Interview: Jason Rockman of SLAVES ON DOPE

Slaves On Dope unleashed their latest release, HORSE, on October 7th, 2016, via the ILS Group (ILS). Heavy yet melodic, the album features two killer tracks that feature special guests – “Script Writer” (featuring Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels) and “Interplanetary Mission” (featuring Bill Kelliher).

“Working with Darryl was a dream come true for us. Being RUN DMC fans since we were kids, he has always been someone we wanted to collaborate with. He came to Montreal prepared and laid down his parts in 3 takes. A true pro. We bonded over our love of comic books and Public Enemy, and he came back in July for the Montreal Comicon, so we shot the video for the song while he was here. We can’t wait for the world to hear what we created!” – Jason Rockman

Good afternoon Jason, how does the new album Horse differ from the band’s last album? It sounds to me like a complete musical departure?

Yes, definitely. A lot of people will still judge us on our Inches from the Mainline album so you have got to figure that album is up to 16 years old. What you see is when you have a record that when it’s the record that’s done the best for you you’re always going to know you’re always going to be compared to that which is OK.

I think there are some elements from that era of the band that are still you know that are still with us but we you know we’ve grown a lot as musicians we’ve always been different.

Every album we’ve done before and after Inches from the Mainline has been a different record. I think at the time we were just using the frustrations we were going through being in Canada that this is right before we moved to California that we wrote that record. And I think it was the perfect storm for us just to write an aggressive record back then. So, is it as heavy as “Inches from the main line?” No, I think it’s a little bit more mature and a little smarter. Yes, I think we’ve learned how to write better songs. I think you know we’re all… myself and Kevin, are both very much in a melody so I think we want to incorporate a little more melody a little more structure so it is a departure? Yes. Does it still sound like Slaves on Dope? If you’ve been a fan of the band since 94? Yes. If you’ve been a fan of the band since 2000. Maybe not. (laughs)

You have, of course, had a break from the band in 2004 until 2009. Was that a complete break from playing music or just from the band?

Absolutely, I didn’t touch anything. I want to say that I didn’t pick up an instrument up but my instrument is my voice. I didn’t sing for five years. I mean I had I had my first child and I was just in a different frame of mind where I didn’t want to do anything musically I just wanted to step away from it and concentrate on being a good dad.

I am a father myself -I understand that it causes you to reassess priorities and your life. You returned to music in 2011. Do you feel that now in 2016 is a particularly good time for a new Slaves on Dope album to be released?

Yeah, I’m happy with this album. I’m proud of it and I think we’ve done great work. You know we’re not the same band as we were in terms of the amount of dedication that we put into Slaves on Dope and it’s not a 24/7 thing like it used to be. Because we all have different things going on in our lives. And I think because of that it’s brought a different vibe to the band which is a little more relaxed. So it’s a little looser and it is a little more fun, so I’m really happy with where the band is right now.

Of course the album has several collaborations with other artists. Was it simply a case of Thom Hazaert, who I am familiar with, calling in a few favours? Or was it due to some connections that you yourself had made over the years?

Well, we are not involved at all with Thom anymore. Yeah, we were involved with Thom on that first album and he basically, you know, he put the album out for us. But no, these were all connections that we made. Connections that I made through my other work which is… I work in media in Montreal at work. I’m very involved with radio it’s my main gig, is a radio DJ at a station in Montreal. So, a lot of the “connections” that we made were because of relationships that I have worked through my other work, which was interviewing people. Darryl McDaniels was just because we knew he was coming to Montreal to do an interview and he got wind that I was in a band, and he said ‘hey, you know I’d love to hear some of your stuff.’ He heard it and when he was here he said “let’s do something together.” So, he got ahold of the “Scriptwriter” song – there’s space in there for a bridge. We decided to let him go at it and he just came back with some great lyrics, and we nailed it down quickly. Same thing with Bill [Kelliher] from Mastodon; Bill and I have been buddies for five or six years and didn’t bond on music, it was more on other things like Star Wars and sobriety. We have different interests that are common and then when we came to music… I mean, I was a big Mastodon fan and he knew that, but I never really talked about my band much. He knew that I was in a band.

And then when I was talking to him one day I said, “You know the song that we have we really would love to get a really cool guy to play guitar on it.” And he said, “well why don’t you send to me,” and I say, “ah, ok.” So, that worked out nicely and the other guests were the same thing – was all very organic.  Nobody really calling in favors, “Will you do this for me?” It all kind of happened pretty organically. I think because of that people that are involved in the record really want to be on the record.

The band was formed in ‘93 during the grunge era. On reflection, do you feel that it damaged the band, in that the band were wrongly labelled with many others who were around at that time?

You know, we’ve always been a band that has been hard to lump in with anything. We’ve never fit in, you know? We’ve never been part of a movement that a lot of people said, ‘you guys were a nu-metal band.’ Well, no we were not a nu-metal band. We were just Slaves on Dope and doing what we do. We didn’t jump on any trends; we just always wrote music that made us happy and we still have a hard time fitting in. You know, when I was screaming and singing I did it because I heard Burton from Fear Factory doing it and I thought it was cool. But then suddenly it became screamo and Emo and metalcore and all these other genres that came after the 2000s, and we just never fit in. And we still don’t fit in (laughs) and that’s OK, because the band that we’ve always looked to in terms of inspiration, in terms of ‘would they do it that way is Faith No More. If Faith No More do it then that’s OK. And they were always our benchmark. They were always the band that inspired us. They just did what they wanted to do and they didn’t give a flying fuck what people thought. That’s how we are; we just do it because we want to do it, because we want to create it and we don’t care if it’s a song that fits in with a genre. It’s not about genres, it is because it’s just both Kevin and I looking at each other and going, “Lets write some cool songs.”

