Mark Slaughter Slaying it Solo!

Slaughter made a huge splash in the early 1990s when they released the hard rockin’ “Up All Night” and the poignant “Fly to the Angels.”  The debut, Stick It to Ya, sold well and earned the band a career that is still continuing today.  After their sophomore effort, 1992’s The Wild Life, however, things unraveled for the band.  Drug issues, health issues, motorcycle accidents…you name it, they went through it.  Theirs is a story of survival, as the man that the band is named after explains in the interview that follows. 

Lately, the guys in Slaughter have been the backing band for another of the Hair Era’s most famous frontmen, Vince Neil.  Slaughter has stuck around, playing around Vince’s solo schedule, but rather than sit around and wait for this year’s Motley Crue tour, Mark Slaughter decided to hang out with famed producer Michael Wagener and make some music. 

The album is not yet named and, in fact, the release is not yet completed.  However, it’s good…damn good.  I’ve been privy to four tracks and let me tell you this…Mark Slaughter is creating music with passion that rocks and stays true to the music that made the soundtrack to his life. 

Wait till ya hear this one! 

-- Jeb Wright

Jeb:  The big secret is that you’re recording new music for a solo album with famed producer Michael Wagener. 

Mark:  I had met Michael Wagener years ago, but we never had a chance to work together.  He moved out here pretty much the same time that I did.  He moved to Nashville about 1996.  We got to know each other through Wolf Hoffmann of Accept, as they are buddies.  He had a studio on Wolf’s farm. 

I was out doing Slaughter stuff and we just kept in touch, as friends.  Lo and behold, I started writing new music and I started talking to Michael about it.  I told him, “I have all of this stuff recorded” and he said, “I would love to mix it.”  He is the most trusted ear in the business, as he has about a hundred million pieces of product with his name on it, so I was very thrilled to have him do that.  He is able to make things sound like I want them to sound. 

Jeb: There are a lot of people in your genre that are active, but they try to take shortcuts when it comes to mixing.  They do it in their home studio.  It is not that you don’t know what you’re doing, as you do, but throwing someone like Michael into the mix takes this effort to a different level. 

Mark: I think that is the key.  My mixes sound really good; I wouldn’t shoot myself in the foot, but Michael is a consummate professional who still makes rock records.  He does a lot of European stuff as well as stuff in the states.  He is a phenomenal producer, and mixing and engineering this stuff is what he does.  We still have more songs that we are putting together right now.  I have ten songs, maybe a couple of more, that we are in the studio doing final mixes of.  I am literally at the studio with Michael right now.  I just stepped out of the studio and into my car so we could do this interview. 

Jeb: I have heard the one track that you let me hear…

Mark: I am letting you know something that is not very well known.  I’ve got ten plus songs that I’ve recorded. I’m just going to throw it out in the market and see what happens.  I don’t know what labels are even out there anymore, as it is a different time. 

I am not just going out and putting my demos out there.  I am not putting shit out there.  These songs have been recorded and mixed properly.  However these songs come out, whether they are just digital, or if they become a piece of product, they will come out right.  Before I go get a deal, or release it myself, I just want to have an entire body of work done.  I don’t want someone to say, “I think you should do this or that.”  All of that stuff does not even matter and it doesn’t even apply to the world these days.  

Jeb:  Why is this a solo Mark Slaughter record instead of Slaughter record?

Mark: My band has been playing with Vince Neil for a while now.  It is no skin off my back.  They’ve been out playing with him and while they have been doing that I’ve been writing and recording songs.  I have really been doing this for the love of writing music. 

When I played these songs for people like Michael they said, “Dude, you’ve got to make a record and get this out there.”  I wasn’t going, “I want to make a record.”  It was more that I had a body of work and I just want to get my music out there.  I wrote “Never Givin Up” with that principle in mind.  That was one of the last songs I wrote.  It pertains to the charity The Red Circle Foundation and to do something with our armed forces.  I am a big supporter of St. Jude as well.  I am not a guy who is saying that war is great, I am just supporting those people who have literally gotten hurt or they have family members who are in need. 

Jeb: Tell me how you got involved with The Red Circle Foundation. 

