By Esther Sanchez
It all started in 2016 at La Quinta High School. A group of teens who, as individuals, were generally the type of guys that do their own thing. Once together, what they had in common bonded them with a shared aspiration of making earth-shaking, heavy metal music. The kind of head-banging, highly orchestrated greatness that was conceived of and manifested long before any of them were born. Mark Wadlund is the lead guitarist and vocalist for Instigator. These guys blasted into the local music scene, seemingly out of nowhere and pretty much made everyone’s heads explode.
I will never forget the first time I experienced Instigator. They were at The Hood Bar and Pizza, participating in the annual battle of the bands that is hosted by CV Weekly. My publisher asked me to come to the event to observe and take notes so I could write about it for the next issue. As soon as I got there I heard the buzz about a literal group of teenagers in a metal band that were competing. Rumor had it that they kicked ass. The rumors were not false. Instigator’s reputation as a stellar band that is authentically metal has grown along with their popularity, and I, along with the rest of the local music scene have marveled at the transition the band-members have made into maturity as their talent and repertoire continue to bloom.
I sat down with Wadlund over some wings to talk about where he has been, new projects, and the waves he is making.
CV Weekly: So, for those that haven’t had the privilege of knowing and loving you and your band, Instigator…Let’s talk a little about how you got into music in the first place.
Wadlund: “So, I guess it was freshman year at LQHS when my older brother was telling me that wrestling was the coolest thing you could do in school, right? And I was just getting into guitar because I had come across a video on Youtube of Megadeth. It was guitarist Dave Mustaine playing in the Holy Wars video from the Rest in Peace album in 1990. That rhythm guitar… That was pretty much it for me. I knew guitar solos could be played because of, you know…Van Halen. But it wasn’t until that Megadeth video….Dave Mustaine….Holy Wars, rhythm. I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s what I want to do.’”
Wadlund continues: “So, back to wrestling in my freshman year. I did all of the ‘pre-season’. First day of real practice was, “Hell day.” Super tough and draining! No fun at all. Meanwhile, I was just getting pretty good at guitar. I was practicing Metallica and getting all of their main riffs down. Then I was like, “F*** all that. I just wanna play music.” Then I met up with Jaxon Fischer who is Instigator’s rhythm guitarist. We jammed constantly during the summer between freshman and sophomore year. Over time, we got connected to Garrison Calkins, our bassist and Joe Boomer, our original drummer. Both of whom were freshman at the time that Jaxon and I were sophomores. We played our first real show at our school and it went really well, regardless of how much we did or didn’t know what we were doing. I think at that point we were all pretty much hooked.”
CV Weekly: I heard that Joe moved on and you found another drummer?
Wadlund: “Yes! I can’t say enough about how much we love Joe and how great he is. It was definitely his decision and we hated to see him go. However he has married his highschool sweetheart, moved to Colorado and we are really happy for him. After Joe Boomer left, Nick Willman gladly took over drum duties which really helped Instigator to stay tight throughout the pandemic, and we even did a few shows with Nick of course! Unfortunately, Nick Willman has decided to drum solely with his awesome rock band named Pescaterritory. Since then, we have found an amazing new drummer named Brian Perales! He is an amazing fit and we are really excited to see how things go in the future. Due to covid and everything that comes along with it, Instigator has been on hiatus, but everyone should keep an eye out because we will definitely be back, VERY soon.”
CV Weekly: Speaking of covid time. You mentioned that you have been taking up other opportunities.
Wadlund: “Yes, I was approached by Tarver Marsh who has his own experiences in the music business. He saw me with Instigator and the boys throughout the years and led me towards some great opportunities. He first introduced me to a guy named Dustyn Saint Jay, who has a band called Legends Never Die. They needed a guitarist so Tarver kinda threw me in there. I guess I was a good fit because it worked out! A local bassist named Travis Singh has been on bass duty before I joined the band, then, on drums we picked up Sean Poe from Avenida Music. Everyone knows what a solid guy he is as a drummer and beyond so I feel like that was a bit of a no brainer, so far.”
Wadlund continues: “Legends Never Die was able to get some studio time with Darian Rundall who is a Grammy-nominated producer and part-owner of Epitaph Records. Dude has made gold records. I’ve also been able to do the guitar tracks at Ronnie King’s private studio in Thermal, California called the ‘Chateau Relaxo’…his bio/experience is impressive on its own.”
Wadlund continues: “It’s really my experiences with Instigator that has led me to all of this, all those years of grinding at local bars and what-not.”
CV Weekly: So what did recording with Ronnie King lead to?
Wadlund: “It really has been exciting to work alongside him. His bio is pretty out there. Through him and Tarver Marsh I was introduced to Clint Carroll from Huntington Beach, whose Dad was a world-class, professional surfer named Corky Carroll. Clint’s project is special and unique enough that I was very fortunate to become a part of it. He’s super stoked that I’m able to be a part of his band as well!”
CV Weekly: So Mark, is it safe to say that the past year or two have been about you branching out and taking further steps as a musician and music creator?
Wadlund: “Yes. And a producer even. I have such a better sense of the entire process of music production. I mean, I’m recording guitar in my own house now. That was something I never did or even thought about before. Home used to just be for practice. Now I can record there. I’m exploring everything and combining it with my own tone while really pioneering myself. I can’t say that I have ever been the type of person who needed to fight finding myself. For some people that’s a really hard battle and I can only imagine how hard that would be if I didn’t know myself.”
CV Weekly: You have had a pretty good foundation.
Wadlund: “Absolutely. Not only from, obviously, my parents…I have been given the opportunity to work with bigger bands in and out of the desert and keep having to recognize that I can never take for granted the love and support my parents gave me. I get reminded by people like yourself, Esther, that a lot of people don’t have that advantage so I have learned to always be thankful for that.”
All of Mark’s projects can be found on most major platforms.
Legends Never Die: