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I wasn't aware that was what we were doing until I started seeing reviews of our music

Interview with Slow Horse.
New York City's Slow Horse has been described as "melodic doom," and as labels go, its not a bad one. But if you're thinking traditional doom along the lines of the Maryland old school, then think again. Slow Horse may be riff oriented, with clean vocals, but you would never mistake them for Spirit Caravan or Unorthodox. They are simply Slow Horse: monsterously heavy, with passionate, clean vocals courtesy of guitarist/vocalist Dan Bukszpan, whose introspective lyrics convey a vast sense of personal integrity. Drummer Scott Sanfratello, steady but occasionally exploding into mind-death intensity, is the second leg of this sludgey colossus. Newcomer D. Levine on bass is the unknown quantity, but we are assured he "rocks the fuck out."

Lets get the routine question out of the way: How did Slow Horse come together?

Scott Sanfratello: "Without my knowledge or consent."

Dan Bukszpan: "It may have been without Scott's knowledge, but his silence on the matter implied consent. You're either part of the problem or you're part of the solution. Anyway, I got started with this band in 1997, and we had constant line-up problems pretty much from day one. We managed to maintain a stable line-up for about a year or so, until the summer of 1999, when both the bassist and drummer quit. Fortunately we had recorded enough stuff to make an album, so I focused on getting that done, through Freebird Records in the Netherlands. Once it was out there, I met Ernest Anderson, who had seen one of the pathetic, pleading ads I had run for new players. Ernest is actually a guitar player but he wanted to play bass at the time. He and I spent all of 2000 dealing with drummers who didn't work out for one reason or another, and then in February of 2001 I finally succeeded in pestering Scott to the point where he came down to play with us, probably just to get me to leave him alone. I knew Scott casually through his old band, Higher Octane, and I was always bugging him to play with us. I finally managed to catch him when he was out of his last band, and I convinced him to come down and jam with us. The dynamic seemed to be cool between the three of us, and so Scott ended up sticking around, and he's here to this day."

What does the term "doom" mean to you? Would you consider Slow Horse a doom band?

Scott Sanfratello: "I would consider Slow Horse a band that incorporates melodic tendencies and eclectic influences building off a foundation of mostly what's generally considered "doom". Doom in this case meaning slow, down-tuned, heavy, guitar-driven music.

Dan Bukszpan: "This is probably going to sound really dumb but I wasn't aware that was what we were doing until I started seeing reviews of our music, where they would keep saying we were a "doom" band. I mean, obviously the music has always owed a lot to Black Sabbath and stuff like that, but I was so clueless and out of it that I wasn't even aware that there was an actual genre for this kind of music. I guess given the public perception of what a "doom" band is, we fit the description pretty well, since our stuff is slow and depressing and plodding. But after having a lot of contact with this scene for the past couple of years I have to say that the impression I've come away with is that "doom" is pretty much another word for "metal". I guess it helps people to dance around the fact that they're listening to an old genre of music. You know, just give it a new name and voila! You're now hip. Once long ago, you were just a nostalgic old fart who listened to that decrepit, washed-up metal shit. Now, thanks to a new label, you are a hipster. Congratulations."

Scott Sanfratello: "Yeah- just like how a lot of what's considered "stoner rock" now we'd be calling "grunge" if it was 5-10 years ago."

Tell us about the new Slow Horse bass machine, D. Levine.

Scott Sanfratello: "He was born Gary Lee Weinrib on July 29, 1953 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His pseudonym comes from the fact that his grandmother had a heavy Yiddish accent and he started going by what it sounded like when she called for him. He started out playing rhythm guitar in a small band, then switched to bass when the band's bassist quit.

Dan Bukszpan: "Levine is really good to have in the band. He contributes a lot creatively and he's always looking for ways to maximize the effect of whatever it is that we're doing. To be honest I'm not really sure what his whole musical background is. We basically got along well on the phone, and then when he auditioned he played well and we liked him. I know it sounds simple, but in reality finding someone for the band who both plays well and is someone you like is a very tall order."

The engineering on Slow Horse II was excellent. Are there any changes you would like to make in the group's sound for the next album?

Scott Sanfratello: "Thanks! Working with Martin Bisi was an awesome opportunity for us and resulted in a recording that we're totally happy with and proud of. I think that the same way we've tried to build musically off the first CD with the second one and keep that going with the new stuff for the next one it'd be really cool to work with Martin again and try to do that sonically- use the experience of the current release and build off of that."

