Monday 10 September 2012

20 Questions w/ Slomatics

So, here at The Sludgelord, we pride ourselves on bringing you music from cool bands all over the world and yet we feel it is particularly important to feature the cream of the UK scene too.
Having already featured the frankly superb Conan on this segment a few months back, it kinda made sense that I ask Slomatics to get involved too.  Jon from Conan single-handedly raised the profile of the band to our readers here at The Sludgelord. Therefore when I contacted the band for an interview, they were more than happy to oblige.
So on the eve of the release of their highly anticipated new record A Hocht which is actually out now on the awesome Head of Crom Label, I spoke with David from Slomatics and here is what he had to say, when I put him under the spotlight with my 20 Questions.  So without further ado, check out the interview below. 

Q) Hey David, How are you?  I appreciate you taking the time to talk to talk to us, here at the Sludgelord.
A) Hi! All’s good here thanks, and thanks for the interest – we appreciate it.
Q) Where are you guys at the moment and what are you doing, in terms of the band at the present? 
A) We’re at home in Belfast, holed up in our dingy practice room churning out riffs ahead of Incubate at Tilberg. We’re playing a slightly longer set than usual, so we’re dusting down some stuff we haven’t played in quite a while, as well as fine-tuning new stuff.
Q) You recently finished a series of UK dates with Conan, Wizard’s Beard l, how was that? Big fans of those bands on the blog
A) It was fantastic. We played a couple of shows, Leeds and Edinburgh. Both were really well organised and well attended, and we got to play with some amazing bands. We’ve played with Conan before, but Goatleaf, Wizard’s Beard and Headless Kross were new to us, and we really enjoyed all of them. The Leeds venue was a tiny cellar, it was super hot and we got to use the Conan wall of amps at full tilt, so it sounded mega. We got to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones too – we got to share a few pints with Adam from Head of Crom which was great, he’s such a nice guy. Leeds is always a cool place to play. Edinburgh was brilliant too. We played Bannermans and I have to say the staff there look after bands unbelievably well. Great bar too with some deadly Scottish ales on tap. Headless Kross absolutely floored me with pretty much the perfect blend of doom/space/krautrock. Fantastic band. The audiences both nights were great. Of course, Conan blew our minds both nights, and it was great to spend some time with them again too. Absolute legends.
Q) I have been fortunate enough to have received an advanced copy of your new album A Hocht and have to say it is brilliant, however for those people who are unfamiliar with your music, can you tell me little bit about the  history of the band and some of the bands you've played with? Where you’re from? When Slomatics first formed? Current band members?
A) Glad you like it!! I’ll try and condense the band history – we’ve been going for eight years now, formed in ’04 here in Belfast. The band is myself and Chris on guitar and Marty on drums/vocals/keys. Marty joined at the end of last year after our previous drummer quit. Strangely enough, all three of us played in a band together previously called The Naut, which at one point was just the three of us before expanding into a five piece. Weird that ten years later here we all are again! Marty and I played in a couple of bands before that, so between us we have a lot of history. In terms of band history, we formed straight after the Naut split and gigged/recorded fairly heavily straight away. We self-released a split 7 inch and two albums, and did some UK touring within a couple of years. We’ve put out a couple of splits since then on different labels, and then joined Head of Crom for the release of the Conan split. 
Q) Is Slomatics a full time project, or do have other bands?
A) Chris and I only play in Slomatics, but Marty also plays in War Iron, a twin bass sludge band here in Belfast. We all have jobs/families so time is limited. That said, Marty is juggling both bands with surprising ease. I guess both bands sound pretty different and have a different dynamic, so they’re fulfilling in different ways for him.
Q) Probably a stupid question, but are you or would you like to be full time musicians?
A) Ha! That’s a fairly regular conversation after a few pints. To be honest, we’re all older guys and have young families and full time jobs, so we’re never going to be in the position where we could tour extensively or anything. I mean, the thought of not having to get up every Monday morning and have a working week ahead of me is certainly appealing – and at the same time the thought of being able to spend all my time playing guitar and creating music would be amazing. The reality of being a full time musician is pretty different to the dream though, I mean I know that even guys in long established bands like Neurosis still work to support being in the band. No-one playing the sort of stuff we do could ever make a living out of it, so in all honesty I think we’re in a privileged position where we can enjoy what we do with the band but can still support our families and pay the bills. I’d probably enjoy the band less if I was worrying about money all the time.   
Q) Are you big fans of rock/metal, if so what are you listening too at the moment and how much are you paying Conan (The band), what with all the praise they are giving you?  (Hahaha) it goes without saying you’re super tight with those dudes having released a great split with those dudes? 
