Highly anticipated new full-length from San Francisco true metal warriors! The tenth album from San Francisco metal bastions SLOUGH FEG, “New Organon” combines raw, primitive metal with Mike Scalzi’s philosophical lyrical exploits for a trip through history like no other! Rife with dueling guitar harmonies, proto-thrash movements and the elaborate storytelling of Scalzi, all the ingredients for another killer album! We talk to Mr Scalzi, quite a character, if you don’t know you will find out in the next few lines!
Hello Mike, your tenth album “New Organon” will be released in June 14th, a good way to celebrate your almost 3 decades of career?
I guess it’s a good way to celebrate. I guess 10 albums is an accomplishment really— kinda can’t believe it.
In 2020 will be your 30th anniversary, are you preparing something especial for the occasion?
But I’m not planning anything special for the 30th anniversary—no. To be honest it’s kind of scary. I mean, 30 years is a long time. I have no doubt that we will go on after 30 years, but I don’t like to think about the band as 30 years old, because there are different people involved than there were 30 years ago, and a band is really nothing but the sum of its parts, the four people that are in Slough Feg now are what Slough Feg is. It’s really totally different band that it was 29 years ago—with three out of four different people. And now I’m old and balding and grey—so it’s really different!! But I was hoping that we would have a dressing room full of beer and women and a million dollars by now. Well, we got the beer………..
Hahaha, well it’s a start… Slough Feg or The Lord Weird Slough Feg?
That question is repugnant to my metal sensibilities.
Slough Feg is especially Mike Scalzi’s creature, the only original member in the current lineup. What has changed from the early times to the Slough Feg of the 21st century?
Everything has changed, as I said the people, the music, the location, everything. But one thing that has not change is that I refuse to grow up and stop dreaming about being a rock star. Lots of bands that have been around a long time say things like “Oh I never really wanted to be rich and famous, I just wanted to make great music and be part of the underground.” Bullshit (at the risk of sounding like Gene Simmons). People say that because they didn’t get what they wanted, and deep down they still dream about being rich and famous—- even though they’re 57 years old, or whatever. Well, I’m not going to lie to you—- I still dream of great success, even though it probably won’t happen, I still want the big boobs and houses and cars and hotubs!!! Well, I got the hotubs……
Me too, I’m very human. By the way, Mike Scalzi is kind of a “different” musician, a philosophy professor. I suppose this has its translation in terms of lyrics and the subjects you touch?
Well, if you’ve heard the new album you should have the answer to that questions—- it’s all about philosophy. And that’s exactly how I’m going to get rich and famous—- by writing songs and lyrics about Aristotle and Nietzsche, and dogs that take over the universe! Maybe not………… maybe that’s why there aren’t as many girls at my shows………….. maybe the next album will be called: Slough Feg 11: where’s the boobs and the blow??!!
Hahaha What made Mike Scalzi enter the realm of Metal music so many years ago?
Well that’s hard to say. I think it something traumatizing in his youth—because he still has strange sexual fantasies involving Parrots. Well, maybe not— but it was something in my childhood. Namely, my father, who made me take piano lessons. I hated it. But I found that I liked plucking on this old cheap Spanish guitar he got in Mexico. He didn’t really know how to play it but I started writing little rhythmic parts on the open strings—- it didn’t know what the frets were for yet but I cold just pluck the open string and make up little rhythms. Then I looked at a book my dad had and learned a couple chords. And then he let me switch from piano to guitar lessons for a year or two. Then I learned some songs from teachers—and learned lead guitar by playing along to Jimi Hendrix and Doors records— figuring out the blues scales and just playing up and down the scale.
What is more exciting or motivating for you: philosophy or music? How do you marry both realities?
Marry both realities? I don’t try to do this, they spill into each other by mistake all the time. I ‘ll be lecturing and suddenly start singing Dio. Literally! They both take place in my brain so there’s no separating them. I find both interesting and both necessary for me to stay sane. I can’t imagine giving one of or the other up really, but I suppose if I was on the road all the time making money and playing great shows I’d miss teaching at times—- but not all the time. But I couldn’t give up music and just be a teacher— that would never work.
How long have you been working in “New Organon”? and how was the composition process?
It took almost 2 years to make the record, and another year before that to write all the songs. It’s not really that interesting to talk about though. It went the same as any other record. I wanted to do something more live sounding than the last couple records, and we did that—-got a live sound in the studio without compromising the production— mostly thanks to Phil our engineer. The album’s not that long, because we wrote a lot of songs and threw the ones out that sounded too boring or too much like other stuff we’ve done recently. If we get bored with our music, the audience will certainly get bored as well.
I think the cover art and lyrics are based on the book writen by Francis Bacon with the same title, right?
Right. That is the case.
SF is a band with a prolific career, full of great works, where would you place this “New Organon” related your other albums?
