With eleven studio albums under their belt and countless singles, Red Flag can certainly be called one of the hardest working bands in electronic music. With their twelfth album release “Code Breaker T133” set for a November 5th release there certainly is no sign of a Red Flag slow down. Having heard a few bits and pieces of “Code Breaker T133” I can tell you that fans will not be disappointed. It is a combination of the early “Naïve Art” dance sound combined with the later era dark sounds of Red Flag. The entire album is in the groove of 133 beats per minute and is “definitely up tempo, upbeat and fun. The opposite of The Bitter End. It is very joyous and positive.” according to Mark Reynolds (lead singer of Red Flag). “The album is very club friendly and we are returning to our roots.”
Red Flag is the brother tandem of Mark Reynolds (lead singer) and Chris Reynolds (keyboards). Sometimes controversial and always open to speaking his mind, the Electrogarden spent some time with Mark Reynolds to get his views on a wide array of subjects.
EN: In the late 80s Red Flag was an up and coming band with attention from both the billboard charts and from MTV. What is your most vivid memory of this time of your life and this era in Red Flag music? What did you learn from these experiences?
Mark: Those were the days 😉 Some of my favorite memories in terms of the music side of my life were the concerts. There is something very rewarding when a show goes just right. I’d also have to say that meeting many people was also a good experience. The pace was hectic and frantic. Much of it went by a in blur. Chris and I reminisce now and then but usually we remember the funny moments. Once in San Francisco, a car drove by and the guy was blasting ‘Russian Radio’. I yelled out ‘Hey, that’s us!’ The guy looked over and said ‘Yeah, right’ As for what we learned. Well, it may sound cliche but you must listen to yourself. If you accept bad advice you have only yourself to blame. Respect and even solicit opinions but at the end on the day, take responsibility.
EN: You had stated in an interview back in 1989 that you and Chris have never fought over the music that you create. Is that still true 13 years later? What are the defined roles inside the band and how has this changed over the years?
Mark: WOW! There’s a massive fib. We had rows and brawls that would eclipse the Oasis boys. Brothers are naturally competitive. Couple that with too much time spent together and trying to reach a common goal and you have a recipe for disaster. We had some terrific fights. I don’t think either of us ever apologized. Things are very different now. We still have disagreements, but we’ve learned to communicate. It’s easy to make a statement. The hard part is to listen.
EN: From certain comments you have made in the past it is apparent that you had a less than ideal relationship with IRS records. How were “A&R reps meddling” in your music with the Machines release?
Mark: Chris and I had 2 meetings with the president and vice president of IRS Records on the same day. I recall this vividly. Both times the topic of fame came up and they would say «You guys are going to be really famous». Both times we responded with «We also want to be rich». Two days after making our statements we were dropped from IRS. This is the way the business in the US seems to be. A lot of famous people are paupers. It’s the label officials that make the real money.
EN: Was it more a creative or more a business decision to start Plan B records? If you were offered a Major Label deal today would you consider it?
Mark: Starting our label seemed to be the only way we could continue to stay active in the music business. Labels operate like families. Unfortunately, most US labels are dysfunctional. Historically, the bands with the most success also have a solid relationship with their partners. (Their label, management and agent) Would we consider a deal from major label? Only if it were a major deal!
EN: Red Flag seems to either have fiercely loyal fans or vehement detractors. There does not seem to be a lot of middle ground. What do you attribute this to?
Mark: Most of the people I have met have been respectful and courteous, but some people think they know you before they meet you. How can you know someone if you have never met them? As for our detractors, all I can say is «whatever… next question»
EN: Red Flag has maintained and gained a large following over the internet. You maintain quite a large catalog of mp3 and streams at MP3 dot com. Where does Red Flag sit in the whole MP3 debate? Do you consider the mp3 technology a blessing or a curse?
Mark: MP3 files are not evil. What individual’s do with MP3 files however can be. If you take something that does not belong to you, it’s called theft. It’s really quite that simple. Napster (R.I.P) was simply a conduit for the illegal transfer of audio files. For some bizarre reason some people feel that intellectual property of a musical nature doesn’t carry the same rights as say, a software program. You wouldn’t dare think of uploading all your Microsoft applications to share with the world. But it’s quite all right to upload an entire album. I just don’t get it.
EN: Do you see any solutions to the piracy issue and peer to peer sharing?
Mark: It is going to come down to people doing the right thing. When you understand what it does and it’s effect that is the only way things can change. I would like to believe 9 out of 10 people who buy CD’s realize copying the CD hurts the band. All you can do is make the information available and then people can choose to listen to it and digest it or not.
EN: Your music has taken on more of a darker sound over the past couple of years and you have gained a following inside the gothic community. What sparked the move to a darker edge?
Mark: I think it was a combination of our trips to Germany and also the acquisition of some new equipment. We are influenced by many factors, such as other music, people, places, life experiences and events of the world.
EN: Do you see Electronic music ever regaining the same popularity it enjoyed in the 80s? What is your opinion of the state of the genre in 2002 and how do you see Red Flags impact?
Mark: Genres wax and wane. Let me check my crystal ball. Hmmm, Nope…still fuzzy. I would like to see electronic songs gain popularity again. It would certainly make it easier to tour when you’re not the only ones out there. It seems European bands can tour successfully in the states but American electronic bands are not always as warmly received. Go figure? As for the impact of RF. I know for certain that we have created music that is truly appreciated and enjoyed by some. There is satisfaction for us knowing that people like our music based on its merit and not on the faultiness of public opinion. There are also quite a few newer bands that credit RF as one of their influences. That’s pretty cool. I’m certain history will reflect kindly on Red Flag.
