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SLOUGH FEG


Slough Feg "Critical Thinking"


By Dr. Abner Mality

Mike Scalzi is an intelligent man. You can figure that out after about a 15 second conversation with him. I talked to him for a lot longer than that, so the intellect really came out. This bluntly penetrating mind makes Mike the perfect frontman for Slough Feg, because Slough Feg is definitely the thinking man's metal band.

How these guys have stayed under the radar for so long, I have no idea. I know that crap is king in the mainstream, but you'd think at least the underground would recognize the talent this band has. They've been around for a long, long time, mostly under the name of The Lord Weird Slough Feg. Having recently excised the Lord Weird from their monicker, as well as long time guitarist John Cobbett, the murky obscurity that has been Slough Feg's lot seems to be lifting somewhat. Their latest album "Atavism" has been garnering rave reviews. For good reason,too...this is one of the best metal albums ever from an American band. An energetic and unpredictable mixture of classic metal motifs reminiscent of Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath and old Metallica with a kind of Celtic feel and highly intelligent lyrics, "Atavism" is an album that could definitely shut metal critics the hell up.

Following is my inquisition of Mr. Scalzi concerning his band...


MIKE SCALZI: Where are you located, Canada?

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: No, actually, I'm in Rockford, Illinois.

MS: Oh, sorry. I've been doing so many interviews, I don't know what the hell is going on. Are you from a real magazine or a webzine?

WC: Well, we are a webzine now...


MS: It's hilarious. I'm obviously doing all the interviews for our latest album by myself. Almost all the webzines do their interviews by phone and all the print ones have been done by computer. Isn't that weird? I'm not complaining, I hate doing the email ones.

WC: Yeah, I prefer phone as well. It's more like a real conversation (just like we are having right now). Let me dive right into it. The most obvious change in your band is you dropped the "Lord Weird" from your name.

MS: Yeah, everybody's asking that damn question. There's no real reason because it hardly makes a difference to us. We've always just called the band "Slough Feg" and everybody in our hometown always called us just "Slough Feg". Now the people who look for our record, the first thing they will notice is the "Lord Weird" because it's easier to pronounce. The problem is, the people would look for us under "S" when it would be in "L". Or vice versa. That was really bad marketing. "Hey, I went to the record store and looked for your album but I couldn't find it! I looked under "S"". Or maybe they'd say "I looked under "L" for Lord Weird" while it was filed under "S". Now we're selling more records because there's no doubt we're gonna be filed under "S"!

WC: The other obvious change is that longtime member John Cobbett has left the band...

MS: He's on "Atavism", though. He was a long time member but he wasn't around all that much. He wasn't at practice that much and didn't put all that much time into Slough Feg because of his other bands (Hammers of Misfortune and Ludicra being the two most notable--Mality) When we toured Europe and Greece last year, it got weird. He just wasn't into touring any more and we were like "Well, what's the point, man? You don't have time to do this. Fuck it." We're still friends, though.

WC: Wasn't he pretty involved with the band creatively though?

MS: He was in the beginning. On "Down Amongst the Dead Men", he co-wrote some of the songs. On "Traveller", he just wrote one song, but it was just this little ditty stuck on the end of it. On the new album, he wrote most of "Hiberno-Latin Invasion", which is everybody's favorite song. I think the best songs we did with him were the ones we collaborated on. He do part of a song on each album. It's not really going to make that much of a difference because we did two albums without him previously.

WC: John's replacement is Angelo Tringali. What's his background and what does he bring to the table for Slough Feg?

MS: He was in a band called Cold Mourning from Monterey. They did a really underground album a couple of years ago. He's got more of a doomy, heavier sound and he plays more bluesy, kind of Sabbathy leads. He's more focused just on Slough Feg, he doesn't have two or three other bands.

WC: Will he take more of a creative role in the future?


MS: He hasn't written anything yet. In his guitar playing, yes. In actual writing, we'll have to see.

WC: The title of your new album "Atavism" suggests several ideas. It could mean "throwback". Do you consider Slough Feg a throwback kind of band?

MS: Kinda. A throwback to the time when there was good music, yeah. The 70's, 80's, 60's...most of what I like is from that era. Not only musically, but also personality wise.

WC: Some people would consider "throwback" a negative term but you don't really agree with that.

