CVIndependent

Thu08062020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

I play in a couple of bands, and whenever I get recognized on the street, it’s a humbling experience. I feel honored that all of the hard work I’ve put into my music is paying off—especially when people tell me they love my band.

But a few of those encounters have started with the person saying: “You’re from Instigator, right?”

I am not—but I take the confusion as a compliment. In only a short few years, the local band has grown from a high school garage band into a full-fledged force. The group’s thrash-metal stylings and shared vocal duties create an electrifying mix, and are available to blow out your speakers anytime via 2018 EP Built to Defy. Listen to tracks like “Power” and “Tied Up” for some heavy vocals, head-banging instruments and piercing guitar-solo sandwiches. The release of the music launched them into local stardom; the band has graced seemingly every valley stage at least once, and has even been catapulted into out-of-town shows.

And, yes, you can count on there being a mosh pit.

Instigator is Mark Wadlund on vocals and guitar; Jaxon Fischer on vocals and guitar; and Garrison Calkins on bass. Original drummer Joe Boomer recently departed; the new drummer is Nick Willman, of Pescaterritory and Silver Sky.

“We all met at school—La Quinta High School,” Wadlund said during a recent sit-down with the band. “A girl had introduced me to Jaxon, saying that he liked metal—and being that I liked metal, I had to say what’s up. We sang the riff to Slayer’s “Chemical Warfare” for five minutes, and then we became best friends.

“We saw Garrison around school wearing (Metallica album) Ride the Lightning shirts and saw that he played bass, so we decided to get together and jam. We then found Joe from the drumline a few months later. This all happened about four years ago.”

At that time, Wadlund and Fischer were sophomores, while Calkins and Boomer were freshmen. Little did they know what they’d become.

The band members talked about the favorite show they’ve played.

“The FACELIFT shows are pretty fun,” said Fischer, referring to the local punk band. “They’re crazy, gnarly backyard shows. It’s a mosh pit going on the whole time, and all the kids are just going wild.”

Added Wadlund: “Yeah, we opened up for Doyle, guitarist of the Misfits, at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles. It was the second time we played there, and we even got to meet Doyle before the show. He’s 7 feet tall, very vegan, and very buff. Garrison and I both could’ve squeezed inside of his body.”

Now that the band members are post-high school adults (sans new addition Willman), they have to face the music … literally.

“There’s less time for practice, because we have to pay rent and go to our (college) classes,” Wadlund said. “Being an adult forces you to be out of the band for a little bit, but we all try our very best to still meet.”

Fischer added: “Our schedules are a little more flexible now, because we don’t have to go to school in the morning, so we can always practice in the morning and still be able to go to work and pay our rent.”

Has the addition of high-schooler Willman thrown a wrench in any plans?

“Nick’s a good kid and has passed all his classes so that during his senior year, which is this year, he gets out at (noon),” Wadlund said. “More often than not, that’s when we are just waking up.”

That is a true fact: I met with the boys for the interview at 1 p.m. at Starbucks, where they had their “morning coffee.”

I was curious when the members realized the true potential of the band.

“Honestly, at our very first show,” Fischer said.

Added Wadlund: “We were playing for over a year just practicing and writing songs, so our first-ever show, at The Date Shed, went really, really well. We were also very nervous, but we pulled through and had an amazing set.”

Fischer said: “We did a cover of ‘The Conjuring’ by Megadeth and ‘Black Magic’ by Slayer. I thought we played a lot of the songs horribly, but everyone thought we were really good, so it made us think, ‘We could do this.’”

Wadlund conceded that their egos may have been a little over-inflated in their early days.

“People think that you’re much better than you really are when you’re younger,” he said. “We started when we were 16 and 17, and had our parents drive us around to all of the shows. Now we’ve grown past that, and we’re good because we practice. Yeah, we were good when we were young, but the real turning point is being older and still being really good and impressing people. When you’re an adult, you get the most authenticity (in terms of feedback). People aren’t authentic with kids.”

