DATE OF INTERVIEW:
30th March 2014
METAL DISCOVERY: Your latest album, 'Digital Resistance', has now been available for a couple of months. What has the general response been so far from fans and the press?
MIKE: Everyone seems to like it, but that usually happens when they come out. We'll see in about six months to a year how they really feel!!!!
(Mike Scalzi on his perseverance over the years)
"I would love to relax and settle down and do something more normal, like have a family and live out in the woods. But I can't do that, I get bored too easily. Heavy Metal is my way!"
Interview by Rick Tilley
Official Slough Feg Facebook:
SLOUGH FEG DISCOGRAPHY
The Lord Weird Slough Feg (1996)
For a band that have been around for as many years as Slough Feg, they are still, surprisingly, very much an underground name. Based in San Francisco and now signed to Metal Blade Records, who will hopefully give the band a much deserved promotional boost, they’ve just released their ninth album, the brilliant but bonkers 'Digital Resistance'. Full of catchy and heavy NWOBHM melodies, with a nod to classic Thin Lizzy and an ear for the progressive, Slough Feg frontman and only surviving original member, Mike Scalzi, answered a few questions for Metal Discovery about this new work, his perseverance throughout the years, unlikely subconscious influences, and a whole lot more...
Slough Feg - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2014 Uncredited
Official Slough Feg Website:
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
Twilight of the Idols (1998)
Down Among the Deadmen (2000)
The Slay Stack Grows (2009)
Ape Uprising! (2009)
The Animal Spirits (2010)
Made in Poland (2011)
Digital Resistance (2014)
MD: I have heard some of your songs in the past, but am only a recent full convert to your fabulous music. How would you describe Slough Feg to someone who has never heard of you?
MIKE: I probably wouldn't describe it, I'd just let them hear it. Or I'd just say it is Heavy Metal.
MD: You are now signed to Metal Blade Records. How is this relationship working out and have you noticed a difference in the amount of publicity and attention the band is receiving?
MIKE: A little bit, a few more interviews; I don't know if we'd be doing this one if not for Metal Blade. The press is just a little further reaching. We seem to be getting along fine with them. The truth is, we didn't expect miracles, from any label that is. We are already established enough to tour and all that, so they really are just putting our record out and giving us press, so it's not that much different than being on the labels we were on before really, just a bit more promotion, which is fine with us. I really won't be able to tell for a couple months, until we get over to Europe in late May, then we'll see how things stack up. Maybe some more people at shows, we'll see.
MD: You started the band in the first half of the 1990s, and considering your sound and the advent of grunge, that must have been a pretty tricky thing to achieve. How difficult were the early days?
MIKE: Very difficult. Not easy at all, but that's the test of how dedicated you are to this kind of music. We never stopped trying in the 90s to play Heavy Metal. Lots of bands that are bigger than us broke up, and then got back together when metal became popular again. That's fine, but bands who stayed together and bared the burden of metal all those dry years should be given credit. But that's not the way it usually works, the bigger names resurface when the getting is good again, and they get the credit for 'staying true', when the reality of it is that many of them were either not playing at all, or trying to play some other, more marketable style of music during the 90s and early 2000s. The 90s were rough, but the bands that stuck it out and played heavy metal during this time have a certain edge, a certain experience that other bands missed. Not the best experiences, but a toughness and a work ethic that separates them for the FAIR WEATHER METAL HEADS.
MD: Your music is full of NWOBHM references but there are a host of other influences from rock to prog. Who contributes to writing material and what is your process for putting everything together?
MIKE: I do most the writing myself, although every album has a song or two that is either written or contributed to by other members and we all arrange songs together. The influences just come out, I don't think anyone sets out to sound like any other bands, but whatever you are listening to sort of seeps into your songwriting. I come up with riffs and melodies that are inspired by what I'm listening to in ways that I don't really understand. Someone commented on ‘Digital Resistance’ that there was a part that sounded like Sting from Dream of the Blue Turtles!!! Funny! Because I was just listening to that album a lot a few months ago when doing some of the vocals. How the hell did that get in?!?!? But obviously it did, because it was a really weird thing to observe, and a weird thing for me to be listening to, but I don't think it was a coincidence.
