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Mike Scalzi (Slough Feg)

Interview with Mike Scalzi from Slough Feg
by Grigoris Chronis at 27 August 2007, 5:43 PM

SLOUGH FEG's new fine album, Hardworlder, was a good motive to hook up with the US band's Mike Scalzi in order to - eventually - have a weird conversation. Hey, I like yor names; any way, with a band name like (The Lord Weird) SLOUGH FEG you could never have Johnson and Smith names, ha ha! In addition…Dio is the God himself!

Mike, greetings from Metal Temple magazine! Well, prior to moving to the SLOUGH FEG’s upcoming release, Hardworlder, I just need to ask a couple of ’bio’ questions. First of all, even if SLOUGH FEG are considered to be an American band, the members’ names do not look that ’American’ to me. I mean, for both current and (most of) former members. I was just wondering: is there a particular reason for this?

What exactly are you talking about? Do you expect all Amercians to have names like Smith and Johnson and stuff like that? My name is Italian and Adrian’s is Mexican and Angelo’s is Italian. The only American names that are truly american are sitting bull and Geranimo and stuff like that. So, we’re about as American as they come, we’re just not all English/Irish/German. Actually, I’m half Irish and German, so my name could just as easy be Nixon. That’s my mother’s maiden name, and that’s as american as they come. This is an interesting question, I’ve never heard one quite like it. Gregg Haa is a weird name, it’s Danish, and John Cobbett is French, but their families have been in America for generations. Interesting question.

And (connecting to the first question): how did SLOUGH FEG’s music got ’attached’ to the Irish/Celtic mythology/sounds in the first place? I mean (again), I cannot imagine the impact of  (mainly) 70s British/Irish music in a US Metal band, if it’s not due to e.g. BLACK SABBATH, IRON MAIDEN or JUDAS PRIEST.

Well, it is mainly because of MAIDEN, PRIEST, SABBATH etc. Back when the band formed, in 1990, I wanted to sound just like those three bands. The Irish/Celtic stuff was sort of by mistake. I just wanted to sound like MAIDEN, and then I tried writing riffs in major keys, and next thing we knew we sounded like THE POGUES! I had read some books on Irish mythology and liked it, so I adapted some of the stories to my songs. That’s it, it’s that simple.

Well, on to the new album: is Hardworlder now released by the time we speak. What’s the feedback so far (Media, fans, label)?

Oh, I don’t know, there have been a couple of great reviews, and then a few fans seem to like it. And then I read one which said it wasn’t as original as our last albums. Perhaps he’s right, it sounds like a 70’s Rock album and not as much like a 21st century Celtic Metal album. But I don’t care, cause it’s what I wanted to do at the time. Everyone seems to like it overall, and it’s the right step for the band right now. It’s a pretty ’involved’ album, that is, it’s not as much like a ’punk’ (ed. note: ???) album as Atavism. Atavism hits you over the head right in the beginning, but Hardworlder is a little more abstract, it takes a little more attention, it’s sort of more mature, but once you listen there’s more stuff in there to hold your attention. I’m happy with it.

You started working on Hardworlder in late 2006. How long did it take you to complete the songwriting in order to start recording/mixing?

I’m not sure actually, to be honest. I don’t remember, but I must have started writing riffs right after we finished Atavism. The songs were in my head for a long time, while we were touring and I was doing a bunch of other stuff as well. I was teaching philosophy as I worked on a Master’s Degree at San Francisco State all last year, and this sort of got in the way of writing the music and lyrics, but it also influenced the sound of the album I’m sure. Now, I’m not teaching and the music I write will change as a result. The more new things you try the more interesting your music will become, I think.

I see. How did you come up with this specific title? Is it two or three words put together?

It just sort of came out. I was thinking about the phrase Heavyworlder, which means a person or creature form a planet with more gravitational pull than earth. When they come to earth they are stronger and can jump further than humans because of the lower gravity. well, a hardworlder would be the sort of the same thing, because of something more dense, or hard would be heavier. In fact weight is the same thing as density, so ’hardwolrder’ just sounds interesting I think. It would also just mean a person form a really hard or tough world.

Did you have any trouble in the studio? Did it take you too long to finish the recording/mixing process? Are you satisfied from the result (always having in mind the time & budget you had available)?

Yes. It always takes to long and often goes over budget. I don’t think the answer to this question wold be very interesting to the reader if I go much further into technical bullshit though, cause you’ve heard it all before. We did it until we got it right, and that always takes time. And no, there is never enough money. If we had more money we cold do an incredible album, but we don’t, so we do the best we can.

I see Hardworlder one step beyond 2005’s Atavism. In the way (mainly) of instrumentation but also ’memorable’ songwriting. Meaning: the band has written complex songs butn in a way they (in the end) are stuck to the listener’s mind. I’d say Hardworlder features ’ingredients’ from all of the band’s previous albums?

I ’m glad to hear that, because I think Atavism was catchy, and a little more easy to get into on the first listen. Of course Hardworlder features ingredients from the other albums. There’s really not much to say about it. It’s up to the listener. The process of song writing and recording the album was exactly the same as Atavism. We wrote some songs and went in a recorded them. Nothing special.

Does latest drummer, Antoine Reuben, fit like a glove to the band by now? How did you contact him in the first place? Was it just before Atavism? His performance is (again) notable, plus I think he may be responsible for some of the variety in Hardworlder songs’ tempo changes.

