As a self-proclaimed Metalhead, the diversity of my tastes have repeatedly metamorphosed, with the extremities of my youth ultimately being counter-balanced by increasingly erratic, ADHD-propelled varieties of Hard Rock, Metalcore and Thrash. Gone, for the most part, at least, are the simplistic harmonies of my youth, having long ago been replaced by a series of not so user-friendly wares. Among my most fervent of these new obsessions is Pennsylvania-born icons The Lord Weird Slough Feg. Armed with a veritable wealth of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy influences, the group amassed a uniquely dedicated cult following via a series of well-regarded releases (i.e. Traveller, 2003, Ape Uprising!, 2009 and Digital Resistance, 2014). As a result, when I at last found myself enlightened via New Organon (2019), I was once again only more than happy to over-indulge.
Todd: What prompted the decision to release New Organon under the full The Lord Weird Slough Feg moniker?
Mike: “I don't really think of it as two separate eras, ya know? ...I recently saw a website that was a lot like Encyclopedia Metallica that actually had 'Slough Feg' and 'The Lord Weird Slough Feg' listed as two different bands. It was like 'They've been together since 2005' and I was like 'What? Really?' At first, I thought it was just someone who didn't realize we existed before 2005, but it wasn't. It was someone who was fucking saying 'At first they were called Slough Feg and then they broke up, but then they changed and then they came back'. I was like 'What the hell?' I didn't think it was going to have that much importance to people. Jesus Christ', ya know? That was really, really weird to see. And I don't understand why it's that big of a deal because it never was to me. Originally, the band's name was Slough Feg, but in the comic book we got if from (the Celtic folklore-influenced Sláine, published in 1983), it said 'The Lord Weird Slough Feg', so that's what we decided we'd use.”
Todd: As an artist and a marketer, that must have been frustrating on so many levels. Apparently those outside the fan base didn't understand that the name on the packaging had zero effect on the materials contained therein.
Mike: “If you saw a Spider-Man movie but then saw that it said The Amazing Spider-Man on the Marvel comic, you wouldn't think there was a difference Spider-Man in the comics. Really, it was the Europeans who didn't like the change. When our second record (Twilight Of The Idols, 1999) came out on an actual label, and the label, Dragonheart Records, which I didn't like, instead of putting 'The Lord Weird' small and then 'Slough Feg' as big, they wrote it where it was all the same size. They put 'The Lord Weird Slough Feg' across the bottom of the record or wherever the fuck it was and I was like 'That is not what I wanted, but whatever.' And then record stores and magazines started listing us under and 'L' instead of an 'S', ya know? And then some of them in Europe started listing us under 'T', which didn't happen very often. People started having trouble finding us in record stores. They'd be like 'Well, I looked for your record and I couldn't find it. I looked for it under 'S' and it was actually under 'L', ya know? And I thought 'We're just compromising our record sales', so then I had the thought 'Let's just call it Sough Feg. Let's not put The Lord Weird on there' anymore and they're all like 'Oh, you changed your name'. And I thought 'No, we didn't. What the fuck?' So for this record, I thought it'd be kind of funny. 'You want to put 'The Lord Weird' on it? Yeah, let's do it just to fuck with people because they made such a big deal out of that' (laughs). ...And also it looked better that way with the way the graphics are on the record.”
Todd: Did Metal Blade Records have any impact(s) on how Digital Resistance (2014) ultimately came together?
Mike: “Metal Blade had nothing to do with it at all, so they didn't ask us to sound a certain way. And that's one of the reasons we signed a one album contract with them. When I talked to them, I said 'Our album's going to sound exactly how we want it to sound' before I had signed anything. Not that I'd ever heard about Metal Blade in particular telling people how to sound. Maybe I have heard that, but it definitely wasn't true in our case. I was like 'Okay, it's going to sound weird, and it's also going to sound different than some of the other records' and it did. So Metal Blade had nothing to do with it. It was just what we wanted to do at the time. It's not my favorite record and it's not anybody else's favorite one either from what I can tell (laughs). It's a weird record. If some random person were to dive into our catalog based on it, I don't think it would make a very good starting point.”
Todd: Taking that into consideration, what do feel would be an ideal Slough Feg starting point? With everyone having different tastes, and often drastically different opinions, how does someone find the best places to begin?
