Interview with Mike Scalzi (Vocals, guitar)
Interview conducted by Adam Kohrman
Date online: December 22, 2010
Mike: This is Mike Scalzi from Slough Feg.
Adam: Hi Mike. Thanks for doing this interview.
Mike: Yeah well, I woke up this morning. I've been doing so many interviews lately. I woke up today going 'Oh yeah. I wonder if there are any interviews today. I know I've got to write an e-mail one.' Then I check my e-mail and it says you've got a call now at 1! I check my clock and it's 12:58. Holy shit. Glad he reminded me. I was like 'Is he gonna call me?' 'No, you gotta call him!' And I was like 'Well I don't have his fucking number!' 'You don't?!' 'Well you never gave it to me! How the hell am I supposed to...oh there it is. Ok."
Adam: Well I'm glad it worked out.
Mike: There you go.
Adam: I interviewed you I remember last year for the Ape Uprising! album and we talked about philosophy and comic books for a while.
Mike: Oh I remember that, yeah. Well...I remember doing that...I think now that I hear your voice, I think I specifically remember that, actually.
Adam: It was a good interview...I want to talk about the new album.
Mike: I figured you might, yeah.
Adam: Yeah, yeah (laughs). It'd be a pointless interview, otherwise!
Mike: It's the reason for this interview, yeah. I might be joking around a lot in this interview.
Adam: Well, that's alright.
Mike: I'm just kidding.
Adam: It's okay. Ironic goofiness is very appropriate in interviews, I think. Alright, for me the new album continues in the same direction I've seen Slough Feg heading for a while. I think it's more stripped down.
Mike: It is.
Adam: It's just sorta Slough Feg being Slough Feg without any pretension or care.
Mike: Are you saying we're usually pretentious?
Adam: No... (both laugh)
Mike: Sorry I might seem a little bit weird right now. It's just that for the last week or so, I've been doing interviews with Germans, and they're really stiff. It's just like, Jesus Christ. Their questions are like "You're doing metal. Metal in the uh... classic sense. But, uh. You do not sound like it anymore. They issue statements.
Mike: "You do this" "Yeah I do." Is that a question or a statement. What the fuck? Yes I do. Are you just gonna read me a bunch of statements?
Mike: But I get your idea, we're getting more stripped down.
Adam: Yeah it doesn't...well I remember on the early albums, you really set the bar high with the early albums.
Mike: Yeah we did.
Adam: Like Down Among the Deadmen and Traveller. They were very ambitious. They were these concepts.
Mike: Traveller I felt like...Traveller was ambitious, but I set the bar really high with Twilight of the Idols and Deadmen, particularly.
Adam: It seems really cool now that you're just sorta being Slough Feg. Is this how things are gonna stay? Are you gonna have another album that's just...
Mike: It's totally gonna stay that way.
Adam: Oh okay.
Mike: That's really intuitive of you, that we're just being Slough Feg, because that's exactly what our attitude is. You read it exactly how it is. I don't know if you got that from talking to me before or not.
Adam: No, not at all.
Mike: That's how it's supposed to sound. I'm not ambitious anymore in that I don't want to feel...I mean I'm ambitious in a sense, but I'm older now, we've done a bunch of records, and I don't feel ambitious like I've gotta prove myself. I don't feel like I have to prove myself at all. The focus now is much more on just being Slough Feg – doing what we've been doing, and if doing it is too much of pain in the ass, then it's not worth it.
Adam: Here's a weird analogy I thought of. Earlier albums were almost like a full three-course meal, and now it's just sort of comfort food.
Mike: Yeah. Totally! Yeah, yeah.
Adam: That's sort of how I felt. It's a real departure from a really ambitious act like Hammers of Misfortune. I feel like once you left that band to focus on Slough Feg, you went in the absolute opposite direction.
Mike: I don't know about that. Well, first of all the whole thing about leaving the band to focus on Slough Feg is one of the..."press statements." It wasn't like "I want to spend more time on Slough Feg. I've gotta go." That's not what it was. It was differences in musical tastes. Stuff like that.
Adam: Oh ok.
