The tragic and untimely death of Riot founder Mark Reale in 2012 left classic hard rock and traditional metal fans reeling at the loss. The man who founded one of New York’s greatest rock exports passed away from complications related to Crohn’s disease. In his wake came not only great sadness, but the end of an era for Riot. Still, the measure of a man is the lives touched and the memories left behind. For Mark Reale, a significant portion of his impact can be heard in his music. It can be felt in the riffs and rhythms of “Swords & Tequila”, “Narita”, “Road Racin’” “Restless Breed” “Johnny’s Back”, “Thundersteel”, and dozens more.
Reale’s legacy and life served as the inspiration for the birth of Riot, and one of the band’s most valiant and impressive albums, Unleash the Fire. Friend and fellow guitarist Mike Flyntz along with longtime Riot luminaries Don Van Stavern (bass) and Frank Gilchriest (drums) were encouraged by Reale’s father Tony to keep the band and Mark’s music alive by continuing to record and perform. This month, Flyntz sat down to talk with Metalholic about the new record, the loss of Mark, the band’s two new members, and much more.
Riot altered the name to Riot V out of respect for Mark, and the V represents the five vocalists who have recorded with the band; including new vocalist Todd Michael Hall. Mike, who was close friends with Mark for a quarter century, shared the story behind continuing as Riot V:
“I knew Mark for a long time and I knew he wouldn’t want us to stop. Really the main decision was made after Mr. Reale asked me to continue. He said, ‘Mike I want you to continue. Mark would want you to continue. I don’t want Mark’s music and legacy to die out.’ He’s an 86-year-old man at the time he told me this. He said, “If you just go out there and play and perform his music, his music will never die.’ So I said, okay. I couldn’t say no to Mr. Reale.”
Despite the decision to move forward, Flyntz admits that it was Don Van Stavern, who had been with Riot since 1986, who kick-started the process of making the new record.
“Donnie immediately started writing songs when Mark passed away. Everyone deals with loss in a different way. Donnie Van Stavern went right to the music, started writing songs for Mark. He wrote ‘Immortal’. Before you know it he had seven or eight songs and he started auditioning singers. This is without me doing anything. I was like a zombie for the first year. I didn’t play any Riot music. I didn’t think about it. Donnie chose to throw all his emotions into his music. And thank God he did. He started getting tapes from singers, and Todd Michael Hall found out we were looking for a singer. He’s an old Riot fan. Once I heard him I came out of my slump and I wrote the rest of the four songs for the record.”
During the 20 minute interview below, Mike talks at length about creating the songs for the new record, new guitarist Nick Lee, and he shares his memories or Mark, including their mutual love of Gary Moore. Check out the interview as well as the album trailer for Unleash the Fire out October 28 in North America on Steamhammer/SPV records.