Mike: “Well, if a random person were to jump into our discography by listening to Traveller (2003), it might be a great place to start, but they wouldn't understand what Slough Feg actually sounds like. We're a lot more of a straight-ahead Metal band. ...Digital Resistance might be our weakest album, but then again, it might not. What I've noticed from making ten records and some other records with other bands, is that almost always, with very little exception, when you put out a record in underground Metal, it usually gets good reviews. Underground staff and underground press have a hard time saying 'Hey, this sucks' or 'We don't like this'. I'm not complaining about that, but also, with few exceptions, every time I put a record out, they almost always say 'It's a really great comeback because their last album was kind of weak' (laughs) And it happened with our best albums. It also happened when we put out Hardworlder (2007), which is, I would say, not one of our strongest albums. People said 'What a great comeback because Atavism (2005) was kind of weak'. ...But when Atavism came out, there were rave reviews about it, so I don't know what the fuck that's about. It might be a natural reaction that people have to just say 'Oh, their last album was weak because this one is so great'. People are just full of shit and they feel compelled to compare to it to something. I think Digital Resistance is definitely our weakest, but it seemed that way even more now because when it was first released, they talked about how great everything is (laughs).”
Todd: For the uninitiated, what are your influences? My introduction to the group (The Animal Spirits, 2010) was certainly dissimilar from your earlier efforts. Despite this, the Thin Lizzy influence have remained constant.
Mike: “Asking someone 'What are your influences?' after their tenth album is kinda weird, ya know? It's pretty obvious, isn't it? ...The funny thing is, we didn't discover Thin Lizzy until much later. Early on, people used to say that we discovered the sound that made us sound like Thin Lizzy before we discovered Thin Lizzy. When I was a teenager. The word Thin Lizzy was something that most people have heard of. It wasn't a household name. They weren't very popular in America. If anything, if you'd heard the name Thin Lizzy, you were like 'Oh, isn't that the band that sounds like something...'. What I used to think was that there were a Glam or Glitter band from England from the '70's. I had never heard anything. A few years later, I was like 'Oh, I've heard of Thin Lizzy. I didn't realize they are the band that sings that shitty song “The Boys Are Back In Town” or 'Those guys must suck' because I had heard “The Boys Are Back In Town” and was like 'Oh, I know that song. That song sucks. That song sounds like shit. It sounds like the Doobie Brothers or something else I don't like'. If you only hear “The Boys Are Back In Town”, it's not very impressive. I'm not saying it's a bad song, but back then, that was my impression of it. And then you'd hear the song “Jailbreak” and it was the same thing. My image of Thin Lizzy was generic and very un-noteworthy. And then somebody gave me a copy of Black Rose (1979) and said 'Dude'. This was around the time our second album came out (Twilight Of The Idols, 1999). He said You've got to listen to this band' and I said 'I've heard a couple of songs. They weren't that good and he said 'No, you have to hear Thin Lizzy'. That just goes to show you how much nobody gave a damn about Thin Lizzy in America in 1997. They weren't like they are now, ya know? There was no nostalgia but this guy said 'I found this album called Black Rose. I found it on the street in a pile of shit' because no one cared about vinyl in 1997 either. So I took it, listened to it and oh my God, it's the most incredible song on the most incredible album. I listened to it and was like 'Holy shit. That's awesome. That's Thin Lizzy?'. And I then started exploring the Thin Lizzy catalog and started discovering all this cool stuff. But the point isn't that they weren't not good. The point is that in the popular American at that point, no one knew shit about Thin Lizzy besides “The Boys Are Back In Town” and didn't care. ...But after I learned about them, I immediately became inspired by what they had done.”
Todd: That perspective has certainly changed, hasn't it? It seems as if they're outright worshiped at this juncture.
Mike: “I feel like almost every Metal band is trying to sound like that these days. They're such an influence for so many Metal bands now that is almost like 'Oh, Thin Lizzy, yeah' (laughs). ...When I started this band, I tried to sound like Iron Maiden, I tried to sound like Judas Priest and I tried to sound like Motörhead., but it was never like that with Thin Lizzy. Someone brought Thin Lizzy to me saying 'You're writing music like this. I think you should listen to this'. ...It's interesting that I never really thought about us having a Celtic Irish sound.”
Todd: When the arguably inevitable line-up changes have taken place, has it been a challenge for you to find the right people? While the group's music isn't glaringly mainstream, I would imagine a vacancy would be coveted.
Mike: “Only in the case of drummers. For everybody else, it wasn't hard at all. It was hard to play a bass player in the '90's, in the late '90's particularly. We went through a lot of bass players. Between our original bass player Justin Phelps and Adrian (Maestas) who's been the bass player for nineteen years, it was hard as hell. Back then, (original drummer) Greg (Haa) were terrified of losing people. In fact, we became a three-piece for our first couple of albums there because we couldn't find another guitarist who was good enough and still wanted to play with us. We'd go through another bass players and be like 'Oh shit. Who's going to play bass for us? Nobody wants to play bass for Slough Feg'. It was hard back then, but after the year 2000, the only changes we made were replacing (guitarist) John Cobbett (Hammers Of Misfortune, GWAR, Ludicra) with Angelo (Tringali) and then, of course, the drummers. Drummers are incredibly hard to find. When we lost Greg, we tried out Antoine Reuben, but he didn't work out on the. We went through a bunch of people as we tried them out. It was really hard. We finally found Harry (Cantwell, Bosse-de-Nage) and he was awesome. That line-up lasted seven years before we lost Harry. It stayed tough until we found (current drummer) Jeff (Griffin). Before we found Jeff, the we went through lots of different auditions. ...We went a full eight months without a drummer. It really sucked.”
