MARK ALLEN BAND is a new AOR/Melodic Rockband from the USA that have released one album so far titled 'Six interlocking pieces'. This album is reviewed somewhere else in this issue. The CD contains some great AOR/Melodic Rock. I talked with leader Mark Allen about his band and the past…

Please tell us about the beginning of your musical career?

The beginning of my music started when I was very young. Along with my twin brother...yup there is two of us! And he’s a fabulous drummer at that! I started literally playing guitar when I was around 7 or 8. No one in my family was musically inclined, but my mother had purchased a Sears Silvertone acoustic guitar with a songbook that had a handful of folk songs in it.

I kind of confiscated it….learned the songs and PRESTO….3 chords later, I was a guitar player!! My brother and I did the usual school talent shows and what not. Then at the age of 15, I joined a band with my uncle and again, with my brother. It was at that time that I got a taste for clubs and teen canteens. I also discovered that GIRLS LIKE GUITAR PLAYERS!!!!

Of course, when you are that age…well you know. Shortly after that, I formed another band and started playing bars. I believe I was about 17, and didn’t get to see much of the bars I was playing in. In Indiana, you can entertain at any age, but you can’t be in the bar unless you’re 21 when you are not playing. Needless to say, the men’s room was our place of refuge.

After that, came the first real serious gig. ‘BANSHEE’! That was when the traveling started to come into play and I got my first taste of hotel life! For the next 5 years, I traveled from Canada to Florida, and up the East Coast. It was also marked the beginning of my singing. I did not start singing until I was 20. And I lied to get the gig!! (I told the guitar player that I had been a singer for some time!!) It came naturally to me, and I quickly developed my tenor voice. I played bass in that band until our manager decided that it would best suit the band if I was out in front.

Also, during my travel time, I spent a good part of a year with a band called Tempest. I came off the road in 1987 to play locally and reassess what I needed to do next. After some pleading and begging with some of my road buddies, it was off to Los Angeles, California. Only it would be by myself. Eight months after I got here, I landed an independent record deal with a band that I played keyboards for. The lead singer and I were and still are long time friends. He was the singer for the band Tempest that I was in, in Indiana. Small world!!

After 2 years with the band, I left due to business conflicts, and decided to retire to my studio, and see what Mark could come up with. I landed studio gigs singing main title themes for cartoons and radio commercials, not to mention television. I was able
to complete the “Back Room” (my studio) with the money I made.

When did you form Mark Allen Band?

After I spent some time writing and culminating a handful of songs, I got the itch to play and rehearse again. My first idea was to take the “Prince” route and record a CD playing all of the instruments myself. (I play 8 different instruments fluently.) My manager thought it was a great idea, except that, what would I do if a record company wanted to see it performed live?

So, off I went searching for just the right people to form the Mark Allen Band. We have been around as the line-up with Michele DiSisto on drums, Barney Cortinez on bass, Tony Agapiou on keyboards, Carol Kaye and Karla Giannelli doing backing vocals, and myself on all guitars and lead vocals for close to 3 three years now. What you hear is a magical mix of people that took a very long time to find and an even longer time to hone.

Please tell us everything about your debut CD, Six Interlocking Pieces?

As you can tell by now, “Six Interlocking Pieces” is my pride and joy. This CD is one of those goals that I set out to accomplish a long time ago. It marks the first time that I successfully produced, and I LOVED it!! I must give credit to Tony Agapiou. He gave up almost an entire summer to be “joined at the hip” with me when we were engineering. We made a great team. And for that, I am grateful. The graphics were a brainchild of my wife, Christie, and one of my closest friends, Gary Grantham. Everything on this CD, from the songs, to the CD art, to the production and pictures, is all us! I set out to do a CD on my own label, and I think that what we came out with is a pure labor of love!

The last part of the goal on Six Interlocking Pieces, is that it was targeted for Europe!!! How ironic!! We never intended to market it in the U.S. Just in a handful of markets. I believed right from the beginning that this CD would do better overseas. There are too many bandwagons in the U.S. If you aren’t on the current one, you will be overlooked. Not true in Europe. The first thing I learned is that the people of other countries do not put labels on artistry. They may label the style of music, but won’t dismiss the artist for what he/she does.

Who inspired you musically?

