Monday, August 22, 2016

Interview: Slomatics's David Gets Phased In

Once or maybe twice in a lifetime, a band comes along that has such an amazingly different world perspective where they can think Never Say Die by Black Sabbath is greater than the eponymous debut.

Just let that sink in for a little bit.

There's got to be pubs where those are fighting words.

Well, David from Slomatics thinks just that, but based on what I heard of his music, it seemed pretty obvious that he really meant Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is the greatest Black Sabbath album, presumably, also fighting words in Birmingham, England. In Birmingham, AL, they probably don't care.

If I'm wrong, let me hear ya B'ham!

Glacially Musical: Thank you for taking some time for me today.

Slomatics: No problem, it's a pleasure.

GM: I'm just getting to know your band, so tell me what it's all about?

SL: I'll give you the short version - the band formed 12 years ago, put out a couple of albums and a pile of splits, toured the UK and Ireland. 

We've been a three piece from the start due to never quite getting around to finding a bassist. Just over four years ago our old drummer left and we got an old friend in, since then we've been much more prolific - three albums and two EPs, along with playing further afield. 

We've a new record out in a couple of weeks. What it's REALLY about is turning the amps up full, hitting the fuzz pedals and trying to reimagine Hawkwind tuned to F. 

GM: Because I think I know the answer and I'm like 98% sure you're going to answer it differently than 90% of the population, what's your favorite Black Sabbath record?
SL: Ha ha, I feel under pressure to give the right answer now. Obviously the first six are all essential, and the Dio stuff is great too, but if I'd to pick the one which has probably affected me most it's 'Sabotage'. 

I know that a lot of people see it as the weakest of the classic albums, but it always struck me as a really diverse and creepy record. I mean, 'SuperTzar' and 'The Writ' couldn't have been on any other Sabbath record. 

The songwriting is just so complete and they really do sound absolutely timeless on that album, to me I can imagine it's how the future must have sounded in the mid 1970s. It's not short on monster riffs either, I mean 'Hole in the Sky' and of course 'Symptom of the Universe' are up there with their heaviest riffs. I'm sure I've listened to that album thousands of times at this stage, it never gets old. 

Did I get the right one?! (Nope. The right answer was Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.)

GM: How do you incorporate the synths into your music?

SL: We started using synths when our drummer/ vocalist Marty joined. It's something Chris and I had been interested in for years, we're both huge fans of stuff like Kraftwerk, Popul Vuh and Boards of Canada. 

Marty absolutely got that and bought a wee Korg synth which ended up all over the first record we did with this line up, 'A hOcht'. From there we've used synth as much as possible, particularly in the studio. I don't feel under any pressure to replicate the studio stuff live, it's a different thing really. 

So we use a small micro-Korg live, with Marty juggling drums, vocals and synths. He's pretty good at doing that and has kind of worked on a technique where he can do all three simultaneously, but to be honest it varies from gig to gig. Some will be synth heavy, others just about turning the amps up really loud. It depends on how we're feeling at the time I suppose. 

We've plans to record a synth/drums only session here in Belfast pretty soon which should be fun and something a little different. Kraft Sabbath! 

GM: Who in the recent past do you look to for inspiration?

SL: I wouldn't say we look to anyone particularly - like we don't sit around waiting on the next Melvins record to get ideas. 

In terms of receiving inspiration, it's usually the bands we share a bill with. Early on we played with Like a Kind of Matador from Leeds quite a bit, and they were this insanely heavy and strange guitar/flute/drums three piece. 

The sheer density of their sound, along with the sense of dynamics really resonated with both Chris and I. I still listen to their only album all the time. More recently we've played shows with Ommadon and Bismuth, both of whom are pretty extreme in terms of sheer sonics which probably makes us want to write bigger riffs. 

There's a couple of bands in Dublin called Wild Rocket and No Spill Blood who really blow us  away by using synths to huge effect, that's always pretty impressive. 

Anything that I really enjoy live certainly makes me want to up our own game I suppose. 

GM: Without lifting too much of the veil, can you tell us about the narrative of your albums?
SL: Yeah, I'm afraid I can never really answer that question in a satisfactory way! 

We've always tried to avoid spelling things out too much as we'd prefer the listener to interpret things for themselves. I know I always loved listening to Hawkwind and Pink Floyd on headphones as a 13 year old and letting my imagination run wild. I'm still not entirely sure what Hawkwind were on about, but that only adds to the mystery of the whole thing. 

The narrative of the last two records is concluded on this one so hopefully there's some sense of finality and resolution to it all. Our other guitarist Chris once said that the albums were about despair, hope, space travel and more despair, and to some extent that sums it up. Sorry!!   

GM: The last track, it was a bit longer. Was that planned, or did it just kind of happen?

SL: We sort of sketched the record out in terms of mood and dynamics, so we wanted it to end on an optimistic and upbeat note, which is the point of that song to some degree. It was meant to be very repetitive and sort of a mantra. 

We didn't really think about how long it was when we were jamming it before recording, and just tried to play what felt right. It felt like around six minutes to me so I was a little surprised when it ended up being over ten minutes long. 

I sometimes think the whole doom-metal 20 minute songs thing is a bit overdone so I've tried to avoid writing really long pieces, and I quite enjoy trying to write much more concise songs. 

When I first heard the band Floor it was a total game changer for me as their songs were both super-melodic and really short and I love the idea of three minute songs that are every bit as heavy as a twenty minute long Electric Wizard epic. So yeah, that one just kind of happened.

GM: How are you going to recreate this music on stage?
SL: Like I said earlier we see live and the studio as two totally different things. We just work out what will sound good live, and change thing a little if we have to. 

We use synth pedals live which help cover some of the studio stuff, or we just change it around a bit. There are a couple of songs on each record that use quiet, clean guitars and piano which we just can't do live, but those songs were written for the studio only really. 

It's funny because sometimes songs which we didn't expect to play live end up being regulars in the set - like 'Lost Punisher' off 'Estron', which we didn't think we'd play at all, but when we did it was really fun to play and went down well. 

Volume is always important of course -we've found that if it's loud enough people are fairly forgiving about the subtleties of songs being a little lost. 

GM: There have been some great stories of touring musicians using strange methods to eat while on the road. What's the weirdest thing you've seen or done?
SL: Ha ha!! 'Strange methods to eat'?? I've seen a well known musician eating out of a bin if that counts? Actually that was just a bit depressing.  

Time for me to google 'touring musicians using strange methods to eat' right now! 

GM: Will we be seeing your smiling face on this side of the pond?
SL: I'd love to say soon, but I'm just not sure that'll happen. We've had offers but the expense and the hassles with visas make it hard to tour the states. We're really restricted by jobs and holidays too so it's not looking too likely I'm afraid, as much as we'd love to. 

GM: Thanks again guys, is there anything else we need to know?
SL: Thanks for your time. I guess the real news with us is that our new record 'Future Echo Returns' is out on BlackBow records on September 2nd. Enjoy!

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