Jeff Swan - Slavedriver

December 6, 2002

You guys are a gothic power metal band. How did you guys hook up and what exactly is gothic power metal?

We go way back. When we started, the drummer and I were in a band called Black And White way back in the ‘80s and our singer who ended up quitting that band left us hanging. What we did is we auditioned vocalists. We couldn’t find anybody so we decided to put a new band together without looking for a singer and I decided to just go ahead and sing myself. We put that band together with the original drummer and we added Bill Gingrich and put together a band called Metal Shop. We were playing around with that for a real long time. As time went on, the whole ‘80s thing went a little whacked out and people were looking for new sounds and we just eventually got a little heavier and heavier. Right now we’re at the gothic metal type of thing. It’s a little bit of black and dark metal but not anything really like death metal or anything like that. It’s creepy kind of stuff. We put that band together and we got a new keyboard player who’s not on any of the recordings like the Carnivore soundtrack. He’s not on that. His name is Phil Dimaso and he added this sound that we have now with a lot of keyboards and orchestra sounds behind our music. We do the drop tuning and we’re coming up with a gothic metal sound. It came from the album Judgement Day that we did back in ’98. That came out on Dark Star Records also and that’s where “Mother Mary” and “L. A.’s Burning” are from. It spawned that little bit of a religious type of thing.

Why was it so hard to find a vocalist? I would think those come a dime a dozen.

Yeah, it was weird. We had tried like maybe 40 people out I remember. We were auditioning all of these guys and it was funny because we’d have the guys that would call up and go “I am like the greatest vocalist there probably is ever.” They would come out and these guys looked great. These guys had long hair and they just had everything going. They walked in like a rock star and most of the guys that said they were just fantastic and “wait until you hear. I’ve got a five octave range.” They just blew. These guys were just horrible. It was funny. We were just going through these people. We had this one guy come out and he drove his van up and just a real partier, long haired guy. He was totally wild and after he was done singing and auditioning for us, we were like “oh god this guy is horrible.” He goes “so hey, can I just move in? I’ve got my van here and I’m not living anywhere. Can I just move into the studio?” We didn’t know what to tell this guy. Then we had a couple of very, very good singers and I could just not deal with their attitudes. They wouldn’t pay for studio rents. “I don’t spend any money” and this kind thing. So the couple of good singers that we did have, their heads were just too far out there. We messed around where I was singing and then after a while we started doing some tunes and they just said “you know what? You’re better than any of the singers that we tried out except for the guys that really have big heads. Why don’t we just go with it?” That’s how that all came about and I’ve been singing for the band for years now. I actually like it a lot. It’s more challenging being the vocalist than just the guitarist in the band.

You’re the one who’s facing the audience and you have more interaction with them.

It is. It’s a really direct contact with the audience. You can feel the pressure and the difference as compared to being just the guitarist in the band. You’re there but you’re not. It’s not a real focal thing I think a lot of times. When we started playing out and I was singing, when we first came out with it, it was like oh my god. It was overwhelming a little bit and then I really got into it. I really enjoy being the singer in the band.

You weren’t hiding behind an instrument.

Yeah, it was easier. And that was fun at the time. I played guitar in a lot of different bands but then I guess you want to do a little bit more. You want to push it a little further.

You guys came out with an album called Judgement Day and that was back in ’98. Have you recorded anything since then?

The only thing that we’ve done actually, we did a video. I don’t know if you know anything about the “Mother Mary” video that we put out.

You guys did the video for “Mother Mary” and that’s on the Carnivore soundtrack. It starred a lady named Catherine Chiarelli. Can you tell us a little about her?

