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05/09/2007 – Interview with SLOUGH FEG

The American Hard Rock / Heavy Metal band SLOUGH FEG (official website) released their sixth album, "Hardworlder" two months ago via the small Italian label Cruz Del Sur. You can check out the review of the album at this location.

As a result of this release I sent a couple of questions to the band to know more about this release, the band itself, how an American band that's been active since the early '90s gets a deal with a small Italian label, what they only released their debut years after their founding, and other general things. Mike and Adrian took the time to write the replies.

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The band has been active since 1990, with the first album coming out in 1996. How come it took so long?

Mike: That was the nineties, and in the nineties is was not easy to make a record, especially for a metal band. No one would put an album out, or give us very much interest at all for the first five years. No one wanted to hear metal. There was a few left over fans from the eighties, and some small interest by large records labels, we ended up doing a national TV commercial for Warner Bros. But they didn't sign us. They said we sounded to seventies or something. Every one was playing grunge. Then later when we started to realize we were not going to get signed in California, or the US, we started concentrating on Europe, we put the first album out on our own money, and sent it to Europe, and then things started to really move.

Adrian: Well, when a band gets started, there is not always a big fanfare and anticipation for the 1st album. There were I think 3 demos that were made from 1990 - 1995.

When you look back, which albums are you most proud of and which albums or songs would you rewrite if there was any need for it?

Mike: I am most proud of "Twilight Of The Idols". It is the most creative and diverse album I've done. If I had to re-write any songs, I'd go back and make "Vargr Moon" shorter, taking out the fast part in the middle, and I'd change a few things on "Gene-Ocide", I'd make it shorter.

Adrian: "Twilight Of The Idols" is good because that had the most time spent putting it together.

Slough Feg - HardworlderDo you have a view on sales? If so, which albums sold the most? And which part of the world likes you the most?

Mike: I don't know what the new album is selling at all. I can't imagine that its much because of downloading, but I really don't know. We sell more in Europe than in the US, I know that.

Adrian: Sales are good, the more the better. I think "Hardworlder "will be the hottest selling album ever!!

When did you start writing the material for "Hardworlder"? And did you work differently than for "Atavism" or the other albums?

Mike: We started writing over a year ago, and the process was exactly the same as it was with "Atavism". Just write the songs on our own, or in the rehearsal space, starting with guitar riffs, and then go over and over it until it sounds good, and then go record it and spend tons of time doing overdubs and mixing. That's it.

Adrian: Some of the material is from a few years ago, probably 2005. We did some pre-production to try and get a feel for how we wanted the final product to see.

Over the years it seems you used less and less Folk in your music and opted for more direct Hard Rock / Heavy Metal. Is this because your taste is changing or will you - in time - make another album like the first ones?

Mike: My taste has not changed much - but I think I said what I wanted to say as far as folk stuff goes - although you must admit that "The Sea Wolf" is a total folk song - in fact, so is "The Spoils" to an extent. So actually I don't think we've really stopped doing folk metal. One problem I've noticed lately is that a lot of people judge the style of a song by its lyrical content, we don't have many songs anymore about Irish tribal wars, but that doesn't have much to do with song style. If you want to judge music by its lyrics then folk music should really be about war protest!! Hehe...

Adrian: Each album has some acoustic numbers on there, just slightly different styles. We will never make another album like the 1st one, because that was a different time with different people.

Regarding the deal with Cruz Del Sur Music: How's it going so far (how important is Cruz for SLOUGH FEG?) and for how many albums did you originally sign?

Mike: We just signed for one. Its really easy to deal with Cruz, so we'll stay for now. Very straightforward.

Adrian: Cruz has been treating us very well.

Speaking of labels in general, in the era of (illegal) downloads, iTunes (and similar)... could you do it all yourself? I mean, the recording (incl. production, mixing, mastering), sales, promotion, etcetera? Or are time and money two of the elements that prevent you from taking full control?

Mike: Time and money are the problems. If no one's paying for the music, that is, if everyone is downloading illegally, then there's no money coming in to make the recordings. It still costs a lot to make a good recording. And I don't have the time or interest in promoting albums. I'm not a promoter, I can't be a musician and saongwritter and push my music at the same time, it seems cheesy and makes me feel like an idiot. Maybe that's why I'm not too successful! Because I can't stand pushing my own product.

Adrian: Time and money are the only elements involved in controlling "that stuff". We have done some of our own recording/mixing, etc. for some past 7" & compilations. As far as sales/promotion, that is impossible to do and still have band practice.

