Interview: Mark Anthony of The Letter Black Discusses Gear, Effects and 'Hanging On By A Thread'
Hailing from the small town of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, The Letter Black have enjoyed an ever growing fan-base, due in large part to a constant touring schedule.
The band has toured with the likes of Skillet, Brian "Head" Welch and others and has garnered much attention in print media. We talk with guitarist Mark Anthony during a rare break in their schedule.
Can you give us a little history as to how the band took shape and where you guys were coming from musically when you morphed from Breaking The Silence into The Letter Black?
We all met in church and quickly became friends. We started writing some songs and it evolved from “eery-rock” to hard rock, like we are now.
What does the name of the band mean?
Nothing. It came out of a joke between our manager and Paige Hamilton (of Helmet). We were coming up with band names and were just tossing names around and Paige just threw it out saying, “Why don’t you just call it The Letter Black? It doesn’t have to mean anything.” And it stuck.
You have been involved to some degree with the project/band Hail. Is that something you might get more involved with down the road?
I was asked to be a part of a European tour they were doing, but I couldn’t do it because it conflicted with TLB’s schedule. There’s a definite possibility you could see me playing some shows with them in the future, though.
What drew you to Gibson guitars as your weapons of choice?
I feel like they are the best guitar made. They are still hand built in the USA and their sound is unmistakeable and uncompromised. It’s a man’s guitar. If you’re playing rock 'n' roll, you should use a Gibson. It's timeless. Just ask Zakk Wylde.
Do you use any outboard effects or rack-mounted processing?
My setup is pretty simple; all the stuff I use is at my feet. No rack mounts. I use a Boss tuner, Boss noise gate, MXR Carbon Copy analog delay pedal, Rocktron chorus pedal, and a Morley wah. I believe all of your tone should come from your hands and your guitar head.
What sort of amplification did you use on Hanging On By A Thread and also on the road?
I use a Mesa Dual and a Triple Rectifier on the record and a Dual Rectifier live.
The band has released two EP's now subsequent to Hanging On By A Thread. Can you talk about those?
We’re releasing three EP’s total this year, and a new full length next year. We are putting out the EP’s to give fans some new stuff to listen to to tide them over until our next full length. The songs on the three EP’s are either remixes, unreleased or brand-new songs.
As a band, do you write new material as a group or start with a lyric or maybe a riff first?
A song, usually, with a riff idea, then for us it progresses to a melody then lyrics are added as we go. To me, the guitar riff has to be just as sick as the melody.
Following in the footsteps of many very successful bands that featured husband and wife (White Stripes, Wings, Pat Benatar, etc.), do you struggle to keep that work/life balance? Do you find yourselves constantly collaborating on new ideas?
Fortunately, we’ve never had to struggle to keep a balance for work/personal life. We take specific time out for either part when needed. It’s pretty simple for us. We do collaborate on new ideas. It’s especially easy since we have a studio in our house.
As a guitarist there are obviously moments on Hanging On By A Thread that shine and glimpses into a player that has all the chops he needs. Do you see the next record as maybe having some of that Mark Tremonti/Alter Bridge effect where he just exploded with incredible solos?
Yes. Definitely. This next record is pushing me as a player to grow and get a little more complex while still maintaining respect for a simple riff.
The Letter Black is very open with its Christian values and has enjoyed much success on the Christian charts. At the same time, the lyrical content does not alienate non-Christians. Lyrically is that a conscious decision to sort of walk that line?
We write whats on our hearts and minds. We definitely don’t hide what we have to say or the fact that we are Christians. At the same time, we aren’t the “cheesy” type of people, so we write straightforward lyrics that everyone seems to relate to.
The band has been doing some very heavy touring in the last two years. What is next on the horizon for the band?
Right now we are taking a break to write for and record the new full-length record. It’s going to be released sometime in 2012.
You can find more information on The Letter Black as well as their debut album and three EP's right here.