Twenty seven years ago I interviewed Mark Slaughter for the first time. Mark (who at the time was the vocalist for the Vinnie Vincent Invasion) was the second professional musician I had ever interviewed (Eric Carr from KISS being the first), and the ironic thing was that the interview happened almost by accident - or perhaps incident would be a better word - as I was actually scheduled to interview Vinnie Vincent that day in 1988. But as fate would have it, the very week my interview was scheduled, just happened to be week that the Vinnie Vincent Invasion played their final gig, and soon after, disbanded. Mark being the pro (and cool guy) he is, did not want to leave me disappointed, and stepped in and did the interview in place of a very disgruntled Vinnie.
From that point on, I watched Mark Slaughter's career sky-rocket, as out of the ashes of the VVI, he and Dana Strum formed Slaughter, one of the most musically talented bands to come out of the early 90's "hair band" scene. While Slaughter's popularity has had it's peaks and valleys like most bands from their genre, Slaughter still remains intact today, and is one of the few bands that still exists today that has remained true to itself, as they never tried to hop on any musical band wagons. The world remains a better place without a Slaughter "grunge" record!
On May 22, 2015 Mark Slaughter released his first ever solo record, 'Reflections In A Rear View Mirror.' In our recent interview with Mark, he revealed that doing a solo record was merely done out of convenience, as he had the time and the opportunity to work with producer extraordinaire, Michael Wagner, and recorded all of the vocals and instruments (minus drums) himself. Mark has no intentions on disbanding Slaughter, and in fact, the recording and release of 'Reflections' appears to have Mark more inspired than he's been in years, and this spark in his creativity may even lead to a new Slaughter release. Read on for the rest of our conversation with Mark, as he talks about the recording of his solo record, his upcoming plans with Slaughter, his disdain for "brickwalling" and compressed music in general (ie: MP3s), and of course, the infamous Vincent Cusano.
RockMusicStar: It's going on three decades since the first time I interviewed you, and the odd thing about that interview was that I was scheduled to interview Vinnie Vincent that day, and all of my questions pertained to what I would be asking Vinnie. However, you filled in for Vinnie at the 11th hour (as Vinnie had canceled all of his remaining interviews) and that wound up being the very week the Vinnie Vincent Invasion broke up.
Mark Slaughter: Wow, that was cutting edge, huh? (Laughs)
RMS: So I guess my first question would be the most obvious one that most people would ask is, with the release of your first ever solo album, 'Reflections In A Rear View Mirror,' what is the defining difference between a Mark Slaughter solo record and a Slaughter (band) record?
MS: I think the main difference to me is that I did everything, except for the drums. On the writing side of the things, I wrote with a couple of writers, but some of it I wrote by myself. I engineered everything. I played the guitar, played the bass, played the keys, sang the parts, and arranged the parts. So I was kind of a one man army, here with the drummer, and brought it to legendary producer/engineer Michael Wagner, to pull this thing altogether.
At the same time, I want to emphasize that Slaughter is still an active entity and I still play shows with Slaughter, but this is just an artistic expression for me. Just being an artist and getting music out there, because I love making music.
RMS: A lot of people don't realize how hard it is for an musical artist to release a CD or a song on iTunes and to be able to do it where it's not a financial failure. Not that everything has to be about money, but you don't wanna lose money either.
MS: You're dead on, as it's not about money with this. For me, it's more about artistic expression, and getting music out there that I really enjoy writing and playing on. It's a love of mine to make music. Coming up with the title, 'Reflections In a Rear View Mirror,' really is taking things back to where I came from, which inevitable is where my influences came from. So I really just kind of went into all that and pulled it altogether.
RMS: With putting out your solo record, where does the band Slaughter fit in with this? Is the group on hiatus?
MS: We're still a live entity, there's gonna be about 50 shows we're gonna play this year. That's probably the magic number where we're at, and that's all weekend "fly" dates (where the band travels specifically from their home base(s) to the city they're performing in and then immediately flies back after the gig), so if you add up all of the weekends in the year, that's quite a few shows that we're doing. It's a much different format than being on a tour bus, continually. When it wasn't cool (to be a radio friendly rock group), and a lot of bands went away, and stopped playing and didn't like each other, and then all of a sudden, they're back together and playing again - we were still playing. We still have a love for this, which is unquenchable.
RMS: One of the things that seemed to have killed rock music and music as a whole - to an extent - is the fact that the recording industry has moved away from pushing 'albums,' which allowed already established artists to satisfy their fan base with a new record every year or so, and gave new artists the opportunity to build a fan base. And now, the focus is all about the 'single,' which brings us back to whole "one hit wonder" mentality. So now music and bands are becoming a disposable commodity, like so many other products released on the market today.
