Mentioning Vinnie Vincent to Mark Slaughter, lead singer of the hard rock/metal group Slaughter, is like rubbing salt in an open wound.
"God, how I hated dieing my hair a blonde and being all made up and singing that music," grumbled Slaughter, recalling those "dark days" in the defunct glam-rock band, the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. "One of the happiest days of my life was Aug. 28, 1988. That's when I was through with that band. There was only one good thing about it--it was my stepping stone to building Slaughter."
During a tour break, Slaughter, whose "Stick It to Ya" is the year's hottest hard rock/metal album, had just flown into town from his Las Vegas home for the afternoon to do an interview in Westwood. "Stick" is the only album by a new hard-rock artist to score on the charts this year, cracking the Top 20 and selling more than 800,000.
Though the band's sexy-young-toughs look obviously impressed that crucial MTV audience, it's not that easy to figure out what sets Slaughter off from all the new bands that didn't make it this year. But it is easy to spot the standard influences, from Led Zeppelin to AC/DC, coursing through Slaughter's debut album. Unlike many other hard-rock artists, he wasn't at all defensive about it.
"It's nice to be original but what hard-rock band or metal really is?" Slaughter asked. "You can't play this music and not sound like certain bands. You try to bring your own original touch to the music--but often you can't. Most of the kids aren't listening for originality--they want that energy, that surge of power. That's what we give them."
But it's not that easy to spot the Aretha Franklin influence in Slaughter's vocals. "It's there in some little ways and some big ways," he said proudly. "She may sound like a strange artist to be such a big influence on me, but that bluesy R&B; sound fits into hard rock--and the Slaughter sound."
Slaughter, who turned 26 on the Fourth of July, was teaching guitar in Las Vegas a few years ago when he auditioned for Vinnie Vincent's band as a singer. "Another guy got the job and made the first album but then he left," recalled Slaughter, a singer/guitarist who eventually dropped the guitar. "I did the first tour and the next album. Vinnie didn't like my singing but the record company (Chrysalis) did. That's why they signed me after Vinnie's band folded."
Slaughter's band also includes bassist Dana Strum--another alumnus of the Vincent Invasion--plus guitarist Tim Kelly and drummer Blas Elias. Despite the success within the metal genre, Slaughter stressed that the band veers away from the cliched party lifestyle.
"We're musicians--serious musicians--who aren't into glamour or being totally wild and out of control," Slaughter insisted. "I like fast girls and fast cars and all that as much as the next guy. It's hard to play this music and not live a bit wild. But you really have to focus on the music and the business end of things if you want to make it. The fast lane is fun but too often it's a fast lane to nowhere."