As you know, Manilla Road has a prominent role on our blog. Last year, for example, we published a 32-part special here, in which mainly musicians had their say to answer questions about Mark Shelton and his band. Now it’s time to get on with it! Getting the ball rolling is Michael “Darby” Pentecost, who knew Mark Shelton for over 40 years and calls him his “spiritual Godfather”. He’s been to almost every Manilla Road release party, including the classics Metal and Crystal Logic (who isn’t jealous now…). Furthermore, our interview partner was in the studio when Mystification and Out of the Abyss were recorded. But not only that, Michael continues: “I roadied and toured with Shark long before they made it onto the big stages… and I sang the title cut on Atlantis Rising.” You see, we have found the perfect man to talk to. We hope you enjoy reading the 33rd part of our Manilla Road Special. Up the Hammers!
André: When did you meet Mark Shelton for the first time?
Michael “Darby” Pentecost: I first met Mark when I was 8-years-old. It was at the original Road House in Wichita. My Godmother who was a DJ for KMUW at the time (and eventually went on to T95, the biggest Rock station in Kansas) brought my parents and me over there to meet Mark and the band. The front room of the Road House was set up like a stage… sound equipment, drum kit, Mark’s Marshall stack. I was welcomed by Mark like I was already family and I sat listening to the music like a kid in a candy store. It wasn’t long after that, Mark took me under his wing in many ways and he became my spiritual Godfather.
Can you point out a special moment that you experienced with Mark Shelton?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have countless special moments with Manilla Road and with Mark. Two of most memorable would have to be when I went in Cincinnati with the band when I was 19, Manilla Road opened for David Chastain at a place called Bogarts! I roadied for the band, I was Thrasher Foxe’s drum tech (which meant I helped him assemble and tear down his famous cage) and more importantly, because I’d been in the studio and around the band so much during the creation and recording of Out of the Abyss, Mark asked me to do the lights. I was floored. But so happy to do it. So I stepped up to the massive light board but was told by Chastain’s light man I could only use a few of the lights and effects. So, yeah right, first song into the Manilla Road set and I was already using the whole board… the show was a huge success (not just cause I did the lights) as Manilla Road did an amazing job on stage. So, Mark hadn’t said anything to me after the show and I thought maybe I was in trouble for disobeying the light guy, and then my Godfather suddenly turned to me with a huge smile on his face, gave me a huge hug and shook my hand (Viking style at the forearm) and told me I did an amazing job with the light show and that he was so proud of his Godson for defying the light guy and making the band look even better! The second most special moment was when Mark offered me the honor of singing the title track on Atlantis Rising. I will never forget that… the collaboration, the recording, singing the chorus with Mark, it was all so fucking amazing!! And I appreciated it more than I can say… to be even just a very small part of the Manilla Road legacy was hugely important to me and incredibly special.
What makes Manilla Road special in your opinion?
Manilla Road was special for a number of reasons. There have been many talented musicians who have contributed to the sound and legacy… but mainly, Manilla Road was special because of Mark Shelton. He was the heart and soul of the band… the consistency in the music, the amazing intricacies in the playing, the historical facts and folklore in the lyrics, the commitment to excellence in the engineering… Mark was a pioneer in many ways… and a legend to many. His determination to continually create some of the most amazing metal ever produced is almost unparalleled. And past all that… even if he hadn’t been my Godfather and I hadn’t known him for 40 years, I would still tell you he was one of the greatest guitarists to grace any stage in any genre. I’ve seen Eddie Van Halen on stage, Steve Vai, Dimebag Darrel and many others considered the best of the best… and Mark Shelton absolutely ranked right up there with them.
What are your three favourite Manilla Road albums?
I love all of the early stuff… but my three favorite Manilla Road albums are probably, Out of the Abyss, Atlantis Rising, and The Blessed Curse or Gates of Fire.
What’s the most underrated Manilla Road album in your opinion?
As far as the most underrated Manilla Road album… well… I’d say the entire discography is completely underrated!! Manilla Road has NEVER gotten the recognition they deserved and earned!!
What are your five favourite Manilla Road tracks?
I literally have so many favorite tracks it would be difficult to narrow it down to 5… but a few of them would be “Necropolis“, “Mystification“, “Whitechapel“, “Return of the Old Ones“, “Flight of the Ravens“, and “Epitaph for a King“.
What’s the most underrated Manilla Road track in your opinion?
I’d say “Whitechapel“ is one of the most underrated cut… it is one of the fastest songs in metal and it doesn’t get the credit it deserves!!
Which Manilla Road track moves you the most emotionally? And what’s your favourite solo/lead played by Mark Shelton?
The track that moves me the most is the same as my favorite of Mark’s guitar work. “Life Goes On“. I can’t really listen to it without feeling overwhelmed with emotion, for the love, honor and respect I shared with Mark Shelton. And for the loss I feel after his death. He was more than just a friend to me… he was absolutely my family. And I miss him beyond words.
How would you define the term epic metal?
Epic metal was practically created by Mark Shelton. It is an immense sound, powerful and intense… like warriors on war horses galloping and riding hard towards an epic battle, fully prepared to die on the battlefield!!
Are there any young bands inspired by Manilla Road that you appreciate?
I couldn’t actually name a whole lot of newer epic metal bands… although I will say that the Visigoth cover of “Necropolis“ was pretty good. I guess if one of the younger bands can produce something as fantastic as “Masque of the Red Death by the Hammer of the Witches Brew“… then they will have earned the right to call themselves epic!