By STEVE MASCORD
DANA Strum is a remarkable talker. There can be no doubt about that. Whether he is the former member of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion who Vincent told us in it 320 joined without once having to play his instrument is anyone’s guess.
But right now, bassist Strum is rather stunned. Here he is, sitting in a Las Vegas hotel room, his new band Slaughter sailing further into multi-platinum territory by the minute. He is doing his first telephone interview with Australia, a place he has possibly only ever seen via Crocodile Dundee. And here I am, only seeming interested in his least favourite subject.
“You’re bringing up all this Vinnie Vincent paraphenalia,” he says, sounding genuinely surprised. “I don’t know how it looked in Australia but the band really didn’t do any business anywhere. It’s funny to hear this stuff, because we didn’t sell any records.”
Strum and vocalist Mark Slaughter have been reluctant to discuss their involvement in VVI since Chrysalis released Stick It To Ya at the beginning of 1990. Their split with Vincent had been acrimonious to say the least but what really happened has never been uncovered.
“The Vinnie Vincent Invasion were damn near ‘f**k you’ed off every stage we ever walked on. And it certainly wasn’t only mine or Mark’s fault. The fans went to see Vinnie and were obviously not pleased with what they saw.”
THE lead-up press to the first Slaughter album painted Vincent as an egotistical maniac. Strum and Slaughter kept promoting this concept until Vincent finally answered his accusers last month in Kerrang!
With the transcript of that interview in front of me, I’ve got a few new questions to ask Dana Strum. But right now, Strum is reciting his Slaughter sales pitch and it would be rather impertinent of me to interupt.
“All the guys in Slaughter are really down-to-earth, real guys,” he says, with not a hunt of a self-deprecating giggle. “They’re not pretentious. We do believe in posing. It’s just a real good honest down-to-earth rock band.
“The whole rock star mentality just doesn’t exist with Slaughter because we’ve been fighting for so long just to be musicians. None of us wants to be a rock star. We just want to play music and make people feel good, make a living a go for it.”
I won’t let him continue. You get the picture … There can, of course, be no doubt Slaughter have moved onto a commercial level far above anything Vincent attained.”We tasted a little bit of success but we had no idea what major success like this was,” Strum says enthusiastically. “You lose a great deal of your life. It’s over. They tell you you’re going to have a day at home and it turns into an orchestrated day of: ‘all the pictures are used up and we need a good day for new pictures and we’re going to shoot a new video because we’ve sold over a million records and there’s no video for sale out in the market’.
“I never quite realised it would be like this. If that’s the price you’ve got to play to have success then, you know, that’s what you pay.”
SLAUGHTER’S success in the US has been nothing short of spectacular. A multi-platinum chart hit powered by dumb-rock anthem “Up All Night” and a fruitful tour with KISS have highlighted a very big year for the screeching foursome. I don’t like them but at least a couple of million shopping mall bound American wet dreamers do.
“At least half of the KISS audience is there to see Slaughter,” Strum says of their tour. The reception has been amazing. It’s not uncommon in America for Slaughter to make $30,000 to $40,000 in t-shirt business – a night.
“It’s changed our lives considerably but we’re quite proud of the opportunity to play on that tour and regardless of the amount of people who come to see us, it’s a learning and building experience every night.But Slaughter have been even more important to Chrysalis, a label on the brink of bankruptcy when Stick It To Ya was released. Chrysalis picked up Mark Slaughter and Strum’s solo option when the Invasion broke up only a couple of records into its contract. Vincent used an army of lawyers to escape his option but his bassist and singer took what must have been a huge gamble and stayed. Chrysalis was subsequently bought out and its artist roster – including Aussies The Angels and Johnny Diesel – queued up to leave. Still, Slaughter stayed.
“Our record company was damn near out of business,” says Strum. “We’re aware of that. “Quite frankly, originally we were very scared we were on Chrysalis because they had a hard time breaking anything.”
