SLAUGHTER – Bassist Dana Strum discusses the state of Slaughter, working with Vince Neil, Vinnie Vincent, Jake E. Lee and more

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DANA STRUM

INTERVIEW AND LIVE PICS BY MARKO SYRJALA

Slaughter is a hard rock/glam metal band formed in late 1988 in Las Vegas, Nevada, by former Vinnie Vincent Invasion members – vocalist Mark Slaughter and bassist Dana Strum.  The original lineup was completed by guitarist Tim Kelly and drummer Blas Elias. The band reached great success in 1990 with their first album, “Stick It To Ya,” which went to double platinum in the United States. The record included hit singles “Up All Night,” “Spend My Life,” and “Fly to the Angels,” which all received a lot of radio and MTV rotation. The second album, “The Wild Life,” followed in 1992, and it was another successful release by the band.  They released two more albums, “Fear No Evil” (1995) and “Revolution” (1997), but the changes in the business and new musical trends in mid 90’s caused Slaughter to lose its position. The big tragedy struck in 1998 when guitarist Kelly was killed in an auto accident in Arizona desert. Jeff Blando joined the band in 1999, and the album “Back To Reality” was released later that same year. Although Slaughter has not been much in the headlines lately, they never officially disbanded the band. The group still tours, mostly in the USA. In June of 2012, they finally came over to Europe for the first time. The band performed at the  Sweden Rock Festival. In Sweden, I met the band’s bassist Dana Strum, and we discussed the state of the band, the old days, working with Vince Neil, placing people in bands, and of course, Strum’s colorful past with Vinnie Vincent. Mark Slaughter and Jeff Blando were also present, and they both also gave some comments on a few things.

THE STATE OF SLAUGHTER

So guys, you finally made it to Europe with Slaughter after all these years!

Dana Strum: We’re finally here. It’s been a long time coming, you know, it has, it’s been a long time coming, and we were very, very happy to be able to come. And it’s exactly what we hoped for, you know, just at least allow us to play you know the music that we play the way that we play and if you like it you like it and if you don’t that’s what we do.

I think it was in the early ’90s when Slaughter was going to tour in Europe with some other band, but it never happened?

Dana Strum: It was with Cinderella, and the whole tour got canceled. We were just miserable. I was like defeated, you know. That’s terrible because I wanted so badly, you know when I was a kid my favorite band was Black Sabbath but I saw Black Sabbath in 1972 for real, not Black Sabbath as alternative bands, I saw the real Black Sabbath when nobody knew who they were and especially in America at that time. And I just loved, I thought to man these guys, they’re onto something different, no one sounds like these people. I love music. I love the Beatles. Nobody sounds like them, you know. It’s so different, so unique, and so interesting. At that time in America, people would almost make fun of you for liking Black Sabbath. I’m like are “You crazy, these guys are changing the world” I was like, “These guys are changing the world of hard rock music forever, don’t you understand that?” But people didn’t, and it was really weird. But for me, they were like heroes, so you know Europe was important for me and then when we didn’t get our chance I was just devastated. I thought, but we play with a lot of passion because we believe in what we do and like, “Fuck, we’re never going to have our chance, man.” When that whole thing got canceled. I was really, and I was really devastated; I was just miserable. I said, you know, “It’s great that we’re big in America, it’s great that we’ve done our thing in Canada, but there’s a whole world over there man, and those people are passionate, and they love the music,” and it’s just fucked then. I was just devastated.

You played one brand new song today, so is it possible that the new Slaughter studio album could see the light of day sometime in the future?

Dana Strum: We did play one new track, and there is a European label Frontiers that’s made us…

Oh, once again, it’s Frontiers who wants to work with an American hard rock band. I’m not surprised. “Laughs”

Dana Strum: Yeah, once again. And we have a standing offer now, and we’re going to move forward with them, and that would be the new music.

Well, do you have any plans or ideas when the new album could be ready to get released?

Dana Strum: Well, you sound like him now because every other week, you know?