OK, a new album that inevitably leads to the promotional touring cycle. Have you started those touring dates yet?

We were doing some dates in Canada next week. We’re going late on the touring until 2017. We’re going to be releasing vinyl in the first quarter of 2017, which is special for that so we’re planning to work this record for about a year, year and a half. That’s the plan. Not you know we’re coming out all guns blazing; we want to do it slowly because we think it’s a strong record and we think there’s a lot to work with on the record. And you know it’s funny I say that today and I’m like “Do I really want to do things that way” How would should be doing it. And then I see our heroes Faith No More a releasing today a video for “Call of shame” for a song on their album that came out over a year ago. So, what does that say? It says that that’s what we should be doing. (laughs)


Will the touring be broken down into some support slots along with your own headlining shows?

Since the band have been back together we’ve been very strategic about where we play and how we play as to not… I’ve just been very careful not to put ourselves in any situations that that will give us a bad experience. So, now we’ve played… we tried to play pretty good shows and I and I think we rather hit as many festivals as we can, because you’ll play to more people if you’re on a festival and it’s a great way to reintroduce the band. Headline slots? There are some markets where we can do it but we’re not going to get out there and tour six-eight months a year. That’s not in the cards, because none of us want to do that anymore. We just want to play shows that make sense.

It’s a whole different musical climate these days. You also must be very astute business-wise.

Yes, one of our goals is that we want to get over to Europe and to the U.K. I mean that’s such a big …and South America. Those are two or three places that are important to the band now because we’ve always had fans there and we’ve never been able to go over there and play. We have played in France and that’s it.

I just wanted to see if you can recollect your first introduction to music.

I was introduced to a lot of music at a young age. My parents were both very big music fans. Neither one were musicians. My dad at one point, when he was younger, he sang in a Doo-wop band. I was exposed to a lot of music when I was young, a lot of folk music, a lot of James Taylor, Jim Croce. My mom listened to the Beach Boys, a lot of the Beatles, a lot of Willie Nelson, so I was exposed to a lot of music at a young age and I developed my own tastes and my own loves. I remember being 11 years old and having a David Bowie ‘Thin White Duke’ poster on my wall because I loved David Bowie. I was obsessed with Bowie, and then I got into the early stages of hip hop. I think one of the first records I got was Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” on 45.

So, I like all kinds of music, so I was a music lover from a very young age, and I’m a collector and completely obsessed with music out of the UK. I was a big New Order fan, and a big Joy Division fan. I still follow Peter Hook with everything he does now. So, I’m a music fan I am a big Simple Minds fan are probably one of my favourite bands. I’m driving with my wife on Saturday six and a half hours to go and see Tears for Fears. It’s one of the only things that they are doing in North America. I’m a music fan. Yes. So yeah, music has always been with me. Did I ever think I would be a musician? No. (laughs)

Twitter has outlined or described various career roles that you personally have. Radio DJ, which you have touched on. Pop culture columnist, voice actor, musician, etc… but which role gives you the most enjoyment and pleasure?

All of them, and the reason why is because I remember talking to somebody who I had a lot of respect for and still do. And then saying to me you know if you go to work and you’re enjoying what you do then you’re winning. The minute you go to work and you don’t enjoy what you do, that’s the minute you need to stop doing that job. And I’m lucky because everything that I do feels like fun. It doesn’t feel like work. There are moments when it can suck because you know you’re tired. You know something else is going on in your life. But I don’t wake everyday dreading going to work. That’s why I do so many different things, because It’s been the kind of year where I’m involved with as much on the Montreal and Ottawa Comicon as a spokesperson. I’m lucky to do a lot of things that are cool that I love. Obviously, the radio DJ is my bread and butter, that’s the one that pays the bills.

So what sort of music does that play?

It’s a rock station and has been around for 46 years; a station that I grew up on. So, for me it’s called CHOM 97.7, and I’ve been there for going on seven years and it’s my second home.

Jason, just a final question then if I may. Of course, you’ve done many interviews and I am sure you’ve interviewed many inspirational icons. Is there anybody that you haven’t yet spoken to that you would like to interview?

I’ve had the chance to interview a lot of cool people – everybody from Dave Grohl, U2, to Peter Gabriel. I’ve interviewed some real heavies, but I’ve never had a chance to sit down with Henry Rollins. He’s somebody that I would love to interview. Absolutely. He’s somebody that’s on my list. Chuck D is somebody that I’ve got to interview over the phone, and that I know now on a personal level, but I still want to sit him down in a proper setting – 15-20 minutes – and talk to him. But yeah, I know I’ve been lucky to talk to a lot of really cool people but there’s always people that you want to sit down and talk with more.

Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. And it’s usually a restricted slot. So, you do it and then you come away and you think of more questions that you didn’t have the opportunity to ask.

Rollins is definitely somebody I would love to interview at one point, definitely. He is an inspiration.

That’s great. Thank you very much. Good luck with the album release and hopefully you will get to play some UK dates including Manchester next year.

slaves on dope


Mark Dean

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time.

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