MS: Not necessarily. Depends on how you look at it. Everybody in my family has long arms and short legs. Maybe there's something to this atavism. My Dad always asked me "why do you like meat so much? I never ate so much when I was a kid!" (laughter)I liked to chew on flesh a lot. My Dad said, "maybe you're atavistic!" I actually knew what that mean, I had read it in a book by Nietszsche. He was one of the philosophers who talked about atavism a lot.

WC: Where'd you get that cool caveman art for the cover of the album?

MS: Stole it out of an old book.

WC: Did you do a little Photoshopping with it?

MS: Yeah, we fiddled with it in Photoshop. It was in a book about cavemen that was so old that it didn't really matter that we stole the picture because the copyrights had all expired. And nobody would really know anyway. I mean, give me a break. If this record was going to go gold, someone might think of suing us but I don't think there's much danger of that!

WC: Does our society retreat the more it advances? In other words, do all these technological breakthroughs make us weaker?

MS: Yeah, starting with cellphones and then on to being so dependent on computers, which we all are, and I am. We're gonna have technology...all science fiction is eventually going to come true. We're all going to have communicators. Now I don't have a cellphone but everybody's gonna have one eventually. You'll have to, there will be no choice. All these things are going to happen. There's going to be cloning...it's going to happen.Eventually the right wing will stop bitching about cloning because it will be to their advantage and their agendas will be helped by it. There's no way out of the future unless there's some catastrophe. I'm not worried about the fact that we have technology, I just think it's insane that it weakens our thought processes. When I was a teenager, I'd talk to my friends' parents, who had these incredible jobs like microbiology...my Dad worked at Penn State and I knew a lot of people who had high tech jobs. Anyway, we'd know these people who had jobs engineering and creating websites and doing all this high tech stuff, but when it came to social functions, they were idiots. Their logic skills, their reasoning, their critical thinking skills were way, way below the level of the technology they used everyday. And then there's a level below these people, a level where people work regular jobs but they still use computers, cellphones and what not. And they can't figure out how to just talk to somebody intelligently. They can't manage their time, they can't manage their money. You know, it's like 2+2=4. If you don't make this much money, you don't pay your rent. You don't pay your rent, you get kicked out on the street. These people would pay for everything with a credit card and not know how it worked. It was all a series of disasters caused by really bad thinking. I don't use a lot of technology. But I don't have to. I live very simply. I'm educated in logic and critical thinking so I think about things before I do them. I can do things for a lot less money and in a lot less time because I use my brain. It's more important, I think, to have some organizational skills as opposed to just technological or engineering skills.

WC: I'm kind of what they call a Luddite. (laughter) I hated to convert to CDs. Wormwood was originally a paper zine until the advertising dried up. I had to hold my nose and turn it into a webzine. I do see a lot of advtantages to doing it this way but there's something about having a paper zine. There's nothing collectable about a webzine.

MS: I'm a pretty educated person and I'm trying to be a teacher. I'm in a Master's Program for Philosophy at San Francisco State and in another year or so, I'll be able to teach critical thinking classes. That would seem to me to be one of the most important requirements for any student.

WC: I was a substitute teacher for a while and it's a frightening experience, because the attention spans are almost non-existent.

MS: Oh, it's unbelievable!


WC: I love old movies and 90% of the people today couldn't sit still for character development. I was watching an old Creature from the Black Lagoon movie. They try to set up moods in the movie using long passages that are eerie but nothing is really happening. People wouldn't even comprehend such a film today.

MS: Yeah, I absolutely hear what you're saying, I love those old movies, too.

WC: You spoke earlier about the song "Hiberno-Latin Invasion"...

MS: Yeah, that's the one everybody seems to dig.

WC: It's got a real Celtic feel to it? What's the idea behind the song? Was it based on a real historical incident?

MS: Well, the idea of the music is to sound like Big Country. (laughter) That was John Cobbett's last song. The last thing he wrote was that bouncy Celtic riff and I laid my vocal harmony over it. That's one of the rare times in recent history we wrote together. It shows he's really good. I arranged the song. I asked him what he had for the new album in terms of riffs. I kind of felt he was on his way out anyway. He said, "here's a couple of riffs I might use with my other band.This one sounds a lot like Big Country." Well, I thought it might be too commercial sounding or too cheesy, but I heard it and thought it was great. I wanted to use that riff immediately! He gave me those two riffs and I built a song around them. You ever hear Big Country?

