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Slough Feg

Slough Feg once again recorded a mighty fine album. The idiosyncratic character of the band oozes from the speakers when you listen to ‘Digital Resistance’. This interview is in the same line. We talk to singer/guitarist Mike Scalzi about the new album and about the Beatles, Neil Diamond and Freddy Mercury.

By: Pim B. | Archive under heavy / power metal

It is ood to see you have returned with a new album. From what I understood ‘Digital Resistance’ isn’t a concept album in the sense that all tracks are linked together, but there is a red thread going through most songs. Can you tell a bit more about the subject of digital resistance?
We have done concept albums and albums that were taken to be concept albums that were not. This one I would have to say, is a concept album in the sense that the Beatles ‘Sgt. Pepper’ is a concept album. It has somewhat of a consistent lyrical theme that runs through several of the songs, but not every song. It is not a concept album in the sense that our ‘Traveller’ album is. I used to like technology, and still do in a poetic/literary sense, but the reality of it is becoming quite frightening. This theme then expanded to the role of technology in human evolution, etc. I am a teacher, and I watch students’ mindsets changing on a yearly basis. Let’s just say I can’t say they are becoming noticeably smarter, with the advent of all this technology at their fingertips. Some of the songs are interconnected just because they have the same theme: resisting technology, or at least what it’s doing to the human mind; making it lazy and ‘flabby’. Some of the songs though are not about this. They are just about growing up and becoming middle-aged in a world you do not understand. Very simple as many people go through this, especially today when musicians in particular don’t want to grow up. They want things to stay the way they were when they were younger. When you get older you tend to think the world is getting older, or dying with you. It’s hard to accept the changing world. I am no exception. I don’t understand what’s going on in the mind of most Americans. It scares me. So, I write songs about it, like ‘Warrior’s Dusk’ and ‘Magic Hooligan’.

I also read it was quite hard to get the artwork done that suited the lyrical content. Romulus and Remus are portrayed on the cover artwork. Can you tell a bit more how the artwork got together and how it can be related to the lyrical content?
Originally, for some reason, I thought of Kiss’s ‘Destroyer’ album. A civilization in ruins with the band in front of it, like we’d destroyed the digital revolution, and what it’s doing to society, or something. It's a very strong theme that runs through the album. So, I wanted to represent it strongly. I wanted something similar to the ‘Traveller’ album, or ‘Twilight Of The Idols’. I wanted to represent the death of a civilization with the birth of a civilization. I feel like technology signals the end of western civilization, or at least the end of western culture. So now we have the beginning of the end, a very dramatic image for a very dramatic concept and I always loved Romulus and Remus, such a strong image. I was thinking about the Vargr (dog-man) from ‘Traveller’, and just adapted to the idea of this new record. Children suckling on the teets of technology!! That's what kids look like when their eyes are glued to their smart-phones!!

Talking about the artwork; it is really outstanding. It seems Martin Hanford is one of the rising stars when it comes to album artwork. What made you decide to work with him? He has done artwork for you in the past, but that is quite different compared to the artwork on the new album, isn’t it?
I don’t know much about Martin’s career outside of the few bands I am friends with, like Solstice, etc. I’ve heard he does a lot of other stuff but I’m not aware of this. He certainly is a great artist, and gets a very polished job done in a very short period of time, he’s really quite fantastic. His artwork would not fit every album we’ve done, but it does great for this one.

This is also your first album for Metal Blade with whom you signed last year. They have reissued three of your older albums so far. How is it working with these guys so far and have you already noticed benefits being on a bigger label?
I honestly don’t know what it means yet. This is our first album with them. I wanted to make sure, before we signed, that they understood what kind of record we were going to make. I was afraid they would want another ‘Traveller’ record or ‘Down Among The Deadmen’. I wanted to make sure they understood that we don’t make normal, standard metal records and try to do something new each time. Since the reason we were never signed to Metal Blade earlier is because our sound was considered “unmarketable”, and it probably was. But the market is changing. So they agreed that we should continue with our own style and do something different, but Slough Feg-ish. So we did, and that’s what you’re hearing. I must say they have been very easy to work with so far, and willing to let us be who we are. As far as more money, budget, etc. goes, that remains to be seen. We got about the same budget for ‘Digital Resistance’ as we got for the last couple records, which is enough. I don’t see making too much more money with any album we do, in the current market. The days of moving to stardom, or even material success by playing metal are pretty much over I believe. Getting to a larger audience I think is the best you can hope for and that’s what it’s really about anyway. I’d love to make money at it, but I sure as hell am not going to stop if I’m not making any; or change the way I play.

