Wow. 5 years… the date was July 17th, 2014 when I thought of the words “Metal Allegiance” and the initial idea of the then “concept” at the old Del Fuego (taco joint) in St. James, NY (Long Island). How do I remember the exact date? Its quite simple… I had that once-in-a-lifetime “light bulb” moment sitting there at my corner stool and I wrote it down in the notes on my iPhone which said “just came up with the name ‘Metal Allegiance’ I dig it”. I remember calling Dan Leo up later that day telling him about it and I also remember it pondering in my mind throughout that entire month of July…
A few things about Del Fuego before I move on… not only is it the birthplace of MA, but its also the spot where all early MA business decisions were made. We hired managers there, had many of meetings there (we still do at the new location), conceptulized ideas there, many band dinners, post-rehearsal/recording hangs, etc… Alex Skolnick and David Ellefson were frequent visitors of the resturant throughout our formative years. HOWEVER… there is one person who loved it as much as me (probably even more) that he is now named after the freaking place, the incomparable Mr. Mark Osegueda now known world-wide as Osefuego! Yes, this is the joint Mark is named after and let me tell you something… the photos I have of him in this place will never see the public light… or maybe they will? 😉
Enough of my babbling… Fast forward to August 26th, 2014 as I was standing in my kitchen getting ready to go to the beach with my two amazing kids when I received a phone call from Dave Ellefson “Dude… Megadeth had to cancel next months performances on Motorhead’s Motorboat, we’re up to bat” I remember telling him “what in the world are you talking about??!!” and Dave’s response was “time to do your thing and get the crew back together again…”
Now for those that don’t know, when I worked in my former life for a Musical Instruments company within the Music Industry, I put together this thing called Metal Masters that featured Dave Ellefson, Portnoy, Anselmo, Anthrax dudes, Slayer dues, Geezer Butler, etc… etc… when I parted ways with that company in the spring of 2014 I also parted ways with the Metal Masters concept hence Dave going “we’re up to bat” he knew of my name “Metal Allegiance” and he knew what I wanted to do with it… he also knew I was planning on making the debut at the House of Blues in Anaheim in January of 2015… but what I did NOT know nor expect was that opportunity was knocking and when opportunity knocks, you take it. After a few phones calls with Dave that morning and a few more that evening with Danny from Ask4 Entertainment (the fine person/company behind Motorboat, Shiprocked, etc…) Metal Allegiance was booked on the inaugural Motorhead Motorboat Cruise set to take sail from September 22-26, 2014. And yes, the kids and I had a killer day at the beach and I took this photo of a fork with metal horns signifying I was back in game (sooner than I thought)… haha
Now… “Metal Allegiance” was booked but didn’t have a band nor any members, didn’t have social media, didn’t have a website, didn’t have ANYTHING… We were non-existent. So the next day and many mass phone calls later to everyone in Anthrax, Philip, Rex, Chuck, etc… explaining what the hell was going on, they all agreed to participate and by the end of the day on August 27th we had a band and the first lineup of “Metal Allegiance” was announced.
Lets fast forward again… September 22nd, 2014 and setting sail on Motorboat out of Miami; myself, Mike Portnoy, David Ellefson and Chris Broderick flew down as the only people who were not in a “real” band performing on Motorboat but as “Metal Allegiance” everyone else was performing on that boat in their respective bands. Also note, at this time I was still the sole “behind the scenes dude”…
September 23rd is the day that the seeds were planted for “Metal Allegiance” to become what it is now known for… as many people on that boat are aware, we couldn’t make our first stop in Key West due to a Hurricane out at sea, so the boat was forced to sail away from that storm… as we were sailing, we kept circling this Island, over and over… as the day went on I kept looking at this Island. It was eventually late afternoon and myself, David Ellefson, Portnoy and Danny (from Ask4) were all just talking before our set and killing time; I remember asking someone “where the hell are we? We keep circling that Island…” and Dave enthusiastically says “Dude! Thats Cuba!” then immediately after that someone (I think it was Portnoy) had the idea to say “hey, lets write some music as Metal Allegiance” and I remember laughing and saying “what are we gonna do write covers” with a wise-ass chuckle… I also believe I made jokes of him joining another band? Needless to say the idea was then left as just an “idea” and we went on to play our first set that evening on the outdoor deck in extreme wind conditions (while still circling Cuba).
