AC/DC said, “It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock ’n’ roll.” Truer words have never been spoken and it’s a statement to which Acey Slade can attest. With one of the most eclectic resumes in rock ’n’ roll, its hard to look at his journey and not be inspired. A lifelong musician, he cut his teeth in the 90s with legendary alt-metallers DOPE as both bassist and guitarist, eventually migrating to the legendary Murderdolls, where he performed alongside Joey Jordison and Wednesday 13.
Always hungry for more, Slade began to explore uncharted territory with Acey Slade & the Dark Party in 2010. Nose to the grindstone, he continued pour his blood, sweat, and tears into every new venture he tackled. His hard work and dedication to his craft didn’t go unnoticed. Opportunities quickly presented themselves and ultimately led to invitations to join the rhythm section of not one but two of America’s most iconic punk-fueled powerhouses — Joan Jett & The Blackhearts and the Misfits. Not bad for a small-town boy from rural Pennsylvania!
As the years pass, he continues to evolve as an artist and explore even more opportunities both inside and outside the musical realm. For instance, Acey’s passion for an amazing cup of coffee led to the creation of the Deadsled Coffee Company, which is wiring other creatives across the globe with it’s unique product line. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Acey Slade on tour with DOPE as they celebrate the 20th anniversary of their “Felons and Revolutionaries” album alongside Static-X. In the interview, he offers up a glimpse inside his incredible journey as an artist and the obstacles he has faced, as well as what the near future might hold for him.
Obviously, music plays a tremendous part in your life. How did it first take hold?
Well, it started in the church choir! [laughs] It started in the church choir and then I went to an Alice Cooper concert and I saw the theatrics of that show. My church did what was called “The Passion Play,” which is the whole Easter thing, the station of the cross and stuff like that. When I did “The Passion Play” as a kid, I would see all of the theatrics and I thought it was awesome! Jesus would have a crown of thorns that bleed and there was a spear loaded with fake blood to make it look like they had lanced him. It was pretty awesome! [laughs] Then I saw Alice Cooper and thought, “Oh wow! This is just like church! It’s awesome, only it’s rock ‘n’ roll! At the concert, I bought a T-shirt and my mom was like, ‘There is no fucking way you are wearing that!’ I was like, ‘But, mom! It’s just like church!’” She was like, “Oh boy!” [laughs]
What went into finding your creative voice as a musician? Was there anyone behind the scenes to give you a push when needed?
I feel really fortunate in the way that I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania, where anything weird was kind of lumped together. There weren’t enough punk kids to make a punk scene, not enough metalheads to make a metal scene or goth kids to make a goth scene. We were all kind of art class kids, if you know what I mean. It wasn’t until I moved to Philadelphia, the day I graduated high school, that I realized that there was punk only clubs, metal clubs, goth clubs and so on. It wasn’t until that point that I realized that everything was so segregated. I always felt that was pretty stupid and I still do today. My parents were really supportive of me doing creative things, although I feel they would have preferred for me to be an actor or do something a little safer musically, something like Barry Manilow. [laughs] That didn’t work out, but they were always cautiously supportive. My grandfather was super supportive. This is kind of a funny story. As you probably know, there is a folk singer named Jim Croce. He has that song, “If I Could Put Time In A Bottle.” You’ve probably heard it. He lived right across the street from my mom when she was growing up. My Grandpop had what you would call a deli now, but it was a grocery store that served sandwiches. Jim Croce would come in all the time to get sandwiches and my Grandpop would be like, “When are you going to cut your hair and get a real job?” Then Jim Croce blew up and my Grandpop was like, “Oh shit. You can really do this.” As a kid, I’ll never forget, I would get done working my 9 to 5 and stop by their house. He would be like, “I can’t wait until this music thing takes off, so you don’t have to worry about these stupid day jobs anymore.” So, it totally flipped things for him, and he was always super supportive.
