Perfect Sound Forever

RAGING SLAB


Dynamite Monster Boogie Show
Alec Morton interview by Peter Crigler, Part 2


(if you came from another site here, see Part 1 of the Raging Slab interview)



PSF: What ended up causing Mark's departure?

AM: I think at that point, Greg really had sort of wanted to see if we could shift the direction of the band a little bit. I think he was feeling a little bit... I don't want to speak for him, but the vibe I remember it just seemed... We still hadn't really had any success and again, when we finished the Def American record, the Dynamite Monster record, we always had problems with management too, not just drummers. We never had the same management. And when that record was done, we had really high-level management people wanting to work with us, and I remember Scott McGee, Doc McGee's brother, he came out to the farm and courted us for a couple of days. And him and his flunky that came over, I forgot his name, but they were like "If this isn't the biggest record of the year then I don't know the music business." They were like "And you guys better be ready for your lives to change." Everybody at the label was just like "This is gonna be the hugest thing. This is Appetite for Destruction. It's crazy." You know? And it was kind of scary, to hear all that shit. I remember being on a car ride with Greg and being like "Holy shit, what if this is on the level?" And then of course it didn't end up happening. But after that didn't happen, I think Greg was sort of thinking the hard rock thing that we had sort of been associated with was not really happening. I think that partly Greg was worried about that we were obsolete, 'cause at that point, grunge had come on the scene. And the sort of head-bangers weren’t really there anymore. I guess it was about Pearl Jam and Soundgarden videos, but even though we were friendly with all those bands, it wasn't really our sound at all. You know, for me, a lot of those band had a tendency to have a lot of fun. And we would too. For us, even though we were very serious about what we were doing, we always wanted people to be able to dance to our music. That was a big goal for us at all times. This idea of a really good-time band, and anyway, I think Greg just wanted to switch up the sound a little bit and I think he didn't want to get pigeon-holed as a Southern rock band anymore. And the three-guitar thing was very... Kind of puts you right in with Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Outlaws. So I think at the time that was the main thinking behind it. And I mean, I'm sort of, I don't want to put any... It's weird for me to talk about that, 'cause, you know, I don't want to speak for Greg. In my memory, it came from Greg more than from anybody else, but I think we were all a little weirded out by our lack of career or where our career had gone and what was happening with the band. There was even talk of changing the name of the band, but I remember Elyse and I were like "We can't change the name 'cause people will just think we're foolish."


PSF: What was the story on Sing Monkey Sing? Again, I heard from Wikipedia that it was just released by Rubin and kind of dumped into the market, no promotion.

AM: Well, we did a whole record. We did another record with the mobile unit. We tried to work with Don Zientara, he's a DC guy who had done a lot of DC hardcore stuff, actually. He's done Fugazi records, but I remember the name from when I was a kid and buying Discord 45's. He'd done all that stuff. So we used the same mobile unit and Don Zientara came out for a little while and we did record the whole record and we ended up not using Don. Things didn't really click with him. So when we'd recorded everything, then Greg sort of finished mixing it all in Pennsylvania on his own. And then we finished the record and that was a genuinely very eclectic record. I haven't heard it in a long time, but I really liked it a lot. It was still hard rock, but it had a lot of cool different kind of sounds on it.

And we delivered it to Rick Rubin and I think that one was gonna be called Freeburden. I think that may have been the title we were bandying about. And Rick really hated it and he actually took us out to a vegan lunch in Manhattan to just tell us how much he hated it. And he was like "I don't hear any songs." He did it in a nice way. He wasn't yelling. But he just said "I don't hear any songs on this, and if you insist on putting it out, I'll drop you." And it was just like "Blah blah blah blah blah."

So it was back to the drawing board. Our drummer quit and we had to find another drummer, which was hard. And so we did get another drummer and then we recorded. The stuff ended up being Sing Monkey Sing and we just did that out of Pennsylvania again. Greg bought some ADAT machines. We started working with a friend of ours, Mike Juter, who didn't really make it through the whole record, but he sort of pushed us in the direction of using the ADAT stuff, which you know, all that stuff's obsolete now. Some of the songs were from Freeburden, maybe like half of them, or four or five. I can't remember. But that record definitely had a much different... like a more hard... It wasn't as Southern rock-y 'cause it didn't have all the, as much of the twang guitar or anything and all that kind of stuff. Some of the songs always kind of reminded me of the New Values record by Iggy Pop, which is a record that all of us were really really into. Anyways, I remember liking that record a lot too. So we gave that to the label. And actually, we'd been asking to be dropped, 'cause we were just so frustrated with them at that point. Like I said, going through all this, it wasn't just happening over a short period of time. Like I said, we'd send Rick Rubin demos of stuff, like "Here's eight new songs. What do you think?" And then we wouldn't hear back for four months and we'd get a call from Rick's secretary after we had been brow-beating him. "Oh, Rick lost the tape. Can you send another one?" So it's just like, this stuff is happening, this is our lives. We're just like we don't know what's going on. We're not playing gigs. This is just frustrating.