Mark:  I am on the Radio Cares board for St. Jude.  I am all about that charity.  As far as The Red Circle Foundation goes, that is something that one hundred percent of the proceeds of the song go to that charity.  The song is really about anyone who faces adversity.  It could be these kids fighting cancer or people who are battling depression, or whatever.  It really is a song about lifting another person’s spirit up, and that is really what the song is about. 

Jeb: Are you releasing a montage of videos people sent in to the song?

Mark: I am still getting videos from people in, and I am going to do a whole montage of people from all around the world.  I may do a little performance in there; I don’t know.  At this time in my life I am not looking for adoration; I’m just getting my music out there.  Our music has been a soundtrack to a lot of people’s lives just as the music that I grew up with is a soundtrack for my life. 

Jeb: Slaughter has faced adversity from drug issues, motorcycle wrecks and vocal cord problems…there has been a lot of shit.

Mark: I appreciate that.  In life, there are things that we go through.  “Fly to the Angels” which is a song about letting go of somebody who’s passed away, is still, however, a positive song.  I have always tried to do something positive.  I am not talking in a Christian or Buddhist way, or anything like that.  I just try to write and be supportive and uplifting. 

Jeb: So many people who were your peers were the bad boys.  You are a good guy. 

Mark: There had to be somebody who was the milk and cookies of all that.  I guess I was the milk and cookies, but here’ the truth: I’m still standing and I’m still writing and performing music.  Slaughter was, and is, a band, still to this day… which writes and performs their own music.  It all came from within the band and it wasn’t from outside writing and outside producers.  Dana Strum and I did the producing way back in 1989 when we did the record.  It has always been in-house, and it has always been the way we have done things.  We are more music guys than we are guys who are all about trying to figure out how to get into trouble. 

Jeb: What sound are you going for with the solo music?

Mark: I think some of it could be songs for Slaughter, but, on the other side of it, there is some stuff that is very progressive, and that makes it not typical for me.  When I write, it is about where the songs take me, as opposed to trying to show-off as a musician and go, “Look what I can do.”  I just really go where the song asks me to go, as opposed to what I can put into it as a musician.  You have to be a grown-up when you’re looking at a song.  If you look at “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin then you didn’t need a string arrangement.  The song was what it was and it has believability.  I try to make the song what the song is. 

Jeb: You have not given up on the art of music, but what about the business of music?  It is a mess.  Why not just give up?

Mark: Those who do, do… and those who don’t, bitch.  I am not a bitcher.  I would rather be a person who is in the game.  Being from Vegas, I roll the dice and I play the game.  Sometimes the table is cold and it is not the thing to do, but that’s that game.  Roll the dice.  You have nothing to lose.  That’s really where I’m at with it.  I am absolutely positive that there will be a new Slaughter record coming on the heels of this.  I have not started writing it--we have a song or two that I’ve written, but the band, as it sits right now, needs another record. 

Jeb: I hear it’s more about the creative aspect than the business aspect to you.

Mark: Mick Jagger makes solo albums away from The Stones and Paul Stanley makes them outside of Kiss.  It is not like those records are less than or more than with what they do with those acts.  People are going to want to see Slaughter, but that doesn’t mean that I should not go in and do music on my own.  It’s not Slaughter or nothing.  I am a musician and I should make music.  It took me a while to get to that.  I’m an artist and it doesn’t matter; just put it out.  It is not about selling a million copies or setting it up a certain way.  If things don’t fall into place, then I will put it out myself.  I don’t need to hold onto this like it is my last shot.  I am going to keep making music.  This is like chewing gum to me, and I am just going to keep chewing gum. 

Jeb:  Do you play all the instruments on the solo stuff?

Mark: I did pretty much all the way through.  There is a gentleman named Mark Goodin who I grew up with in Las Vegas who did the drums on this.  He said, “I’m teaching drums and if you ever need a drummer…”  After school he got into an accident and he broke his legs and he had his adversity and the things that he had to go through.  He went into the business world and then he ended back on a set of drums.  He came back to it twenty-five years later and he wanted to make music again.  It was the right time where I was doing what I was doing and it was the right time for him to do what he did on this record. 

Jeb: You really have a theme of overcoming adversity.  Is this personal for you, or is it just the curiosity of the human condition?

