January 21, 2008
Slash Puppet’s recently released Suncity (www.suncityrecords.com) CD ‘No Strings Attached’ was one of the highlights of 2007. It consisted of songs recorded during the band’s formative years and once again proved that this little known Canadian group should have fared much better commercially. As Slash Puppet’s frontman, Mif kept the dream alive during some hard times for the band, before finally moving on in the wake of Grunge. In this exclusive interview Mif talks about the band, Bob Ezrin, his recent work with Big House’s K.B. Bradley, his starring role in an upcoming feature film with Gina Gershon, and the burning of Taime Downe’s hair.
Sleaze Roxx: Your new album No Strings Attached was just released, what led to these songs finally seeing the light of day?
Mif: About a year and a half ago Pete Dove (original bassist of Slash Puppet) contacted me to tell me that Much Music had started playing our video for the song Slow Down which we had released independently back in 1990. It turns out that a dude from Nova Scotia or New Brunswick had called in to request and challenge Much Music to play some Slash Puppet, which they did for about a year and a half in medium rotation!
At around the same time after an evening of partying until the wee hours of the night, I decided to go online and simply key in the name Slash Puppet, something I had never thought of doing before. I was truly astonished to discover what was going on. After having been out of the scene for almost 13 years, the buzz on the internet was quite surprising and impressive as it became clear that fans worldwide were still seeking out anything that was Slash Puppet. I found several web pages with chat rooms and articles about the band, and fans of the band celebrating our past exploits.
What surprised me the most however, was finding our tapes and CD’s being sold on e-bay for big bucks and not just here in Canada and the U.S., but internationally! Coincidentally, at around the same time, Franklin our drummer contacted me to advise me that there was some label out of Australia (Sun City Records) who was serious about re-issuing and releasing our first 8 songs which comprised our first independent release we called ‘The Demo’. At this point the guys and I decided to have a meeting to discuss the logistics of re-releasing the songs and we chose to do so for several good reasons.
Sleaze Roxx: How pleased are you with the finished No String Attached CD?
Mif: The songs are our original recordings which have been re-mastered digitally! This was actually quite noticeable early on to Bart (guitarist Frank Bartoletti) who had commented to me about the improved sound quality on the teaser song ‘Evil Woman’ (*you can listen to the song at www.suncityrecords.com*) that SunCity had pre-released online, it actually sounds quite good!
I also know that the artwork is quite impressive as I made sure I was kept in the loop every step of the way with David Moors at Sun City Records with several PDF files being sent back and forth between he and I for almost a year and a half. All of the photographs are vintage Slash Puppet from in and around the actual time that these songs were originally released independently as ‘The Demo’. All of the pictures but one were taken back in the day by the very talented and renowned Canadian rock photographer Ron Boudreau who was our exclusive photog, confidante, and a very good friend for the longest time, while the rest of the print work was handled by Sun City.
I can tell you that it is a very impressive package with several cool photographs, lyric sheets and even a detailed Slash Puppet historiography outlining the band’s successes and rise to prominence on the Canadian and international music scene, something that I hope will please our fans, old and new alike!
Sleaze Roxx: The songs on the new CD are great, which makes me wonder why they never made it onto the original EP?
Mif: As a band, we had played many of these songs for a very long time, slammin’ em’ in bars and concert venues all around Canada, and while we still enjoyed and appreciated the older stuff, we had written a handful of new songs that took the band into a slightly different musical direction. The prevailing thought was that the older stuff, musically and lyrically, was not going to hold up to the newer songs, not that they weren’t as good, but that they just did not fit in to that place were we had arrived after four years as a band.
Furthermore, we had just parted ways from our management company SRO (Rush, Van Halen), and were left in a bit of a vulnerable state. We weren’t sure what to do. We had just been dumped by management, Dave Carreiro had now replaced Pete Dove as our bassist, there was upheaval and change all around, while all we kept hearing was “…we need to let the dust settle…”, from everyone in the industry!
We had five songs, no money to splurge and a reluctant industry when it came to Slash Puppet at this point. Most bands would have probably called it a day, and believe you me we came real close to “hearing the fat lady sing” at one point. We decided to put out an EP instead of a full length disc to keep the costs reasonable and made a final decision to release the new songs only, but to include Slow Down from the ‘vintage’ stuff primarily as a treat to all the fans who had begun and stuck with us up until then! Also because we had the video for Slow Down running on Much Music!
Sleaze Roxx: Seeing as the debut EP is hard to find these days, did you ever think of adding it to No Strings Attached?
