Known in music circles as one of the most influential drummers in hard rock and metal history, Mark Zonder’s career in music has spanned more than three decades and a multitude of roles… from underground celebrity to progressive metal icon to drummer for hire to businessman.
While he began playing drums in grade school in Northern California, Mark established himself professionally when he formed the band Warlord in San Jose with guitarist Bill Tsamis in 1982 and migrated to Los Angeles. Although they recorded only one self-financed $800 Mini LP (“Deliver Us”), one single (Lost and Lonely Days/Aliens), one full length album (1984’s “…And The Cannons of Destruction Have Begun”) and never played a live show during their three short years signed to LA’s Metal Blade Records in the early 80s, Warlord’s unique Euro-Metal sound and stylized image had an immediate impact on the Southern California metal scene. Their head banging anthems “Lucifer’s Hammer” and “Child of the Damned” (which was later covered by the Swedish band Hammerfall) became cult classics making Warlord trendsetting and often imitated pioneers for a generation of “rawk”-loving fans.
With his underground cred firmly in effect by the mid-80s, Mark was recruited to replace the original drummer of seminal prog-metal outfit Fates Warning for their 1989 album “Perfect Symmetry.” In Fates, Mark moved from Metal’s fringes squarely into its center becoming a drummer whose style and technique influenced hard rockers worldwide. He recorded six studio albums and two live albums with the band and also did several world tours.
During this period, Mark also branched out creatively, playing with a variety of groups in different genres including the founding members of New Wave popsters Animotion in their offshoot group Plane English. In this phase of his career, Mark enhanced his knowledge of electronic percussion, which has become part of his trademark sound. He also founded his rehearsal and recording studio business, Bill’s Place (Now AJ&Syd’s Bump City Studio), which is still one of the top “lock out” recording spaces in Los Angeles.
In 2002, Warlord reunited to record “Rising Out of the Ashes” with Joacim Cans of Hammerfall on lead vocals. That year also saw them play their first two live gigs at the Wacken Festival in Germany in front of 40,000 fans; a testimony to the enduring legacy of their 80s heyday that still reverberates today with the tens of thousands of Warlord disciples around the globe that have kept the music alive with fans clubs, websites and the continued proliferation of the band’s songs.
In 2007, Mark formed Slavior enlisting guitarist Wayne Findlay and vocalist Gregg Analla. Bassist Philip Bynoe joined shortly after. The group released its eponymous debut album that year on the European label Inside Out–which the metal press called “fresh, original, and modern”–and played shows in the U.S. and Japan.
Since then, Mark recorded new Slavior material (soon to be released under his Sons Of A Dream Music label), played on a number of studio recordings for other artists and doing a series of Guitar Center-sponsored drum clinics nationwide that featured his signature techniques and tips from his drumming DVD. He also got back on the road with Fates in 2010 for a series of European dates.
Fast forward to 2012, that saw long standing hurdles removed and Warlord was once back together for a monumental album called “The Holy Empire” that was received with rave reviews from press and fans alike. Mounting pressure from fans and promoters in the meantime, led to the first ever Warlord tour in spring 2013, that included sold out headlining shows, a live worldwide TV appearance, countless interviews and magazine covers and a recorded concert (to be released in early 2014 on BluRay Disc / DVD and double CD). 2013, apart from the Warlord shows and live recordings, also saw the birth of Sons Of A Dream Music LLC, a joint venture by Mark & Bill that gives finally a “home” to the music of Warlord, Slavior, Lordian Guard and Mark’ & Bill’s side projects with extremely successful re-releases of a number of Warlord, Slavior and Bill Tsamis’ material.
Currently, Mark’s laying down the rhythm foundation for Warlord’s new album while still involved in session recordings as well as his own projects.
Whether developing his own projects or lending his talents to the sessions or shows for which he’s hired, Mark always brings a combination of professionalism, creativity and musical sensibility to every endeavor no matter how big or small. To him, it’s about how his role can make the music the best that it can be.
“At the end of the day, it’s about how you as a musician can fit into any situation—a concert, a recording—and try to make it great,” Mark offers. “Just because you can play some crazy lick or riff, it doesn’t mean you should if it’s not right for the final product.”
When Mark’s not recording, performing or running AJ & Syd’s Bump City Studios, he can be found riding his racing bicycle 100 miles a week near his home outside Loa Angeles and spending time with his wife, two children and his dog Chief.