Music Interviews

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interview by Joy Williams
first published in Creem Metal, Los Angeles


“What we're trying to do in this is just basically enjoy life, enjoy our band, getting up in front of all those people and really going out there and having fun. That's what it is to us, it really is. There's no high like it in the world, really.”

Not too long ago, Mark Slaughter had his dreams but not a lot had been happening for him, career-wise, until ex-Kiss guitarist Vinnie Vincent started putting together his band. Then in one phone call his world changed.

"The management connected with me," Mark remembered in a recent conversation with METAL "and said, basically a band that Dana [Strum] was producing, Sin, were having auditions for a vocalist. Dana called the music store I was working at—I was teaching guitar in Las Vegas—and said, 'Drive down.' My car wouldn't make it there, so I drove my Dad's car down to Los Angeles. I sang for him, he loved my voice—I could've been the first singer in Vinnie Vincent but that didn't work out. Then, later on, I became the singer.

"We went out with Vinnie," Mark continues his story, "but things became more of an individual situation instead of a band. [At first] I thought, 'Hey, it might be something. it might be successful.' But I was in Vinnie Vincent for a year and I had a used car, I lived in a trailer. Therefore, Dana and I left. Vinnie would say we quit, but we left. I doesn't matter either way, subject over."

Regardless of their unhappiness with the Vinnie Vincent Invasion, Mark and Dana formed a strong friendship, one that would carry them into a new band together: Slaughter. In fact, the day after the last performance of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion, Chrysalis called Mark and said, 'Hey, you're staying with this label." Mark admits that for some time before he had been "talking to the President [of Chrysalis], and he said, 'I know what you've been through, and thank you for hanging in there for the extra time that you did.,' because we're ready to quit early—we hung in there for the record label."

The upshot was that a new band was put together and signed right away. And this time, Mark wanted to make things better, not only for himself, but for all the members of the new band. Mark explains that he and Dana deliberately "tried to bring over the fairness that we didn't have [in the Vinnie Vincent Invasion], to these guys. To us, we wanna see these guys grow and succeed and have something out of this as well. That's kinda how we formed this band—as a band. Well, the band is four guys. These guys are buying houses."

Beyond that, Mark and Dana had some very clear ideas about the focus of the band, the way it would be structured, what they were after. As Mark puts it, 'We understand the music business very well, and when we structured this music, we focused it to where it would be played on the radio, where the tour would be non-offensive and just good times. All the tunes were written in the way of having a good time. What we're trying to do in this is just basically enjoy life, enjoy our band, getting up in front of all those people and really going out there and having fun. That's what it is to us, it really is. There's no high like it in the world, really."

Speaking of a "high," some people think that's why so many rockers get into drugs. Mark agrees, "Yeah, it really is. We had a long discussion about that on the bus. That's my theory, I think that what happens is, it's just so fast and you go into the culture shock of 'Whoa.' It's like you're riding a wave and all of a sudden you're on the beach, walking. It's a crutch, something to lean on to give you comfort. We have other things beside that; we just move our focus 'bang' onto something else. We're writing—'bang,' just right into it. Success for me, though... What is 'successful?' I think that a person can be successful being a manager at Taco Bell, if they're happy. But I don't know what success is. Like Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley, they can tell you what success is because they've had it for... how many years, 16 or 20.?

Vinnie Vincent Invasion
Vinnie Vincent Invasion
(l-r) Bobby, Mark, Vinnie, Dana

"But a lot of bands have trouble adapting to success, handling the sudden fame, and all that. Suddenly, despite some intelligent ways that they've have, they expect more from other people, or start to pick on each other. But that's not necessarily as bad as it seems—it's just another way of dealing with the stress. Mark thinks that it's pretty much a normal way that guys have of dealing with each other when they're constantly together. You know how brothers kind of tease each other and pull pranks on each other? It's always going on in the band, some kind of antics are happening. It keeps us sane. We're guys that play rock'n'roll, that's what we are. We're not businessmen, although you almost have to be in a sense to be successful at anything, even managing a Taco Bell. That's the way of life, sad to say it, but that it is."

