How metal band Slaughter hit the jackpot by playing casinos
Mark Slaughter, the lead singer of the hair metal band Slaughter, grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada where some of the music industry’s most iconic acts, such as Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, elevated their stardom by contributing to a budding casino entertainment industry.
As a Vegas local, Slaughter saw a different side of the city that was rapidly changing, but never really saw himself performing at casinos in his hometown and beyond.
“It was green acres of lights when I was a kid, and it certainly has exploded into the big city Las Vegas is now,” Slaughter said in a recent phone interview. “When I grew up there, everybody knew everybody, and it was a small little town. I never would have imagined that we would be able to play casinos. We’ve played several places out there, including the Golden Nugget, which is the Sinatra room, and it’s kind of cool because that’s where he used to do his show every night. You realize the size of the showroom and what people were seeing, and you get a chance to sit in the dressing room and see how they did it up for him. It’s just a really cool experience coming from there.”
Slaughter is on tour with several casino stops nationwide, including Yaamava’ Resort & Casino in Highland on Saturday, Nov. 11. The band will perform as part of a Veterans Day charity event with proceeds from ticket sales benefitting U.S. Vets, a national organization that provides critical services for veterans. There will also be drawing for an autographed guitar signed by the band.
“The Indian casinos have been doing a fantastic job across the nation,” Slaughter said. “It’s funny because just a few years back, I became friends with Tony Orlando, and he told me we were going to be playing the casinos before we knew it. I was like, ‘Huh, that’s funny. He thinks we’re going to play in casinos.’ I always had a feeling that it just wasn’t my place, and now here we are doing it. So, Orlando was right. This type of music is the new music for casinos.”
In his formative years, Slaughter knew he wanted to be a performer. He taught guitar lessons and had a soprano voice that fit just about any choir. He credits the development and mastery of his voice to his late high school choir teacher, Ken Tuttle, who also worked with singer-songwriter Gwen Stefani.
“There are educators who really make such a difference in a kid’s life, and I’m sure if you talk to Gwen, she’d say the same thing,” he said of Tuttle. “These are the people that really gave you those affirmations like you’re doing a great job, and that’s what we’re losing in our schools now, and it’s so sad.”
Slaughter caught the ear of the band’s current bassist and co-founder of Slaughter, Dana Strum. They both joined the band Vinnie Vincent Invasion, but after several issues, the project disbanded, leaving Strum and Slaughter to form their own band with the help of drummer Blas Elias and the late lead guitarist Tim Kelly, who died in a car accident in 1998.
The rise of Slaughter was unique for a multitude of reasons. For one, they were a hair metal band out of Las Vegas while most of the scene was bursting out of Los Angeles in the ’80s. Strum told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that also during that time few rock bands were being booked at casinos.
The band also released their first record, “Stick It to Ya,” during the turn of the decade when grudge and alternative music were taking over the airwaves and most of the timeslots on MTV. Despite the odds, the band proved their success in the early ’90s by opening their first show for rock giants Kiss and having their first album go gold after a single live performance.
When asked about any grudge and metal rivalries, Slaughter said though there were contrasts in style and presentation, he acknowledges and respects their musical contributions.
“(During) the grunge era, there was some depressing stuff in there, and our music is a light and love and of a different mindset,” he said. “I don’t slag any of the alternative bands that came forward because they have their place and sound, and quite honestly, I enjoy them just like the next person. But, I think that life should be celebrated, which is the key point with the span of Slaughter. We’re all about the celebration, more than getting caught up with what’s wrong with the world.”
Slaughter credits the band’s longevity and resilience with being able to celebrate in moderation and their ability to stay away from substances that would veer them off course from their love of performing. They can more easily remember the big moments and while there have been many with fans throughout the years, a strange and random gig at a local Taco Bell stands out.
“At the time, I made the comment that we bought houses in Las Vegas and said we know it’s going to be a great area because there’s a Taco Bell there, and the CEO thought it was the funniest thing,” Slaughter recalled. “So we said we would do it as a charity event, and we did a tie-in where every ten cents on every drink would be donated to the Miami Drug Abuse Coalition, and we raised thousands of dollars just by doing the show.”
For Slaughter, the spirit of giving back is something that genuinely stays on his mind, and it was a big reason he wanted to perform the Veterans Day charity event at Yaamava’. His father was also a veteran who served after World War II. He said there are many challenging aspects of life that veterans deal with mentally and physically after they serve that many people may not always see or understand.
“What we really love to do is entertain and to have a good time,” he said. “For this show, we’re going to go out and entertain for the vets. We’re going to make some great memories. So come on out and have some fun with us, and in the meantime, shake somebody’s hand or hug those who have sacrificed for our country.”
When: 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11
Where: Rock & Brews at Yaamava’ Resort & Casino, 777 San Manuel Blvd., Highland
Tickets: $40 at yaamava.com. This show is for those 21-and-older only.