Finding success doesn’t happen overnight. When did things break for you professionally?
Yeah, I would say that was when I joined DOPE, which would have been 20 years ago. It was 1999 and DOPE was a band that was in the same scene that I was in. I met Edsel and I was the first guy he asked to join the band, but I was still hung up on doing my own music and my own band, in addition to having a drug and alcohol problem at the time. I told him no, but I found him the other guys for the band. Once they got signed, it became apparent that one of the guys wasn’t going to work out, so they asked me if I wanted to reconsider and I did!
DOPE is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the “Felons and Revolutionaries” record. Looking back on it two decades later, what were the biggest challenges?
I don’t know. I don’t know about challenges. We were at the last wave of when labels had money. To be completely honest with you, I wish they would have spent less money on our first album. The first album was kind of demos and us finding ourselves. The second record didn’t leave a lot of meat on the bone, so to speak, financially. They spent as much money on us as they did Mariah Carey, which was a terrible idea for a band whose title track is “Pig Society.” [laughs] I mean, do you really think we’re going to sell Mariah Carey type units? [laughs] We won the lottery. I won’t complain about that! We were in the studio that Mariah Carey records in which would be about 5-grand a day. We were like, “Why are we in this studio?” [laughs]
It sounds like you look back on those early days pretty fondly.
You’re definitely right and it’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to. As I said, I grew up in Pennsylvania and, when I was 27, I moved to New York to play in DOPE. One of the things I really enjoy about this current tour is that … I couldn’t wait to get out of high school. Do you know what I mean? For someone like me, it’s not like I have this overwhelming feeling of, “Oh, I can’t wait to go to my class reunion.” Nothing like that. This tour, in a way, feels like a bit of a class reunion. I feel like these are the guys I really grew up with. I feel like my formative years, the ones that made me who I am today, happened when I was 27 and moved to New York City to become a musician. I know most people think of it happening 10 years earlier, when you’re in your last few years of high school or first years of college but, for me, these were my formative years.
You made a tremendous name for yourself as an artist. Your resume speaks for itself. When did you come into your own in that respect?
I was always, always, always a performer. Like I said, going all the way back to beginning, I was blown away by the visual impact of Alice Cooper and my church choir. I’ll never forget, going back to the church choir, there was this one kid with a really, really good voice. He was a great singer. My role in the church play was to play a frog. It was this really musical part and then there is a dead break and I would go, “Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit, ribbit!” Everybody would laugh and it was amazing. This kind who had a great voice got a very nice reaction but afterwards everyone was like, “Hey look, it’s the kid that was the frog!” [laughs] Even going back that far, the novelty aspect of being a performer has always been there. When DOPE started the first record, it was all about five guys who were a gang who could destroy on stage! Even if we didn’t have sick lighting, inflatable skeletons or anything like that, we could be an amazing band on stage without any production. We were the production!
That’s so true! What excites you about still doing this project two decades later?
I like to play some of the stuff I worked on “Felons and Revolutionaries.” I always like playing the song “Debonaire.” I have to give Edsel credit because he’s put out a lot of good music over the years. For example, we are playing a song called “Blood Money,” which is off the latest record. I had nothing to do with that song, but I think it’s awesome! While I do have a soft spot in my heart for “Debonaire,” On the other hand, I’ve played it a bajillion times, so when we play “Blood Money” or “6-6-Sick,” it’s a little more exciting for me because I haven’t played it as many times. Ya know, when it comes to DOPE, Edsel really steers the ship. He’s the captain. What I bring to that for him is that I usually understand where he’s coming from with things. He doesn’t really need to over explain things to me. It’s like, “OK, let’s do this. Let’s do that.” I’m like, “OK, I see where you are coming from with that. Cool!” I think that he relies on my honest opinion on things.
What does it take to keep a band or a career as a professional musician thriving in this day and age?
