An Interview with Mark Tremalgia of Bang Tango & Little Caesar

Feature image: Joe Shaeffer Photography

The tapestry of Rock and Heavy Metal music is deep, and while certain names perpetually remain at its forefront, there are many who deeply weave, and hold its totality together. As far as the 1980s go, guitar heroes were aplenty, but few are as humble as master hand, Mark Tremalgia.

With origins sprouted in Connecticut, at a young age, and with guitar in hand, Tremalgia laid forth a path toward LA, where like so many others, he sought the limelight amongst a bustling hair metal and glam scene.

Once ingratiated, Tremalgia cut his teeth for several years, eventually landing a gig with Bang Tango, during a transitionary period in the iconic band’s history. Tremalgia recorded and toured with Bang Tango for several years, eventually parting ways with the band in 1999.

As the 90s moved swiftly into the 2000s, Tremalgia kept busy, always with an eye toward progression, perfection, and the proverbial brass ring. Eventually, Tremalgia settled in, working with Mark Knight and his Unsung Heroes, The Disputable Few, Uncle Duane’s Band, and most recently, holding down guitar duties for fellow veteran rockers, Little Caesar.

We recently dug in with Mark, where, among other things, we touch on Mark’s origins in music, making the shift to LA, hooking on with Bang Tango, his continued work with Mark Knight, joining Little Caesar, and a whole lot more.

If you would like to learn more about Mark Tremalgia, head over to his Instagram, and dig in. And of course, don’t forget to keep tabs on Little Caesar for their latest comings and goings as well.

Andrew:
Mark, thank you for taking the time. As a young musician, what first gravitated you toward the guitar?

Mark:
My mom sings Jazz and is in the church choir, and I have two brothers and two sisters that are huge music lovers. Music was always playing in our house. Everyone liked something a little different, so it really opened my ears to the world of music. My sister’s husband’s, brother played guitar and I was fascinated by it. I was six and obsessed, I started playing right away. “Stairway to Heaven,” the blues, and “Blackbird” are what I started with. 

Andrew:
Who were some of your early influences which most lent themselves to your style?

Mark:
My first concert, at age ten, was BB King, and then, I saw Aerosmith a year later. Eye-opening! I love Stevie Ray Vaughan, Randy Rhoads, Duane Allman, Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Perry, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton. I still listen to them all to this day.

Andrew:
You made a move early on from Connecticut to LA. That had to have been quite the change. What was the scene like upon reaching LA?

Mark:
It was amazing, everything a small-town Connecticut boy could imagine in Hollywood. There were thousands of people out on the strip, handing out flyers, and great bands playing at the clubs every night. So, much fun and so different than Connecticut!

Andrew:
Mariah was one of your earliest gigs. Tell us more about the band, and your induction into the world of glam and hair metal.

Mark:
Mariah was formed when I was still in high school. We started out more like Iron Maiden but saw Poison open for Ratt, and decided that was the way to go, and changed overnight. We visited LA in 1986, my junior year, and happened to meet Guns ‘N Roses at the Sunset Grill, and they said, “You should move to LA,” so we did. [Laughs]. In September of 1987, we hopped in a van and drove across the country, straight to the Sunset Strip! At that time, we had a little bit of interest from record labels and got to play all the big clubs, even met with Gene Simmons, it was an amazing time, but things didn’t work out…like they don’t for most bands.

Image credit: Denis M. Hannigan

Andrew:
Take us through your joining Bang Tango in 1993. How did things go down?

Mark:
I was playing in a band called Dox Haus Mob, we won Dick Clark’s battle of the bands on ABC, and won a record deal. We played some high-profile shows including one opening up for Bang Tango. Joe and I hit it off and became friends at that gig. We formed a side band called the Vagabond that played all over town. One night, he let me know Kyle Stevens was quitting the band and asked me if I was interested in the job. 

Andrew:
As I mentioned before, the glam and hair metal scenes were shifting rapidly around that time, and a great many bands were finding it difficult to compete with grunge acts of the day. What was the state of Bang Tango like around the time?

Mark:
I think at the time, Bang Tango felt like we fit in with the contemporaries of the era. We weren’t quite as made up and glammy as most of the bands on the strip, Kyle had his Newlydeads project with Tamie Downe that was industrial rock. We felt we had a bit of an edge that lent itself closer to what was happening at the time but still had our feet in the roots we came from. The band definitely got a little heavier too, Love After Death is grungier than either of the previous two records, but we felt like we were still in the same universe we’d been occupying.

Andrew:
You mentioned Love After Death, which was recorded just before you joined Bang Tango. What do you recall regarding the reception of that record?

Mark:
I joined the band just after that was recorded, Kyle Stevens played guitar on the album. I did the tour for it. I played on the Greatest Hits and Bang Tango Live records. What I can tell you about the recording is it was recorded in San Francisco with Howard Benson, the band had an amazing time recording it and was really feeling positive it would take us to the next level.

Image credit: TPRS

Andrew:
Love After Death is easily one of Bang Tangos best records. In retrospect, did the album get its due considering the grunge movement at the time? How do you feel it stacks up the band’s earlier efforts?

Mark:
Love After Death is definitely one of the top Bang Tango records that they recorded in that era. It definitely didn’t get its due, not only because of the grunge movement, but because we were having record label issues, and securing its release in the US was near to impossible at the time. It did do well in the UK, and the tour over there was quite memorable!

Andrew:
The mid-90s presented a bit of a stop and start for Bang Tango, which broke up in 1995, and then was quickly reformed in 1996, which a rotating cast of musicians. Take us through what happened there.