Journey is my most major musical influence. Steve Perry is my biggest hero, I suppose. Neal Schon is my biggest influence for guitar. Journey’s harmonies and melodies just SOAR!!! That is very rare! I also enjoy Bryan Adams…simple writing. The best!

That's great to hear, because JOURNEY is one of the best AOR bands ever. But do you think your kind of music (80s AOR/Melodic Rock) will ever come back and become as popular as it was in The States back in the 80s?

To answer this question, I would have to say, not for a few more years. Every style of music seems to revert every 20 years or so. We saw that with the grunge movement. It was very rebellious and dark…reminiscent of the punk era of the early 80’s. Again, that is what is so attractive about Europe. From what I have seen, the artist and music, in general, are what is most important. Not so much what is happening in Hollywood at this very second.

I must really ask you if you could tell me a bit more about the song “I Will Be There”, who influenced you and what’s the story behind it and when did you write this classic piece of AOR?

Wow! Everyone has his or her favorites!!! “ I Will Be There” is a song written for and about my wife, Christie. I wrote this song for her as a birthday present, and frankly, it was so personal, that I almost didn’t want to put it on the CD. The nature of this song is extremely personal and I would like to leave it at that. Thank you for your comments about the song. It is very special, and I am glad you enjoy it so much!!

In your band there are 2 back-up female vocalists, could you tell us more about the involvement of these two lovely looking girls?

You have great taste! Yes, they are lovely and they can SING!!! Karla and Carol have been with me since the very beginning. I met Karla back while I was still with the band that got the deal after I moved to Los Angeles. She was the sister-in-law of the drummer I was working with. On a vacation, she met our guitar player and ended up moving here. I was a
roommate with the guitar player, so she ended up being my roommate also. One afternoon, I heard her singing in the bathroom. Of course, a couple of years later upon forming the Mark Allen Band, I remembered those chops and gave her a call.

I met Carol through an ad I ran for a second singer. Carol was number 8, and met me just at my wit’s end! The previous 7 auditions were scary, weird; you name it. She definitely fit the bill, and we were soon doing vocal rehearsals. My idea behind having women as backup singers originated from the beginning. I have a higher range, and every harmony I heard in my head seemed to fit a female’s range. The mix between the three of us is, in my opinion, unmatched (if I may toot my own horn for a second). On that note, it was Carol who introduced me to Michele DiSisto. She is also very beautiful and is extremely
talented! She is our backbone, along with Barney Cortinez.

Did you know your kind of music is becoming very popular in some parts of Europe at the moment?

I have always known that AOR/ Melodic rock has had a place in Europe. Living in Los Angeles, I have the privilege of knowing people like Billy Sheehan from Mr. Big, and Paul Shortino from Rough Cutt and Quiet Riot. As a matter of fact, I did a majority of the backing vocals on Paul’s CD “Back on Track”. They have always talked about Europe versus the U.S., and have always had great things to say. I’m glad to hear that this style of music is becoming very popular again….finally!

Do you also agree with me that the whole Grunge hype is now finally over and people want to hear the melodic rock music of the 80s again?

Absolutely!! I really get the impression that people are tired of hearing songs about gloom and rainy days. Music is suppose to uplift, and make you feel good!! That is what my music is about….taking the top off of the Porsche and crankin it UP!! Music should not have to make you think; it should make you react emotionally!! With the Mark Allen Band, it is always positive!!

Have you had any contacts with European labels or with major labels?

We hope to spark some contacts from doing articles and reviews like this one. I can’t thank you enough for the support you are giving!! We have sent a couple packages to European labels just recently and are awaiting their reply.

What are the plans for the next coming months and when can we expect a follow-up to your debut?

Right now, I have new music ready for a follow-up. The only thing I will let out of the bag is that, Yes, it is in the same style. It wouldn’t be sporting of me to reveal everything about a new CD, would it??? We want to get “Six Interlocking Pieces” there and to see it’s success first.

Thanks for the interview and good luck in the future!

Thank you!!! It has been a pleasure introducing myself to you and your readers. Thank you for the support. It is much appreciated!!



Six interlocking pieces (Blue Car Records/1997)


Mark Allen - Lead Vocals, Guitars
Tony Agapiou - Keyboards
Michele DiSisto - Drums
Barney Cortinez - Bass
Carol Kaye - Backing Vocals
Karla Giannelli - Backing Vocals



(A special thanks goes out to Christie Van Pelt for making this contact possible)