Mark: My mother has been fighting cancer for years.  When you see people go through those battles and you have peers that pass away from their vices, I think that affects you.  I just wanted to make a song that was supportive.  Even if I can’t be there as a physical person, I can write a song that says you can overcome this. 

You see The Wounded Warriors who have lost limbs and they fight all kinds of things mentally.  The Red Circle Foundation helps their families out.  It may be getting a young girl to her ballet lessons while her mother fights in Afghanistan.  If her mother was there, she would take her, but we need to make sure she gets there now.  It is a very simple thing.  It is more about a global mindset of things as opposed to just one thing.  I am not saying I am into a global world and that the United States should be part of Europe.  I am just saying we can all make a cleaner environment and live a better life if we work together and bump out some of these idiots that are screwing it all up, you know. 

Jeb: I think it is a cool message.  A lot of people on stage say “Support our troops.”  But I think it is cool you are actually doing something, especially for the families. 

Mark: It hurts them not only physically but also mentally.  Families are broken up over this thing.  Brothers are lost, husbands and wife’s are away.  They are gone and the family had to heal from them being apart and there are all kinds of things that go on in life. 

It is not just what goes on in the armed forces; it hits every aspect of living.  It takes two jobs to make the world work.  My dad was an electrician and he woke up an electrician and he went to bed an electrician, and he could support our family being an electrician.  It is not that way anymore.  There are a zillion things that you’ve got to do.  You have to do four things to make the one now.  Remember when you were a kid and they said, “Someday you’re going to have a million bucks.”  Well, now a house is a half a million bucks and cars cost fifty thousand dollars and you add it up and you see it’s no wonder everyone is stressing out and having heart attacks.  This is the lie we’ve bought into. 

Jeb: Does it ever surprise you that you’re still here doing what you do?

Mark: I think that I knew I wanted to make music at a very young age and I was very driven to do that.  I love it.  Slaughter goes out and does what we call fly dates.  We fly into a show and we play and we fly back home, which is much different than going out on a tour bus.  The way I look at it is that I get paid to travel.  I go play a show for an hour or two hours but the truth of the matter is that I am away from my family for two days.  That is really what I am getting paid for…to be away from my family and to travel from one airplane to connect to another and to wait in an airport for the next plane.  Then I get in a van to get to the casino, or the fair, or a biker fest, or wherever you’re going to play.  I play for free.  I get paid to travel. 

Jeb:  Slaughter is playing a huge festival this year, The Moondance Jam.  Will you slip in any new songs? 

Mark: We have a couple of new songs, but I don’t think we will put in any new stuff from my stuff.  Slaughter does have new songs.  It is one of those things though, for a festival like that, you want to hear the band play all of the songs that you grew up with and that made the soundtrack of your life.  If you add all the songs up at five minutes a song, your set gets smaller and smaller to fit something in that is new.  It is even more difficult in a festival situation where they need you on stage at a certain time and off stage at a certain time.  I am not sure we can get anything new in that particular set, as we will be playing the songs that people know and love.  The Moondance festival is one of those things that not everyone is invited to play at.  It is a prestigious thing to do, and we are out there in the running. 

Jeb: Some people get frustrated that they can only play the old songs. 

Mark: I think it comes back to the fact that we wrote it.  These are our songs and this is a part of our life.  It is not like Desmond Child wrote this song and someone else wrote a song.  He may be an incredible songwriter, I am not dissing him at all, but these are all songs that I wrote and it makes it all more personal to me.  I think that is why I still love to play all of our songs. 

Jeb: A lot of bands from your era had to battle their record company because they wanted you all to fit into the Hair Metal category.  Did you have to fight them?

Mark: No, we were really, really lucky.  We were with a record label called Chrysalis.  Chris Wright was the ‘Chris’ in Chrysalis.  Terry Ellis and Chris started the label.  Chris was a visionary guy.  He brought us everything from UFO to Pat Benatar to Robin Trower to Billy Idol.  They were not a typical label, and they were very Indie minded, but they had a large distribution base.  It was a very different model.  They picked up my Leaving Member clause after the demise of The Vinnie Vincent Invasion.  They picked up my option.  They told me that if they liked the music I had, then they would pick us up.  We went into the studio on New Year’s Eve in 1988.  They loved what they heard and they told us to do whatever we wanted to do.  They gave us complete freedom to be an artist without many people being involved.  There was a little bit of a fight, but we were able to maintain the creative steering wheel, so to speak, and at that point it couldn’t become something we didn’t want it to be. 