Do I sound like Serafino? “Laughs”. “When the album ready? When?” “Laughs”

Dana Strum: You’re right. That’s exactly what he does. He’s like, “When I’ll see it, I’ll believe it,” you know. But you’re right. But you know what? He’s going to get the music that he believes in, that we believe in and that he deserves. He’s made an honest and fair offer, and we’re excited about it, so yes, it’s Serafino, yes. He is a great guy, and he believes so much. I don’t think he understands my method sometimes, like, “Look; I just want to make it right, okay?” It doesn’t have to be tomorrow at 04:00; let’s do it right, let’s do a good record for real. Not just the money. He doesn’t care; yeah, he wants it now.

Frontiers do release a lot of albums every year.

Dana Strum: That’s right, that’s what I mean. So you know you have to like, “Look, we do care, let’s do it right.”

Mark Slaughter: We’re not going to do a demo.

Dana Strum: When you see us out for the very first time playing here, that can grow, you know, that can grow. Let it grow properly. Yeah, it’s an alligator wrestle “Laughs.”

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WORKING WITH RANDY RHOADS AND JAKE E. LEE

Besides playing, writing and producing, you’ve also helped many talented musicians to find great jobs in the business, and one of the best-known clients you had was Randy Rhoads. How did that thing get started, and what kind of memories do you have of that time?

Dana Strum: I was a kid that loved music, and I was very lucky and very fortunate to be at the time a 20-year-old kid that met a guy named Randy Rhoads. And I sat in a club where nobody cared, and I had the courage to say, “There’s no way you know you belong in this place. Something’s got to happen to you”. And I think at first he thought I was absolutely crazy, and I said “You don’t belong in this band, and you’re going to do big things, man, I know it. Take my number” – at the time there was no cell phones, so all you did was call the home phone you know. Yeah, I called his mother, but his mother used to hang up on me, “Don’t call here anymore.” And I was very lucky to follow my heart. And I remember when Randy talked to him, and he says “I really don’t like Black Sabbath.” I’m like, “You’re kidding me?” Again, I was devastated. I’m like, “How can you not like my favorite band. You can’t be saying that. You play just like that”. “No, I don’t, I play like Mick Ronson,” and he was “I’m going to bring you a tape,” at the time cassette tape, and I said, “Okay, please,” you know. And he said, “You’re going to see everything I do, all the stuff I do is Mick Ronson,” and then when I saw a picture of Mick Ronson and I heard the tape, I’m like, “Oh my God, this guy is literally like Mick.” He is the guy he loved. And so it’s interesting, you never know whose influences are whose. For example, if it weren’t for Paul McCartney or Geezer Butler, I would have never played the bass. I think those guys are so good at what they do, and I love what they do. So I’m still that kid, you know, I still love what I do.

It’s a thing that keeps the all doing fresh.

Dana Strum: It does, it does. I’m still that kid you know that was in my bedroom and just hoped I could do this. So I’m lucky. I’m thankful. You know I worked with a number of acts, as you probably know. Sometimes I don’t know that they think they’re lucky and thankful, and I always think I do; you know I’m lucky and thankful.

Randy was one of your clients, but you also worked with many other talented people at the time, and one of those was Jake E. Lee.

Dana Strum: Jake was better; Jake honestly was a more talented guitar player than a lot of people thought he was. Jake – my favorite thing that Jake did on the audition tapes that I did with him; he did his classical thing that almost brought tears to my eyes. Like you know, “You looking like that, do that!” and he’s like “What do you mean” and I’m like, “Dude, you’re really gifted. You don’t belong in Hollywood, you’re like really a gifted musician,” and he looked at me like he saw a ghost you know, I said, “Are you kidding me, you’re beautiful at what you do. Don’t you know that? You’ve been in Hollywood so long you don’t even know that anymore”. And he was a challenging person, and he was a real talent. And sadly, because of personal issues, he never got to live what he should have.

I’ve read somewhere that you’re no longer in touch with Jake. What happened between you in the past?