But you didn’t have a choice, did you? They had you under contract… “There was a choice. You have a lawyer and you have the ability to fight contracts. You also have the ability to say ‘look, we’ll buy our way out. We’ll make you the only profit you make this year without selling any records’.
“But in America, this is the strongest year they’ve had for 10 years. They’ve made millions and millions of dollars here. For every million the band makes, they make six million. They’ve got Slaughter, Billy Idol, Sinead O’Connor, all selling like Hell…”
WHILE Slaughter are at pains to separate themselves from their previous project, Stick It To Ya carries a somewhat hypocritical credit, saying ‘Thanks to KISS fans around the world’. Isn’t that just name-dropping?
Strum sounds annoyed. “No, since the guys in KISS use our names on there videos to say their favourite band is Slaughter! Is name-dropping?
“We played with this ex-KISS guy and we met a lot of great people, great fans who were KISS fans. They were very supportive. They called radio stations and demanded to hear our new record. When they did that, our record just flew.”
So doesn’t that mean you owe KISS – and therefore Vinnie – more than you’re willing to admit? “We didn’t get a fanbase that way,” Strum stresses. “The Vinnie Vincent Invasion were damn near f**k you-ed off every stage we ever walked on. And it certainly wasn’t only mine and Mark’s fault. The fans went to see Vinnie and were obviously not pleased with what they saw!”
Vinnie now says he was badly advised when it came to hiring Slaughter and sacking Robert Fleischman (who is now reunited with Vincent on his upcoming return on Enigma). Who gave him that advice?
“I admit I brought Mark in but my intention was to have a real band and we were all turned into sidemen,” says Strum. “Mark Slaughter was a young, energetic guy who wanted to go on the road so I went and I met Mark. Vinnie was working with a guy in Europe who couldn’t even pronounce Vinnie’s name!”
Strum says Fleischman had to be outed because of his flat refusal to go on tour, “Mark was brought in at that time because we had to go out on the road to try to suppor that record (Invasion) and there was no way Robert was willing to go on the road.
“He still isn’t willing to go on the road. I’ve heard that Robert sang on this Vinnie Vincent record that’s gonna come out but no-one in this country much cares and Fleischman’s not going to perform again.
“Robert Flesichman’s about 38 years old and looks like an insurance broker.”
IT seems that Strum won’t stop talking about this once he’s started. “I think Vincent wanted total control over his records and he should not have told people he wanted a band situation when in fact he wanted complete control. That’s really what it comes to.
“But more than that, even if he had the control, he should have worked on his performing ability a bit more and worried about soloing in the studio less because … we were booed off almost every stage we played on.”
What about Vinnie’s accusations about Chrysalis cutting solos out of the record without his permission? “Quite frankly, the record company was very lenient wit hi over his solos. That second Vinnie Vincent record had a great amount of guitar soloing in it, in fact. More soloing than the craziest guitar record available in your market, other the Yngwie.
“It’s been a long time now since he performed live and he probably can’t remember the disappointment we all experienced, including me. The band was just not good live and he was a big part of that.”
THERE are rumours that financial matters also drove a wedge between Vincent ands band, rumours which Strum is naturally unable to comment on for legal reasons. He answers in a flash, though, when I ask if he and the ex-KISS man are still on speaking terms.
“No and I have no desire to be. For the record, I hope that the guy does whatever he sets out to do and that there’s a market out there for people who like to listen to nothing else but guitar solos.”
Ouch! The bitch…
Slaighter, meanwhile, are touring Britain this month with Cinderella as part of Strum’s grand play to be the ‘rock band of the decade’.
“We want the world markets,” he explains. “The record company was quite happy with us doing the business we were doing in America and Canada. We reminded them there was a whole world out there and North America doesn’t mean Jack Shit if you can’t make an impact on the rest of the world.”
For now, Dana Strum seems to have had the last laugh on Vincent. “In this country, a few hunded Vinnie Vincent albums sold,” he says, “and there’s been over a million of Slaughter records. “You tell me the reason for that!”