Having been born and raised amid the proverbial 'Golden Age' of Glam/Hair Metal, I, along with millions of my like-minded , had the unprecedented opportunity to bear witness to the genesis of many now-legendary acts. However, the resulting barrage of occasionally groundbreaking artists and groups--and the multi-Platinum successes that would invariably follow in their wake--would ultimately serve as the oft-tumultuous sub-genre's own undoing as the Grunge phenomenon soon enraptured the public. Among the few acts to survive the widespread carnage relatively intact (minus, of course, late guitarist Tim Kelly) were Las Vegas, Nevada-born veterans Slaughter. Recently, charismatic frontman/namesake Mark Slaughter was kind enough to speak with us regarding, among many other items, his highly-anticipated debut solo effort Reflections In A Rear View Mirror...
Todd: What made now the right time to issue Reflections In A Rear View Mirror? Was there a motivating factor?
Mark: “I don't really think there was a 'now' about it. I think that it was one of those things where I had a bunch of music and reached out to (Producer) Michael Wagner (Accept, Ozzy Osbourne, Skid Row) to Mix it. I had a full record done and it was kind of like 'Well, let's put it out there'. An artist is an artist and makes art and that's really what I'm doing. I don't really have like a plan. It's just more about getting art out there. It's kind of how I'm looking at this whole record to be honest with you. I have this studio at my house, so I was able to make the music at any point and readjust things or play this or play that. I just love being creative, so before long, I'd be like 'Well, I'll do this' or 'Do this bass line' or 'Play this part or do this part'. I don't think there's any prompting. I think that right now is a really artistic time to be creating some new music. And I'm having a good time with it.”
Todd: Why release Reflections In A Rear View Mirror via the iDitty Digital Scan Card System? Being that you had so much success during the analog era, I find it unusual that you'd be embracing a cutting edge technology...
Mark: “I definitely think it's groundbreaking and I think that that's the wave of the future. ...I knew the guy (singer/songwriter and, most notably, ex-Giant and White Heart co-founder Dann Huff) that developed it here in Nashville and I think it's where the future is going. I don't think that people really have grasped onto it as of yet, but if you go into a Best Buy, there are no CD-ROM's in computers and the CD's that they're actually selling as far as the market is going. It's going really quick. So that being said, it's very, very different. ...Physical copies actually went to print today and those will be available pre-order. I signed with a label in Europe called Escape Music and I'm also working with someone in Japan as well. I don't know what the story is yet, though. I haven't talked to them as of yet but they're working to shop it in Japan as well, so those are the markets that they're going to sell it in because I'm not out there at the moment. Then, with the American market, I'll be doing it through my own label that way. Hopefully it will do well and I can get other acts underneath the label so I can continue to work with artists, getting music out there because there's not a lot of labels that will support all this.”
Todd: In hindsight, how did the recording process for Reflections In A Rear View Mirror change from your past?
Mark: “It's a different way, but I think that what it really boils down to is you can't second guess what people think. ...It just gets you to a point where it's all about the art of making music and not the business side of it. It's like 'Let's put it out and let it find its way'. ...That's kind of how this whole record was put together, anyway. When I was writing, I wrote with some other writer friends of mine and I recorded it all up myself. I called my friend from high school, Mark Bidden, to play the drums, so it just kind of fell into place. I had this finished, recorded product and I turned to Michael Wagner and said 'Can you Mix this' and he said 'Of course I can' and he knocked it out of the park and did a great job. He's got a hundred million records under his belt. ...He's great”
Todd: What are your current touring plans? Will the sales of Reflections In A Rear View Mirror make an impact?
Mark: “This is not a (Cinderella frontman) Tom Keifer thing where it's like 'Okay, I'm going to run away from Cinderella'. Slaughter is booked solid. ...I have a solo career now, but I think it's more about just putting the music out there. If there's a demand for some solo dates, I would definitely do it, but that's really... It's kind of like when (Kiss vocalist/guitarist) Paul Stanley does his solo records. He does them because he's always been an incredible artist that keeps making music because he loves making music and not because he's thinking 'Okay, here's my chance to get away from what I'm best known for'. ...It's us doing the craft that we all love, ya know?”
Todd: Let's go back to the beginning. What led to the formation of Slaughter? While I think everyone is aware of the group's association with Vinnie Vincent, a lot of the detail surrounding that period of time remain unclear.
Mark: “There was a falling out between (ex-Kiss guitarist) Vinnie (Vincent) and (bassist) Dana (Strum) that happened while we were on the road. Vinnie had said to me 'Where does your loyalty lie?' and I said 'I'll stay here with Dana'. It was kind of a strange exit, but during that time, the President of the record label, Mike (Bohn) said 'If you guys have music, I'd like to continue this with you, meaning making music'. The gentleman who did the A&R for the label, Jeff Aldrich, had found Billy Idol, Blondie and Pat Benatar. He had me sign a leading member agreement with Chrysalis (Records) which meant that if I ever left the band, Vinnie Vincent (Invasion), they would have an option to hear music, meaning a four song demo, and if they liked the music, they would pick up my option. I was signed under the agreement with Vinnie Vincent and then hey dropped Vinnie. We went in with (drummer) Blas (Elias) and (guitarist) Tim (Kelly) into Electric Ladyland (Studios) on New Year's Eve so it was real strange because we were like, happy new year, hope this goes well. We tracked four songs, one of them being “Fly To The Angels”, which I wrote the lyrics right in the studio because we had the music and we had the chorus, but I didn't have it written. We we're sitting there eating pizza and I wrote the lyrics on a pizza box and lo and behold, they picked up our option, and that is where it all started for Slaughter.”