Mike: It wasn't like I left to focus on Slough Feg. That's one of those things that just gets thrown out there. You know what I mean? It was like in total, the band was moving in a direction that I wasn't interested in anymore. It's like Hammers was changing and I wasn't into what was going on as much I as used to be, particularly because people had left. The drummer, well he's back now, but he left. Everything was turning into what I thought was, no pun intended, a bastardized form of what it was before. And, I didn't have the time. I didn't want to carry on when my heart wasn't in it, because I still liked all the people involved and am still friends with them. It would've been disingenuous on my part to keep going in a project that I wasn't into. But we moved on to sound like Slough Feg. It wasn't like I was moving away from anything. Honestly, I think the new album sounds more like Hammers than any album we did.
Adam: Hmm. Really?
Mike: More sing-songy, more melodic vocal bits.
Adam: Okay. I can see that.
Mike: I feel like when John and I only parted ways musically, we became more similar than different.
Adam: Ok. In the last few years, I hesitate to use such a clichéd term like a "revival of true metal" but there's certainly been a resurgence of young bands playing the style...
Mike: Oh God, are you kidding me? Yeah. In America? I'm not saying it's bad.
Adam: Well, I wanted to say. What's your opinion of it? DO you think Slough Feg has any place in the scene?
Mike: Hell yeah. Well, we certainly have an influence. Well, it depends. Are you talking about really popular young bands? Then I don't know what you mean. If you're talking about underground.
Adam: There's a lot of great underground bands now. I mean locally, we've got a lot of good ones here.
Mike: Where are you again?
Adam: I'm in Boston.
Mike: Yeah in that area. You know about Harbinger? Well, not right there. Actually, they're way far away from you.
Adam: I haven't gotten a chance to listen to them yet. But we've got some good bands here like Ravage and Armory. But there's these really big bands that are suddenly on the cover of metal magazines like Enforcer and Cauldron that are playing a style that if you asked me three years ago, I would never have thought would get popular again.
Mike: I can't remember what Enforcer sounds like.
Adam: They sound like basically...a really happy version of Agent Steel.
Mike: Ohhh. Where are they from? Are they American?
Adam: They're Swedish.
Mike: Oh. Oh. Wait a second. I think we played a show with them. Yeah, Enforcer! They're good.
Adam: Really good, yeah.
Mike: We played with them live. We did a show with them. Do they look like glam guys?
Adam: They look like glam, but they don't play it, yeah.
Mike: Yeah, yeah.
Adam: So what is your opinion of this whole new sound?
Mike: Oh it's cool. This is cool. You see, this is not bad at all. These are underground bands, some of them even cite us as an influence. I mean, ten years ago this never would've happened.
Mike: And now suddenly all these bands are starting up playing the kind of music where when we were their age, we were the only ones doing it. Anyone else doing what they're doing now when we were doing it was considered a throwback... oh here it is! I'm such an idiot. I just found a piece of paper that says "Friday, 1pm, Adam." Here's your phone number next to it. (both laugh)
So basically we were considered to be young and not know what we were doing but now we're old and worn down and that's life. But back in the early nineties, we knew what we wanted to do. People were into 80s hardcore and people were getting into funk rock and all that shit. There was The Minutemen and the experimental stuff, all that stuff that came out of hardcore. I sort of hung with people who went in that direction, and played with people who went in that direction. But getting back around to true metal, or whatever, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Sabbath. That's all that was left after the 80s. People said "this sound is the shit" and people abandoned it. You know, I never abandoned it. But this is the right way to do things, you know. But a lot of other people didn't realize that for about ten years. But people were always surprised that I was into the stuff I was into before, like in the 80s, like the hardcore and all that weird experimental stuff coming out of it. Eventually it all turned back around, and everyone caught up with us in another seven or ten years. But it's cool, and especially the young kids playing this. They didn't go through that process because they're so young. I mean they play all over the country, but it was like that ten years ago in Germany.
Mike: Here's the thing, we went over to Germany in 1999, 2000 and saw kids with the patches all over their jackets and this and that. I said "It'll never be like that in America again, I don't see that." And then it was, eight years later.
