Randy Slaugh: Modern Metal’s Go-To Composer
The American producer talks about how he DIY-ed his way to helming string arrangements for the likes of Devin Townsend and joining alternative act White Moth Black Butterfly
After knowing one of the world’s most popular modern metal bands – Periphery – for a short time, American producer and composer Randy Slaugh reached out to guitarist-founder Misha Mansoor on hearing a demo of their song “Have A Blast,” which featured computer-programmed violins.
Slaugh says over the phone from Salt Lake City, “I offered that if they were interested, I could track that part with real violin.” At the time, if Slaugh had a narrator, they’d be noting how he promised something he didn’t fully comprehend. The composer had never done any string arrangements, but he scrambled with the parts sent by Mansoor and visited his college’s music department (he was studying advertising in Idaho), found a violinist and tracked at a local studio, all within three days. He recalls, “There’s a quote that I really like that goes, ‘if somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes, then learn how to do it later’.”
From learning how to record music to cut costs for his band to finding his way around choirs for British metallers TesseracT’s latest album Sonder and now being part of alternative group White Moth Black Butterfly (which also features TesseracT vocalist Dan Tompkins and Indian prog band Skyharbor’s Keshav Dhar), Slaugh is always keen to figure it all out. His clients and collaborators now include prog titans such as Devin Townsend to metal bands like Architects and even Indian artists like Dhruv Visvanath, Kamakshi Khanna and Gaurav Balani. On the metal front, he feels that bands often look to orchestral elements to “heighten” the emotional weight the genre offers. He adds, “It contrasts so well especially with the darker elements of rock and metal.”
It started with enrolling for an audio engineering class while he was studying communication and advertising, which led him to connect with like-minded studio engineers and producers such as Ken Dudley, John Feldmann and Will Putney. Slaugh says, “It’s so fulfilling… this is the type of work I would do even if money wasn’t an issue. It’s amazing I get to do this as a career. I feel very lucky.” Certainly, now it’s a combination of bagging a project and being approached for others based on his track record. Slaugh has been working on “TV placement content,” synth production and sound design for metallers Silent Planet and on a new project with Bengaluru-based violinist Shravan Sridhar (from alt-rock/fusion band Anand Bhaskar Collective). Slaugh says about Sridhar, who also heads fusion act The Non-Violinist Project, “He contacted me about collaborating on some White Moth Black Butterfly material, and I looked him up and saw that he’s done stuff with [prog artists] Plini and David Maxim Micic. We just had a Skype chat, he’s a super nice guy and we’re probably going to work on some projects together.”
Picking up on everything from classical music style to sheet music and gathering string players, Slaugh says he takes up projects on a “cost versus benefit” basis. He explains, “If it’s something that would further my career or if it’s something that would pay the bills. Luckily, a lot of projects end up filling both of those values.” When he’s not getting tapped for metal projects, he’s in the studio with the likes of pop singer Madilyn Paige (part of singing competition The Voice) and American Idol runner-up David Archuleta. “Considering I just worked with [Australian death metal band] Thy Art is Murder, this is about as far on the opposite end of the spectrum as you can get. But it was a really fun change of pace,” he says with a laugh.
Up next, he’s getting ready for White Moth Black Butterfly’s follow-up to 2017’s Atone. Slaugh says about working with Tompkins, Dhar, co-vocalist Jordan Bethany and drummer Mac Christensen, “We’ve got a handful of demos coming along really well and we’re working on a documentary on the making of our album ‘Atone’ – the backstory of the project, the recording process and what our workflow is like as a long-distance band. A lot of cool things are in the works.”
Watch a behind the scenes video from Slaugh’s recording of the choir section on TesseracT’s “King” below.