I’ll be honest with you. I wish that I had that answer! [laughs] Everything has changed so drastically. Like I said, when DOPE started, we had the backing of Sony Music for our first two records, so we had a springboard. On one hand, I feel like the advantage now is that the playing field has been leveled. So, if you’re a kid who is kind of taking it seriously but not too seriously, you have a fantastic recording studio on your laptop. You’ve also got an arguably good video camera in your phone. You can upload that song with a lyric video or some kind of video content to YouTube and it’s immediately on the same playing field as if I were to do it on my own. So, on one hand, it’s good for the little guy. On the other, it’s tough because there is no quality filter or filter as far as who’s really serious about it. With that being said, the advice I always give to bands just starting out is to write as many songs as you can. Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. I say that because an undeniable song is an undeniable song. Once you have 20 songs written and you feel like you’ve got that one song, then definitely do a really good music video that looks like you are already a signed band or a national act. Do a photoshoot that reflects that too. Make sure that you always present the best that you can possibly present!
DOPE is on tour with Static-X, who is celebrating the 20th anniversary of their classic album, “Wisconsin Death Trip.”
Yeah! I have to tell you, I was skeptical. I won’t lie. When I heard the band was getting back together again, I was like, “Yeeaaah, I don’t know.” I have to say all that is out the window and I’ve been blown away. When you watch the show, it feels so fresh. It’s like hearing songs you’ve heard before with a band that you have never seen before, even though it’s the same guys. It’s kind of hard to explain. Obviously, it’s the original lineup minus Wayne [Static] but it seems so fresh and refreshing. It’s more of a celebration of Wayne than a memorial. I think it’s amazing! Everyday there are new memories that pop up of Wayne because DOPE toured with Static-X and I think we did almost 150 to 200 shows with those guys back in the day. Even the venue we are at today, The Palladium in Worcester, brings back memories. This is a proper old theater, so when you walk up the stairs to go to the dressing room, the stairs kind of run next to the stage. You used to be able to open these little doors where you could look down onto the stage. I remember videotaping, on my 8mm recorder, Static-X from up here because I thought this was a cool angle! It seems like every day there is a new memory that surfaces.
What does rock ‘n’ roll mean to you? Has it changed through the years?
It’s always meant freedom. The term rock ‘n’ roll can be such a wide term, kind of like punk rock. Muhammad Ali was very, very rock ‘n’ roll and punk rock. What was he? That was a free man. This is a guy who could destroy any man with his hands but had the courage to say, “I’m not going to go fight and go to war.” What are you going to do? Call Muhammad Ali a pussy because he won’t go to war? [laughs] To me, it’s always represented freedom and whatever that means to you. If you ever notice, anytime there’s a scene in a movie where there is someone driving off into the sunset on a motorcycle, they’re always going to play rock ‘n’ roll. It’s going to be AC/DC because they aren’t going to play techno to that scene! [laughs]
You have amazing milestones under your belt. Which has had the biggest impact on you?
To be honest with you, I think playing with Joan Jett had the biggest impact for a few reasons. With that gig, you are very well taken care of in the fact that the only thing I had to do was walk on stage for an hour-and-15 minutes a night and play bass. I didn’t have to load the gear or write any songs. I didn’t have to do anything but show up. I also knew that could open doors for me for other gigs. Once you’ve got Joan Jett on your resume, you find yourself doing the Oprah Winfrey Show with Miley Cyrus and stuff like that. That’s when I knew I really had to know my shit! At that point, I really dove into theory, which I had never really done before.
I imagine the Misfits gig is a rather big deal as well. What are your biggest takeaways from your time there?