Adam: Yeah, it's great.
Mike: I mean, we can tour America now. It's not even like eight years later; it's more like five years later. I mean we would tour America and there'd be a few kids dressed like that. Just a few of them at first. But as the years went by, there were people dressing like that everywhere. It was popular again. We were thrilled by that.
Adam: So is there any chance you guys are coming to Boston, then?
Adam: Aww. Damn it! (laughs)
Mike: (Laughs) Not anytime soon. The east coast isn't that great for us.
Mike: I mean, we'd love to. If we do a national tour and we end up in those places like Detroit, and then over to Cleveland and Boston and even in New York City, it's just not...maybe we'd do okay in New York City, I don't know. But to get to Maine, and all that.
Adam: Why would you play a show in Maine? There's nowhere in Maine to play.
Mike: In Portland, Maine, you might get thirty people there.
Adam: If that.
Mike: I mean, we played Boston five or six years ago and it was like thirty, forty people, something like that, unfortunately.
Adam: I remember you said last time I talked to you that you're a professor of philosophy.
Mike: That's right, yeah.
Adam: And you talked about how that inspires and influences your music.
Mike: Kinda, yeah.
Adam: I think you said that "pretty much everything I write comes from what I teach."
Mike: Nah, that's not true. Well, some of it does.
Adam: Well how does it influence it?
Mike: Oh I don't know. You end up thinking about stuff. You don't know how it influences you. Look at those first two songs on The Animal Spirits. One is about Martin Luther, the other is just some silly wordplay. I was teaching philosophy of religion, which is sometimes kinda boring, and it just kinda came out of it. "The 95 Theses," you know.
Adam: Yeah, I remember picking up on that. Seeing the Martin Luther...
Mike: It's all just Martin Luther, and putting the different things together that you've read about what he did, and lyrics come. It's very simple, actually. Whatever you're thinking about at the time is gonna come out. The words and the vocabulary and that are on your mind. You're actually trying to remember the stuff so you can talk about it in a different way. You're already learning what's written down...what's canonized, to use an academic term.
Adam: Yeah, I know what you mean.
Mike: Then you're either consciously or subconsciously fixate it into your mind in your own way of presenting it because you'll be lecturing on it. Right?
Mike: So then because you're going through that process of reconfiguring it, making it into a form that people can understand more clearly and all that. Naturally, that's the same process you go through in songwriting. You know, sometimes. So it will come out very easily. It's the inner vocabulary of your thoughts, and if you're playing music then, the kind of things that are gonna come out are the things that are already in there. That'll probably continue, because some guy I know had to go down to Texas. You know, all professionals nowadays go to conferences. That's what they fucking do. Everyone I know, from all over the country is like "Hey, I'm in town for a conference." You know, like ten times a year someone I know is in town for a conference, which is cool, but everybody is going to conferences. Professionals, they travel.
Adam: Especially academic professionals, I think.
Mike: I don't do much of that. I'm not a tenured professor or anything, so I don't do it as much. But this guy I know is going to this conference. He actually works at UC-Berkeley in the science department, not as a professor, but as a technician. He had to go learn how to use more advanced types of laser procedures. When he got back I said "what were you doing down there?" He said "learning how to be a laser enforcer."
Mike: That's the trade name for knowing how to operate a certain type of powerful laser.
Adam: That's really...really metal.
Mike: They call it a "laser enforcer." I said "what makes you a laser enforcer?" He's like "I don't know." And I thought "that's a great name for a song." So we wrote a song called "Laser Enforcer." We have the music. We're gonna record it on Monday, actually. I gotta get the lyrics out. There'll be a single out sometime in the future called "Laser Enforcer." (laughs)
Adam: Glad to be first to know.
Mike: But it's easy how that kind of stuff happens. It's just whatever someone is talking about at the time. It could sound silly, sound funny, sound cool. People will like it.
Adam: I remember we talked about the philosophy club I worked in last time.
Mike: Ohhh yeah! That was...wait, you don't have it anymore, right?
Adam: No, I've graduated.
Mike: That's cool. I remember you talking about that, yeah.
