By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
During his 16 years as a professional musician, 41 year old, hard rock – multi-instrumentalist, Acey Slade has worked with some of the most groundbreaking acts in rock music. Whether it’s playing bass, guitar or songwriting, Acey has an impressive resume, including slints with the following: Dope, Murderdolls, Amen, Billy Liar, Wednesday 13,Trashlight Vision, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Rachel and the Blackstraps. But,in addition to a being a reliable hired hand, Acey also has an impressive catalog of solo material. On Feb 26th, Acey will be releasing his highly anticipated, punk and glam influenced solo record, ‘Valentines for Sick Minds.’ This was a labor of love for Acey, in that he played almost every note on the release.
What follows is an exclusive RMS interview with one of the coolest rockstar on the planet – Acey Slade. During this interview, we discuss his new solo release and chat about his time in Dope, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and The Murderdolls and much more!
Rock Music Star: Acey, you have a new solo record entitled, ‘Valentines for Sick Minds,’ coming out on Feb 26th. How gratifying is it to finally have this release finished?
Acey Slade: It’s extremely gratifying; it was an extremely big workload, doing everything on the record.
RMS: How long was the entire process?
AS: Not that long, actually; about 5 months. Originally, it was just supposed to be an EP. Fortunately for me, I have a very vocal fan base that didn’t want an EP, they wanted a full album.
RMS: How close was the finished album to what you envisioned it to be during the early stages?
AS: It came out way better. I had lower expectations, with me having to play everything. (Laughs) So, actually, it came out pretty good. It was a large turd to polish, but the producers did a great job.
RMS: What are the promotion plans for the album?
AS: Well, it’s kind of a step-by-step thing. It sort of depends on what the general public wants. Whatever they want, I’m going to do. But, I’m not going to throw myself to the wolves, sort of speak.
RMS: Is it going to be distributed by a label, or is it all just downloads?
AS: As of right now, it’s an independent release and can be downloaded.
RMS: I want to discuss the recent tour of Russia that you were part of, as the bass player in the band, Dope. It’s fascinating, that an American band, especially one such as Dope, was allowed in Russia.
AS: Well, there was a demand there for us to perform. It was kind of weird, I didn’t know what to expect. When I went through immigration, I was kind of sweating it a little bit. But, I just walked up, and they looked at my passport and waved me through. It was so easy; it’s much harder getting in Canada.
RMS: At any point of that three date tour, were you in fear of your life?
AS: Yeah, but not by the Russian people. By my fan base over there (Laughs). What was kind of scary was going in the Ukraine, because Russia and the Ukraine were at war at the moment; and I didn’t realize the extent of that. The first day that we got into Kiev, there were soldiers everywhere, just like it was in New York City after 9/11. So, that was a little alarming.
RMS: I was watching the video on YouTube, of the Moscow show, and I was thinking that, “These people are just like us, they just want to have a good time and rock out.” It really sucks that our leaders and their leaders can’t get along .
AS: That is 100% true. Our countries are so extremely similar. We are also in similar places; they have a president, Vladimir Putin, who is very controversial. There is a lot of controversy over there with him. It’s very similar to some of the people in line over here to potentially become president for us. It reminded me so much of how we feel like Americans right now. We don’t like how things are, and we have to fix it. And people are very confused on how to fix it.
RMS: So, not everyone in Russia is 100% on board with Vladimir Putin?
AS: No, absolutely not! But, some are, and that’s what was interesting being over there. I was in a car with a few people that we were working with over there, and the one guys was telling me, “Yeah, Putin isn’t really that bad.” But, then a Russian girl in the car asked the guy, “Are you insane?” And they stated going at it. She said, “Don’t listen to him, he’s nuts. Putin is the worst thing ever.” But, in America, we would be having the same discussing about our leaders.
RMS: Yep, so true. While you were over there with Dope this last November, you played three shows. The Moscow one is up in its entirely on YouTube. That was a pretty intense performance. Was this three-show tour of Russia one of the highlights of your career, so far?
