had the privilege to do an interview with PEDRO ALONSO
over at PedroAlonsoHeavyMetal.com.
They wanted some information about my years with Mark
and his band RIOT, so I was very happy to answerer what
INTERVIEW - DAMON DI BARI
by PEDRO ALONSO
How did you know Mark Reale? Do you remember the
first time you talked with him?
Sure I remember. I met Mark May 1988 before we started the Thundersteel
tour at rehearsal. I got the gig of drum tech, driving the rider
truck and checking the lighting. Lighting is my forte but I’m a
jack of all trades. We stayed in a apartment (more like a box) in
the city, it was hot that year with no ac but come on, remember I
was 20 years old, in the big city of New York with RIOT, what
could be better then that?
Were you a Riot fan before working with
I must confess, no I was into bands like Scorpions, Def Leppard,
Judas Priest, Ac/Dc, Dio along with other styles of music. I
played trumpet in middle and high school. I can also read and
write music….so I do listen to classical music too…music is in
my blood and family! My first concert was Neil Diamond; Mark
always loved when I was on stage checking the monitors. I would
“try” to sing some of Neil’s songs just goofing around. I
could hear him laughing (like it was yesterday) along with the
rest of the band. They say I sound like Neil…ok? I loved joking
around with the band and the fans. After I found out about my big
gig, I was a hooked and part of the crew, WOW!
How did you start working with Riot?
Could you explain what has been your job during the last 25 years
as the 6th member?
6th Member is a nickname the fans gave me years ago. You see I got
connected with RIOT in 1988 after doing a show in San Antonio the
year before with two of the members from the Thundersteel
line up Bobby and Don. They did a show at the legendary Cameo
Theater in San Antonio, the very same Cameo Theater where
Metallica performed in 1987. John Grel from WINTERKAT (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emZJvDtv_qc)
on guitar and vocalist Gilbert “Buster” Grant Guzman (http://bustergrantmusic.com)
along with Bobby and Don performed a great show for the local
crowed. I was doing the lighting and pyro for the band that night,
afterwards I gave my number to Don and Bobby and told them I would
love to hit the road with them. Three months later they gave me
the call to tour for the new RIOT album Thundersteel…..I
was 20 at that time in my life and my mother had passed in 1986. I
was so ready to tour with a big band after working for free in a
well known night club in San Antonio called Sneakers for 6 months.
We toured in 1988 for the next three months
around the US performing in many cities; it was a great time in my
life. After the tour was over, the band was writing new tones that
became RIOT’s 7th album The Privilege of Power. Then in
1989 I got a call from the band asking me to get my passport
because RIOT was going over to Japan for the very first time and
wanted me to be the lighting director and Bobby’s drum tech for
this tour. I can’t explain how this made me feel but one thing
was for sure, I was going to do my best! We did a 10 day tour that
included 5 shows and with so many fans, it was so crazy! Japan,
the best!! Then in 1990 the band released The Privilege of
Power and in just seven months we were back in Japan again
touring, but this time it was a 20 day tour that included 10 shows
throughout Japan. It was the time of my life; I can’t thank Mark
enough for giving me a chance to shine. But that’s how Mark was,
always giving others a chance to shine.
job titles have changed over the years with Mark and the band. In
1994 the band went over to Japan with a new singer Mike Dimeo
along with Mark, Pete, Bobby and Flyntz for the release of NightBreaker.
Things went ok but they didn’t have any crew guys from the Thundersteel
line up attend that tour. For some reason I must have made a great
impression on Mark and the rest of the guys because I got a call
from Mark asking if I could help out with things, after that I was
there until the end for my friend!
My job titles for RIOT includes: Lighting
Director, Production Manger, Tour Manager, Booking Agent, Travel
Agent, Guitar tech, Drum Tech, Bass Tech, Merchandise Designer,
truck and van driver and helped with interviews. I also host,
designed and maintained beginning in 1999 two web sites that fans
and the press get information from like RIOTSWEB.COM and
MARKREALE.COM the official web sites that are still up today. You
name it I did for the band. Never took a dime when it came to many
of my tasked, only when we all made money is when I got paid. I
did it for the love of music, fans and to make sure my friend and
the rest of the band had a safe journey.
What have been your highlights during
I would have to say, Japan, Spain and Greece have been the best
for me. I’m a history buff and loved seeing some of the places
that I read about in school. I’m so thankful that GOD blessed me
and allowed me to have a safe and fun journey for so many years. I
thank my friend Mark for allowing me to take care of some many
tasks for him and having trust in me. I will never forget what I
have seen and the places I have been, thanks to Mark Reale and
was Mark Reale outside the music business? What were his passions,
Mark loved to run; guy would put on a trash bag then his jacket
and head out for a jog around the block in 30 degree weather. We
were in Montreux, Switzerland, Mark looks at me and said, you know
where were at? Not thinking, I told him sure…..were in
Switzerland. We had just got off the train and checked into a nice
European hotel. He looks at me shaking his head…I’m like what?