Which subjects are covered in the lyrics for "Hardworlder"?

Mike: Well, that's for the listener to figure out. I think its rather easy to see what's going on - a little sci-fi, and a little real world grit - life in the city, the shit, the puke and the grit, and a little intellectual bullshit as well. Also a little romance and espionage, and little old misery and madness as well.

The sound on "Hardworlder" is very good. Where did you record the album and who was the man behind the buttons?

Mike: Justin Phelps right here in San Francisco as usual.

Adrian: Hyde St. Studios, San Francisco. Co-produced by Justin Phelps. He has been behind every album except Traveller. In fact he played bass on the 1st album.

"Hardworlder" also contains two cover songs: "Dearg Doom" by HORSLIPS and "Street Jammer" by MANILLA ROAD. Whose decision was it to record these songs? And what do the bands in question think of your versions? In addition, what other covers are on your wishlist?

Mike: I picked these songs, and I haven't heard back from these bands yet on their opinions. I don't have any cover tunes in mind for the future, but I'm sure some willl come up. I like doing covers, it's a tradition for musicians to do covers, but a lot of bands shy away from it for some reason. I don't see any reason not to do covers.

Adrian: We were asked to do a MANILLA ROAD song for a tribute CD, so that is how "Street Jammer" came about, and "Dearg Doom" was Mike's idea to cover, because it sounds cool.

I noticed two similarities with other releases, although it's probably a coincidence:
----- 1) the riffing (and a little bit of the melody) in "Insomnia" reminded me instantly of HAMMERFALL's "Threshold" (the song).
----- 2) Regarding the singing in (the uptempo verses of) "Poisoned Treasures", try to listen to Nils Patrik Johansson in WUTHERING HEIGHTS' song "Faith - Apathy Divine Part I", starting at 06:25.

Mike: 1) Never heard that song, so I doubt I was influenced by it. 2) Never heard of that either.

Adrian: I don't think any of us in the band has heard these records. Except maybe Angelo, he keeps up with what all the kids are doing these days.

Making albums with a long playtime was never a point, since you kept everything under or around 40 minutes. Is this a deliberate decision, maybe to have more airplay or just to keep things compact to not have the listener lose the attention? Or would longer songs indeed make the album less interesting?

Mike: I never planned it out that way, I just write songs and record them. I get bored really easily and don't want to be bored playing my own songs or listening to others' music. I'm not fond of long intros or meandering solos or anything. I found my self fast forwarding over the little acoustic intros of a lot of metal songs in the eighties, so I guess I decided to leave that stuff out. Even long epic songs usually have some lame filler parts in them. MAIDEN did great with "Hallowed By Thy Name", its great the whole way through, but "Powerslave" has a bunch of useless crap in the middle, and so does a lot of early PRIEST stuff (which I love) - I'm not into the droning guitars and frilly stuff in the middle of metal songs. I'm more into the immediacy of one song after the other - like some hardcore albums from the eighties. BLACK FLAG's albums never had any filler or useless parts, and they were one of my favorites in the eighties.

Adrian: We didn't want to put any crap songs out so we just do a bunch of songs as best we can together. We don't really worry about how long the album is going to be. I think all my favorite albums were less than an hour. I mean, they had to fit on vinyl, which has about a 19 minute limit each side ?

The cover art was originally done by James E. Lyle and kind of represents SLOUGH FEG's career, from what I've read in the press text. Has it always been difficult or were there also periods when things went smooth? Also, if you look back and take an overview of where SLOUGH FEG stands today: would you do it again or would you change certain things?

Mike: I'd do it all again, even though alot of it has been hell. I went through a lot of years not being able to do what I wanted to, and seeing a bunch of talentless idiots doing what I wanted to do (touring, making albums). It's insane. But I've got to some extent what I wanted now. I'd like to take it further, but the ability to tour and make albums that people enjoy and talk about is a lot of the goal. To be recognized means a lot. It remains a very difficult task to keep this up, but I m used to it and my life has been focused on it for so long that its second nature. I've done exactly what I've wanted to do in life, so I'm not able to complain too much.

Adrian: It has always been difficult, the curse of Lord Slough Feg and his quest for eternal life has plagued us since the beginning. Eyes without life...sundered heads...piles of carcasses, all these things make it difficult to be in an American Metal Band.

Slough Feg bandCover art is important in Metal, because it helps to make the music more alive. How important is it for you to have a fitting cover for an album? And does it have to connect with the lyrics or just a theme in general?

