Hiss. Hiss hissss-hiss-hisssss.
Ok, let's start with the band. What lead to the formation of Sleestak? What drew you all together? I assume it didn't involve a rafting trip gone awry or pylons.
That would've been something now? Actually it all started for me in 2003. I had seen Marcus around a few times at some shows - we had played together previously in the rock group Atomic Number 9 - but it had been a few years and the several times we crossed paths he kept asking me if I was interested in coming by to jam with him and another guitarist and bass player. I kept kind of avoiding it, don't know why, maybe I was busy with the band I was in at the time, but eventually in November of 2003 I caved in and showed up to a session at his house, met Brian and Dan, and we just started jamming some stuff they had already written along with some stuff I wrote prior. It was a great no-pressure vibe, so we stuck to it.
Stylistically, who were your favorites and who were your musical influences?
Well, we all come from different musical backgrounds. I was really into death and doom metal and thrash back in the day, Marcus comes from listening to a lot of old school punk and hardcore, I know Dan likes his share of 70's funk, and Brian I think came from listening to a lot of heavy rock and alternative stuff. We all have some common favorites - Brian and Marcus are both huge Clutch and Deftones fans. We all like the obvious Sabbath, probably me more so than anyone else though! I like to think I have introduced a lot of stuff to them that they maybe wouldn't have ever thought to listen to like Pelican, Isis, Yob, High On Fire, Mastodon, and so on. Currently, myself, I am listening to USX, A Storm Of Light, Etherial Riffian, Graveyard, Earth, and Bloodiest in the heavier side of music but also listening to the Raveonettes new one, Black Keys, Iron And Wine, and some Sinatra. Been listening to a lot of Beatles too. Everything I listen to influences me in some way whether it's subconscious or blatantly emulating something I enjoy.
buy this now.
Describe the recording of Fall Of Altrusia … how did it differ from the process of Skylon Express? Was the decision to sort of go even more "out there" than the prior record (which already goes on trips) premeditated in any way or was it just sort of an organic development?
The "Skylon" album really was two Eps finally just merged together. We recorded that over a period of four years, doing the heavier songs first and then getting around to the longer, more psychadelic stuff. We had no money to put it out properly so we decided to release it digitally in May of 2010 and hoping people took a liking to it. After we got that out of the way we wanted to record "Altrusia" which we began playing in 2005 or 2006. Originally it was a way to meld our songs together to play a set without stopping, but since then it has become its own entity after having several incarnations and being rewritten a few times. We even had a violin player for a couple performances of it. But, anyways we were having a hard time writing new material because this monster was always gnawing away at the back of our minds and we felt like we couldn't move on unless we documented it in the studio. Come July 2010 we put down the drums and then slowly over the months we did sections and parts until it was done this past April. As far as going "out there" with the material, psychedelia, both past and present, has been a staple genre of music for me. I've always wanted to keep writing trippy stuff but I suppose "Altrusia" had more of a plan to it. I had a vision of the final rendition and really wanted to push the listener into a sort of headphone journey, ending with a dark meditation and chance to reflect and be with whatever thoughts come into mind.
Going your own way, has the digital thing been of value in getting your name out there and bringing in fans? Do you think streaming services like Spotify might be a boon to you and other bands in your boat…err inflatable rubber raft?
I think that for sure it has helped us out, at least earlier on. We leaked the first album onto Mininova.org which is a torrent site and that has generated about 20,000 downloads. Now whether that many people are actually listening and liking our music remains to be seen. Regardless, it's good to know that it really got out there. We also digitally released it through Tunecore which got us onto iTunes, Amazon, and a bunch of other online markets. That generated some sales for us which was cool, but now with the new album we are currently just selling discs right from our website and avoiding the digital marketplace as it seems there are too many 3rd parties in our pockets when you go that route. So now Paypal is the only gold-digger, but I justify it by telling myself it's for the convenience of being able to do it ourselves. They don't take that much for the transaction but it also is a factor in setting our merch prices. Mind you, we aren't looking to make a lot of money but we put a lot into "Altrusia" and would be great to recoup some of that, and recycle the funds to get more discs and shirts made along with giving us a head start to record the next album. My approach for sales was different this time because I really believe in the new record to make a difference for us and want to treat it as such. I think it might have cheapened us to release it online or give it away like we did with the older material. As for bands starting out though, I think the digital way really is the best thing to do to get people talking about you and get interested.
What is the scene like in Wisconsin and that area of the country in general? Any tour stories worthy of sharing? Do crowds tend to "get" you or do they just sort of stand there, perplexed?