Dana Strum: Yeah, it’s interesting because a girl worked at Atlantic Records when Badlands was happening, and I never really knew. He and I had a falling out over a car that rolled over that his girlfriend crashed, and I got stung for it for $12,000, and it was really sad that part of the end of my relationship with him is over his girlfriend and money and not over music. It happens though, it happens. And I just let it go. I still think he’s a talented person, and $12,000 doesn’t mean anything to me at this point in my life. If that matters to me at this point in my life, I’m in the wrong business.

Do you have any idea what Jake’s up to these days? He’s not seen much n public for a while.

Dana Strum: Yeah, he knows some people that we know. Blando knows some people, and we did know each other when Blando started to run shows in Las Vegas. He came in and out. Blando, didn’t you play with Jake at one point, or did Jake come up and play with you at one point?

Jeff Blando: He did not, actually.

Dana Strum: But he was there, and I was just happy to hear that he may be interested in playing again and maybe getting his spark back again. I mean, when you lose your fire, it’s a sad thing, whenever you see somebody you know had such fire and then you lose that fire, and he never deserved to lose his fire over personal issues.

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Mark Slaughter, Dana and Jeff Blando in Swedenrock 2012

MARK ST.JOHN AND LED ZEPPELIN

Didn’t you also help Mark St. John aka Mark Norton to find his short-term job at KISS in 1984?

Dana Strum: Yeah, yeah, I knew him too. In the short term, though, very short term, very short term. That was almost more of a business deal. Yeah, that was a little more of a business thing. But I mean I loved you know, I loved some of those songs. I like songs more than just somebody playing. I like songs, so I liked “Heaven’s On Fire,” it’s a good song. I like songs, so you know, when you say that name, it reminds me of a good song. He didn’t write the song, but it reminds me of a good song. I like the people who invent the songs because sometimes it’s interesting to think what they think when they do like a song. What did they think when they did that, was it going to be that lyric, or was it just going to be this cool riff, you know. I’m always interested in knowing that. We played Reno, Nevada and one of the most exciting days was Jimmy Page and David Coverdale came to the show. And all I wanted to do was ask questions about “Led Zeppelin II,” my dream. And I’m like, “Look; I wouldn’t play the bass if it wasn’t for “Led Zeppelin II,” and like, I know I sound like a fucking stupid idiot, but I want to ask you a lot of questions about these songs.” Like, “I don’t think this song and that part were ever really the same song,” he’s like, “It wasn’t.” I’m like, “I knew it, oh my God,” he’s like, “They weren’t even the same recording session.” I’m like, “Wow, that’s just so fucking cool” I’m so like, “You just knew that jam would fit in this and this,” and he goes, “Yeah,” I’m like, “Fuck”, it’s a track “Heartbreaker.” I’m like, “I knew it, I fucking knew it” I didn’t know it until he told me, you know, but I’m like, “You just really, you made a decade of my life by saying that because I always thought it doesn’t even sound the same”

 

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Dana and Blando in action

THE EARLY YEARS WITH VINNIE VINCENT

The next obvious name on my list is the one, and only Vinnie Vincent.

Dana Strum: Oh, Vinnie Vincent, a really interesting person. Needless to say, I haven’t talked to him since 1988. I’ve never even said “Hello,” but I don’t harbor it anymore. I did for a long time. I just didn’t get it, but I don’t harbor it anymore. I almost feel bad for him.

Well, who doesn’t?

Dana Strum: To have that interesting talent but not know how to…

 How to use that talent?

Dana Strum: Yeah, in my opinion, very important, this is only my opinion, it’s not a fact – in my opinion, he’s never been able to capitalize on what I do know is some really serious talent that he has. And I never talked to him again. The early days with him were interesting; those were interesting. Those days were really naive and young, and I just wanted to get a leg up. I’d been working in L.A. studios, and when I met him, I thought, “I know how to do what you want to do,” so we made the first record, the first Invasion record. “Oh, I know how to do this? Do you really want to go for it? I know how to do this, and it will sound fucking great,” And it was a really unique sounding record. And I said, “It won’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard because we’re going to do this from our heart. I’m going to sit here all night long with no computers, I’m going to make this happen”. And I was really proud of it. So when the whole thing started to crumble, I was personally – again, I was just devastated because I thought, “I put my heart into this man. I sat every day working on this thing,” so I was devastated. But things happen, you know, in life that devastates you, and it devastated me because I put my heart into it, and I lost. I lost because the person you invest in isn’t what you thought they were, so I lost.

