Wed 29th August 2007
Over the course of their two and a half year existence, Slomatics have made a name for themselves producing punishing atmospheric doom, both on their two releases to date ('Flooding the Weir' and this year's 'Kalceanna') and in the live setting. After having the pleasure of seeing them in the flesh recently with Threads, we decided to cath up with the band for a chat about the band and the seemingly vibrant doom scene they head in their homeland. Guitarist David kindly answered our questons...
Please can you introduce the band?
"The band is: Joe on drums, gong and vocals, Chris on guitar number one and I play guitar number two. Joe and I played together in a couple of bands previously (we were seriously late starters!) and all three of us played in a Belfast band called The Naut. Whilst we were in that band, Joe and I jammed some heavier stuff on our own, and I think the seed was sown then to do something different together. When The Naut ran it's course, the three of us started jamming for fun - Joe had never really played drums before - but it came together really quickly, so we started gigging and it went from there. We had a set within a month, gigged after about five practices and recorded within 4 months."
Was the lack of bassist a decision made by default or a conscious decision?
"Sort of both. When we started the band we did intend to get a bass player, but the first couple of gigs happened very quickly and we just didn't have time. We went on the theory that we'd do a couple of shows, and if it didn't sound right then we'd look for someone. We had to make a few adjustments to our gear and our playing but we thought it sounded fine and certainly no-one seemed to think we were lacking low end. It's funny, most of the inital reviews mentioned how heavy the bass was...
Also, we all had a really exact idea of how the band was to sound - largely based on previous experience and it would have been difficult to find someone who shared the ideas as clearly. I've really enjoyed trying to find ways to sound as heavy as possible without a bass, it's a cool challenge as a guitar player. Chris and I are pathetically nerdy about gear so it's always fun trying to squeeze that last ounce of bottom end out of a fuzz pedal or a pickup.
From the off we liked the idea of a three piece - a lot of my favourite bands are trios, like ZZ Top, the Groundhogs and Motorhead. Plus, when your "tour van" is a ten year old Ford Escort with a trailer attached being a three piece has a distinct advantage!!"
The gig I attended you played as a two-piece - is the line up settled, or was that just a one-off?
"That was strictly a one-off, and it only happened because it was a tour and we'd have let the promoter down if we hadn't done something. I was really sick and just couldn't have made it to the gig (it was a twelve hour ferry/car journey), so we figured we'd do it that way instead. The band has always been a three piece, so it was difficult to even find songs that could work as a two piece. Still, better that than let someone down who was good enough to put on a band from another country. It'll hopefully never happen again though!!"
How would you describe your sound to someone not in the know? I've heard a few people referencing to 5ive's Continuum Research Project when enthusing about Slomatics - a fair comparison do you think?
"We've had some weird comparisons in the past, so I'm really not sure. We're not so arrogant as to think that what we do has never been done before, but when it comes to someone with no frame of reference I guess I'd just say we play heavy rock. We played Liverpool a couple of years back, and the flyer called us "Irish Floor worship". I was talking to a guy at the gig who'd never heard of Floor, so he must have thought we just stared at the carpet a lot or something....
I love 5ive, but I think we're much more straightforward than they are. That said, I'd be immensely pleased if people heard something of their sound in us, they're a great band!! Maybe in terms of guitar sound or something, or using minimalist ideas. When we write songs we certainly never think "this will sound like Cavity, this one will sound like Harvey Milk" or whatever. When we're writing we just try and concentrate on how the song sounds, not who it may sound like."
With your second release, 'Kalceanna', do you feel you have nailed the Slomatics sound?
"In a way, yes. The recording of that record was a total nightmare, and it took over a year to put it out. The record sounds close to how we did a year and a half ago, and it's certainly very raw which does reflect our sound I suppose. We left a lot of the "additional" noise on there rather than try to make it too processed sounding. There's even some Russian radio interference that came through my pedals, but we wanted it to sound live so it's all left on.
I'm sure that no bands ever really feel they nail their sound in a studio, although I think we get closer every time. We've just recorded again, and I think the new stuff is maybe closer to how it should sound in my head. That said, we're really proud of Kalceanna and are very happy with how it came out in the end. The weird thing was that by the time it came out, we'd written the next record already, and had been playing the songs live. So how does it take Metallica 5 years to write a record?????"
The artwork for both of your releases thus far has been very striking...
"The art was all by a local guy called Glyn. He played in a ton of crusty hardcore bands and ran the old Belfast Musicians Collective where we spent all our wasted youths. He's a cool guy and an awesome artist (his site is www.scrawled.co.uk), and he really understands where we are coming from. Usually we just give him an idea, and he does the rest. It's really important that the artwork reflects where we are from too - the first CD was a picture of the Lagan Weir, about a mile from where I live, and the second was from a picture of the high rise flats on the outskirts of Belfast. Being from here is part of who we are, and I've never understood bands who do the whole American flag/imagery thing when they're from some grim town in the UK or Ireland.
