INTERVIEW WITH MARK SLAUGHTER
Date: July 7, 2017
Interviewer: Tyson Briden
I RECENTLY CAUGHT UP WITH SINGER MARK SLAUGHTER AND BELIEVE ME WHEN I SAY THIS, MARK DID NOT SHY AWAY FROM ANYTHING. IT WASN’T THAT I ASKED QUESTIONS THAT WERE JUST TOO FAR OUT THERE OR ANYTHING THAT MAYBE MADE HIM UNCOMFORTABLE, HE WAS JUST HONEST. THE THING THAT IMPRESSES ME MOST ABOUT SLAUGHTER IS THAT NO MATTER WHAT THE SITUATION MAY HAVE BEEN FOR HIM, HE NEVER SAYS ANYTHING DEROGATORY TOWARDS ANYONE. CASE IN POINT, VINNIE VINCENT.
THERE IS AN INTERVIEW THAT SLAUGHTER DID A FEW YEARS BACK ON THE ‘THREE SIDES OF THE COIN’ PODCAST. I ENJOYED THIS INTERVIEW SO MUCH THAT I HAVE LISTENED TO IT ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS. FOR THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW, SLAUGHTER IS VERY SKILLED AT VOICE IMITATION. IN THIS PARTICULAR INTERVIEW, HE DOES A GREAT INTERPRETATION OF GENE SIMMONS THAT JUST MAKES ME FALL OFF MY CHAIR. I WILL ALSO SAY SLAUGHTER’S IMITATION OF VINNIE VINCENT IS PRETTY SPOT ON AS WELL. ALL AND ALL, SLAUGHTER IS JUST A VERY COOL GUY WHO SEEMS TO NOT TAKE ANY SUCCESS HE HAS HAD FOR GRANTED.
Sleaze Roxx: Mark, great to talk to you. For me, being a fan for so many years it is a great honor.
Mark Slaughter: Thanks so much.
Sleaze Roxx: Starting off, let’s talk about the new album. Then maybe we can dig into some Vinnie Vincent Invasion and Slaughter stuff. I will say this new album is truly fantastic. With this being your second release in two years, was the material on the last two albums stuff that you had been sitting on for quite some time, or was each album written specifically at the time of recording?
Mark Slaughter: Thanks so much for the kind words. Each of these solo releases was really its own thing. I’ve said before, ‘Reflections [In A Rear View Mirror]’ was more me just getting back on the horse, as far as writing and recording songs go. When you’re an artist, you make art. It’s just something you have to do. And I had been away from that side of it for so long, that first solo release was me just feeling it out. While it was a great record, [with] ‘Halfway There’, I really hit a different songwriting stride and I think that shows. But all the songs on ‘Halfway There’ were new compositions, except for “Forevermore” which I had co-written with a writer in around 2004. It was a great song, it had never come out, or been recorded, so I thought “Why Not?” But beyond that, it’s all new songs, and it was all written to be a record, and I think that made for a really cohesive album. A lot of it is a little more modern, but still with that classic Slaughter vibe that I think people expect. It was written to be an album on vinyl… Just played all the way through. Sitting there as a kid with headphones on, just listening through a great rock album. That was what I had in mind when I wrote it.
Sleaze Roxx: I must ask about the cover of ‘Halfway There.’ I think by looking at it, it’s pretty self-explanatory, but are there any hidden metaphors in there, that you could elaborate on?
Mark Slaughter: Myself and Thom [Hazaert] from EMP had a lot of conversations about the artwork, and concepts, we had decided on the title ‘Halfway There’ and we discussed this whole ‘Heaven And Hell’ vibe, that really spoke to the concept around the record. We had an artist who did an original concept that was similar, but wasn’t really stylistically what we were looking for, so we turned it over to [Mister] Sam Shearon, and he came up with what would become the incredible final cover art. I think you can take a lot out of it, but really it’s just got such a great classic “metal/rock cover” vibe that I think really resonated with people, especially when you take it in context with the song and the concept. People are starting to show up with tattoos of the cover art now. That really says something I think.
Sleaze Roxx: This album is being released on CD and vinyl. How many vinyl copies did the label have pressed? Is this something that once it’s gone, it will not be available again?
Mark Slaughter: It’s actually available on CD, and two different vinyl versions — a gate fold colored vinyl, and a picture disc — which with the artwork really turned out killer. I’m not sure the actual number the label pressed, but certain versions, like the picture discs more than likely will not be reproduced again. Also the vinyl is silver, but there was an extremely limited number, I think 100 copies done on white, that also won’t be reprinted. So yes, and no, there’s definitely a few versions that are extremely limited edition, and if you can get your hands on one, they probably won’t be around long. But that aside, ‘Halfway There’ is here to stay.
