Full Band Interview with War Within
Written by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen
Drummer Louis Schiavone and guitarist Jeff Baldonado formed War Within in 2011. Based out of the high desert in Southern CA, War Within created an entirely new sound based on their years of collective experience and diversified influences. They have become a driving force in the “metal” scene, and played all over the U.S. The band has been working hard in the studio on their debut album, which is due out late 2018/early 2019, and already have been played on Wadio, C4OC, and been featured on the Metal Babe Mayhem Monthly Playlist. Catch them at The Whisky December 28th with The BulletBoys if you’re in the Los Angeles area (See discount ticket information below).
Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen: Let’s begin by talking about how War Within formed. Louis and Jeff, how do you know each other, and what made you want to form War Within?
Louis Schiavone: Jeff and I met 20 plus years ago and became the best of friends. In 2001 we decided to put a band together. We started out playing covers and formed multiple bands over the years. At one point we realized that both of us have been musicians for most of our lives, and we should be playing our own music. With the addition of Mark, Craig, and Lloyd, we formed War Within.
Jeff Baldonado: I moved to Ontario from Hacienda Heights at the beginning of ‘93. By a fluke I started messing with a CB radio with no antenna. I hooked it up to a chain link fence to see if I could get it to work. Whether it did or not I don’t know, but Louis was on the other end. We’ve been friends and playing together ever since.
Metal Babe: That’s a great story. How did you find the other three guys?
Jeff: Louis and I decided it was time to put a kick-ass solid band together, so we started looking for people.
Louis: We placed an ad for a singer and several singers tried out for us, but they just weren’t what we were looking for. Mark answered our ad, so we sent him some songs and set a date to get together. Mark came in very prepared. It was the perfect match for what we wanted in our band. At that point we were having probs with our current bass player, so Mark brought in Craig, who was also very prepared. Another perfect match… We put out another ad for a second guitarist and Lloyd answered it and fit the band. Then we formed War Within.
Metal Babe: That’s great! For anyone not familiar, how would you describe your sound, and who are your biggest influences?
Louis: Most people describe us as a cross between Queensrÿche and Godsmack. Between all of us we have many influences. My influences came from bands like Rush, Dream Theater, Godsmack, Megadeth, etc.
Lloyd Robinson: Hard melodic rock / Alternative metal. My number one influence is my father. He got me started as he played as well. So I got into a lot of Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Kirk Hammett, and a bunch more.
Mark McKinley: Melodic, driving, positive, heavy, and hopefully enjoyable. I listen to so many different styles of music so it’s really hard for me to say. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Queensrÿche, Red Fang, Mastodon, H.I.M., Journey, Joe Pass, Derrek Trucks, FFDP, Coltrane, Chesney, Childish Gambino, Parliament Funkadelic, Limp Bizkit… To name a few.
Jeff: Joe Satriani, Queensrÿche, Iron Maiden, old Metallica, Stanley Jordan, Trans-Siberian Orchestra… Just to name a few.
Craig Borchmann: Geddy Lee, Chris Squire, Jack Bruce, and Steve Harris early on, but more recently Mastodon and Clutch… I’m more influenced by the whole band rather than the individual players now…I can listen to an album without having to learn the bass line note for note…What’s the opposite of OCD?
Metal Babe: (LAUGHS) That’s great Craig. It’s nice to have so much diversity. A couple of you mentioned Queensrÿche… Last time I saw War Within perform you did an amazing cover of Queensrÿche’s “Empire.” How did you decide to cover that song?
Louis: We wanted to do something that everyone knows. Being Queensrÿche fans, and Mark being an amazing vocalist, we felt “Empire” was a great song to cover.
Lloyd: Well let’s face it, Mark sounds a lot like Geoff Tate so we mainly decided to cover it because it would showcase Mark’s voice
Mark: We tried to pick the “easiest” song of theirs. Unfortunately, the complexity is in that song’s “simplicity.” (LAUGHS)
Craig: ‘Empire’ was not only my favorite Queensrÿche album, it was the only CD I had when my wife left me. Besides a Big Audio Dynamite CD. She took all my vinyl… She left me a bass, an amp, and a bunch of dirty dishes…. I listened to that album a lot.
