As numerous impressive releases find them drenched in acclaim already this year, the outstanding Digital Resistance from Slough Feg stands on the frontline as one of the more imaginatively incendiary and virulently contagious adventures. Stretching and pushing their unique blend of Celtic folk and traditional metal with an array of additional potent flavours for release which triggers a new thirst for the band’s sounds past and present, Slough Feg show themselves to be a force which continues to evolve and impress adding something special to the world of metal. Seizing on the opportunity and pleasure to delve deeper into the band and new album with vocalist/guitarist Mike Scalzi, we explore Digital Resistance, home town prejudices, technology and humanity, Slainé and much more…
Hi Mike and many thanks for sparing time to talk with us.
Before we get to your new album Digital Resistance can we ask about the band name… it comes from the Slainé story strip in UK comic 2000 A.D., a publication I have boxes of around the office I must admit. You are comic geeks or just this one character captured the imagination?
I was never really that into comic books—- except when I was pretty young and into Marvel stuff. The Slainé comics I just came across kind of by mistake and liked the “Warp-spasm” idea a lot, and thought it would be cool to write heavy metal songs about that. They came out with a 2000 AD hard-cover book recently featuring all the old cover art from the original Slainé comics and allowed me to write some of the liner notes—– really great. I was really happy about that.
As mentioned you have just released your new album, Digital Resistance, a release which marks a new strength of adventure in the band’s sound?
This is more of a statement than a question. But, here’s what I think:
We’ve 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.
Did you musically have any clear intention with the direction of Digital Resistance or has it been primarily an organic emergence of ideas?
It’s just whatever we felt like writing at the time, no real preconceived ideas. Whatever inspires us at the moment is what we write. I tried to accomplish some different types of sounds on this album— some organ, some more rock songs, some more traditional, simple songs as well.
Your sound seems to be tagged as a merger of Celtic folk and traditional metal, something the new release certainly supports but there is plenty more flavours working away from within suggesting that if not inspirations your own personal tastes in music are potently wide and varied. How would you describe Digital Resistance to newcomers to really nail its presence?
I don’t know if I can. When someone asks me what the band sounds like, that is someone who has never heard it before, I say it sounds like Maiden, but older, with more traditional music influences, even stuff from Broadway musicals. I just write songs, and listen to different types of music, not just metal. In fact I don’t listen to too much metal these days— more traditional songs, like Frank Sinatra, and older rock stuff like the Beatles and Yes and even the Police, lately. These influences find their way into the music.
At times the album sparked up thoughts of bands such as Horslips as well as Thin Lizzy, Helldorado, and Hammers of Misfortune as additional loud whispers in an overall unique sound and adventure. Are there specific inspirations which have actually flavoured your invention over the years would you say?
Well, the stuff I mentioned above. Horslips was an influence at one point for sure; we covered Dergid Doom from their Tain album on Hardworlder. But that’s the only Horslips album I’m familiar with.
As you referred to earlier lyrically Digital Resistance looks at technology and how it impacts on all aspects of life, can you expand on its theme and how personally you have seen that ‘invasion’ coming into your lives?
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—- 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.
Society is leaning on and allowing technology to infiltrate their daily lives more and more, how long do you see it before cyber implants and upgrades become as common place as tattoos and breast enlargements?
No long at all. That’s some of what the record is about. It’s not going to be long before the cell-phones are not outside of our bodies anymore— now people’s eyes are glued to them. Soon they won’t have to stare at them; they’ll already be in their brains!!
..and until the species becomes ‘stupid’ as machines make our decisions for us?
It’s already happening.
Back to the album, how have you approached Digital Resistance in its creation and recording which was different from previous releases?
Not really any different. It’s the same basic songwriting and recording process.
How does the songwriting play out generally within Slough Feg?
Usually I write guitar or now organ parts at home, and then bring them down to the band to see if they sound good with everyone playing their own parts. I let the other guys do whatever they want to do over my riffs– unless it doesn’t sound right and then we all throw in our 2 cents. Generally we agree on what sounds good. Songwriting is really mostly editing. Coming up with the parts and melodies is not the hard part—- ask any songwriter– it’s putting it all together that is challenging— making it all sound like a song.
Having numerous albums under your belts, does each new adventure become easier to immerse within and bring to fruition or are there always new questions and obstacles to engage in which each journey into the studio?
Usually the latter… It is actually becoming very difficult trying to find a new way to do things, so that things continue to sound ‘fresh”. I always worry about putting something out that sounds just like the last thing we did— bands should be more concerned with this, because how many albums have you heard that sound just like the last one the same band put out? Bands need to try to break new ground, but they are often scared to do this because they may lose their audience. But I think they run a higher risk of losing their audience by doing the same thing over and over again.
How has that processed change most dramatically for you over the years?
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 for metal in the first place. I have a crooners 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 a 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 have noticed in previous interviews you are a band which looks back at your older releases and are quite honest in what worked and just as openly did not work. How soon after a release does hindsight lead you to these observations, when does the cold light of day sink in?
It usually happens in waves. I get pretty critical of the album right after we’re done with it, and then later on after listening to it a bunch I start to like it. But then I start to get critical again in a few months and after a few months I decide I don’t like the record. Then later after a year or so I start to like it again!!!!! It drives me insane!!!
Digital Resistance is released through Metal Blade Records, how did that union come about?
They asked us to do an album with them and we said ‘yes’, that simple. We negotiated a contract and went with it. What do we have to lose?
Mike you are a philosophy teacher, and I was wondering is there a comparison or similarity between that profession and music itself for you, in its content and presentation especially?
Yes. It’s almost exactly the same lecturing in front of kids and performing music in front of them. You have to use gimmicks to keep them interested, and you have to write out content that is interesting and valuable. Doing a philosophy lecture is just like playing a metal show. It has to have peaks and valleys, heavy parts and light parts, a good intro and outro—– you have to keep them engaged just the same!!!
Slough Feg and its sound is not a typical San Francisco band I suspect, how have you fitted in your hometown’s scene over the years?
They hated us for the first 10 years. Hated us, in fact I think we stayed together just to spite everyone here. This was during the 90′s when everyone hated metal, and they hated us a lot. It wasn’t until the late 90′s and early 2000′s that people started to appreciate us. We don’t fit in here, never have. But now we have fans here and it’s cool, but I think we do better in a lot of other places.
What is next and across 2014 from Slough Feg?
A European tour in late May/early June, a couple of local shows and then in July shows in the Midwest– Chicago!! We did a movie soundtrack recently, and a few other projects. Just the same stuff——writing music, recording and playing rock and roll!!!!!!!
Thank you again for sharing time with us.
Read the review of Digital Resistance @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/slough-feg-digital-resistance/
The RingMaster Review 05/03/2014
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