Anyway, we had asked to get dropped from the label and they're like "No, we're not gonna drop you. You're contractually obligated for another record." Blah blah blah. And I remember when we finished the Sing Monkey Sing record, I forget the woman's name, there was this woman at Def American that was in charge of promotions and she just said "Nah, I've heard this before and that's not interesting." Rick's take on it, from what I remember, was that he thought it was great, like the coolest thing we had ever recorded, but that it would never sell. And so they had no enthusiasm for the record. So they put it out and dropped us like the next day. It only got released into Columbia Record Club, which is like at least something. At least I can say I saw it on one of those print-ads for the company, like buy ten records for a dollar, or whatever. That was kind of thrilling, 'cause I'd done that when I was a kid.


PSF: I heard there was a lawsuit against the label at some point that you guys had to wait out the rest of your contract.

AM: Nothing, I don't think anything, ever came of that. That I really don't remember. I can't comment on that 'cause as I said, I can't remember about that. If you ever do talk to Greg, he would have a much better idea of that. So yeah, the Sing Monkey Sing... I still like that record a lot. I haven't listened to it in ages, but I was really happy with it. And all of the sudden, I know a lot of old guard people were puzzled by it, but I really enjoyed it.


PSF: Did you guys have to wait out the rest of your contract or something?

AM: No, I don't think so. There was no "oh, so-and-so wants to sign us, we've got to wait out our contract." Nobody wanted to sign us at that point, I don't think. And again, it was the revolving door drummer situation, and then... Maybe we did have to wait out before we could record something. That might be true. Sorry I'm not more clear on a lot of this. But Sing Monkey Sing, when did that come out, like '93 or '94?


PSF: '96 I think.

AM: '96, really? Jesus. Yeah, so that tells you how long all this process took, which was absurd. And you know, once that came out and didn't do anything, we were sort of free agents and again, without a drummer. But then I got to know my friend Tony Teepee had just started Tee Pee Records. They'd put out that Holy Mountain record by Sleep and a couple other things. I forget what else Tony was doing, but I was seeing Tony all the time in clubs in New York. And he'd go "Oh, I'll put out your guys' records." So we just went with Tony.


PSF: What ended up causing your departure from the band?

AM: We did a couple records with Tony and we did the second one and we started working with a European booking agent. This guy, I think his name was Hank Lane. Anyway, we did a really long tour in Europe. It was the last really extended thing I did with the band. It was long, like two months. And it was just a lot of turmoil in the band at that point. For myself, I know I was drinking a lot. And it was just the vibe of the band was very fractious at that point. There was just a lot of... I don't want to get into telling stories and stuff. It was just not fun. For the first time, it was not fun and I just wanted the tour to be over. And we weren't playing well, which was also the main thing. The drummer we had at the time was not a terrible drummer, but he was kind of inconsistent. Just night to night I could never really count on him to really deliver, which is frustrating. And it just felt like whatever legacy we had was tarnishing. And like I said, we weren't getting along great. The vibe was really toxic to me. I wasn't gonna bail on the tour, even though I felt like it. And I still really loved Greg and Elyse, they were like blood to me. I mean, they were like family. Greg, I still talk to all the time.

At that point, it was like 'I can't do this anymore.' I'd been in the band at that point for 16 or 17 years and then, it was just not the kind of Slab I wanted to be a part of, you know? I ended up doing, I did do a couple more gigs. We got an offer to do a couple of festival shows in Europe and it was too good to pass up. We didn't even get to rehearse. We played with a Swedish drummer and I felt like I screwed up. So one day we were gonna rehearse got scratched so we just flew in and do the gigs cold. Which, it was fun, but one of the festivals was on the same bill with like Deep Purple and Cheap Trick and Sideway Brown. I was like "Hell, I'll do that." I'll do the one-off gigs. We'll just fly to Europe for a weekend. But like I said, I was always in touch with Greg and Elyse, but I just couldn't do it. They did a couple more tours without me. One was with a really dear friend of ours, Jim Heneghan. He was living in Sweden at the time. He still does but we know him from here. He played bass on one tour and then they used a Swedish guy, I can't remember his name, for another tour they did. It was all this European stuff. Not in the U.S.