Dan Bukszpan: "I would work with Martin again in a heartbeat, and I wouldn't change anything as far as the way it sounds. That was probably the first experience I ever had working on an album where I walked away from it completely happy with the way that it sounded. I was actually a little freaked out by that; I had to listen to it a few times just to be sure that I was hearing a recording that I was on where I liked the way that it was mixed. I'm sure almost any musician you ask can tell you that they're never happy with any recordings they've made. I've known some people who hate the sound of their own recordings so much they literally can't listen to them. I've never felt that extreme about anything I've worked on, but I sure have had my share of shitty recordings, and it was nice to finally get a good one."

What are your unexpurgated views on the current underground scene?

Scott Sanfratello: "Right now they're not good. I've had a lot of experience over the years with people bitching that they wish someone ("someone" never seems to be or include them, though) would do something to make things better... and every time I've been involved in trying to do something for "the scene" it always is met by gratitude by a relatively small amount of people- which I totally and fully appreciate- but, unfortunately also with at least as many people who are apathetic or downright assholes who act like they're doing you a favor by "letting" you help them and it always seems to go to shit and fall apart once things get going due to people involved getting totally full of themselves, self-important, selfish and greedy. It's a shame because these people are supported by a relatively small community of diehards who truly give of themselves and are usually in much less of a position, financially and otherwise, than the people who feed off of and use them under the guise of "supporting the scene". The point is that selfishness in an "underground" community is ultimately self-defeating and in reality the best thing for everyone- even if looked at from a totally self-centered viewpoint- is to help others and the whole scene to grow because then everyone gets more out of it over the long haul. So, the people being selfish and out for themselves above all others are not even being truly selfish. Just stupid. It's like trying to have a community garden and picking everything and stuffing it down your face as soon as it buds instead of helping to nurture and grow it. And every time someone sees you in the garden you pretend you're there to make it better. For a while you might feel like your getting something out of it and you're smarter than all the people you're taking advantage of, but it can't last because you and others like you are killing it and you could have gotten even more out of it personally, with plenty to go around for others, while allowing it to grow even bigger and having that cycle continue for the future. I don't see why that's such a hard concept for a lot of people to grasp. Then again, F everyone."

Dan Bukszpan: "What he said."

I thought your set at Shod 3 was one of the best of the entire fest. How did the accompanying tour with German stoners Calamus go? Any good tour stories?

Scott Sanfratello: "Thanks... we didn't feel like our ShoD performance was one of our better moments, to be honest, so hopefully the next time you see us it'll be even better. There were some issues during the tour we had to deal with that made it tough in spots, besides the usual things that always come up, but all things considered we had a really good tour overall. It was a tough time to be out on the road, being just a few weeks post 9/11, both on personal levels and as far as the general mood around the country and the fact that going out to a club was not the first thing on most people's minds at that time, understandably so... But, like I said, overall it was pretty positive and that's totally due to the people who did come out to the shows, the people who helped us with shows (especially Grant and Carlton from Underdogma) and the bands we played with. Every night we played with cool bands made up of cool people and that made such a difference because even on the nights where there was a poor or even no turn out, it still felt like something worthwhile because the bands were all there to support each other and make it a good time. I've been good friends with the Calamus guys, especially Ralf and Jens, for a few years now and I'm really close with Ralf- we talk a lot on a regular basis, so it was great to see, hang out and play with those guys again (I'd done a tour with them here in the US when I was in a band previous to Slow Horse). There's tons of tour stories, both good and bad... and I don't know how much room I can kill here... hmmm... how about the time Ralf got a tattoo on his forearm and didn't take good care of it and we watched it as it peeled, bubbled, flaked and turned strange colors over the days, looking like his arm was gonna fall off- and the fact that I'd successfully talked him out of getting it on his neck..."

Dan Bukszpan: "I thought he was going to have to get his arm sawed off like Rick Allen."

Scott Sanfratello: "Yeah, he's a singer, though, so it wouldn't have been as big a deal to saw off his forearm compared to if we had to saw off his neck..."

Have you written any material for the next album? Dan Bukszpan: "We have a few things we're working on right now, and we're all really happy with the way they're turning out. We're not sure what label is going to put it out, but I think Scott and I are both of the opinion that it's better to just keep on working, rather than lay around until our plans are more concrete. Besides once that all gets sorted out, it's probably better that we have a few things ready, rather than have them ask us what we're doing and our response is to shrug. Also this gives us a little more time to develop our material and get it where we really want it before it's recorded. On "II" we had very little time between when we wrote the songs and when we recorded them, so we didn't get to develop certain things as much as we might have liked to, so it's good to have that opportunity now."