Adam: Yeah, I'm not involved anymore. I led a few presentations, one on philosophy of film, and that was it.
Mike: Did you major in philosophy?
Adam: No, I didn't.
Mike: Where'd you go to school again?
Adam: Clark University, in Worcester.
Mike: Okay, I'm starting to recall this conversation.
Adam: It's alright. I'm sure you had tons of interviews then, just as you do now.
Mike: Yeah, but I remember you. But even before you said that, your name rang a...anyway, go ahead.
Adam: So what kind of philosophy does interest you? Does philosophy of film interest you?
Mike: No. (Both laugh) I mean, not really. I mean, I might if I knew more about it. But I'm not drawn towards that type of thing. I'm more interested in, it's kind of weird now. It depends on what I'm teaching. I've always been into David Hume. Skepticism. But mostly modern stuff, I don't mean contemporary modern philosophy but like Hume, Kant, Descartes. That kind of stuff. I'm also into German Idealism and Existentialism like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, really into Schopenhauer in the last couple years.
Adam: I've never read Schopenhauer.
Mike: Well, okay. There's no reason. Actually, it's some really good stuff. It's really cynical and futuristic. It's hard to say. Post-Kantian, it's hard to say without getting technical. They're explaining what's going on, and what the relationship between alive things and dead things are, and what's really gonna happen when you die. You know, the relationship between subject and object – subjectivity and objectivity. The idea is to explain pretty much...I mean I've never heard anybody speak with such confidence about "This is what it means to be alive. This is what it means to be dead, and this is the way it is." It's to the point where I can just go "He's absolutely right. There's no way he can be wrong."
Adam: (laughs) That sounds awesome!
Mike: He's fucking smart.
Adam: I'll check that out.
Mike: He isn't even the best writer. He isn't the greatest academic, philosophical genius ever. He's just really an articulate writer and has a cynical sense about him that isn't dogmatic in any way. He's totally undogmatic. It's just "This is the way it is. Hume was right. Don't believe anything, because there's nothing to believe, because it's all bullshit. Kant was right about this, and this, and this." He's really, really good. So I'm sort of a Schopenhauer guy these days. I'm still interested in logic and teaching critical reason. The most important thing I teach is critical thinking because it's not a class for philosophy people; it's a class for everybody.
Adam: And it's such a useful tool within and outside philosophy.
Mike: Yeah. Different kinds of reasoning teach people to try not to deceive themselves, not to believe a bunch of horseshit that sounds right. That's the real useful tool in philosophy, is understanding different types of reasoning, and how they can be used in different contexts. More important actually, how to make statements that sound reasonable that are really completely unreasonable. Like lawyers. But really, that's how they do their job: they present bullshit arguments that sound correct, and everybody believes them.
Adam: The power of persuasion.
Mike: Fuck yeah.
Adam: Well, back to metal. We've discussed that the metal scene is very strong. Stronger than it has been, at least for traditional metal...
Mike: I mean, you don't understand how looking back, ten or particularly fifteen years ago. If anybody could look at that situation and to think that the metal scene would get really strong again. That's amazing.
It's really a miracle in a way, that this happened. People like me, whose entire life was dependent on it, felt completely unappreciated. It felt desperate and pointless to do this kind of music.
Adam: When you talk about that desperation and your life depending on it, that reminds me of something else I wanted to talk to you about. Earlier this year, I interviewed Anvil.
Mike: Oh my God, yeah.
Adam: It was an interesting interview.
Mike: Pretty desperate guys, huh?
Adam: In the interview they seemed frustrated, but they just seemed angry at the world for not succeeding.
Mike: Even now?
Adam: Even now, yes...even after the film.
Mike: That's ridiculous. They have nothing to be fucking angry about at this point.
Adam: I agree. I asked them "what do you want to do left in your career?" And they said "Oh I'd like to sellout some stadiums," their drummer said.
Mike: That's ridiculous. That's...delusional.
Adam: I agree. It's completely delusional. Yeah, delusional enough to think that their music was good enough to be the best band in the world.
