptual foundation to build this record on. The new album Seas Of Oblivion most of the tunes were written with that kind of imagery in mind, looking at modern day issues through the lens of a grizzled old buccaneer from the 1700’s and using those metaphors as hooks.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

When I was a teenager a friend of mine had an acoustic guitar and showed me how to play the riff from “Crazy on You” by Heart. That was the moment I realized that I wanted to play guitar. Then I got the Blizzard of Ozz record and really got into it. I started trying to learn all that stuff by ear and spent hours putting the needle back on those songs trying to figure them out.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

I grew up in the 80’s so there was no shortage of inspiration guitar-wise. I got really into Van Halen and a lot of the bands that followed in their footsteps. I really dug Ratt, Warren DeMartini had a big influence on me back then.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Dimebag for sure. He had a way of making stuff work on the guitar that shouldn’t work on paper. It’s like he knew the perfect way to ignore the rules and have it come out sounding unbelievable every time.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

I have a motorcycle that I love to ride when I have time, and I have a pilot’s license that I haven’t used in years, but to unwind I love going to tropical spots and hanging out on the beach.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

That’s always a tough one to answer because I have so little objectivity left, being so involved with it, but it’s definitely hard rock with some metal thrown in here and there. I’ve heard some comparisons that I kinda thought might fit, and some that were a little confusing to me, but they’re all valid opinions. In fact, it’s really interesting to get someone else’s perspective on your stuff every once in a while.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

I love to cook and I’m always down for a singalong, but when we’re hanging it’s always a team effort whatever we’re doing.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

I was loading out from a gig at the Viper Room in Hollywood and a guy rides up on this really cool motorcycle and parks it right in front of the club where I’m standing. The bike was like an old-school bike but with a wicked modern flair, so I walked over as the guy was climbing off and I say “Hey man that’s a badass bike.”, and he pulls off his helmet and it’s Tom Cruise. He just smiled and said “Thanks man!” I definitely wasn’t expecting that.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

I love playing live, there’s nothing like feeling the energy of the crowd and channeling that into a performance, but if I had to pick, writing songs is the best most rewarding. It’s a great feeling to listen back to a song after putting all the parts together and making them all fit. It’s like a musical jigsaw puzzle, except there’s no limitation but your imagination. If I couldn’t be a musician, I would be a pilot. I went to school for it and have a commercial license and an instrument rating, so I’d have a pretty good head start if I had to go in that direction, but music is definitely where my heart is.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Q — What was the name of your first band A – Renegade When I was in high school my buddies and I had a band and played tunes by bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. We tried to throw a party at my house and invited our friends, but I think my dad underestimated how loud it was going to be. He kicked everybody out after the first song.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

The closest thing I can think of is in 1991 I had recorded a record for Mike Varney’s Shrapnel Records with a band from Minneapolis called Scream Parade. I had appeared in Mike’s Spotlight column in Guitar Player magazine, and he hooked me up with them since they needed a guitarist to round out their lineup. The band and I had been living north of San Francisco while making the record at Prairie Sun in Cotati. The album was done but wasn’t getting any major label interest due to the incoming grunge movement at the time, so we were in limbo wondering if we should head back to the Midwest or stay in California and try to make it work. I had looked for a job and was thinking about staying, but couldn’t find anything so I booked a flight and started making arrangements to return to Omaha. The day before my flight I got a call from a music store that wanted to hire me to teach guitar lessons. I’ll always wonder what would have happened if I had stayed and taken that job, but I wouldn’t trade the path I took to find out.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

The first Van Halen record for sure. The guitar playing and guitar tones on that album changed the whole landscape of guitar playing. Those sessions broke new ground and paved the way for the future of rock guitar. Sometimes when I see photos of those sessions I think about what it might have been like to be there and hear that stuff actually going to tape, or to stand there in the room with Eddie’s rig blasting. They captured some serious magic on that record, and took over the world with it.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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