Back From The Grave: A Conversation With The Sloths
    • WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2016

    • Posted by: Michael Madden



    The Sloths went from their California garage to playing shows with the likes of Pink Floyd, Love, and The Doors. Their young spurt of high energy rock and roll was short lived unfortunately and all that was left of them was a little record, Makin' Love, which ended up being all that was needed to bring them back from the dead some 50 years later. Now they are back and they are showing that the true nature of rock and roll is the passion and commitment to it. Though it took these Sloths a long time to get here, here they are with their music video for the song "One Way Out." We had the chance to chat with frontman Tommy McLoughlin about his ride with rock and roll and beyond and he had plenty to say.

    So when The Sloths first got together, playing in the garage and then playing shows, did you guys have any idea that you'd be doing that in 2016?

    Tommy McLoughlin: Of course not. We were all 14, 16 year old kids. All we wanted to do was play rock and roll and get girls. That was pretty much the objective. I personally got kicked out of seven high schools because I had hair that went just below my ears...which of course you couldn't have in those days. It didn't matter because this is what we wanted to do; we wanted to be in a band we wanted to play. And we were a garage band really because that was the only place anybody would let us practice. And in those days if you were a garage band you were the lowest of the low. We didn't have any money to get a rehearsal space so we came out and started working the Sunset Strip.

    And our heroes were the kind of people we were opening for: Love, The Doors, Iron Butterfly, Eric Burdon and the Animals, Pink Floyd. All these groups were the groups we looked up to and we were the kids who were basically emulating our heroes musically which were The Stones, The Yardbirds, the rhythm and bluesy garage stuff. It was just a question of competing with all the other young bands of that time. It was a good run, at least in terms of when I was with the band for five, six years, then everyone split off to different bands so we all lost connection with each other, until forty something years later when we heard about the record Makin' Love being on the Back From the Grave compilation from the 80s, and it was a kind of cult hit that we had no idea about.

    That's what pulled us back together. Why not get together and jam? We haven't done this in forty something years. I hadn't sung; a couple of the guys hadn't picked up a guitar since then. Some of them had been working in and out of bands. So then we went back into a garage and just started playing what we used to play and it developed out of that. And at every given point along the way we kept saying, "This is going to fall apart. We can't keep this thing going especially with lives and families and all this stuff," but over the last four years, it has just built and built and now we consider ourselves a serious band and the only exception is that instead of starting when we were 20, we are starting in our 60s.

    Would you like to say something about the early days and what led to breaking up, and maybe something to bands who may be experiencing this kind of turbulence.

    First, it was really unusual in our day to have long hair. You were a target of being made fun of, not being served at a restaurant, getting beat up by the jocks and everything. We were considered freaks...that was the term actually, coined by the Mothers of Invention [Frank Zappa's band], another group we played with in those days. A lot of the guys had to leave the band because their parents said their grades were slipping, and they couldn't do the band until they got their grades up. Or somebody decided that they didn't like the direction the band was going, which I'm sure is still common today. Or your girlfriend starts sleeping with the bass guitarist, and they are like okay I'm out.

    So there is one hundred different reasons it's difficult to keep a group of people together in a band because everyone has to have the same objectives. Another thing I've noticed with bands today, our contemporaries, everyone is in their 20s. We are the ones who are clearly older. But our energy and the passion for what we are doing is no different. We climb into a van and tour like all the bands do. We sleep in the same room sometimes and on the floors. It's about survival on the road and keeping it together. But what I noticed that's different is that a lot of guys are in two or three different bands so they can keep working. At some point one band gets a tour, someone has to fill in for someone. It's more of a kind of family that goes in and out of different bands.

    That wasn't the case in the 60s. You were with a band and that was it. There wasn't that thing that goes on now. But what I want to tell all you guys is, "Don't give up your dreams." When I was 15 I dreamed of making an album, being on the road and all that, but it took almost 50 years for that to happen. But I never gave up the look. I never gave up the love of rock and roll. When I was making films I was always putting rock music in the films. I hired Alice Cooper to make the music for my Friday the Thirteenth film. The thing is...it doesn't matter if you are 18 and think, "Shit, I've been doing this for three years." If you want it, just keep doing whatever you have to do to survive, but hold on to that dream. It takes a lot longer then you want but when it happens, it's incredible. I think I love it now more then when we were 16 years old.

    Can you relate your experiences of shows today to those of back in the 60s, the similarities and differences, or just what you can remember feeling?

    When I stand on stage now and look at an audience or jump down into the crowd, singing, and dancing, the amazing thing is that everyone looks like they did in the 60s and 70s. Everybody basically has that same style. For me it's a real trip because it's like I'm right back where I was. I'm not thinking about my age; I'm thinking these are all the same people I went to school with and who I went to concerts with. The energy is the same, in the way of looking and dancing, and expressing the music.

    The only thing that is really different I know is that when we were doing it back in the day, primarily we were performing for girls. The rock music really attracted girls, and the guys just hung in the back, sometimes jealously, or sometimes just not that into it. That's all changed up, now guys really love garage music and are record collectors, and the tastes are really eclectic. Everybody has their own style, whether it's electronic, or going back into the old sixties garage stuff, or psychedelic, or the eighties sound. They usually dress appropriately for that, so anytime we play certain places, we know well this is a real eighties vibe. There was this place we played in mid California and it was like going to Woodstock. It's really in a weird way like a time warp. It all never really went away just kind of morphed. It's just much more equally divided with girls and guys who are music fans as opposed to before."

    About your new video for "One Way Out" I found it funny, considering your film career, in horror especially, to have a video for a song about death. And what got me was the way you are introduced in the video, with a sort of bolt of lightning, kind of like how Jason is reborn in your Friday the Thirteenth. What was it like making a music video, and specifically what was it like working with students or young film makers?

    My background as a lead singer in the 60s led me to want to study mime. It really was about wanting to be a show band in the classic tradition, like Mick Jagger. James brown was a huge hero...Roger Daltrey. So I went off to Paris to study mime to become more of a physical performer and do stuff that even those guys weren't doing. But then I veered off into movies and movies that had visuals that were cool, always about showing what's going on, and that led to horror movies.

    And I got involved in a Stephen King one, worked with Freddy Krueger, and then of course Jason. My job was to bring Jason back from the dead in part six, Jason Lives. And that has become the thing that I am probably most known for, being the guy who brought Jason back from the grave and making him an unstoppable zombie. When we got the band together, the irony was that what brought us together was this compilation from the 80s called Back From the Grave. And that's how we were introduced at first...here are the guys from Back From the Grave.

    I had this strange feeling that this was amazing because my job before was bringing the dead back from the grave, now we are basically the dead coming back from the grave. When I thought about doing the first music video, the record label, Burger and Lollipop, wanted me to direct. But I said, "No. I want to bring in some cool young director to look at what we are doing and do something great with it."

    I was willing to put input in and the one thing I wanted to do was do something where we look like grown up guys just doing our jobs and then you see us rocking out. So Trevor Stevens, the director, has graduated and although he wasn't a student of mine, because I teach film, he was the star of last semester because his movie won awards and his cameraman who also shot our video won best cinematography award for best student film. So he assembled a thirty person crew basically of all film students who were just brilliant. They approached this thing like we just want to make a kick ass video with these guys, and I said, "Yeah. Just tell us what you want and we will go for it." The way we approached this video was we wanted it to appeal to this generation, and then at the same time someone can say, "How old are these guys, and they are still doing this." Trying to say rock and roll never dies if it is your passion, and that's what I hope comes across in this video.
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