Interview with Black Map

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Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mark Engles and Ben Flanagan of Black Map before their show at The Wiltern as part of Chevelle’s La Gargola tour. Here’s what went down.

Thank you guys for sitting down talking and hanging out. My fiancé and I were at the Viper Room Show and even with technical difficulties, which made it punk rock, it was still a great show.

Ben:
Yeah glad it was towards the end, we had a good time, we had a good show. Last 2 songs were totally fucked, but I still left the stage thinking that was good show, even though we couldn’t play the last 2 songs.

Being that this is your first tour as Black Map, what has the crowd reaction been like and what are the ups and downs so far?

Mark:
It’s been amazing. Spoiling even. Having a headliner who’s so kind. I already had a relationship with them, from when Dredg did some touring with Chevelle. So that part is spoiling. We walk into the venue on the first show and there is no awkwardness and just start talking right away. Some tours it takes weeks to even talk to each other. On this tour we are playing great venues in front of great crowds. The crowd is very open-minded. The Chevelle crowd wants to listen to some rock n roll. And if you’re good at what you do they’re gonna accept it.

Ben:
This crowd wants to like us and the other band Highly Suspect who is great. It’s been nice getting out there. It’s warm from the get go. And it’s been our job to elevate that. Their fans are a bunch of sweethearts. It’s been great

Mark:
Nothing’s been thrown at us so that’s a great start.

The Driver EP came out earlier in the year, I bought it when it came out. My fiancé has it in her car, we both can’t stop listening to it. With everything that’s on your plate, I know you’ve been working on your full length. What is the time table on that?

Ben:
We are close to done with it and that some Tuesday in mid October we hope to release it. We have one more full song to record and some tweaks, mixing and mastering. We’re about 85% done with the whole thing.

What made you want to be in a heavier band considering that you’ve been in more of experimental/alternative melodic bands?

Mark:
We’ve been talking about it loosely for quite a while, when we’ve been out to dinner at a bar or watching a baseball game. We both know that we have the type of chops the way we play music. We know we are capable of it. I grew up listening to heavy stuff, we both did. Also, having Chris Robyn being down to do it, he’s a heavy hitter, it’s what he specializes in. So with all that, why not go back to a power trio or simple rock band. It’s just fun. When we walked in the room the first day, we said let’s just have fun. We had a 12 pack of beer and just rocked like we were 18 again.

Ben:
There is kind of a void to fill. I loved and still love the type of music the Trophy Fire is, the lighter alternative rock. I miss when I was younger, just playing the drop d brutal just kind of heavy riffs. Getting in a room and be able to do that as very cathartic, and then to still apply that sense of melody that we have in our other bands, brings out a really good feeling.

What bands really brought you together, especially in the writing?

Mark:
The obvious are our former bands. There are elements of Dredg, Far and The Trophy Fire. And other things from that era. Failure came up a couple times. Sepultura and Entomed on the guitar side of life, Helmet’s in there. I think all the stuff that influenced us in the mid nineties. Even the stuff that we looked as that was kind of underrated, like Faith No More, bands that did well, but weren’t the big pop radio hit bands.

What’s the driving factor of being a power trio? What really encapsulates your sound?

Mark:
I really like the fact that Ben is playing bass. He’s a guitar player and we really lock up on riffs and it allows us to get more intricate. I think when a trio is tight, it sounds so much tighter than that of a quartet being tight. You can really back up what you are playing. That was a fun part for us at first. Let’s write things that are very tight and intricate. It’s just simpler that way. And when you load into shows you have a lot less gear and all that other shit that goes with it too. It’s great.

While in Black Map, do you have any ideal tour mates or what’s your ideal bill?

Mark:
I think any band we enjoy that’s a loud, guitar-driven band would be great for us. Chevelle is actually one of them. Ben brought up months ago, before we were offered the tour.We’d be happy to play with any band that sounds similar or we’ve been influenced by. With my previous band, we’d over analyze things more. Like if someone offered us a tour, we’d think is this good for us. It this a good look? With this band, if the band is loud and we respect them, we’d probably say yes.

Personal Influence wise, who is the one that made you pick up the guitar and sing?

Ben:
It’s pretty simple for me and actually cliché. When I was 11, I got Nevermind. I basically wanted to be Kurt Cobain. That’s why I started playing guitar. So definitely that started it and went in a million different directions after that. I almost got a little sentimental the other day when we pulled into Seattle. We’re on this tour and it’s going great and I was kind of back to where it all started for me wanting to play guitar and be a singer.

Mark:
I gotta go with a lot of the metal from the 70’s and 80’s. I was listening to music at a young age. I had an older brother, but it wasn’t until Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Randy Rhodes, that sort of thing. That whole group of bands really made me want to start playing.

That’s really cool actually. Ok If you could pick your top 5 favorite albums and I know its one of those crazy put you on the spot questions…

Mark:
How much time do you have?

Until you need to go to sound check

Mark:
It’s tough for me, because whenever this question is asked I automatically go to certain albums like Dark Side Of The Moon and OK Computer. Then I start thinking of genres and different stages of life too. For me Pink Floyd and Radiohead, bands like that came a bit later, even Portishead. But early on it was the metal stuff. Sepultura Chaos AD is in there. Though it all becomes very convoluted in my mind. Like when I was 10 this album changed my likes, then you go through a renaissance of other styles in your 20’s and makes you listen to other things.

Ben:
We’ve talked a lot about different bands with their records that influenced us like Fantastic Planet by Failure, King For A Day Fool For A Life Time by Faith No More, The Shape Of Punk To Come by Refused. Albums like that. From start to finish they are beautifully executed and tell a story.

Mark:
I know one for you and me too. California by Mr. Bungle.

Did you get a chance to go to any of the Failure reunion shows?

Mark:
Saw them twice got to see them open for Tool and their headliner.

Ben:
Them opening for Tool was cool but their headliner with the 2 sets was fucking cool.

Oh I’d throw Tool Aenima in the mix too.

You guys mentioned that you are going release the album in October. Are you going to do a fall winter tour or wait till the next year to get out there?

Mark:
It’s all up in the air. We are trying to get anything we feel would be productive. We are definitely thinking about what we could be doing and what not. There are things in the works but nothing confirmed so I really can’t say much about it…

Ok for my one cliché type question, what’s the status of Dredg and The Trophy Fire? I know you Mark went with Dredg over to Europe recently.

Mark:
Europe was great and successful. We all agreed we have another record in us but there isn’t a rush to do it at this point.

Ben:
Same with Trophy Fire. Love the guys and we all get along, I’ve just been focusing on this and there are only so many hours in the day. Cool thing about being in a band is that there is no boss looking over your shoulder telling you to clock in.

Ben and Mark:
We’ll do it when we feel the time is right to go back to those projects.

Thank you guys for sitting with me and letting me ask you some questions and taking the time.

Ben and Mark:
Oh you are welcome, it’s our pleasure.

 

 

Interview by: Brian Lacy

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