In the blood-spattered back-alley knife fight that is today’s music industry, not many artists have the desire, let alone the luxury of walking away from a full-time gig. When a musician ditches a steady, high-profile slot in a Hall of Fame band to go solo, you know that he or she is propelled by something far stronger and infinitely more compelling than the trite vulgarities of cash or fame.
Acey Slade came up in the 90s with chugging alt-metallers Dope as both bassist and guitarist, eventually migrating to the Murderdolls, with Joey Jordison and Wednesday 13. After brief solo run in 2010 (Acey Slade & the Dark Party), the versatile, Pennsylvania-bred rocker accepted an invitation to join the rhythm section of one of America’s most famous punk exports — Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, with whom he spent several years watching millions of people across the globe shout back at him just how much they love rock and roll. Acey’s 2015 announcement that he was parting ways with the Blackhearts to pursue a solo career might have caught some off-guard, particularly with Joan’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction looming in the distance, but anybody paying attention to his obscenely-successful PledgeMusic campaign understood — the demand for more Acey Slade solo material had deeply intensified in the wake of The Dark Party. Easily eviscerating his campaign goal, earlier this year Acey released Valentines For Sick Minds — a joyfully shouty punk ‘n’ roll melee erupting with jackhammer tempos, crunchy blasts of distortion and enough rowdy, shout-out choruses to ruin your vocal cords for days.
Acey is currently touring the UK and though the wonders of WhatsApp, I managed to catch him in Scotland to talk about the new record, the uproar over music streaming and just what the hell happened with the Murderdolls.
At a time when a lot of very successful musicians have to work day jobs just to keep their guitars strung, you walked away from a steady-paying gig in the Blackhearts. What inspired you to go solo?
I’ve always done my own thing at different times and in different ways, but I’ve also always played as a side guy, so doing the solo thing works out perfectly because I can stop and start it as I choose. I’d been playing with Joan Jett and we had a break in the touring schedule in support of the Unvarnished record and I was going to do an EP. When I started putting word out to my fans on social media, there was this unanimous response for a full-length. I know that these days, everybody says you have to do EPs and that nobody cares about full-lengths, but everybody wanted a full-length! Budget-wise, moving up to a full album increases everything, so I ended up doing a PledgeMusic campaign and it was a huge success. I reached over 200% of my goal, which was amazing.
The weight of extra cash is a nice burden to bear. What’d you do with the additional funding?[laughs] The extra money took care of all the costs that didn’t come under consideration when I calculated the original goal. Basically what I did make in my overages enabled me to have a “band bank account.” I’d love to tell you that I bought a new Les Paul or did something really fun with it like that, but it wasn’t a ton of money and I felt like I should re-invest in myself.
Creatively, where did you take your solo album that you couldn’t go with Joan?
With Joan, it’s her thing and particularly with the Unvarnished record, she did work with some outside people but let’s face it, a lot of Joan’s popular songs were written by other people and the impression that I got was that she wanted this to be a very personal record because she hadn’t done one in a long time. She wanted to make it as personal as she could and I really respect that. But I’m a creative guy in my own right and a couple of the songs on my own record are songs that I wrote for her and that she didn’t want to use. I started to write songs for her and I thought, “These songs rule! I really like these songs.” That was it. And I didn’t take it personally, as far as her not wanting to use them, because I can understand that. The band’s called “Joan Jett.” I joined “Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.” I wanted to do a rock ‘n’ roll record. Or a punk ‘n’ roll record. I’ve gone in different directions at different times. When I did my Dark Party record, it was a bit more gothy and it was definitely geared towards the 80s and 90s goth and electronic stuff. I’ve always had an interest in that sound and I wanted to do something different than I’d ever done. So this new record felt like I was coming home. This is more of who I really am.
Tell me about some of the guests who appear on the record.
For the most part I played all of the bass and guitar and I did all of the singing, but on drums I had Frank Ferrer from Guns ‘N’ Roses and Kriz Dk, who plays in a band called Deadstar Assembly and a bunch of other bands as well. I also had my buddy Christian Martucci from Stone Sour play guitar on it. Chris and I grew up together and we were in our first real band together and our lives have had all these weird parallels. For example, I played with Joan, who’s a punk rock legend, and he played with Dee Dee Ramone, who’s also a punk rock legend. I played in the Murderdolls with Joey from of Slipknot and now Chris is in Stone Sour with Corey Taylor. So it’s weird that we’ve had these things in our lives that happened totally unrelated to the other.
Why tour the UK? Wouldn’t a US tour make more sense from a time and expense perspective?
I’m sorry to say this but the truth is that the UK is a better market for live music. That’s just the truth. For example, the venues actually pay you, so that’s a start. [laughs] But also, the Murderdolls had a really good run over here, which created a nice springboard for this tour. But people just turn up for live music more in the UK and in Europe. It’s just something they like to do.
You can hardly find a music news article these days without some artist railing against Spotify. What’s your take on streaming music?
That’s tricky. I’m excited because tomorrow’s Record Store Day, so I’m gonna go buy records just like I used to do. I probably should get better educated on [streaming] because I know it doesn’t pay very well. I know people are playing my music and not paying me, and that sucks. But the truth is that a lot of artists are very misinformed about that because the people who negotiated these deals with Spotify, that ended up in us not getting paid, were record companies. So these artists complaining about Spotify are mad at the wrong group of people — it’s your record company who screwed you over. They’re the ones who set up all these deals. It’s the record companies, once again, not looking out for artists.
The Murderdolls continue to generate interest in the online metal forums. Any idea what’s happening in that camp?
I don’t really know. I wasn’t asked back to do the second record and to this day, I still don’t know why. No one ever told me why. The last phone call that I got was from management saying, “Sit tight, we’re about to do the record,” and they started doing the record and then management said, “Well, Joey and Wednesday want to do the record on their own. Just sit tight, we’re booking a tour.” I was like, “Okay,” and then the tour dates started getting announced and they were like, “Sit tight, we’re working it all out,” and of course, nothing ever happened and nobody had the class to call me. I thought it was a very classless way to handle things. But I’d do it again. There’d have to be stipulations, but I’d love to do it. It was a really important band that meant a lot to a lot of people.
Many of your peers have published autobiographies. Have you considered writing yours?
I get asked that a lot because I’ve had a lot of different experiences, whether it’s playing with a legacy act like Joan and the whole Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thing, to playing in a band with a reputation like the Murderdolls. It would be important to me that the book be really well-written and I have a lot going on right now between my own music and the stuff that I get hired to do and my photography. I’d have to put everything on hold and turn my attention to the book and right now, that would be hard to do, but I’ve thought about it a lot. The problem is that I still feel like I’m in the middle of the story. Right now there’s still a lot of fight left in this dog!
The remaining dates on Acey’s current UK tour are:
April 20 Yardbirds Rock Grimsby
April 21 Nambucca, London
April 22, The Horseshoe Inn Northampton
April 23, Corporation, Sheffield