Glyn's stuff is amazing though, he does all sorts of things, but his gig posters are just incredible. He uses very abstract imagery and does things that shouldn't work ,but do."
When I saw you live, you were one of the loudest bands I've heard even when just setting up - I get the feeling that the live setting is where you truly thrive to be - would you agree?
"Definitely!! I'm sure most bands feel the same way. We practice at full volume, and play as loud as the venue will let us. To get the sounds we want, the amps need to be flat out. I read recently that the guys from Part Chimp feel they play their amps, not their guitars, and I think that totally applies to how we play. Playing live is always fun too, it's always different and is what being in a band is about. I can't understand bands who practice for years but never play a gig. We all have full time jobs so playing live is a total release. We tend to get offered a wide range of shows too, from crusty d-beat festivals, to indie gigs, to art-rock shows. It's a buzz to play when you're the band who doesn't fit the bill. Plus, we get to meet really cool people, see new places and get to watch some really inspirational bands play. It's class!"
You've toured with Threads and played with them a fair bit - not the most obvious of pairings - so how did that come about?
"Just through chance, although we have known the Threads guys for years from previous bands. They're all good people and they're a good band. They seem to love playing in Ireland, so we've shared a bill quite a few times. I think the band we've probably played with most would be Like a Kind Of Matador from Leeds, who we all love. Just getting to play with like-minded people is always great.2
What does the future hold for you guys? I hear of a possible Sound Devastation records release - any tours as well coming up?
"There's a bunch of releases planned - the Sound Devastation thing is hopefully going to be a split 10 inch with Like a Kind Of Matador. Our side is recorded and ready to go, so depending on the Matador guys it should happen soon-ish. I'm really excited about that, I love vinyl and am a huge Matador fan so it's a thrill.
The next thing we'll have out is a split CD with Agent of the Morai on Calculon Records. The label guy Podge is a cool guy, and Agent rule so it should be good. We recorded our three songs for it last week and they're definitely the recordings we've been happiest with, so it'll be great to get them out. That could be out very soon, certainly this side of Christmas.
We have another couple of things on the horizon too, a split 7 inch with Dublin band Drainland, and maybe a split 7 inch with Gruel from England too. Hopefully one of those will come out on Superfi records. I'd like to release more stuff on vinyl really.
With touring, because we all have jobs we can be a bit restricted, and I'm a teacher so I can't take holidays during term time. We've a few shows coming up at home here in Ireland, and it looks like we'll play at the Matamp fest in England when that happens. We'll definitely be over to England at some stage this year, even if it's just for a couple of weekend gigs. In an ideal world we'd go to Europe next summer, but we'll wait and see. We'd all love to get out for a 2/3 week run at some stage. I love being on tour!"
There seems to be a vibrant doom scene in Belfast and around Ireland at the moment - would you be able to give us an overview of this, with bands to look out for?
"The scene here is so amazing at the moment!! There are more quality heavy bands right now than at any time I ever remember. There's even been a two day doom festival in Cork called Doom 101 which was rammed and had such a great atmosphere. The Rock'N'Roll Motherfucker Fest in Dublin is an annual two day thing with about 20 bands, and at least seven or eight of those bands would be heavy/doom bands. I've been at so many shows where the local band has blown the touring band away over the last few years.
In the North there's Erode You and Throat Locust who both sound vaguely Grief/EHG ish and are all really young. 17 year olds playing doom-crusted downtuned dirge rock - amazing!! Both bands are class. Then there's War Iron who are a twin bass sort of grind/doom/prog thing who only seem to write half hour songs about the sea. Heavy! Triggerman play straight up stoner-y stuff and are amazing live. Beef Central play straight up Fu-Manchu style riff rock. Scald are worth checking out for sort of harsh post-crust doom. Then there's Stand-up Guy who sound like Isis/Neurosis. Skypilot are fairly melodic with heavy riffs and definitely rock out.
In the South there's loads of cool stuff - Drainland, De Novissimis, Mongolia, SeaDog, Lungs, Oak, Wreck of the Hesperus, El Bastardo, Decapitated Jaysus, Ghostwood project, all playing interesting heavy music.
If I'd to pick a couple I'd say De Novissimis for their sheer dooooooom-ness (their matamps even have custom DOOM plates!), Drainland for their negative take on Swans/Voivod and Wreck of the Hesperus for their originality and heaviness. Seriously though, there's just so many bands doing their own doomy thing that it insane. I'd recommend a trip to Ireland for anyone who likes it heavy!!"