Sex Slaves (Del Cheetah)
This example has become a bit of a cliché but in this case I think it merits inclusion. Collins dictionary states that a "crime" is "usually considered an evil act". I feel an additional definition should include the fact that NY/Philly band Sex Slaves are not a household name by this point.
This hard-working trio (bassist/vocalist Del Cheetah, guitarist/vocalist Eric 13 and drummer J/Bomb) have recently released their third record Wasted Angel and it's absolutely exceptional. Expanding on the high-energy party-vibe of the previous Bite Your Tongue, the addition of songs like "Beautiful Embrace" and "Mexico" really showcase the guys as top-shelf songwriters. Throwing in a few ballads or mid-tempo songs doesn't mean the band has wimped out by any means, however. They bring the rock on guitar-heavy grenades like "Long Live the Dead" and "Bloodlust".
Seasoned road warriors, the band destroyed Europe in a pre-Christmas tour and after wowing audiences across the U.S. earlier this year, are set to return overseas for a second go-around in April. I had spoken previously with Eric after the release of the record (link). Then anxious to find out how the band made out overseas I caught up with Del Cheetah upon their return.
antiMusic: Congrats on Wasted Angel. There are so many unbelievably great songs on here, "I Live at Night", "Long Live the Dead", "Sssssay What?", "Mexico". I mean the whole thing is just a really, really strong piece of work.
Del: Thanks, man. We didn't really want to make the same record again. I mean, some people were scared to hear the new record. But either you do the AC/DC thing and do the same record every time or you mix it up and do some different sh*t.
antiMusic: It was a long time in between records. In retrospect, was it a good thing to wait that long, since you came up with so many more songs? Or do you feel you could have made just as good a record a couple of years ago?
Del: We actually could have had a whole record two years ago. We had written it and demoed at least 90% of it. But the label we were with said "keep writing. We want you to keep going. We don't feel you're there yet." And part of the reason the company never put out any recordings was because the owner was in legal trouble and he didn't want to release anything. So they were just trying to make us kill some time while they were working their sh*t out.
But we did have a record done that we were ready to put out and some of the songs ended up on this record but in a way, it's kind of cool that we ended up waiting. Cause we wrote some more songs right at the end. "Beautiful Embrace" was one of the last ones along with "Long Live the Dead" and "Sssssay What?" So some of our favorite songs were written right at the end of the recording process. So overall, I think we could have put out a really cool record and if you heard that one, the transition between Bite Your Tongue and this one would have made more sense. But….everything in this business is that you have to adapt and so you do what you have to do. We couldn't have not put on the new stuff because it's too different. We liked it too much.
antiMusic: I told Eric I thought the album sounded more mature than Bite Your Tongue. Would you agree with that?
Del: Yeah, I would. To a lot of people, Bite Your Tongue is kind of a party record. Which is cool. People are listening to it when they're rocking. And Wasted Angel has some songs like that but you don't put it on and rock to it the whole way through. Hopefully even some of the more mid-tempo stuff still rocks but there's definitely a lot more personal stuff and a lot more, you know, life experiences. And you …and still we write like true songs; it's all s--- that's happens to us, but you definitely learn a little bit more about the band by listening to Wasted Angel and Bite Your Tongue is a little more, you know, one dimensional.
antiMusic: Because of the name of the band, along with some of your songs like "All Night Long" and "…Jack Daniels", people concentrate a little too much on the circus that seems to surround you guys and less on the fact that you guys are phenomenal songwriters?
Del: It happens once in a while. I've read reviews of the last record which slam the record and say it's just about f*cking. And even that one wasn't just about that. But they definitely got the record; they look at the name; they look at the picture and look at the first couple of song titles and they chalk it up to you know, "oh, it's this kind of band," before they even really… I don't know what happens. They probably don't even really listen to the whole record, just the first couple of songs. And you get that once in a while, but I think we've broken out of that a little bit with this record. But in general I think when people take the time to listen to the whole thing; we don't get that quite as much. It's happened for sure. (laughs)
antiMusic: Do you think that being holed up on the West Coast had an effect on the sound of Wasted Angel?