A new album is coming soon. The members have returned to Brian “Puke” Parnell of Throw the Goat, who produced their Built to Defy EP.

“Our producer is the busiest guy in the world; he doesn’t have a day where he’s not doing anything,” he said. “We’re on the very last inches of the mastering process. Compared to our first album, this album is going to be unbelievable. This new album is so fucking good that it will blow away what you think anybody in this valley can do. I want this to be something that the Coachella Valley can be proud of. I can’t wait for everybody to hear it.”

When the Independent last featured Instigator, about a year and a half ago, Wadlund said he wanted to instigate a movement within the valley through music. So far, so good.

“My mom used to work at La Quinta High School,” Wadlund said. “She would speak to admins and teachers, who would talk to troubled kids and tell them about Instigator. They’d tell them a story about these kids in high school that started this band to get their frustrations out into music. We played at the high school at a bunch for rallies, and we’ve definitely inspired kids there. … We exposed everyone to this extreme thrash metal that most of them didn’t even know existed. Just having it in front of their face with the double-bass drum kit and the Marshall stacks changed their lives.”

Yeah, Instigator is indeed instigating something in this valley … hence my occasional encounter with someone asking me if I am part of the band.

“It’s so easy for people our age to have this big ego and think that we are the shit, but that’s not the truth behind us and who we are,” Wadlund said. “We are excited to be doing this—not because no one else is, but because it’s something that we want to do, and we know it’s bettering the community. It’s getting people together that would not normally be together at all, for the sake of music and happiness.”

Instigator will perform with Pescaterritory and Israel’s Arcade at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 25, at The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St, in Indio, Tickets are $10. For more information or tickets, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/pescafest-tickets-82683066277. For more information on Instigator, visit www.facebook.com/instigatorofficial.

Published in Previews

Few bands in the Coachella Valley can match the power and intensity of Instigator. The band’s hard-hitting thrash sound and eccentric stage presence often lead to epic music performances that may just rob you of your hearing for a few hours. At the helm of Instigator is Mark Wadlund, whose electrifying lead lines and powerful vocal chords contribute to a mature sound, even though the group’s average age is 19. For more information, visit facebook.com/instigatorofficial or @Instigatorband on Instagram. Mark Wadlund is the latest to take the Lucky 13, here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

AC/DC at Coachella when I was 15. I waited four hours to see them front row!

What was the first album you owned?

Rust in Peace by Megadeth. Still the best album I own.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I’ve got some Misfits, Def Leppard (the old, good stuff lol), Faith No More, and Extreme, among others.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

People being in the trend of fashion and looks over raw musical talent and performance. Drop the fucking look, and hone your craft. This would literally make the world a better place to enjoy (with) creative freedom and expression.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Pantera, hands down. I would give my legs to resurrect Dimebag and Vinnie Paul … just not my arms. HA HA HA HA!

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Jaxon Fischer (Instigator rhythm guitar). I listen to various amounts of old school rap: Dr. Dre, NWA, Snoop Dogg, etc.

What’s your favorite music venue?

It depends: Locally or everywhere? Playing or watching? Generally, I'd say The Date Shed.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

"I look around, my room is filled with candles. Each one a story, but they end the same,” “The Mission,” Queensrÿche.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Megadeth. I heard “Holy Wars ... The Punishment Due” when I was about 14 or 15, and I didn't really know that it was possible to play guitar like that. I knew about guitar solos from Van Halen, but the riffs! The riffs of that song changed my life.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I would ask Dave Mustaine how to resurrect the metal scene for the entire world. The world needs metal; the world needs a hero.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Sea of Red,” Judas Priest.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Peace Sells … but Who's Buying? By Megadeth. I know I talk about Megadeth a lot, but this band changed/built my entire life.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“The Laugh,” by Armored Saint. Outstanding song, outstanding musicianship, outstanding message. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Published in The Lucky 13

Last year, a group of teenagers from La Quinta High School became the talk of the local music scene thanks to their unique brand of instrumental music.

