Salems Lott Interview
February 2019. Written by LJ DeWitt. Edited by Starr Brown.
Photos by Puig Photography, Joe Lester Photos. Photos artist provided.
Anyone that's read our publication for awhile knows, I've got a bit of a soft spot for leather-clad, gallon of hair spray, wearing more makeup than your stripper sister style visual bands. Hear me when I say my love for Salems Lott goes way beyond an aesthetic preference. This is what should be coming out of Los Angeles. This is the legacy Mötley Crüe left behind on Sunset. This is metal at it's truest.
I'm sick and tired of hearing *insert band of the week here* is the "only new band playing real rock." That's damn well not true, and it never will be. People just aren't looking in the right places. Salems Lott is the pinnacle of young, fresh, hidden gems. Their sound is reminiscent, but unique enough in it's own right that you won't be sitting there thinking "wow, they're trying too hard to be so and so."
Whether it be admiring a beautiful ballad or rocking out to high speed bangers, both casual fans and musicians alike will fall in love with this band. With a bassist that could blow away most string slingers today, high caliber guitarists, and one of the cleanest drummers I've heard in a long time, it's no surprise they've created something destined for legacy status. Of course, what truly defines a band's identity tends to be the man behind the mic. Simply put, vocalist Monroe Black has the kind of talent that stops you dead in your tracks. I was ecstatic to get a chance to catch up with Monroe to discuss the Strip, their newest album, and much more.
LJ DeWitt: Please introduce yourself, roles in the band, and—for the random one—we'll go drink of choice.
Monroe Black: Lead guitar, songwriter and lead singer of provocateurs Salem’s Lott.
LJ: Since we're starting off this interview on a party angle, throughout your career who have been your favorite bands to share a stage and a drink with?
Monroe: As an underground band, there really isn’t much time to hit the shit with other bands as everyone is trying to do their thing. With that being said, the band that was cool and treated us well was Steel Panther.
LJ: While a handful of visual bands remain in the Hollywood scene, it's certainly not as prolific as it was in the '80s. What are your feelings towards the current state of Sunset Strip, and how do you feel about sharing the scene with the civilian (short hair, no makeup, no costumes) style bands?
Monroe: Civilian bands, I like that. We don’t mind sharing the scene with anyone. We do our thing and it can’t be replicated by anyone as we have our own sound, style, and no one out there is doing what we’re doing. With that being said, I can’t say the same for these “civilian” bands as the majority are far more discriminatory towards a band like us due to our presence. The fact that we’re doing things the way we want to with an unapologetic attitude rubs some people the wrong way. Add to the fact that the music is very well written and we’re all well versed in our instruments and it makes most pale in comparison. They’re the norm and the expectation; ultimately, making them bland and forgettable in a sea of look/sound-alikes.
As for the Strip, it’s both the business model and the lack of interesting bands that has led to its decline. Instead of working with a young talented band and building a scene, they rather take anybody that’s willing to pay $$$ and put them on a stage when they really shouldn’t be there.
LJ: Since we're on the topic of genre politics, over the years I've interviewed a lot of glam/shock rock bands who feel the "glam rock" label can be damning to a band's marketability. Do you agree with that mentality?
Monroe: They aren’t lying. I’ve never considered us a “glam rock/metal” band as our sound isn’t indicative of that style, not to say we’re not influenced from that movement or style of music. Regardless, all these years later and there’s still an air of hatred towards that genre. Likely because of its take no prisoners, unapologetic rockstar ethos. That rubs a lot of people the wrong way, especially since the last “important” rock movement was grunge and it was predicated on the anti-rockstar ideology. To this day, that mentality infects new listeners hence the hostility towards us. We’re not just some “glam” band but the creed that comes with our music, the in your face, decadently masculine, confident rockstar.
It’s ironic that many people claim we use the image as a gimmick to gain fans/attention; in the modern atmosphere, it actually has the exact opposite reaction and gets you purposely ignored and ostracized from the media and community. In essence, it’s the most real punk thing you can actually do as any minute rockstar characteristics inspired by the '80s is modern music heresy.
LJ: Let's switch gears and talk about your music. In 2018, you released your second album, Mask of Morality. Easily the most striking track off the record is "Shattered to Pieces." What can you tell me about the back story or personal plight that lead to the writing of this song?
Monroe: “Shattered to Pieces” was one of those songs that just spilled out of me, from the piano parts to the lyrics. I was in such an angry state of mind that someone close to me is having to suffer from a terrible illness. At the same time, the song has taken on so many different meanings to different people, as it's become more about the human struggle and dealing with the tragedies life can throw at you. I had no intention of putting the song on the album but Jett heard it and said I would be foolish not to include it.
LJ: Speaking of "Shattered to Pieces," it's among one of seven music videos you've released. Whether it be good, bad, or just strange, what's your favorite memory from filming a video?
Monroe: "S.S." would have to be the most ridiculous of the bunch. Not only were we breaking and entering but blowing up so much shit, setting things on fire and nearly killing ourselves in the process. All that being said, we ended up attracting a crowd while filming. We were lucky no one called the cops.
LJ: In a similar vein, what's the weirdest thing that's ever happened to you at a live show?
Monroe: There was one incident at a festival where we brought a sex doll and stuffed its lady bits with pig guts. The idea was to chainsaw the aforementioned area and the guts would come flying out showering people with our surprise gift. Of course, the doll had to have panties on as we’re gentleman. It wasn’t until I began my chainsaw dissection that the panties we left on got tangled on the blades and completely fucked up the chainsaw. So, I improvised.
LJ: Your band has frequently featured anime-inspired artwork and videos, so I think it's only fair to ask where the inspiration stems from/what are yours and the band's favorite animes?
Monroe: It’s just another form of art, not many bands have touched on. Growing up, I always preferred anime to comic books. More profound stories, not censored like American cartoons and some of the character designs were appealing to me because they looked like rockstars. Akira, Berserk, Code Geass and FOTNS are just some that come to mind right now.
LJ: Not only has the American scene taken notice to Salem's Lott, but you've also had notable success in your overseas sales. Do you have any plans to hit the road and tour anytime soon?
Monroe: Our plan is to conquer our hometown and nearby cities, so there might be some select one-off dates out of L.A. The best thing for a fan is to demand that they want to see us to their local promoters/venue.
LJ: Usually when I ask this next question, The Roxy and Whiskey A Go Go are among common answers. You've already played successful shows at both venues, so I'm interested to know, what would be your dream venue/city to play someday?
Monroe: It’s the cliché of clichés, but for a good reason. Madison Square Garden—Sold Out.
LJ: Finally, are there any last statements, plugs, random facts, or words of wisdom you'd like to leave with our readers and your supporters?
Monroe: Remember you the fans hold all the power. The dinosaur bands of yesterday no longer need you, they had their time. It’s the same with the bands who’ve been around for the past ten years, they’ve reached their glass ceiling. The underground is the future and if the established bands won’t promote the up-and-comers, then it’s up to you to do it. Make your generation worth remembering and not defined by forgettable bands, mumble rappers, and brain dead pop stars.