Del: We tried to keep the same frame of mind as much as possible. It's tough out there. We didn't want to make a California-sounding record. We were in Orange County and everybody out there, hangs out on the beach and smokes weed and it's like a super laid back lifestyle and it has a tendency to make you very lazy. We had a phat apartment with a pool and a giant hot tub and no bills, everything was paid for. You know, it was very easy to fall into that mindset of "yeah, we're just hanging." I can see why bands like Sublime sound the way they do. (laughs) And like NOFX. But we definitely didn't want to go down that road. We wanted to keep our edge.
So we pretty much went straight from the apartment to the studio every day. There wasn't a lot of beach time and stuff like that in between. (laughs) But it would be impossible to say it didn't affect us in some way. I'm sure the whole situation did. Even the fact that the label kept us spinning our wheels an extra nine months affected us because that's when started getting really frustrated actually. I remember the specific conversation we had at the end of the day the record came out. We were just fed up with the whole thing. I wouldn't say the environment affected us much as the fact that for the first time we were kind of trapped somewhere waiting for someone else to tell us we could do this, we could do this. We were used to pretty much calling our own shots, which we're back to doing now. And everyone in the band is a lot happier now. (laughs) I would say the record wouldn't be the same if we had done it here. It would be the Loch Ness record. It would be the in-between record if we'd done it here. (laughs)
antiMusic: Talk to us about some of the songs. I love absolutely everything on the record but the song I attached to right off the bat was "I Live At Night". Eric says he thinks it's the best song you ever wrote. Tell us about how that came together.
Del: At this point it's my favourite song I ever wrote too. I mean it's funny because I actually wrote that song right before Bite Your Tongue came out.
antiMusic: Oh wow.
Del: At least the lyrics. But that record was already in the can when it was ready to come out. It's about a specific person. There was this girlfriend; we'd actually broken up before the Bite Your Tongue tour had started and that's when I had written the song. So it's been kicking around for a long time. But I couldn't like for some reason I had written the lyric but I couldn't get it to ft into a song structure. I couldn't get the pacing and the flow of the lyric to fit into that sounded cool, but I just put it down for a while. You know it kind of like starting to frustrate me. At one point I was Pennsylvania visiting my sister. And it was the middle of the night; I was driving through the country in Pennsylvania, pitch black, no lights anywhere. I wasn't even purposely thinking of that and it just clicked in my head, like the pacing, the lyrics and the chorus fell in my head. And I went home that night and I had a little 4-track recorder there and I set it up. And once it like popped into my head, I laid the whole thing down in probably like 45 minutes.
Del: We had these guys that took us out to California but when we first met with that label they wanted us to come and record three songs to see, you know, how we progressed from Bite Your Tongue and they were going to base the offer on that. "I Live At Night" was one of the one we did. "Just a Memory" was the other one. And "Fuk 4 Luv". They were the three songs we did. And they were just blown away. That was the deal. Yeah, it was definitely the most personal song I've ever written. It's easy for me to write about the fun side of everything, like the "Fuk 4 Luv" style. That's just fun s--- to write about. It was a little different for me to write something like that. But I'm definitely proud of that song. I think it comes across great live. And the recording of it was great. It's definitely my favorite song I've ever written.
antiMusic: One of the other standout tracks kicks off the record, "Long Live the Dead". Eric wrote the riff and you did the lyrics. How did you come up with the theme of "Long Live the Dead"?
Del: Well we did it together. He actually came up with the riff and the title. He was like: I've been kicking around this name, "Long Live the Dead", or something very similar to that anyway. So that was kind of the theme. And then we sat down, and we all kind of cracked it out together. I don't really remember if I came up with the lyrics or not, but it's possible. But we were all sitting in the same room when we wrote it, bouncing ideas around you know. We were kind of going with the theme of like the walking dead, like a lot of people walking through life; like already dead; kind of an escapist theme I guess come alive but with an added, "is this all there is to it?" (laughs)
antiMusic: Excellent video for that. Who came up with the treatment for that? It's simple but really effective. And also, who is Robert who is in the video and did some driving for you in Europe?