A) We’re definitely huge music obsessives and fans. We all grew up listening to heavy rock/metal – there’s way more hair metal in our collective pasts than any of us would be proud of! I’m not sure any of us really understands what metal is any more though, or feels any connection with current metal. I mean, there are great bands like Mastodon about, and older bands like Voivod still making great records, but if I pick up a copy of Kerrang or Metal Hammer I don’t even recognise 99% of the bands. I think like most guys our age who grew up on Sabbath and then discovered the Melvins and Kyuss, we still look out for heavy bands – and there’s loads of good stuff about, but I wouldn’t necessarily label any of it as metal.  Right now I’m listening to “Bear” by Headless Kross, “III” by Portishead and “Yeti” by Amon Duul II.
Ha! I know what you mean about Conan – we really should be paying Jon some sort of PR rate!! We go back a long way with the Conan boys, and they’re great friends of ours. I think Jon was the first person outside of Belfast to buy a copy of our first CD, and we first met when we played Liverpool in ’06. Hilariously with hindsight Jon used to ask us advice about how to get gigs etc – how times have changed!! Conan are such an incredible band and I think they deserve every bit of the success they’ve had so far. The split was down to Jon hooking up with Head of Crom, and suggesting us for a release, although Adam had previously reviewed one of our records so he was aware of us.  
Q) When you started Slomatics, what were your hopes for the band?
A) The same as with any band I’ve played with – just to write a few songs that sound good. Everything beyond that – playing gigs, recording, touring – is all just a bonus really. If no-one ever wanted to hear us again, we’d still hook up in the practice room to jam every week. 
Q) If someone was unfamiliar with your band, how would you describe your sound? On your Official page you describe yourselves as ZZ Top on Thorazine or a way meaner Torche.  Has it evolved?
A) That’s a quote from Andee at Aquarius Records; we thought it was sort of funny but quite apt. I’d describe us as a heavy rock band, pure and simple. When we were writing the new album we wanted it to sound really melodic and positive, although I appreciate that to a lot of people we’re anything but. We get the whole “doom metal” thing quite a lot, and even though I don’t feel we share much with typical doom bands, I quite like that label. If you’re going to be a metal band, then “doom” is definitely better sounding than “thrash” or “glam”! In terms of reference points, the second side of “My War” by Black Flag, the Stooges, pretty much any early Black Sabbath and maybe the heavier early Hawkwind stuff are probably good starting places. I’m not sure our sound has evolved, we don’t sound significantly different now than we did years ago, although having Marty in a the band has certainly allowed us to sharpen our focus on combining minimalism with more spacious elements. 
Q) Why the name, Slomatics? Where does the name originate?
A) Through necessity. We’d been jamming for a few weeks and were offered a gig, so we needed a name quickly. It seemed like everything we thought of was already taken. We use Boss Chromatic tuner pedals, and thought of Chromatic or something along those lines – that had already been taken too, so it became Slomatics. It doesn’t mean anything, and to be honest is a pretty terrible name, but then again “The Melvins” or “Harvey Milk” are equally as bad if you think about it.
Q) What is the scene like in your hometown of Belfast, N. Ireland?
A) In Belfast specifically it’s pretty small. There are a few really great heavy bands about, such as Continuous Battle of Order, Hornets, Tome and Maw. There’s quite a lot of metalcore type stuff which isn’t really my thing, and some really good indie bands. There’s a great metal promoter called The Distortion Project who is pretty much single handed in doing heavy stuff. In terms of the whole country, the scene is probably the best I remember it in over 20 years – almost every city has cool promoters and some really great bands. Certainly in places like Dublin, Galway and Cork there are a real wealth of original, exciting bands doing their own thing. Stuff I’ve been blown away by recently would include No Spill Blood and ZOM from Dublin, and Rites from Galway.  
Q) What made you start the band?  Did you all know each other before you formed?
A) I’ve known Marty since we were in school, and I’ve known Chris pretty much since he moved here from Wales around 15 years ago. As I said, we’d actually played together in previous bands, and even since the first line-up of Slomatics formed we all hooked up and played fairly regularly. As for why we started the band, I guess it’s just the same reason as anyone else – we just felt compelled to do so through a love of love amplifiers and fuzz pedals!
Q) What's it like being in an underground band in your hometown or even in N. Ireland? Is it a struggle and is their great camaraderie within the scene?