WC: Oh, it's been years!

MS: Bad band, but the guitar sound on the song "Big Country" was outstanding. They sounded like Celtic bagpipes. At the time we put song together, I was taking a class in Celtic literature at undergraduate school and I adapted the story of the Latin invasion of Britain and Ireland for the song. I was reading about Brutus, the guy in the Roman Senate who killed Julius Caesar, and he led the Roman invasion. He was the first guy who wrote diaries and recorded what happened. He thought he had a mission from God to go over there and take the Celts out. Then Caesar himself went over there. There were diaries written by both of them. The diaries are in English now but they're really nasty translations. When I read these diaries, I thought "this is pretty cool, these are blow by blow accounts of the Hiberno-Latin Invasion by Caesar and Brutus". But then I thought it might be cool to tell the story from the other perspective. What if the diaries had been written by the Celts who were getting slaughtered? "The invaders came and kicked our asses." It's simple but effective stuff.

WC: It's a different kind of lyrical take.

MS: Well, I don't like albums about fairies and elves and dragons. I'd rather talk about real history and mythology.

WC: That segues pretty neatly into two more songs I had questions about. "Eumaeus the Swineherd" and "Curse of Athena". Are those songs strictly about Homer's Odyssey?

MS: Absolutely, yeah. One of the newest infatuations I have is The Odyssey. Anybody who wants to read where the songs come from, open up the Odyssey and turn to the chapter about Eumaeus the Swineherd. Odysseus returns to Ithaca after being gone for 20 years and he returns disguised as a slave. Athena puts a curse on him because the suitors are trying to marry his wife Penelope and he has to win her back. Odysseus is welcomed into the humble home of Eumaeus the Swineherd who has no idea who he really is.

WC: There's a great line in the song that goes something like "I meet their kindness with lies."

MS: The kindness of Eumaeus welcomes Odysseus but Odysseus has to lie about who he is and what's he's doing in Ithaca. That's what's going on there, that's directly from the Odyssey.

WC: I laughed out loud when I read the title of the song "Agnostic Grunt". How important is humor to Slough Feg?

MS: Pretty important. It's pretty important in life in general, I think. We've developed quite a sense of humor over all the failure and shattered dreams we've had. (laughter) If we're gonna do this, we're going to do it laughing or we'll just go insane. We've put out so much work and effort and have shat our lives away pretty much. You have to have a sense of humor about that. The idea of the song itself goes along with the caveman theme.

WC: You think the band Agnostic Front knows about the song?

MS: No, I doubt it. Why would they? They might, but I really doubt it.

WC: You think they'd get a kick out of it?


MS: Yeah, probably! I played a show with those guys when I was 16 and in another band. At this point, I don't think they probably pay as much attention to underground metal as they did back then.

WC: I thought the song "Starport Blues" had such a cool rocking groove to it...

MS: Like Thin Lizzy or maybe Wishbone Ash.

WC: Thin Lizzy came to mind right away. As far as the guitar solos on that one go,they sounded a lot like Iommi.

MS: A lot of people have said that. The solos that sound like Sabbath I think I put on there. This was before Angelo got in the band and Angelo definitely has more of the Iommi sound. I always listened to a lot of Sabbath myself.

WC: I've also heard some say it sounds a little like ZZ Top.

MS: That's another song where guys in the band said, "Are we really going to do this? It's just too cheesy!" John and Greg both had reservations about the song, but I pushed for it. Look, this is a good song and it's totally different than anything else we've ever done. And we do like the fact that we are kind of embedded in that early Maiden/Priest metal style, but you can't do album after album just sticking to one thing. When I came up with the riff on that song, I knew it was a little campy, but I had to do it because it's a good song. There shouldn't be a prefabricated mold for what the band sounds like.

WC: The band is obviously rooted in the classic metal feel but it still sounds pretty fresh. It's not a "retro" type band. Is this a natural function of the way you write or is it very intentional?

MS: It's a natural function, I think, because the whole foundation of the band is to be extreme. To do something different and go where no other band has gone before. The point of Slough Feg is to go beyond. It's to take Maiden and go beyond, take Priest and go beyond. Even Queen, Thin Lizzy, to go beyond them. We want to go out on a limb and not be scared, not play it safe. It comes naturally to me to write that kind of stuff.