Del: He's a lifer. He's a dude who's been in New York for forever and he's living like he was when he was 20 years old. You see him at all the shows. And he's just been around forever. He's one of those dudes who never grew up and actually he's got a very unique look with that hole in his head. He got mugged one time years ago. They smashed him in the head. Broke his skull and pulled a piece of the bone out and left the hole right there. He's just a character. He's one of those dudes you…I mean he has one of these convertible Cadillacs.
And the director of that video Alex who's a friend of ours in New York and a budding video maker, filmmaker and stuff. He approached us actually and said: "I've heard some of the stuff from the new record. I'm really interested in doing a video for you." I think we gave him four songs to choose from. And as soon as he heard "Long Live the Dead", he instantly fell in love with it. He started location scouting. He found that building in Brooklyn. It was just this crazy… it used to be a boiler room of some sort but it no longer had a roof or a floor. It's basically just a brick shell. He conceived the whole thing pretty much.
We were putting in ideas too, like we had… I had like all the pyrotechnic stuff from my old band, so we brought that to the table. The strobe sequence and the bridge, I kinda came up with that. But the overall look and everything was pretty much his idea. It changed a lot from conception to execution as everything does when you're not spending like a million dollars. There are always compromises along the way. But we shot a ton of s--- and we basically just ended up using what looked the coolest in the video. I think…like the car thing with Robert driving; that was like totally last minute. He called the last day of shooting cause Alex had called him and he was like: "Want me to bring the car by…." And he said, yeah, bring it by. And so we shot it, just kind of not knowing if it would make it or not, but I think that's like the most fun stuff in the video, you know? (laughs)
Del: And then we had an editor that worked on it, that we had hired to do it but he just did an absolutely horrible job. And so at the end, about a week before we had to deliver it, maybe two weeks, I took all the original —I used to be an editor---so I took all the footage back and I ended up recutting it. He did an absolutely horrible job. Yeah, we're stoked with how it came out.
antiMusic: "Mexico" is just a phenomenal song. Were you thinking of anybody in particular for this song or is this just something that came to you?
Del: (laughs). It's actually a story about the same person that "I Live at Night" is, believe it or not. Even though it was written four years later. It's actually inspired by a song that she wrote. (laughs) She had a song called "Mexico". It's totally different. I think it's "Mexico". But just like the vibe of the song totally inspired this one. It's like kind of a mixture of her and her song that inspired it. I think Eric might have mentioned too, before, Eric just kind of laid that down. I didn't think it was going to be anything. I just kind of did it as a throwaway. And then you know, he heard it and the engineer we were working with heard it and they were both super, super into it. And I was like: "ah, it's cool." It's just one of those songs that kind of catches a unique vibe, you can't really put a finger on it. But it just makes you feel like you can feel, like I don't know, it's the kind of a song that creates a feeling… It's kind of a rare thing to do sometimes.
antiMusic: Exactly. In terms of sequences it's in a great spot right towards the end of the record. Sometimes all the best songs are right off the top and things kind of trail off. But here you get to the end and you've got that and it bookends the record really nicely.
Del: I f*cking hate when people do that—put all the good sh*t up at the front. I mean, hopefully you to want to have all good songs on you record, which is what we try to do too. But I mean…every record label does that too. They try to put three big smash hit songs at the beginning and then there's like 9 s---ty songs…I f*cking hate that. I think the last spot on the record is as important as the first spot. I love the way Bite Your Tongue ends. Like it ends leaving you feeling like…it's kind of like a bittersweet. It just makes you …you want to hear what's next. If you have a throwaway track at the end of the record, you're just "eh". You've got to end that record and be like "F*ck, that KICKED ASS." (laughs)
antiMusic: "Fuk 4 Luv" is one of those songs that has tons of energy. Were you thinking of the live show when you wrote that?