Mike: That's the fucking thing, dude. That's the truth. I don't give a shit. I'll say it. They're not that good.
Adam: Yeah, I agree.
Mike: They're just. I mean, you've heard Anvil. I've heard Anvil. I've heard them for years and years now. I've played with them live a couple of times, and I can't remember...Okay, out of the whole catalog of songs that I have heard, I remember one thing (sings) "Metal on Metal." Period. I don't remember what the riff sounds like. I don't remember what the lyrics are. I've heard all their shit. I remember one fucking thing: "Metal on Metal" repeated a couple of times. They don't have any good songs. They don't have any memorable songs.
Adam: They had fifteen albums that sound exactly the same. It's very basic heavy metal.
Mike: But it's not that good. I respect them for what they've done. I've met them. They're really nice. In fact ten years ago, we played a show with them. There were about twenty-five people there when we played. Immediately after the show ended, Robb started kicking Lips in the back drunk and they got into a fight with each other in the backstage area. They're really like that. It's not an act. They're just fucked up. But I mean the movie's great. They're really cool. I still like their style a lot. But they got lucky. Someone made a movie about them.
Adam: Yeah, and I remember walking out of the theater. I was the only metalhead there and telling people "you know that could've been made about one hundred other bands."
Mike: Yeah, no shit. People don't realize that. You're right.
Adam: No one realizes that they were the handpicked band.
Mike: People who are not into metal...I mean someone said that to me the other day. I was with a bunch of people eating dinner. I was with a friend of mine, and I was talking about this old venue and I said that we played there with Anvil. Yeah, we've played there a bunch of times, and with Anvil once. She was like "I can't believe you guys played with Anvil." I said "Why not? Anvil was around before that movie for twenty years."
Adam: More than that, twenty-eight years.
Mike: And they were just like our band. It was just shitty shows, and no one came to see them. People just don't realize it. I mean, watching that movie was really hard for me in a way, because I saw the years that I went through. Anvil, of all people! After all those years, we've learned more than Anvil did about what to do and what not to do, and they're still totally deluded. I mean, their shitty jobs...
Adam: They quit their jobs. That's what they told me. They quit their jobs to pursue Anvil because they thought the film would provide permanent lucrativity. They're still angry for the twenty-five years of obscurity. Now they think that this documentary will provide them with financial success for the rest of their lives, which is incredibly delusional.
Mike: But the question is: has it provided that? Is it providing that?
Adam: I think it did for about six months.
Mike: Oh so that was back then when you talked to them?
Adam: It was right on the heels of success of the film, and they had a big tour that VH1 was sponsoring.
Mike: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Adam: And they had about six months of not just success in metal, but fame.
Mike: Yeah I know.
Mike: I saw Lips about six months ago standing outside of Amoeba records in San Francisco. He was talking on the phone to somebody for a long time, and I just kept waiting out there like "I'm gonna say 'hi.'" He was talking on the phone so long and I didn't want to interrupt him, so I just went the other way. Not sure he would've recognized me. My hair is different. I mean, he might've or he might not have. But it would be funny if he didn't, because it'd be just like Michael Schenker in the movie when he's like "who are you?" But I was gonna say "Hey man. Good job." But that's the thing man, you can get like that...or honestly, I respect them for what they've done. I really do. I really feel kindred with them in that sort of way. Here's my thought on that, this could be about my band. It could be about a hundred bands. Right?
Mike: There's one band particularly it should be about. This movie should be about Brocas Helm.
Adam: Huh. Okay.