Jeb: Chrysalis was a cool label.  Of course, Jethro Tull was their main band. 

Mark: Chris and Terry ultimately started the label with Tull as they were a management group.  They couldn’t figure out how to get Jethro Tull to take off so they said, “Screw it, we’ll start a label” and they brought us so many great artists.  Robin Trower was amazing as well.  The coolest thing about Robin is that when he picks up a guitar it is undeniably Robin on guitar.  Another underrated guitar player is Pat Travers.  He is amazing.  Rick Derringer is phenomenal.  Mark Farner of Grand Funk is amazing.  There is so much talent out there.   

Jeb: So Vinnie really fucked up and pissed the label off and that was the birth of Slaughter. 

Mark: You know, Vinnie was difficult, and the record company was not happy with some of his business dealings.  Inevitably, they picked up my option, which was a Leaving Member agreement and, in essence, it was Vinnie’s deal, so to speak.  The Leaving Member agreements were given by the label after Steve Stevens left Billy idol’s band.  After he left Chrysalis, they made everyone sign Leaving Member agreements, as they felt that Steve Stevens was such a huge part of Billy Idol’s sound and business, that when he left, they felt they lost a big talent.  They decided they would not lose that kind of talent again and they made everybody sign it.

Jeb: Dana is a great businessman.  Are you?

Mark: Honestly, when I started I was a bright guy, but I didn’t have the inherent business skills that Dana had.  Dana is a great businessman and there is no doubt about it.  I have learned a lot from him over the last twenty-something years.  We have been friends through all of that.  We still talk on a daily basis.  Most people are not even friends as long as we’ve been friends, let alone be in business together.  We’ve been through a lot.  We are still friends. 

Jeb: After your second album everything fell apart, but you didn’t.  Looking back, how did you have the strength to keep moving forward?

Mark: Here’s the truth: A lot of our peers who were in other bands broke up and stopped playing.  We have never stopped playing. We’ve been playing as Slaughter the whole time.  The venues changed.  We decided that we were not going to prostitute ourselves and just play clubs that were shit clubs.  We tried to keep it to where it was in a good light. 

We started making decisions that were the right decisions.  We didn’t want to devalue what the brand is, which is Slaughter.  It is like these new songs that I am doing.  I am not embarrassed by them and I think any Slaughter fan that hears them will think that this is about what they expected I would do.  It shouldn’t be about devaluing the brand because I got a wild hair up my ass because I decided to make music away from other people.  It is not that.  It is the point of making music and actually keeping it in the fold.  Again, it is odd for me because as far as the music industry and stuff goes, I am not looking for adoration.  I am not looking for someone to tell me this is the cat’s meow. 

When I was a kid, I heard music that influenced me and made me love what I do.  I think this is one of those things where I want to make music from the heart that has moved my life.  I have a million records that I’ve bought that are on MP3s on my hard drive that I still go back to and go, “Man, this is the coolest fricking riff.  This is amazing.”  It is just how it is.  I got a chance to tour with Ozzy Osbourne and Kiss and others.  We were touring with them and we were rubbing elbows with them, and it was cool.  At the same time, the kid in me goes, “These guys are responsible for the soundtrack of my life.”  That’s fucking awesome. 

Jeb: You had great teachers who didn’t know they were teaching you.

Mark: Music is like a sense of smell and a sense of taste.  When you hear a song it is like an hourglass that takes you back to the first time you heard that song.  You remember going out with your friends, or hanging out at a party, or when you took a road trip.  It reminds you of your family as you were growing up.  There are hourglasses in music.  That is the coolest part of music.  It really is a part of all of our lives. 

Jeb: What is the hardest lesson you’ve learned?

