Today, Daniele Cerqua – bass player of Italian epic heavy metal band Rosae Crucis – talks about Manilla Road and Mark Shelton. Enjoy reading – and up the hammers!
Would you classify Manilla Road as an important source of inspiraton for your music?
Daniele Cerqua: I, not being mainly a composer, cannot say much about how inspiration flows into writing a song. Indeed, when it comes to arranging music in the studio or rehearsing with the band, it comes almost natural to inject some Manilla into it. There are so many nuances in Manilla Road’s music that, for the most various reasons, will naturally emerge and blend with what you’re playing, even though it might become unnoticeable in the final result.
Can you point out a special moment that you experienced with Manilla Road?
It was in 2002, Mark and the guys were in Italy for their very first European shows. We picked them up at the airport, went visiting Rome and organized a special party at a local club before traveling half of the country for the concert the next day, which was an absolute blast. I have two unforgettable moments from those days: me and Mark walking side by side along the Fori Imperiali in Rome, talking history and both in awe. Mark, for witnessing the wonders of the Roman Empire, and me, for walking alongside a legendary musician. And I will never forget the gratitude in Bryan’s eyes when he hugged me before they departed from the airport, and told me that I’d always have a home in Manilla Road’s Wichita. Giants among humans.
And there’s a funny story from when we were kids… there’s been a time, among Rosae Crucis and our friends, when we used to listen to The Ninth Wave at 33RPM whereas it should have been spun at 45RPM. This happened because the guy who recorded it on tape had messed up with the turntable and left it set on the slower speed, basically creating a masterpiece of doom metal. We even played a cover version of it! Soooooo slow! You can imagine the surprise when we got to listen to the actual record and woke up to a completely different song.
What makes Manilla Road special in your opinion?
I think it’s mostly the out-of-schemes approach, the variety in their music and the no compromise mindset. Also, Mark’s personal guitar style and his unique voice. And having spent most of their career as an underground act, they never bowed to trends, their music always sounded true. On top of that, it was clear that they enjoyed playing their music, the joy on stage was pristine and overwhelming. That’s why a Manilla Road concert was always an event you wanted to be part of.
What are your three favourite Manilla Road albums?
That’s a difficult question, which doesn’t always get the same answer. Twenty years ago, I could have said Open the Gates, Crystal Logic and The Deluge, while I could answer in a total different way today. Today I’d probably say Invasion/Out of the Abyss/The Blessed Curse. Or Crystal Logic/Spiral Castle/The Courts of Chaos. Or even Metal/Mystification/Mysterium. Do you see? I just think that every album has its gems and represents a perfect, momentary picture of an always evolving band, that you never get tired of discovering and rediscovering.
What’s the most underrated Manilla Road album in your opinion?
I’d say Spiral Castle. It wasn’t a big hit when it came out, people kinda disliked it because of the sound, but it has a bunch of awesome songs. I always think of «Seven Trumpets» as one of my all-time fave.
What are your five favourite Manilla Road tracks?
This is a challenging one, as everyone has their favorite pick, so here’s a more or less democratic summary from all of the band’s favorites!
- «The Fires of Mars»
- «Seven Trumpets»
- «Cage of Mirrors»
What’s the most underrated Manilla Road track in your opinion?
I can’t say, I don’t think there’s anything like underrated songs. I just think there are tracks that one might not notice at first, but eventually you circle back and understand their depth. Talking about «Far Side of the Sun» or «Black Lotus», just to name a couple, which didn’t strike a chord at first, but grew along the years.
Which Manilla Road track moves you the most emotionally?
Personally, it would be «Cage of Mirrors». Such a deep and gloomy track, dreamy and horrific. It’s a tripping experience.
What’s your favourite solo/lead played by Mark Shelton?
The whole «Flaming Metal System» is a hymn to Mark’s genius. It exudes Mark’s guitar awesomeness.
How would you define the term epic metal?
Epic metal, to me, is the ability of narrating a story, whatever story, making the listener feel the pain and struggle of the characters in it. It’s not just sword and sorcery, let alone dragons and kings… it’s everyday’s life, it’s every individual’s quest for wholesomeness. And if you can sing about that and strike to the listener’s heart, then you have epic metal.
Are there any young bands inspired by Manilla Road that you appreciate?
There is a vast number of young bands nowadays, and Manilla Road became so popular in the late 2000s that most of them are actually born because and thanks to Manilla Road. But when it comes to the Manilla family, I cannot think of any other band than our very own Battle Ram. Just like Manilla Road, they’re great musicians, awesome guys, and people with a huge love for Music. Even though not that «young»” anymore. Haha!
What do you generally think of Manilla Road’s legacy and the current epic metal scene?
The scene is alive and kicking, heavy metal has been gaining traction again in the last ten years, and appealing again to the younger generation. You can see how festivals like the Keep it True in Germany or the more recent Frost and Fire in the US are sold-out events year after year, and swarming with kids side by side with the older ones like us, and this is good for our music. And, luckily, for today’s kids it is easy to get acquainted with Manilla Road as well as many other founders and forerunners of the genre, while back in the day, most of our knowledge was based on tape trading and hearsay, and Manilla Road really was one – of the many – obscure acts hailing from the US, of which little was known and the most part was shrouded in mist, contributing to creating the legend. Perhaps it was a romantic time when the music spoke more than the magazines and the YouTube videos, leaving a lot more to imagination, but we’re glad that the band has finally reaped what they sow, and achieved the status of cult, much more than it was in the past. And you can see the legacy with your own eyes: shirts and patches everywhere, bands covering Manilla songs, people paying their tribute and respect and keeping the cult alive, and a source of inspiration for many musicians who play heavy metal.