AS: Yeah, actually. I feel very lucky that I was able to do that. I keep getting to cross things off of my bucket list. After doing this for 15 years, I’ve never been to Russia, and I never thought that I would ever get to play there. So, it was very cool.
RMS: Originally, when you were in the band Dope, you were the guitarist, but this time, you played bass. Would you of rather been the guitarist on that tour?
AS: Well… not at this point. Virus is such a great guitar player; he also plays some really challenging licks. I play guitar, but I come from the Ace Frehley school. He comes from a more virtuoso type of school. I would really have to dumb down his solos (laughs).
RMS: I think that the line-up of Dope, consisting of Edsel, Virus, Racci, and you, is the best lineup that the band has ever had. That lineup should be kept together.
AS: Yeah, my role in the band is kind of like Izzy Stradlin of Guns N’ Roses. You know, what do you want? Does it work out? If yes, cool, if not, Okay. I don’t mean to sound like I don’t care. I’m always very excited about working with them. But, sometimes, it doesn’t make sense for Edsel Dope (vocalist and leader of Dope) either. Sometimes, when the stars line up, it works out.
RMS: Are they any plans right now to do anything else with Dope?
AS: Well, there is going to be a live album coming out. And then, a studio album. But again, I‘m just considered as a hired guy. But, when the phone rings, and I see that it’s Edsel calling, I’m always very happy. But, I have enough other things going on, you know?
RMS: You were also the bass player for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts for a few years; that must have bee a pretty cool experience, to play with Joan.
AS: Yeah. I mean, again, talking about one of those things where I felt that things were grinding to a halt. Then, all of a sudden, that came to me out of the blue.
RMS: Yeah. Again, you were asked to be the bass player in the band, and you didn’t mind doing that?
AS: No, not at all.
RMS: Do you prefer playing bass over guitar, or would you rather play guitar?
AS: I like both. Like, right now, I’m playing bass for an artist named Rachel Loren, and I really, really like that. It depends. It’s kind of two different things. Playing bass is very much a foundation thing, and you definitely gotta keep your eye on all the moving parts. But, when you’re the guitar player, you’re not on the foundation as much. So, that’s fun; you can have a bit more fun with that sometimes, I think. But, I like both. I mean, my whole thing has always been like, I just like being in cool bands with cool people, and if I gotta play a wood block to be there, that’s what I’ll do.
RMS: (Laughs) Well, I’m looking at your résumé, and you have played with some pretty cool artists. Going from Joan Jett to Dope, from Dope to the Murderdolls… you’ve kept it going, and you’ve always been in exciting projects. I have to give you credit for that. Not many musicians can pull that off.
AS: Thank you. Yeah, I’m very fortunate.
RMS: Why do you think there’s such a demand for you? Do you think it’s because you’re easy to work with, or accommodating? Of course, it must be both of those, to a degree.
AS: I think it’s because I am very professional, and I’m very grateful. I think I’m very cordial, and I never disrespect my position in the band.
RMS: What was it like, recording with Joan Jett, for her 2013 studio release, “Unvarnished?”
AS: I was actually pleasantly surprised, how much she wanted to work on it as a band. She would send me little garage band demos of a riff. She’s really organic; she still keeps it very organic.
RMS: I thought it was a good comeback record for her.
AS: Yeah, and I’ll say this, too – I feel like it’s one of the ones that most reflects her, as a person, too.
RMS: And why do you say that?
AS: She wrote “Any Weather” with Dave Grohl, and she also wrote “Soulmates To Strangers,” with Laura Jane Grace. She kind of gets a reputation for the songs that she’s covered, and she was vehement about not doing that, and only wanting to work on these songs as her own. But, Dave Grohl is Dave Grohl (laughs), and Laura Jane is a very good friend, and that song was banging, too. There were other demos kicking around by Ghost Riders. She was like, “I don’t want to go down that road, I don’t want to go down that road.” And, I agree. I think she’s a very underrated songwriter, and singer.
RMS: Absolutely. That’s cool, because you’re right, she does have that reputation. A lot of her hits were cover songs. But, it ended up getting her into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame, so it wasn’t a horrible thing.
