Interview with Warp Drive's Mark Woerpel
Almost 2 decades since it was first recorded, that’s how long it took for Milwaukee melodic rockers to see their second full lenght album getting an official release. But now “Something To Believe In” is out (on UK based label AOR Boulevard Records) and it’s been met with much enthusiasm and acclaim by those who’ve given it the eartest. Yours truly is also impressed by what it has on offer and when one of the driving forces behind the label, the legendary Kelv Hellrazer, gave us the chance to have a little chat with frontman/guitarist Mark Woerpel we seized it with both hans. Here’s with mister Woepel had to say…
Your newest offering entitled “Something To Believe In” came out a couple of months ago through UK based label AOR Boulevard Records. But before we talk about said album let’s go back to the very beginings of the band. When and how did the idea of forming Warp Drive first came into existence and who was part of that very first line-up?
First of all, Schoonooghe??!!!....I thought Woerpel was a wild last name! Warp Drive, in 1989, was a result of wanting to put out the sounds in my head, heavier Guitar Rock with heart, with my favorite players from my home town, Cary Kaylan & Steve Draeger, along with Vin E (Dombrowski) from Detroit (future Sponge creator) who was introduced to me by Ben Grosse, our producer, by a recording of Vin E doing a monster drum riff, which ended up in the middle of the song “Bang The Drum”. Ben Grosse went on to work with a ton of huge artists, Marilyn Manson etc.
I assume that like most other bands Warp Drive at a certain point recorded a demo which was sent out to record labels in order to secure a deal. If so, how many songs were on that tape and to which labels was it sent?
All of “STBI” was sent out. I actually sat in Doug Morris’s office in New York (Atlantic Records). Years later, I was in Vegas, doing a show with Rickey, and we had dinner with an old label rep from EMI and he talked to me about how close we were to a major deal. I always felt that, but there is so much that has to happen for the stars to line up, for a band to get those chances.
You guys inked a deal with indie label Link Company and your debut album “Gimme Gimme” hit record shelves in 1989. Where they one of the labels that received a copy of the demo tape or was the deal sealed some other way?
I forget the Link guys name but I can picture him. He was a gracious guy and the contact was through our management.
What kind of deal did you have with Link? Was it a one album deal or was “Something To Believe” originally scheduled to be released through them as well?
1 album deal really, but things were open. I believe we were looking for bigger things on the 2nd release.
If my information is correct the band recorded only one promo video, namely for the track “Bang The Drum” from “Gimme Gimme”. Personally I think Link didn’t put much effort in promoting the album or is that a wrong assumption?
I think they did what they could do. I did a press release trip to London and did an interview on MTV Europe at the Marquee. They opened some doors for us, but again the stars have to aline, meaning even on our part. A band becomes the main focus of your life and the challenge to see it through on everyone’s part is special. It all has to work starting with belief.
The best way to make sure people get to know about the band is by playing live. Next to gigs on your own, did the band hook up with some of the bigger names in melodic hard rock once “Gimme Gimme” was released? If yes, what do you recall from those gigs?
I was always lucky to be put on those kind of shows. It’s an amazing excitement to be on stage in front of people wanting to hear your music, original music, and share the feeling of the music live. For me, loud, and putting everything into it. Early on, we got called to get out to North Dakota because Mike, the singer from White Lion, had gotten sick and they asked us to take their place and open for Stryper! It was wild! No one knew who we were but we took 5000 kids on a ride for those shows. Many others after that.
“Something To Believe In”, which was recorded in the early ‘90s, was shelved because of a drastic change in the musical climate. How did that make you feel at the time and did you ever consider putting the album out on your own?
We had already done that on the “Gimme Gimme” release, but mostly music was changing. Nirvana was on the cover of the Metal Forces mag that our first album was reviewed in (100 out of 100!) You could tell at the time, everything was up for grabs.
When did the band exactly split up and what has kept you busy all those years?
’92 I think was the last show, and I was already touring with Blackfoot. I had started writing for the first release, you’ve got to realize in ’86. So this was 6 years of commitment. The guys too, put everything into this and could feel the change coming. Blackfoot was a constant. After Blackfoot I put time back into family and my roots. I’m from the north woods and that’s my heart and soul. My wife & I are in the country with all kinds of critters running around. Still do music constantly including occasional shows with Rickey and writing with him.
The fact that “Something To Believe In” has finally been given an official release is in no small part thanks to mister Kelv Hellrazer, one of the band’s biggest supporters. Kelv interviewed you for the pages of UK rock and metal magazine Metal Forces back in 1990. Did you guys keep in touch all those years and when did Kelv first approach you about releasing the disc?
It was great to hear from Kelv, who doesn’t need a guitar to be a rock star! He found our release on Itunes. He emailed me and said it was the best thing in 2011! I told him he was my hero.
On album number 2 drummer Mark McConnel was replaced by Jim Winter. What led to Mark’s departure and how did you find his replacement?
We were looking for a real feel and McConnel wasn’t working. Great live drummer but wasn’t committed. Jim is one of the best rock drummers that came out of Milwaukee.
“STBI” contains 2 bonus tracks that sound a bit different from the other tunes on offer. Were they originally written that way or were changes made here and there to update them a little?
I wrote “Fools of Faith” right after the end of WD. It was my thoughts at the time of lot of things. The production is of a diferent style with a production company I work with in Minneapolis. “Heaven” was picked by the label as I did the lead on the original release by Blackfoot in ’87. It was fun to do it this way.
One of my favourite tracks on the new album is opener “Rock ‘N’ Roll Party In The Streets”, an old Axe chestnut. It’s truly astonishing just how much energy you guys have injected in this track and how much it sounds like one of your own. Is this why you chose to put it first and are you as happy with the way it sounds as I am?
I played with the original drummer from Axe for a while and had played the song for years live. I had met Bobby Barth, as we had the same management. Because of all those nights playing that song we could feel it from the inside. That version is crazy! That’s Rickey screaming at the end. The guitars and drums are nuts!
What are the immediate plans for you and the band? Any chance of some reunion shows or will you go out with a completely new band to promote the album?
Would love to do shows. Whoever wants to be a gypsy with me again can come along.
If there’s enough interest in the band, is there a possibility of a third Warp Drive release?
There’s more music in me so it has to come out either way.
Many melodic rock fans, including yours truly, are always searching for unreleased stuff from bands from the golden era. Are there unreleased Warp Drive tracks in the vault that are worth putting out?
There’s actually a whole 3rd pile, of demos though on cassette, so no good quality like “STBI”. So I’ld have to dig through those and look at a way of packaging them.
Final question: imagine your a record shop owner and this kid walks up to you holding your album in one hand and the new Van Halen in the other and he asks you which one he should buy cause he only has enough cash for one CD. How will you convince this kid to buy the Warp Drive platter instead of the Van halen one?
I would actually knock him out, take his money and go buy the Van Halen! I am so happy to hear Eddie playing real guitar again! That’s a good example of how the stars have to aline. So many things get in the way of good music getting out there. (like a back stabbing Sammy Hagar). To answer the question......Warp Drive is a limited release..so get it now kid, while you can.
Keep the Faith...
Last Updated (Sunday, 01 April 2012 12:35)