Barbaric Celtic Folk Metal

The Lord Wierd Slough Feg The Lord Weird Slough Feg is an excellent underground heavy metal band from San Francisco. Not only do they play a refreshingly inventive form of power metal, they also incorporate Celtic and folk music influences into their eclectic sound. The band has several demos under its collective belt, as well as a self-titled, self-released CD and the fairly new "Twilight Of The Idols" LP on Doomed Planet Records. A CD version of the album with bonus tracks also is available in Europa on Dragon Heart Records. Below is a chat with guitarist Mike Scala from June 1999 that is exclusive to this website. All rights reserved.

For the sake of our readers, please briefly discuss the origin of your band's name.
It is from Celtic mythology, but I first came across it in a comic book entitled "Slaine The Berserker." Slough Feg was a high Drune lord priest of the horned god, a Pagan. He opposed Danu the Earth goddess. I though it sounded earthy and bestial, yet otherworldly somehow as well. That is how I wanted my music to sound too, so I used the name.

I notice in a lot of magazines that you are referred to simply as "Slough Feg." Does that piss you off? After all, your full name is "The Lord Wierd Slough Feg."
Interesting question. No it does not piss me off, because "The Lord Wierd" was always written smaller, as a prefix, until Dragon Heart put it on the album in equal size. Our name has always been Slough Feg, and The Lord Wierd was always written smaller. It is part of the name, but from now on I want it to be in smaller print on top of Slough Feg. I like being referred to as just "Slough Feg." Although "The Lord Wierd" makes it easier for people to remember.

I understand that you are or were a big comic book fan. Any favourites?
I guess I am somewhat the same. I don't read much anymore. I really liked "Nemesis the Warlock," "Slaine the Berserker," "Iron Man," "Daredevil," and "The Avengers," when I was in junior high.

Obviously Celtic music and mythology play a huge role in your band. When did you first become interested in Celtic lore? Are any of your members of Celtic descent?
I am half Irish, my drummer and bass player are a little bit Irish, but that's of little importance. I read the Tain when I was 19 and the Slaine Comic books that were based on the Tain. I thought it lent itself to heavy metal very well. We started out writing all our songs about Irish myths. The Celtic sounding riffs came later, sort of by mistake.

Do you ever listen to "The Thistle And Shamrock" show on National Public Radio? It is a Celtic/Irish/Scottish folk music show on Saturday mornings.
I know very little about Irish folk music. I like some of it. I like The Pogues. I like Horselips. But we discovered Celtic music through writing metal riffs. We started by trying to sound like Iron Maiden, and somehow those Egyptian sounding riffs started to go into major scales, and suddenly we sounded like "Celtic metal." It was a natural evolution, but not a conscious one. We wanted to take early Iron Maiden and take it one step further, in our own direction, and it just happened.

The Celts were a very powerful and barbaric people. At one time they actually took over Rome. (You ought to write a song about that.) Anyway, if you were alive then, what would be the first thing you'd do while in Rome?
I am half Italian, and have always thought of myself as Italian, my father is first generation and we were a very Italian family, so if you ask me about the Celts taking Rome, I think of myself more as a Roman Defender! (Wow, what a great name for an album: ROMAN DEFENDER!!) But as a Celt I suppose I would rape and pillage or whatever, and then I'd eat some pasta and drink some wine!!

The Lord Wierd Slough Feg Your vocals are very powerful, but you sound a lot like an Irishman. Has anyone told you this before? Is this Irish/Celtic brogue sound intentional?
Yes, people have told me it sounds Irish. In songs like "Brave Conor Mac" that is the desired effect. Otherwise, I'm just trying to sound like a barbarian. It comes quite naturally when you're playing this type of music. If anything I try to tone it down to preserve my voice. Regardless of the Celtic sound, the inspiration really comes form the myths, and not just Irish myths. I have read Indian, Greek, Roman, Babylonian and Turkish mythology, all which lend themselves well to heavy metal songwriting. The Irish stuff just had the most graphic and grotesque battle carnage! The myths of Cuchulain are fantastic!! When I read them I hear frantic guitar riffs! The lyrical storytelling is bardic.

Your music has a strong Celtic/Irish folk sound to it. Are you fans of any European folk music? If so, list some.
I only know European metal, such as Solstice and Sacred Steel!

What bands have most influenced you?
That's a long list! The main ones are: Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Queen, Black Flag, St. Vitus, Thin Lizzy, Dio, The Beatles, The Doors, Slayer, and AC/DC. The list goes on and on. More recently, as I said above, the newer influences we have are bands such as Solstice, Sacred Steel, and Blind Guardian. Finally some metal albums are coming out that I like, its been a long time since that happened!!

I hear that Queen was a big influence on your band (though I really don't hear it musically). I think it is brave that your are citing such a non-metal band as Queen as an influence. More and more bands (such as Blind Guardian, Gamma Ray, and Seasons Of The Wolf) are citing them as an influence nowadays. What is your favourite Queen album?
My favorite is Queen II, although I love all of their seventies albums.I don't see how you can't hear our Queen influence in "High Season II" and "We'll Meet Again". Those songs are very much Queen-influenced. Just listen! Our first album has some unmistakable Queen influences, as well. I think Freddy Mercury is probably my favorite rock singer (with the possible exception of Dio) and Brian May is definitely my favourite lead guitarist.