Mike: Brocas Helm was the same age as Anvil. They've gone through all the same shit. They're ten times better. They're more interesting people, for sure. Even though Anvil are pretty interesting people. And, the guys in Brocas Helm, just like the guys in Slough Feg, and the guys in Manilla Road and a lot of other bands, they were wise enough to get their shit together and get some real jobs and make some real money. They're like "I've gotta get into the electricians union. I've gotta become a computer technician. I've gotta become a mechanic. I've gotta support my family. I can't just keep going on in a shitty, whatever. Not that I'm against doing that. Anvil never really seemed to get it together that much. I freaked out when I was 31 years old. I completely freaked out because I'd been doing this band for all this time. It was after Traveller. Traveller wasn't out yet, but we'd recorded it. I was driving across the country with my girlfriend at the time, and we ended up in Los Angeles. I was outside of my environment. I was outside of Hammers of Misfortune and Slough Feg, and the people I've associated with. "I'm nothing. I'm not some heavy metal rock star. People know who I am in Germany. Big fucking deal. I'm just a jackass" So I kinda freaked out. We ended up coming back to San Francisco and I ended up going back to school, you know getting a bachelor's degree and getting a master's degree and going on to teach philosophy because I felt just totally useless. That's just real life. I mean, that's great, but you don't want to be fifty years old and delivering food for a catering company. I mean, that's fine if you want to do it. But every day of my life I wanted to mean something more than some gut who "oh yeah, every six months or so I go to Europe or wherever and people love me and tell me how great I am and then I go back to working in a warehouse or something."
Adam: So you wanted to contribute more beyond your music. Because your music, as great as it is, was limited in its contribution.
Mike: Yeah yeah. But not just that, that I'm contributing, but that I'm enjoying my life. Before that, I hated my life. I worked in a dry cleaner. I worked in a warehouse. I did these things. Every day of my life was shit. I didn't like what I was doing that much, or at all. I felt like I had more to give. I can do more than this. My dad used to say...I was lucky in a way because my dad had a very tough kind of approach to this. He wasn't just my dad. My dad would say to me every once in a while "You know you're a lot more than just a rock musician. You can do whatever you want. You can go to school. You're good at it. Or you could do something else, some other sort of entertainment. Go be an actor. Go back to school. Study philosophy." I mean, I learned that from living life. But also, honestly, I learned it from my dad. He told me "Your life's gonna be shit every day, working in a factory or something, and then people are gonna tell you that you're great for a month out of the year? What kind of life is that?"
Mike: So my dad gave me an attitude, but he's right! You know?
Adam: He is.
Mike: I didn't need him to tell me that to think about it, but he reinforced it. Eventually I went back to school. Maybe the guys in Anvil didn't have a dad like that. You know what I mean?
Mike: Well seriously. Let's face the fucking facts. Not everyone gets the motivation they need from Mr. Rogers. That's what he's there for, but he doesn't provide the emotional motivation and that sort.
Adam: People need a reality check every once in a while.
Mike: Yeah yeah. I was doing it myself. But I had my fucking dad, this really old guy just going "Ah, you gotta get it together." He'd say it over and over. The point is, I just didn't want to live that life, and a lot of metal guys do that, and God bless them for doing it. They work construction or they work this or that. If they like it fine. Construction is fine, but some guys just have their band and that's their identity, and then they just go from one really shitty job to another. You know they'll drive a cab for a while and they don't like it much. It's all about the band. That's great, but the band aint gonna fill up your life. It's not about money. It wasn't about money for me. It was about having something every day in your life where you get the same sort of inspiration or motivation from. Like teaching philosophy, it's like playing a show every day.
Adam: That's awesome.
Mike: You know, if I fail, then I feel like shit. If I do well, it's the same great feeling after a great show, like I kicked ass.
Adam: You know, I can relate to that. I just started my first job out of college. I work as a life skills teacher for children with low functioning autism.
Mike: Oh really? Well there you go. See how rewarding that is.
Adam: It's great, and I'm doing really simple life skills. Like I'm teaching kids who are eighteen how to brush their teeth. If I can't do that, it feels like shit.
Mike: That's really interesting, man.
Adam: It's great stuff, yeah.
Mike: You know who does that as well? You know Gates of Slumber?
Adam: Yes. They're a band that have been on my list to listen to for a while now.
Mike: He's in that work as well. The singer and guitar player. He loves it to death. We toured with them about four or five months ago, and we talked about that at length. He works with dysfunctional, autistic, retarded, whatever. You're doing the same kind of stuff. He really likes it. That's what I'm talking about. He's got a metal band. They're doing okay. Now they're opening for Cathedral in Europe. But that's not gonna make him any money. It's just something that he does and enjoys. But every day of his life, he has somewhere to go where he really gets off on what he does.