Sleaze Roxx: What kind of gear did you use on the recording of ‘Halfway There’? Guitars, amps, recording gear etc? Analog? Digital?
Mark Slaughter: All of the above. There are 28 guitars used in the recording process of this record. Lots of amps including Shaw Audio and Kempers, which I use live. I’m a gear slut and if a piece of gear sparks a new song or a tonality that is inspirational, I’m all ears.
Sleaze Roxx: The first cut “Hey You” has a very anthem like vibe, with very positive lyrics. Can you give me an idea of your approach lyric wise on this song?
Mark Slaughter: “Hey You” was actually the first song I wrote for this record and the first single. It was just that, a big, hooky anthemic song that could have easily been at home on one of the classic Slaughter records. Lyric wise, it’s pretty straight-forward. Just a big fun, anthemic arena rocker.
Sleaze Roxx: “Devoted” is very heavy, but at the same time melodic. What was the idea behind this song?
Mark Slaughter: “Devoted” was actually the second song I wrote for the record, and was the one where I sent it to Thom and he just said “Holy shit Mark! This is it!” And then I ended up writing “Reckless” and “Conspiracy”, and I think those few heavier tracks really gave the album the right balance it needed. I don’t know that I set out to be darker or heavier. It was just a natural process of writing these songs, and that’s what came out. I let the vibe of the songs dictate the record, instead of the vibe of the record dictating the songs.
Sleaze Roxx: “Supernatural” has such a great feel to it. This was the track that you used Tim Kelly’s Grape Jelly Robin Guitar on? When you recorded the solo, did you say “I want a Tim Kelly vibe”? Did you sit down and say “How would Tim approach this”? It must have been somewhat of an emotional thing.
Mark Slaughter: Yeah, I used Tim’s Grape Jelly Robin for the solo and some other parts on this song, and, yes, I absolutely channeled Tim on it. There were definitely parts where I was like “What would Tim do here?” It’s an emotional song, and absolutely that added to it. There’s a really cool video about that song on EMP [Label Group]’s YouTube, talking about “Supernatural”, and the story behind it, how that guitar came home, etc. Definitely worth a watch.
Sleaze Roxx: I absolutely love “Forevermore”. It has a very ’80s sound to it. The build ups and the changes are so strong. Did you purposely want something that had that ’80s vibe to it? Or did it just happen organically?
Mark Slaughter: Again, that was the one song that was sort of an older song that I had written with a co-writer, so it really captures the vibe of that time I think. But when you take and record it with modern recording technology and tones, etc, I think it makes it something that much more unique and special.
Sleaze Roxx: You played all the guitar on this album. As I was listening, I notice some little nuances of your playing that could have been on Slaughter albums. How much guitar did you actually play on those Slaughter albums?
Mark Slaughter: All the acoustic and clean guitars on the Slaughter records, I played, even the slide guitar on “Fly To The Angels.” And as far as some of the writing, I wrote a lot of the riffs, and even parts of the solos, I wrote, and Tim executed. Not to take anything away from Tim and his amazing talent, but yeah my guitar playing definitely had an impact on the Slaughter stuff.
Sleaze Roxx: In terms of the Slaughter album ‘Fear No Evil’, as I eluded to in my review of ‘Halfway There’, when CMC finally released the album, three songs were left off — “Saturday’sAlright For Fighting”, “She Knows How To Rumble” and “Rain On.” Why were those left off?
Mark Slaughter: “Saturday Night” was a demo of the Elton John song. That was Tim’s idea cuz he loved the song. So we did it in the studio and it was just one take, one pass through, pretty much just the band live in the studio. So it was never really meant it to be on the final record. It was just an idea, and we had enough songs so it just didn’t make the cut. As for “She Knows How To Rumble”, I don’t think was a really strong song, and “Rain On”, as Dana put it “a little dark.” Funny thing is it could have fit right in on ‘Halfway There.’
Sleaze Roxx: Before the label change, was there an actual version with cover art and all tracks ready for release from EMI/Chrysalis? Or did it just never make it that far. As a collector, I am always interested to know these certain details.
Mark Slaughter: There was an EMI Chrysalis CD that they had printed, but it never went out. And it was just on CD. They put it out there, putting their feelers out, and about that time, we made the split. So there were a few of those floating around. It’s just in a clear case, with no artwork, but yes, there technically was a Chrysalis/EMI version of ‘Fear No Evil.’
Sleaze Roxx: Why did the Japanese version of ‘Fear No Evil’ have a different cover than that North American release?