The group known as Instigator participated in CV Weekly’s Battle of the Bands competition, opened for Mondo Generator at The Date Shed, and enjoyed some gigs at The Hood Bar and Pizza. Now the band has a recording—Built to Defy, produced by Throw the Goat guitarist Brian “Puke” Parnell, coming on Friday, May 25. The group will celebrate with a show at The Hood that evening.

I asked Parnell why he wanted to record Instigator.

“When Throw the Goat played with Instigator last year at The Date Shed, and we were both opening for Mondo Generator, I was really blown away by them,” said Parnell. “I was talking to the guys after the show and talking to their parents. I asked them if they had any recordings, and they didn’t. It was something I definitely wanted to do for them, because I wanted to make sure that it sounded right. I knew how to capture the sound already at that point by ear.”

When I first saw the band last year, I loved the fact it was entirely instrumental—despite criticism from the Battle of the Bands judges’ table via House of Broken Promises and Unida guitarist Arthur Seay, who didn’t like the lack of lyrics. Seay will be glad to learn the band has now begun to incorporate lyrics—and the group sounds even better.

During a recent interview with the band members in La Quinta, they said they were embracing the vocals.

“It helps to broaden the dynamic of the entire band, especially with how you have to get a message to your listeners,” said lead guitarist and vocalist Mark Wadlund.

The members’ individual lists of influences make for a strange mix when put together. For starters, all of the members agree that drummer Joe Boomer’s punk and hip-hop influences are a big part of their music.

“They ruined me,” drummer Joe Boomer said about his bandmates with a laugh. “I was on track to being a normal drummer. It was cool, though, because I never felt challenged by school band or marching band, because there’s a lack of creativity. They give you music and expect you to play it. With these guys, I didn’t know how to do what they were doing, so I latched myself onto them and started to learn.”

Rhythm guitarist Jaxson Fischer is influenced by psychedelic rock and blues.

“We’re all individually inspired by different tastes and things, and we incorporate that personally into the way we play,” said Fischer. “Joe is the only person I know who can combine death metal and hip-hop into a song through his drumming. It just works.”

Like most bands, Instigator had problems gaining credibility at first.

“I think we struggled with not being taken seriously for a while,” Boomer said. “I feel like we had to fight for any amount of respect we’ve earned. We had little issues everywhere. At the time, it felt like major setbacks. We had a security guard at a venue not let us into our own show. I think we got to the point where we have a little more respect now—or we just don’t care. We don’t need to worry about impressing people anymore.”

Wadlund agreed.

“I think the music speaks for itself,” Wadlund said. “You have to show people what you’ve created. That’s what it’s all about.”

Recently, Instigator played a show at West Hollywood’s legendary Whisky a Go Go—but there was a downside: The band was required to sell a certain number of tickets.

“The pay-to-play thing threw us off,” Boomer said. “Most of the tickets we sold were to friends and family. We obviously couldn’t sell them out there in Los Angeles, so all we could do is sell them to family members.”

“Or to whoever was available on a Thursday night,” added bassist Garrison Calkins with a laugh. “We kind of fed off the four other bands that played. They sneered at us a little bit, but not when we got up and played onstage.”

When it came time to record, the band members’ parents dropped them off at Parnell’s house in Idyllwild for a weekend.

“All he had for us was a couch that only one of us fought for. I brought a cot, and the rest of us slept on the ground,” Calkins said. “Being in the studio was a whole new thing for us. When you’re in there, you have all these monitors surrounding you, and you can hear every little mistake.”

Wadlund said the band’s name is also its mission.

“We literally are all about instigating a movement out here in the valley,” Wadlund said. “Obviously not by starting metal—metal started a long time ago—but we’re about instigating a movement of people. It’s a musical get-together, and it’s an entire music scene, or a huge crowd of people, or meeting new friends at an Instigator show. It just feels inspiring.”

Instigator will perform with Minor Emergency and Frank Eats the Floor at 9 p.m., Friday, May 25, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information on Instigator, visit www.facebook.com/instigatorofficial.

Published in Previews