Your band seems to be embraced by fans of traditional/power metal, as well as fans of doom metal and stoner rock. Why do you think you are appealing to such a cross-section of styles?
We have several songs that are doomy and sound like stoner rock, like "Bi-Polar Disorder." My favorite bands were always Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, and they are the fore-runners of those two categories of metal. On both albums I wanted a Sabbathy "Master of Reality" type of production. I like a thick heavy guitar sound, so that attracts a lot of doom fans. My songwriting is very harmonic/melodic and complex, and that attracts a lot of "true metal" fans.

Group Photo I hear your live shows are wild. Tell me a bit about them.
We wear war-paint, throw bones and chicken guts at the audience, burn torches, and generally rip it up live. I think putting on a show is very important. I'm an entertainer. People are bored and I want to knock them out of their dull lives into a world of barbaric sounds and images. That is what a Slough Feg show is supposed to be. We have been putting on crazy shows for 9 years now, and all I want is more!! I want people to feel like they just saw a crazy movie on a very big screen. When you get out of a good movie you feel like you just went into another world, and it's weird coming back out again. That's what I want people to feel like coming out of our shows.

How often do you play live? What are some other cool bands you've played with? Tell me a bit about your upcoming European tour.
We play about once or twice a month, more recently about once a month. We've played with Brocas Helm many times, which is always exciting. We played with Enslaved recently, and last month with Destiny's End, Iced Earth and Nevermore, which was a totally kick ass show! We are going to Europe soon to play with Scared Steel and Destiny's End in Germany, and Angelwitch in Belgium, Holland and England. In England we'll also be playing with Solstice!

How is the San Francisco scene? Do any hippies ever stumble into your shows and tell you that you put out "bad vibes?"
Not really, hippies generally like us. The scene was really dead for most of the nineties. Lately it has picked up a lot, but mostly in black metal and death metal. Those crowds seem to like us a lot though, so it's cool. John Cobbet (new second guitarist) runs a weekly club called "Lucifer's Hammer" that has done quite well locally. Obviously we've played there many times. He's gotten bands like Enslaved and Mayhem to play there. He's a big black metal fan. The mainstream crowd here never thought much of us though, but we don't really care.

What do you think of the current revitalization of traditional metal occuring as attested by the rise of such bands as Hammerfall, Primal Fear, Rhapsody, Seasons of the Wolf, and etc.?
I'm very happy about it, of course, but a lot of the bigger new true-metal bands scare me a little. I don't like their music that much. I think it sounds to much like the metal that got popular in the eighties -- which can only lead to what happened in the eighties -- namely, metal getting popular and shitty again. If bands keep going towards slicker, poppier metal sounds in this new wave, metal will go out just like it did in the early nineties. We need to learn from what happened in the eighties, or glam will come back and commercialization will destroy everything again! Metal is getting bigger again, but history repeats itself and we can't make the same mistakes we made last time if we want metal to last. To me, metal was pure in the NWOBHM and in the seventies. Of course some bands remained good through the eighties, but all this slick Euro true metal money-making shit is too much like eighties metal. We need something new, something creative to keep the fires burning! The last thing I want to hear about my band is "Oh they're great, they mimic the eighties sound quite well, it's good nostalgic metal for people who listened to Maiden and Priest back then."
But that's a lot of what we get. Bands like Solstice and Blind Guardian are doing something new, and doing quite well at it. We need more stuff like that!

What do you consider the true essence of heavy metal?
It's in the spirit of the music. A lot of Greek metal gives me that feeling. I see true metal as something very raw: a feeling of aggression, but with conviction, and determination. For example, Dio's voice. He's evil, but he's lawful evil. Real metal must be heavy, but powerful, determined, and majestic. To me metal is a kind of music you put on and can't relax, can't sit back and can't stop paying attention to! It's all in the songwriting. To make real metal you must take a lot of time and think of powerful riffs, transitions, lyrics, and melodies. It starts in the riffs, though. The essence of heavy metal is in the riffs, damn it!
After all, it started with Tony Iommi--THE riff master. Iron Man--that's the true essence of heavy metal.

If the LWSF could best be personified as an inanimate object, what would it be?
A sundered head thrust upon a stake.

Tell me about the Manowar cover you recorded. In what format will it be released? What aspects most appeal to you about Manowar and what is your favourite Manowar album?
We did "Fastaker" for a compilation which never came out. We really wanted to do "Blood of my Enemies", but someone already did it. Now its coming out on a split 7" on Doomed Planet Records with Solstice doing "Glovoes of Metal" on the other side. I'm not too pleased with it, I don't like my vocal on it. The music sounds good, though. Manowar is uncompromising metal. My favorite album is "Hail To England." I also like "Battle Hymns" and "Sign Of The Hammer." Let's face it, they're a pretty funny band. I love them because no one goes as far, over the top as they do with pure, unabashed metal. Their attitude is unparalleled, and if I'm in the right mood, no other band can do what they do for me. Usually after drinking a lot of cheap beer I listen to them. Or when I wake up in the morning, they give me a good NY attitude.

