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SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS – interview by liz ortega

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Slaughter and the Dogs are one of the few English rock groups to play a major influence in punk music today. Their hard-hitting sound and unyielding lyrics provided an overwhelming amount of fierce adrenaline. Albums like “Cranked Up Really High” and “Do It Dog Style” established a platform for upcoming Oi!/street punk bands in the early 80s–and now, with their resurgence in the 2001 and the release of “Beware Of…,” the Dogs are “picking up steam” and ready to raze the minds of this generation. Slaughter and the Dogs started in the late ’70s and were quickly hailed as one of the most feverish Oi!/ punk bands to come out of Manchester. Alongside other pissed off English punk bands, they helped in creating a strong impact in American music, which resulted in a myriad of spin-offs. Today, we find Slaughter and the Dogs advancing musically and professionally, and it’s not wonder why these guys are acclaimed for their ability to progress without ditching their roots. I recently had the opportunity to speak to original guitar player, Mick Rossi, on the telephone. Here’s what he had to say…

Hello, Mick? This is Liz Ortega, how are you?
MICK: Liz! I’m doing good and yourself?

Doing just fine, thank you.
I’m a little tired. I just got off a plane…

I was told that you would be a little tired from your plane trip.
Yes, so if I’m slurring my words, it’s not my normal speech pattern.

So, it’s not because you had a case of Smirnoff on the way home?
No, no…none of that stuff. It’s strictly tea and biscuits. So, how are you, Liz? Where are you calling from?

I’m in Long Beach–right around the corner from you. This is so exciting!
You know, I think the whole thing is all coming together. We’re really excited and we’re happy to go on the road. We can’t wait to get going.

How was the European tour?
The tour was ok. We had to cancel a couple of shows because [they] actually put us in a hostel instead of a hotel. I think it was just the cheapskate bastards trying to save money. We basically walked on a few dates until they rectified that.

Now, why would they do that?
Well, because it was an agency in Germany that booked the whole tour and they were trying to save money. Unbeknownst to us, at our expense, it ain’t going to wash with 5 people in one room. We played in London and that was a fantastic show. We had a full house and great response. Then when went out to Manchester to do a track for a compilation album which I think Rancid are going to be on. All in all, aside for the couple of fuck-ups on the hotels, it was quite good.

Well, at least they didn’t put you guys in tents.
(Laughs) You know, I think that would have been the next step. We had to put our foot down.

So, Mick, has the band toured extensively since the last release? Or is this the first tour?
No, no, this is the first full tour. For the last four years, we’ve been doing the major festivals in Europe. We did do San Francisco…

Holidays in the Sun…great performance, by the way.
Oh, so you saw the show! Excellent!

Yeah, it was my first time–I am no longer a Slaughter virgin. I think the most memorable part of the Slaughter and the Dogs performance was the reaction from your fans and the overall energy on stage. It was quite a sight and I had a great time–despite the fact that I was extremely enervated.
Well, it’s a two-way thing, you know. Slaughter and the Dogs is a very entertaining band. But getting back to the original question, for the last four years, we’ve been doing the festivals in Europe, the Holidays in the Sun in Spain and one in San Francisco, a few bigger shows in Germany. So, this is our first full tour-official tour, if you like.

What’d you think of HITS in San Francisco?
I thought it was terrific! There was a lot of behind the scenes stuff that really didn’t go as well as expected-there was a little bit of friction because it was co-promoted with HITS from England and the American people. So, they were locking horns a little bit. There was a little tension back stage and a little chaotic but that’s to be expected when you’re dealing with a big situation. We loved HITS in San Francisco. We thought the response was great and that fueled us to want to get out on the road here.

And you’ve also got this new album on TKO records, “Beware Of…,” which is a great album. It’s residing in my car stereo since I got it.
Yeah, I like TKO and I have a lot respect for Mark Rainey. He’s a very nice man and I get a good feeling of him. I hope he feels the same way about us. I’m really happy that he’s getting behind it…

I wouldn’t doubt it. You’re living in West Los Angeles, right?
Yeah, I’m not too far from the Troubadour. Wayne Barrett, the singer, lives in France. We’re originally from Manchester, you know, the land of Oasis and any other bands. He ended in France and I ended up here. It’s strange where you end up sometimes. I’ve been living out here for 6 years now. You have to get used to it here. It’s such a fickle place, as you know. If you come out here, for the first year you think everyone is great but then you find out they’re all lying bastards. So, you have to adapt to that. Overall, I do like it here and it’s a nice place. The great thing about living here is that [they] do things to champion success, where in England, it’s a little different.

Los Angeles is just phony to me. Everyone in LA is just a pretentious piece of shit.
I absolutely agree, but I don’t go out these days. I’ll occasionally go out, but I’m not one to be out on the strip every night. I’ll go out if it’s someone I want to go out and see. I don’t really like to engage in hanging out back stage speaking to drunk people. Years ago, that was fine. But now, it’s a different ballgame. I don’t mind it out here–most of my friends are English, actually.

What was the last show you checked out here in LA?
The Damned at the House of Blues. Dave [Vanian] is a friend of mine. I’ve known him the longest. Before that, I saw Oasis.

Oasis? Are you a big fan of theirs?
I love Oasis. I like their attitude–Liam, especially.

Yeah, I hear he’s a genuine dick.
That’s what makes this band so great. It’s part of his make-up. You know what it is, it’s a very Northern thing…they’re from the same town of Manchester and you’re really raised within the working class. It’s a very Northern thing to be aggressive because if you didn’t as a child, you’d get beaten up everyday. It was a very working class, rough neighborhood. But yeah, the Damned and Oasis are the last shows I’ve seen.

