Slave to the System Dedicated to the Long Haul
Despite Commitments to Other Bands, Supergroup Pushes Onward
By BRIAN HEATON
Combining musicians from established bands into "supergroups" has become a popular and successful trend in the music industry. Artists such as Velvet Revolver, featuring former members of Guns N' Roses and Stone Temple Pilots; and Audioslave, a mix of Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine, have taken over the modern rock radio airwaves, selling millions of albums between them.
While Slave to the System fits the supergroup moniker, with members of Queensr˙che and Brother Cane in its ranks, unlike their contemporaries, the guys in Slave tot he System didn't intend to become a band. They got together to simply play some tunes and have a good time -- a break from their "day jobs."
Some guys just can't take a vacation.
A weekend jam in the Pacific Northwest turned into a two-week recording session and more than a dozen songs in early 2001, a songwriting chemistry that prompted Damon Johnson (Brother Cane/Alice Cooper), Roman Glick (Brother Cane/Jackyl), Scott Rockenfield (Queensr˙che), Kelly Gray (ex-Queensr˙che) and Scotty Heard to formalize Slave to the System.
The band pressed a record and sold it independently in 2002, playing a couple of gigs in Tennessee and in Seattle, Wash. The album eventually landed on the radar screen of Spitfire Records, a division of Eagle Rock Entertainment. From there, industry friends of the band members made the push for the label to sign Slave to the System.
"The hero of the entire thing is our friend Rob Gill," explained vocalist/guitarist Damon Johnson. "He had gotten the original version and loved it from the beginning. When he went to work for Spitfire, he was waving our flag from the start."
The flag-waving proved fruitful, as Slave to the System signed with Spitfire in 2005, and had their original release remixed and remastered. The band tagged on two new songs to the album, and the label released it in Feb. 2006.
For fans of the original release, they'll notice something, or more accurately, someone, missing from the current Slave to the System lineup -- guitarist/vocalist Scotty Heard. Johnson wouldn't reveal the reason for his former bandmate's departure, but maintained his unwavering appreciation for what Heard brought to the table.
"Scotty is one of the most talented guys I've ever worked with and was a big contributor to the first album," Johnson said. "There are a few unreleased songs that he was involved with that I'm sure will be contenders for the next album. We wish him the best in all his endeavors."
The band continues on as a four-piece. Stepping up to the plate, guitarist Kelly Gray grabbed the microphone and hasn't looked back. He's featured on both the "add-on" tracks to the Slave to the System debut album re-release, "Cruise Out of Control" and "Ragdoll."
Longtime collaborators from back in the Brother Cane days, Johnson is particularly enamored of Gray's vocal contributions and stated that Gray will be further highlighted on future Slave to the System albums. He also revealed that the band has a follow-up record already completed. For now, however, the band is concentrating on promoting its debut album on the road.
With Johnson, Rockenfield, and Glick all involved with full-time commitments to other bands, doing extended live dates for Slave to the System has been challenging. So far, however, it has been successful. Slave to the System recently completed a week-long run of concerts in the Southeast, and is playing another week in early April in the Midwest, including one show with the reunited Buckcherry.
"The first run of dates was great and we all dug the looseness of the vibe onstage and want to continue that in April," Johnson said. "We'll be working diligently to fill every possible hole in the calendar with shows.
"Tell the fans 'thanks'," Johnson added. "We truly appreciate their support and enthusiasm."
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in 2006. Promo photo courtesy of Slave to the System. Live photo courtesy of Chas McKewen.