Commentary

Hinder guitarist riffs on football songs

Updated: December 23, 2011, 4:48 PM ET
By Roger Lotring | Special to ESPN.com

With just seconds left in regulation, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett called a timeout that nullified what would have been a game-winning 49-yard field goal, eventually leading to a 19-13 Arizona overtime win in Week 13.

[+] EnlargeMark King
Dana Nalbandian/WireImageHinder guitarist Mark King safely performs on stage where he is unlikely to be tackled.

"Being a Cowboys fan, I'm used to stupid s--- like that," says Mark King with a laugh.

Still, despite this season's shortcomings, King loves the Cowboys. And football. So much that the Hinder guitarist and his band got into the game with a pair of sports anthems. "Sooners Don't Back Down," a fight song for the group's beloved University of Oklahoma team, was released in September. In November, Banshee Music released "Official Gameday Music of the NFL," a five-song EP featuring tracks from Hinder, Darius Rucker, Sammy Hagar and Joe Satriani, James Durbin, and Jordin Sparks.

The Life caught up with King by phone from Houston, where Hinder was wrapping up its final tour dates before the holidays, to talk about game-day anthems.

The Life: What's the starting point for writing a song specific to football?

King: First of all, we're all big football fans, so sometimes you just sit down and you have a rockin' riff. You start thinking, this could be cool in a sports venue. You think of big rock songs, like Guns N' Roses is played in every arena, every single game. So you get a good riff like that. It kind of starts there.

The Life: Does the action and pace of the game impact the instrumentation?

King: Oh, absolutely! You have to have it high energy, like football is, so that definitely impacts it, for sure.

The Life: Were you thinking of specific aspects of the game -- the finesse of a quarterback or the power of a defensive lineman? Did you visualize any of that while recording?

King: To an extent. One thing you want to try to -- you know, tackle -- is you want something that can inspire the players, that would pump them up. We all played sports growing up, and there were certain songs that inspired us. You kind of want to take that over.

It's definitely all about the beat, and the chord progression has to be a pretty rockin' thing. You just want something that will get into their veins and pump them up.

The Life: There are certain benchmark songs always heard at sporting events. Other than your own, which rock song really fits football the best?

King: "Welcome to the Jungle," Guns N' Roses, hands down. That and Queen's "We Will Rock You" is totally obvious, just that beat. They're played at every game for a reason, 'cause they're just perfect for the atmosphere.

The Life: Is "The Fight's About to Begin" based on a particular player or team?

King: No, definitely not. I'm a Cowboys fan. [Bassist] Mike [Rodden] goes for the Bengals. Blower [guitarist Joe Garvey] is a Packers fan. We don't have any specific players or teams that we all root for. [Laughs.]

The Life: The band is from Oklahoma, so what leads you to follow certain NFL teams, since there's not an NFL franchise in Oklahoma?

King: For all of us it's different, for sure. Me, I had a lot of family that was from Texas. My dad, he grew up in Texas. I think that's why everyone on the King side of [my] family, we're all Cowboys fans.

Blower, he had family that grew up in Green Bay, actually. He has a lot of relatives there. And Mike, he's drawn to the Bengals because he always liked their helmet when he was a kid. He was like, "They have the coolest helmet. … I'm a Bengals fan." [Laughs.]

The Life: Have there been any hook-ups from the University of Oklahoma because of the song "Sooners Don't Back Down"?

King: We got to go to a game -- and this is actually kind of sad -- the first OU game I've ever been to was this year. We had the best seats on the 45-yard line, eight rows up. And that was the game that we played Texas Tech, and [they] handed it to us. [Laughs.] It was our first loss of the season. So my first OU experience was that, which is kind of sad.

The Life: What's game day like on the Hinder tour bus?

King: Honestly, if we have a show that night, [the game] can affect our show for the better, or for the worse, especially rooting for OU. If they win, which thank God they win most of the time, it pumps us up for a rock-and-roll show. If they lose, it's like, "Oh, for real?"

Or if we're playing in the middle of the game, we have our techs updating it on their phones and telling us the score, every guitar change that we have. [Laughs.] Or they'll hold up a sign, so we know what's going on. So we're on top of it.

The Life: Is the band like most obsessive sports fans, waking up in the morning with "SportsCenter"?

King: Yeah, and I'm the worst in the band, for sure. The other guys will be watching a movie or something, and it's always ESPN for me. I'm like, "SportsCenter" 24/7. Got all the apps for my phone, so I know what's going on. I get text alerts whenever something happens with the Cowboys, Oklahoma City Thunder and OU football. [Laughs.]

The Life: What sports did you play when you were growing up?

King: I was definitely into football and basketball. [Those] were my main two.

The Life: What football position did you play?

King: I was a tailback on offense and a cornerback on defense. I preferred tailback. There's a lot more glory that came with that, when you score a touchdown. [Laughs.]

The Life: It's safe to say football is your favorite sport?

King: Football. And honestly, since we got the Oklahoma City Thunder, it's football and basketball both for me. I grew up a huge [Michael] Jordan fan, and once he retired for good, I didn't follow the NBA as closely. I liked Tim Duncan, so I kind of followed the Spurs for a little bit.

Being from Oklahoma, we didn't have any professional sports at that time. When we got the Thunder, I was immediately going to be a fan because they're in Oklahoma City. And then they turned out to be badass all of a sudden, like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Couldn't ask for anything more in Oklahoma City, so I definitely follow it a lot more closely now.

The Life: Things like an NBA lockout, or an NFL lockout earlier this year, is there a parallel between musicians and athletes, in terms of disputes within the industry?

King: All the different vendors that come in for the games, those lockouts, that affects a lot of people. I can't believe when I hear things like the Cavaliers, they lost money every year that they had LeBron [James]. I'm like, "Really?" They were sold out every game, how could they lose money?

I get what you're saying with the parallels, but it's quite a bit different than what we do. They get paid more, first of all. I've always heard that musicians want to be athletes, getting paid like athletes, and athletes all want to be rock stars. [Laughs.]

The Life: Was there a point when it came down to choosing football or music?

King: Yeah, to an extent. The thing is, I'm kind of a pansy, when it comes to getting tackled. I didn't like getting hit, so I was like, "Yeah, I'm gonna start playing guitar now." [Laughs.]

Roger Lotring is an author, freelance writer and radio show host based in Connecticut.