Del: Oh, we definitely think about that because Eric writes tons of slow songs and me and J are always like, "We can't have that much slow sh*t on the record". Because you can pull that stuff off live in a big setting, when you're like a big band, and you have full control over lighting and sound and you can bring out different guitars. But in a club setting it's WAY harder to pull off. You can't bust out a song like "Memory" in a crowded club where it's noisy. It just doesn't f*cking translate. You want to be able to perform most of the songs. The same with "Mexico". We haven't played "Mexico" live. We might at some point, but we really need to have control over everything in the environment to create the mood that you need to really pull off songs like that. I wouldn't say in writing…you know, we write tons of sh*t, but in selecting songs that go on the record, we definitely think about, there's got to be enough rocking, heavy sh*t to play live. I wouldn't say the writing process at all. Even though you might write 30 slow songs and only put one on the record, you're still going to choose one out of 30 then one out of three, you know? We write it all but I think ratio is really important when we're picking the running order and stuff like that.
antiMusic: Eric says that you and J were a bit pissed at one point that he was writing a lot of songs like "Just a Memory". In retrospect, are you happy with the amount of diversity on the record like "Memory", "Beautiful Embrace" and "Mexico"?
Del: I'm happy with where it's at right now. There's stuff that we left off that we almost couldn't believe that we left off, because there's a couple of really good…there's one in particular, this one really good, it's a total ballad this song. It's called "Sunny Day". It's super sad, but it's a really really good song. But we didn't want to have two songs like that on the record. I'm sure it'll come out eventually. It was like a big debate which one to put on. I like the ratio the way it is now because even the more down-tempo stuff, for the most part, is still like cool and heavy in its own way. Like "I Live at Night", has probably the heaviest guitars on the record on it, even though it's like more of a mid-tempo, sad song. "Mexico" has really thick, heavy guitars on it. They all have all that really heavy sh*t on them.
"I Live at Night" comes across great live. You can still pull that stuff off live. It kind of goes back to like that AC/DC thing; we wanted to make a record that was like a journey. You could listen to it start to finish and a lot of the compliments we've gotten on this new record is that you don't get bored. It's not 12 of the same songs. It IS a journey. And it's cool. I think that's a good accomplishment, to be able to pull off a lot of different styles and make them cool, I think it's like a huge attribute.
antiMusic: Sometimes songs take on a different life when you play them live. Have you found that to be true with any songs from the new record?
Del: Yeah, the live version of "I Live at Night" is definitely different. Maybe the vocal stuff is different because some of the vocal parts are, like in the chorus like low and quiet, and on a large stage it's hard to do that and have it translate. So we've switched the parts a little bit. Like some of the parts are up an octave and stuff like that. It's a little more rock live and obviously we don't have a choir of children singing up there but it sounds awesome. It just sounds different from the recorded version which I think is cool too.
For some reason "Liquor Store Romance", which is like a fun song on the record, it just hasn't been coming across well live. It just hasn't been f*cking translating live. And it's kind of frustrating. It seems like such a simple song but for whatever reason, I don't know… we still have to work on it some more. We don't have much time rehearsing in general because we're always out. And when we're home for like a week, there's so much work to do getting ready for the next tour, like printing merch, and backdrafts and other work. So we don't spend a lot of time rehearsing. And when there's a song like that giving us trouble it's probably because you know, there's always a lot of vocal parts in songs and we have to pick which ones we're going to do live and stuff like that. And probably if we sat down in a rehearsal room for a couple of weeks and actually went through it and fine-tuned it all, I'm sure we could hammer it out. But we haven't really had the opportunity to do that so the song's suffered because of it. And it's just f*cking weird. (laughs) I don't know why. For whatever reason that song sounds like sh*t live.
Del: But some of the other ones that we're going to start playing…like we haven't been doing "Beautiful Embrace" and "House of a Madman". But we're going to start doing them on the next tour. And I'm sure they're going to be different live just because they have some different elements, some electronics and stuff like that, which we may have a little bit live but for the most part it's going to be a lot more organic. So it's going to be interesting….
antiMusic: You just got back from Europe for the first time as a band. Overall, what was the experience like and what were some of the highlights for you?
Del: It was exhausting. (laughs)
antiMusic: It sounds like it. Man, you guys covered a lot of ground.