AS: Well, the truth is, and one thing that she always says in interviews is, people say, “Oh, do you feel good, with the ground that you broke for women as guitar players?” And, she would always reply, “No.” The reason why is because, nothing has really changed. I mean, you’ve got Nita Strauss… and who else? (Laughs) Who are other women guitar players out there? She used to say, “If you want to do something dangerous as a female vocalist, strap a guitar on.”
RMS: I’m surprised that there aren’t more. I mean, there’s Orianthi, and Nita. I’m sure there’s some others, but they just don’t have the acclaim. I guess they have to join the Alice Cooper band to get that recognition.
AS: I guess so, yeah.
RMS: Maybe Alice will have a band with nothing but female musicians, one day.
AS: (Laughs) Maybe.
RMS: One of the things that you did with Joan Jett that I thought was pretty cool was, you played the Macy’s Day Parade a few years ago. What was that experience like, for you?
AS: So weird (laughs). Again, it was one of those things like, “What the fuck am I doing here?” (Laughs)
RMS: Everyone kind of looks like that, when they show them on TV. You can kind of see them lip syncing through, and faking their way through it. But, that’s pretty cool. It got you tons of exposure. Everyone in the world was watching that – well, at least in America.
RMS: Now, what happened with Joan Jett? Are you still involved with Joan, at all?
AS: No, it just kind of ran its course. I mean, we’re still cool. I leave every situation that I’ve been involved in – whether it be Dope or Joan – I never shoot myself in the foot. I never take for granted, the people that sign my check. If they were to ever need anything, the door is always open, and I think they feel the same. That’s just it, you know?
RMS: What’s your opinion of the recently announced Joan Jett tour with Heart and Cheap Trick?
AS: I wouldn’t want to go on after Cheap Trick (laughs).
RMS: I know, it’s crazy that Cheap Trick is opening. That’s tough- Joan Jett and Cheap Trick. I would give the edge to Cheap Trick in that circumstance. But, I could also see Joan going on after, as well. She’s legendary.
AS: Well, it’s the whole “Girl Artist” thing, and all that. Cheap Trick – we did a show with them where they opened for us before. You’re sitting in the dressing room, and you’re listening, and you’re like, “Oh, this is their big hit, so this has to be their last song.” And, you start getting ready. But then, all of a sudden you’re like, “Oh wait, here comes another one. Okay, this has gotta be their last song. Oh wait, I forgot about this one.”
RMS: So, it was a little challenging, going on after them, huh?
AS: I’ll tell you what, I felt like people didn’t realize that Cheap Trick wrote those songs. I felt like the people there almost thought they were a cover band, you know what I mean? Like, “Oh, this band really picked some good songs to cover.” No, those are those guys.
RMS: Obviously an influence on you, right?
RMS: Cheap Trick, and KISS, of course. We probably grew up listening to the same bands. Aerosmith, Alice Cooper.
AS: For sure.
RMS: That brings me to glam-metal-horror band that you were in, the Murderdolls, which featured Joey Joridison from Slipknot. I felt, at the time, 2002, that band was right on the verge of really breaking it big. You had a real, loyal fan base – especially over in Europe – I thought you guys were just killing it over there. Is that a good observation?
AS: Oh, yeah. Kerrang, Metal Hammer Magazine, in all those magazines, we cleaned up in the reader’s polls. We were huge over there.
RMS: Unfortunately, Joey had the Slipknot. Was that a little heartbreaking, that the band kind of like, disappeared after a little while?
AS: Yes. Very.
RMS: You must have felt that, if you guys recorded a record, especially with the touring lineup, it definitely would have been the next step, in getting the band to the next rung on the ladder, if not higher.
AS: Yeah, definitely. That was definitely the feeling. And, if you remember at the time, shortly after that, there were a lot of bands that looked really similar, that were coming along, and just streaming right along, selling a bunch of records (laughs). And, we were sitting there on our hands, you know?
RMS: Yeah. It seemed like you guys were almost at the point where you were resurrecting the whole glam movement. That’s how I remember it.
