Exclusive SRO Interview With Former Bang Tango Front-Man Mark Knight

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - Mark Knight is a veteran musician (guitarist, songwriter, singer) from the famous Hollywood/LA band scene of the 80's and 90's, having founded Bang Tango that included original members Tigg Ketler, Kyle Stevens, Kyle Kyle, and Joe Leste. The band formed in 1987 and were signed to MCA Records in 1989, producing three studio albums - Psycho Cafe (89'), Dancin' on Coals (91') and Love After Death (94'). The original line-up disbanded in 1995, never achieving the success they deserved, and with all the critical acclaim they received for their unique blend of funk-infused hard rock and alternative metal, the band's potential was never fully realized. SRO contributing writer, Kyle Branche, recently met up with Mark to discuss his journey in music.

Interview by Kyle Branche * Photos courtesy of Kyle Branche

Kyle Branche: From the past to the present, you've worked with some great musicians that you admire and respect. If you had your choice, who would you like to work with in the future, and why ?
Mark Knight: I’d like to work with Tom Petty [LAUGHS]. With Brendan O’Brien producing. He’s a big producer that’s worked with lots of artists similar to my style of music like The Black Crowes and Pete Droge. And Tom Petty just has a knack for song writing in a way that I really admire.

KB: Do you still have most of your guitars from back in your Bang Tango days and if so, do you use any of them with your current music?
MK: Yes. I have the majority of my guitars from back then and there’s a couple I still use with the music I’m currently playing like the 1978 Les Paul Deluxe that I used on "Dancin’ On Coals" and a 1990 American made Fender Telecaster. I used that on half of the songs on my new solo record, Mark Knight. And of course, I still have the famous orange Jackson from “Someone Like You.” The Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas wanted to display that guitar, but I wouldn’t give it up. These days, the Jackson hangs on the wall in my studio.

KB: What was it like hanging out on Sunset Strip back in the 80's and 90's, what clubs did you play and what bands were you co-billed with?
MK: It was a thriving, high energy scene with a lot of action going on. I played the Roxy, The Whisky, Gazzari’s, Club Lingerie, Cat House and Bordello with most of the Sunset Strip bands. I played with Warrant, Ratt, you know, Junkyard, Faster Pussycat, L.A. Guns, Poison, WASP. It was electrifying. It almost felt like New Year’s Eve every night when you’d go out with all the people on the street and you felt like if you didn’t go out every night, you’d be missing something. You couldn’t even drive down Sunset Boulevard. Every night was like a parade. You know, that was what was going on at the time, for better or worse. It was a huge part of music history and I’m proud to have been a part of it.

KB: Bernard Fowler, the back-up singer for the Rolling Stones, lives here in the San Fernando Valley. But he was also the lead singer on the three jazz albums that Charlie Watts put out in the mid-late 90's. What was it like working out your vocals with him in past sessions?
MK: Bernard Fowler broke me down pretty hard and going into the sessions with him, I was told that he brings men to tears sometimes, so I was prepared for getting a beat down [LAUGHS]. He really helped develop my vocal style when I first made the transition to lead singer. My first experience in the vocal booth with him was him telling me to come out into the control room with a list of five things I needed to work on right away. Out of those sessions came a demo for my band at the time, Worry Beads and we co-wrote a song for my band, Gravy, called “Seein’ Is Believing.”

KB: The style of music you write, record and perform now - roots rock, Americana, Folk, Country Rock and Blues - are there any similarities of connection from your Funk Metal Rock days with your previous band, Bang Tango, or do you feel it to be vastly different, taking acoustic into consideration?
MK: No, it’s not that different because there’s a thread to the music I’m doing now if you listen closely to the old Bang Tango stuff. On Love After Death, the last Bang tango studio record, there were tracks on there that are very similar to what I’m doing now. At that time, I wanted the band to move in the direction of what I’m doing now with my music. Joe Leste wanted to move in that direction as well, but we disbanded before we could progress in that direction. It was only natural for me to keep going when I continued my career after Bang Tango.

KB: What was it that led you in this new sound direction, did the past style just have its day and it was time to move on to something different, or did you always have this new sound in the back of your mind?
MKLike I said, it’s not a new surprise sound. If you listen to Bang Tango closely, you can clearly hear the connection to the music I’m doing now. I think a lot of that got lost in the metal hits which are what most people paid attention to. I try to make music that I like and naturally, that’s going to reflect other artists doing the same thing. I’m a huge Jason Isbell, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan fan and I’m inspired by what they have done as singer-songwriters.

KB: You're also a teacher of the guitar when you have spare time. With the studio you have at the house, what's it like working with the youth of today when they come in for lessons, given what they've grown up with in regards to technology all around them and ways to communicate that we didn't have when we were growing up?
MK: I think a lot of them, a lot of the kids today, rely on a lot of technology as opposed to hard work and learning the craft of their instrument, so they’re not as disciplined in practicing and getting better. They use the tools of technology to create their sounds rather than music that comes from learning the instrument. But then, you know, a couple of my students have the drive and desire to be real musicians. They do what we did. Take any gig they can and work hard to get their music out. It makes me proud to watch my students perform knowing that they couldn’t even play a chord on a guitar when I met them.

KB: Jeff Beck loves working on Hot Rods as a hobby when he's not performing or on tour. Knowing that you're an accomplished Woodcraftsman as a creative work hobby for yourself, what is it that draws you into working with different woods and designing, and are you self-taught?
MK: Woodworking is a creative outlet and I enjoy creating things. It’s a different artistic avenue for me and it pays the bills! If you want to make a comparison to Jeff Beck’s hot rods, surfing would be the parallel for me and surfing is a creative activity itself.

KB: Thank you for taking the time for some Q & A, Mark, much appreciated!