Mark: The hardest lesson in anything in life, in the artistic side of it, is that it is hard to put a dollar amount on art.  I think that is the hardest thing for any artist.  You made art because you love making art.  You don’t go, “I will only create if I get paid for it.”  When it becomes a payment schedule, as opposed to something that you created because you love to do it, is when it gets sour and something is not right.  I think that it is about the art.  It is about music.  It is about what it means to people emotionally, and it is about the soundtrack of what people take that music to be in their life.  I have said that a zillion times in this interview, but that is what it is about. 

Jeb: The new music is being mixed.  What is the next step? What is the goal?

Mark: My goal in this album, more so than anything, is that the music…how should I put it?  When the music becomes a part of somebody’s life and they say that it meant something to them and that your song was there for them and that they appreciate that.  That is no different than when I met George Martin who produced the Beatles… that was the same sort of thing.  You’re dealing with a class act, and how do you thank the guy for that? 

Jeb: When did you meet George?

Mark: I met him in Chris Wright’s office one day.  Chris goes, “Mark, come into my office.”  I go in and he says, “Meet George Martin.”  I was like, “Oh my God. I am done.”  It was amazing.  Those records were so influential.  Those are the things that got us into doing this for a living.  We loved that music and we loved that sound.  It was exciting to us.  It made us happy and it made us go, “That’s fucking cool.” 

Jeb: I don’t hear a lot of bands saying that anymore. 

Mark:  It is a state of mind, and it is a choice of thought.  It’s a state that you decide…like a glass half empty or half full.  I feel very lucky to have the career I have had.  I feel very lucky to play with the artists that I’ve played with.  The music that I put out from this point forward is all icing on the cake, you know?  It is all-good to me.  I’m not going to look at the negative sides of it, because you can find a negative or a positive mindset depending on how you look at it. 

Jeb: I was talking more about the new generation of bands coming up. 

Mark: I think the problem with the new generation is—I’ve got two teenage kids so I can tell you the experience that I see- it is a different mindset.  Look at the editing for commercials on television or you listen to new music…everything has a very short attention span.  Everything is chop, chop, chop and it has an instant, point and click mentality.  You end up getting an element of what something is, but you’re not getting the body of it. 

Jeb: We are lucky that we came from the era we came from. 

Mark: That is what Classic Rock is.  I will make sure you hear some of this new music I am doing before it is even out.  It has a Classic Rock sensibility as it is about those feelings and those types of tones that take you there.  It is pretty exciting stuff, it really is.  I really don’t know where I am going with it, but I am just going to keep creating and worry about it later. 

Jeb: Last one:  You must have had a ton of people come to you and share what “Fly to the Angels” meant to them. 

Mark: More than I can count, absolutely.  Here’s the truth, the song was written truly from the heart and very quickly.  It was not over-thought.  I think that is what makes it honest.   

Jeb: Your vocals on that song are amazing. What do you remember about hearing that song back in the studio for the first time?  

Mark: I thought it was really cool.  I had a manager at the time and we were talking about the song.  He said, “Man, it’s too bad that song doesn’t have a chorus.”  That is what you deal with in this industry.  What do you do?  Do you over think it?  No.  Okay, it’s not a typical chorus.  That’s the beauty of music.  It doesn’t have to be fun in the sun, then peak and then fade.  That song is not that.

Jeb:  Anything else you want to say about the new song?

Mark:   I think it will be very interesting for you to hear what I’ve created here, and to see where it is going.  Mark played drums in a complete different state than where I live.  We were shooting things through the internet.  We were not just knocking it out as a band.  It is nice to have the technology to where if you hear something in your head then you can put it down and make it sound right.  It really is exciting stuff.

Jeb:  It is great to hear the passion in your voice, as not everyone has that passion anymore. 

Mark: When we get into some more mixes, I will certainly leak a few things to you as I am the label at this point, and I am the guy.  I would love for you to hear it, as I hear that passion in you.  You’re not just conducting an interview.  This is something that you’re passionate about.  There is a substantial difference between people who are in it for the right reasons and people who are watching the clock as people jabber about themselves. 

Jeb: I call it a passion, but my wife calls it a sickness.  It is probably a little bit of both. 

Mark: I think that anybody who is in this industry has to look at it that way.  It is a sickness, but in sickness there is health, so we’re good! 

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