Mark:
When we came back from the European tour for Love After Death, the band, for all intents and purposes, broke up on the flight back. Joe [Lesté] and I decided to keep it together, we knew some great players and had a tour with Tesla coming up, so we put a band together with the Hurricane Alice guys, Joe and myself. After that tour’s success, Kyle decided to re-join the band. It was more like the original band with Kyle and Joe together again. We then signed a deal and did some records for Cleopatra, and a few really fun tours in that iteration.

Andrew:
You hung in with Bang Tango until 1999 when the band dissolved once again. What caused the second fracture? Ultimately, how frustrating were the 90s for yourself and the band? Do you see yourself taking the stage with them again in the future?

Mark:
I had a great, great time playing with Bang Tango in the 90s. It was a fun time but it did get tough at the end. I started to spread myself thin with too many bands, and unfortunately, I had to take other gigs over the Tango gig to stay alive playing music. I’m still great friends with Mark Knight and Tigg, but I haven’t talked to Joe and Kyle in years, and the door is always open to play with them!

Andrew:
Moving forward, how did you navigate the rough waters leading up to joining The Disputable Few? Where do things stand today?

Mark:
I had a nice run of gigs leading up to forming The Disreputable Few with Paul Ill. I played with the Chambers Brothers of the “Time Will Come Today” fame for a couple of years, and also, with 70s funk legends, The Brothers Johnson. Mark Knight and I did a couple of records and formed his Unsung Heroes band. During that time, I also backed a whole host of blues singers too. Disreputable Few came about as a band of studio musicians that would back up Matt Sorum and his Adopt The Arts Charity. We were lucky enough to back up Billy Gibbons, Steve Lukather, Slash, Duff McKagan, Edgar Winter, and many more. We decided to start writing songs, and developed into a full-blown band. We’ve also morphed into Uncle Duane’s Band as an offshoot of The Disreputable Few, we play Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead songs, and just recently played The Big House in Macon GA, which was a home the ABB lived in that is now a museum. We also back Linda Perry from 4 Non-Blondes, and Bob Weir from The Dead.

Andrew:
How about Little Ceasar? You joined the band in 2017. How did you enter the fold?

Mark:
I really love playing with Little Caesar. Ron Young is one of the best singers around, so I jumped at the chance to play with him. Paul Ill from The Disreputable Few recommended me to Loren [Molinare] and Ron, as they needed a guitar player. Ron and I talked and hit it off, so we played together, and haven’t stopped since.

Andrew:
Take us through the sessions for the recording of 2018’s Eight.

Mark:
We recorded it pretty quickly at Bruce Witkin‘s studio. He’s got a great setup to go in there and not think, just play music and let it out. It was a fun, positive, and productive session. I remember not having any restraints on me, maybe two or three takes of a solo and moving on to the next song. Someone might have an idea for a lick or a melody in a solo and make it even better. There was no tension only creativity. Bruce is a great producer too, he gets his ideas across to you and you know exactly what he wants to hear, and when you listen back, it’s exactly what it needed.

Andrew:
In recent years, you’ve supplemented your Bang Tango connection in continuing to work with Mark Knight. How did you two reconnect?

Mark:
When we toured in Bang Tango he and I roomed together, so we were always playing guitar and writing music. When he quit the band, after the European tour, he and I decided to put a band together but because of how busy Bang Tango was, I never had time. Later, when I did leave Bang Tango, Mark called me up and suggested playing again, so we did. For years we wrote, recorded, and toured. It was a lot of fun, and he’s still doing it, and he still kicking ass. His last record was probably his best yet.

Andrew:
How have you evolved as a guitarist compared to your earlier days? If you could give your younger self one lesson, what would it be?

Mark:
I think as I’m getting older, I’ve always tried to make sure I’m growing and learning. I feel there is so much to be learned on the guitar, and I want to know it all. I think I’m still the same player I was when I was younger; hungry for knowledge. It’s just that I have more control, and a bigger catalog in my brain to choose from. I would tell my young self to slow down and be more social. I liked to stay in a practice way too much. [Laughs].

Andrew:
What sort of gear, and guitars are you using these days in both the live setting and the studio?

Mark:
I’m pretty stripped down these days. My guitars are my Les Paul, SG, or Strat. My amp is either a ’64 Fender Deluxe or an EVH 15 Watt head, with 2 x 12 Greenbacks, a couple of pedals, a Timmy Overdrive, EP Booster, and a 30-MS aka a Beatles, Abbey Road slap back-pedal.

Andrew:
What next for you in all lanes, Mark?

Mark:
Staying busy with Little Caesar, we have a tour in September of Europe, as well as some new music coming soon. The Cruzados are going to Europe in April, which is the first time for that band. I’ve still been working with The Disreputable Few and Uncle Duane; we’ve been writing, recording, and will still be backing up various artists. Also, I’m still writing music for TV and commercials. Oh, and I give guitar lessons online too!

Image credit: Adam Zegarmistrz Glagla

Interested in learning more about Little Caesar & Bang Tango? Check out the links below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full catalog of VWMusic Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found VWMusic in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Idle Chatter. Over time, the column grew into a website that now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process. Some of Andrew’s favorite artists include KISS, Oasis, ACϟDC, Elvis Presley, Ace Frehley, The Rolling Stones, Rush, The Pretenders, Led Zeppelin, The Gaslight Anthem, Iron Maiden, John Lennon, The Melvins, Noel Gallagher, Regina Spektor, Rory Gallagher, The Stone Roses, The Strokes, Thin Lizzy, Elvis Costello, Van Halen, Neil Young, Blur, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and many more.
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