Mif: No, it never crossed our minds, for the same reason as I mentioned earlier! It’s about were we are at this point in time, and what these songs represented, and what they represent now, and who will be listening, and the history and the nostalgia of it all. It’s about ‘The Demo’ never getting a real shot to be heard as a serious product on such a potentially large scale until now! Besides, we can start with the early era of Slash Puppet with ‘No Strings Attached’, and who knows, perhaps we can move on to the latter years in due time! The plot thickens!
Sleaze Roxx: Does that mean you’re thinking of releasing more Slash Puppet stuff already?
Mif: The potential to release more material is always there, but no, we’re going to see how this does for now and we’ll worry about down the road…down the road!
Sleaze Roxx: How about the band reforming for some live shows to promote the CD, have you talked about that?
Mif: That would be something that I could be interested in and there already have been some discussions with the guys in the band about doing just that! However, it becomes an issue of schedules as all of us are doing other things now and it may be somewhat problematic for all of us to just drop everything we’re into now to get in sync to do shows! Although, it wouldn’t be that far a stretch as all the guys have kept heavily involved in music, and it’s quite an impressive repertoire!
I am hopeful though that we can all get back together on stage at some point and do a show or two, hell, perhaps even a tour if the situation with this CD release warrants it! I’ve never had a problem with this concept even though I’m full into what I’m doing now, and working on what I am hoping will be my next record with my new band. I would love nothing more than to be able to go out with the dudes from Slash Puppet and kick it again. It simply becomes a schedule and logistics issue!
Sleaze Roxx: What are you and the other guys working on musically outside of Slash Puppet?
Mif: Except for our much missed brother Lou Garscadden (guitars), who unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago, all of the guys have kept involved with bands and other musical endeavors over the years which does not surprise me in the least bit as all of them are top notch musicians in their own rights.
Franklin Wyles (drummer) has been playing for quite some time now with his band, a three piece unit called The Cronics. They do some cover tunes along with their original stuff and have already released one record entitled ‘Things Your Cat Can’t Swallow’ which is more of a roots rock vibe with Franklin doing some of the lead vocal work. So far as I know they are working toward releasing their second CD soon.
Original bassist Pete Dove has played with several bands over the years, including a stint with me in my solo project a few years back, and currently plays with a pounding original outfit out of Toronto called Brass Knuckle Therapy while picking up some extra cash in the best AC/DC tribute band out of Canada called Thunderstruck! Seems fitting as I always believed Pete was the second coming of AC/DC’s Cliff Williams, solid, no nonsense, straight ahead, pounding bass beast, and nobody does it any better!
So far as Bart Bartoletti (guitars) goes, he and Dave Carreiro (second bassist in Slash Puppet) are currently working together writing songs for commercial and corporate consumption while also playing with different bands and doing all kinds of session work. In fact, Dave spent a few years in The Cronics with Franklin before pursuing an opportunity in Los Angeles with a band called Six Foot Daisy.
I’m not sure what Marcel LaFleur is up to these days. Not too many people know this, but the old Smashed Gladys string slinger had filled in for Lou Garscadden on what turned out to be our final tour as a band, across Canada back in 1994 in support of the self-titled Slash Puppet E.P. which was released internationally on Fringe Records (1993).
Well that pretty much covers all of the Puppet boys. As for myself, I spent some time in Rochester immediately after leaving Slash Puppet back in 1995 writing songs for a band called Mad As Hell with a damn good guitar player, whose name escapes me at this time, and Gene Barnett, drummer from Dirty Looks. That didn’t last at all and by 1996 I was back in Toronto working on a project tentatively called Drain with another totally exceptional bunch of players, Michel Scotta (guitars), Lionel Tissot (bass) and Brent Niemi (drums). The band ultimately released a record under the banner of THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) in 1996 and was managed by Michael White who had managed The Tea Party prior to THD. We put together a pretty solid record which was a very progressive heavy metal disc, toured incessantly and got some rave reviews, but that was about it. The sound was still labeled as dated at that point as the boy band, or is that bitch band, era had arrived!!!
Anyway, it was at around this time that I got cracking on my acting career, although I recorded another record with the guys from THD in 1998 which was totally different in style and genre, more eclectic, under the band name RM32 (Room 32). Once again great shit, great reviews but no takers! By now I had just about had enough of banging my fist on doors and my head on walls trying to get something going again musically, and my acting career began to take off in and around the same time so I called it a day with the music to concentrate fully on my new found passion, and I haven’t looked back since!