Adam: Yeah, exactly.
Mike: That's the important thing, you know. As I said, Brocas Helm. Bob Wright, he just sang on the last album. He's not a teacher or anything, but he's an electrician. He's really good at it. He has his own company, and he enjoys it. He works his ass off all the time. It doesn't have to be something white-collar. I'm just saying that you should have a life, make some money. Don't worry about being fifty, sixty years old and being a fucking schmuck.
Adam: Well that's the point where it's too late to go back to school and get your life together.
Mike: Yeah, it's like flipping burgers in some joint or washing dishes and being like "Yeah, but people really like me in Germany." Anyway, we kind of went off on a tangent here.
Adam: No that's fine dude. The best interviews are where things like that happen.
Mike: Well, it's just reality. It's the greatest reality you face in your life. You don't face it in your music; you face it in your everyday life.
Adam: There's a great book on that called Memoirs of a Dishwasher. Have you heard of it?
Mike: No, no.
Adam: It's a memoir, well sort of a memoir. It's more this sort of free-written autobiography of this guy who makes a goal to wash dishes in all fifty states.
Mike: Oh I think I heard about it. What's his name?
Adam: Dishwasher Pete. It's really good. It's him eventually realizing, "as much as I had fun doing this, it was kind of pointless."
Mike: Yeah, it kind of is.
Adam: I have one closing question for you.
Mike: I'm not gay. (Both laugh)
Mike: I've been waiting for someone to ask that question, but they never do!
Adam: I'm really tempted to think of a completely ridiculous question right now, but I can't do it off the cuff. Slough Feg's been around for about twenty years now.
Mike: Long time isn't it? I'm not gonna end up like Bobby Liebling, I hope.
Adam: Oh God, Bobby Liebling.
Mike: He's the ultimate example of what you don't wanna be.
Adam: I saw him, I saw Pentagram. They put on a great show.
Mike: We toured with them a while ago. It was insane, yeah.
Adam: Yeah, I was talking to their drummer on the street in Providence, Rhode Island. We started talking about drugs, and Bobby Liebling walked by. He said "the best reason not to do drugs is so you don't become him." His own drummer said that about him!
Mike: Anyway, what was the question?
Adam: So Slough Feg has been around for twenty years now. You've gotten a good amount of recognition. You're still underground, but you're at the top of the underground.
Mike: I don't know what that means. I guess I do, in a way. It's all very foggy at this point.
Adam: Okay, I'll give you that. Do you ever wish that you had picked a more accessible band name?
Mike: (pauses) Yes. But people tell me now that that's not...Okay. I used to think about that a lot in the 90s. Like maybe that's the reason. It's the name, because people tend to like us and blah blah. But at this point, do you really think it could be the name that's holding us back? At this point, when there's bands like fucking Dimmu Borgir? All these weird band names.
Adam: Or oh, what's that band...Die Apokalyptischen Reiter.
Mike: Yeah, I don't know about them. But yeah, do you think at this point that that's what would really make a difference?
Adam: Not with the Internet where you see things written so frequently, but back in the early 90s where so much was by word of mouth, yes.
Mike: But back in the early 90s, there's no way we could've made it anyway. That's a very good question, because yes I have. It scares me when I think "Oh you picked this name Slough Feg, and it held you back all these years." I don't think it did. I mean, what if we were called something more accessible like...I don't think I could have hung with a band name that was like...Warhammer or something. I mean, what other name could we have had?
Adam: Something that supports your argument is a band like Ironsword, who plays a similar style of music to you...much like this Omen/Manilla Road style, and Ironsword is a lot less known than you. They're really good, but no one knows who Ironsword is. A lot of people know who you guys are.
Mike: But it's a generic name that keeps them down in a way. You know, that's part of it. You hear "Oh Ironsword? Well, whatever." Our name makes you go "Who? That's weird. I've heard of that." At this point, it's really hard to talk about the name Slough Feg being a hindrance or being weird. You have all these fucked up black metal bands you can't even read. You got black metal bands where you can't even know their name when you read it. As I said, there's Dimmu Borgir and Borknagar and all these...Bal-Sagoth.
