An interview with SLAVES

Isaac

SLAVES INTERVIEW

You’ve been busy!

Yeah very busy, flat out. We’ve got a week off now and then we’re off to Japan, which will be pretty crazy.

When you guys played Margate you ended up at a boot fair with a pink umbrella at 5am, did you buy anything nice?

Oh yeah! Fuckin’ hell yeah! I actually got a wash bag that was covered in dogs faces for 20p and I still use it every time we go on tour now.

A couple of years ago your rider had a bottle of Jack Daniels on it. What are the main things on your rider now?

I always ask for a toy car because my drum mat is a kid’s car mat so I like to get a little toy car on that. I ask for loads of water because I don’t tend to drink that much on the road so I want water and green tea.

So how long before you go full Michael Jackson and ask for a monkey?

(Laughs) We wont be making any silly demands any time soon as long as we have a bit of food and a bit of drink.

Are you surrounded by the same crew as you were when you began and is that important to you?

Ben Robinsons been there from the start, he put on our first ever gig. He used to be our tour manager; he’s now our stage manager. We’ve got a new tour manager and I think our crew is just bigger now, we’ve got our own light man and sound man that we tour with but the bones of it are still the same, me Laurie and Ben. That is definitely important to me, you’ve always got to remember where you came from and people who have been there from the start should be there till the end.

Do you get to play any gigs off of the mainstream circuit now you’re signed to a bigger label?

We’ve been talking about trying to do a tour where we just go to all the towns no one really goes to, it would be wicked to get back to Margate. I think it’s really important to hit places that are not necessarily key towns because everywhere deserves a gig.

With your face on the cover of major magazines and newspapers alongside your top ten hit of a debut album, does the success ever go to your head and who brings you down to earth?

No, I don’t think that will ever really happen to us. The road to where we are was gradual and if you’re surrounded by good friends and we’ve both got good families with good values, I don’t think we’ll ever get ahead of ourselves. Its always really important to remember where you come from. Everything is half luck, obviously you make your own success if you work hard but if we weren’t in the right place at the right time for a few moments everything could have gone so wrong as well. You’ve just got to really appreciate the position you’re in.

What was that moment?

When we first started getting a bit of attention was when we played Reading and Leeds for the first time on the BBC Introducing stage. There was a few of the right people watching then and we got ourselves an agent then and there were some good promoters there too. The ball really started rolling from there and that was about two years ago now.

Your EP was called ‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth’ and the new album ends with a song of the same name, how come that song wasn’t on the EP?

We wrote the song ‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth’ around the same time we wrote the first EP. We liked the phrase so names the EP and a song it. Now we’ve put that song on the end of the new album because if people actually look into it, it kind of leads you back to the first EP where it all started and I like references like that.

Your lyrics view the world in an objective way that provokes the listener to question the way they live, especially ‘Live Like an Animal’ and ‘Cheer Up London’

– Did you always feel a contrast to the way society is structured?

Yes. I have always felt disjointed from it all and felt like I’ve been viewing it form an outsiders perspective and that’s how I write, it’s all quite observational. It’s almost like a social documentation. I’m quite fascinated by the world, people frustrate me and the world frustrates me – I’m just writing about it.

Have you ever done a 9 to 5 job?

Yeah, we both have its not like we’ve never worked these jobs and struggled ourselves. We’ve both worked shit jobs we didn’t want to do and that was around the time you last saw us, we were still working jobs then and trying to squeeze in gigs. It was quite frustrating but everything is in contrast as well because there are certain people who can’t get jobs and to them a 9 to 5 would be brilliant.

Your album ends with ‘Do you ever feel you’ve been cheated’ which is the same line that ended The Sex Pistols final show in America before they split. Is there an influence there?

Yes I think so, that was one of Laurie’s lines, I think that was a bit of a reference to be honest. Good words. I don’t think its wrong to copy words, I watch films and take things word for word sometimes, there’s no shame in that.

What is ‘Feed The Manta Ray’ about?

