Ron Scalzo on his new musical project with influential drummer and former band mate Chris Pennie: “You’re gonna have to learn to live with Hipster Slaves.”

Hipster Slaves


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Why am I still releasing new music? There’s no tour, there are no reviews, no interviews. Lord knows there’s no money. Am I officially a ‘musical hobbyist’?

I don’t see it that way.

Once upon a time, I was in a pretty decent hard rock band called Return To Earth. We self-released our debut album on my itty bitty record label Bald Freak Music in 2006. We barely played any shows, we hardly did any press. We just wanted to get our songs out there – to our peers, and to fans not only of the genre, but of our talented drummer Chris Pennie, who had made his bones as the founding member of The Dillinger Escape Plan.

In 2009, Metal Blade Records offered us a record deal. The influential metal label released our second album, Automata, one year later. I bought a piano with my share of the advance money. We started getting press. We started getting shit on by online trolls – a validation of our relevance. Then Chris joined behemoth progressive rock band Coheed and Cambria, and that was that.

This all coincided with the worst of times in my personal life. A divorce would follow, then a house and record label-destroying hurricane, then some more surreal romantic drama. All fantastic fodder for music-making. I released two albums and an EP as a solo artist from 2014-2017, a prolific stretch.

Then life got better. More stable. I left a lifetime in New York City behind and moved to Washington DC. Music was no longer a salve to apply to my varied wounds.

Hipster Slaves is Ron Scalzo and Chris Pennie

And so, instead of writing about evil women and lamented love, I sat at the piano and wrote about vampires, demons and aliens. But I needed help fleshing out the songs – so I called Chris. We hadn’t spoken in years. Hipster Slaves is what reunited us. We spent this past summer exchanging files, musical ideas, mixes, and conversation. We turned each other on to other people’s music. We complained about politics, the New York Yankees’ pitching staff, and civilization.

This was a new experiment. When making my solo albums, I stuck to a single strict rule – I would record in someone else’s professional studio and there would be a piano there to perform and record on. Everything revolved around that one rule – the players, the locations, the engineers – and ultimately, that shaped the songs.

With Hipster Slaves, I had to drop all that. I was curious to see if I could make quality music by collaborating over the internet – and more important, if I was happy with not only the results, but also with the process. Was it fulfilling? Did the songs wind up sounding the way I heard them in my head? Could I speak the same musical language with someone without being in the same room or in front of the same mixing board?

Hipster Slaves was not without its challenges. I have no idea how good it is, I’ll leave that up to you. Some internet trolls might call it shite. From my perspective, it’s a different sort of fertilizer – it’s the latest thing to inspire future creations, whether in this experiment or another. Maybe an ambient album or some children’s music, perhaps pieces that can be used to score a film or a podcast. This project is just another little painting in my rogue’s gallery, and I’m happy to hang it above the fireplace until it’s time to take the brushes out again. Will there be more? Who knows. But these three songs are out there now…in the system, the universe. Whether you like it or not, you’re gonna have to learn to live with Hipster Slaves.

I hope you enjoy it.
-Ron Scalzo, November 2019