Interview with Mark Miner (Vamp Le Stat)

Metal Express Radio: Hello Mark it’s a great pleasure interviewing you for Metal Express Radio. How are you?

Miner: I am doing very well, thanks for having me.

MER: It seems Vamp Le Stat is back in the game. When did that happen? For how long were you inactive?

Miner: In 2004 Jimmy Tuttle and I got together to do some writing and jamming. It was at the time basically just two friends jamming and collaborating on ideas after a long time apart. We played in a band called “Walking Tall” from 1999 through 2002 after Vamp Le Stat parted ways. There was a two-year period we did not really speak to one another. Once we got together for old times sake, we basically picked up where we left off. Although we had it in the back of our minds, it was originally not intended on becoming a reunion. It did however over the course of time become the “rebirth” of Vamp Le Stat.

MER: You guys will be releasing a new album by the name of So Far in 2009. What is this album all about? Does the title have any special meaning?

Miner: The album, truth be told, is a re-release from 2006. We have had a lot of positive responses from those who have heard it but without widespread distribution there is limited people you can reach. With the recent signing to Kivel Records that now has changed. As we speak the album is being remixed and repackaged. The overall production initially was very lush. After signing to Kivel we re-evaluated it and thought that a remix to beef up the guitars and change a few things vocally was in order. Jimmy and our new bassist Brad Lang retracted a lot of backing vocals and harmonies and it sounds killer. The album will have these and a few other finishing touches put on so we can finally move on to new material for the next album.
As far as any special meanings to the title, after several ideas “So Far” just stuck, especially with Hugh Syme as our art director. Conception wise he is brilliant and once we saw the artwork it made sense.

MER: Since your first release Bloodline in 1993/4, you guys displayed some powerful Glam Metal music. Now, while hearing samples from So Far, something has definitely changed. Why? Also, while speaking of change, why VLS?

Miner: I don’t think we have ever fit into the Glam category. We never wore makeup and we are not that good looking ! When Bloodline came out, it was at the tail end of that era and somehow the band got put into that category thanks to Grunge being the new thing at the time. If you had long hair, looked like a Rock star, and bathed frequently in 1993 you were considered Glam, which is totally lame. Bands coming out of Seattle at that time were the big thing and Vamp Le Stat sounded and looked nothing like any of them. The late 80’s early 90’s bands like Skid Row and Guns N’ Roses were more of what the band was about in the beginning. Hard rock is a more appropriate category for the band, always has been. The name was shortened because we wanted to have some familiarity to the fans that were still out there but with a fresh start. Vamp Le Stat was simply abbreviated to VLS.

MER: Another apparent thing in your music is a sort of dark edge that creates a mystery in a way. Why change the sound that was more lucid and loose in your first two albums?

Miner: First off, we did not want to simply repeat what the band had already done years before. We wanted to show growth and simply try what we had not done in the past. We wanted that element of variety and tension. The album was originally a lot heavier but went for more of a radio friendly vibe by the time we were done.

MER: So Far is produced by Brian Wheat of Tesla. How is your work relationship with the man? And has he, from his experience, influenced you guys in any way?

Miner: He influenced us in the radio friendly direction. He rejected a lot of the heavy riffs in favor of melody. Both of which are important. He helped Jimmy in the sense of trying new things as a writer and vocalist. He pushed me to play outside my comfort zone. Jimmy plays a fair amount of guitar on the So Far album and you can hear that he is more Blues based than I am. Some songs were what were called for and Brian sort of helped us organize each other other’s strengths.

MER: Since your comeback, have you toured the U.S or other places? If you weren’t touring, is there a tour plan on the horizon? Maybe Rocklahoma?

Miner: We have played a fair amount in the Northern California area, as it is our home. Festivals and tours are a very real possibility for us towards Summer 2009. By that time we will have hopefully released the follow up to “So Far” so tours and exposure will be a high priority to us.

MER: You signed, lately, with Kivel Records from New York. Do you consider it a major step for you guys?

Miner: Yes. John Kivel has stepped up to the plate to let us be the band that we know we can be. The communication and collaboration on the present and future of VLS have been hand in hand between band and label since we started speaking with Kivel Records. Our goal is the same as the record company: work hard, achieve success, and repeat. Of course having a good time while doing it. We look forward to the future with Kivel. Lots of fun and kicking ass is something we look forward to.