Oh, did I mention that I am currently working on what I hope will be my next record with guitarist K.B. Bradley of Big House fame and another fine young turk on guitars Geoff Wilson, that is ‘Spilly’. Fuck, these guys write such good fresh shit, I’m not sure if I want to front the band or produce them!!!
Sleaze Roxx: How would you describe the sound of the material you’re working on with K.B. Bradley?
Mif: Well, we both grew up musically in and around the metal scene here in Canada, and both Slash Puppet and Big House peaked at around the same time back in the day, so most of the stuff certainly possesses a musical foundation that is reminiscent of the old school rock power and bang style, but with a modern hint brought in mostly by Spilly! We already have about eight songs in the can and while once again they vary in some ways from one to the other, something which has been both a blessing and a curse to me artistically over the years, they maintain a common hard rock thread which is and has always been my forte!
For example, we have a song tentatively called ‘Now’ which K.B. refers to as our Euro-rock tune, we have another one called ‘The Big Smoke’ which is definitely reminiscent of some of the later Slash Puppet stuff, with funky, rootsy, groovy Aerosmith-esque verses and bridges and a huge banging chorus that never quits, this is our Arena-rock song! We also have a couple of very cool ballads which in fact deviate from the ballads of yore and possess more of an eclectic modern vibe which makes them very cool and unique in their own right!
Simply put, we are three good song writers that bring everything we have to the table and pick and choose what we want and like to work on from an abundance of riffs and songs, some old, some new, which is a huge luxury! It’s too early to pin down any one particular sound mainly because as it seems to be going, one song can be so different than the next and we’re still writing like fiends to make sure we have the best compilation of tunes from which to choose. All I know is that I haven’t been this excited about my music and my potential musical prospects for a long time!
Sleaze Roxx: Do you plan on trying to find a record label for your new material, or is it too early for that?
Mif: Well, there’s plenty yet to be done before we get to that stage. As I mentioned previously, we want to write a few more songs as to maximize our chances for a deal with a record full of great songs, no fillers, and once we’re comfortable with the song selection we intend to get a few shows under our belt! I mean, we haven’t even begun to discuss band members past K.B., Geoff (Spilly) and myself, although we have a pretty good idea of who we would like to have join us as a rhythm section, that is on bass and drums.
Furthermore, it won’t necessarily be the typical method of procuring a record deal so far as record labels that we approach go, as the industry has in many ways outgrown the suit and tie, corporate record label, A&R trip! There are very many more outlets for bands in this day and age especially with the advent of the internet and all the new media it brings along. More often than not these days bands are becoming more self-defined, self-reliant, and self-imposed and are able to get their music out there without the old, somewhat archaic and outdated way of getting signed.
Sleaze Roxx: Now that bands can be more self-reliant than before, how do you think the music industry has changed for the better and for the worse over your career?
Mif: Very simple. Before you used to go to the corporation, now you become the corporation! I won’t venture to define anything in terms of better or worse things, what we had then is what brought us here now, so far as it encompasses the entire spectrum that is media and the music industry in particular and how it impacts pop-culture and the culture at large and the entire business of it all. What once was culturally the norm and accepted has now, due largely to its own natural progression and growth, become something altogether different.
There are more bands now able to assert themselves any way they see fit, and while there will always be an undeniable need for the basic foundations of what is the music industry and, still, the significant role of major record labels within it, the abundant and wide open internet and new media avenues make it more of an even playing field when it comes to a band’s choices. More choices, more opportunities – more opportunities, more growth – more growth, more chance for self-made success! Other than that, not much has changed.
Sleaze Roxx: What is your opinion on people trading mp3s, and as a result sometimes not buying the actual CD?
Mif: For me as a musician and song writer, as well as a music collector, it has always been about the artist first, so personally I’ve never been a big fan of this “black market” type of music trading, although I can see were there might be some benefits! The question becomes simply, how do the pros outweigh the cons in this huge musical internet sub-industry which doesn’t seem to have any end in sight?!
As the singer in the current, dormant Slash Puppet, watching people trade, sell and purchase my music for big bucks over the internet is quite flattering in a romantic kind of way, but in the practical and realistic sense there is a certain degree of redundancy, as the guys and I were watching all this Slash Puppet product and money exchange hands without ourselves seeing a penny from it all! I mean, I’m watching some guy out of Italy making home-made packages that looked quite ridiculous, flogging my 8 songs from ‘The Demo’ cassette (which had never been formally released) with band promo from the self-titled Slash Puppet E.P. that was released on Fringe Records, and again as an artist and a collector, this seriously pissed me off!!! I don’t see how this would be any different than the same dude coming in to my home uninvited, going up in to my closet, digging out my masters from ‘The Demo’ and taking them back to Italy to pursue the same business venture. It smacks of theft to me by any definition!!!
