Slaves on Dope are high on music
By Naughty Mickie   Photos Courtesy

Slaves on DopeSlaves on Dope, vocalist Jason Rockman, guitarist Kevin Jardine, bassist Frank Salvaggio and drummer Rob Urbani, recently released "Metafour" (Bieler Bros./MCA Records). Just prior to the effort's debut, Publisher Dave and I caught the group live at the Whisky in Hollywood. What a show! It's little wonder that they have managed to make a name for themselves.

I had an opportunity to speak with Frank Salvaggio and learn more about what makes SOD tick.

"We're all from Montreal," Salvaggio tells me. "We met the drummer, Rob, about eight or nine years ago. We were in school together and in music college together. Kevin and Jay were together in what was the beginning of Slaves on Dope. A year later I got in and then six months later we brought in Rob and we pretty much haven't stopped since."

The group was "discovered" by none other than Sharon Osbourne at the famous Hollywood haunt, the Opium Den.

"Our manager at the time, our old manager, was good friends with one of the A&R reps or general managers of Divine, which was the label being built," explains Salvaggio. "He kept wanting to sign us, but he didn't know when and eventually he saw the heat from all the other labels that wanted to sign us. He brought Sharon (Osbourne) over to the Opium Den and she wanted to sign us. She took a flight to Vegas, we were probably playing with Papa Roach that night, and she signed us."

We chat about touring and Salvaggio mentions that SOD gets grief for not touring in different areas enough.

"We start getting a lot of heat from other cities in America we neglect. Like we neglected Canada for years because L.A.'s our hotbed and now we're getting a lot of heat from the Midwest," Salvaggio says.

But strangely enough, the band is scattered-- Salvaggio lives in Hollywood, Rockman and Jardine live in Montreal and Urbani travels extensively, making wherever he hangs his hat home. This could make rehearsals logistically taxing.

"When we did the album, for Bieler Brothers, we did a big part of the writing in Montreal because we were there for three months, then we did three months in L.A. and then came back to Montreal, then a month of  pre-production in Montreal and then went to Florida to record the album. We flew back and forth and back and forth, but it worked out," Salvaggio explains with ease. "I liked the change of environment and different pace. You have to go with what you have and do the best you can."

I ask him about musical influences while he was growing up.

Slaves on Dope"I never really had influence family-wise or pretty much perpetrated," Salvaggio tells me. "My brother and I, we didn't grow up with family influences in music, but my brother was a DJ when I was young, so he went through the whole infatuation with music in general. Then I caught on to it through my peers, my through friends, who wanted to start a band and from that point I was on it. We jammed and before you know it, you fall in love with the instrument and here I am.

"I had a notion to play guitar, but I chose bass instead." Salvaggio continues, "I figured that I could have played guitar and I knew that it was going to be similar, it was just that I saw all this guitar as a smaller version of the bass and used that plan, let me just play an instrument that's similar to the guitar."

Salvaggio began playing bass at 12 or 13 and later attended a music college for two years, which gave him a lot of technical knowledge. Definitely not a slacker he has held many jobs, including pizza store manager, grocery store delivery driver and stints in music stores and a metal/steel factory. He is just as diverse in his free time.

"I like to play video games, watch movies, go sightseeing. I go to the beach and chill, catch some rays, relax." Salvaggio adds, "I like movies that are drama with a good story with action."

He says that he also likes comic book hero movies and one of his most favorite films is "Seven."

Returning to Slaves on Dope, I ask how they write.

"What we do is bring in a riff on a day of writing and we'll bring it to the table," explains Salvaggio. "We'll have an idea vocally and then see if it sticks and it's sturdy or if the band needs to tweak it. Usually that's how we do it. I'll bring in a riff and it will get extended upon. But basically we end up working it to the point where everybody's putting in their output whether I bring in the majority of the riffs or Kevin brings in an idea. It still gets tweaked to the point where everyone is putting in their output and it becomes a song."

I prod him for his thoughts on the music scene.

"I think it's ever-changing," Salvaggio offers. "I know that probably  sounds cliche, but there's uncertainty in the industry right now with all the turmoil with the record companies. I think we're almost all, everybody, except for the band itself who sells the records, kind of stuck in limbo really. I think in the end that rock has to prevail and will prevail for the meanwhile because it always has, first of all. Whether it's heavy rock, I don't know if it's going to be called something else or not, but that's what I think."

Then is the Internet good or bad for a band? I query.

"The Internet is a good thing for an artist to expand upon when they have success, but for a band like us who's wanting to break the mainstream or wanting to get their wings and fly, I think it injures us to a certain degree." Salvaggio goes on, "For knowledge it helps. You can learn about a band, but music-wise when a person is able to steal, well, take music for the wrong reason, that's where the industry is changing for that reason because they don't know what to do with the whole Internet thing taking over."

Slaves on DopeNo matter how technology changes, someone will figure out how to beat it asserts Salvaggio. We both agree that it would be nicer for fans to  appreciate a CD for its artwork and everything else and buy it.

The future for SOD is filling with almost constant touring, they are going to Canada, Europe, France, England, Germany and across the United States.

"We want to take the way the industry is changing right now and I don't want to say follow it, but to fit in it so we coexist with the way the industry is going. It's a question of survival. But I think we have enough songs on this album to get us noticed and make some more noise and continue what we started," says Salvaggio. "Another thing is we want to be able to not alienate everybody. Like a lot of people who didn't like hard music related to our music on the last album, they're going to like this one."
I ask Salvaggio for some final thoughts.

"Our Web site is a big source of information and at the end of the day, we as a band, the one thing to know is this issue, talk to the people, meet them and introduce yourself. They can totally understand that  you're working hard to keep yourself alive and to keep yourself living, working every day. I think the common person, the everyday person, will understand that we're on the same playing field," responds Salvaggio. "Come hell or high water this is what we do and we love it with all our hearts and just want everyone to know that we understand; we want to keep going."

'Nuff said. Now find out when Slaves on Dope is coming to your town.

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