Todd: Was Vinnie really that difficult to work with? Even with All Systems Go (1988) not being a bona fide Platinum success, their relationships must have deteriorated quickly for them to unceremoniously sever all ties...
Mark: “He was very hard to work with. (Kiss bassist/vocalist) Gene (Simmons) would tell you the same thing. He was brilliant as a writer and an incredible guitar player, but nobody will actually hear what he was really capable of doing because he got caught up in trying to be the fastest in the world. He got caught in a pissing war of 'I can do this better than those people'. ...I'll never forget it. We were on tour with Iron Maiden and he was sitting backstage playing. We were talking about (guitarist) Jeff Beck, who is my favorite guitar player in the world. He was like 'Yeah, I can play that Jeff Beck stuff' and started playing it, note for note, dead on to the point where (Iron Maiden guitarist) Dave Murray walked over and said 'Who is that playing?'. He was literally standing outside our dressing room listening to Vinnie play. And then (Iron Maiden drummer) Nicko (McBrain) says 'Why don't you play like that all the time?' and Vinnie says 'Because it's boring'. ...That was Vinnie. That's how he perceived that style of plying, but it doesn't mean that he couldn't do it. It was his choice to do the music the way he did it and that's part of the art because people have the choice to do their art the way they want to. My whole thing was always all about the songs and about how the music is a soundtrack to people's lives. I say that so much, but it's the truth because it was the same for me with AC/DC, Led Zeppelin or any of these bands that were part of my youth. That was the soundtrack. It reminds you of what you did and where you were when you were younger. It takes you to that place. Only music can take you there. ...It's the sense of smell and music.”
Todd: With the group being launched amid less-than-desirable circumstances, how well did everyone get along?
Mark: “It went incredibly well from the very beginning. The band was put together in the studio. We recorded the songs, but we never played live and the next thing you know, we're out on tour with Kiss. Our first show was with Kiss in Lubbock, Texas and when we walked off the stage, the President of the record label surprised us by being there with a Gold record. ...It was kind of the Cinderella story for us because the next thing you know, it was all happening. It seemed like it happened that quick. And then we were a touring band and we were out playing. We did a whole tour with Kiss then ended up touring in 1991 with Poison and Bulletboys, took a month off and started recording The Wild Life (1992) record. We then went right into touring with Ozzy Osbourne after that. It was pretty much non-stop. It was a strong couple of years of just nothing but doing that.”
Todd: At what point did the overall push from Chrysalis Records cease to exist? Did it happen early in the album cycle? I would imagine the death of the sub-genre as a whole certainly would have hastened the decision.
Mark: “We did “The Wild Life” video, did the “Real Love” video and that was basically it. That was the end of everything. They pulled the plug on it at that point. We really felt that (the second single) “Days Gone By” could have been a really big hit and we had the video shot. It was done, but it pretty much just stopped right there. I think it could have gone a lot further, but the climate had changed. The radio stations were playing Grunge and MTV said they'd no longer play groups like Mötley Crüe and Slaughter, so it was completely over. ...Every style of music has its time, has its generation and has its place. Grunge went through the same thing that happened with the '80's stuff. They went out and signed a zillion different bands like Nirvana. Some of them were good and some of them were just terrible. It was no different than our genre, ya know? Some of it was the forced music of homogenized record company executives that had nothing better to do than to get their writer friends to write all the music for the acts that they thought they could round up and make them the new Rock 'n' Roll on a stick. It was that type of mentality. And that's the record company business, but it's changed so much. The record labels are all pretty much gone and people are still finding music the way they find music.”
Todd: Prior to the release of Stick It To Ya (1990) and the Stick It Live EP (1990),did the group have any idea how successful it would be? Was the excitement intertwined within the music really as palpable as I remember?
Mark: “We believed in the music and we thought the record was good. We held the record for six months because although it was finished by mid 1989, they didn't have their marketing together. You need to pull it all together, so we actually held it to be released in 1990 because we all thought it was better to be in a new decade, with a new thing, a new change, a new sound, and to do it that way. We did the “Up All Night” video in November or December of that year and then got that together and started pumping it to MTV. They said they'd never play the video, and it's funny because when it started to take off, it was the fans that were voting on Headbangers Ball. It found its own way and the next thing you know, they were playing the video before we even played live because we hadn't even played live yet. When we went in to record the video for “Fly To The Angels”, the bomber jacket I was wearing in the video belonged to Gene Simmons. He knew we were going to be touring and the seamstress on the sets said 'You and Gene are the same size. You're both big guys. Why don't I just go borrow his jacket? He's got a jacket that would look great'. Somewhere in a closet, he's got that jacket.”