Mike: It's not that important to me actually. I never cared much what was on the cover of albums, and some of my favorite albums have terrible covers. I don't want them to look stupid, but I like just plain old pictures of the band on the front, I've done enough albums with fancy covers, I'd actually like to do simpler ones in the future, but the metal market seldom permits it. I really am tired of being concerned with cover art, it's a pain in the ass trying to satisfy everyone, and everyone has an opinion.

How easily do you get to do gigs in the States? And Europe?

Mike: Easily, we have a booking agent in both places. In Europe we can get on festivals and all that. In America we play some good gigs and some shite ones, but we have no problem getting gigs.

Adrian: We have a good booking agency now in the U.S.A, and Europe has been good to us for quite some time now. We would like to get on more festivals in Europe.

what I've read from several American artists, it seems that the audience in the States is less enthusiastic, less open-minded, whereas in Europe the bands get more cheers and applause. There's more enthusiasm for Metal (and different kinds of it). In an interview with Music Street Journal (I think) you said the media plays a big role in this, in limiting the people's taste.

Mike: I guess. Media is more powerful in America, obviously. I don't care as much as I used to about it. Cause you can spend your whole life complaining and wishing things were different, or you can just rock. If there's anything you can do about it, then do it, but if you can't control it, then there's no point in worrying about it. The music scene sucks over here, but now there are a lot of kids getting into old metal and cool music and they come out to shows all over the country, maybe a few less than in Europe, but the underground is really growing over here these days, and the internet does help that. Our last tour was cool because we met all sorts of new metal head kids who hung out with us and took us to their houses and partied with us and all that. That's what it's all about.

Adrian: Metal is cool again in the U.S.A. Kids show up to shows now wearing denim vests with patches and stuff, and they know about all the older bands and respect them a lot. The tide has turned back to metal and we intend on keeping it that way as long as we can!

Reviews are good to give an indication of what to expect, but also help to promote the album(s). Lots of them also contain comments about the sound, the melodies, riffs, etc.. with sometimes a little advice to alter this or that. If not from reviews, this advice could also come from (longtime) fans. Do you take this into account when writing/recording new material?

Mike: Not really, not what reviews say, because a lot of the people writing reviews don't know shit. I listen to people who come to shows though. I listen to the people in the band and few friends who's opinions I trust. Mostly I'm stubborn though and don't listen to anyone!!

Adrian: No.

Do you take album by album (or gigs) or is there a sort of scheme of what you still want to accomplish?

Mike: No, I take things one at a time. But I would like to have a really long catalogue of album some day, and a long history of live shows. I want to be known as the band that never stops, that everyone saw, and that everyone hung out with and had a good time.

Adrian: We will write more songs. We want to sell records and go on tour.

Has the work on the next album already begun? Anything you can tell so far (musically, possible release date, ...)?

Mike: I have some songs written , yes. Its gonna be heavier than "Hardwordler", and its gonna rock. That's all I can really say. There won't be any intellectual bullshit on it either, or political messages or anything, it's gonna be all sex drugs and rock and roll - what really matters!! Or maybe more like wine, women and cigars, that's what life is about.

Adrian: There are some ideas floating around.

How often do you come together to rehearse? Regarding gigs, since you've been playing together for a long time, how much time do you spend on rehearsing? Or do you arrive at the venue/festival/... and do your thing, because the automatisms are there?

Mike: We have to practice at least once a week, usually twice, or everybody forgets what the hell they're doing. Usually I have to slap my band members around a couple times to wake them up out of drug-induced stupors before practice. I show up and they're asleep all over the equipment. After a few swift kicks though they usually get into gear and we can play the songs. I'm lucky my dad was a drill Sgt. In the US Air Force, it taught me how deal with these lazy bastards. A good swift kick in the ass is worth a thousand words!!

Adrian: We rehearse 1 - 2 times a week. We work to present a quality product live. When people see SLOUGH FEG, they expect something. We try to make sure that they know they are seeing something different, something that they can really sink their teeth into. If we don't kick ass live, then really, what is the point of all this?

I'm done, for now. Many thanks for taking the time to reply, good luck with the songwriting for the next album(s), the gigs and other plans you have for SLOUGH FEG. If there's anything I forgot to ask or you want to add, let it out. :-)

Adrian: Feel free to contact us at our website, We respond to all mail personally. We are not some gigantic band. We all have day jobs, and work hard to keep this going, and one day we will unite the tribes of the earth goddess against the tribal council and wrack them with warpspasm. Until we are ancient, rotting, and insane.

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