September 24th… the boat finally stopped and let us out in Cozumel, Mexico. I ventured out on my own as I was tired of being cooped up, so I went sight-seeing, ate some real-deal tacos and just relaxed. I even found this dude making custom skulls in the streets of Mexico and he painted the second item that bears an MA logo 🙂 this still sits in my living room. (The first items are the first MA guitar picks which are now super rare, I personally only have a few left) Neither here or there, when I finally got back to the boat in my sandals, straw hat, board shorts, Eagles Tour shirt and coconut drink; I stumbled into the artist catering area where a group of the guys were eating dinner with Alex Skolnick. Alex and I didn’t really know one another at that point… we both knew of each other but didn’t know each other. I remember looking over to him and saying “Dude, you’re jamming with us tomorrow” with my coconut drink still in hand and then I left… it was night-night for me. hahahaha
September 25th: Alex took me up on my offer and he did an insane rendition of “Eruption” by the mighty Van Halen along with some other VH classics for our second performance. It was awesome watching everyone rehearse in the dressing room area before the gig, all having fun, jamming like they were kids, smiling, etc… definitely a goosebumps moment. The second and last set of ours was now finally over and the inauguration of MA is done, HOWEVER… that night after the gig I clearly remember talking to Mike Portnoy and going, “Hey man, do you really think we could write music as “Metal Allegiance” and he said “Absolutely” at this point I furthered the discussions with Mike and Dave that very night, but we did not have a guitarist… and thats when I suggested Alex. I went to find Alex on that boat and mentioned the crazy idea to him… he gave me his cell number to keep in touch and we parted ways. To this day, I still believe he didn’t take it seriously. haha
About a month or so later I started a group text with Mike and Dave as I was still excited about MA and the future possibilities. We started talking about getting together to write, types of music we’d do, general talking, etc… and we kept throwing names back and forth for that “guitarist” slot and I kept saying “Alex… Alex… Alex…” I then called Alex and told him this crazy idea and continued our discussion from the Motorboat. He was interested… but none of us knew how it would work. We were all skeptical. Myself, Alex, Dave and Mike all agreed to meet at Mike’s house in early December to see what we can come up with and to see if we have chemistry between us as writing partners. We all got along great and myself, Dave and Mike have known each other for quite some time (better part of 10 years or so), but who knew how it would be getting in a room together writing creatively. It could have went one of two ways; amazing or terrible. I was also skeptical as they asked me to contribute musically and lyrically. Mike and Dave both knew I played and wrote and I believe it was Dave who said that I was an untapped resource filled with music…
Also in the month of October, MA offered the first MA shirt ever as we were the ONLY band on that boat who didn’t have merch and people kept asking if we had anything (at this point we were still brand new to social media), so we did this fine gem of a shirt! Anyone still have one?
December 2nd has some major significance to me; 1) it’s my oldest sons Birthday 2) it’s the day the Core 4 of Ellefson/Menghi/Portnoy/Skolnick was officially formed. On December 2nd, 2014 I drove to Mike’s house in PA (after spending the day and having birthday dinner/cake with my son) to meet up with Mike, Alex and Dave. The three of them got together on December 1st to start writing. I had to come a day later as there was no way I was missing my sons Birthday. When I got there, they had three song sketches somewhat mapped out; I believe “Pledge of Allegiance”, “Scars” and “Destination: Nowhere” (at least the musical skeletons of em). When I came in, we wrote “Dying Song” that night of the 2nd… the next day on December 3rd we pieced together the full musical arrangements for Pledge, Scars, Destination and Dying Song and then started on our fifth song “Gift of Pain”. I brought that tune in as its a song I had written previously (Musically and lyrically). We’ll get into the lyrics, music, meanings at a later date 🙂 the photo below was taking the night of December 2nd, 2014 at the local Red Robin by Mike’s house and is the first official photo of the “Core 4”
December 3rd and 4th we used to finalize the first of two batches of songs and what wound up being on our debut album to be released later the following year (Pledge of Allegiance, Dying Song, Gift of Pain, Destination: Nowhere and Scars)… I won’t get into the 6th year, second writing session in early 2015, other shows, Debut album release, etc… as its not the 6 year anniversary 🙂 but I can tell you one thing… in a short amount of time (July 2014 to December 2014) the ground work was laid for Metal Allegiance and I can not thank Alex, Mike and Dave enough for allowing me into their creative circle and to all the fans for accepting me into the metal-fold with these legends. Yes, they are legends and I have no business being amongst them… I’ll be the first to tell you that. Having said that, I work real hard to practice my craft as I always need to be on my A-game. I put myself through rigorous practice regimens at home, always writing, always practicing, always writing words down, (I started writing for MA 3 already haha) etc… so when I do get together with the fellas to write or jam I am prepared.
Having said all that, 5 years later here we are; a home at the greatest metal label in all the land, a killer website, awesome social pages with the most amazing fans, 2 full length records, one EP, an amazing crew/staff and many, many, many memorable shows later we are still here and more importantly, still friends. I personally have made some amazing friends and relationships over these last 5 years and will always be humbled by them.
I hope whomever reads this comes out to one of our anniversary shows in April. We will be celebrating all things MA from songs off of both records and EP, some covers we haven’t done in a while and of course, some special surprise guests. Ya never know who is gonna show up at these dates or what else will happen… but I do promise there are more surprises in-store for these four shows and for other things brewing to celebrate for later in the year 🙂 afterall, we have a year to celebrate 🙂