The scene around here has had its ups and downs. It's been harder for us locally I think because there aren't any bands that we fit with well and of course there are a few hipster bands, doom and otherwise, that seem really stuck up so that's always a downer. I guess I don't really care about the local scene like I used to. Call me jaded or whatever but Milwaukee is a blue collar town with a never ending supply of cover bands. I've learned not to push Sleestak that much in town anymore as it's like beating a dead horse to try and turn people on to something new. What will be will be and we are thrilled we've been so well received in other places around the globe. Those are the people that "get it" for sure.
As for any stories, I'm sure there are some but I can't remember! We've had our share of weirdos, geeks, and nerds at our shows. Everything from a LOTL (Land Of The Lost) fanatic who came to a show and tried talking to us in Pakuni (epic fail!) to a wannabe neo-nazi demanding we play Agnostic Front covers! I mean really? Gotta love characters!
Haha at the Pakuni thing. Full disclosure - if the Sleestaks were ever going to hit the broadside of a barn with their crossbows, I hoped it would be Chaka. Not a fan of the "Prewoks".
Yeah, not a fan of the Pakuni myself, but they were integral in the show. I think we kinda wrote this punk song back in the beginning called "Die Chaka Die" just as a joke kind of song. We also had stickers with that phrase with a picture of Chaka with a knife through his forehead. Badass.
and of course I dug it up...
Any luck down the road in Chicago? They seem to have a scene that might be more receptive, with bands like Minsk (sadly now-defunct) and Nachtmystium's direction over the last couple years.
We used to play Chicago on an almost regular basis when Stu Helm was running a stoner rock night at The Note. He really dug us and asked us to play there like once a month. But he moved away and that stoner rock night kinda died. I don't think we've been down there since 2005 but would love to network with some bands and trade shows and make the trip again.
So why Sleestak? What prompted you to use "Land Of The Lost" as a thematic influence for your music?
Sleestak is a fucking awesome name, you wouldn't believe how many times people have commented on that. Just uttering Sleestak can bring back childhood memories for so many people. It's been soaked into our collective memory, part of American pop culture. And it was our second choice for a name! The first was the Osiris Project or something but decided it was too close to a few other bands out there. Sleestak just popped into my head during a brainstorm session at practice one night and it was an instant "light bulb" moment. The name and the show it was from embodied the whole 70's science fiction spectrum. It was a kid's show yes, but they had the best sci-fi writers of the time, it was very psychedelic, and it explored very dark themes you still don't find on kids shows nowadays. Thus it was obvious to us to reference LOTL in the music, but take it to a more sinister mind-altering level. The show was everything we wanted to sound like. I mean, how can you not love references to death, time travel, and hallucinogenic drugs while eating cereal on a Saturday morning?
Nothing like getting up at some ungodly hour, gobbling down sugary cereals, and running down to the basement to watch the show. (Sidenote: that was my childhood… not my current lifestyle!)
The funny thing about that show is how cheesy and terrible it looks in retrospect. It did not age well at all. I look back at youtube snippets and wonder how I watched the show and why I found the Sleestaks so terrifying… Then I watched episodes in their entirety when Hulu had 'em up to pimp the Will Ferrel movie and was shocked at how deep the plotlines were… Lost was still going at that point in time and I remember how eerily similar some of that uberpopular's show seemed to shadow concepts in a 35 year old kids show.
I never got into Lost that much, maybe the first season a little, but I did hear they ripped off LOTL (Land Of The Lost for those slow on the uptake...[/b])big time! But yeah, that's one of the things that mesmerized me as an adult, was the complexity of the storylines, the underlying themes, the actual thought that went into it all. They went so far as to hire a linguistics professor to create an entire new language for the show. A real shame it only lasted three seasons.
Yeah, there were some similarities involving thoughts on the island being a bit of a pocket of its own, able to move location, and a ridiculously annoying plot line involving characters traveling through time. All it was missing was a civil war vet with a cannon and Enik.
That civil war guy was great! He was living off magic mushrooms growing in the cave and the Dad warned the kids that some mushrooms can make you feel funny and do strange things! Ahh but nothing like getting first-hand knowledge…..
Any other parting thoughts for Metalstormers who read this or are interested in checking out your music?
I want to say that the new album is really the "ideal" representation of Sleestak. It is everything we were striving to be musically, giving a nod to our past development and a heads-up to where we might be going. The response it has gotten has truly just been incredible for us and it really stokes the fire for us to keep going and push the music further. Thank you to everyone who has helped us out so far with kind words and buying the cd. Everyone in the band is grateful. Thank you for the interview! Peace and Doom…….
Posted on 20.08.2011 by
BitterCOld has been officially reviewing albums for MetalStorm since 2009.