By Dr. Abner Mality

A lot of musicians are busy. These days, you have to hustle, if your main income is from the music business. Mr. Mike Lepond takes it to another level. This guy is involved in so many bands and projects, it makes me wonder if there is a Mike Lepond clone factory somewhere churning out multiple version of the fleet fingered bassist.

SYMPHONY X, ROSS THE BOSS BAND, DEADRISEN and more are just a few of the bands that Mike plays in. But the one band where he is in total control and calls all the shots is SILENT ASSASSINS. And this bunch has just unleashed one corker of a diverse and powerful heavy metal album entitled “The Whore of Babylon”. You get to hear all facets of Mike’s talent here.

Somehow, Mr. Lepond was able to squeeze in time for an interview (or perhaps one of the clones handled it)’s the result of that chat.

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES:  The new SILENT ASSASSINS album has a very historical edge to the lyrics. When did you get bit by the history bug? Was it a recent thing?

MIKE LEPOND:     That’s a really good question. When I was younger, I really didn’t care at all about history. When I started getting into heavy metal and tried to put together songs, I was never really sure what to write about. I never felt comfortable writing about girls and partying and stuff like that. Then around 15 years ago, I started to notice the History Channel and I started watching it. I kind of fell in love with it. I saw all these documentaries on history and mythology and literature and finally it  clicked in my head that this would be perfect lyrical fodder for heavy metal/ These stories are so epic and powerful….it just goes perfect with heavy metal music. And once I had that in my head, then I started to think about doing solo records.

WC:  One of the gateway bands for history in metal has always been IRON MAIDEN, because they’d have songs about Alexander The Great and Genghis Khan. 

ML: Yeah, I always loved IRON MAIDEN’s lyrics. They were really intelligent and had a lot of content. Now I kind of see where they were coming from, once I got into history so much. I really respect bands who have really powerful content in their lyrics. You don’t have to write about hanging out Friday night looking for girls and all that.

WC: Was there one particular era of history that interested you the most?

ML: There were so many that were fascinating. Ancient Rome is really interesting to me. A lot of the stuff that was in the Old Testament was interesting to me, too. I watched a lot of documentaries on it and it was so epic. It was a treasure trove of lyrical ideas and from those ideas I was able to actually write cooler music. I had the story in my head so I knew what kind of riffs to put to it, so it made the music more epic and better over all.

WC: I noticed on “Whore of Babylon” the songs are all very individual. They’re not all the same, they have their own identity. The title track has a Middle Eastern feel to it and the Viking song “Ironbound”, you can almost see a battle in your head when you hear it.

ML: Yeah, that’s where I was trying to go on this album. I had most of the lyrics written first. The cool thing about that is, now I can actually write the music to fit the mood of the lyrics. If there’s something I want to feel like a battle or I want it to have a dark, ominous kind of feel, I know that’s what the song calls for, because that’s in the lyrics. I was able to write a little movie for each song. I really enjoyed doing that. It was very challenging but I think in the end it made the album better.

WC: Let me go out on a limb and ask you this. If you could have dinner with any 3 people from history, who would you pick?

ML: Wow, that’s an awesome question. (chuckles) Well...who would the first person be? Maybe Alexander the Great? That would be really interesting. Who would be another really explosive person from history? Maybe Elizabeth Bathory?

WC: Better watch the silverware around her…

ML: Well, since I’m not a girl, I figure maybe I’d be OK. I’d be too scared to have dinner with Vlad the Impaler because I don’t know how it would end! (laughs) Who’s next? I have all these people racing through my head a thousand miles an hour. Maybe Julius Caesar. He was Rome at its height. It would be just amazing to go back in history and meet some of these people who changed the course of it.

WC: The new album from SILENT ASSASSINS is called “Whore of Babylon”. What’s your fascination with that character?

ML:  I had this bass riff that was really Middle Eastern and I wanted to have a song that was kind of slow, seductive and kind of belly dancer-ish. I came across the Whore of Babylon from the Book of Revelations and started researching that. It seemed to fit perfect with the idea I had. I wrote down a kid of lyrical poem inspired by that and I was able to finish the rest of the song. I saw the Whore of Babylon as a woman who would seduce you and then take you to Hell. I wanted to come with this seductive kind of song. It’s not even really a heavy metal song. It’s more like a cinematic kind of tune.

WC: You’ve got to be one of the busiest guys ever in heavy metal. When I looked up your name, I saw projects that I wasn’t even aware of associated with you. How in the world do you prioritize all these bands and projects?

ML:  You know, I love to keep busy, I love to keep working. I tend to agree with you...I’ve probably done more projects than any other metal bass player. There is a method to my madness. It’s very un-musician like. The first thing I do, which is probably blasphemy to any musician, is I wake up very early in the morning. (laughs)  I wake up about 5 AM and I know what I have to practice for that day. I have it all kind of organized. I wake up, I get some coffee and I start playing. I’ll either practice songs that I need to record or I’ll practice songs that I need to go on the road with. I’ll practice for two to three hours and around 8 o’clock, everybody else starts waking up. I’m done, I’m already done with my practicing. And from there, I’ll do whatever else I need to do that day. I’m really organized and I just keep that same schedule every day. It’s worked for me.

WC: Not long ago, I interviewed a good friend and bandmare of yours, ROSS THE BOSS. When your name came up, he said he was constantly astounded by Mike’s work ethic. So yes, I’ve got some new bands you’re involved in that I need to investigate. Some I wasn’t aware of and I’m usually on top of things pretty good.

