Interview: The Lord Weird Slough Feg
The San Franciscan saga poets have returned again with the love of Heavy Metal burning in their hearts. “Traveller” is their fourth and most accomplished album to date. Eager to catch up on the news in the Slough Feg camp, I had a word with fellow knight of the Red Branch, Mike Scalzi, about science fiction,,frustrating record deals and Ireland…
Greetings from fair Ulster, Mike! You must be pleased and somewhat relieved that “Traveller” has finally seen the light of day. Sone sources say that the material was ready to go since early last year.
Mike concurs, “Since September 2001! There were big delays with the artwork and the label. I’m sure this is no new story to anyone. You can imagine what some of them were…”
Even so, it hardly excuses them! How have the initial reactions been to the new material?
“Well, people are generally pretty unimaginative. They ask how can we go from ancient Celtic lore to Sci-fi! I ask them have they ever changed the channel on their TV set! This time I didn’t write songs about barbarians and instead I wrote about science fiction. Pretty easy to grasp, right? But most people can’t come up with a more interesting question than that. So the reactions were as expected. Very plain and standard.”
Clearly this is a sore topic with Mike! Perhaps if Dragonheart had not placed such emphasis on the lyrical shift in their promotional materials the band would not have been plagued with the same run of the mill questions. However, as I have a longstanding interest in science fiction I decided to plough on and ask where his inspiration came from…
“It came out of the same place all science fiction came from, George Lucas’ asshole!” Laughing, “No, really, it came from the Sci-fi books of the early ’50s. That’s when all the best Sci-fi was written. If you want to understand the new album, read Alfred Bester’s “The Stars Are My Destination” because it’s the best fiction book I’ve ever read. It science fiction for real men!”
I feel the narrative flavour of your lyrics and music go together hand in hand. To what extent has the folk tradition influenced and become infused to your brand of Heavy Metal?
“Not at all!” he refutes. I know nothing about Irish folk music. I only know about Maiden, Priest and Sabbath. We’re a Metal band. The Irish stuff just comes out somehow. I don’t know. I never tried to write that way. Really! It’s just in me somehow.”
There you go! So this is your third full-length album with Italy’s Dragonheart. Do you feel they have given the band the push it deserves in terms of advertising and tour support?
“Advertising, yes. But no tour support at all. None! We have done everything ourselves with the help of small booking agents and labels like Miskatonic Foundation and Metal Supremacy. The underground supports us and that’s it. I would like to get on a label that gives tour support. But that’s damn tough. Even most of the bigger Metal labels seldom do it.”
Tough indeed! And I sense that at this point in the Slough Feg cycle the band was hoping to have made more headway by now. Instead of critical acclaim and the support they rightly deserve their last studio album “Down Among The Deadmen” seems to have become a rarity. It’s barely three years old and absent from all European mailorders. When I queried if the pressing had sold out and were there any intentions to reissue it, Mike aired his frustration.
“I’m pissed that SPV just distributes an album for a while and then lets go! He sighs, “You can still get it on our website and there are actually a lot of small distros in the US that still carry it including Aquarius and Sentinel Steel. Best just go to our website though.”
Last year saw the re-release of the band ‘a self-titled debut on Miskatonic Foubdation. How much demand was there for it?
“I guess there must have been enough,” he shrugs.
Perhaps this is a little premature. Have you put any thought into album number five and which label might host it?
Yes! But I don’t know which label yet. It’s hard to get a good deal. Really hard. Most labels don’t want to take a risk on a band line us. They think we’re weird and unmarketable. I don’t know why because I think they could sell us just fine. The more you sound original, the more they’re scared to put you out because you don’t fit into a pre-established category.”
I think this goes to the heart of the matter. Slough Feg has personality, which is not common place amongst their contemporaries. But should they be penalised for it?
Have you any specific requirements you would put to an interested record company?
“We want a label that will give us tour support. We need to get to places we haven’t been yet!”
Touring has already been a large part of the Slough Feg experience even if the band had done so off their own bat. Having made three laps of Europe with whom have you most enjoyed playing?
“Solstice, Sacred Steel and Twisted Tower Dire are always a blast. I can’t wait to come back!
Will you be playing any European festivals this summer?
“No, we haven’t been put on any.”
Do I sense more frustration?
Did I hear you spent some time in Cork last sumner? How did you find life in Ireland?
He corrects me, “I went to Dublin and Galway. I have a friend in Galway, which was fun. I didn’t do much in Dublin. I found it rather tame.”
That will please the Dubliners no end! What did you do?
I went to a few bars and walked around looking for the Rock n’ Roll scene. But there wasn’t much to be found. I’d like to play there though. I saw a lot if cool Thin Lizzy posters. That place must have been great back in the ’70s!”
I suspect so! Let’s return to literature. What would be your favourite Irish poem or myth?
“The Tain Bo Cuailgne! I read it when I was 18 eighteen and based a band around it,” Mike enthuses.
Now I happen to think Slough Feg should be massive in Ireland and the world in large. If and when we book live dates for you in Belfast, Dublin and Cork this sumner, what would you say to people to encourage them to come to your shows?
“Well, if they like the real thing, come to our shows! If you want imitations, go see Black Metal or Iced Earth or someone else. Anyone who likes Thin Lizzy should like us.”
Simple as that really!
He elaborates, “if you’re a real Metal head of dirty old Hard Rock, you ‘d enjoy our show. I’m sure there’s many drunk Irish bastards who’d enjoy it!”
I’m inclined to agree and we will put that to the test!
Lastly Mike, do you still feel like a Heavy Metal Monk? Or are the ladies finally succumbing to your charm?
“I’m very much a Heavy Metal Monk right now. You should see the pile of jack-rags in my trash can!” Laughing, “I had a girlfriend but she moved to Texas and I’ve been too busy lately to look for poon-tang. A couple of skanky hoes hang out on my street but I’m afraid of diseases. Once I was an international playboy…”
I think we better leave it there! Thanks for your time and honesty, Mike. All being well, see you here in the summer.