Todd: Slaughter was always lumped together with other Hair Metal artists. Do you feel that was really accurate?
Mark: “I think that we were in a lot of the same magazines. We were also in the same touring side of it. If you were a Doo-Wop singer back in the Doo-Wop days, you were Doo-Wop. You're going to be labeled no matter what you do. I don't have a problem with that because I think we're different than those bands, but I don't have a problem with it. It's cool. They're our friends and we've been very lucky to rub elbows on stage for many years.”
Todd: When Tim passed away, was there any doubt the group could or, more importantly, should continue on without him? How difficult was it for you to recruit and audition someone to fill this vital role within the group?
Mark: “Anybody would have. What were we going to do? ...Before his funeral, Dana and I had a phone call and said 'Well, obviously we should continue on with the music. That's what Tim would have wanted' and it was absolutely that. Tim loved the band. He looked forward to the band. The best years of his life, as he said many a time, were with the band, so why would we stop? We ended up getting (ex-Left for Dead, Saigon Kick and Vince Neil guitarist) Jeff Blando, who was our sound man that was first of all, Tim's friend. He traveled with us and was also a guy that Tim looked at as a really good guitar player, so that was kind of the natural course of how it came to be. It was a natural course as opposed to us being pushed and be like 'Where are we going to go with this?'. That's how Jeff ended up in the band. ...I think that's what happens in when you're a touring band. You want to be on tour with people that you know are personal, like-minded and have the same musical influences. The other side of it is that you don't really know who they are and what they are until you're on a tour bus. We knew it would work, so Jeff flew out to Nashville and him and I played. I called Dana up and I said 'Well, he's definitely our guy. Let's do it this way'. I think this is really what Tim would've wanted anyway.”
Todd: Unlike a lot of your contemporaries, Slaughter have never actually stopped playing. It's been quite some time since your last release, but the band is still alive and very well. What has been the secret to your longevity?
Mark: “No, we haven't stopped ...We love it. This is what we do and it's what we love to do. There's a lot of people who did this that stopped when the paycheck went away, ya know? But we didn't because we love what we do and again, it's more about taking the music out and enjoying ourselves. Obviously, it's a business and we treat it like a business, but you have to have passion for it before it's going to be legitimate. ...I think anybody who sees the band right now will see that we're probably more passionate than ever even in this day. Some of the acts are putting out things like demos and not very well recorded music. I really think that people should be putting in the time and effort if they're going to make a record to make it sound good and be good and have a certain quality to it. That's one thing that we did with Slaughter, when Dana and I Produced it. We're the only guys from our genre that wrote, Produced and still perform our music to this day. There's always been outside Producers or writers and all that stuff with the other bands, but we were always hands-on, ya know? And I think that's the same kind of mentalities with what I did here. ...I'm just a hands-on guy who is trying to make my art.”
Todd: Much has been made about how much you play guitar on tour. Are you doing it less now than in the past?
Mark: “I usually do half the set with the guitar and half the set without. The sets are longer, so it's hard for me because I have a love of playing, but at the same time, your audience is more about the songs, and not the things that you've learned over the years that you think are cool. It's hard for me because that because that's where I came from, but the truth is, a lead singer working a crowd is a much stronger at working the crowd than the guy who's up there playing a guitar because he thinks he needs to play guitar. ...It makes sense. I think that's the way that I have looked at it and makes sense as an entertainer. You can be more entertaining as a lead singer than you can with as I call it, the security blanket in between you and the audience. It's something to hold onto and something to hide behind. You're really out there when you got a microphone in your hand. You're either commanding a lead singer or you're just trying to hide behind the mic stand which is a lot smaller than a guitar.”
Todd: How close are we to an 'all new' Slaughter studio effort? Does the group have material written and ready?
Mark: “We have a couple songs that we've written that I think that with me doing this, the guys are probably going to look and see how successful it is and what this does. But we're all in different states, so I don't even know if we'd be in the same room if we did it. I'm not saying that we don't want to be, but it's a different side of recording. I would think there will at least be some singles that we'll do at some point that we'll put out under Slaughter, but I don't know about a whole physical CD. We'll see how popular and how well I do with the label, and we'll take it from there. The iDitty thing is great because it's cutting edge, but then again, it's hard for some people to wrap their head around it. But then again, with CD's, there's no outlet to sell them. I'll release this digitally before or on May 22nd, which is part of the agreement with the European company because that's when they're going to release it. That's how I kind of set up my release date as well, so that it's there for all, ya know?”
Reflections In A Rear View Mirror (2015)
10 Greatest Songs (2011)
Back To Reality (1999)
Eternal Live (1998)
Fear No Evil (1995)
Mass Slaughter: The Best Of Slaughter (1995)
The Wild Life (1992)
Stick It Live (EP) (1990)
Stick It To Ya (1990)
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