(Laughs) Everyone asks that! I was in a bad way at the time and I was a bit depressed and anxious living in a flat in London and I had a really loud neighbour below me called Tim. I’ve never even met him but he was so fucking loud always arguing with his girlfriend and slamming doors and I was just sitting there, pissed off at this decision I’d made to move into this flat. So the verses are quite serious and aggressive but we were in the studio writing it and we were playing the beat. I’d already recorded the verse and we were just talking about manta rays for some reason, I have no idea why! I don’t know where it came from and then some just started singing ‘feed the manta ray’ over the beat and we were like fuck it, shall we just put it in? (laughs) I thought I’d leave it for anyone to make their own meaning out of. Its pretty random but that’s what I like because you can write songs which are really serious with a real subject matter but then there’s also no rules, you can just put anything into a song – it doesn’t matter.

How many years have you and Laurie known each other and do you ever fight?

We’ve know each other probably about 8 months before Slaves started. We became mates because he used to come and watch my old band and we got chatting. He said ‘If you ever need a bassist, hit me up.’ We got rid of our bassist so I called Laurie and he joined that band. Then we wrote a few songs with the band and Laurie but both of us weren’t really happy in that band and we realised we were driving it all, writing the songs and we had the most chemistry so when that band broke up we just decided to start something new and that was when Slaves started. We definitely have arguments but its brotherly. We have to get along because if we don’t it jeopardises everything. If we have little arguments we walk away from each other and within 5 mins we’ve got our arms around each other again. We’ve got a very god relationship me and Laurie. You’ve got no choice, you’ve got to get on and I love him very much.

What was Jools Holland like and did you get on with U2?

The thing with Bono – this was the first thing we did that went a bit viral but it wasn’t meant to be! We’d just played and I was in the smoking area and as I walked back in I accidentally blocked Bono’s way in the hallway and so he had no choice but to talk to me! He said ‘You were great in there mate’ and without thinking I said “Oh cheers mate, U2.” Then our stage manager started laughing his head off and when I realised what I’d said I knew I was never going to beat that moment again in my life. Bono just walked off.

Is it hard to hold down a relationship when you’re so busy?

It definitely put a strain on my relationship. When you’re putting everything you’ve got into music, it’s your sole passion and it’s hard to hold a relationship down sometimes. It sparks a lot of feelings and we weren’t really used to this lifestyle it threw everything up in the air and was hard to maintain things that felt quite normal before. But once you get the balance right and you realise this is your life now it gets a lot easier

What bands are you listening to now?

I was on a grime thing for a little while but now I’ve gone back into my classic rock and roll. I’ve gone into a real Lou Reed thing this week and all I’ve been listening to is Velvet Underground and Lou Reed. I’ve gone real 70’s rock like Patti Smith, David Bowie. But I go through stages where I don’t listen to anything.

What music were you brought up on?

Such a mixture, lots of vinyl. My dad was big into Punk and Reggae. I think my first ever memory was running around the living room listening to The Specials when I was probably about 2. There was country and hip hop as well, a bit of everything.

How did you record your album and did you have to fight to keep your lo fi sound being signed to a big label?

No not at all. Virgin EMI have been amazing. We have complete creative control over everything. They trust that we’re doing the right thing and in that sense we’ve still got a very DIY attitude because we do everything our way. The label have been brilliant.

How did it feel when you had that backlash about the right to be called ‘Slaves’ because I know it moved you to release a statement about it.

We were sick of everyone going on about it and we’d be lying if we said it didn’t get to us so we knew we had to put out a statement and say something about it but when we first came up with the name Slaves I don’t think we expected to cause so much controversy. It was a word we liked and it sounded good so we chose it but the more success you get, the more people hear about you, the more shit you get and that’s just the way it goes. Controversy is a good thing and dividing opinions is wicked. I’d much rather divide opinions than be average, middle of the road.

What does it feel like to be on the cover of magazines like The Guardian and NME because it was amazing to watch from an outside point of view from the people who’d been going to your gigs from two years ago.

Yeah it was very surreal seeing your face on the cover of magazines. I think one day it will all settle in but at the moment I’m not really taking it in, I want to stay grounded.

Where does it go from here?

I literally have no idea, I don’t know what we’ll be doing in 6 months, just keep doing what we feel is right because we didn’t expect it to even get half as far as it has. We want to just keep appreciating the position we’re in and see how far we can take it. We’ve got nothing to loose and everything to gain so lets just keep going and keep having fun. When we don’t enjoy it anymore that’s when we’ll stop doing it. We’re just going with it and we’ll see what happens.