Zach Slaughter (Skull Fist)
Speed metal is back, and Skull Fist is riding the beast. We caught up with charismatic frontman Zach Slaughter on the Shred’s Not Dead tour in Europe and spoke to him about metal in Europe, Kate Bush and what’s next in store for the band.
HBI: Hey Zach, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. I’m going to start with asking you how your tour has been until now.
ZS: The tour has been pretty cool. It’s been a little bit more boring for me because I don’t get drunk any more. Haha. I used to drink a lot, but this tour has been under control.
HBI: Well, that’s… Probably a good thing. Okay, so getting into the questions I have for you. I’ll start with… What is a Skull Fist?
ZS: 7 years ago, I was drunk and talking about what my album would look like. I wanted a giant skull fist on it. What I meant was a skeleton fist, like a fist of bones. But I kept saying skull fist. Later on, I decided to draw it on a shirt, and I drew it exactly like the font we have now. I made this font in Paint – Microsoft Paint! We have not updated it, I refuse to update. We’ve been told a lot of times, “your logo is stupid, update it” but we’re not going to change it. Its old school!
HBI: So Skull Fist was nominated for a Juno Award in the new ‘Heavy Metal’ category. Does that mean anything for the band? And has it helped the band with promotion or anything of the sort?
ZS: Honestly, I don’t think that’s the route we want to take. Not that I didn’t care. It was kinda flattering. So in the town I come from; a small city in Northern Canada called Porcupine – right next to Timmins which is where Shania Twain comes from. I had emailed the newspaper and the radio station. I was like, the only person who was doing something from that town. I had emailed them so many times over the years because you know, I wanted my mom to read an interview with me in the newspaper of her town. I emailed them so many times. Never got an answer from them. When we got the Juno nomination, they emailed me and said, “hey, we want to do an interview.” I totally said that in the interview, I called them out on it – “you guys are dicks, man! You guys are dicks!” So that was the thing. It was kinda cool though. I didn’t go to the actual awards, although the other guys went. There was a red carpet rolled out.
HBI: And I’m sure there was free alcohol…
ZS: Oh yeah, they got totally drunk. Haha.
HBI: Skull Fist have gone through a lot of line-up changes. How do you think each musician and each change has affected the band?
ZS: Well, our last line-up change was in 2010. 2006 was when I started the band, but nothing happened until 2010. I kept talking about the band that I was starting, and then I’d get drunk. 2010 was when it all came together. I think realistically, every line-up change I had in the past pretty much just inspired me to do something better. You can either be upset by someone shitting all over you, or you can get inspired to do something new, and that’s what we’re doing.
HBI: For 4-5 years in the scene, I think you’ve done quite a good job. I mean, you have a bunch of records out, there was a German tour last year as well if I recall correctly, plus Japan and Mexico.
ZS: Oh no, it’s not bad. We’ve done a bit. You know, people come up to me and say, “it’s so cool, you get to travel to all these places…” But that’s not how it is. You see a venue, you see a beer, and you see a toilet. That’s all I see.
HBI: And a lot of fans as well…
ZS: Well, I don’t think we have a lot of fans. Some people show up at gigs, which is great. The goal is to pay the rent!
HBI: It must be quite cool to have a following in different countries; just going there and seeing that you’ve motivated different people.
ZS: I think that’s cool. When someone comes up (to me) and says, “your band is cool.” That’s nice, yeah.
HBI: When you started the band in 2010, did you ever think you’d be on a massive European tour, playing out here in the heart of Austria, as well as at big cities and festivals?
ZS: Well, I expected the band to last 2 years, and give up. That’s what I thought. Well, we’re still here. Still going on.
HBI: That’s awesome to hear. Okay, Zach, so tell me – is playing with Skull Fist all sex, drugs and rock n’roll?
ZS: Well, my girlfriend is on tour with me now. So that’s there. Haha. But there are no drugs. None of us do drugs. We don’t even drink all that much. I mean, I guess I really don’t have an interest in that. I’ve seen how that goes with other people, and I have no interest in it. Drinking is okay, I don’t have a problem with a few beers.
HBI: What do you think about the speed metal revival today? With Enforcer, Stallion, Wolf and Evil Invaders, speed metal is back to the forefront of modern metal. Where does that place with 8 string guitars and electronic sounds in metal?
ZS: Well, I honestly don’t even think of it. I just write songs. If people want to call us heavy metal or speed or thrash or even glam metal, that’s fine with us. None of us really care. I mean, it’s nice when people have a mental impression of what we are, and that’s cool. Ultimately, if I happened to write a bunch of shitty country songs, that’s what we would be. I just write songs. If people like it, they like it. If not, well they don’t.
HBI: “Call of the Wild” is one of my favourite Skull Fist songs. Tell me more about how a Skull Fist song and an album come together.
ZS: There isn’t really a process. Usually, I kinda just sit at home, playing some guitar, thinking about something and I write a song about it. That’s how it works. I write some of the music – Jonny wrote one of the songs on the new album. It just happens.
HBI: Tell me more about the Canadian metal scene – the land of Anvil, Annihilator, Cryptopsy, Quo Vadis etc. What is special about metal in Canada and how hard is for a band to succeed in the country?
ZS: We definitely have a lot of good bands, and a lot of old bands from the 80s. Sacrifice for example. There are a lot of good bands but they were always hidden from the world. There are a lot of hard rock bands as well. I think every country has its own hidden gems, you know. For months, when we started, people were just shitting on us. At the time, we were playing a lot of very intense thrash concerts, but we aren’t a very intense thrash metal band, we’re more melodic. When we played those concerts, people would be yelling at me, spitting on me; it was brutal. But you don’t think about that, you just play. You just do what you are doing and if someone likes it, they like it. And if there are 100 people in the room, there’s gotta be atleast two people that like it. And then they tell two more people, and that’s how it goes.
HBI: How is metal in Europe from Canada and the US?
ZS: In Canada, if someone like thrash metal, they don’t like death metal. And if they like death metal, they don’t like heavy metal or speed, or glam. “I like this album but not this album” etc. It’s a lot of people complaining, really. European metalheads are a lot more open. Definitely less elitist, less snobby. Sometimes, I meet black metal fans who tell me, “cool show, man.” It’s good to have people who listen to a lot of different kind of music. I’m a huge Kate Bush fan. I’ve met musicians from a lot of big bands who’ve talked Kate Bush with me. I mean, it’s all music. Just listen to whatever you want.
HBI: So what’s next for Skull Fist? Once the tour is done and dusted…
ZS: I have no idea, really. At the moment, I’m more so concentrating on my own life. I spent the last 4-5 years literally just putting everything I have into music. I mean, it’s great. It’s wonderful. But I want to mellow out for a while and find whatever I’m looking for. Who knows what the future brings for Fist.
HBI: It’s been great talking to you, Zach. Thank you for taking the time to hang around with us. Enjoy the rest of your tour and see you the next time you come by town.
Thank you, Heinz Kon for making this happen!