Thursday, March 22, 2018

Interview: David Majury of Slomatics

It would be easy to pontificate about Slomatics. In fact two of their last three releases have been reviewed upon these pages and the one that didn't, Live At Roadburn?

The vinyl release is currently sitting on my shelf and it's amazing.

GM: Right after I reviewed the split, Live At Roadburn came to my attention. There's nothing like a great live album, how would you rate that one?

SL: It would be a funny thing to rate our own albums really, but I would say that we think it’s a good representation of our live set. 

There’s no doubt the Roadburn guys did an amazing job with the sound and mix. In a way it felt like a relief as we thought the stage sound was great, but that doesn’t always translate out front, so it was good to hear it sounding as we remember it. 

For us the live recording should always be its own thing too, not just a perfect replication of the record, so we were happy that it sounded quite raw in comparison to our studio albums.

GM: Did you do your normal setlist or did you work out a special live album set?
SL: We don’t really have a regular set list, probably because we dont tour. Each gig will be different, we try to mix songs up and keep it interesting for ourselves. 

When we were getting ready for the show we did think about trying to play a set which covered different albums as Roadburn is quite a big deal, and we wanted to represent everything we’ve done in 45 minutes

We always think about the order of the set and how it flows, ideally we’d like it to be one flowing piece, but at festivals we try to break it up a little. We wanted to put some stuff in there that folk either hadn’t heard for a while, like Running Battle, or that wasn’t on an album, like Ulysses My Father. Hopefully it all worked together, it was certainly a fun set to play on the day.

GM: What's the process like for recording a half of an LP.... Do you get together leftovers? Start the process anew?

SL: It’s definitely different to recording a full album, in a way it’s more of a challenge as we want to try and represent all aspects of our sound in a shorter amount of time. We’ve done splits in the past and I really enjoy that aspect of it, it sort of forces us to try and be concise. 

We wouldn’t ever use leftovers, to be honest we’re quite economical with writing and if something hasn’t been used then it’s dumped. This record was different too, it was much more collaborative than a standard split so the music had to reflect that. We discussed the concepts and the flow of the whole record - it wasn’t just a case of recording 20 minutes each. 

We managed to appear on each other’s sides too, our drummer Marty is on their side and Jess sings on ours. That was really fun and a nice challenge, trying to blend both bands sounds to create an album that made sense as one piece. We shared some studio time and had a few beers together, it was fun.

GM: Can you compare and contrast Slomatics with Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard?

SL: I never really think about comparing us to other bands to be honest, I think it might be quite depressing to do so! I will say that I know both bands share a lot of influences, Dave from MWWB and I are both big fans of bands like Amon Düül II and Hawkwind, and we’re of a similar age so we’ve quite a lot of common ground. 

We were both equally keen to avoid the standard doom tropes with this record, but at the same time we also both play down-tuned guitars through fuzzboxes and Matamps, so it’s not like we’re claiming to completely re-invent the wheel. I’d be enormously flattered if anyone compared us to those guys, we are all big fans of their last record, but at the same time I think that although we might occupy similar sonic space we have different approaches in terms of dynamics and structure. 

I’d never be able to remember all the parts to their epic songs!!

GM: What characteristics make a great split LP for you?

SL: Its that tricky balance of two bands complimenting each other without being too similar. I like the format of a split, it’s maybe a bit of a throwback to old hardcore records, but as a consumer I think it’s good value and a little different. 

Like I really liked the Torche/Part Chimp record, both bands are great and certainly have some commonality, but they’re also quite different. It’s got to sound good too, which is why we both recorded at Skyhammer as we wanted consistency with the quality.

GM: Give me the short version of what life is like in Belfast.

SL: Id say that Belfast has been transformed more than any other city in Europe over the past 20 years. I’ve two sons and it’s amazing how they are growing up in a city that is totally unrecognisable from how it was when I was growing up. 

