Individuals like Mark Sugar don’t sit still. After the split of Trials he quickly went onto form Black Sites to carry on his musical quest. Getting a chance to speak to Mark, we talked about the transition from Trials to Black Sites, the group’s origins, influences, their new album and the future.
Good evening, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you doing?
Mark Sugar: I’m doing great, thanks for having us! I hope you are also well.
Jack: Black Sites was formed out of the ashes of Trials. Did you feel any pressure to live up to the reputation of Trials?
Mark: Not really. Trials was a pretty underground band, and I assumed that most people wouldn’t make that connection or care very much. Apparently I was wrong about that! But I don’t like to rest on whatever I’ve done in the past. I think In Monochrome stands on its own, regardless of what’s come before.
Jack: How did you all meet?
Mark: We’ve all been in other bands that have played shows together for years. Ryan played in Trials with me, and we did countless gigs with John’s band Without Waves, and various bands that Chris played in. The Chicago music scene is pretty close-knit.
Jack: The band draws inspiration from a range of old and new acts, how important is it to look not only to the past but to the future when it comes to influences?
Mark: I think there’s a fine line there. There’s a lot of bands that are pretty much re-enacting ‘70s or ‘80s rock, right down to the clothes and hairstyles. That’s great and all, but it’s been done already. I love the old-school stuff just as much as anyone else, but I’m interested in seeing how we can create something new from those influences, instead of just imitating them.
Jack: What bands had the most influence on the album?
Mark: While writing the songs, I was listening to a lot of Black Sabbath, Voivod, Queensryche, Hammers of Misfortune, Fates Warning, Rainbow, Pain Of Salvation, and Uli Roth-era Scorpions, just to name a few. Whether we actually sound like any of those bands remains to be seen.
Jack: Has being from Chicago influenced the band?
Mark: I think there’s definitely a certain work ethic out here that’s had an impact. And the general vibe here is a little darker than if, say, we had formed the band in California or someplace warm and sunny.
Jack: Your debut album In Monochrome is out in February. Do you get nervous before a release at all?
Mark: Not really. I’m sure some people will like the record, and other people might not appreciate what we’re going for. And I’m good either way. I’m just excited for people to finally hear it.
Jack: Is there a concept to In Monochrome?
Mark: Not really. I think there are some lyrical themes that might have found their way into there, but that’s about it.
Jack: What’s behind the title of the album?
Mark: It’s mostly named after the song “Monochrome”. I thought the music was pretty dynamic, with lots of shades of black and white, so the title seemed appropriate.
Jack: What was the recording process like recording with Gunpoint Recording Studios with recording engineer Quentin Poynter?
Mark: Pretty laid-back. Q is an expert with the technical side of recording. He’s also good at making difficult tasks seem like they’re not a big deal, which is important when you’re diving in with a new band and new album like we did.
Jack: Why did you decide to start the album with a piano intro?
Mark: That instrumental track (“M Fisto Waltz”) was written almost as a joke, but once we had it, there was no choice but to open the album with it. It also sounds nothing like any of our previous bands, so it serves as a reminder that this is something new, and all bets are off.
Jack: Do you have a favourite song on the album?
Mark: Right now my favourites are “Watching You Fall” and “Burning Away The Day,” but that could change. I like them all.
Jack: Have you started planning a follow up?
Mark: I’m always writing songs and making plans, and I do have a few ideas filed away in the back of my mind. That’s as far as we’ve gotten though.
Jack: With the live show will you play songs from your previous bands or will it just be Black Sites material?
Mark: The live set will be focused on songs from In Monochrome. We might play a tune from SOMEONE’s old band, but it won’t be one of ours.
Jack: What are your upcoming plans, any European/UK dates on the horizon?
Mark: Once the album’s out, our immediate plan is to play some shows here in the U.S. We would love to come to the UK and Europe, but nothing is set in stone yet.
Jack: Finally because Sabbath are retiring soon, what is the best Sabbath album?
Mark: Alright, NOW we’re getting to the important questions! My all-time favourite is Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. They were at their most progressive and experimental during that era, while still being crushingly heavy. I have a soft spot for The Mob Rules as well.