A) It’s not a struggle at all. We actually don’t play in Belfast a huge amount – like any small city there is a tendency for local bands to play far too often, and we wouldn’t like people to get sick to death of us! We’ve been really lucky in a lot of the gigs we’ve played here, as we’ve got to play on loads of very different bills in some really great venues. We’ve found the vast majority of the other local bands we’ve played with to be super-cool, and there’s certainly a great spirit of camaraderie throughout the country. We’ve done splits with other Irish bands which is always a nice thing to do.
I think the only thing that is a struggle is playing further afield. We’ve been to England and Scotland and it’s always a great experience, but it’s costly and involves time off work etc. We’re really lucky to have the Conan guys over there as it means we can hook up and play using great gear. We’re playing the Incubate festival in the Netherlands in a couple of weeks which will be our first time in mainland Europe, but hopefully not our last.
Q) What are your views of blogs such as the Sludgelord reviewing your records, as opposed to mainstream music magazines?  Has your music reached the mainstream mags, at home or around the world?
A) We’re all big fans of blogs. To me, it’s a continuation of the fanzine scene I grew up with 20 years ago. I find out about new music through blogs such as yours, and the most important thing is that the writer is honest and clearly a fan of what he/she is writing about, which definitely isn’t the case with mainstream magazines. I think playing the sort of stuff we play, blogs and forums are more important for getting our music heard than mainstream magazines. We’ve been reviewed in some mainstream press in the past, had a song on cover CDs and stuff like that. I’m not sure it really means anything – I mean, we did a BBC session and I think the main advantage of it was getting paid, as it financed a chunk of recording the Conan split. Obviously it’s great if someone reads about us and likes the band regardless of the source, but there’s something way cooler about like minded folk getting into it through blogs and forums, where it’s music fans talking to each other.
Q) A Hocht is an outstanding record and appears to be a lot of positive vibes, what are your thoughts about that?  Does it have an effect on the band in terms of record sales etc?  Are record sales important to the band?
A) Thanks very much! If you mean positive in terms of how it sounds, then that would be a great compliment. Our aim has always been to play music that is heavy but hopefully uplifting too – we definitely try not to sound harsh or aggressive. If you mean how people are responding to the record, then yeah, of course it’s great when people say good things, or seem to get what we’re doing. We’ve been really fortunate in the press we’ve received all along – I’m sure there is a slating bound to happen sooner or later! Jurgen at Burning World posted that he thought the record took a few listens to get into, but that it was worth the effort, which is pretty much exactly what we aimed for – so it was a huge compliment from a guy who is pretty well respected in heavy circles. Record sales aren’t the be-all and end-all, and certainly aren’t something we think about when we write, but at the same time when labels are prepared to put their money behind you then of course it would be good to sell some copies and repay the investment. Our stuff is usually in pretty small runs, maybe 500 or so at a time, and we’ve managed to sell out everything we’ve released so far, so hopefully people who bought the old stuff will like the new stuff too.
Q). A Hocht is your 3rd full length release to date, how does this record compare to your previous records and is it your best work to date?  What does A Hocht mean mean? I googled it and there is an Abbey of Hocht, the former Cistercian abbey (Cistercian is an order of monks)
A) “A Hocht” is Irish for 8. It’s out eighth release, our eighth year as a band and there are eight songs on there, so it all sort of ties together. I suppose we maybe try to avoid clichés too, and like our song titles to be a big ambiguous. To us, it’s our best record by a long shot. It came together really quickly and naturally, it was fun to record, and was probably the only time we’ve left the studio 100% happy with what we had recorded. To me, it sounds like everything we wanted to be in the past but maybe never quite achieved. There’s a real mix of heavier and quieter stuff, and the flow of the record was clearly mapped out before we went into the studio. At the same time, there’s a lot of improvisation on there too, and quite a few “happy mistakes”, where things just came out sounding great quite unexpectedly.
Q) Does it surprise you when people buy your music and merch?
A) Of course!!! Even eight years down the line, I’m amazed when people get into us live, or take the time to get online and buy something we’ve put out. I can’t imagine ever getting to the stage where we’d take that for granted.
Q) To date the band have released two full length albums, two split CDs, a split 12" , a 7" and a Cassette album to date, what are some of your highlights so far? What are your aspirations for the future?
A) In a way every release is a highlight, because it documents how the band sounded at that moment in time. Highlights tend to involve gigs more than releases though, and we’ve been lucky enough to play with some really inspirational bands. As for the future, we’ll just keep on keeping on. We’ll start writing the next record shortly, at the moment it’s hard to see past that. I suppose more gigs in Britain and maybe mainland Europe would be something we’d like to do next year too.