Not to mention the kind of money being raked in by the internet business outfits out there in cyberspace that practice this form of media piracy without remunerating the artist and their musical representatives who helped to get them out there!!! Where is the artist’s rights, and to the same extent, the record label’s rights in all of this! I suppose however, if we were out there still touring, one might make the argument that MP3 trading or trading of any Slash Puppet music could be beneficial in gaining more fans which then, you would hope, might pay to come and watch you perform and purchase more product! All I know is that the first person that can invent and manufacture a CD or comparable musical format that can be mass released and cannot be replicated in any way will end up a bazillionaire!!!
Sleaze Roxx: What were some of the bands you were in before Slash Puppet?
Mif: The first band I ever performed with live was a band called Whiskey Rose who then became Looker with myself on vocals, along with, now, life long buddies Dave Murphy (guitars), Iain Walker (bass), John Paul Attard (drums), rounding out the band. We were a bunch of dreamers out of T.O. and Etobicoke who ended up getting quite a bit accomplished for a bunch of young ‘wannabees’ as we toured for a stretch with Goddo (who were pretty big at the time) as their exclusive opening act in small concert venues and high schools all around southern Ontario. It was in this band that I began to ‘cut my teeth’ as a singer and songwriter. Dave and Iain in particular, were very good songwriters and arrangers for their age now that I look back, and J.P. was one hell of a singer, and much of what I learned from them back then helped me grow and mature as an all around performer and musician.
I remember we wrote and recorded a song called ‘Left Out In The Cold’ that we submitted to the first ever Q-107 FM Radio amateur band competition that made some noise for us as Looker and got us our first song on the radio which they (Q-107) played quite often! It also garnered us our first bit of interest from an industry heavy weight as, the now legendary, producer Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Kiss, Pink Floyd, The Darkness) took a serious interest in another song we had submitted to the same competition that year entitled ‘Lay Down The Law’, and ended up offering us our first publishing deal!
The next year we submitted another song to the second annual Q-107 competition entitled ‘Got No Way’ that ended up making it to the top 25 (semi-finals) out of 1700 entrants the same year that Honeymoon Suite won it with the tune ‘I Got A New Girl Now’ which was the song that sent them on their way!!! It was this song ‘Got No Way’ most of all, that would become the predecessor of the sound and style that we have all come to know as Slash Puppet! Whaling, groovy, riff-rock guitars, screaming, shredding lead guitars, grungy, bombastic lead vocals and huge gang backing vocals, all in sync to create a loud, catchy and memorable creation.
Shortly after that I played in a band called Black Dove which exposed me full on to the heavy metal scene here in Toronto, and garnered me my first bit of press in a metal magazine called Mettalion. Not the most flattering article so far as our sound went at the time, we were a more progressive rock band sandwiched in with the likes of early thrash and death metal icons Anvil and Razor at this one particular show, however I do recall the writer being impressed by the performance and professionalism of the band!
Sleaze Roxx: How exciting was it for you as a young musician to have a legend like Bob Ezrin show interest in your music?
Mif: It was a phenomenal feeling at the time for sure! In retrospect, I remember how I felt a certain degree of legitimacy for what I was pursuing as a musician, along with the rest of the guys in Looker of course, but because I was the one who handled most of the preliminary negotiations back then, I remember an associate of Mr. Ezrin named ‘Ringo’ with whom I spoke frequently. Anyway, the fact that I was hob knobbing with such an elite figure in the Canadian (and American) music scene made me feel that I had made the right decision to pursue a musical career. I remember clearly one particular conversation that I had with Mr. Ezrin where his associate Ringo had asked me to call him (Bob Ezrin) personally about something or another, so I did, and I was surprised to get him (Bob Ezrin) on the phone directly as he’s panting and breathing heavily. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it or what to say at the time as he said hello in such a state, I mean I’m an impressionable 17 year old ‘wannabe’ rockstar terrified of putting my foot in my mouth with such a distinguished music producer, not wanting to offend him in anyway, so I remember asking him if he was alright and to my astonishment he responded by telling me that “…yeah, I’m fine, just had me a little jog around the track in my office…”, I’m pretty sure it was his office, or perhaps up on the roof of his office building! Either way, I was floored! I remember thinking to myself, “yup we’re already playing with the big boys, we’re on our way.” One thing was certain to me at the time, any insecurity I had about my potential as a musician and a songwriter and of pursuing a musical career was wholly alleviated by this one brief but impactful conversation with Bob Ezrin! Incidentally, he wanted our song ‘Lay Down The Law’ for an up and coming band at the time called Helix!
