Animal Slaves was formed by singer/keyboardist Elizabeth Fischer and drummer Ross Hales in 1981. They made themselves regulars on the Vancouver scene while writing some original material, resulting in a number of tracks making various indie compilations.
Some demos wound up as the self-financed cassette SECRET SHARPER in ’81 that they sold at shows, which in turn helped fund further tours up and down the west coast. Four of those tracks – “Treblinka,” “Bones Brigade”, “Scum”, and “Jello Boys” also made it on to the THINGS ARE STILL COMING ASHORE album, a compilation that also featured 54-40 and Junco Run.
Rachel Melas (ex of Singing Cowboys, Magic Dragon, and the all-girls Moral Lepers) joined on bass, and their self-titled five-track EP in ’84 came out on Mo-Da-Mu Records. Recorded at Howe Sound Studios, the band’s guitarist had left permanently for Mexico prior to the tapes rolling, so a host of friends filled in on the album. Drawing on funky rhythms with electronic experimentations and a new wave undertone, it featured “Chinese Restaurant” and “Man From Glad.”
A year later their first full album, DOG EAT DOG was on the store shelves. Recorded at Mushroom Studios, Greg Reely returned as producer, and this time also contributed some percussion work. Continuing in the same vein as its predecessor, “Learning To Live” would ultimately become their biggest hit, finding its way on to a couple more Vancouver comp albums. Their growing regional cult-like following was expanding, and borrowing friends and their guitars, they made it to the east coast for a few dates, as well as working their way down to California, helping chalk up 30,000 kms on their ’70s Chevy van’s odometer.
But altho the music was more structured and leaned more towards new wave than punk, the songs were no more socially palatable on a wide-scale than before. But by ’86 the band’s wheels weren’t spinning as fast and everyone quietly went their separate ways. Melas went on to form Courage of Lassie, releasing four albums over the next decade. She then later formed her new project, Swamperella, releasing one album in 2001. Hales joined Sarah McLachlan‘s band, then got out of the business in the mid-’90s.
But by the end of the decade, Fischer resurrected the band’s name with new drummer Paul Brennan and Ryan Moore on bass. They began working on some material, and recorded at Profile Sound and Vancouver Studios over the next year again with Reely behind the controls, Spiral Records released A FINE END in ’91. It featured the lead-off “Contemporary Armor,” “Pieces of Bread,” and “Think of That,” and also featured Elliott Sharp on guitars after Fischer cameo’d on his LAND OF THE YAHOOS album in ’89. But the musical landscape had changed, and the record failed to make a dent in the charts or break them through the barrier. The band once again dissolved and everyone went off to other projects.
Fischer bounced around a few projects over the next few years, releasing albums with Orphans & Dogs and eFish in the ’90s, and DarkBlueWorld in the ’00s. She also collaborated with several others’ projects over the years, and also contributed to the movie soundtrack to “The American.” Moore became one of the most sought-after session players on the west coast, working with the likes of Lava Hay, Tear Garden, Final Cut, and the Legendary Pink Dots, among others. He eventually moved to the Netherlands and formed The Twilight Circus Dub Sound System.
Post break-up, the band wound up on another compilation lp – LAST CALL – VANCOUVER INDEPENDENT MUSIC 1977 – 1988, along with other underground groups like DOA, Subhumans, Scissors, Moral Lepers, and The Stiffs, among others.