Drugs are no way to deal with life, Mark says, maintaining that the rest of his bandmates didn't need to go through a druggie period to figure that out, all they had to do was look around them to see that drugs are no good. "I've seen friends of mine who did drugs, in high school, and seen what's happened to them. And Blas, for instance, was influenced by Ted Nugent, who still to this day doesn't drink or do drugs. Obviously, we're not trying to say that anybody that does drugs is a bad person or anything, it's just a crutch. There's other crutches out there. We use our music as a crutch. Everybody's got a crutch—some people have gambling, some people have drinking, some people have sex, cars or something."

Life is tough for all of us, no matter what we do. But for Mark and his band, writing songs and performing is what it's all about, the best "crutch" of all, because it's a positive way of dealing with life. They want to be happy, to enjoy life. They're rockers, and Mark just can't see how some people can get away with putting down rock'n'roll the way they do. At this time, the PMRC [Parents Music Resource Center] is busy putting ratings labels on music in a misguided attempt to "protect" children from the "evils" of rock lyrics.

"What really upsets me about the PMRC and other things that are out there right now, is that they're all pointing fingers at rock'n'roll and saying that that is ruining the kids, so to speak, and corrupting the youth. And, meantime, when the senator's wife is up trying to make a big deal out of it, the kids are at the baby-sitter's, watching... how many murders are committed on television every night? I don't care if it's a mystery or what. I think that definitely scars a kid and makes him think, 'Oh, guns—just blow your head off or blow somebody away.' I think that's a lot worse than what we do. I don't see anything wrong with us. All's that we say is, go out and have a good time."

So why is rock'n'roll such a great, juicy target for the holier than thou crowd? "You know why? Because it's rebellious. Rock'n'roll since Elvis has been a rebellion, and they think of rebellion as evil. Anything that does not conform is automatically labelled as evil. 'Shut up, don't turn up the stereo, don't enjoy yourself...'" And in fact, for hundreds of years there've been religious groups that believe that any form of entertainment, any expression of enjoyment, is a sign of the devil's work. It's a certain mind-set, a way of looking at the world, that some people have. To them, any deviation from the straight and narrow path of hard work, sacrifice and denial is bad. Naturally, then, rock'n'roll, with its emphasis on youthful rebellion and high good times is going to be seen as a corrupting influence.

But Mark sees music as a "a reflection of the times, and to get into what you're feeling, to have said what you're trying to say—because some people don't know how to say how they feel. They might not be able to express themselves. And what we try to do in our music is be very positive. If you have some way of expressing yourself, then it releases that energy without it building up and not having anywhere to go and exploding—with results like the suicide letters that we get."

As you can imagine, the band gets loads of letters from fans, and they make an effort to answer as many as they can. But the most difficult ones are the suicide letters, the letters where kids write in and say that they just can't see any reason for living. Those letters are the ones that are least likely to get answered. Mark explains why by way of giving an example of what happened with one girl that Dana had been writing to for a while.

"What happened was, he wrote this girl, saying, 'Don't commit suicide. Believe in yourself, get yourself together, go back to school, do what you do.' And then she put him as a guiding light in her life, as opposed to her parents. And when he quit writing—see, we're busy, and it's not that we don't care, but we don't have time, we try to make as much time as we can, but if somebody saw a 'day in the life' of what we do, they'd understand—well, her Dad actually wrote and said, "You've crushed my little daughter and she's in a suicidal mode and you'd better write her.' Not only was the kid not strong mentally but the parents weren't either. Obviously, that's the environment that made her the way she is."

Though the suicide letters are hard to deal with, overall the band likes to receive mail from their fans. It's really nice to get feedback on what your music means to your fans. For instance, Mark talks about how kids have reacted to "Flight of Angels." "It's given a lot of kids that have written us a lot of inspiration. You know, I'm glad that it has given a lot of them the hope to go on after their friends have died, they don't know how to deal with it."

On the other hand, not everybody understands what the songwriter is getting at. Mark admits that, "There's misunderstanding of the song. Like, one time somebody said that I wrote the song about suicide as a 'a way out.' That pissed me off, because I'm very anti-suicide. I'm pro-life, you know. I'm very into life, and that, to me, is something I wanted to convey to people—to live, love and laugh, and be very happy and enjoy life to the fullest. And that's kind of what we do, just get up there and have fun, enjoy ourselves." And you should, too. That's what life is all about, and that's what Mark Slaughter and his band are all about. And the truth be known, happy people make the world a better place for everyone. So go for it, rockers. Live, love and be happy, for you only have one life to live--so you may as well make the best that you can.


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