Wasn’t you the one who recommended Vinnie to KISS in 1982?

Dana Strum: In the early day, I just thought it was a cool opportunity because Gene and Paul had called me because Sharon talked about “Look this guy, he knows all these guys, Randy Rhoads and so on,” and it was different. It wasn’t like what you’d think. With Randy, it’s the same thing, and when he told me he didn’t like Black Sabbath, I was devastated. I was like, “How? That’s my favorite band, and you’re insulting my favorite band. How could you do this?” But it was the way it really was. And he gave me the Mick Ronson bootleg tape and said, “You see the way I look,” and all of sudden I looked at the pictures, I’m like “Oh my God!” I never got it, really. “You are literally that guy that you love.” And he gave me that tape, and he says, “You know the strings in my band and my D-tuning, this is all Mick Ronson. Listen.” But when he gave me the tape, I did. I got my stupid car and listened to the cassette.

I’m like, “Oh my God, it’s everything this guy does.” And there was a certain innocent beauty to that. I remember when we sat in the Le Parc Hotel, and he was like, well “, What do you think we’re going to do.” I said, “I have no idea, but I know you need to do this.” He’s like, “Yeah, but what’s the music going to be?” I said:” I don’t know?” He was very concerned, though, about the Black Sabbath part. He just did not want anything to do with it. I’m like, “How can you say that? Those are my favorite songs?”

 

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Vinnie Vincent Invasion in 1988: Bobby Rock, Mark, Vinnie Vincent, and Dana

THE STORY OF GÖRAN EDMAN AND THE ALICE COOPER TOUR

After Robert Fleischman had left the band, you were seeking a new vocalist. And one of the guys you tried out before Mark, was a Swedish guy Göran Edman, how then, later on, worked with Yngwie Malmsteen. What do remember about his audition with the band, and why he didn’t get the job?

Dana Strum: Oh Göran, yeah Göran. I was just talking to him (Blando) about it. He was going to be the singer, you’re right, and I called him. I spoke to him, and I was concerned that he couldn’t say Vinnie’s name. I said to Vinnie, “Look, he can’t say your name. He pronounces it in dialect, and he can’t say your name. What would it be like to tour and he says, “Winnie Wincent.” That’s not your name.” He said, “I don’t know,” and I felt odd because I would have had to fly all the way over. And in the meantime, I had met Mark, you know, a young kid that was so anxious, and I thought, “I’m from Las Vegas, my money is on the kid,” you know. And so Göran, Vinnie wanted him big time, and Vinnie liked the way he sang, he really wanted him, and I guess I was the criminal that fucked that up. I went with Mark, and the record company was angry at me, Vinnie was angry at me, Göran was probably angry at me, all of Sweden’s probably angry at me. But I went with what I thought was right, and I just didn’t think it was right.

I met Göran like two years ago when he was playing a show in Helsinki. We then discussed this subject, and he said that he did altogether three studio sessions with Vinnie. The first session was the one you just mentioned, another one was after Mark had left the band, and the third was ‘around 1994.

Dana Strum: Yeah, when Mark left, I think what Vinnie was trying to do whatever… you know – “I should have just done this.” He probably called him up, you know, and went, “Fuck these guys, I should have just done this right from the beginning with!” you know. And meanwhile, we had sold millions with Slaughter. So he’s like, you know, “I’m just going to call everybody I wanted to call and say fuck these idiots.” And I knew he hated us, you know, I think it’s a fair bet to say, but with Göran, I didn’t do anything bad to him. I just didn’t think it wasn’t the right thing to do then.

 Actually, Göran didn’t say anything negative about you when I met him, but however, he wasn’t too happy with how things worked with Vinnie in the end?

