Thursday, February 2, 2012

an interview with The Lord Weird SLOUGH FEG

 Here's the last of the three interviews that Nathaniel Colas kindly proposed me to publish here, another cool one... I feel really proud to have this longstanding top notch HM band interviewed here in T.O.P.. Their latest album "the animal spirits" (the 1st on the canadian Profund Lore rds) had been one of the best releases of 2010 all metal styles included and considering the band isn't much exposed on the media front, I think it's a  pretty nice occasion to come back on this anthemic masterpiece and try to know a bit more about the smart personnality from  one the best masters of the METAL riff, Mike Scalzi : 

Heavy metal salutations, space travellers! What a productive band is SLOUGH FEG in the recent years!  How come you manage to release albums in a row without losing your edge or any part of your creativity? I read that Mike thought that both the “hardworlder” and “ape uprising” were albums to be considered as an attempt of the band to go back to its roots, whereas “the animal spirit” is more an innovative album in the band’s career. It’s true that “the animal spirit” manages to bring a fresh approach to the production with an almost Maiden like sound (Di Anno era), and simpler compositions (at least in appearance). Where did the fresh winds of inspiration come from when composing this last album? Has something changed in your approach of music?
This ‘fresh wind’ came out of boredom, quite frankly. Boredom with the same sound the same production. I can’t stand repeating myself, although I think I’ve done it a few times. Trying to come up with simple songs because I’m sick of sticking 3000 riffs in each song-----I wanted to do something sing-songy for once. 

LEGEND, HORSLIPS, THE ALAN PARSON’S PROJECT, MANILLA ROAD, MANOWAR, METALUCIFER, and surely a couple more hidden jewels of music are covered by SLOUGH FEG since a long time already. Interestingly enough you always manage to get these tunes to sound as if SLOUGH FEG had composed them. Few are the bands that can pretend to write covers that can compete with the originals. Is it something you’ll keep on doing on future releases? Is it more a fun thing to do for you? Do you see these covers of sometimes obscure bands as a way to get people to discover them through your interpretation?
I don’t know. I’m certainly not going to cover Judas Priest songs----or even Angelwitch, or anything metal for that matter. That’s just boring. I cover songs that I want to play and sing, songs that sound good to me, that’s all. It doesn’t really matter how underground it is, I didn’t cover Metalucifer and Manilla Road because they are underground metal legends, but because Street Jammer and Heavy Metal Hunter are really great, fun songs. Not much more to it, we do what we think will sound good, and it’s true that if the song we cover aren’t that well knows, they’re more likely to sound like our songs, because it’s likely that version you hear first will be ours, not the original, in which case you’ll hear it as a slough feg song.  

 “Does humor belong in music?” is a question that was provocatively asked by a genius called Frank Zappa. From what I read you are defending the idea that humor is lacking big time in the scene of today. Do you think that the lack of humor leads the metal world to also lack of provocation, danger and rebellion in the end? As you’re also opened to many other styles of music, would you say that metal fans are almost as conservative as Christian evangelists from the Sun Belt?
Well, yes, metal has gone to complete shite. Popular metal bands lack a lot more than humor-----but this is not the time for a rant on that subject. The entertainment value of metal has been reduced to laughing AT bands, not WITH then like we used to do. NWOBHM ha d a sense of humor------early eighties MTV metal had a sense of humor (Twisted Sister, WASP, Van Halen……etc..)--------early black and death metal had a sense of humor (Venom, Sodom….Celtic Frost……)   but now you have a lot of metal that’s scared to laugh at itself. That’s really bad. I must admit that a lot of death metal does laugh at itself still, which is good, but the real mainstream Ozz-fest stuff, that sounds more like a mutation of hip-hop and hard core with some digitally distorted guitar (which supposedly makes it “metal”) has no creative, entertainment or comedic value at all-----------it is quite silly----but it doesn’t try to be. This is sad. It’s not rock and roll, it’s some other weird product that’s only value is what you might associates it with; which is other types of music that are marketable. Its only value is in the little flags that go up in the consumer’s minds, by referencing several types of big-selling trends in music over the last ten or so years. You have a little hard-core screaming, a little technical guitar harmony, and little died-black hair and eye-liner, and little hip-hop/techno dance beat, a little thrash-metal guitar crunch, and you’ve got it!! Main-stage @ Ozz-fest and big merchandise sales-----and no recognizable interest or content other than an army of mobile marketing-metaphors. Well, sorry, I said I wasn’t gonna go there…………..

