Turning on the future: an interview with Mike Scalzi of Slough Feg

Mike Scalzi

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 coveremergence 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.

SFHow 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 sf2keep 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.

Thanks!!

https://www.facebook.com/sloughfegofficial

https://twitter.com/slough_feg

Read the review of Digital Resistance @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/slough-feg-digital-resistance/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 05/03/2014

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Intervals – A Voice Within

 

Intervals_1lo

    The additional information accompanying the promo for the debut album from Canadian band Intervals, declares that the quartet is ‘set to be the most exciting new progressive metal prospects of 2014 with the release of debut album, A Voice Within. As their offering seduces and fascinates it really is impossible to disagree, the nine track adventure a magnetic kaleidoscope of sonic colours, inciting textures, and contagious adventures. With a technical craft to match its progressive enterprise, the self-released A Voice Within, with distribution across Europe by Basick Records, is a maze of diverse and inventive flavours which captivates and absorbs from start to finish.

      The Toronto hailing Intervals was formed in 2011 by guitarist Aaron Marshall and took little time in earning a well-respected and acclaimed presence with their evocative instrumental soundscapes. With a line-up completed by guitarist Lukas Guyader and drummer Anup Sastry (Jeff Loomis / Skyharbor), the band released two well-received EPs, The Space Between and In Time in 2011 and 2012 respectively, as well as playing and touring with the likes of Texas In July, Northlane, Structures, The Kindred, The Color Morale, Misery Signals and more. Last year a new direction was taken by the band, not so much in sound though that was unavoidably affected, but with the joining of vocalist Mike Semesky (formerly of The Haarp Machine). Work began on their first album last September with Jordan Valeriote (Silverstein, Structures, Counterparts) and what has emerged is a riveting triumph taking the band to new scintillating levels and you can only expect greater spotlights.

      The first single taken from the album Ephemeral opens up the endeavour, the track taking no time to immerse the ears in the Intervals.AVoiceWithin.cover.lotechnical skill and inventive breath of band and release. Bass and drums instantly cast a web which entangles and excites the senses whilst the guitars flirt and dance with the imagination. It is a potent start enhanced by the melodic tones of Semesky, his expressive and fluid delivery holding hands with the melody rich flames licking from within the sinew framed opener. Sculpting an aurally scenic venture which intrigues and draws in thoughts with ease, it is only hindsight and not its company which suggests the album’s introduction is merely an appetiser to greater things ahead.

    That suggestion arises straight away with the following Moment Marauder, the song a compelling temptation which enslaves and dances with the passions from its initial melodic caress and technical invention. Winding jazz bred imagination around precise and bewitching temptation, it seduces with almost mischievous glee as the vocals stroke and coaxes the emotions as irresistibly as the complicated breeze of sounds surrounding them. Dazzling bordering on disorientating , the ingenuity and sculpting of the song is a virulent lure but one which never indulges itself, each transfixing technical exploit matched by an openly accessible and infectious hook or sweeping groove aligned to the persistently persuasive vocals.

     Automation and The Self Surrendered struggle just slightly to match the album’s first pinnacle, though both build their own plateaus to rigorously enthuse over. The first offers an almost pop rock swagger within its progressive and technical mesmerism, the melodies and contagious assets framed by muscular rhythms which take no prisoners but equally have a respect leaving ardour rather than wounds. It’s equally smouldering and vivacious bait is swiftly matched by the second of the two, a song which has voraciousness to its opening technical gambit which it then lends to the rest of its potently catchy and provocative body. As all the tracks, the melodic canter never settles into one gait or stance for long, the ever evolving and twisting emprise coming with flared nostrils and irrepressible passion.

    After the brief elegant instrumental Breathe, the song allowing that very action before the next spiral of adventure, The Escape confronts the ears like a frantic acrobat, leaping through and wringing out its sonic narrative upon a mouthwatering canvas of inventive hues and emotion. Its beauty is replaced by the fiery landscape of Atlas Hour, technical poise and passionate energies once again offering a journey of unpredictable and persistently shifting scenic inspiration clad in formidable rhythms aligned to just as forceful riffs.

    Siren Sound confronts the senses next, the song a whirl of almost carnivorous jagged riffs and rhythmic antagonism reined in by the ever impressive vocals and harmonies. As the second song on the album, the track explores and unveils that something extra, something which sparks a furnace in the imagination and passions in comparison to the fierce blazes spawned elsewhere. There is a predatory instinct to the song too which inspires everything from the skill and hunger of the band to the uncompromising sounds themselves, and all engulfed in an irresistible seduction. The track steps up to offer a real challenge to the brilliant Moment Marauder for best song accolades, the pair then tested by the closing title track. Bringing the outstanding album to a tremendous close, the song stomps and teases the passions with a weave of severe rhythms, awe inspiring technical artistry, and simply unbridled adventure.