I don’t know—I’ll leave that for the listener to decide. I think it’s better than the last four albums, but again, I’ll let you be the judge. It feels fresh to me now, and exciting. But then again, I just finished it so who knows…
New deal with Italian metal label Cruz Del Sur Music, how did it happen?
Have you don’t your homework? We were on Cruz del Sur for years, before the last album. They put out 4 of our previous albums.
Ups… Hahaha sorry teacher, I haven’t prepared this lesson… In my opinion this “New Organon” gets something difficult to achieve, it sounds classic but cool and fresh an the same time
I would agree with that statement as well. At least I would hope so. Again, I only record songs that I don’t loose interest in. If it gets boring to me, it will sound boring to the listener. So I have to wait until I come up with enough interesting songs for a whole album. That’s it.
We find Jeff Griffin as a new member in the drums kit, happy with the hiring?
No I can’t stand him. What the hell do you think?! He travel’s well and sounds great—- I don’t see how I could answer this question in an interesting way—and I don’t want to bore the readers. Very Happy with the new drummer, indeed!
Clear enough. I have read a statement from you, Mike, where yo say that some of your best songs have written themselves. It sounds too easy… what did you mean?
Coming up with the riffs and melodies is easy because you don’t actually do anything, you just let them come. That’s the easy part. The hard part is editing them, arranging and putting them together into a songs, that’s one of the hardest things to do. That’s really how it works. A song like New Organon was easy to come up with , because it just materialized one day in the rehearsal space, I had to do almost nothing— one chord change led to another and it just appeared. But then I had to arrange it in a way that made sense as a song. That took months. Many practices with the whole band trying to make it sound “cohesive”. So the parts and melodies come to you by themselves sort of. Sculpting those parts into a sound that sounds good is the hard part.
So the sentence had a surprise behind. After 30 years composing and playing is surprising to get an album so cool as “New Organon”, where lies the secret for it?
Once again there’s no mystery here. You just throw out the trash. Cut all the boring stuff out. And don’t rush the process!!!!! That’s why it took 5 years to make another album, waiting for the right songs to come together, and throwing out the bad ones—- you have to be honest with yourself and realize when you are making boring material—and strive to only use stuff that really sounds good. This is very difficult because we tend to think what we come up with is good just because we came up with it. But that self-deceptive. You have to try to put yourself in the position of the listener, and that’s very hard to do.
Yes, and also because we live in a time where people want the things now not tomorrow, hard to deal with that reality. Any favorite song in the album? Any one harder to complete than the others?
Just like the writing process, the easy ones are often the best. New Organon and the Apology and Being and Nothingness were pretty easy to record and mix, and they came out as some of the best songs. They just sort of played and mixed themselves.
Sounds logic. SF is a band respected and I would even say worshiped by the classic and older metalheads. Time to conqueer new and young blood for the cause with “New Organon”?
I have no idea. I don’t the content of the new album matters when it comes to conquering the youth market. I think that’s more a matter of advertising and money. Young people will buy anything you advertise, in most cases. Older audiences have more refined tastes from experience— but the younger audience is obviously more trendy, and often go with whatever they are told is cool at the time. Of course there are young people who don’t do this—and some of them are underground metal fans! But as far as capturing the mass market, which is usually younger, I think anything is equally possible and impossible, it’s a game of chance, and as I said, advertising and money.
Yeah I remember to do just that when I was much younger hahaha. As a experienced musician and a professor I cannot avoid to ask about your vision of the world nowadays and in what direction you think we walk to?
I have no idea. First of all I am quite political naïve. I don’t know much of what is going on or what is to come. The only thing I do know is that there is no stopping what technology is doing to the human race. Science fiction got it right 60/70 years ago though. Most people, Americans at least, have become robotic. They don’t think much, and they don’t want to. The are only capable of repeating things, not actually thinking. And they have very little in the way of values. Dishonesty and falseness are now rewarded — all that seems to matter is what you can get for yourself. And this often goes unquestioned. We can complain all we want about this, but there’s very little than can be done about it. Technology is not going to stop, and the dystopian fears that the older generation have of everyone becoming automata is not shared by the young. They don’t care, they are happy to become robots. Soon the technology will no longer be outside of their bodies, and they will not be familiar with what we know of as “free will”. We are clearly losing our humanity, and I believe that getting it back will be seen but future generations and as step backwards—not forwards. It’s sad for people of the old world. I refuse submit to this new order, but that does not mean have the power to stop it.
Thanks for your interesting reflection, professor. Back to the daily matters, any tour dates programmed for this year?
Yes, we’re leaving in 5 days for the east coast. 10 shows in Canada and east coast. More west coast dates later this summer.
Cirith Ungol has signed to play in the Keep it True 2020, which promises to be something especial. Slough Feg played there in 2012, a good moment to be back and also celebrate your 30 years?
Perhaps, but we have not been asked. I would definitely play there again if asked.
Oliver, what are you waiting for? Thanks Mike for another great class and another big album! If you wish to add something…