Mike Fisher’s SLUG revels in ‘outlaw swamp metal’Written by Jason Mack | | email@example.com
Mike Fisher started a band to prove a point to his fellow Toledoans, but five years and two name changes later, it has evolved into much more.
“This band was supposed to last 12 months,” Fisher said. “I was playing acoustic Downtown, alone all the time. It hit me that nobody knew I was a rocker that converted over to playing acoustic and folk. I got a bug up my ass about it.”
He set out to remove the bug by piecing together a band with musicians 10 years younger than him with the intention of doing one album.
“I wanted to show them what I’d experienced on stage,” Fisher said. “Now, five years later we’re back in the studio for our fifth album. I think it came about from a lack of focus. I forgot this was supposed to end years ago and we’ve been having too good of a time.”
The good time will continue Jan. 21 at the Omni with a ceremony to officially change the band’s name from Ugly Tribe Revival to SLUG along with the release of the album “Shakers, Makers and Undertakers.”
“Our live performances are fun mayhem,” Fisher said. “People can tell we love what we’re doing. It’s high energy. There’s a lot of leaping, jumping, yelling and howling.”
Fisher describes SLUG as outlaw swamp metal, a mixture of styles including guitarist Jay Jared’s metal, indie and folk from drummer James Graham and bassist Justin Fuller and Fisher’s own Southern rock feel. While writing a column called “Fisher’s Kitchen” for the former website T-TownMusic.com, he coined the term “sludge” for bands combining genres. The name SLUG combines sludge with what Fisher calls the band’s “ugly brand.”
“Sludge is a style of music we’ve been preaching with a lot of other local bands for years in tribute to the black swamp area of Toledo,” Fisher said. “I noticed all the other bands we like around town mix so many different styles. When you go to other cities you get heavy metal bands and folk bands. Here in the Rust Belt, we just kind of make do. We throw together a band with four people with four different styles of band and see what happens with it.”
Fisher and Jared sit down to write sometimes, but many of the songs come from jam sessions at practice. Fisher writes all of the lyrics and aspires to be a storyteller in the mold of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. “Shakers, Makers and Undertakers” got its name from the songs “Swamptown, Shake It Off,” “Hatemaker” and “Undertakers on Parade.”
“It’s a good place to hide when you have really heavy and intense thoughts, when you can tell it through a story rather than just saying what you’re thinking,” Fisher said. “A lot of it comes from a job I had for 10 years where I was working within the criminal justice system. I got to see a lot of crazy stuff. If you take it too literal, it’s not a song. If you put it into some kind of cryptic lyricism, it comes out kind of cool.”
The band’s name is changing, but the style remains the same.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on keeping our signature that people like,” Fisher said. “It’s contrary to a lot of bands. They’ll try to go heavier or more melodic. Our only rule of thumb on this album was to go more. Whatever the other albums had, we wanted more of that. If before we were intense, this time we wanted to be more intense.”
With a unique sound and members deeply rooted in Toledo, SLUG has always emphasized remaining independent. The band members all have other projects and day jobs, including Fisher, who proclaims himself the “greatest barn salesman in the tri-state area.”
“We’ve seen early on that the industry was changing and record labels don’t have a lot to offer to a band that has the experience and the drive to take care of things themselves,” Fisher said. “It also keeps us agile musically, because a lot of labels don’t like when you diversify your music like we do. We’re not really good at focusing on one thing.”
Remaining independent has allowed SLUG to play many styles of music, including mixing an Irish jig and a waltz into their repertoire. The variety has led to unique interaction from the crowd.
“Where you would normally see a mosh pit, everybody would stop all of a sudden and waltz together,” Fisher said. “It’s as sarcastic as can be, but it’s been going on for years. It’s cool to see. The live shows are so interactive.”
The album release party begins at 9 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Omni, located at 2567 Bancroft St. Tickets are $7 in advance and $10 at the door. “Shakers, Makers and Undertakers” will be on sale for $10, and the show will feature SLUG along with In Theory, The Bloody Buffalo and Bathhouse Betty.
“There will be a lot of good bands just having a good time,” Fisher said. “The other bands playing with us are truly excellent. We’re hoping it will be a fast four hours of high energy and lots of fun.”