A Conversation with FuZZrd featuring Mark Slaughter

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FuZZrd is an up-and-coming rock band from Minneapolis that brings crushing guitars and thought-provoking lyrics back to rock music. I recently spent some time with vocalist/guitarist Brett Petrusek and drummer Scott Savage talking about their new music. During the interview, we were Zoom bombed by none other than Mark Slaughter! Mark is a friend of the band and guests on their single “Viral Connection”.

Press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws.com Conversation with FuZZrd featuring Mark Slaughter.

On How FuZZrd got together – Brett – Well, Rob (Berg, bass) and I’ve been together for quite some time. We had been buddies with Scott for years and shared stages together in different bands and have always had kind of a good, solid friendship. Scott and I would just kind of get together from time to time over maybe the past five years or so. I think that’s about right, Scott. We would just get together for fun and riff it out and slug out some riffs. It was always like really a prolific thing by the time we were done and we’d always kind of walk in and we’d have a riff, but we’d instantly kind of start arranging it and turn it into something that really felt like a composition. Naturally, we just kept doing this and it came so easy. Robert jammed with this a couple of times and we started getting back together, kind of pre-pandemic, and wrote some more songs again, all just like kind of in the spirit of just being creative. Really liked what we were hearing, Rob came along to play bass. We brought Eric (Vobejda, guitar)and a good friend of ours from another band or two right now as well and it just kind of took on a life of its own, and I guess when the pandemic came, it just seemed so natural to say, “Let’s do this and let’s come out on the other side with something awesome that we’re proud of”, just looking at everything as an opportunity. :44

On starting a band during a pandemic – We were together before it happened. When it first kind of hit, everybody backed off. Of course, nobody knew what was going to happen, it hit everybody upside the head. Kind of crazy. It didn’t make sense at first, but eventually, when things got a little more under control, maybe a couple of months in, we decided, “Let’s do this”, and we kind of forged into it. We never ran vocals. We all were kind of pretty responsible about knowing where we were in our own social bubbles. What was there to do? Nothing. I mean, we’re just home with our families. So we knew, hey, if this is our social bubble and we can stay far enough away from each other in a space that afforded us the opportunity to do so, it was great. We kind of rolled the dice and kind of snuck in together and made it work. So that was it. (We) really didn’t start running vocals till recently, though, at rehearsals, because I think that was the big thing. If you if you’re singing all over the place, you know, spitting on everybody. So a good way to spread something, right? But I’m glad we did. Scott – So we took advantage of this downtime and took to write some music. This band just came together. But yeah, we took advantage of this downtime and we played. We played and we wrote. So we’ve been having fun. 2:49

“Viral Connection”

On songwriting – There are songs that come together from the four of us playing in the room together, kind of always starts with the track first for me. There’s songs that come together for me and Scott playing together solo. There’s a song that’s got some of Eric’s riffs on it. Then there’s the one hundred percent Brett songs where I might demo something up at home, hand it off to the guys with it a solid interpretation of what the song is. Everybody comes to that kind of puts their signature spin on it and it becomes FuZZrd and that’s the magic. On occasion, I have lyrics first, but really I got to get inspired by what I’m hearing. It’s kind of an interesting thing, like Scott and I have a kind of a cool partnership on this creative thing where he gives me all these working song titles and it’s about getting that spark. I’ll be working on a demo and I need a title for the song. He just sends me lists of these, like crazy, awesome titles with a lot of times I can listen to the riff or just go, “Hey, this sounds like that”, and boom, that becomes the spark for me. So it’s kind of a neat little thing we have that just makes some of the things kind of roll together so well. 4:30

On growing up in the Minneapolis music scene – Prince was a big influence on me growing up and I was fortunate enough to see him quite a few times live over the years. I was always amazed by the musicians that he had around him and the musicianship that’s what I think about first when I think about the Minneapolis scene, he was all about the Minneapolis scene and the musicianship There’s a lot of good clubs here. There’s been a lot of historical shows here. Soul Asylum, a big name here. For me, I am a transplant, I’m a Chicago native, so I came here a little bit later. I’m hard rock through and through like that’s where the big heavy probably comes from with us. But I’m a huge Dave Pirner fan. I love his vocals. His tone, his writing, and all that. Six degrees of separation because our producer, engineer Jeremy Tappero is the bass player in Soul Asylum. I kind of get to live vicariously through him because I just love Pirner’s tone. My top five with singers is kind of all over the place, but he’s definitely up there for me. 7:12

On how Mark Slaughter became involved with the band – It was a gift from the universe. Eric, our guitarist, had met Mark through the industry and they were talking shop. I mean, Mark, he showed you some of the music, and I think Mark and I got to talking about just, with his years of experience in the industry, just sharing some ideas for best practices and what we could do best to get this out people the right way and thinking about what a band is self-produced and they’re not necessarily on a label yet or whatever it is, some steps and one thing kind of led to another. We had this song, “Viral Connection”. The chorus vocal was a little wild and crazy the way it moves around. We were just kind of stuck trying to find the right harmony parts for it. Nothing really worked right. I kind of hit you up and said, “What would you do here?” Then we went guitar crazy. Mark – I sent the tracks with guitar instead of doing the vocal because I didn’t know the lyrics, I just did the melody of what I heard on the guitar. He’s like, “That’s cool, well, what else you got?”, and then at the very end of the song, I did this real quick solo and he’s like, “I’m not touching it”. So I just kind of like one of those things, they already had the body of the song. It was already there. I mean, they could mix it and it would have sounded great without me, but it was great, great to be a part of it and to add my five cents. I think all the end of the day, I think it’s a pretty kicking track. As I always say, it’s modern sounding with the classic sensibility. It’s a key point that we’re all looking for as rockers. That’s what we like. We like to go back into it, but we like new sounds and better quality recordings. That’s what these guys are doing. 10:24