WC: How do you see yourselves advancing in the future, then?

MS: I don't know, we've been around a long time. Slowly but surely, I think. We've developed quite a bit in the 15 years we've been around. We'll just keep doing records and not have any expectations. We gave up on expectations a long time ago. I think that was for the best. Whatever happens, you accept it.

WC: Commercial success would seem to be an unlikely option at this point.

MS: I think that's true for just about anybody in a metal band.

WC: Well, with all the downloading, it might be true for most people in music, period.

MS: That might be true, though there are still people selling a lot of records.

WC: I don't download anything. I either get a promo or I go out and buy it. I like to have the whole package, I like to have something in my hands.

MS: That's cool, but I think there's no way to fight the downloading thing. There's no way to fight it in the end. Just like I said about cloning, it's gonna happen. I don't like it but it's inevitable. Fighting it is kind of frivolous, I think.

WC: In the future, I think people will download entertainment directly into their brain. The movie box office is down because people stay home and watch DVDs, people don't go out and buy music. The ultimate end of this lifestyle is for everybody to be a brain in a jar and nothing really physical happens anymore.

MS: That would be kind of lame.

WC: Getting away from Slough Feg, what's the current situation with your other band, Hammers of Misfortune?

MS: We did a record recently. John wrote a record, I sang on it. It's really more of John's thing. That band doesn't really want to tour anymore. We made a record, it will be out this year and that will be the third one. We've had some line-up changes, we don't have a drummer right now. I don't really concern myself with it too much because I don't have the time to run two bands. That's one of the reasons why John isn't in Slough Feg anymore. He runs Hammers, I run Slough Feg and we do the best we can with it. We did do a tour of America last summer with Hammers.

WC: I love both bands. I had heard of Slough Feg but I had never heard of Hammers of Misfortune until I got the last Hammers album "The August Engine". I thought that was great.

MS: That's cool.

WC: What was the last CD you picked up for your own enjoyment?

MS: Well...as far as metal stuff goes, it seems like I know everybody. All the bands I want to hear, I know them personally.I got the Iron Sword album...one of my best friends is the guy who put it out. I really liked that one. I've picked up some really old albums that I'm almost ashamed to admit I bought. I bought an old James Gang album! Also got an old Alice Cooper album from around 78 called "From the Inside". I'm gonna really weird you out now...I've been listening a lot to "Born To Run" by Bruce Springsteen recently! I don't like a lot of his stuff, but that record I like.

WC: What was the last show you saw for your own entertainment?

MS: Brocas Helm.

WC: They must be one of the few bands that makes even Slough Feg seem new!


MS: Yeah, yeah they are! I always go to see them.

WC: What's your Spinal Tap moment?

MS: Oh Gawd! There's been so many, I can't even think of any specifically!

WC: First one that hits you!

MS: We used to do really stupid stuff. Let's see...we used to practice in this fucked up basement! Ewww! That's pretty gross, I'm not going to talk about any of the really gross ones! Oh, here's a good one! When we went on tour with Iron Sword like I told you! By the point we did the tour, we were pretty seasoned. We did a lot of European tours. But when we went out with Iron Sword, it was their first real tour. They were so excited, they were like "what should we do?" Their singer is a really crazy guy, he said "let's trash the hotel room!" He kept talking about Black Oak Arkansas and Ted Nugent, he was really into American rock. I said, no, no, we shouldn't do that, we'll get in trouble. Well, we wound up going out and getting drunk and we got back to the hotel and we didn't think he was going to do anything. Later on, he was up on a different floor of the hotel than where we were staying and he was running around in his underwear with a fire extinguisher. He was spraying the whole hallway down! The next morning, we come downstairs in this Greek hotel and they got mad at us. We said we didn't do anything. The hotel guy said "Oh, you're not on the third floor?" "No, we're on the second floor!" Then he says, "Oh, it must be that other band that's on the third floor! They're trouble!" It was pretty hilarious stuff. I guess that's more of a Spinal Tap story for Iron Sword than us, but that comes from our last tour of Europe with them. Another time, we tried to throw the TV out the window to trash the hotel room, but we were on the first floor and it just landed in a bush.

WC: That works better when you're on the tenth floor instead of the first! (laughter)

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