Hailing from small town British Columbia, Slagduster is the sort of band that, through the lens of 2017, sounds like a tantalizing amalgam of genres that offer a look at where metal (or at least one strain of it) might head towards in the future if people stopped worrying about tags, labels, trve-ness and unearthing and proclaiming every fourth generation Cirith Ungol clone that recorded a garage demo in 1984 as unmitigated genius. And while there may be a modicum of truth to this snarkiness, those of you who are old enough to remember Mr. Bungle and/or that brief window where ‘90s alt-metal was cool and/or before Primus started doing their Grateful Dead routine and/or are big fans of Between the Buried and Me, Nomeansno and Sikth will also see where this quartet is coming from and how the future can’t deny the past. Next week sees the release of the band’s second album, Deadweight, a full stream of which we present here. Take it for a spin while reading the joint responses of vocalist Shane Sherman and bassist Zak Waterlow to our impeccable line of questioning.
As this is your first time here, can you give a brief history of the band?
Growing up in our small town of Grand Forks, British Columbia, we all played in different bands but shared the same stages at backyard parties through high school and bar shows once of age. Eventually, the cream of the local scene rose to the top, where a single scoop’s worth was spooned out and a delicious treat was born after a matter of months of fermentation. Basically, we were the only four musicians around who were seriously interested in forming a band that would strive to satisfy the craving for what we wanted to hear musically. We wrote and recorded our first album and started touring it all within the first year. Seven years later we are finally ready for our second release.
What is a Slagduster and why name your band after it?
Nearby Phoenix Mine was founded over 100 years ago, leaving behind piles of slag, a waste by-product of mining which remains to this day in giant mountains along the Granby River in Grand Forks. A “slag duster” was the slang term for the machine used to separate the precious ores from the sharp, shiny black rocks. We found out after our first release that our name could also mean “whore fucker” in other parts of the world!
When putting Slagduster together, did you have a particular sound goal or direction in mind in terms of the type of music you wanted to play or did the sound just happen naturally?
We have always wanted to focus on writing challenging music, with an emphasis on groove mixed with odd time signatures, fluent transitions and thought out composition. Rather than trying to fit into a particular genre, we strive to maintain a signature sound; our clowny, carnival-esque grooves should be memorable and catchy, plus our psychedelic carousel rides stimulating and worth multiple listens. So bring a sack of quarters and go for a ride, bud.
Tell us about the town you’re from and how you feel it has influenced your band and music?
Music was a passion for all of us early on in life. Having not much else to do, it was almost inevitable that we would develop a strong determination to create something unique, a sound that would hopefully stand out in the global metal scene, on par with our favourite artists. We are continually developing that idea.
How long did it take to write and record Deadweight?
Deadweight took entirely far too long. We spent several years on these songs, experimenting with different writing techniques and technologies. We are perfectionists, so there can be a lot of conflicting opinions during the writing process, which require extensive negotiation and cause tears and hurt feelings. But eventually we agreed that we have achieved the best final result.
How would you say your sound has progressed over the course of your history and into Deadweight?
The new songs are way more intricate, and we spent a lot more time perfecting the details, significantly refining our sound. Bounce and rhythm have replaced heaviness as the focus of our song structures, still very much metal music, but more creative and less cliché. We ain’t cookin;’ chicken fingers no more; this is duck under glass, baby.
What does the album’s title refer to? And what’s going on the cover?
Lyrically, the album has a theme. Each song is a story about an individual at the low point of their life; some a fall from grace, others a result of circumstance. Mental illness and addiction are referenced often, but it’s always from an objective viewpoint. These anecdotes are based on true accounts and actual people, but embellished to emphasize potential worst case scenarios. You know that neighbor who looks through your window? Yeah, the worst possible version of him is depicted here. The artwork is a mirrored image, but contains discrepancies, representing change in character and struggling with duality. Selfish desires and moral standards are brought to attention and force the listener to question where they stand.
Never heard of Waterlow Audio Records before now. What can you tell us about it and releasing the album on the label?
Our whole approach has been to do as much as we can independently. Our bass player has a home recording studio where a few other local bands have recorded and released albums. So, naturally Zak recorded our album and it was released under his name. Plus, he has a big house and a pool where we usually we hang out and jam (read: smoke and drink).
Being a relatively young band, what do you feel were some of the bigger lessons you learned in going through the writing/recording/putting out a record process in the creation of Deadweight?
We learned that having our own studio and unlimited recording time was a blessing and a curse as it allowed the album to take as long as it did. Our discipline is questionable, but all the time spent helped us develop a release that we are finally proud of and excited to share. We are fundamentally concerned with creating a product that we all enjoy, but are also confident that like-minded music listeners will appreciate what we have come up with.
Your live shows have been described as “borderline ridiculous.” What’s so borderline ridiculous about them? How often do you play out and do you think your experiences in the live arena impacted the new album in any way?
Our live show has a lot of energy, monster faces, wind milling, French kisses, Alex’s rice paper shirt melting to his sweaty pectorals flexing to the pulsating rhythms, fully improvised and unpredictable. It’s mostly the between song banter that borders on ridiculous. Shane is not afraid to offend or insult, presenting himself like a D-grade amateur comedian minus the jean jacket and brick wall. We always look forward to live shows and observing which elements of our sound/performance get the greatest reactions. The experience of touring our first album encouraged the deliberate insertion of momentum building riffs, and explosive transitions on our new album, with live impact in mind.
Once the album is fully out what’s the plan? And what are your hopes for Slagduster going forward?
Touring full time would be the dream, and releasing our next album within a decade is a relatively achievable goal. Also, if Gojira reads this and checks out our music we will be happy. You’re sexy, Mario.