ML: I would say that most of the projects I’ve done are probably under the radar. The ones I promote are the bigger ones, but I’m always doing stuff. And it’s great! Interacting with different musicians and different writers, it’s always a challenge to get inside their head and in the end, it makes me a better player.

WC: I take it that SILENT ASSASSINS is the one band where you call all the shots, you’re the boss.

ML: Yes. In every band or project that I do, I have different roles. Some times I’m more of an arranger, sometimes I just have to worry about playing the bass lines I’m given. But for SILENT ASSASSINS, I write all the music, all the lyrics, all the vocal melodies. It’s definitely hard work, but it’s a labor of love. I enjoy doing it so much, it’s good for my soul, it keeps me in touch with my youth and the bands that influenced me throughout the 80s. So I don’t mind doing it, but it’s a huge undertaking for me because I do everything myself.

WC: How underrated in the metal world is your vocalist Alan Tecchio? He blows me away…

ML: Yeah, Alan’s a guy who’s been in some bands like WATCHTOWER...that’s probably the most popular band he’s been in. Now on the local scene...I live in New Jersey and so does the New York and New Jersey scene, Alan is known. But I wish he was more known. He did a phenomenal job on the new album. It’s not easy for him because what we’ll do is, I’ll do a demo of the songs and send him the demo with me singing the songs. Now I can’t sing to save my life (laughs)! So he’s got to take the garbage that I send him and make sense of it and make it great. He comes into the studio always totally prepared. He does his homework and he just rips it out. I love his voice because he sings with a lot of melody, but he also sings with some grit and toughness.

WC: I first knew him in connection with the band HADES, which was one of the first underground metal bands from New Jersey. Of all the performances he does on “Whore of Babylon”, the one he does on the song “The Tell Tale Heart” has to be the peak. That is a really challenging song to sing and for me, it was the coolest song on the album.

ML: Alan would certainly agree with you, because that song was so hard to sing.  Yeah, he’s just able to soar to so many different notes. That’s a really, really tough song to sing and he did such a phenomenal job on it. It’s Alan’s favorite song on the record and to be honest, it’s my favorite on the record, too. It’s one of those things...I had the lyrics, put some music to it and Alan knew exactly where to go with it. The chorus was this really crazy kind of vocal and he just did it. It came out so good, you know. It’s such a satisfying feeling when you have a song in your head but you never really know how it’s going to come out. Then when it finally comes out after a year or two of torture, it comes out great. It’s definitely a very cool song that I’m very proud of.

WC: It’s got some really cool keyboard tones to it, almost like jazz or prog rock.

ML: Yeah! I called my keyboard player from SYMPHONY X, Michael Pinnella, to work on it. I just happened to be hearing a SABBATH tune that had some piano in it...I think it was “Sabbra Cadabra”...and thought, wow, it might be cool if we have a keyboard jam at the end. So I called Michael Pinnella and asked if he wanted to do one for it. Michael Pinnella is just one of those guys who’s a genius at what he does. One or two takes, that’s all it took. (chuckles)

WC: It’s been a while since we’ve heard from SYMPHONY X. Is there anything happening with them?

ML: Well, we were all set to do a US tour that was supposed to start this week and obviously we had to postpone it. We had to postpone the festivals in Europe we were going to play. After all this virus stuff goes away, we’re definitely going to start getting together and come up with something new.

WC: It’s really looking like 2020 is kind of a lost year…

ML: Yeah, we definitely got hammered by the virus. Also, ROSS had tour that was supposed to be in April that he had to postpone. I had two tours coming up and both had to be put on hold. It’s kind of tough for me at this point but I just keep positive. These tours are postponed but they’re not canceled. So I’m looking forward to that.

WC: You talk about history, we’re definitely living in it right now.

ML: Yes, this time will definitely be remembered in history, there’s no doubt about it.

WC: Any other projects you’re involved with that you’d like to give a shout out to?

ML: Sure. You already know about ROSS THE BOSS so I don’t have to cover that. I have a project that came out with an album in March, about the same time Ross’s did, and it was from a band called DEADRISEN. DEADRISEN is kind of a cross between Dio-era RAINBOW and TESTAMENT, if you can visualize something like that. It’s really cool, with a lot of jamming like the bands used to do in the 70’s and early 80’s but updated with more modern metal riffing.

WC: In your musical history, was there ever a Spinal Tap moment where things went haywire that you could share with us?

ML: Yeah, I think the Spinal Tap moment that always happens is when Spinal Tap couldn’t find the stage. (laughs) That has happened to me many, many times. It really happened a lot when SYMPHONY X were opening for MEGADETH on the first Gigantour. The places we were playing then were really big and we weren’t used to playing those kind of places. A lot of times we couldn’t find our way around. We’d be in the bathroom, the boiler room...I’ll tell ya, it was hysterical stuff. So for me, that was the most Spinal Tap moment we had.

WC:  Any last words for the fans out there?

ML:  Well, it’s a tough time for us all but you know what? No virus can defeat the power of heavy metal. So the concerts will come back. Hang in there, stay tough. In the meantime, bands are writing more stuff for you to listen to. The new album from my ban d, MIKE LEPOND’S SILENT ASSASSINS is “The Whore of Babylon” and that will be out on June 25th. Give it a shot, take a listen and I hope you like it.