It’s not just the lack of the oppression and violence, it’s the vibrancy of the city now, all the things there are to do and see. Even through the troubles the music scene in Belfast has always been great, and that’s not changed. 

It’s a class city to hear new music in, with brilliant venues and a lot of supportive people involved in music and arts in general. I’d say that Belfast has most of the advantages of a big city along with the benefits of a small one. 

It’s a good place to be.

GM: My wife wouldn't come upstairs with the kiddo and me because of your album, I tried to reassure her that it wasn't black metal. I said it was space metal, but how would you describe what you do?

SL: Space metal sounds good to me! To be honest we don’t think about it too much, we just write what sounds good to us and don’t worry about fitting in any particular box. We don’t set out with any real preconceptions of how we sound, but we gravitate towards volume and low frequencies. 

The whole doom metal thing is a bit weird, as when we started out doom meant Candlemass and St Vitus, but now it means something different altogether. To me we’ve more in common with the noisy early ‘90s stuff like Fudge Tunnel, Gore, Melvins and all that, but the current doom thing seems like a pretty broad church, so fair enough. 

The whole ‘metal’ thing is not something I have any real connection with at all, I don’t even know what that means in 2018. To me it’s just loud, distorted guitar music, so has as much in common with My Bloody Valentine as Black Sabbath. We all grew up watching sci-fi and I’m a big fan of stuff like John Carpenter so if that does some through in what we do that’s a good thing. 

So yeah, we’ll take space metal as happily as any other label, thank you!

GM: Tell me the five most important albums of all time.

SL: That’s quite a question!! I’ll give you the five that have been most important to us as a band. 

1. Funhouse by the Stooges. 

We used to play part of Dirt from this record live. The whole thing is like an anti-muso minimalist assault, and it was important for showing that repetition and raw caveman guitar playing can produce amazing music. Still resonates as strongly today, it’s just a wild, heavy record. 

Really experimental too, there were no boundaries at all. 

2. Pink Floyd: Ummagumma

We were absolutely obsessed with the Floyd at Pompeii dvd when we started out. The restraint in the playing along with the really unconventional song structures makes this such a classic album, and pretty much everything we’ve done has been our knuckle dragging attempt to mimic Pink Floyd. Obviously we’ve yet to succeed, but in fairness they set a very high bar. 

3. Kabinboy: Self-Titled 10 inch. 

This was a local band in the late ‘90s, an instrumental three piece who put out a whole slew of amazing 7 inches over about a three year period. Insanely heavy, really dynamic and with great guitar tones. We played with them loads in previous bands and their strong DIY ethic stayed with us. 

Also, their guitar sound was so good it left their bassist pretty much inconsequential, so that sowed the seed for what we do now. 

4. Floor - Self Titled. 

Again one we had on constant rotation when we formed. A masterclass is combining extreme low frequencies with a real sense of melody, and they avoided the increasingly ubiquitous half hour long song thing altogether, managing to lay out the heaviest music imaginable in three minute songs. 

Brilliant band, a huge influence even now. 

5. KlingKlang : Esthetik of Destruction

This is Joe from Part Chimp’s heavy synth band, they combined really old school but hugely epic sounding synths with live drums, and sounded a bit like an electronic Kyuss at times. They influenced how we thought about structure and inspired us to want to add more synths to our sound. 

If it could squeeze in a sixth, it’d be Joe’s other band Part Chimp, everything they’ve done. They must be the heaviest band on earth, sounding like they’re on the edge of collapse at all times. 

Seeing them open for Mogwai about 15 years ago was a jaw-dropping experience!

GM: What else should we know?

SL: Our new record Totems is out on BlackBow records any day now, everyone should buy it on the strength of the MWWB songs alone. 

We’ll be in a few new places around Europe this year, so feel free to say hello and join us for some expensive beer. Finally, if you’re currently thinking ‘Do I really need another fuzz pedal?’ then the answer is yes, yes you do.

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