AS: Yeah. It’s funny, because the one element that everybody leaves out about that band that I think is the most important ingredient is, the attitude, and the snottiness, you know?
RMS: Was there a reason that you guys didn’t spend more time in America? I know you went to Europe and played big festivals there, and did some touring there.
AS: Yeah, our record company told us that they’re not going to do anything to support the record (laughs). That was the reason.
RMS: That’s pretty ridiculous. Could they not see that it was a break out band? You had the whole Slipknot connection – Slipknot was huge. How could you not promote it in America?
AS: To be fair though, at the time, what would happen was – Corey (vocalist for Slipknot) was putting out his side project – Stone Sour, and we were putting out ‘Beyond the Valley.’ What people liked about Stone Sour was what they didn’t like about the Murderdolls, and what that is, is that it didn’t sound like Slipknot. So, it was funny because, people picked up Stone Sour and were like, “This is great! It doesn’t sound anything like Slipknot. It’s not as aggressive. This guy can sing really well.” And then, they put on our record and were like, “Oh, this doesn’t sound anything like Slipknot, I don’t like it.” And we did tours here, where people didn’t really like us at first. It was like, “Oh, I don’t really dig this.” In England, Japan, Europe, Australia – they got it right away. It was like, “Oh, we get it.” (Laughs) Then like, a year later, in the States it was like, “Wait! This doesn’t sound anything like Slipknot! This is great!” Like, “Yeah, it didn’t sound anything like it a year ago, either.”
RMS: I think a lot of 80s metal fans really thought the Murderdolls were a fresh breath of air. It was a good band that looked cool and played hard. I felt like a lot of people- at least people that I knew – really rallied around the band, because it kind of reminded them of Mötley Crüe in their prime, and bands such as that. But, a little more extreme.
AS: Yeah. But, the short answer is that, our record company flat out told us that they weren’t going to support our record.
RMS: That sucks.
AS: Yeah, but we were lucky for the record companies overseas, and the fans overseas. Because, otherwise we just would have been dead. It just would have been something that you find in a “Used” bin, if there were still “Used” bins (laughs).
RMS: Were you disappointed that you weren’t asked to participate when the band got back together in 2010?
RMS: It was surprising that they didn’t get the lineup back together. That record totally tanked; nobody cared about that. It definitely did not have the impact that the first one did.
AS: Nope. Dumb move (laughs). But, you know, it all worked out better for me, because I ended up becoming a Blackheart because of that. Had I been in that band, I wouldn’t haven been in the position that I was to audition for Joan and take that gig. I mean, yeah, it broke my heart, but I ended up in a better spot because of it, you know?
RMS: Besides your solo project that you have going on – and you mentioned the other project – do you have anything else going on in the future?
AS: Yeah. Right now, my focus is working with Rachel, and doing some shows with my thing. With Rachel – we’re going to be dropping a video very soon, and releasing some new music very soon. And then, I’ve got my thing. Yeah, I’ve got some stuff up my sleeves for that, too. That’s my artistic side, so to speak. I think I have some ideas for that, coming up.
RMS: I hope that we can get you over here, in Buffalo, to play a gig. There’s a couple cool clubs that I think you would do well in over here. So, maybe down the road.
AS: Believe it or not, I’ve only played Buffalo once.
RMS: Let me try to guess when it was. Probably with Dope? Was it Dope, back in the early 2000s?
AS: Yeah, it was an old movie theater.
RMS: Oh, the Showplace Movie Theater. That place is a horrible place to watch a band, because it’s an old movie theater, so you’re standing on a decline the entire time. If you drop something, it would roll down to the front of the stage.
AS: (Laughs) I remember it not being a very well put-together place.
RMS: They just reopened that place like, a month ago, and I was like, “Oh God, why?” That place should have been demoed.
RMS: Well, like I said, if you’re ever interested in playing a gig in Buffalo, let me know. I know of a couple of cool clubs.
AS: That’d be great. That would be awesome. I ’ll definitely hit you up.
RMS: Thank you for your time, Acey.
AS: Thank you.
Special thanks to Acey Slade, and Dana Kaiser.