What first made you want to pursue music?
The natural course of just having a love for music I think is the key. You know, I just love music, it’s been a passion first and foremost. It’s not like I thought ‘Oh, here’s a career’, it’s just something I love to do. As soon as I got a little older everyone was asking me what I was gonna do with my life and I was like well, I guess I’ll just make music. My friends when I was in school were like ‘You’ve got the perfect name for rock and roll! It’s awesome!’, so it was kinda like one of those things where I was like yeah, that’s what I’ll do- and I did it.
When did you first realize that you could sing so well and were so talented?
Well thank you. I loved singing- I used to be on the swings singing when I was a little kid. One of my neighbors said to my father ‘he’s got a voice on him’ but he never really thought anything of it. Usually if I did my chores I would get a 45 each week, you know it was whatever one I wanted that week and that’s what I worked for and did stuff for. I just loved that the one song I got each week was something I was passionate about. And again, it’s not something that I thought ‘this is what I’m gonna do’- it was just a natural love that I had.
And you play guitar too, right?
Yeah! After I graduated from high school I actually taught guitar for a few years in Las Vegas, I didn’t really push the guitar thing when I joined Vinnie Vincent Invasion or in Slaughter because it wasn’t really something that I wanted to do as a front man. When you’re a front man you mainly just work the crowd and there is a substantial difference but I love playing guitar and it’s a passion of mine and always will be. It’s just that I’m known as a singer.
How’d you get the gig with Vinnie Vincent Invasion?
Well Robert Fleishman, it didn’t work out with him and they had made the record. And Dana, as they were making the first part of the record, knew I could sing the parts and they reached out to the record label and inevitably the label said ‘here’s the singers that could be up for the gig’. And Jeff Aldridge who discovered Blondie and Billy Idol and pretty much anyone you can think of, he’s the one who said go with this kid, he’s the one you should go with. And I was only about 21 at the time.
And how was Vinnie Vincent Invasion overall?
It was a great opportunity for the fact that my very first show that I did with Vinnie was with Alice Cooper and then we toured with Iron Maiden after that. It was kinda like, we didn’t even really build up from the clubs, I did that all with my local band in Las Vegas. But to really go from a local scene into- ‘by the way, put your guitar down, you’re a lead singer’- it was baptism by fire for sure. But it was a great opportunity and I still listen back to those songs with great fond memories, that just kinda what it is when you look back on things. You remember the good stuff and forget the stupidity in-between.
What made you want to leave?
Vinnie wanted things a certain way, to the point where he would open the set with a guitar solo and in the middle of the set he would do another part of a guitar solo which lasted like 20 minutes. We would go to the front of the venue because we were playing large venues at the time and we would shake people’s hands as they left. And we’d say we’re gonna put something else together, and they were like ‘this is ridiculous I’m sorry’ and we were like ‘hey, don’t worry about it we’ll see you next time’ and it was very odd but that’s how it was. Everybody loves the musicality and I’m a true believer in that, but there is a point where there has to be melodic structure and not just riffing. And I think it literally just turned into that.
So you and Dana leave Vinnie Vincent Invasion and start Slaughter-
Well yeah, I was bound to a leaving member agreement which means that if I left I would need to submit four songs in which they would evaluate- whether they like the songs and the direction I was going. If they did I would be under the terms and agreements that were set by Vinnie Vincent Invasion in which I did end up with that deal, basically- Vinnie’s deal. They ended up dropping Vinnie and I walked away with his recording contract.
Which isn’t bad, that’s actually pretty great!
Yeah it was pretty crazy. I don’t think he was happy with the label in the first place and they weren’t happy with him, you know. But again, I look back to that and Vinnie is an incredible talent, nobody’s gonna take that away from him, he should start making music again instead of worrying about the second record and trying to have somebody redo it. It makes no sense, that was 30 years ago.
Besides from obviously getting the record deal how did you get Slaughter off the ground?
We did that, we did song demos and the record label loved it. We also specified that we would be able to write and produce our own music and not have anybody else involved- so we had set the terms of creativity within the band between Dana and I. Ultimately that meant that we are, and I think from this genre, the only band that wrote, produced and performed all of our own music and we still do that to this day. It was a really cool thing because we had a lot of creativity to do whatever we wanted and I think that’s part of the magic of all that stuff. Like in today’s world you can do whatever you want to, musically, and no one’s gonna say you can’t do that.
Slaughter started right on the brink of grunge- if I’m not wrong the first album came out in 1990?
Do you think that negatively affected you guys as a whole?
Let’s say it was out when Cinderella was out or when some of our other peers were out. We would have probably had a different or even a better career because we were really in the last wave of all of that. And that being said, did that affect us? Yeah it affected us in the way that our career was perceived in that last wave. You know, it is what it is. But we were glad to be a part of it and are still out touring and still out doing what we love to do.
Looking back at Slaughter is there anything you would change? Ideally would you want to set it back a few years?