He then starts to enlighten me about Deep Purple’s famous
‘Smoke On The Water’ story that I had heard and read about not
realizing we were in the very same town. Anybody that knows Mark
knows he loved Deep Purple. Again the man puts on a trash bag then
his jacket and headed out for a jog around and yes it was cold
out. I was still trying to work on things at the hotel for the
rest of the band, they were on the bus. This was the same trip
where I took Mark off the bus when he got sick. You see I knew
about the Eurorail train pass and told Mark that the pass was good
for ten days and in nine countries we could travel freely. Well he
didn’t won’t to waste it along with my pass too so decided to
do the rest of the tour via train. It was the best I must confess!
I somehow think he knew where he was going on his jog that day in
classic movies; he actually made a few home movies when he was a
kid. With all of the great tunes that came from that man’s mind,
I wonder sometimes what it would have been like if he was a writer
and producer of movies. Mark love getting together with other
musicians….like Tony Harnell from TnT and Bruno Ravel from
Danger Danger…..what a great project WestWorld was. Music was
Mark’s passion, he lived and breathed it. He loved the bible,
carried it everywhere he went! I saw him reading several
times; we talked a lot about faith many times on the road and at
his home, was good to be with my brother!
He loved Texas, loved visiting the warm Climate.
He was going to move down here with his father, he really had
passion for outdoors and Texas is a great place for that. Cooking
was also his passion, boy would cook up a storm, and his dad loved
the BBQ’s they would do on a nice sunny day. All in all, Mark
was just as average as the rest of us when it came to passions,
totally dedicated to them.
When did Mark discover he suffered
Crohn’s disease and how did it affect Mark’s life?
Mark contracted Crohn’s disease sometime around 1984 to 1985, he
arrived back from a stay in Texas in 1986 when doctors revealed to
him that he had the disease after sugary for it…..his father
tells me. When I meet Mark in 1988, his diet was important to him
and he would always run…so for the most part Mark adapted pretty
good. Now were all human and fall to our desires sometimes as did
Mark, he knew what he could not eat and one of those things was
rice. It expands in the gastrointestinal tract and that is really
bad for someone who suffers from Crohn’s disease. Mark LOVED
Chinese food, I remember sitting in Amsterdam with him eating some
really good Chinese food, I must say it’s one of my fav’s
too…but I knew what was in store for him and me the next few
days…was not fun! Mark loved food so giving things up for the
rest of your life is a hard thing to do, what amazing strength he
Why his condition worsened in 2012 and
how did he enter in coma? Did the doctors expect this?
Well Crohn’s disease is very hard on the human body; I’m not a
doctor so I couldn’t tell you why Mark’s condition got worse.
Mark took vitamins and he ran a lot, he watched his diet for the
most part but would have a few things that would upset his
stomach. I remember taking him off the bus in Europe and placed
him in a hotel for the next few days while the band travelled to
Belgium and performed without him because he was just too sick.
Luckily we had a few days off and I had brought some soups and
other things from the US in my trunk…even brought a 220 single
flat burner that I got online just encase I needed it. After a few
days of a strict diet and helping my friend get back on his feet.
The man was back and performing the rest of the tour like nothing,
totally amazing how he loved his music and gave so much! On the
flip side, the rest of the band was about to kill me because I
wasn’t there for load in…they had no production manager to
help them with all that comes with that title. But my main focus
was Mark at that time and they knew it.
Mark was really ill to record Immortal
Soul album. How did you handle this difficult situation?
was not a part of the “Thundersteel Reunion” nor the
recording of Immortal Soul. Mark didn’t want to
make any drama with the others and I didn’t want to get in
Mark’s way or make stress with anyone.
So I stepped aside and let everything play out. Mark and I
were in contact throughout the recording but I did not see
him until he went into a coma on 11th of January after
suffering a subarachnoid hemorrhage (a form of a stroke). I
had seen Dimeo in San Antonio a few months before and he did
tell me that Mark didn’t look well. I never know it was
that bad… Mark just didn’t want to inconvenience anyone
with his illness, even me. But that’s how Mark was!
Mark’s death has been terrible
for his father. Are you and the rest of the members in the
band in contact with him?
Oh yes, I’m in
contact with Mr. Reale on a regular basis. I’m thinking of
flying up in the spring to help with the yard work. Flyntz
had Mr. Reale over for dinner this past holiday and is in
contact with him too. Dimeo call’s Mr. Reale and has taken
him to the doctor’s office a few times. We all are helping
Mr. Reale anyway we can, he’s a strong man and his faith
keeps him grounded! How strong you may ask, so much so he
was outside sawing branches down (at 84 years old) from his
roof when the Sandy hurricane blew through New York! He’s
got a great spirit, just like somebody I know (Mark)….I
see where my friend gets it from, what great dad to have in
a great friend and those who knew Mark can say the same! I
often think how lucky I am! Not many get a chance to be a
“rock star” assistants, lighting director, production
manager, travel agent, booking agent and everything in
between. I travel the world like a star, thanks to my friend
Mark Reale! I only lost a power supply to his pedal board,
not bad for 20 years of hard work. That’s how much Mark
meant to me, I miss him! He was my big brother and I miss
our deep talks, I always did my best to keep him safe on our
journey here, I look forward to our next one.