Mark Zonder on his new band A-Z – This Is A Band, Not A Project. We Are Currently Writing For The Second Album And Tour Plans Are Being Made

Mark Zonder on his new band A-Z - This Is A Band, Not A Project. We Are Currently Writing For The Second Album And Tour Plans Are Being Made...


Interview by: Chris Martin



Thanks for taking the time to speak to us here at MGM!

Mark: My pleasure. Thanks for the interview. Appreciate it.  

How did the A-Z band come to be? What sparked the idea? What’s behind the name?

Mark: I wanted to start a commercial-style hard rock band that would appeal to a mass audience. The songs were going to be based off of the numerous drum patterns and grooves that I am constantly recording. I got in touch with Viv through another keyboard player I knew and told him what I wanted to do. It was all about the hooks and catchy sing-along choruses. I sent him a few drum ideas and things just went from there.  

A name of a band is the toughest thing to come up with. One day Ray just said, “how about A-Z”. Not sure if he meant that it covered everything from A-Z or that it worked out for Alder-Zonder. Either way, we went with it. Also was looking for something different with the name as well as the artwork. Did not want to fall into the same thing that everyone else is doing. 

How did you (if it was all your decision) decide who would be a part of the band?

Mark: I contacted Viv and started working with him for quite a while. If I am playing the drums, Philip Bynoe is playing the bass, no questions. Joop had worked with Viv for 20 years or so, so naturally, that worked out well. Then when it came to a singer I knew Ray would be good for this as we had talked in the past and he was totally into this style. Also, I knew from playing with him for years he always sang in the pocket and tried to groove with the music, even though sometimes that was difficult in a prog band.  

I understand you tried out several different vocalists before deciding to reach out to Ray. Willing to mention a few of those you tried out first? What ultimately led you to your old bandmate? Personally, and not just coming as a fan, I think he was a perfect choice, and it was great hearing him sing a different sound stylistically.

Mark: Yes, a lot of singers missed the point as far as commercial style but many since there was no money and I was not Jimmy Page, seemed to pass on the idea. I understand. Getting it off the ground was difficult and took a lot of perseverance and hard work. Never giving up. It got to a point where I said I should just call Ray. I had no idea of what he and Fates were doing as it is none of my business, but I figured it could not hurt. He said to send him some stuff and we did. The first song I got back was Rise Again and I knew we had something special.   

Were the songs for the s/t album mostly written before the band’s formation, or did they come about once the band was put together? How did the recording process go? I assume it was affected some by the Pandemic.

Mark: The writing was a lot of myself and Viv. He is a great composer and uses a lot of guitar sounds on the keys when we are writing so we can hear what it will sound like with a live guitar player. This was based on drum patterns and ideas. Both Viv and Joop brought in ideas that we reworked and turned into group songs.  

Yes, everyone had to record in their own country. Philip came to my studio and we did the bass. But yes it was interesting having to try and assemble everything with all members being across the globe, 

Now that the album is out, how has the response been? How do you feel about it now that you and the band are getting feedback from the media and fans?

Mark: Seems like between the youtube plays on the three videos as well as Amazon Charts and Apple Music it is doing very well. The press has been fantastic and the fans seem to love it. The main idea that I see is that everyone gets it as it was intended to be. This is a rock and rock, good times hard rock band with a twist of prog. Everyone gets and appreciates this.  

Any plans for the band to tour? Will there be more music from A-Z? I sure hope so.

Mark: Yes, this is a band, not a project. We are currently writing for the second album and tour plans are being made. A bit difficult with the backlog of bands that got canceled in 2021, but we are looking ahead to 2023.

But very important that people know this is a band that will and is moving forward.  

This seems to be the year of former Fates Warning members and new projects. Ray has another project coming out, as does Jim Matheos. Are you working on anything else? Perhaps some new Warlord material? Zonder/Werhkamp?

Mark: Nope. 100% working on A-Z. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to keep pushing this forward. I do get hired to record for a lot of other people in my studio.  

I recently finished reading the new Fates Warning book Destination Onward by Jeff Wagner. It was one of the best and most informative books I’ve read about a band in quite a while. Do you have any feelings about it? Have you had the chance to read it? I know your tenure with the band has been over a while, but I’m sure you still have connections with them all.

Mark: Yes, I read it. It is a good book. Gives a basic overview of what was happening. Jeff did a good job.  

Again, I appreciate you taking some time to answer these questions. Any final thoughts to offer our readers?

Mark: Appreciate the support and keep your eyes out for more videos and A-Z on tour!! 



‘A-Z’ tracklist:
01. Trial by Fire
02. The Far Side of the Horizon
03. The Machine Gunner
04. Rise Again
05. Window Panes
06. Run Away
07. Stranded
08. At the Waters Edge
09. Borrowed Time
10. Sometimes
11. The Silence Broken (Bonus Track)


AZ lineup:
Ray Alder – Lead and Backing Vocals
Philip Bynoe – Bass Guitar
Vivien Lalu – Keyboards
Joop Wolters – Guitars
Mark Zonder – Drums

AZ online:

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