When Ken Mader, the film maker who shot the video for us, was doing auditions for the role of “Mother Mary” and the different characters that we talked about for doing this video. We wanted to do a video that portrayed Mother Mary in a modern setting as a fictional character that you’d look up to. The character of Mother Mary is for helping you in your time that you’re down. She stands above you. That was the whole thing behind that and we wanted to bring that into a more modern light so we were doing some auditions for different people and Ken Mader, being in the film business, had put an ad in the different magazines that were for actors and actresses. There were a whole slew of people who showed up for this audition for the video and we were going through pictures and looking after the auditions, trying to pick out who would be right for different parts in the video. We picked Catherine. She had a good look for the whole thing. We just thought she was definitely the one. She has a little bit of a foreign look to her. The long black hair. It was really cool. We shot this video and we did some scenes in the cemetery and out in Elgin, this big old creepy cemetery and then a pretty famous nightclub in the Chicago land area called The Mission nightclub. It’s a gothic nightclub. Then after we were all done shooting the video, the last day we were shooting, she goes “well, if you guys need any more scenes with me, I’m going to be flying out of the country for a little while and I won’t be available for anything.” We got all those scenes done and we finished it up. Then one of the girls that was in the video had called me and a bunch of different people up and said “hey, that Catherine, I think I just saw her in a commercial for Temptation Island 2. I was like “you’re kidding me.” We tuned into the Fox network and were watching it and there she was on the show. What happened was, right after we shot our video, she’d gone out and done this Temptation Island 2 and then a couple of months later, it came out. So everybody started seeing it. We talked to her and she said it was really interesting and wild. It helped us with the video because when the video came out, it was played all across the nation on a lot of the underground cable networks. We actually hit the Top Ten on the CDC charts for that which was a really good thing for us to get some exposure like that. That was pretty cool.

The video preview is on the soundtrack itself. Were any scenes from the video used in the movie or was it an extra bonus that you got on the soundtrack?

None of that was used in the movie.

“L. A.’s Burning” is the song that was actually featured in the movie. How do they determine which songs they use in the movie and which ones they use to fill up the soundtrack?

Yeah, that was the one that was actually in the movie. When Ken Mader approached I guess the band and Dark Star Records for the songs, it was way back when they were doing the movie that they picked that one song, “L. A.’s Burning”, and a couple of the other Madison Rhoades stuff that was actually in the thing. Then when the actual soundtrack was to come out, they used what was in the movie as far as the recordings and the songs off of different albums and of course that wasn’t enough to fill the album. To do that, they picked a bunch of bands that were relative to the sound of the movie and the era and picked up L. A. Guns and then Holland and Nitro and those bands. The “Mother Mary” track was just another track of ours that was put on there also. Which is fortunate for us that we got two tracks on there.

How did you get hooked up with the Carnivore deal?

This is a really weird story with the whole movie thing. Back in 1989 and I was working delivering soda pop. This is a long time ago. I’m delivering soda pop to these accounts and I just talked to people all the time. I was playing in the bands and this was before a lot of stuff actually happened. This one lady had come up to me and said “we’re doing a film. A bunch of partners and I are doing a horror film and we’re auditioning people. We thought you might be good for one of the characters. We just noticed that you got a little bit of the long hair and you’ve got that look that we’re looking for, for this scene.” I auditioned for the movie and I actually got a part in the movie. I was one of the characters in the movie as Marc in the movie and that spawned my relationship with Ken Mader. We took years to film this thing and it’s really weird. The movie was actually filmed back in the ‘80s but then it got shelved for a real long time. In the meantime I was putting my bands together and looking toward getting the Slavedriver band thing together. It wasn’t until years later, it was about the year 2000, when actually Ken Mader got a big deal with MTI Home Video and he said “yeah, we got signed to MTI Home Video. They’re going to pick up the thing to release it in the United States for all the Hollywood Video stores. You can rent it at Hollywood Video. That’s kind of weird because all that came out later and then what happened was, I was friends with Ken over the years. After working on the film, I’d keep in touch with him so that’s when he helped me put together and shoot the video. Then he called me up and said that they needed some music. Right before it came out, he was looking for the bands and to put some music on the thing. Years before that, he asked me if he could use a track off the record we just put out, the Slavedriver. So they picked “L. A.’s Burning” and then it wasn’t until way later, like the last year, when the soundtrack came out that they added “Mother Mary” to the album too. Since we had a video for it, he thought it was a good idea to put that track on the Carnivore soundtrack.

It took 20 years to get this out.

Yeah, amazing. It’s like yeah, 20 years. It was about 12 or 13 years I think it was to get the movie out and if you watch the movie, there’s actually the making of the movie explanation. They made the making of right before they even put the movie out. There’s actually an interview with me on there too talking about the Judgement Day CD and it’s like “where is everybody now?” because this movie was made so long ago. It’s a weird thing in itself. It could be the longest film to ever make.