Ah, man! I have learned so much. Tons and tons and tons! I think they have learned a lot from me too. They are just a bunch of really great guys. Jerry Only, in particular, is the epitome of a hard-working guy. He eats, breathes and sleeps the Misfits! It’s kind of funny because we might be out at dinner and someone might come up and say, “Hey! Are you guys in a band?” It can be a bit annoying just for the fact that we all have hair down to our waists and nail polish. That should have been the giveaway! [laughs] I understand what people are saying though. They aren’t saying, “Gee, I wonder. Do you happen to be a musician?” They are just trying to figure out who you play for. When that happens with the Misfits, Jerry is always like, “Yeah, man! I play in the Misfits! Isn’t that awesome!” [laughs] I’ve played with a lot of people who might be kind of jaded. All the guys in the Misfits are happy with who they are as a person and that’s awesome! I’ve played with some who are like, “Yeah, you’ve won the game. Not just in the music lottery but in the life lottery. You’re a legitimate success. Why are you so bummed out?” The point being, the guys in the Misfits are not that way at all.
This next question applies to a situation like the one you had with Joan Jett and The Blackhearts or the Misfits. These are iconic bands who undoubtedly had an influence on you in your early years. Is it difficult to find your footing when entering into gigs like these?
Yeah, it definitely can be because you are stepping into the footing of icons. Ya know what I mean? Franche Coma, the original guitar player for the Misfits, is amazing. Then you have Bobby Steele and Doyle who are also amazing! It can definitely be challenging to find that footing and your place. At the same time, you’ve gotta know that your place is behind those guys. As long as you know what, you’ll be okay!
What does the future hold for you in a musical sense?
Right now, I’m just staying in the moment. I have a coffee company that I started which is a big focus for me. I just feel really lucky that when I’m home and have some downtime, I never have downtime! I’m never not doing something. I just take it a tour at a time so to speak. I really want to put out a 7-inch by the end of the year. I have a whole concept for a 7-inch that is really crazy and that is something nobody has ever done before. I don’t want to give it away but there is a reason it has to be a 7-inch and not a 12-inch. I want to accomplish that before the end of the year. That is one musical goal I want to achieve for sure.
I’m a fan of Deadsled Coffee. You’ve got an amazing product line and it keeps getting better. How did the ball get rolling there?
I appreciate that! As I said before, I’m not the type of person to work for someone else. A friend of mine, Diana, hit me up between tours and said, “I’ve got this idea to start a coffee company. I want to sell coffee out of a hearse.” I said, “That’s the best idea ever!” However, we soon found out that selling coffee out of a hearse is the worst idea ever. I mean, it’s a great idea but practically it doesn’t work out. [laughs] I’ve been sober for 20 years now and, if you’re sober, coffee is a big component in your life. I started doing some coffee journaling. When I was playing with Joan Jett, I would go on Yelp and find out where the cool coffee places were in any given city because A) I wanted coffee and B) because it was usually the cool part of town. I had already started journaling the coffees that I liked when my friend came up with her idea. I was like, “OK, let’s do an ecommerce store and start our own coffee. Rather than selling someone else’s coffee out of a hearse, let’s make our own and sell it! That’s how it began!
You have many irons in the fire at any given time. Has it been difficult for you to find a balance?
Sometimes it’s difficult to find that balance but it’s all I can do. I’m not the type of person to work for someone else and I’m never going to be an accountant! There’s enough of them. [laughs] I’m never going to be a pencil pusher. It’s just not in my DNA.
What’s the best way for fans to support working artists like yourself in this day and age?
The best way to support me is definitely by supporting my coffee company. As far as bands go, these VIP things are essential to bands on tour these days. If you are looking to help a band, if you can, definitely get those VIP packages.
Are there any keys to longevity in the music business?
It’s pretty simple. Just keep learning every day. Wake up, learn and work!
I appreciate your time and your positive outlook on things, Acey! Thank you and I look forward to crossing paths again in the near future.
Sounds good. Thanks a lot, Jason. Take care.
For the latest news and tour dates for Acey Slade, visit his official website at www.aceyslade.org. Throw caution to the wind and super-charge your mornings with the help of Deadsled Coffee Company. Catch Acey in action! Get your ass to a show! — DOPE is tour now!