     Offering a kind of mix of Circles and Beneath the Buried and Me with TesseracT, but something different again, A Voice Within is an exceptional encounter and yes as suggested the evidence of something new and exciting emerging. The evolution to include vocals and new adventures by Intervals might just be the boldest most inspirational move from any band in recent times too.

www.facebook.com/intervalsmusic

http://intervalsmusic.bandcamp.com/

9/10

RingMaster 05/03/2014

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Clouder- Sister Raygun

 

Clouder

     It is fair to say that 2013 was a big year for the re-emerging Clouder, the US band finding a spark to reignite their appetite and adventure after a hiatus which left the future of the band in doubt. With the release of their second album Sister Raygun, they and we can expect this year to not only follow the last in success but push the band into greater wider spotlights. Pulsating and brawling with the band’s unique mix of garage and psyche rock driven by punk/power pop energy, the band‘s new release offers a tantalising bait which is contagiously irresistible and irrepressibly belligerent, a glorious mix in the hands of sonic devils like Clouder.

        The Brooklyn quintet took little time to provoke passions from their coming together in 2011, playing over 100 shows around New York City in their first year building and earning a reputation for their fiery live performances. Debut album Freakin’ Out the Squares was uncaged the following year, again to strong praise and reactions from fans and media alike. Then came the eight month hiatus full of personal trials and tribulations for some members which almost brought the band to an end and saw vocalist Eric Gilstrap move to North Carolina. Thankfully the band resumed to writing new songs and spending months sending back and forth rough demos to each other as a new release became flesh. Uniting with producer Jeff Berner (Psychic TV, Heliotropes, Dead Stars) in his Brooklyn studio, the band emerged with Sister Raygun, a release which worries, solicits, and pleasures the imagination like a demonic temptress.

     Released via Fleeting Youth Records, Sister Raygun lays an initial stroke of guitar upon the ear as opener Dancing in the Album CoverProving Grounds moves into view. Its reserved first touch is aided by a rhythmic tempting before the band explodes into a potent stomp of guitar sculpted enterprise guided by the distinct cause yet magnetic vocal tones of Gilstrap. With a sixties punk throat to the voice of the guitars and a raw edge to the sonic suasion, the track provides an enticing entrance into the release, a compelling doorway which is impossible to resist crossing the threshold of.

    The following Lost in Reverie equally shows no restraint in opening up its broad rhythmic shoulders and energetic stroll. There is a swagger to the song from the off, one which soon welcomes the darker delivery of Gilstrap within the acidic invention of guitarists Steve Spinella and Matt Revie. Into its dramatic stride with further deliciously teasing imagination from the guitars and a moody tempting from bassist Max Goransson, the song intimidates and seduces with equal potency. The sound of Clouder is certainly distinct to themselves but imagine a mix of Damn Vandals and early The Horrors with at times the irreverence and haunting howls of Pil and you get an inkling of the menace and beauty on offer.

    The excellent feisty pop call of Lady Retrograde unveils an infectious vivacity and magnetic garage rock canter to continue the impressive and appetite raising stomp of the album, whilst its successors Psychic Cities and The Ballad of Sister Raygun provide further individual bait to bring a greedy hunger to. The first of the pair rides in on another highly persuasive enslaving of the emotions by drummer Jim Wood, his thumping rolling rhythms the prelude to a melancholic but lively web of melodic and sonic endeavour beneath the John Lydon reminding effect wrapped vocals of Gilstrap. There is a mystique and scuzziness to the track which equally lures in the imagination, a psychotic edge which only accentuates the bait of the song whilst its successor slowly walks openly and hauntingly through a shadowed inventive balladry, both songs leaving a lingering inventive suasion.

    Phantom Girl unleashes a new level of addiction forging contagion next, the punk bred garage rocker brewing up essences of past decades into a politely dirty schizophrenic drama. Again The Horrors meets Pil come to mind within the fresh and original character of the sonic storm with just a touch of Spizzenergi to the vocal squall and insatiable hooks. Its glory is swiftly succeeded by All the Royal Years Are Gone, another unpolished treat of dirt clad rock ‘n’ roll with the snarl and honesty to antagonise and ignite the senses.

   The mesmeric black toned Damaged Sun comes next, its sonic acridity aligned to a shadow spawned, discord filtered atmosphere. There is a Mary & Jesus Chain glaze to the track whilst an Inspiral Carpets/Birdland blend seems to infect the melodic and vocal traits of the song; a feel which less openly also spices up the transfixing and enthralling Western Wastelands. Though neither song stands out as forcibly as others on Sister Raygun both engage and satisfy thoroughly though they are not helped by standing right next to the brilliant overpowering closing song, Doldrums. Armed with a groove which simply steals attention and passions from its opening lure upon the ears, the track romps and commands with a swagger and relish that cannot fail to overwhelm the imagination like an epidemic, the repetitive hook an irresistible focus of all the craft and energy at play within band and song.

     Sister Raygun is one of those shot in the arm releases which may not come to be called a classic but has the ability to inspire a genre to explore itself further, though Clouder will be during that anyway if they can hopefully avoid any more breaks in their conquering of garage and psyche rock.

www.facebook.com/ClouderNY

http://fleetingyouthrecords.bandcamp.com/album/clouder-sister-raygun

9/10

RingMaster 05/03/2014

 Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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