Hi! Today, I have the pleasure to chat with Mark Sanders, lead guitar from Mark Malibu and the Wasagas 2nd wave band! Thank you Mark for taking time to answer us. Let's surf and start the interview if you please. 😉
SRR: What year was Mark Malibu and the Wasagas founded?
Mark Sanders: Well the answer is 1979.
SRR: Who are the members of Mark Malibu and the Wasagas?
Mark Sanders: The first lineup was myself on lead guitar; Steve Turner, drums; Buzz, bass and Chris Welch, rhythm guitar. That changed once during our original incarnation. Chris Welch was a good guy and worked hard but was not much of a guitar player. I replaced him with another girl in my school, Christine Oleksyk. She was a very good player. Now Sharny Cameron play bass and Andrew Wright on rhythm guitar.
SRR: From which city did Mark Malibu and the Wasagas originate?
Mark Sanders: Scarborough which was made famous in the film Wayne's World.
SRR: Where is Mark Malibu and the Wasagas based?
Mark Sanders: We were suburban Toronto kids.
SRR: Was there a name before Mark Malibu and the Wasagas?
Mark Sanders: The answer is our start date is somewhat blurred in time as we morphed out of my punk band, the DeGeneRatz... and I use the term "punk" loosely as we played half Ramones and half Monkees and Stones plus other 60's songs. I had already added Wipeout and Pipeline into the set list. We were only 15 years old.
SRR: Where did the idea to form an instrumental band come from?
Mark Sanders: By 1979 I was tired of the "punk thing" as bands were getting silly (including ourselves) or going hardcore which seamed too close to heavy metal so I explored my 60's obsession. Grant Cermak and I started playing Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Beatles just on guitar. Then a strange sequence events resulted in a surf instrumental band.
SRR: How did you meet each other?
Mark Sanders: Initially we were all in the same school. About 5 of us started taking guitar lessons when we were 12 years old. Grant Cermak was the first to start. I met Steve on the first day of Grade 10 in history class.
SRR: What were the influences of the band?
Mark Sanders: Initially it was the Ventures. You have to remember, there was no internet back then so you only knew what you heard on a record. Once I knew there was surf instrumentals, I could ask the record dealers for anything they had. Then I discovered the Astronauts. Soon after I found the Barracudas, Jon and the Nightriders and the Raybeats.
SRR: How did you guys describe the band at the time?
Mark Sanders: In the early days, if I said we were a surf band, the response was always the same, "Like the Beach Boys?" so I just stated telling people we sounded like the song Wipe Out. Everyone knew that song. However people were not open to a full set of instrumentals.
SRR: When was your first gig?
Mark Sanders: We were very underage so there was really only few bars we could sneak into and play. That didn't stop us, it just hindered us. The first show we played downtown in a bar was in 1980 at a now famous punk dive called the Turning Point. The whole band just happened to be in the crowd except Steve so we got up and played Wipe Out, Pipeline, Walk Don't Run and a few other standards with drummer Paul Newman who went on to play with larger bands like the Doughboys and now works for Coldplay. After numerous house parties, our first downtown show with the original lineup was 1981 and is somewhat legendary now as it was at Toronto's first all ages venue which opened the door for Toronto's hardcore punk scene. Also on the bill was a new group called the Good Guys with Reid Diamond (future Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet) on bass.
SRR: What year did you do your first recording?
Mark Sanders: In 1981 another high school friend, Steve Jeskie was taking recording engineer classes on the weekend at a studio called Cottingham Sound owned by a local mover and shaker Tom Atom. For $200 we spent a Sunday afternoon recording 7 songs. A couple songs "Wasagas Run" and "Buzz Beat" appeared on Toronto underground compilation cassettes, one distributed in the UK and reviewed by the infamous NME. Another song "Psychedelic Summer" was placed in the film "Happy Hell Night" with Darren McGavin and a young Sam Rockwell.
SRR: Which instrument did you used?
Mark Sanders: My guitar was a Gibson S-1. That may be the worst guitar ever made by Gibson, who knows. The only saving grace was that it had 3 single coil pickups and a 5 way selector switch. Steve used a brand new Tama Swingstar kit. We still use that kit today. I also played organ a bit in those days and I had a Baby Blue Acetone combo. I wish I still had it. I use Nord Keyboards now for organ sounds. Made in Sweden like me, so its gotta be great. Now the entire band uses Hallmark Swept-Wing guitars. Bob Shade, owner of Hallmark Guitars was kind enough to assemble a matching Gold Sparkle Bass for the band to complete the set.
SRR: Which amplifier did you use?
Mark Sanders: Back then I had a Yamaha G112 solid state practice amp. Whoever stole it, the joke was on them. For recording I like Fender Twins, Fender Excelsior and an Ampeg Gemini 1. Now I use a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe "White Lightning" with Celestion Century Vintage speakers. I have the matching bottom cab.
SRR: Did you use a reverb tank?
Mark Sanders: I didn't know what a reverb tank was until recently. I recorded with a Twin Reverb so that help. Now I use the Fender Vintage Reissue '63 Reverb Tank when we record.
SRR: Was it an original or modified tank?
Mark Sanders: Modified.
SRR: Can we know about which tube you used?
Mark Sanders: My guitar tech changed the tubes with something more vintage and it does sound better. What's in there I have no clue.
SRR: What are the effects used on the guitar?
Mark Sanders: My main pre-amp is a Egnater Goldsmith Analog -2 channel overdrive. For fuzz I use a Swollen Pickle. For tremolo I use a Strymon Flint. I rotate between Tc Electronics Flashback, an Mxr Carbon Copy and a Strymon El Capistan. Most important reverb; Live I use a Catalinbread Topanga Spring Reverb Pedal.
SRR: What type of strings did you use, flatwounds or roundwounds?
Mark Sanders: When I surf I use D'addario 11-49 roundwounds. When I play rockabilly, I use D'addario 11-50 flatwounds.
SRR: How long has Mark Malibu and the Wasagas been active for?
Mark Sanders: Incredibly its been 38 years since our birth.
SRR: Was there any reunion?
Mark Malibu: No one knew of our existence except Peter Jones from Blue Demons and who runs the Surf Battle with Dano Villano. He asked every year if we'd reunite for a show. It just seemed impossible. After a few years of asking, I found Buzz's email and the ball started to roll. In 2014 we reunited for the Great Lakes Surf Battles 9 and have stayed active ever since.
SRR: Were the members in any band(s) after Mark Malibu and the Wasagas?
Mark Sanders: After the Wasagas I played keyboards with Steve in a new wave band called Directions East. I also play in a rockabilly band called the Millwinders with Sarah from the Surfrajettes. Buzz went on to play with many hardcore punk bands like Direct Action.
SRR: Where can we buy and follow Mark Malibu and the Wasagas?
Mark Sanders: Best place to follow us is our Facebook page. We will also have a full length LP available in August called Return of the Wasagas. I expect it to be available in all the usual places and formats.
SRR: Where can we listen and follow your other band?
Mark Sanders: My other band the Millwinders have a Facebook and you can buy our music on Bandcamp.
SRR: Thank you very much Mark for taking time to answer me today.
Mark Sanders: Thank you so helping spread the story of the Wasagas. We had been mostly forgot for many years. I am lucky to live in a city that has such a strong surf instrumental scene. I could not have guessed this would happen all those years ago.
"Search for Reverb in Canada" blog on Surf Rock Radio
Thank for reading and listening