Adam: Yeah, Bal-Sagoth, yeah.
Mike: Well, that sounds like "Ball-saggeth." That's the worst name ever. But seriously, "Slough Feg." Is it that inaccessible at this point?
Adam: Well even now, when people ask me my favorite bands, I'll say "Blind Guardian, Candlemass, and Slough Feg. People are like "Who?" "What was that? I don't know what you just said."
Mike: Well, at this point, I don't know. I've thought about changing it a bunch of times. But then the band I had before Slough Feg was called Bone Meal.
Adam: What was it called?
Mike: Bone Meal.
Adam: (laughs) That's really funny.
Mike: Would that have been better? I don't know. I can't imagine it under another name. Part of the image of the band in people's minds is due to the name, you know? "Slough Feg," it's part of the image of the band at this point. It's part of the music. It's just an integral part. So I don't know. It's too late to change it, that's for sure. Oh well, we're stuck with it. But I like the name, I always have.
Adam: It's a comic book reference, right?
Mike: Yeah. But I've wondered that before. What if our name was something like Ironswo...not Ironsword, that's a bit too generic, but like Sacred Steel.
Adam: But Enforcer is a really generic band name, and they're huge.
Mike: Are they huge?
Adam: They were on the cover of like Metal Hammer recently.
Mike: Well, that doesn't mean...I mean Skeletonwitch is on the cover of Terrorizer, and I know they have jobs. But I could never have a band with a name like that. Enforcer, it's generic. I'm saying that a band like Enforcer, if they had a fucked up name, would they be as popular? Maybe not. But for us, I can't imagine us having a name like that. I can't even imagine what else this band would be called.
Adam: I take that as a challenge. I'm gonna find out.
Mike: Cú Chulainn, we've thought about that before.
Adam: What was it?
Mike: Cú Chulainn. That's the name of the Irish hero. It's equally fucked up. Or like Cattle Raid, that's the name of the myth that it's from. Cattle Raid. People would go "Cattle Raid? What the fuck is that?"
Adam: No, no. That would be a real hindrance to your popularity.
Mike: Our name is Slough Feg. It is what it is. It sounds metal. It is metal. It sounds like exactly what it means. We never tried to be underground or anything else besides what we are and play the music we wanna play. Whatever, fuck it. As far as artistic stuff goes, I am pretty purist when it comes to that. Commercial success? Sure I'll take it. But I'll take anything that comes with commercial success only under the condition success for the original idea I had.
Adam: That's good. That's integrity, right there.
Mike: In 1990, things were so fucked up. We had a comic book name, "Slough Feg," and the name was on the tip of our tongue when we had the Bone Meal band in 1989. "Slough Feg," we were gonna write a song called "Slough Feg." Then people were like, you should just change your name to Slough Feg. We just had to do it. It was exactly what I wanted to say. It was also because it's so obscure and weird. It sounds so cryptic and bizarre. It was perfect for a weird heavy metal band. It wasn't because I wanted to be underground, or wanted to do this or that. No, I didn't have any notion of underground metal in 1989 besides a few bands I'd heard. But I didn't know about underground tape trading that was going on. I didn't know shit about that. I knew fucking, the first three Iron Maiden albums. I knew about Black Flag. I knew about underground hardcore. Like Dr. Know, CoC, you know.
Adam: Back when CoC played hardcore, yeah.
Mike: So yeah, it was "Slough Feg." No one's done that. Even back then it felt like everything had been done before. Every name had been used. Just to be the most individual band possible.
Adam: Well that's about it.
Mike: There you go.
Adam: I wanted to tell you I'm gonna be in the Bay Area this summer, and I damn well hope there's a Slough Feg show while I'm there.
Mike: Thanks a lot, man. Good questions. Or what questions. I just talked the whole time!
|Other information about Slough Feg on this site|
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|Review: The Animal Spirits|
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|Review: Digital Resistance|
|Interview with Mike Scalzi (Guitars/Vocals) on November 9, 2003 (Interviewed by Sargon the Terrible)|
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