No, I mean we had the record done in the middle, actually in the beginning of 1989. But we held the record six months because we didn’t believe that the record company had their marketing together. So it was part of the things we had to do to have our, how should I put it, to know that it would have a fighting chance. It is the music business, not the music fun, and we treated it as such.
And does Slaughter still make music? I know you guys play shows but do you see any new music in the future?
We wrote some songs a couple years ago and you know it was great stuff but it’s really just getting everyone together in the same room and doing that. I think that Dana, and I understand his point of view, thinks that people want to hear the hits and the nostalgic side of things and not us trying to force feed new music to the consumers. So that being said I ended up doing a solo record a year ago and that was kinda the principle of it. It’s not that I’m trying to go away from the band at all but I’m an artist and I create art, so that’s where that’s all from.
Before we get into the new album I do want to ask you about your voice over work because I know you do a lot of that. I was wondering how you started doing that?
I was always a goofball. I met a really talented voice over artist named Jess Harnell, and Jess is a great guy and he kinda told me hey, what about this? We were friends, we used to go around hanging out together and in that he basically introduced me to some people and then it just kinda started. I did it for a little while and then after that I moved out to Tennessee, and it’s just, I don’t know, they want you in Hollywood to do lunch! And I’m just not in Hollywood, so that’s how it is. But it was a great experience and I loved doing it.
Do you have any favorite things you’ve done?
I did some stuff that was independent but it never really saw the light of day and I enjoyed doing that because I did all the characters. But it was kind of a thing that never went as far. Probably Queen Mum was one of the better ones, on Animaniacs, that was good. But for the most part I did some stuff on Rocket Power and these were mainly on additional characters and not any main characters. But you know it was a blast and I loved doing it.
Now moving on to the new solo album, what made you want to do that? Was it because you couldn’t really release any new material with Slaughter?
No it’s just that I think I was creating music and I wasn’t like ‘oh! I’m gonna do a record!”. I was writing and I was doing stuff at my place and I just decided I was gonna put out some new music because the people I played the stuff for thought it was great and that I should put it out. So I ended up having Michael Wagner, a friend of mine, mix it and he loved the music and he got it- he comes from that era. It was great and it was a great experience and I’m writing new material now as we speak and I’ll do another one soon after.
And I know you played like everything on the album besides drums, I never knew you were so versatile!
It’s something you do when you’ve been doing it a long time. You know, you know it, and if you’re a writer you know what you want. There’s a lot of great musicians I could have pulled in to work on this and sure it would have eased up on recording time but I wanted it a certain way and I think it reflects that when people hear the music.
It’s good that you can have that sense of control when you do something on your own opposed to having an entire band.
Yeah, and there’s also a disadvantage to that where you start to second guess yourself. If someone’s there, you get the support saying ‘yeah that’s great’, and otherwise you still think ‘is that good?’, or ‘do I need to fix that?’ You start having those questions that you would not otherwise.
And I noticed that the album was only available on a digital format for three or four months before it was on CD, did you do that purposefully?
Yeah, I think that that’s where the industry is going and I think that I’m pretty much ahead of the curve on that. If you go into Best Buy or any of those places you’ll see that CD’s are shrinking- they’re not putting CD’s in cars anymore, they’re not putting CD’s in computers. It’s one of those things where I was not trying to invest in a format that I know is gonna be gone in some years. And a lot of people were like look, I don’t have a computer or iTunes or whatever, and that is when I went ahead and made the CD’s.
And it was released on a card, right?
Yes. The card is called iDitty and it’s relatively new, I know Sony is releasing some stuff on it now. It’s starting to get its place, but that’s where it’s going. In other words it’s a download that can be done on your computer or on your phone or however you usually do your music and that’s where the contact is between the artist and the consumer. The good part of it is when the artist wants to- like if I decide I wanted send out a video or a new song or anything I want to the people with the card- it’ll say ‘do you want to update- Mark Slaughter has something new’ and if they say yes then they’ll be able to see hear or understand where and how to do that.
That’s an awesome platform; I didn’t know it worked like that.
Yeah so it’s kind of where it’s going- it’s weeding out the record company mentality of control and putting it right from the artist to the people.
And you can definitely tell that’s where this industry is headed.
It is, it is. And I think there are other ways of marketing and creating publicity for an artist- it’s a totally different model than it was years ago. We used to create a CD so that we could tour and now it’s flipped around the other way- you’ll go out and tour so you can sell your CD. So the model is exactly backwards of what it used to be.
And my last question for you is basically, what’s next?
I really don’t think a book is in my forecast right now. Even though I have a lot of great stories along with a lot of my other colleagues in this industry but think right now I’m gonna focus on continuing to make music. I’ve got about four songs right now that are gonna be on the next record and that’s kind of where I’m at. Hopefully I’ll have it all written within a few weeks and it’ll be out soon.