Dana Strum: Well, if he had dealt with him (Vinnie) afterward, I’m sure he did, you know. I’m like, “Good luck, you know if you can make it work, good luck, baby.” “Laughs”

One other thing I would like to ask about Invasion is your 1988 tour with Alice Cooper. It must have been an interesting tour.

Dana Strum: It was a really interesting tour. I mean, we used to throw shit down; we broke shit every night. It was a really interesting time. It was really good memories. Mark had never sung a show as a singer in his life. He never sang ever with a microphone in his hand before that. It was one of those on-the-fly things, and it was like, “All right kid, get up there and give it a go. Here’s your shot”. And it was interesting.

I’ve seen a lot of video clips from that tour, and it has to be said that Alice Cooper had an amazing stage show on that tour.

It was. The stage show was great, his band was great. Everything was great, and it was all good fun. Everything about that tour other than the band we were in was really good fun. If I were just tour managing the tour, I would have been really happy because I love the Alice Cooper songs. I just wish that I wasn’t playing on that tour.

 

THE BREAKUP WITH VINNIE VINCENT AND THE BIRTH OF SLAUGHTER

Tell me something about the final breakup with Vinnie.

Dana Strum: That was ugly, ugly.

I guess that the breakup didn’t come as a surprise to you?

Dana Strum: No, I wasn’t surprised it was ugly.  At one point, we were in the dressing room, and I don’t know what happened.  At the time, I didn’t drink that much, but just this rage came over me. I’d just fucking had it, and I’m like, “You know what, fuck you.”  And I remember I put the thing down. I said, “Take one fucking swing; it will be the last fucking swing you ever take in your fucking life.”  And he looked at me, and I looked at him, and I knew it was over, and he knew it was over.  But I said, “Look, I’ll play until you supposedly find a replacement, every city you want. Find a replacement”. Well, it never happened, and then we played until the end in Anaheim; I took my shit, and when I slammed the door of the car with my fucking shit in the car, I couldn’t have been happier.  I saw that’s the best fucking day of my life to drive away from this fucking stupidity. That’s what I did.

Once you and Mark decided to form a new band together, there’s a rumor saying that Chrysalis Records then simply took the $4 million contract away from Vinnie Vincent and transferred the contract to you?

Dana Strum: We turned it down because I just didn’t feel at the time that it was right. We went with a smaller company because we didn’t have that opportunity, and they offered a bunch of money, and they tried to take us out. They offered us something that we didn’t (want), and Mark and I talked about it, and I said, “Hey look, we’ve burned this bridge with these people at Chrysalis (Records), and if we were to make that move, if it doesn’t work, we’re fucked! If it does work, we’re heroes.” But we stayed with the small guys and won that way, and believe me. That was a really weird meeting because we left, and we were like, “wow, we’ll have to break out everything we’ve done and tell them like, I dunno…” So we met with the small guys and said, “look, we’re not going to beat you up, but how do we change this crappy deal we are in?” Everything happened in one night over dinner. Even our lawyer didn’t believe it.

Mark Slaughter: Our lawyer said, “He’s not going to discuss that with you.” So he was like, you go have dinner, you kids go have a good time, and then we literally renegotiated the deal. It was just

Dana and I, just the two of us. No manager, just the two of us, that’s it.

Dana Strum: He told us there was no way that’s going to happen at dinner, and I’m like, “look, the whole deal is not going to be what it was.” We sat at this meeting, and it’s like look, “we want to drop this and this and we’ll give you a million dollars”…and I was like, “we can’t do that.”

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The classic Slaughter lineup

CHANGES IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS AND DIFFICULT TIMES

Slaughter did very well with the first two albums, but then things started to change in the music business

Dana Strum: It changed completely. The whole music business changed.

How do you see that time and all those changes now afterward?

Dana Strum: Times change. Things happen; times change. I mean, some of those bands made really good songs at the time, and you know, corporate America was saying “Let’s do this,” and I believed in hard rock, and times changed. It was very obvious nobody was seeing the best money in this kind of music anymore. And I was a realist, and I thought the end is near, you know the end is fucking near.