Metal Babe: Sounds like it was meant to be. Speaking of great songs, one of my favorite War Within songs is “Sleepless Dreams.” What can you tell us about that song; both musically and lyrically?
Mark: That song was written before I came into the band. Different singer, different energy, different headspace. I sang it for a while but just couldn’t own it, so I wrote a new melody and new lyrics.
Jeff: Mark wrote his own lyrics and sang it how he felt it, and that’s when we knew we found “the Mark.” Pun intended.
Mark: To my surprise, the rest of the guys seemed to enjoy it. I think a good melody comes from listening to many, many different genres. As far as the lyrics, my lyrics always come from a very personal place so I don’t want to project what they mean to me onto anyone else. I’d like everyone to personalize the words for themselves. I always try to write in the positive even if the story starts out really sh*tty. Then hopefully by the end of the story listeners realize it’s going to be okay!
Metal Babe: Love the positivity. What about your band’s anthem, “War Within?”
Lloyd: Jeff and I were messing around after practice and this song came out.
Mark: Jeff started writing his part, and before we knew it we had all the parts. I felt we needed a “title track” and that song seemed like just the right track. I knew I had to write around that title. A little re-arranging and a couple scratch tracks later we had “War Within.”
Metal Babe: What is your writing process typically like?
Louis: Most of the time one of us will come in with a riff and if it’s something we all like we will build on it. Once the music is done, we give it to Mark and he writes vocals for it.
Mark: I seem to write choruses first, for whatever reason, if I’m writing on guitar. Vocally, I’ll know immediately if it will be an easy song to write melodically. I’ll hear something instantly. Not all riffs are that way. Some of our riffs take a little bit of time before I can hear something against the harmony. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, a riff will put me in a place or a mood and I’ll just follow that to a specific word. Then that word typically ends up being the title of the song. Then the rest, for me, is just writing around that title.
Metal Babe: This will be your second time playing the World Famous Whisky A Go Go, right? What can you tell me about your first time? Rumor has it a band member kissed the stage floor, they were so happy to be playing there!
Lloyd: Yes that was me. I’ll admit it. It was an awesome accomplishment for me as a musician so yeah. If I get the opportunity to do it again, I would in a heartbeat
Metal Babe: Oh wow! That’s funny Lloyd! (LAUGHS) You can do it December 28th! Aside from the big show, what’s next for War Within?
Mark: Would love to finish recording and get something officially out there to anyone who would be interested in listening to it.
Louis: We have been in the studio a lot in the last couple months putting our album together. We hope to have it out by the end of 2018 or early 2019.
Mark: At this point, we’re realizing that we can actually write pretty f*ckin’ good songs and people are digging what we’re doing. We’re playing all over the place, certainly more than I ever thought we would.
Metal Babe: What words would you like to say to your fans?
Louis: Thank you for all your support! Our fans are the best!
Lloyd: Thank you for all the support and fond memories.
Mark: You always have the “family fans” or the “wife and girlfriend fans,” but when I see people actually driving long distances to some of these places to hear and see what we’re doing, it’s very humbling to me and the rest of the guys as well. It really means a lot to me ‘cause they don’t have to and the fact that they would tells me that we must be doing something kinda cool. And I really want to give those people the best performance I possibly can every single time. I’m not doing this for fame or notoriety, I could stay at home and sing in the shower and be just as happy. I do it because there really is something special in having something you helped create resonate with someone you’ve never even met. I’ll never take that for granted. And as long as that is the case, I’ll keep giving it my all! So thank you to everyone that comes out to see us or just sticks around to hear what we’re all about once their band has finished their set. (LAUGHS)
Metal Babe: Thank you so much for your time! It’s nice to see a band who is so appreciative of their fans. I am looking forward to continuing to ROCK with War Within!
Louis: Thank you! We look forward to continuing to work with MBM Music and putting out new music for our fans to enjoy!
Jeff: Thank you, Alison and MBM music for taking the time and supporting War Within.
Mark: Thank you for taking the time and giving a sh*t!
Get Discount Tickets to War Within / BulletBoys 12/28/18 at The Whisky ($20 each or two for $30) at: https://www.paypal.me/WarWithinHD