The Slashdogs spilled blood
By Robert Laing
Skateboarders call the older guys in their scene Slashdogs, a slang term veteran rockers thought appropriate when they split from the various bands they were in to pursue their yen to play rockabilly.
The Slashdog's singer Lucky was at Fuzigish's album launch at Roxy's. Looking at the impressive crowd — far more people queued outside than the venue could accommodate — I asked him if he regretted vacating his place in the ska band's brass section to front the Slashdogs.
"It's a building process. When I joined Fuzi, their audience was about the same size as The Slashdogs' is now. Fuzi are doing well and they deserve it. They've put a really good album out which is going to do great things for them.
"Fuzi have worked hard to build themselves, and we intend to do the same. It's going to be a good journey for The Slashdogs as well."
The Slashdogs are busy on their second album, which Lucky says is coming out far more positive than their debut Spilled blood calls for vengeance.
"Our next album is about rebirth, getting up and doing something instead of bellyaching. The overriding theme of Spilled blood calls for vengeance was exorcising ones demons, getting rid of them and dealing with issues. It was very therapeutic for everyone, but full of bellyaching.
"Within Sangoma rituals, when you slaughter an animal, the screams of the animal as it dies calls the ancestors to action. So that's where we got the name from, and the theme of the album cover."
The Slashdogs are known for their striking posters, fliers, and now notorious first album cover. Lucky is a professional designer, but leaves the band's artwork to guitarist Andrew "Reverend" Wright.
"It's painful designing for a band — all the members are passionate and add their two cents worth. I'm not prepared to go down that route. Andy puts himself through it, and I'm stoked by the work he does for us."
Wedding band members these days buy minister's licences over the Internet so they can perform marriage ceremonies besides playing cover versions. Irreverent rockers have followed suite. The Slashdogs' Reverend Wright hasn't taken this joke as far as the Diesel Whores's Jaxon Rice. His certificate hasn't been officiated (yet). Andrew hasn't bothered to get the necessary signatures because he reckons The Slashdogs won't be any more successful at getting booked for wedding gigs than the Diesel Whores.
The opening track of Spilled blood calls for vengeance, Way of the swallows, has African choral singing accompanied by ominously howling electric guitars. The Slashdogs like to juxtapose Western and African culture — and if smalltown religious nuts find the result scary and offensive, so much the better!
Only 500 copies of Spilled blood calls for vengeance were made, and it's unlikely any of these reached a North West dorp called Wolmeranstad. A shoe-box, however, with the severed chicken-head and crossbones album cover photo on it did. Durban fashion-house Critic sells brothel-creepers endorsed by The Slashdogs.
Townsfolk sent Critic a missive saying they did not want its products sold in Wolmeranstad. Lucky, who grew up in the "bible-belt of South Africa", East London, replied with an explanation of how the artwork was a mix of muti and Christian symbolism. He bridles at any suggestion this was an apology to small-town paranoiacs.
"We never got any correspondence from them other than they did not want any of our products sold in that area because of the artwork. I pointed out most of the imagery was based on Christian dogma, but they didn't correspond with us."
The Mail & Guardian's story reassured readers that no chicken's blood was spilled for the digital image used on the album cover. It turns out, that's not actually true.
"We went to the muti market in town and bought a live chicken and slaughtered it for that picture," Lucky told me in a radio interview.
Before anyone thinks Lucky is callous about chickens, he's a former-vegetarian with moral qualms over KFC using his band's music in an ad because of the fast-food chain's treatment of animals.
"But hey, chickens get slaughtered all the time."
The Slashdogs are looking at repackaging their first album with a comic book on the different songs. It's not really small-towners who are meant to shudder at the muti on the album cover, but Joburg' security-village suburbanites sung about in Darkest Fear, a direct translation of Swart Gevaar.
The Slashdogs' audience are as energetic as the band. Lucky can rely on the front-row to chant the choruses into the microphone for him, and the ceilings of the pubs the band plays are way too low for the crowd surfing.
He expects the album under development to stray from the band's rockabilly roots.
"We want to evolve as creative people, we don't want to get stuck in one thing. We want to enjoy ourselves and keep exploring. I people listen to us and like us, they can come on the journey with us. If they don't, then they don't have to listen."
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