Q) I noticed that your new record is to be released through Head of Crom / Burning World / Roadburn Records, also home to Conan and Black Sun. Adam from HOC seems to be a fan of heavy music first and foremost, releasing music by bands he likes?  How did that come about and did you consider a DIY approach of releasing your music yourselves?
A) We’ve self released stuff in the past, and it’s always an option. There are certainly advantages to the DIY approach. That said, being on HOC/Burning World is fantastic, they’re both amazing labels. Initially the hook up came through Conan, who were due to record on HOC. They suggested the split, and Adam was into it. He’s such a lovely guy, super enthusiastic and just a huge music fan. When we first started talking it became clear we had loads in common musically, and were both banging on about the same UK bands. He told me he just wanted to document the great heavy music around at the moment, which I think is the right reason for starting a label. The Burning World deal came from that, as Jurgen was keen to put out the CD version. Given the reputation of Burning World I’d presumed that that would be our only release on BW, so we were really delighted when Jurgen said he was into doing the album too. That guy has done a LOT to promote heavy music throughout Europe and the world, and it’s an honour to have a record on his label.
Q) Do you have any interesting stories from your tours, favourite places you’ve toured and bands you’ve toured with?
A) We’re not wild party guys on tour really – there’s always a few drunken disasters to laugh about, but usually we’re pretty much into playing and then chatting to folk and checking out the other bands. We’ve played a load of great places – Leeds is always fun, and I thought Bannermans was such a fantastic set up. There’s a bar in Cork called Fred Zeppelins which always makes for the sort of gig we love – a tiny sweat box full of drunken freaks going nuts. As for bands, playing with Conan is always amazing, as they’re lovely guys as well as an amazing band. They certainly look after us well. For me, playing with Like a Kind of Matador from Leeds was really special. I’d seen them supporting Boris and had been blown away, and then we played a couple of gigs with them in Ireland, before playing with them again in England. Their whole thing was a real inspiration, such an incredible band. We’ve got to play with cool bands we really like such as Torche, Baroness and Khanate too, and those gigs are always pretty memorable.   
Q) Did you have an agenda or a game plan in terms of what you wanted to write for A Hocht? Does everyone contribute song ideas?
A) We certainly had ideas about it having a wider scope than previous records, although in the event it came together over the space of about three months. We didn’t write anything outside of the practice room; it all just came together through jamming. This record is by a long way the most collaborative we’ve done, which made a pleasant change. Everyone writes and has an equal input – it can be a riff of even just an idea of how something should sound .I think we wanted to write a record which took a while to get into, and kind of unveils itself after more listens. I guess whether or not we achieved that is up to you!
Q) How do you feel about the digital era of music and people downloading music for free? Would you or have you ever considered releasing your music for free or ‘pay what you like’ to raise the profile of the band?
A) It’s all a complete mystery to me! I’m a total Luddite with all that stuff, I wouldn’t know where to start with downloading, and to be honest I haven’t the inclination to learn. It’s outdated I know, but I still like the physical format, and the whole thing of buying a new record and looking at the artwork and all that. That said, I understand that people like the access that downloading gives them, and I would have no problem with our stuff being downloaded. Chris does all our internet stuff and has put all our stuff which is sold out up for free download, it’s definitely better to let people hear it than not. I guess if we found that no-one wanted to put our stuff out in future we’d certainly consider it.
Q) What are your plans for the rest of the year and any chance you're doing a full UK tour?
A) We’re off to Tilberg for the Incubate festival in a couple of weeks, and then we play the GGI festival in Glasgow at the end of September. We’ve a couple of Irish dates with Conan in October, and we’re bringing Headless Kross over in December. Beyond that we’re going to write new material with a view to the next record. I think we’ll be back across to Britain in the New Year; hopefully we’ll get across more often from now on. A full tour is unlikely, as we all have jobs and commitments.
Q) Thanks for answering my questions, but one final question, you got anything you like to say to your fans?
A) Thanks to the Sludgelord for taking the time to talk to us, we appreciate it!! Oh yeah – our new record is out, it’s limited to 300 copies on vinyl, so if you want one head over to Head of Crom. Cheers for the support!!!!
Well, there you go.  I think you'll agree that is perhaps one of the best interviews we've had on the blog so far.  Slomatics are a superb band and all round good guys.  So, a big shout out to those guys for agreeing to answer my questions, specifically David, who was kind enough to take tke time and make the effort to give such in depth answers.  Thanks guys and hope the record sell out very soon.  I know I have already bought mine. 
For more information about the band please check out the links below.  You can buy the vinyl here and the CD here