MER: You had a small line-up change and you brought in Sikki Lynn as bass player for Skuzy, who was on the first two albums. Didn’t he want to do the comeback with you or there is something else?

Miner: Skuzzy was originally going to do the album. Unfortunately it just didn’t work out. He had a lot of commitments going on in his personal life and the band simply did not have the luxury of waiting. We did and always will think highly of him and still consider him a friend. Sikki Lynn came into the fold from 2006 till September 2008. He brought a different element to the band that was really cool. For reasons between him and the band we had to let him go. Out of respect for him I will leave it at that. We wish him well with future projects. Brad Lang who has a lot of experience joined as bassist about a month after Sikki was let go. He brings to the table talent, creativity and a hard working ethic that makes VLS complete. He is a great bassist, singer, and performer. He and Jimmy work really well together vocally. Musically he really means it when he plays, lots of feeling and conviction. Really cool guy as well.

MER: Let’s talk about you Mark. Who is the guitarist of VLS? What Metal bands are constantly on your player today? What are your influences? Any other projects?

Miner: When not performing or recording with VLS I teach guitar lessons five days a week. Because of that I get exposed to a lot of music. The majority of my students are Rockers so I hear a healthy dose of Rock and Metal.

New Metal bands I like are Children of Bodom, Bullet For My Valentine and Avenged Sevenfold. I have really been into All That Remains as well. All of those bands have great guitarists so naturally as a guitarist myself I tend to gravitate towards that kind of music. I am really scattered in music tastes, probably because I love it so much. I listen to Steve Vai and Dream Theater one day, Nickelback and Alter Bridge the next, Ozzy and Black Label Society the next. The following week it’s everything from Classical and Flamenco music to Van Halen to Trans Siberian Orchestra. I listen to music for enjoyment as well as influence but never in a sense of what’s popular. I like what I like.

Influences: First and foremost Randy Rhoads. I truly believe he was the first true Metal guitar god. He took it to a level that nobody else did. I love Neal Schon, Gary Moore, John Sykes, Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteen the list goes on… there are so many great players.

As far as other projects go I simply have too much invested in VLS right now to think of anything else. The guys always joke with me to save some of the shredding for a solo album. Maybe one day, we’ll see…

MER: Where do you think the Metal world is going nowadays?

Miner: I don’t think I know, it’s going towards accepting guitar solos again thank God. Melody and heaviness are a beautiful combination. I see that in today’s newer Rock/Metal artists. There was about an 8 to 10 year period that Metal sort of got pushed aside for all the Pop Punk crap and “Nu” Metal, whatever the hell that is. It became so disposable and homogenized. It’s great to see new bands giving a show for the fan’s money. Newer bands like Buckcherry are great. They keep that spirit of Rock ‘N Roll alive by playing from the hip. The new AC/DC album is another example. What a great band. Right now people want that excitement again as it should be. Rock and roll always prevails even throughout it goes through different cycles.

MER: Do you have any words for the Metal community?

Miner: Have a good time all the time.

MER: Mark, I want to thank you for interviewing for Metal Express Radio. Good luck with So Far! I hope it will be a blast and that you will give a big support tour. Cheers for you and VLS. Any last words to the Metal world?

Miner: Please visit the band on Myspace, which will feature news, tour dates, merchandise and more. Watch for the new album So Far released on Kivel records early 2009. Soon thereafter we embark on the next album, which will hopefully be released and kicking ass by summer 2009. Thanks for having me, cheers!


  • Lior Stein

    Lior was a reviewer, DJ and host for our Thrash Metal segment called Terror Zone, based out of Haifa, Israel. He attributes his love of Metal to his father, who got him into bands like Deep Purple, Rainbow, Boston, and Queen. When he was in junior high he got his first Iron Maiden CD, The Number Of The Beast. That's how he started his own collection of albums. Also, he's the guitarist, vocalist and founder of the Thrash Metal band Switchblade. Most of his musical influences come from Metal Church, Vicious Rumors, Overkill, and Annihilator.

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