What do you think of: Death Metal? Doom? Hardcore?
I simply don't like death metal, unless you call Celtic Frost death metal. I like them. I don't like any new death metal, I can't take the vocals, and the music sounds like noise. I'm always open to new bands though, and will check out anything live. I've seen many death metal bands live. As for doom, I love Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus. In the eighties I tried to start a doom band once. I love doom metal! It's hard to come up with new doom riffs, though. It's kind of a limited style, but the stuff that's been done in the past is incredible. The first bands I played in during the mid-eighties were hardcore crossover bands. I opened many hardcore shows when I was a teenager with bands such as Agnostic Front, C.O.C., Dr. Know. It was a fucking blast, the best shows I've ever played. Hardcore is great when you're young because it has so much energy! Those days are unfortunately gone now, and hardcore is a thing of the past,as far as I'm concerned. It'll never be the same again, as hard as people try to make it be. One of my favorite bands of all time is Black Flag. They were totally fucking original, the greatest of that period. To grow up with music of Black Flag was a real privilege and helped get my through a lot of shit.

Some of your lyrics seem to me to be highly Pagan. What do you think of Paganism? Personally, I hate how so many people confuse Paganism with Satanism.
I don't know shit about Paganism. It's probably all hype. Same with satanism. I've written some songs about the devil, and about the horned god which is like the Celtic version of the devil. It's all fantasy. The devil is fun to think about, but he simply doesn't exist. So don't take it seriously, its all just good clean fun. Manowar wrote a song about Thor. Do you think they believe in him? Satanism is a big joke to me. People want to be shocking--let them. I suppose I am Pagan in that I have no religion. I worship living--having fun. I don't want to die until I have to. People take themselves and their problems too seriously and they end up becoming short-sighted. This is dangerous. It's fun to look and appear evil on stage. Try being evil in real life--truly evil. Put your money where your mouth is and try killing someone, like those kids did in Norway--see how it makes you feel. Do you think they're happy?

Twilight of the Idols I hear your "Twilight Of The Idols" LP took nine months to record. Why so long?
Well, a lot of that because of money. It did take a shitload of time to track and record it, but we paid for it ourselves. We didn't get picked up by Dragonheart until after it was finished. We had to save money and go record. We all work jobs, so you can imagine the time constraints. All and all we probably spent a total of 20 days in the studio. It was a very intense, stressful project. After we were finished I never wanted to see a recording studio again. Some of the tracks didn't come out the way I wanted them because of the limited budget, but for what it cost we got a real good album.

What are some future plans for the band? Any cool new releases or shows planned?
After Europe we go into the studio again to record the third album, "Down among the Dead Men". The entire album is written already. It will be recorded once again with ex-bassist Justin Phelps as engineer and producer, as well as John Cobbet on second guitar, and Jim Mack on bass. Scotto took of to Colorado and got married not long after "Twilight" came out. The new line-up sounds great and the double guitars add a lot. This new album should have a much better production and more epic feel than the Twilight album.

I normally ask bands this question even tough they don't like it, because I find it interesting. What are some of your political beliefs?
I have very few. One I think I have is gun control. I don't care what anybody says--call me a fascist or whatever--I believe in gun control. Come on, I can go down the street (literally, I live in the inner city and there's a gun shop four blocks down) and buy a gun that is specifically made for killing human beings with. What the fuck?! People in the far future, if there is one, will look back and realize what barbarians we really were. Guns are for pussys anyway. If you want to kill someone, do it with a spear or a broadsword! I hate guns. The kind of guys I know who talk about guns all the time or carry them are all total skinny-ass pussies. They lack confidence. They don't feel adequate as men so they have to have a gun to prove it to themselves. Just because I can do this interview on the internet and our culture is incredibly advanced in technology doesn't mean our social level is advanced at all. It's not, our technology is so far ahead of our social evolution it's sick! People use incredible technology in their daily lives and still can't manage to think! Our education system sucks! But no one cares because they can learn technical skills and get a good job and live in a free country. But how long can that last? Some of the people making huge decisions and money can't control themselves for shit in a morale dilemma. They have no character, no sense of who they are, no real self confidence, and they are making the decision for us. I guess I DO have some political views. What's gonna happen, well, all I know is when the shit hits the fan, I have a clear head and steady hand, I can make a spear out of any old piece of wood, and a shelter out of leaves and mud. If I have to use these skills, I will, and the truth is, happiness is a relative term. I get bored with the modern world. Everyone is such a pussy! They're all so comfortable in their little worlds. I'd like to see what happens when they all have to put their testis to the test! If they don't have the balls, they don't have any business being here! Natural selection is the key.

Well, that's it for now. Please end however you want.
Thanks for the interview. Enjoy life, enjoy Slough Feg. Hail metal!

Check out the band's official web site: The Lord Weird Slough Feg

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