Slaughter! Strappado! Aha! That’s all it takes, every time: those two words said back to back evoke an instinctual, barbaric sort of reaction from hardened headbangers the world over, the ones who will talk about the “real Slaughter” with a sort of an intensity that’s even more immediate than conversations about the “real Incubus,” because Canada’s Slaughter were one of a kind, the band’s 1987 Decibel Hall of Fame-inducted debut album a goldmine of extreme thrash/early death (plus, it’s only 23 minutes long, which rules).
Now, drummer Ron Sumners is back with Slaughtering Slaughter (catch their first video at the bottom of this story), which isn’t really a reunion and is actually barely even a band, but it’s something, so we had to catch up with Sumners to figure out what exactly it is. Turns out he’s been keeping a low profile but metal’s never left the man.
“I still listen to all the albums I had back in the early days,” he says. “I will always be a metal guy. Best driving music ever. I still love the ’80s thrash and death metal bands, although I do feel really old when I listen to them. I have such fond and vivid memories of what I was feeling and doing way back when these bands would release an album. Extreme music is a huge motivator for me when I’m working—put on some Seven Churches and sip a coffee and it makes any mundane work task a joy.”
Tell us about Slaughtering Slaughter.
For years I’ve been seeing new Slaughter product come out with old unreleased material, live shows, basement rehearsals that were recorded on cheap cassette players, jams with Chuck from Death, etc. I’m afraid to listen to most of it because I’m sure it’s not the best quality playing, recording, or even a good representation of what I thought Slaughter was. I could be wrong, but I know where my talent level was during most of that early stuff, and it was certainly at a beginner level. I think Dave [Hewson, vocalist/guitarist] has done an amazing job at keeping Slaughter out there and relevant—the packaging and presentation of the product he is releasing is awesome. I thought maybe in a small way I could contribute to that ongoing interest by re-recording some of the songs from Strappado with some well-known musicians that were part of the scene back in the ’80s. I’m sure the idea was the result of ego and worrying that I’m missing out on any opportunities. It’s not Slaughter, and my first thoughts were, ‘Am I going to butcher these songs and fans of Slaughter will hate it?’, so I’m calling the project Slaughtering Slaughter.
Why are you doing this project, and why was now the right time?
I love the original versions of these Slaughter songs, but I will always hear the drum mistakes, or the timing problems, or just talent issues that I thought held us back from writing more complex tunes. Now that I’m a better musician, but still and always an extreme music fan, I thought it would be fun to redo these songs how I would want to listen to them today. Since moving to Switzerland, I’ve lost contact with my past and my old friends from the metal community. I miss much of the music scene back in Canada and I thought this project could help me reunite with my past. In the past eight years I’ve been heavily into playing drums again—cover bands playing classic rock stuff in pubs, outdoor festivals, etc.—and working as a sound engineer at my small recording/rehearsal studio working with local bands. I’m obsessed with the whole recording process and I thought, why not record some of our old Slaughter songs in my studio? I thought inviting old friends from Canada and a couple from here in Zurich would make this entire endeavor so much more fun and fulfilling!
Break it down for our readers: who is involved?
When I started this, of course my first thoughts were to have Dave and Terry [Sadler, bassist] play, but many times in the past they have both said that they wouldn’t play again, so I asked a local guitarist here in Zurich, Jorge Romero, who played in Torre de Marfil from Venezuela. Jorge is a big Death and Chuck Schuldiner fan, and we met through the music scene here and he was surprised that I played with Chuck back in 1986 [in Slaughter]… so he was instantly interested in pulling out his guitar. I’ve know Nick Sagias since 1988, and I have always been a fan of everything he does. He’s a huge talent and I knew that the way he plays bass and sings would be perfect for the version of “Tales of the Macabre” that I wanted to resurrect. Nick was in Overthrow and Soulstorm, two bands that I worked with during the Epidemic Records days. When I sent the new recorded drum and guitar tracks of “Tales” to Nick, he suggested that he would record the bass and vocals at Corpselicker Studios in Toronto that Steve Waller owns. Steve was the singer for Epileptic Brain Surgeons, another band that was on the Epidemic label back in the early ’90s. Steve recorded Nick and himself playing another guitar track before editing the song and creating the awesome mastered version for the video. I was so impressed with what Nick and Steve had done and added to my little project that I decided that I want to do so much more.
Lots of times these reunions/pseudo-reunions don’t really work. Why will this one work?
I’m not sure I would call this any type of reunion, although maybe it could turn into some sort of reunion! This project was started to fulfill a desire of mine to play heavy music again. I’m certainly not up to speed to play in any current metal bands, but I can easily play this old Slaughter stuff. It’s like it never left; muscle memory or something. It’s funny how easy it was to sit behind the kit and just play these old songs again. Maybe I’m trying to re-live the glory of the Slaughter days; maybe I just need an ego boost as I’m heading toward 50 years old. I am very passionate about everything I do, whether it’s photography, drumming, audio engineering, or building drums; this is another project I’m passionate about, so this will work, whether it becomes popular or even if [just] me and the small group of players are happy with the outcome. If a bunch of old metalheads like what we do then that’s bloody awesome and to me it has worked.
What about getting the band back together for a full Strappado-era reunion?
I’ve really wanted this to happen in the past 10 years. We’ve received offers to do festivals and shows from different places in the world and it would be so great to get back together and do this. But I think it would be tough with me living in Switzerland with two kids and trying to go back to Toronto to rehearse. The scheduling would be horrendous! We would probably need weeks of practice before we could do anything resembling those old songs.
What’s next for Slaughtering Slaughter? Can people expect any live action?
I am looking for some other musicians that are fans of Slaughter and might want to collaborate on a few future re-recordings. At this point I have two songs that I am working on for the next instalments. Maybe we will re-do the entire Strappado album, just for fun… possibly played in different styles of interpretation. My thoughts are always wanting to play live. I play in three bands now, and play two or three times a month and I am obsessed with playing! Maybe if things go well over the next year, we could think of doing a show or two, as long as some of the players are into it. I wouldn’t say no.
Fill us in: what else are you up to these days?
I have a photography studio near Zurich where I shoot stock photography, models, product, and whatever else I’m paid to point a camera at. I also work on producing music videos, doing both shooting and editing, as well as sound engineering at my Chicken Hill recording studio that is also just outside Zurich. I play in three cover bands playing all over Switzerland (small country, so it’s easy to play all over the place). Live sound engineering is my newest interest, as I have a massive PA system accumulated over the years of playing in cover bands; you can never have enough toys. On my down time, which is hardly ever, I try to build custom drum sets. I’ve only built two so far and the set in the “Tales” video is covered with leather and has 32-ply wood hoops. Best sounding kit I’ve ever played. Of course, I have a beautiful wife and two incredible kids, so life is fabulous!