Listening to your recently reissued demos, I was noticing that you evolved a lot with your singing. In the early days you were still quite uncomfortable with your throat, but you fixed this problem quite quickly and in the end you came up with your pretty original voice that definitely is a trademark of the SLOUGH FEG sound. Your father being a choir singer, did he help you with some singing techniques? As for today, how do you train your voice? Pretty often you record several vocal layers at the same time. Where did you take this inspiration from?
I have no vocal training at all. My dad never gave me any really-----he told me a few times what most singers say-----to sing from the gut and not from the throat, and all that, but he really wasn’t qualified to train me or anything (not that I would have listened to him anyway…) I really have no idea how to sing and have no real technique at all. I just tried to do what I do, and hope for the best. I’ve had a lot of trouble lately with losing my voice and that kind of thing, particularly on tour. The layered vocal thing is inspire by just about everyone------everybody used to do it, and many still do. Obviously some of that is influenced by Queen-------I always wanted to sound like Freddy, but of course never could. Dio was another big influence, but obviously I’m setting the bar a bit high with these examples------these people inspire me but I’ll never be able to sing like them. The truth is my voice is much lower than any of the singers that inspire me-----I should have tried to sound more like Danzig or something; that would be more realistic. But I never wanted to------instead I end up sounding like Paul Dianno trying out for a Broadway musical after a string of rough nights.
In a recent blog you posted on the web you actually look at the metal fans and present scene with quite a lot of cynicism, disillusion and (dare I say so?) bitterness… Should we call you a realistic or a pessimistic character? Haha! With that in mind, I wonder what kind of fuel runs in your veins and get you to keep on playing metal with a lot of connections to traditions, yet with your own feeling and interpretation? Are you too stubborn to play jazz, or too intellectual to go commercial? Héhé!
I don’t remember that interview actually, I’m not sure what you are referring to. I don’t really like jazz or know how to play it, and you should probably call me pessimistic. I’d like to be called realistic, but at this point I can’t see myself clearly at all---------I mean, I guess I’m realistic in that I have no illusions about success or anything, and don’t see any reason not to say it. I mean, what’s the point, after 20 years I might as well just lay it out as I see it. I enjoy what I’m doing and feel happy that a lot of people finally “get it”----for the first ten years very few people did. Now we have quite a few fans------people buy our records and our t-shirts and come see us play all over the place-------I’m not cynical about this, I’m happy about it, and half the reason I go on tour is to hang out with some of these people. I’m grateful that someone actually appreciates it, because it could easily not be the case-----we could work just as hard as we do and get a lot less in return, but for some reason people like it now. Honestly I’m not sure why because I’ve never felt like I’ve done anything different, people’s perception of it have just changed with times I guess. I love old Dio, Sabbath, Maiden, Priest, Vitus etc. and I do my best to deliver it with whatever original twist I can put on it--------Celtic war-paint and churning, reeling riffs and weird, theatrical singing, whatever I can do to keep it interesting for me, and hope that people share my fondness for it. That’s about it. As for other metal bands and metal fans, I call it like I hear it----- if it sounds phony and in-genuine to me then I say so. If it sounds like shit, I say it sounds like shit. If it sounds great to me, I say it sounds great. It’s pretty simple really.  

I think that SLOUGH FEG, as HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE, BROCAS HELM, KING DIAMOND or MANILLA ROAD belong to the kind of bands that have a vision. Why do you think it is so rare to find the bands that strive to give a musical form to the vision they have in mind?
Honestly I have no ideas. All I can say is that I wish everyone who made records had a vision, and people who did not had to work hard until they did to get one. But that’s not the way it is. Oh well. When I was very young more bands had a vision. Now they don’t. Whatever, no one’s stopping me from doing what I want to do, much the contrary, so I’m happy with it.
Let’s play the “read and react” game now.

-    Humans with dog heads, apes, Neanderthal men, the spirit of animals… What is it that attracts you so much to the primal/animal side in Man? :
This is rather funny, and rather silly. The truth of the matter is I don’t know anything about the ‘primal side of man’. I eat food, and I even have sex once in a while, and I guess that counts as animal/primal, but otherwise I do a lot of thinking and reasoning and pondering. So I don’t know. Artistically I like the representations of primitive man, but that’s all fantasy. I don’t think I’d really trade places with a cave man or an animal. I guess I kind of look like a primitive man (at least that’s what people always tell me), maybe that’s the attraction, it’s kind of a self-affirmation------an attempt to find beauty in what is necessary.   

- Your last musical emotion: 
 That’s an easy one. ANGER. 
- Who’s the most metal philosopher of all? : 
  Another easy one. FREIDRICH NEITZSCHE (that’s almost too easy, but undeniable)
- The curse of the right drummer! Do you suffer of a Spinal Tap syndrome? :
  Actualy no, I don’t think so, we’ve only had three. We’ve had a lot more bass players
- Lemmy the movie :
     Haven’t seen it. Maybe that tells you something though
- The comeback of SOLSTICE:

  Happy, overjoyed in fact. But hoping it doesn’t sound like a Solstice cover band.
Well, it’s time to end this little feature. Feel free to write down some words as an epitaph to this interview.
Don’t break the oath bro.

Find HERE all details about SLOUGH FEG  "made in Poland" live CD
Recorded in Warsaw, Poland during their 2011 Summer Eurotour.
13 songs, 70+ minutes, no overdubs.
Full Color, 28 page tour booklet packed with pics from the
show, as well as an inspirational forward by Mike.

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