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Interview

Skull Fist Frontman Zach Slaughter Discusses New Album "Paid In Full," Demos And More

As mentioned recently when introducing the interview with Wolf, the love for and the spirit of traditional heavy metal never went away. It may have been sidelined by its more extreme successors or mocked by the trends that followed it in the nineties, but it remained as defiant as ever. There's no shortage of bands keeping this style and sound alive today and without a doubt, one of the most successful at keeping the fire burning bright would be Canada's own, Skull Fist.

Last month, Skull Fist unleashed their latest album, "Paid In Full," an eight track collection of some of the finest traditional heavy metal music this decade, although the road to its release had its fair share of bumps along the way. Indeed, the record itself is older than some people may realise but with an ever growing fan base and the power of Atomic Fire Records behind them, it seems that Skull Fist are poised to lead a charge for their genre and contemporaries. To find out more about the album, Metal Underground caught up with frontman Zach "Slaughter" Schottler, who revealed just how long the band has been sitting on the record, where they've been recording videos, why he prefers demos and much more. You can watch the interview in full below.

Diamond Oz: The new album, "Paid In Full" is out now. What can you tell me about the title of the album? Where does that come from?

Zach Slaughter: Well, I couldn't call it "Powerslave," because that was taken. "Rust In Peace" was taken too. No, you just get old and disgruntled and it's just where you end up. I think it's more about not wanting to deal with people's shit anymore, I guess.

Oz: And what makes this a different album from "Way Of The Road"?

Zach: Ummm... It's got different riffs! Although I realise that the picking for the song, "Long Live The Fist" in "You're Gonna Pay," so I feel like at this point I'm ripping off myself. It's heavier. "Way Of The Road" was a lot mellower I think, almost a little bit whiny at some points. I think this one's a bit more disgruntled, which I guess is my theme word for the day. The sound is a bit better too, especially the vocals.

Oz: Was there anything you did with your voice to make it stronger or was it just the way it turned out?

Zach: When I did "Way Of The Road," it was right after vocal surgery, so I had to the set bar real fucking low. I barely got through recording that record. It would take me days to record a single line, so it was a huge pain in the ass. This one's a lot easier.

Oz: It's a bit of a stupid question but would you say that not having to deal with that this time around made this more fun to record or are you still feeling pretty disgruntled?

Zach: Nah, I like making demos more than recording records, because I can get into my jogging pants in my basement, put the headphones in and crank it up, that's like my favourite spot. It feels the best when I'm recording demos. The recording process is a pain in the ass because you gotta sit there all day and I can't do anything for more than an hour, so having to sit there for six hours and play guitar is just boring, I think. Honestly, I wish that the demos were the songs and that was the album. That's where the enjoyment is done for me. After that, it's all just a pain in the ass. I think it would be better if music production was way shittier, that would be awesome because then you could release your demos.

Oz: I know you do release your demos on the Patreon.

Zach: Yeah I have been. It's funny because like I said I go back and listen to the demos. I mean yeah, the albums sound way more refined and everything is finalised but I like, even with old bands, sometimes I find myself leaning towards shitty production than I do with really good production.

Oz: Yeah, that's definitely the way with eighties thrash for example.

Zach: Yes, absolutely. Although when I was younger I never realised it. I never realised that I hate reverb. I didn't know what, I assumed that I needed big heavy metal reverb and then I got older and realised that I hated reverb because it just buries everything. I started to realise that I liked music where I could pick out every instrument clearly. It compresses the shit out of everything and you look at the wave and it's just a rectangle, no ups or downs. Maybe that's why I like demos better because it's just the guys playing it, it's more natural.

Oz: Yeah and I guess when you're doing a demo you've still got that excitement because it's something brand new...

Zach: Absolutely man, it's NEW and you only get that feeling for so long, you know? You listen to a song twenty times, it's still exciting but you start skipping it.

Oz: As I mentioned earlier, you're pretty active through Patreon. Did Patreon play a role in funding the album?