PSF: What are you currently up to?

AM: I've been playing in New York for various stuff for years. I'm always relatively busy. But my main band I'm in now is called The Liza Colby Sound. We've been together seven or eight years. I'd been playing with these two brothers, Adam and Charlie Ross. They're like, in New York, mainstays. They've been in New York playing music for years and years. Adam played with Jim Carroll. He played with Del Fuegos.


PSF: Is that the guy that played in Denis Leary's band, too?

AM: Yeah, we all played with Denis Leary as well. Adam had gone to college with Leary, so he'd been doing comedy stuff with him since the late '70's. So once I started playing with Adam, I sort of got shunted into playing with Denis as well. So yeah, I still do Denis Leary’s when that stuff comes up. We did all the music for his TV show, the Sex & Drugs & Rock &Roll show. Anyway, so we started this band with a singer that we met, Liza Colby, who's a real powerhouse of a Tina Turner-style singer. And she really wanted to do like a hard rock thing. We started off a little more neo-soul, and then she just sort of pushed it more and more in sort of a Humble Pie direction, which we were more than happy to go for. So, Adam got cancer and died a little over two years ago, so we've been scrambling, and his brother's the drummer. And we've just kept soldiering on. We've been trying to find a guitar player. I don't want to jinx it. I think we've found a guy. He's going to be the fourth guy, the guy we're playing with now is like the fourth guy we've used since Adam's died. But we put out three EP's and the last one just came out two/three months ago. And we've been working with this production company in New York called Wendigo Productions. This woman named Wendy Scripps who books a lot of hard rock bands like Ten Ton Mojo, which is like, my friend Scott Lano from Sweet Things, they're sort of a New York Dolls-y type band that are playing in the East Village now. So she's funded a couple of tours and so we did a couple of tours last year. We're supposed to go to Europe a couple times this year. I think we're supposed to go to London in April and go to Spain in July, hopefully. And we're just playing in New York a lot. We do out of town shows here and there. And actually right now, we have some momentum going of a couple of videos that were done last year that got some buzz. We're all on social media, like Facebook and all that hoo-hah.


PSF: What is the current status of the Slab? Does the band even exist anymore?

AM: Not really, no. We did two memorials for Elyse, one in Los Angeles and one in New York, and we played music for that. In Los Angeles, we played with our buddy Dale (Crover) from the Melvins on drums. He's an old friend of ours. And this other buddy of ours, Steve Daryll played- he was the second guitar player. He's a guy we've known forever. And we just did a bunch of songs there and a couple of other friends came up and sang songs. Our L.A. friends came up and sat in. Ed Mundell, he used to play in Monster Magnet and Atomic Bitchwax, he came up and played. Elyse's half-brother came up and did a song that was really sweet. And then we did one in New York and we had two different Slab drummers play with that one. And for that one, Mark Middleton came up from Pennsylvania and played. That was really great, to play with Mark again. And we used both Bob Pantella, who played with Monster Magnet and he's in Bitchwax now, but he toured with us a lot and he's on the cover of the RCA record, but he didn't play on it. But we did a lot of demos with him. Anyway, Bob's a fantastic drummer and a great guy, so he did half the show. And then Paul Sheehan, who had played on Dynamite Monster and Boogie Concert, did the other half. And then Daniel came up and played guitar on a few songs. And our buddy Tom Five, he used to play in White Zombie and Angel Rock came up and played. We made it sort of a people who were near and dear to Elyse came up and it was good.

But I can't really imagine... It was weird enough playing those songs just those two times without Elyse. I can't imagine it being a regular thing. Although, you know, after the L.A. one, people were like "Oh my God, that was so good. You gotta make that a regular thing." It's like, I don't think Greg's up for it. I don't think I'm really up for it.


PSF: What are your fondest memories of Elyse?

AM: I couldn't possibly pick out... I mean, I loved Elyse so much. There's just no way. I couldn't pick up a key fondest memory. I spent such an enormous amount of time with her and with Greg. She was just like a sister to me. I just loved her to death. You know, she could be a pain in the ass sometimes and stuff. She's a human being. I will say, she was sick for a couple years before she died, and through all the treatment and radiation and chemotherapy and everything, I know she was feeling like hell through a lot of it. Her attitude was really really amazing and inspiring. I don't think I could ever have that level of humor and positivity that she had. It was unbelievable. The way she dealt with it. I was totally stunned. She was amazing.