Sleaze Roxx: What did you think of the idea of giving your songs away to other bands?
Mif: Well, so long as you’re not ‘giving’ them away, that is, licensing them out properly through a legally procured publishing deal, I say no problem! Especially if you’re just starting out as this can be very beneficial in getting you some recognition and just as importantly, some residual money. The secret here is simple, make sure you get the best publishing deal possible, always retain 100% of your copyright to the song or songs, and always try to retain as much of the percentage of the deal for any and all residual money. Make sure you have a good entertainment lawyer handling any publishing deal!
At the time that I and the band Looker were in discussions with Bob Ezrin we felt it was a no-brainer for the same reasons I mention above. It seemed at the time to be the best way to get our foot in the door to gain some recognition in the industry, and I would do it all over again! In fact, I would love to be able to produce and write songs for other singers and bands down the road as I love the song writing process most of all, second only to producing and recording songs! I love being in the studio doing just that!
Sleaze Roxx: How come Helix never ended up using the song?
Mif: To be quite honest, I just can’t truly recollect the reason the song was never used, except that the entire deal fell apart due to delays with the production of the their (Helix) record! There may have been an eventual parting between parties’ representing the band and the producers. All I do remember however, was that something happened totally beyond our control and that there was not going to be a record deal so the publishing deal was also a wash! At least that’s what I remember as why the song didn’t get used. “…Rock ‘n’ Roll is a vicious game…”!
Sleaze Roxx: What do you remember most about recording the debut Slash Puppet EP?
Mif: How we as a band at a very trying time in our history, had to make it the best sounding piece of work possible! It was a totally tumultuous time for Slash Puppet as we spent 3 weeks at Phase 1 Studios in Toronto with SRO Management having showed us the door just 2 or 3 months prior, Pete Dove our bass player gone AWOL for days, later finding out he was in New York not absolutely sure if he had gone to join another band, Lou and Franklin not being satisfied with anything they or we were laying down and pushing everyone to their limits artistically and emotionally, Bart pulling off some killer tracks and singing back ups in a recording session for the first time ever, and not sure how the hell all of this came about, and how or who was behind it all!
I remember how obsessed I became with proving myself on this recording, not just as a singer, but also as a songwriter. I remember feeling that I had something to prove at the time, my worth and value perhaps, and that I had to prove it to a now reluctant Toronto music industry, to those who rallied around us to continue to keep the dream alive, to my own band mates and all the other associates of Slash Puppet. I remember being genuinely pleased after the fact with what we had produced and how we felt we had a very cool product coming out of Phase 1 with producer Anthony Vanderburgh. How we were not happy at all with the first mixes and eventually took it to Rich Chycki (Rush, Aerosmith, Mick Jagger) at Metalworks Studios to give it a whirl. And what a whirl at has been ever since!
It still blows me away how people have reacted to it ever since we released it, and how they still carry on to do so. It re-ignited the band and opened up a whole new chapter of successes in our band’s history, a new positive phase marked predominantly by the inclusion of new bassist Dave Carreiro to the band, who had by now replaced the departed Pete Dove!
Sleaze Roxx: What was it that led to Pete Dove’s departure from the band?
Mif: The way I remember it, Pete had been going through some tough times as a member of Slash Puppet and he was totally bummed out about having lost our management deal, and ultimately any record deal to go with it. In retrospect, I believe he had in some ways lost faith in the band when this happened and now felt he had to decide on whether to stick it out with Slash Puppet or to check out another potentially lucrative opportunity in New Jersey.
I, perhaps being overly idealistic, always thought that the original 5 members of Slash Puppet would have stuck it out to the end, and I for one always thought Pete was the perfect bassist for the band and was both pissed and saddened at the time to see him go! I believed, again perhaps idealistically, that we always had that special something as a group, not anymore special than any other band who has tasted success out there big or small, but “that special something ” that doesn’t just occur all the time. I thought that we were coming out off a slump with some fire power behind us, not to mention a movie soundtrack deal I worked out with some seriously cool people at Cannon Films out of Los Angeles! I really thought we were back on the upswing.
Ultimately, Pete decided to move on and Dave Carreiro (Six Foot Daisy, The Cronics, Lemon Juice) was brought in to Metal Works with Rich Chycki to re-do the bass tracks on a couple of tunes. Shortly thereafter a six song EP was released through Fringe Records and a new phase in Slash Puppet history with more packed shows, accomplishments, and fanfare, ensued!