MD: It has been four years since your previous album. Is it a difficult process finding the budget to record or is it a natural gap for you personally?
MIKE: No problem with the budget. We're always on labels that provide that. It's the fact that I don't want to just write an uninspired album. I have to have something to say. And the time to record, it takes a lot of time and effort and I don't always have the schedule, with my job and everything.
MD: What really struck me on the album was the distinct quality and humour of the lyrics. Where do you get your inspiration from?
MIKE: I don't know. Maybe Jack Benny and Benny hill and John Inman.
MD: There is a somewhat damning concept on 'Digital Resistance' about the effects of modern technology on humans and how we have been dumbed down by, amongst other things, social media. Is it safe to assume you are not keen on how technology appears to be turning us all into dribbling robots?
MIKE: Maybe. It's more like this - George Orwell and Ray Bradbury wrote books about the dangers of technology and government control. In one of these books, music and books and art were banned. This hasn't happened yet, but listening to some of the music coming out these days, and seeing some of the art, and books, sort of makes me wish they were!!!!!
MD: With that in mind, did you find it ironic that promo & review copies of the album were sent out via digital download?
MIKE: No, I didn't know about that.
MD: Can you explain the story behind the wonderfully entitled 'Analogue Avengers/Bertrand Russell's Sex Den'? It is without doubt going to be receiving my award for best song title of the year!
MIKE: Great! There's not much to explain - analogue avengers is self-explanatory, and Bertrand Russell's… is just a heavy metal version of "Don't Stand So Close To Me". Been listening to the Police lately, and teaching junior college classes!!!
MD: You’re now the only original member left in the band. What has kept you going, through thick and thin, to keep Slough Feg a going concern?
MIKE: Bitterness, stubbornness and despair at the idea of doing anything else!! I would love to relax and settle down and do something more normal, like have a family and live out in the woods. But I can't do that, I get bored too easily. Heavy Metal is my way!! Sometimes I think I want to get married or something, or move to another state, or back to the East Coast where I came from. Then I leave the West Coast for a while and always want to come back and play metal. Visiting my family on the East Coast makes me just feel like I did 24 years ago - I still want to go out to California and rock and roll!!!!!
MD: What are your touring plans for 2014 and can we expect to see you in the UK at some point?
MIKE: Unfortunately not the UK yet, but the rest of Europe in May/June.
MD: Do you view gigging as a necessary evil these days with regards to selling merchandise and making some money or have you always enjoyed getting on stage as opposed to studio time?
MIKE: No!!!!!! I find making an album a necessary evil - hate being in the studio!! I live to play live!!! It is all I ever want to do. I was born to be onstage, and that's what I want to do. I'll die that way I believe. There's nothing I can do about that, but my job makes things hard - I can't always go on tour for a months at a time, but I can do a lot of short trips to do festivals, etc.
MD: With your distinct sound and love of NWOBHM and classic heavy metal, how do you view the modern wave of bands that are emerging now that grunge and nu-metal have, thankfully, all but disappeared?
MIKE: I suppose, but I haven't noticed. I try not to think about that stuff, or listen to it. I really don't know what's going on in that scene, and I don't really want to know either.
MD: It would also be interesting to see what you think of the music business in modern times, bearing in mind that many record labels are failing, or cannot afford to pick up acts, and many new bands are unsigned and now use the web and social media to promote themselves?
MIKE: I don't know much about the music business. I just know about Slough Feg. In a way we are part of the music business, in a way we are not. We don't make money really, so I guess we are not. We are musicians. If someone is making money off us we're really not seeing it - we make music and play it. The ball is rolling for us and won't stop as far as I can tell; for newer bands starting now, I don’t know what I'd tell them, but if you really want to play, you can. It can't be any harder than it was in the 90s.
MD: Before we wrap up, is there anything else you would like to say to the readers of Metal Discovery?
MIKE: Not really. Like I said, if you like metal then live it!!!! That means being honest with yourself as a musician or music fan, or human being in general. I think being a metal head is about saying and doing what you think and want, and not letting anyone tell you how to live or think.