Maybe it’ll show up in the Guinness Book Of Records.

That would be cool.

You guys did some touring for the album.

Yeah, we mostly just toured around the Midwest areas. We did mostly Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin. We really didn’t go all over the U. S. for that. We’re looking to maybe do something a little bigger this summer. We basically did a Midwest tour for the Judgement Day CD.

Are you working on new studio material?

We are working on a new album right now. We don’t know what we’re going to call it but we’re in the studio right now actually working on a new one. We’ve got just a whole load of tracks that we did with our new keyboard player and we’ve already laid down about 19 tracks and we’re going to pick about maybe 14 out of those. We have a lot of work to do on that album yet so we’re still working on that.

How do you decide what you’re going to keep and what you set aside?

What we learned from experience is if you do a lot of songs and at one point you like them all or you don’t or you’re not sure, so you just record a lot of songs. More than you can use. Sometimes when you’re laying the tracks down and you’ve got it all pretty much done and you’re listening back, some songs just may not work. They may not work the way you thought they would or “yeah, this song is really not too strong. It’s not like we thought it would be.” So you cut those songs and just take the best out of everything. I think that way you’re going to get a good sounding album.

It sounds like you got a pretty good deal out of it. You got a bit part in the movie and two songs.

Yeah, I’m just ecstatic. I’m just having a great year. I’m enjoying everything going on right now and I’m just trying to go with it. I think with the movie coming out, it was a whole trippy thing for me. I’ve been doing the band thing for a real long time and it’s like now I’ve got this movie thing going on. It’s weird because it was filmed so long ago, people go “oh that movie you were in finally came out?” I’m like “yeah.” They go “you’re kidding me. You can rent it at Hollywood Video?” They watch it and they’re like “my God, you’re really in a movie.” It’s just funny how people trip out on it a lot. It’s been a lot of fun.

It’s just for rental right now?

Yeah, you can buy it all over too. It’s for sale at where ever they sell DVDs. I know Tower had it and it’s available on http://www.amazon.com. All the Hollywood Video stores in the U. S., I know you can rent it. It’s in the horror section right now. There’s two or three copies in everyone of them. You can rent it and check it out. Right now it’s currently on In Demand Pay-per-view also. From what Ken told me, it actually beat out the Blair Witch 2 Project in sales. He’s just saying it wasn’t too bad. It’s not like your big major type movies. It is kind of a low budget horror film but it’s actually getting some numbers up there and it’s doing pretty good.

Sometimes low budget stuff is really cool.

Yeah, I watch a lot of low budget stuff myself because I like the creativity of a lot of underground stuff. I like underground music. I like underground movies. I don’t always like the mainstream, Rolling Stone magazine, bands that are just put out like the next flavor of the month. The record labels are like “you have to look like this because that’s what everybody is doing right now.” I like the creativity of the underground.

The movie I really want to see is the one Rob Zombie did. House Of A 1,000 Corpses.

It seems that got shelved.

Mortiis told me it was really graphic. I guess a lot of people got weirded out by it. Hopefully one day it will come out.

Maybe they had trouble getting a rating.

Any other comments or thoughts?

We just finished filming a live DVD and I’m really excited about this. This is what’s coming out probably around April or so. It’s just about to get a release date. It’s actually all been filmed and it’s a 90 minute live concert performance. It’s also going to have the complete “Mother Mary” video and the making of the “Mother Mary” video. It’s going to have a backstage party that we had at the show. That was just crazy and is going to be on there. Also just some behind the scenes footage of the band. Also we just did a TV show interview on a show called Exposed. It’s out of Chicago and that’s going to be on there also. That’s our big thing coming out right now. Our DVD is called Bleed For Me and it’s kind of a vampire type of thing. We got really the whole gothic thing summed up in this DVD more than anything else. With our new sound we’ve got really eerie keyboards in the back through most of the songs that we play so it’s a little bit of a departure from the “L. A.’s Burning”, “Mother Mary” sound. It’s a little more dark and gothic.

Slavedriver