It’s worth to mention that Dave Carreiro at the time, whether anybody knew it or not, had some heavy duty shoes to fill. Pete Dove was a straight ahead pounder, an English fireball every night he performed with Slash Puppet, a fan favorite, and a huge part of the band’s energy and boom. Contrastingly, Dave was a groovier player, lacking no less the energy, but bringing it in a way that was smooth and cool. Eventually, Dave became just as big a component of the band in its latter years, the perfect replacement who fast became a focal point of the band not unlike Pete!
Sleaze Roxx: Did you get to tour with any of your idols to promote the EP?
Mif: Actually, our main concern at the time was a headline tour across Canada to support the release of the E.P. as we had finally turned the corner from the whole SRO Management disappointment and landed an international distribution deal with Fringe Records. The song ‘When The Whip Comes Down’ was hitting music charts and video charts all over the world, not to mention theatres worldwide, along with the song ‘Rippin’ On A Wishbone’ which were featured in the Cannon film ‘Chain Of Command’, while S.L. Feldman and Associates became our booking agents which now meant we could finally tour the entire country unabashed!
It was actually the typical “best of times, worst of times” scenario as we had finally lined all the ducks on the pond for Slash Puppet to go out and finally take it to the next level, but this was 1994 and the grunge scene out of Seattle was in full throttle by now, and would have a bigger impact on our musical fortunes, or misfortune as it turned out, than we would have liked! That Canadian tour would ultimately be our last tour as a band and while we were never able to get around to touring with some of the bands we looked up to at that particular time, we sure spent a lot of time up until then partying with most of them!
Sleaze Roxx: Everyone in a band has some great stories of life on the road, what are your most outrageous ones?
Mif: Too many to mention…he said with a smile on his face! Let’s just say that the guys in Slash Puppet were the real deal, and as such they lived the entire trip to the fullest! I say they because of all the guys I was probably the most tame so far as the whole partying thing went, I mean a touring vocalist needs to be a little more attentive to their rigorous schedule, spending more time resting and preparing for all the shows! Don’t get me wrong, I participated in many an after hour event and there ain’t much that I haven’t done or haven’t seen being the front man for Slash Puppet, but it was always necessary to temper the many temptations with the inevitable responsibilities.
We partied with some of the coolest A-list bands in the music industry from Motley Crue to Bon Jovi, Billy Idol to Faster Pussycat and our buds in Skid Row and we partied just as hard with the coolest bands on the Canadian scene, particularly in Toronto with the likes of Slik Toxik, Sven Gali, Winter Rose, Jack Damage, Succexx and the The Cosmic Saints, just to mention a few! For me, my mantra in life has always been about equilibrium and balance with an adventurous spirit guiding the way, while the other guys had their own separate ideas and head on approach that made Slash Puppet’s rock and roll journey quite outrageous at times, but a hell of a lot of laughs and fun!
One crazy night in Hamilton, Ontario (Canada) comes to mind now that I think about it after a show at the Dallis Concert Hall. We were all jamming and jammed into one of the guys’ hotel rooms with all our crew and a crowd of friends and fans, making a ruckus, when 3 or 4 cops showed up at the door shortly after somebody started throwing beer bottles and other objects out the window as projectiles down at the street below. Somebody must have complained, but the night took a bizarre twist as I clearly remember I had the situation under control somewhat, trying to explain to the police officers the situation at hand when some girl, totally messed up, scantily clad in a drunken stupor with a drink in hand, starts literally freaking out on the cops about her uncle who was a well connected lawyer and that he would have their balls even if they tried to touch a hair on anyone in the room! Until this day I have no true recollection of how that night ended as from that point on it is nothing but a distant blur to me, but I do remember emphatically that on that particular night I did not end up in holding!
Sleaze Roxx: How did the bands that you met treat an up and coming band like Slash Puppet? Were any of them dicks to you?
Mif: Hell no! Quite the opposite actually, as we found most of the big name guys totally cool, and they were always more than courteous and accommodating toward us! In fact in many cases they were quite helpful, like Sebastian Bach and the rest of the guys in Skid Row, Rachel, Snake and Scotty in particular, who early on in Slash Puppet’s career went out of their way to drop the band’s name in their own magazine and television interviews up here in Canada to try and help prop us up as well as the metal scene! They were totally righteous with us then and still are to this very day as we (Pete Dove and I in particular) have spent many a night rocking to the Skids as their guests whenever we get a chance. I still love many of their tunes and to us, especially early on, they were like mentors. Hell, I’ll never forget the night that the Skids were playing at the SkyDome in Toronto in front of more than 50,000 people, and walking in to the show to see Rachel Bolan wearing a Slash Puppet T-shirt for most of the night, they are a cool bunch of guys!