Despite the prevailing circumstances, the band decided to continue. and released two great albums, “Fear No Evil” and “Revolution.”

Dana Strum: We still kept going, yeah, at a really bad time. It was a terrible time. We might as well have been done anyway. There was nothing there.

And it certainly didn’t help that you lost your guitarist Tim Kelly in a car accident in 1998?

Dana Strum: We went through a very bad time, and I didn’t know if he was able to continue with the band anyway, and I didn’t have an answer for that.

Right, I do remember that you had to replace him temporarily with Dave Marshall because of legal problems he had at the time?

Dana Strum: Very much so at one time. And he was overcoming those problems, and then he died. So, there was an untold story you never really knew. You never knew the score because the story ended before you knew the score. Was he a hero, and did he get it together and everything and come back, you know. It’s a mystery. I mean, I don’t know.

 In 1999, you recruited Blando as your new guitarist. How did he come into the picture?

Dana Strum: That guy, yeah. Tim knew him, though. They knew each other. Tim was the one that originally used to talk about him and suggested him. And my gut was if the guy we know doesn’t want to do it, I think maybe we just want to call it and mess this whole thing up. And that’s exactly what I thought. I thought if he doesn’t want to do it and this doesn’t work out, maybe you know fuck it up and let it go.

In recent years, it has been a little confusing that Slaughter has performed with a number of different lineups, and sometimes even you have been away. Do you want to explain that?

Dana Strum: It was a mistake to do, and maybe I’m the guilty party of that mistake. I just thought we could keep both bands working, and I thought, “Hey, everybody will work.” And in hindsight, it was a huge mistake. I admit guilt, and it was a mistake.

But it’s fixed now.

Dana Strum: It’s fixed. I would never denigrate a band like that again because it was a bad statement, you know?

So, from now on, there will never be a Slaughter show without you?

Dana Strum: No, no. I wouldn’t do it, no I wouldn’t do it.

 

THE STUFF OUTSIDE SLAUGHTER

In general, how do you manage to share your time with Vince Neil’s band and Slaughter?

Dana Strum: It’s not easy. “Laughs.” I have a guy out here that’s doing this tour. So we relied on him tonight to help mix the band. Actually, Blando did the U.K with Vince, and he’s still alive. He’s still here to talk about it. I don’t know how but, he’s still here! “Laughs”

Jeff, you’re you working in Dana’s company as well?

Jeff Blando: Yep

Mark Slaughter: We wear a lot of hats around here. “Laughs.”

Mark, since Dana and Blando are sometimes busy with Vince Neil and other stuff, you’ve done other stuff too. You have been e.g. on tour with the Nelson brothers?

Mark Slaughter: I did a couple of shows with Nelson. I did about five shows with them. We did shows in Nottingham, and we did China, we did M3 –festival, so it was a good run of shows, and it was fun, you know. It was kind of like as long as we didn’t have conflicting schedules. But it was like, you know if they were doing band Vince shows, I was doing some Nelson shows. It was kind of like if it worked in the schedule, then we would just do that, you know.

You’ve been in business for over thirty years now. Have you ever been thinking about putting out a solo album?

Mark Slaughter: No, I haven’t. I don’t want to degrade what we do, what Slaughter does. There have been some offers with some people, but if it’s not Slaughter records, we’ve done so well, so meticulous…

It’s been like 13 years since the last Slaughter album was released.

Mark Slaughter: Yes, it has been.

So, I’m sure that you have at least a few songs written in your table box? “Laughs”

Dana Strum: That’s why it will be interesting to hear the first thing, “Laughs.”

Mark Slaughter: So when you hear it, it will sound like Slaughter.

Are you still doing those voiceover things as well?

Mark Slaughter: I do a lot of voiceover stuff, and I make music for television too. So, like I make music, yeah. There you go.” Laughs”

All right, guys. I think that our time’s up now. Thanks for your time, and see you later!

Slaughter: Thank you!

 


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