1980 - 1983
At age 14 after a solid period of practicing guitar, Mark and neighborhood pal Mike Carsey began to build the beginnings of their band 'Overdrive'. On bass was local hotshot Brian Blewer and rehearsals were held at drummer Mark Pena's house. Brian's stay was brief and the band recruited bassist Randy Ferraira and later, Jimmi Ward.
As a 4 piece band doing mostly cover songs, they were now in search of a lead vocalist. After many auditions the band eagerly convinced Mark to handle the job as he was naturally directing the auditions. Hesitantly he accepted but now is grateful it happened. In the beginning Mark played and sang through Pena's Marantz stereo receiver which had a nice tube driven sound. Mark's first real guitar amp was a Mitchell 'Sands Amp', a gift from Pena's Uncle Tino (aka Vincent). Many blessings were bestowed on the band from family and friends that helped keep their dream moving forward.
Overdrive was a powerful 4 piece hard rock band drawing on their 70's influences. The bands main goal was always to write their own songs and the very first Overdrive composition was an instrumental with a long spacey intro titled 'Music In my Head'. It was also the very first song ever written by Mark. The floodgates had opened and many more songs would follow. By 1980 the band began performing live in halls and parties until working their way into the professional Bay Area clubs. Guitarist Mike Carsey was pivotal in securing many shows for the band with his pushy personality and this helped them break through some of of the loud noise in the busy music scene. Other people along the way had taken notice of the quartet and really helped give the band a boost. John McNulty was the first journalist to offer them a feature story in the first issue of the 'Alameda Journal' which immediately raised the bands profile in their home town and the East Bay. Another boost was bestowed on the band through their rehearsal spot 'Warehouse Studios' in Oakland, CA. The band had begun to wear the colors red and black at the live shows and soon one of the studio managers Bob Jordan and his friend Ira Kelsey would hand build several 4x12 speaker cabinets (aka 'The Red Wall') They were then striped with black tape and they weighed a ton! This nice addition to their stage set soon had them known as the 'Red and Black attack'. Before they knew it an LA band called Stryper would dub themselves as the 'Yellow and Black Attack' having an identical approach with their image. It seemed hardly a coincidence. There's no question there was a competitive rivalry going on between the Bay Area and LA scene.
It was a healthy, thriving time for creativity and their were great original bands everywhere you looked. Violation, Roadrunner, Dammaj, Laaz Rockit and Tyrant to name a few!
Soon venues such as 'The Stone', 'Old Waldorf' Keystone Berkeley & Palo Alto', Oakland Auditorium Ballroom, Mabuhay Gardens, Ruthie's Inn and The Stage in Danville became OD's home turf with re-occurring show dates and a growing fan base! Moving up the ranks they became a featured opener for Ratt, Blue Oyster Cult, Y&T, Metallica, Quiet Riot, Randy Hansen, Loudness, as well as playing shows with Exodus (w/ Kirk Hammett) and Blind Illusion (w/ Les Claypool). Overdrive's devoted local following was impressed by their musical prowess and conviction.
The songs 'Those Eyes', 'Queen of the Night' and 'Running from Destruction'' along with the high energy openers 'Gettin Ready' and 'Maniac' were fan favorites.
Club managers like Toni Isabella and Rachel Matthews at the Old Waldorf and the Corona brothers from the Keystone clubs were supportive of the band which allowed many opportunities! The bands driver and dear friend Roberta Briggs (aka Birda) always got them to the gigs and without her who knows what would've happened as the band were mere teenagers with no drivers licenses. Mark spent countless hours practicing on her nylon string acoustic guitar when away from home.
The commitment to their music and their dream was fierce and together they were going to take over the world!
It was truly a magical time in the Bay Area music scene. You could go out and see unknown original bands on Mondays thru Thursdays and at the same venue see acts like Joan Jett or AC/DC on the weekends! To go catch unknown original bands was the cool thing to do! There were loyal supporters in the scene that really made a difference in their documentation of these special years. Friends like journalist John Strednansky (creator of the legendary Metal Rendezvous Magazine and Co-creator of Bay Area Godfathers) and also photographer Bill Hale!
As Mark's vision was expanding, it became clear around late 1983 that his vision was not heading in the same direction as partner Mike Carsey and so he took a leap of faith and moved on to start something new!
The Overdrive era was a very proud time for the teenage rocknrollers and together they achieved a lot. No albums were made but their presence in the music scene during these times are fondly remembered and have been acknowledged in a 2 part music documentary titled ‘Bay Area Godfathers’ . It's available on most streaming services so check it out and hear Mark talk about these vintage years.