Zach: I have to right now, man. I don't think it's something that I would be very enthusiastic about having to do, but at this point it has to be done because we're twenty grand in debt, so I gotta do anything I can possibly do. There are benefits to it as well because it's nice having a place to share this kind of shit. I noticed that I was very reluctant to do it, but after a little while it's like, "Hey, there's kind of like some small benefits to it." It's cool. It's somewhere where I can talk and ramble a little more and share stories and stuff like that, versus me just making the Skull Fist page and rambling on about whatever and sound like an eighty year old man on the Facebook page.

Oz: The artwork for the album is pretty cool, I think. It reminds me of a lot of stuff from the eighties without it looking dated. This was done by Sharon Toxic who's done artwork for Firewind before as well as some previous Skull Fist albums. How did this collaboration come to be?

Zach: Sharon is the coolest. We've been best friends since we were kids. She's really awesome at suggesting things for me and saying, "Hey, chill out." She's always been someone that I value her input. She's super smart, much smarter and more intelligent than me.

Oz: And as for recording the album itself, like you say, it's a slog to go through all these songs and stuff but were you able to come together to record the album or did you all have to do things separately because of COVID restrictions?

Zach: We actually recorded it in February 2020. It was done a long time ago, before Corona virus was even really a thing. We were in the studio talking about it like, "That's gonna last two weeks! It's a bunch of bullshit!" We were wrong about that one. We thought it was gonna be another SARS. So yeah, the music was done, I just had to do the vocals at home. We just kept pushing it back further and further because we thought that we were going to go on tour with it and finally we just said, "Fuck it. Let's release it anyway. If we don't tour then I don't care. I like wearing jogging pants anyway."

Oz: With that being said, do you have plans coming up to tour?

Zach: We just cancelled a tour in May. We were going to go to Europe with Enforcer and we just cancelled it. We're broke as shit and if I go on tour and catch Omicron then I'm screwed. Not to mention, I've already had two vocal surgeries so I don't wanna fuck around otherwise I'm gonna wind up singing like Tom Waits on the next record.

Oz: You've done a music video for the song, "For The Last Time." What was it like to record?

Zach: That was filmed in my shed. It's great because I've been setting it up so all the videos I've been shooting have been at my place so I don't have to go anywhere. It was cold, like minus twenty. I remember seeing a comment on the video where someone was calling us pussies and that minus twenty isn't that cold and it's not, for Canada, depending on where you live. It's cold for this area but if you go up north it's much colder. It's still cold to stand around in for five hours though and you can't wear your mitts or winter jacket, you gotta wear your stupid normal jacket. But it was cool, the director Mike, or "Crusty," it was the first time we'd ever met him and he normally does a lot of punk videos. He was really cool to hang out with. When he came inside my place, I have one of those virtual reality headsets and the first thing he said was, "Is that your masturbating tool?" Yeah, it was cool. We've done another one for "Madman," which is like a caveman song.

Oz: The perfect song for Tom Waits to sing over! You've signed with Atomic Fire for this album, which is an interesting label given that they're an offshoot or something like that from Nuclear Blast and they've got some proper legends like Udo Dirkschneider, as well as bands like yourself and Incite, real up and coming promising bands. How did this deal with Atomic Fire come to be?

Zach: Well every label, when they're new, needs a bunch of power bands and they also need a bunch of filler. Enter Skull Fist! I was actually in the process of fighting with our old label and Markus emailed just to ask what we were doing. At first I didn't want to sign with any label, I'd have rather faded away into obscurity than deal with all that shit any more. But we talked a little bit about what I wanted and what I felt was an even deal and they were cool with it which I was surprised by. We paid for our own record and that way we were able to negotiate a fair deal. I will say that so far working with Atomic Fire has been totally counter to what I had always thought. I unfortunately had to change my opinion on record companies, which was hard to do but I had to admit that not everybody is stupid. They've been really cool.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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