“Monster Carnival”

On being a mentor for an up and coming band – Well, I think that their direction was already (there, a lot of bands don’t have their direction. Everything these guys have, they did a video and had tracks way before I even got involved. So it’s not like I’m really stepping in and steering the ship. I think it’s just one of those things of, “Hey, what would you do?” And it’s just a little bit of where I came from into that one song. But these guys have it going on even for what I’m not involved with. Their stuff is great. It sounds great. I think that’s a key point with music in general, is that if it moves you, then it’s right. certainly felt that way when I heard the track that they didn’t even talk to me about. So, I love to help new bands. But these guys, it’s like they’re an established band already without even having been together. They’ve all been through those circles and got knocked around in other situations. I think this is just a perfect scenario for this band that they’ve got a good product. It sounds great and it really does. 12:57

On having a name like Mark Slaughter attached to your band – It’s fantastic to have Mark involved, just to have that outside perspective that’s just once removed too, it’s not just our producer, but it’s somebody even a step away further from the band that can look at things objectively. His musical contributions to the songs are great, but I guess, I comfortable saying on a friendship level this has been great and we have a lot of great stories to talk about and things in common. All things guitar in common for sure. Having a platinum-selling artist associated with your band when you’re getting it off the ground doesn’t suck. But above and beyond, Mark, his fanbase. He’s a good dude. He attracts good people. His fans are fabulous. They’ve been so supportive of us. I just think it’s kind of neat. We’ve got so lucky with Mark’s involvement here and it has been exciting. I was a fan back in the day, so the history, his experience that he brings, it means a lot. What he says about our band and what he thinks about our music, it means a lot in these conversations that he’s been having with Brett. Really just I mean, he says that we kind of got it going on. But just his reinforcement, based on the history that he’s had, I mean, it just it really means a lot his involvement. It’s energizing. 14:21

On how Mark has spent the pandemic – Same type of stuff. I mean, I was sitting here and I had the chance to (say), “Hey, well, send me over the thing, I’ll work on this”. So it’s kind of like on that side of it, look, an artist makes art, and that’s one of the things, it’s hard to be in the music business because it’s the music business, not the music fun. You still need to make money in it. But at the same time, if you’re an artist, other people’s art and interpretation excites you. That’s exactly what I’m getting with these guys, is their music excites me. I go, “Oh, yeah, man, that’s invigorating”. It lights me up. I’ve done that with these guys. I’ve done a thing with the band called Seven Angels where I played some guitar on it, I’ve done a Mark Craney project, he was a drummer for Jethro Tull and also for Gino Vannelli. We’ve done a couple of tributes with Joe Vannelli and really musical, geeky stuff that I grew up with. But I just love that. My ears are all over the place. So I just loved music and I just loved that that vibe. So I’m doing everything. 17:04

On any upcoming Slaughter music – Nothing with the band. Everybody has really been busy. I’ve been working with Mark Farner from Grand Funk on some writing and I’ve done some production here with him. And what a talent. I mean, I, I was a big fan and still am a big fan of Mark and that music. Again, it’s the music, really where I’m at right now is if things really excite me with music, you go back to your love of music and instead of just a paycheck. I think that’s really what I’m trying to do as a musician is to really rise that up and to pull that even out of Mark’s stuff. I mean, I’m really ecstatic with some of the music we’re coming out with right now, it could have easily been Grand Funk all day long. 18:20

On a full-length FuZZrd record –We’re kind of on track for August, late August, maybe September. The album is basically complete now, just two songs we’re finishing up. I’m stuck on a couple of things, so I’ll probably have to call you, Mark. My rig is up and running so I’m good, man. But the whole idea was really just, with the pandemic, let’s take the opportunity to build the foundation on all the digital platforms the right way first and really do this right and release singles every four to six weeks to build some momentum and kind of anticipation for that release rather than just coming and throw a whole new album out and go, “Blah. Here’s our brand new band that you’ve never even heard of”. This will give people time. That’s the intent to get familiar with us along the way, leading up to the album. Then there isn’t a false start. Shows are coming back. Hopefully, it will just continue on that same trajectory. But if it doesn’t, we didn’t waste our opportunity. We want to put the album out and start hitting it super hard when we release it and not have to turn back. 19:30

On upcoming touring – So far, we’ve lined up a few shows that we haven’t announced yet. There are four, they’re all pretty darn local in Minnesota. Maybe we’ll get a little further out. But really, the focus has been to stay on the mission, which is let’s make it sound like the album, sound perfect. Get the band sounding awesome, keep the plan going with the singles. Keep releasing videos along the way. We’re doing limited-run merch in between each single to kind of build up stock for ourselves, so when we go out and play, we have a pretty robust offering and. I’m going to let water kind of find its way if that makes sense. We’re up and running. We’re doing Lakes Jam. We’re doing the M3 festival. We’ve got a lot of casino dates. It all starts pretty much in June is when it all starts off again. It looks like there are going to be quite a few shows coming down the pipeline. So it’ll be nice to get out there and play again. I mean, we did a corporate event over at one of the casinos that was just for players club only and it was a 4000 person venue then they had everybody wearing masks. It was all done proper. But it’s slowly opening up. I think people are ready to get out and have a good time. We’ve all gone covid crazy and we’re ready to turn it up and scream real loud. So it’s going to be a good year, I think. 21:05

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