Scott Sanfratello: "Things happened pretty quickly in the few months between the time I joined and we got together the material and recorded it for "II", so this is a good opportunity for us to really dig in to stuff for the next one. We've even played one song live a couple of times in the past few weeks that we thought was "done" and have since made significant changes to. But, yeah, the bottom line is we're really excited about all the new stuff we've been writing."

What was the last truly great concert you saw?

Dan Bukszpan: "Dio at the end of 2000 was really great. To be honest, I really don't get out and see shows as much as I used to. Part of it is just that I think I've reached a point in my life where the things I crave more than anything are peace, quiet, and privacy. There's also the factor that things in New York ridiculously expensive. For example Rush are coming through here. They're one of my favorite bands in the world. Tickets are $75. Seventy-five fucking dollars. For seventy-five dollars they'd better cook me dinner and then play an all-request set, at my house. I guess if I sound a little bitter it's also because I see bands all the time when we're playing, and they're usually horrible. I mean, they're bands I can't stand, who I have to pretend to enjoy out of politeness. That certainly puts a damper on my enthusiasm for live music.

Scott Sanfratello: "Same for me with the money factor. The last "concert" I went to was Rush a few years back. But, it *was* truly great. I think we're both assuming that a "concert" is something that happens in a arena or other large venue, but if you just mean a live show, there was a really cool one here in Brooklyn not too long ago with Orange Goblin, Spirit Caravan, Sigh, Alabama Thunder Pussy, Place of Skulls, Thrones & Khanate... It turned out to be one of Spirit Caravan's last shows and it was great to see the them and the guys from Place of Skulls again and ATP with the new line up- the whole thing was really cool... but, Sigh could have played about half as long and had the keyboard about half as blaring and it probably would have been better."

Dan, I've heard you are a diehard fan of old-school metal. Any recommendations?

Dan Bukszpan: "I've mainly been listening to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and stuff like that. I was listening to "Fear of the Dark" by Iron Maiden just today actually, which is certainly not one of their better known albums, and I still think it's better than a lot of what's out there right now. There's plenty of new metal that I like a lot though, like Lord Weird Slough Feg and Twisted Tower Dire. There's also this one doom band called Reverend Bizarrewho I just heard for the first time, and they're just some of the most oppressive, slowest shit I have ever heard in my life. The only other band I can think of that even comes close to them in terms of how slow they play is Warning, but otherwise I think they may be the slowest band I've ever heard. They make us sound like a ska band."

What are you listening to at the moment?

Scott Sanfratello: "Right now? An old Mr. Clean commercial during a break in Barney Miller on the TV Land channel.

Dan Bukszpan: "I've been listening to the Doors and Jimi Hendrix a lot lately. I'm also in the middle of a pretty intense Gram Parsons phase. I usually find myself listening to a lot of country music when it starts getting to be summer, for some reason. I've been listening to PJ Harvey's last album a lot. I don't know, there isn't a current favourite at the moment, although I'm sure I'll have one by the time this interview is printed."

If you could create a "dream bill" with any 3 bands - with or without Slow Horse - what would it be?

Scott Sanfratello: "Korn, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park... on a floating barge... that's on fire... and about to go over Victoria Falls. Hooray!"

Dan Bukszpan: "It would be really hard to do because almost everyone I'd like to see has been dead for years. I guess I would start with Low, then they would be followed by the reunited Candlemass. Finally, the headliner would be Neil Young and Slow Horse as his band. We would simply murder the members of Crazy Horse ten minutes before show time, and then appear surreptitiously behind Neil Young as the curtain was raised. I only say this because when I first thought of calling the band Slow Horse this one woman I knew said we couldn't use the name because people would confuse us with Crazy Horse. I say, capitalise on that confusion and get the most out of it. I've always wanted to hear Neil Young sing "I'm Nothing I'm No One" anyway. It would sound like an outtake from "On the Beach"."

Scott Sanfratello: "That would be awesome, Dan. Can I pick that one, too?"

Is there anything else you'd like to say?

Scott Sanfratello: "I'd like to thank God for taking time out of his busy existence to realise what's really important and making sure to let the people he likes better win sporting contests, entertainment industry awards, and beauty pageants rather than the others involved and making sure that people do not die on the bathroom floor while they're promising that, if they make it through this one, they'll never drink again. Oh, and while we're on the subject... Jesus wants you to get the fuck out of the passing lane! Thank you. And thanks, Kevin, for taking the time and effort to do this interview with us- and for the kind words and help both now and in the past. We appreciate it!"

Dan Bukszpan: "Kevin McHugh is my personal lord and savior."

Visit the Slow Horse bandpage.

Interviewed on 2002-06-23 by Kevin.
No God Only Pain
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