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What didn’t change is the studio you recorded in. You once again used Trakworx in San Francisco. Have you done any things differently this time around when it came to the recordings?
I didn’t really, we just record with him, and he ends up making some key decisions. He’s really the engineer, but he ends up making so many decisions, particularly where the vocals are concerned, so I decided to put “producer” next to his name. Nothing has changed much in the way we record, I can’t really say there have been any major changes, we’ve gotten into a pattern with Justin and we follow it. It’s really the song writing that changes, not the song writing process, but the actual content of the songs. It took about 9 months, but we worked sporadically. It was not different than any other album, other than the fact that I used some organ on this one, but really it was just the same. The songs were written with the band in the rehearsal space just like our other albums etc. And the singing took forever because my voice is getting old and decrepit, and was never really suited fro metal in the first place. I have a crooner’s voice, or if I'd worked at it a little maybe a choir voice, but not a high pitched metal voice. But I love metal, so I try to sing like Freddy Mercury and fail and end up sounding like Neil Diamond on steroids. What can I say? Pretty much the process remains the same, and I’m not actually that happy about it. I write guitar riffs, or now sometimes piano parts, and then bring them to the band and we work out arrangements, transitions, etc. But honestly, after while that gets a little old. I’d like to do it a little different in the future. Maybe if we had more money we could go into the studio and write a lot of the stuff in there and get a more spontaneous feeling for the record. We did some of that on ‘Twilight Of The Idols’ and some really interesting songs came out of that approach. But that takes a lot of time, which means money that we don’t really have right now.

I also think you haven’t changed much when it comes to your music. To me it sounds like classic Slough Feg sound and style so many of us like. Maybe you see things differently?
I try like hell to not repeat myself. I cannot say that I always succeed but I try. The problem is that you need to find a balance between pleasing your fans that want to hear your individual style, and pleasing yourself as a songwriter, as to not make yourself bored!! Sometime I feel like the fans and the labels would like us to keep putting the same album out year after year, like many metal bands do. To just keep recording albums that sound just like ‘Traveller’ and ‘Down Among The Deadmen’ year after year would get suicidally boring as well as tedious and pointless. But once you establish a sound, a lot of people just want to hear it repeated over and over, so I basically make these records for myself, and if anyone else is listening and enjoys it that’s cool too. But yes, I do believe there is inevitably a similarity to the style of our songs. If anything we are getting more ‘normal’ over the years. I enjoy playing classis metal and have settled into writing some more poppy-metal songs, in the 70’s Scorpions and Rainbow sense.

Last year you did a 7-inch entitled ‘Lacer Enforcer’, which you released yourselves. Why did you do this one on your own? Is there anything interesting to tell about this 7 inch?
As always, I think listening to the 7 inch is a lot more interesting than talking about it! We released it on our own because we had the money, and saw no point in having someone else put it out. We knew we could sell 500 copies easily, and it was fun recording it on our own in a rehearsal studio. We have an 8-track in there and we can make recordings there on our own time and our own budget. It’s fun that way and stress-free. I plan to do more stuff like that in the future. I want to make a lot of single songs, and then compile them into an album when we have enough, rather than setting out to make an album and having to write a bunch of songs to fill up 45 minutes. That’s a lot less inspiring.

I read you will return to Europe this summer. I understood you’ll be hooking up with Magister Templi for a tour and you will appear on Muskelrock in Sweden. Is there anything you can already tell about this? Any other tours coming up?
Unfortunately there’s not much I can tell you about it, since it hasn’t happened yet!! I’ll let you know when my crystal ball is back from the repair shop!

I guess we are completely up to date again. Anything important I forgot to ask about you want to get across to our readers?
Not much else to report at this point. I hope to see you this summer though, if you will be making it to any of the shows! (I’m not even sure where they all are yet, so I’m not sure.)

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