Mark Slaughter: It was JVC Victor, and for whatever reason they wanted their own artwork. And they came up with it. It was all their art. We really had nothing to do with it.
Sleaze Roxx: I have a few Vinnie Vincent Invasion questions… Possibly things you’ve touched on before, but maybe there is a different light you can shed on this stuff. I know people are always interested in the mystique of the whole Vinnie thing. With no one really knowing where he is these days, it adds even more to his story. When you initially joined the band, the look was very over the top glam. How did you feel about that? Was it something you were comfortable doing?
Mark Slaughter: Not really my thing. I didn’t mind a slight bit of glam, but in VVI, it was pretty over the top. In hindsight, it was probably OK due to the fact that it was perceived as a little more out of hand and dangerous, which sells records.
Sleaze Roxx: The video for “Boyz Are Gonna Rock” had you behind the microphone, but was indeed Robert Fleishman on the vocal. What was your feeling towards this? It must have felt very strange.
Mark Slaughter: It felt very strange to put my guitar down #1, and it was also very strange to find myself with blond hair in high heels, doing a video with Jeff Stein, who did the WHO’s “The Kids Are Alright” stuff… So it was all pretty strange, but I’m glad I did it, and thankful to have been able to be around such legendary talent.
Sleaze Roxx: I can’t imagine what you were thinking. From the get go, were you second guessing yourself in terms of joining the band? Singing in the video over someone else, not playing guitar, etc. To me asking the questions, things seem a little unorthodox even.
Mark Slaughter: Baptism by fire.
Sleaze Roxx: When I first heard ‘Stick It To Ya’, I thought your vocal sounded more natural than the way you sang in the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. Was this because Vinnie wrote the songs and coached you on how the vocals were to sound?
Mark Slaughter: Not necessarily. I think it was just the way we wrote the songs. Slaughter was me writing the songs, which was probably more believable than me singing someone else’s songs.
Sleaze Roxx: Before the spilt up of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion, were you and Dana already writing songs together? Or was the ‘Stick It To Ya’ material written after the split? The reason I ask this is not to discredit Vinnie, but maybe you and Dana were already seeing the writing on the wall. Maybe you were looking towards future possibilities if VVI didn’t work out.
Mark Slaughter: Right after VVI, we — myself and Dana — went right into producing demos for White Heat, who became Firehouse, and then we started writing the material that would become ‘Stick It Yo Ya.’ Within two and a half weeks, we had the entire record written. As for “writing on the wall”, I think that the record label knew, and that’s where they were, not necessarily just us.
Sleaze Roxx: What are your plans for promotion for ‘Halfway There’? Are you going to be out touring?
Mark Slaughter: We are doing one-off shows, we just did our first one in New Jersey at Dingbatz last week. There’s a few more on the books, and definitely some more coming.
Sleaze Roxx: And who would be in your band?
Mark Slaughter: The show in Jersey, Bobby Rock was on drums. He will be doing the shows whenever we can work it around his schedule with Lita Ford. The rest of the band is Mike Himmel on guitar, and Jaymi “Pinkbassman” Millard on bass. Jaymi actually did some bass on the record as well, so it’s a great line-up.
Sleaze Roxx: My last question before I close out… I know this is a question that people are always asking, in terms of Slaughter. I realize your focus is ‘Halfway There’ but looking to the future, is there any chance of a new Slaughter album?
Mark Slaughter: Slaughter is its own animal, and we are out there doing shows and keeping the fire alive playing the songs people want to hear. If the time is right, and the circumstances are right, who knows. There’s other guys in the band, and a lot of moving parts and different ideas, and I can only speak for myself. But I will keep making music as long as there are fans who want to hear it.
Sleaze Roxx: Mark, thank you very much for your time. It has been a pleasure.
Mark Slaughter‘s “Hey You” song:
Legendary Hard Rock vocalist Mark Slaughter of SLAUGHTER, releases “HEY YOU”, the first single from his upcoming LP HALFWAY THERE, in stores May 26th on EMP LABEL GROUP, exclusively via GUITAR WORLD!! Pre-order the album now on CD, LP, Picture Disc, and in bundle configurations at empmerch.com!
Mark Slaughter‘s “Devoted” song:
ULTIMATE CLASSIC ROCK brings you the exclusive premiere of “Devoted” by Mark Slaughter. From the upcoming album HALFWAY THERE, in stores May 26th from EMP LABEL GROUP. Pre-order now at empmerch.com Markslaughter.com facebook.com/markslaughterofficial Emplabelgroup.com empmerch.com facebook.com/emplabelgroup