EN: What is in your CD tray these days aside from Red Flag releases?
Mark: Right now. Debussy.
EN: Who do you see as up and coming in the American Electronic music scene?
Mark: Anyone that wants to wear the crown. Or the wings 😉 It’s all about tenacity. To succeed you must ignore the naysayers and skeptics. Forget about the tricks of the trade and learn the trade. Will this guarantee success? No, but success is abstract and obtuse. For me now, success is knowing that I can do it all. Is this vanity speaking? I hope so.
EN: Speaking of the wings that you wear on stage, Red Flag has a certain stage image. Where did that come from?
Mark: I don’t know. It makes me comfortable on stage to wear something. I get nervous and I don’t like public speaking. When I put on my wings I know what to do. I am able to relax and it’s fun. Chris always puts the wings on me before a show. It’s a way for us to prepare. I have been criticized for the wings and I don’t care. It makes me comfortable and I have fun with it. If someone doesn’t like them, I don’t get it. What you wear on stage is your uniform.
EN: Recently Red Flag has toured North and South America, as well as Europe. What countries and shows stand out in your mind?
Mark: Peru, without a doubt. It seems that they don’t get to see many bands down there. So when someone shows up, the place goes crazy.
EN: Retirement rumors have been running around over the past couple of months — any truth to them?
Mark: I don’t see why anyone would make an official announcement that they would be retiring. How many times do you see a band do that then come back three years later? It doesn’t make sense. At Synthpop Goes the World we were kidding a few people and played along. We have lulls and we get stuff out. Maybe we should (announce a retirement) so we could put out a career retrospective and do a retirement tour (tongue in cheek). The band is not breaking up.
EN: I also heard a rumor that Red Flag was considering not playing live any longer? Any truth to this?
Mark: Maybe a little bit of truth 😉 I don’t think that Synth Pop Goes the World was our last gig.
EN: Red Flag has maintained an aggressive release schedule since 2000. What keeps the creative juices flowing?
Mark: I’ve pondered this myself. I think part of it lies in the fact that our music kicks a** over almost everything else out there, yet we are largely ignored. So instead of acquiescing, we go in the other direction and try even harder.
EN: The Bitter end is the most recent release of new Red Flag material. How do you feel the new CD has been received? How has your sound changed from Fear of a Red Planet? What were your major influence while creating this material?
Mark: ‘The Bitter End’ was post 9/11 and unfortunately it showed up in our song writing. It may be the most cryptic and well-produced dirge ever composed. The nation was in a funk and I guess we were too. I’m glad to say that the clouds have parted and a lot of what I hear is in key of F-sharp at 133 BPMs.
EN: “Remnants” is set to be released towards the end of 2002. According to the Plan B website it will contain songs that were never released from 1988-1991. What brought about this release in 2002? What should Red Flag fans expect? Are you re-mastering current recordings or are you updating and re-recording this material?
At SynthCon2002, SPGtW and even in Peru, more than a few people wanted to know if there were any recordings immediately after Naive Art that were never released. The answer was yes. Some of the songs only need EQ’d while others need the vocals re-recorded. All the music though was recorded over 10 years ago. Remnants is probably best described as, ‘Naive Art’ meets ‘Machines’.
EN: What is on the horizon for Plan B records. Why Scribe Machine for you first non-Red Flag release?
Mark: We’ll try and maintain our hectic schedule. At the same time we want to expand PBR. If the Scribe Machine goes well then we’ll release other non Red Flag product. We selected SM for couple of reasons. They had already released an album, so they had realistic expectations. Plus they are different from RF. SM’s music is more based in trance. In addition, all their production is done on G4s. Gotta love it.
EN: I read a statement attributed to you that once you read _Atlas Shrugged_ by Ayn Rand that you were “Alive“. What triggered your interest in Ayn Rand and when? Can you describe how Ayn Rands philosophies have changed Mark Reynolds and how this has impacted Red Flag and your music.
Mark: A complicated friend of mine turned me onto the concept of ‘objectivism and individualism’ many years ago. The more you realize that the world benefits by the ‘individual’ and suffers at the hands of ‘organizations’ the more you enjoy your own accomplishments. Why should we despise success? Example; an individual recently keyed my car. Though I don’t know who did it, I know the type of person who did it. The realization of individual rights paramount to the rights of a group is amazing. Once you see it with clarity, you are shocked that you never saw it before. This philosophy has subtly affected our music. While there are many subjects worthy to pay tribute to, none seems more deserving than the things that make life good.
EN: What makes life good for Mark Reynolds?
Mark: I like to make Sandy happy (Marks wife). But, good is truth. When I can find an element of truth in a lyric or a verse, that is good.
EN: What is the most common misconception about Mark Reynolds and Red Flag?
Mark: RF are capitalists not communists or fascists. MR and CR are just a couple of guys trying to do their best.
EN: I seem to recall you having a degree in Electrical Engineering. If you were not a full time songwriter and musician, what would you see yourself doing to earn your living?
Mark: My father was an electrical engineer and so I suppose that it’s not too surprising that I would follow in his footsteps. I have subsidized my musical aspirations from time to time in this line of work. While the work is challenging and at times creative it is not nearly as satisfying as being an active musician. Most of us will have a couple of career changes over the course of our lifetime. If I were not a songwriter I would like to try being a pilot, a racecar driver or an international man of mystery. Yeah baby!
EN: Anything you would like to add in closing?
Mark: Thank you Craig.