Del: We covered a lot of ground. A lot of long drives. Every three days it was different language, different currency, just keeping up on all that sh*t. I think we had seven or eight different currencies all the time we where there. Just stuff like that becomes emotionally draining. And a lot of the conversations you have in Europe are on the second grade level because it's not like a total command of the English language. They can communicate and you can have like grade two conversations, so the combination of those two just kind of powers your brain out, you know?
The shows were f*cking great. We didn't know exactly what to expect. Traditionally we sell a lot of stuff to Europe, cds and shirts and stuff, but we didn't know where there were going to be fans and where there weren't. And every single show except this biker bar in Switzerland where this wasn't the case… But aside from that, every single show there were crews of hardcore Sex Slave fans, wearing the shirts, singing every word. That was really f*cking cool to see. As long as you have that one crew in the crowd to make it a great show...that one crew in the front with their hands in the air singing every single f*cking word, it definitely makes the show. It's enough to ignite the whole crowd. And we had that every single day. We were really grateful to see that. That was really cool.
We sold a ton of sh*t. We're making plans to go back in April. We made a ton of really good connections. We met some great promoters, some great booking agents. We'd been trying to get over there for a while and we talked to a couple different booking agents and sh*t keeps falling through. Finally we were like: f*ck it, we've got it just do it ourselves…the way we've done everything else." I booked pretty much most of the tour through DJs and bands that had been emailing us over the years.
So we knew we'd make some mistakes the first time because we'd never been there before. And we learned where we can save a little money, where we can do sh*t a little more efficiently. But you really just got to jump off the cliff the first time and do it. You can talk to everybody in the world and you're not going to learn sh*t until you actually do it. So we just went and did it. And it was really great. It's whole other world that we can tour and expose to our music. We're going back there in April and we're going to go to Russia later next year which is going to be really cool.
antiMusic: What kind of set are you currently putting together? Heavy on the new record?
Del: It's about 70 per cent new s--- probably. The old record we do, "All Night Long", "Me & My Friends" "Jack Daniels", "Contagious". That's about all we consistently play off the old record. And then, you know, it's mostly the new record. I guess if we're not playing "Madman" and "Beautiful Embrace" on this tour, we'll be doing that on the next one. But everything else, except for "Mexico" is pretty much fair game.
antiMusic: Eric said you still had a stack of songs that he couldn't believe didn't make this record, and I know you mentioned there was a couple as well at least. I know you're working this record right now, but how long do you envision it being before you look at the next one?
Del: I'm already looking at it. I think a four year time span between the first and second one is totally inexcusable. I don't want to do that again. I want to put out a record---either put it out next summer or be recording next summer. I think a year or a year and a half is plenty of time (laughs) between records. And I think we owe it to people since we took so f*cking long with this one to get it out to them, to deliver something, in a timely fashion next time around. But I already have three new songs that I'm pretty stoked about. And there's probably a couple that were already recorded that didn't make it on Wasted Angel. I mean maybe two, maybe three, I don't know.
I'm excited. I feel like after sitting in California for so f*cking long and we were still touring when we could and stuff like that, I just feel like now we're back in action. And it's just really good to be active. Since we parted ways with that label, I mean we sat there for two years, and we recorded a sh*t load of songs but our hands were kind of tied. We had very limited touring opportunities. And since we parted ways with that company, we shot a video, put out a new record, done like three u.s. tours, a European tour, we're booking two European tours…the europeen tours are next fall. We're working on another video right now. It's like, sh*t you know, everything is just like happening again. We bought a bus and built it out. It's just like everything is going full steam ahead again. I don't want to let up on that energy. We've got a lot of ground yet to cover on this tour still. We've got to go to the west coast in January, February. We're going to hit Europe again and a couple more U.S. runs. But after that I definitely want to start working on the next record.
antiMusic: Any final thoughts on Wasted Angel? Was it a fun experience overall?
Del: (laughs) It was a life changing experience and there were a lot of ups and downs and I think a lot of them came out on the record. Overall we're really proud of it. I can't wait personally to start working on the next record. I'm just glad that everyone waited for us.
Morley and antiMusic thank Del for making time to do this interview.