Todd: To what do you attribute the group's issues with finding a suitable drummer? Has there been a common, reoccurring factor à la the musical differences and personality conflicts that have stricken so many other artists?
Mike: “I think it's hard for anybody who can't actually pay them a wage. First of all, it's hard to find a drummer, period, because there aren't that many drummers out there. There just aren't. There's a lot more guitar players and bass players are easy to find, too Drummers are very difficult to find for any band, unless you're playing a totally different style of music where the drums hardly matter (laughs). We found drummers who wanted to do it, but when we tried them out, they just don't work. This is very difficult music. The double bass thing is hard. You can always find a drummer who can easily to play Black Metal or Death Metal, but we need someone who can do the double bass stuff and can also swing. We've tried people who are really good Extreme Metal players and they don't work because some of them can't swing. Then you find good Rock drummers who can't do double bass and can't do Metal as well. ...Any Rock musician will tell you the hardest thing to replace is the drummer and that's why drummers have such power. They know they're not replaced very easily. Most drummers I know play in five different bands and can do whatever they want. You can't have a bad or mediocre drummer in Slough Feg. It just won't work. You need a really good drummer for this band. ...It is what it needs.”
Todd: When touring in support of New Organon (or, for that matter, any other new Slough Feg release), is the goal to evenly represent each release within the group's discography? If so, that must be a daunting undertaking.
Mike: “It's somewhat of a goal. But more than anything, we want to do songs that are exciting to people and that create a good show. That's really what the bottom line is. It can change from night to night sometimes, but it's basically the same set. I worry less about 'Oh, well, you didn't do a song off the first record' or 'You didn't do a song off this record' or 'You didn't do off a song off that record.' I worry about 'Did we put on a really good show and excite the people were who there?' That's what's really important. On this last string of shows we did, we did, it was a little bit different, but in a good way because instead of writing all the songs and then going right into the studio, we wrote them one at a time over the course of two or three years and then we incorporated them into our set. Half of them immediately went into the set and were tested out live, much like a band does on their first record. ...When you're playing night clubs or whatever, you play all these different songs and then you write new songs and throw some of them out. By the time you get to actually do a record, it was like your greatest hits of the last three years. Really, the bottom line is that we have ten records out now and we want to represent a lot of them. But more than that, we want to get people excited, have them enjoy it and have it be a memorable set. ...That's the bottom line. Whatever it takes to get it. If we have to play only new songs, we will.”
Todd: What were the primary motivations behind the group not releasing any new material for five years? From an outsider perspective, it seemed like an unusual choice considering how prolific you had been up to that point.
Mike: “By the time you do your third, fourth, fifth and sixth record, you're still like 'I don't have anything yet.' After your last record or tour, you just have to sit down and write a bunch of songs. And I hate that at this point. I've done that and I don't like it because you feel like you're just writing stuff. You don't really know how it's going to sound. You're sort of forcing things out just for the purpose of making more songs. I hate that, so what we did is we took five years. We didn't need to. After Digital Existence, I wasn't dying to make a record at all and then Harry left and we couldn't really write. As soon as we got another drummer, things came out when they came out. Songs started to develop as they naturally did. I was just like 'Okay, this song is good, so let's do it'. And then we'd play it live. The song “New Organon” was the first one I wrote for this record and we played it live weeks after it was written, which was three years ago. It really went over well, so we did the same thing with most of the songs on the first half of the record. We did most of them and they worked. So we had been playing those in the set for a while before the record came out. What people saw was almost half a set of new songs with the other half being songs like “Wicker Man” plus what people responded to from the other albums.”
New Organon (2019)
Digital Resistance (2014)
The Lord Weird Slough Feg (Box Set) (2013)
Made In Poland (2011)
The Animal Spirits (2010)
The Slay Stack Grows - Early Demos And Live Recordings (2009)
Down Among The Deadmen (2000)
Twilight Of The Idols (1999)
The Lord Weird Slough Feg (1996)
Higlander (Demo) (1994)
Copyright © 2008 - 2019 www.BigMusicGeek.com, LLC. The views and opinions expressed on this website do not necessarily reflect those of www.BigMusicGeek.com. The content of this website cannot be reproduced in any aspect, either electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or informational storage and/or retrieval systems without the express written consent of www.BigMusicGeek.com.