He’s not really responsible for the tempo changes. I worte all that stuff. He fits in well, and plays a little more simply than Greg did. He came into the band about a year and a half ago. I knew him for years and just called him up when Greg left. I knew he was capable of doing it. Not too interesting actually, I just called him and told him to come down to our rehearsal room and he did, and he performed quite well and that was that.

Really, why did Greg (Haa) quit?

Well, he has a full time job and two kids. That’s REALLY why he quit. He was going back and forth on it for a long time, but didn’t talk about it much. Then suddenly, after our last string of European shows, he just didn’t return my phone calls or emails for months, and I figured that was his way of quiting. I finally got a hold of his wife, and she was surprised he hadn’t called me. Then he finally emailed me after months, after we had already been looking for a new drummer, and told me eventually he would like to come back and play again. We had a tour coming up so I got Rueben to do it, because I couldn’t wait around for Greg, and then when we got back from the tour Greg upset that we had done things without him. He got mad.

There were some money issues as well that I won’t get into between Greg and then band. He’s unable to go on long tours because of his family, which I understand, but he didn’t communicate well, or at all, with us towards the end. It’s difficult to stay active in a band that doesn’t make a lot of money, especially into your mid-thirties. It takes a lot of time that you might otherwise be working a job that pays much better. If you have a family to support, it become close to impossible to dedicate the time to a band that doesn’t support you financially.

Sure…Another thing Hardworlder reminded me of is that SLOUGH FEG do impress me with their traditional-meets-folk Metal sound without sounding (on purpose) ’evil’. I enjoy listening to SLOUGH FEG albums in a way a book reader is ’caught’ in a literary book’s plot. In a way, ’trapped’ in the book’s concept. Do you see SLOUGH FEG as a ’narrative’ band? I think you must be regular book readers yourselves!

Yes. We are narrative, but I think mostly because of the style and sound of the band, but necessarily the lyrics. Most of the lyrics of Hardworlder are not that developed or thought out, I wrote a lot of them at the last minute, or even in the studio. So it’s the music that sounds narrative. That’s just the way I write. I grew up listening to and seeing a bunch of musicals live. My father gave me a very good musical education by taking us to performances regularly; very traditional stuff, but some of it was great. He also let me listen to whatever kind of music I wanted to growing up. My mother didn’t want me to listen to stuff with swearing or satanic stuff, but my father, who was otherwise very strict, let me listen to whatever music I wanted, because he believed in creative and artistic freedom.

He never understood Rock ’n’ Roll, he was born in 1930, so he was into big band stuff, but he always wanted me to play music, and make me take piano lessons when I was very young. When I switched to guitar he was supportive, but he didn’t like the electric guitar as much. He made me play an acoustic guitar until I was 15. So, the narrative aspect of our music may be because of all the musical I saw as a kid, or maybe just because I think music is best when it tells a story; that’s an ancient tradition.

I’m afraid I do not dig the album’s cover (a matter of taste, huh?). Is there a ’hidden’ message I have not yet determined (laughs)? How does it relate to the lyrics themes in the CD?

NO, no hidden message. It’s a weird cover. It’s supposed to be a representation of Alfred Bester’s character Gully Foil from the book Tiger!Tiger! (later known as the stars my destination).

I like Cruz Del Sur’s roster, so far. A different approach in traditional-based Metal music. HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE (you’re somehow related, I know!), WIDOW etc. I also adored their decision to put the whole Hardworlder album in streaming, for the band’s fans to have a clear taste. Are you getting along well with them?

Yes. They do fine. I have no complaints actually. They’re a very small label and have limited money, so I understand how they operate.

Furthermore, for us the vinyl maniacs, will Hardworlder be released on vinyl too?

Yes, probably in a few months.

So, what’s up for the rest of 2007 in order to support the Hardworlder release? I saw you have already played a handful of gigs in the US? What’s the plan from now on?

We’ll do some more US shows in the fall, probably around October. I’m writing new stuff now, and we’ll probably write until about October, do some more shows all over the US and then record some stuff around Christmas, and then maybe go to Europe in the spring. Just expect more form us, we’ll be doing a lot more. I want to branch out into even more different kinds of music, perhaps not even in Metal. I’m pretty into theatrical/dramatic/traditional stuff. Anything that has imagination to it. The older I get the more I want to play stuff that sounds like MUSIC, SONGS!!!  I’m into songs, not noises.

It seems a lot of bands these days, underground and popular, want to just make noise, they’re into the guitar sounds, drums sounds, whatever, they just care about the way stuff sounds, and not about the music itself. I find this totally boring; some of the greatest songs were recorded with terrible sounds, and it never mattered (the guitar sound on Sergeant Peppers… is aweful, but did anyone notice?). So, we’ll become more and more musical as time goes by; but also more and more HEAVY!!!

Any Europe? You have a strong base here in Europe, I must say. You know European Metal fans are more attracted/faithful to the classic Metal sound, even if I believe America too has a good underground scene but difficult to be exposed…

Yes, of course…

Any gigs you did watch this year? Are you keen on new bands/sounds in Metal music? Many people consider Heavy Metal is dead but not yet buried? Your opinion?

Eh, it won’t die until Dio dies. Then it’s over. HAHAHA!!!

Mike, thanks a lot for your time!


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