Slaughter and the Dogs–the name is derived from songs by David Bowie and Mick Ronson. Are they of major influence?
Yeah, absolutely. Wayne actually thought of them name. It was Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” and Ronson’s “Slaughter on 5th Avenue.” But, yeah they were very much an influence along with Roxy Music and Lou Reed because to us, that style of music had a great visual sense about it. It was like a real eye opener. It was cool, and freaky and it was smart. Before that, there were all these hippie college bands. So, Roxy Music, Lou Reed, Bowie, Ronson–loved them.

David Bowie was very, well, out there–flamboyant in a sense. Did you guys also take a liking into the glitzy image of David Bowie? Did you ever feel like you wanted to take on that role and be outlandish?
To be honest with you, when we were first putting it together, we didn’t really think beyond a month or two months. But yes, we wanted to try to emulate who we were being influenced by. Obviously, you don’t go out and dye your hair red and have a Ziggy Stardust haircut, because that was David Bowie. But you kind of draw from that and eventually you find your own style. Yeah, we were drawn to the visual side of it. It was intriguing, mysterious and it was mystical. It was part of it and I don’t think it would have been the same if we were to see Bowie in a pair of sweat pants. It wouldn’t have been the same. It was the make-up of the music and the visual side of it.

The majority of Slaughter and the Dogs fans are punk rock enthusiasts. With this record, which sounds a lot more rock ‘n’ roll, perhaps more on the pop side, I think it’s quite different from “Where Have All The Boot Boys Gone.” The progression is very obvious with this record.
Absolutely! It was an absolute conscious decision that we made before we recorded this album. We didn’t really want to be a band that was just churning out the old stuff. As you get older, you learn more, you see more, and you feel more. This is a representation of how we are now. You saw the show in San Francisco–it’s still a very ballsy, full-on onslaught. Our first album, “Do It Dog Style,” which we recorded many years ago, this is just a follow-up to “Do It Dog Style.” In 2001, you have to change with the times, but still be true to yourself. We don’t conform for anybody and we don’t follow any rules. We write what we want to write. I write the music and Wayne’s lyrics are what he wants to say. There are no boundaries on that and it is what it is and we hope people respond to it. There’s no grand plan–the only plan is to grow. If you look at any good band over the years, there’s always progression and a slight deviation in style. Otherwise, you stay stagnant.

Well, I don’t think that would be a problem with you guys–it was apparent at HITS how strong the reaction was and how accepting your fans were towards this new sound.
I think, in the grand scheme of things, if we put all of our material and play 5 songs off each album, it would fit like a glove. There wouldn’t be a radical song that sticks out–I don’t give a rat’s ass what people think. I don’t care. This is what we’re doing and we’ve done the best we could do and it’s from the heart. It’s an honest record and it’s what we’re doing now and what we’re about. Then next album after this, and there is one being planned as we speak, it’ll be similar. Whatever stuff we write, it will always be Slaughter and the Dogs because the foundation is there. It’s how I play guitar, how Wayne sings, and how Noel drums, etc. Those elements make up the band and all those elements are characters and personalities. So, once you put those together, it will always sound like Slaughter and the Dogs.

The band as a whole has had its inconsistencies, as far as staying together and what not…
You know what the truthful answer behind that is, Liz? We didn’t split, we just kind of stopped and it only happened once. That was after “Do It Dog Style,” and I went on to do other things. So, it only happened once and it wasn’t an official split. We just went our separate ways and that was it. It just kind of stopped. We’re back in the battlefield, picking up steam. We were in Japan last year and we did two sell-out shows in Tokyo. That was terrific and was a real tonic for us. We’ve just been picking up steam, slowly, which is what we want to do. We took our time deciding what type of record to make so that we could give it a nice long lifeline.

Now, I read somewhere that you once had Morrissey do some vocal work for Slaughter and the Dogs. Is that a fact?
Yes, that’s true, but he wasn’t in the band. It was the period when we stopped. We actually had a few rehearsals with Morrissey and we recorded a bit of stuff. When I first met Morrissey, I found him incredibly talented and a likable man. A wordsmith, I would call him. But he was very introverted and he wasn’t the person we know today. He was very very shy and it was interesting–in a good way. I found him incredibly talented in what he brought to the table at that time. He was in the area but not in the band. He wasn’t a replacement for Wayne, not at all.

How do you feel about this record? You’ve got a Beatles cover in there.
I’m really happy. We had a few covers knocking around and that one sounded the best. It’s not so much a cover…if we’re drawn to a song, I like to do it regardless who did it. If we feel it fits, then fuck it, we’ll do it. But, we are extremely happy with the record and the response so far has been great!

I think the best song off this “Beware Of…” is “Saturday Night Sunday Morning.”
I was watching an old black and white movie and it was about a person…the involvement with a person over a Saturday night till Sunday morning. So that inspired me to do that.

So, besides the band, what else occupies your time?
I stay active as a guitar player and I work with different people here. I did Michael Aston from Gene Loves Jezebel–I did his solo album a few years ago. Then I was in a fun band called the Usual Suspects with Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. I stay active as a writer and a guitar player. I haven’t gotten a pizza delivery job, yet. Lately, my time has been with Slaughter and the Dogs and I like it like that. We’ve been on the move non-stop and we shot a video as well.

Very cool. Mick, I thank you so much for staying up and talking with me.
Thank you, Liz.