PSF: How's Greg doing?

AM: He's good. I haven't talked to him in a couple of weeks. But he actually seems pretty good, all things considered. You know, it's a huge adjustment for him. But it was great seeing him when I was out in L.A. and here, for the New York thing, they stayed over for a couple of extra days after the New York thing and he stayed at my place. But he seems surprisingly OK.

He's playing with some friends in Seattle. It's an instrumental band. He's enjoying doing that. And it was sort of like a perfect storm. I know a bunch of stuff went crazy with their house. He had to get a roof fixed and a stove blew up. So it was like, he's really handy with stuff like that so it was good, right after Elyse was gone, all of the sudden he's got a million home projects that are just gonna occupy his mind.

And we actually recorded, Elyse really wanted to do a bunch of recording when she found out she had cancer. She said "If I'm dying soon, I want to do a bunch of recording." So she picked out a bunch of cover songs that she wanted to sing. And it's a super-eclectic, very typical of Elyse, like they're all over the map level songs, like some Elton John songs, some Koko Taylor songs, Devo, Blue Oyster Cult, Flaming Groovies, Taj Mahal. Just all over the map. And she recorded a bunch of stuff. And we did them on her tools up at their house, so I played bass on, I think, almost all of them except for like one that I think Greg played bass on when I wasn't around. And Greg played guitar. And then Dale Grover played drums on like half of them and Bob Pantella played drums on the other half and some other friends of ours did some over-dubs, like our buddy Erik Flanders from Five Horse Johnson played some harmonica. So I don't know what's gonna happen with that. Greg's kind of trying to figure out the best way to get it mixed. He's not sure how to release it now. Just put out a couple of songs at a time, or... 'Cause neither of us are that clued in to (putting out records), even though I'm in a band now and we just pressed vinyl for a thing. I don't think anybody's gonna press any vinyl for the stuff we did with Elyse. But I think it'll all come out in one form or another 'cause the stuff came out great. Elyse's singing is fantastic on it and I know she really wanted to have it come out. So some way or another that's all gonna get released, maybe in drips and drabs.


PSF: I found the RCA record in a record store here in Virginia for like $8/$12 bucks or something. It was like "Oh, I've never seen this before," and just bought it and loved it. 'Cause you can't find the record online.

AM: Yeah, I know. It got re-released like, 15 years ago. Some British company re-released it. And then there was like a two-CD thing that came out like four years ago, that a British Company, I think Cherry Red, put out of like Assmaster, True Death and then like a different mix of True Death that Greg did, and all these demos from before I was even in the band. Really early stuff. I forget what it was called, but Greg did liner notes for it. It's the equivalent of the boxed set of early Slab. It's like two CD's. If you can find that, I'm sure you can find that online. Like I said, that has the real deal on the early Slab stuff. It's cool.


PSF: What do you think the Slab's legacy will be?

AM: I think at this point we're kind of a cult band. People who know about us really love us and they sort of get what was weird about us, that we weren't just a cut-and-dry hard rock/heavy metal band of the era. That we were a little skewed. I have no problem being a sort of cult band that the people that know about us really love. I still run across people .. I'm always really amazed when people I don't know are like "Oh my God, you were in Raging Slab? You guys meant so much to us." It's like, "really?" It's very cool. 'Cause I'm a total rock nerd, so there's plenty of bands that I really loved that never sold records, you know. So I can live with that.

I remember it was probably about seven or eight years ago. I was hanging out with Elyse and just... Of course, we all have regrets. "Oh, why weren't we bigger?" "Why didn't we sell more records?" But we try and have the attitude of whatever happened happened and there's reasons for everything and maybe they don't make sense, but hopefully this is the way things are supposed to work out. I mean, in my heart of hearts I think if we'd actually made a huge success with the RCA record or with Dynamite Monster, to my way of thinking, I think it would have splintered the band apart really fast, if we had all of a sudden been as big as like Guns 'n' Roses got with Appetite for Destruction or whatever. I think we would have just fallen apart right away. That's my thinking. I could be completely wrong on that. But I don't mind being a cult band. It's sort of like a hip thing to know about and I'm fine with that, 'cause like I said, I'm a total nerd.

Bookmark and Share


Check out the rest of PERFECT SOUND FOREVER

MAIN PAGE ARTICLES STAFF/FAVORITE MUSIC LINKS E-MAIL