Then there was Vince Neil from Motley Crue who we first met when he happened to walk in to one of our shows at the legendary ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Heaven’ only to have to leave early midway through our set because he was getting swamped by fans who had discovered he was in attendance, but making sure that his sound guy (Lawrence Quigley I believe was his name) stayed behind to tell us that “…Vince wanted you to know that he thought you guys were great, and wanted me to give you these five V.I.P. passes to Motley’s show tomorrow night at the SkyDome…”, you can only imagine how stoked we were! Shortly thereafter we’re being invited by The Crue and their manager Doug Thaler (who actually had some serious interest in the band at the time) to watch them and Faster Pussycat in Detroit!
Speaking of Faster Pussycat, there’s the story of Taime Downe, myself and Pete Dove heading out to the Domino Club in Toronto for a little after hours partying one night, getting into a cab and realizing from a strange, poignant smell that Taime’s hair was smoldering from a burning cigarette butt that Pete had flicked out the cab window and that had accidentally blown right back in! Taime handled it brilliantly while Pete, and I in particular, were mortified! We went on to spend the rest of the night drinking a shitload of rum and partying as if nothing had happened! No, most of the bands we met on our journey were totally cooooooool!!!
Sleaze Roxx: What was life like for you when Slash Puppet folded?
Mif: It made me feel like shit that I had to move on from something that I truly loved and worked so hard on, to bring it to where it was after seven years of toiling, as all bands do, and feeling at the time like I had no choice but to drop out. My perfect little world as I knew it was gone! I had put a lot of time and energy into Slash Puppet as did the rest of the guys, all of them, and I have never been able to fully resolve a lingering angst of betrayal for deciding to move on after the whole Seattle thing took hold!
On my behalf, I totally saw were the scene was headed and I always knew that music sounds and trends were perpetually cyclical. I always knew that I could come back to the music at some point and I always wanted to be a singer, but I also wanted to be an actor, a thespian, and it just seemed like the right time to start delving into what I hoped would be the next phase of my entertainment life! I maintained a more peripheral approach with my music through this uncertain period in my life.
I did some writing with Gene Barnett the former drummer of ‘Dirty Looks’ in Rochester, New York for a project named ‘Mad As Hell’ with an excellent guitar player whose name always escapes me. I did some touring in THD (Total Harmonic Distortion), with whom I also released a self-title independent CD in 1996, and their were other bands I played in during this tumultuous point in time in my career, including a self-titled solo project for a little while. Nothing ever panned out or felt any where near as happening as Slash Puppet did especially when it came to the passion! I started acting in 1994 and the whole thing truly kicked in from ’98 on until now. My most recent film work is in a movie to be released sometime in 2008 called ‘Just Business’ with Gina Gershon and Jonathan Watton.
Sleaze Roxx: Looking back what are your thoughts on the THD album?
Mif: What I remember most of all was the frustration involved in wanting to continue with my musical career at a time when all that I had known, so far as the whole hard rock/heavy metal music genre was concerned, had dropped totally off the face of the earth, that everything I knew and loved as a musician and as an artist was now deemed “DATED!” I seriously grew to hate that fucking word!
It was now 1995 and the whole Seattle thing was still in full swing, rap and the whole D.J. culture was taking its place above ground and taking over the club scene, and that for some reason there was nothing but cheesy boy bands and serious bubble gum shit on the musical horizons. Well, suffice it to say, I knew nothing about any of these genres or styles of music, nor did a care too as I still loved the heavy and hard hitting style of music I was strewn on and had developed for myself in Slash Puppet. Unfortunately, I also knew that if I wanted to survive and be taken seriously by the industry, especially up here in Canada, I had to try and develop a new sound for myself. It became a balancing act of trying to stay away from selling out completely to meet the flavors of the day, and finding some musical niche that was true to myself as an artist that would be musically acceptable and viable in this now totally foreign music environment!