MS: It's because the companies came in and it became more about making money, and the artist went right along with the record companies, going, "You mean we can make money doing this?" Back in the 70's, it was just like everybody just getting together to jam, rock out and tour the world. As a young kid, I dreamed of doing what I do today. I feel very blessed that I can still go out and do shows with Slaughter, but as far as making new music Slaughter, this is one of the obstacles we're up against. I'm not saying that there will never be another Slaughter record coming, but in this day and age, getting four people together, who all live in different states together to record is not easy. Plus, I have the situation of my guys moonlighting with Vince Neil when he's not playing with Motley Crue.
RMS: That leads to my next question. There seemed to be a time recently when the live version of Slaughter only consisted of you and Jeff Blando, with other guys filling in. Was that weird for you to tour with essentially a 'make-shift' version of Slaughter?
MS: Yeah, that was when Dana was working for Vince, out on the one Motley Crue tour, kind of doing micro management over there. It was strange and it was one of those things that had me going, "This isn't right. This isn't what our band is and should consist of." So therefore, we said, look, this is how we're gonna do it, we'll limit it down to this and make sure everyone is on board. Look, Dana have been together since 1986 playing music. Most people don't even know each other that long, let alone to be in business, and on a stage, or on a tour bus/airplane rubbing elbows. Obviously, we all get along and there's no headaches here.
RMS: Going back to your solo album, from the production side of things, with the latest trend in artists making music, seems to be the focus is on getting maximum volume out of a iPod docking station, as opposed to having it sound good on a nice stereo system. The end result winds being music getting brickwalled, where you're getting clipping in certain frequencies and distortion. Where was your head at with all of this when it came down to mastering and what the finished product sounded like?
MS: You are so dead on, and speaking to the choir right now. A lot of music today IS brickwalled and they try getting it louder and louder. The bottom line is a sound wave is round. So when you cut off part of a sound wave, it becomes a square wave. And a square wave is technically distortion. And what people don't realize is that things like that and MP3s, which are squashed down formats, are actually fatiguing to the ear. And what a lot of labels, and a lot of bands are trying to do is to make it louder, bigger and stronger and everything else, instead of having the proper dynamics. If something is played low, let it have dynamics, where it's not actually in your face at all times.
RMS: Being a big fan your voice and following you career, I noticed that around 2009 you started having some real difficulty singing, especially with your higher range. It seems as though only in the last year or two that your voice has fully come back. Was it something medical that was troubling your voice?
MS: I went in with the doctors and they said that I had acid reflux. I did the (throat) scope and they put me out and did all kinds of tests, and the end result was that I kept telling the doctors that I'm dry. My voice is dry. It just feels dry all the time. And it's funny because the doctor said, "Well, you say you're dry and that's probably what it is." So I had to do a test to see how my saliva is, and my saliva was low. I don't produce a lot of saliva and that was the issue because there's no saliva, my (vocal) chords were dry. Now I'm not having those issues whatsoever because I know how to deal with it.
RMS: Being an established musician/entertainer for many years and seeing how your life has changed since releasing the first Slaughter record, what inspires your songwriting today or where do you draw your inspiration from?
MS: I think that people still love, people still hurt, they still rejoice, they still party. You still do all the things that you loved, and that's still in my music - it's just matured. I'm not saying that where I came from with Slaughter is immature, it's just a different chapter in the book.
RMS: I guess it would be remiss on behalf if I did not mention Vinnie Vincent. What I would like to know, is from your perspective, and seeing him on top of his game with the VVI and then seeing things unfold and where he is today, is this something you expected to see happen? Perhaps karma coming into play for some of the things he did and how he treated some people?
MS: Well, there are some people out there who, on the karmic side of it, don't treat people good, but are still doing well. I don't think it's a karmic thing, I think it's a choice thing. I don't think he liked touring and he hasn't released a full length album since I left. If you're an artist, you make art. And it's not like going back to the art that you did 30 years ago because that doesn't matter anymore. It's time for him to do art that's new. The sad part that I see is that he's an incredible writer, he's an incredible talent, it's just he chooses not to (do anything). Those are his choices, nobody else's.
Ironically, someone recently posted a picture of me playing Vinnie's guitar when he got overheated at a show (and couldn't perform the encore), which was kind of the beginning of Slaughter in my book, because as long as you're playing a hit song (they always played KISS' "Lick It Up" for their encore), everybody loves it. It was literally a week or two after that the group disbanded. We weren't looking to run away or anything, he said, "I'm gonna fire Dana, where does your loyalty lie?" I said, "I would rather be in the gutter with Dana, than here with you." I was ready to go there. I was ready to fall in the gutter. I didn't care. I knew that people would react to us, we just needed the material. And that's what we did, we wrote the material and knew what we were.
For more on Mark Slaughter, visit www.markslaughter.com