I started by having a meeting up at BMG Records in Toronto with well known producer and A&R Rep. David Bendith who had had some previous interest in Slash Puppet early on, and who was kind enough at this confusing time to give me some pointers on what direction I could go into with my music without being taken for a sell-out. The end result of this meeting was me hooking up with Toronto metal warriors Michel Scotta on guitars (THD, Hardway, Eiffel Power), Lionel Tissot on bass (THD, Hardway, Eiffel Power) and drummer Brent ‘Ned’ Niemi (Helix, THD, Straitjacket) who were 3 of the finest musicians on the Toronto scene at the time (1996), and stalwart rockers in their own right with the ability to play more progressively. We went in to Orbitor Studio in Toronto and recorded a slick but sonically challenged CD (we were doing a record on speculation for a studio that had just started up, and with a nut bar of a wannabe producer who shall remain nameless for all conceivable reasons) of a more darker, progressive metal nature which did garner some attention, particularly that of manager Michael White who had a big hand in bringing fellow Canadian rockers ‘The Tea Party’ to prominence nationally and internationally a few years prior. Michael (White) tried everything under the sun over a period of 3 years to get us somewhere with this record, but the times were still a changin’, unfortunately not fast enough for myself and the guys in THD (Total Harmonic Distortion). To bad really because the THD CD is actually quite good and those Slash Puppet fans that did get their hands on it, and there were a few, appreciated it for what it was. For me it was a huge growing and learning experience both musically and professionally speaking as it pertains to an ever-changing, often volatile, music industry!
Sleaze Roxx: Tell us about your upcoming movie Just Business, and is Gina Gershon as sexy in person as she is on the big screen?
Mif: It is a rather dark suspense thriller with a plot that is quite Dorian Gray-esque in that central to the story line is a mysterious painting or portrait that offers the promise of eternal youth and eternal life to whomever possesses it! I play ‘Tony Bloom’, a butler extraordinaire to the lead character ‘David Gray’, a rich socialite played by a fine young Canadian actor named Jonathan Watton. Mr. Gray has the aforementioned portrait stolen from his mansion while hosting a huge social soiree and during the ensuing police investigation it is believed that the job fits the billing of a former career thief named ‘Eli Perla’ played by another terrific and familiar Canadian actor, Earl Pastko.
Anyway, the story twists and turns its way mysteriously right into the lap of Eli Perla’s lawyer daughter ‘Marty Jameson’, played by the very talented and beautiful Gina Gershon, who, yes, is just as sexy in person as she is on the big screen!
Anyway, I really can’t go any further than that as I do not want to divulge any of the surprises in store, although I am genuinely excited about the prospects of the film and my portrayal of Tony Bloom as this marks my largest role to date in a movie, and my character is a pivotal character full of mystery, deviance and surprising authority, especially for just a butler!
Sleaze Roxx: What do you get more of a thrill from, playing music or acting in films?
Mif: My first passion was always music and singing, and there was a time when all I ever wanted was to be the singer, song writer and frontman of a popular rock band. There was nothing else that I desired more. Although as I mentioned previously, I always had it in the back of my mind that I would like to delve into the whole acting thing some day, that day would only come after a long and illustrious career as a musician! There is no doubt that I always got a huge thrill from writing, recording and making records, and from touring and performing live as there is no bigger thrill than to step out on stage in front of a crowd of people and slaying them with your own songs and getting that instantaneous dose of gratification and approval from the fans. Hell, I always believed that there was nothing else for me, that I would be living the rest of my life in recording studios and tour buses, but sometimes life does not go according to script and often times circumstances inevitably dictate your path in life.
For me, as mentioned previously, it became very clear in 1994 that my hard rock, heavy metal world was being rocked at the foundation with the onset of the Seattle scene, and by then I had just about enough of all the political industry bullshit that had followed Slash Puppet throughout our tenure as a band. It became crystal clear to me that I needed to do something else with myself, with my life! The acting thing became the only logical conclusion and while it hasn’t been easy working up the ropes, I knew right from the get go that I had discovered a new found passion, something that I was really good at and that I could seriously sink my teeth into.
All I can say is that when I am on set filming I feel that I was born for a reason after-all, I feel complete, that I have found my true calling and niche! There is no bigger thrill for me now than to learn that I impressed a producer or a director enough with my acting ability to get the part or the role, beating out hundreds of capable candidates in doing so, and that they would actually want to pay me (and I have never had a problem getting paid for my work, more than I can say for the entire time that I spent in the music industry) to play on set!
Oh, actually there is one bigger thrill, I get a serious thrill watching myself on the silver screen working with and surrounded by some of the biggest names in Hollywood!!! Ideally, I suppose, I would be able to do both simultaneously and successfully (actor by day, singer by night), which is something I’m working on as we speak! Now that would be a total and complete thrill!
Sleaze Roxx: What does the name Mif actually stand for?
Mif: I was born on the island of Malta and Christened Anthony Jude Mifsud and “Mif” is simply the first 3 initials of my last name, a nickname that I picked up while in Slash Puppet and chose to keep, for all intents and purposes, as my own personal entertainment moniker!
Thanks to Mif