Belfast heavyweights Slomatics have been around since 2004 and its quite surprising to hear that this 3 piece of 2 guitars & drums deliver such a ferocious & potent mix of crushing heaviness and Melvins worship without the need for a bass player! And with a healthy back catalogue of releases available which includes 2 full albums, a split CD with Agents of The Morai, a split 7″ with El Bastardo and with their long awaited split 12″ with Like A Kind Of Matador hopefully seeing the light of day early next year, I caught up with guitarist David to ask him a few questions…
Hi David, how’s life treating you over in sunny Belfast at the moment?
“Sunny Belfast”??? You’ve never been here then?! All’s good thanks, our drummer has just come back from a three months trip to the states, so we’re ready to go again.
Right, let’s get this interview rolling with why and when you formed Slomatics and can you give you a rundown of your current members and what they do?
We started Slomatics almost four years ago, which seems hard to believe now. All three of us had played together in a band called the Naut, but we’d become increasingly frustrated with how things were sounding. We wanted to move in a different direction so it made sense to start something new. Joe hadn’t really played drums before – he played bass in the Naut – so we initially just thought we’d jam a bit for fun, with no real intentions of gigging . Things just snowballed from there, and we’d put a record out and were on tour within six months.
The current line up is the same: I play guitar, Chris is on guitar and Joe plays drums and sings.
In 3 words describe your music?
Heavy heavy rock.
Where did the name Slomatics come from?
Through necessity!! We’d jammed for a couple of months and managed to get a few songs together, so we booked a gig. We hadn’t though about a name at all and were struggling to come up with anything that wasn’t just plain awful. With about a week to go we needed something, and I saw the word “Chromatic” on a tuner pedal – Chromatics had already been taken so seeing as we played pretty slow, we went for Slomatics and it stuck. I don’t think a name is that important – I mean “The Melvins”??!!
Your members were also in other note worthy bands The Cosmonaut and The Naut so do you think your time with these helped to shape what your now doing in Slomatics?
Definitely, in that it helped me decide what I didn’t want to do! As much as it was fun and I really loved playing in those bands, there was always a lot of compromise involved, whereas with Slomatics we pretty much agree completely on how everything should sound. I learnt a lot about being in a band though, and both those bands helped shape our DIY ethic which is central to how we work. Plus, we got to play with and meet a lot of great bands and that always influences you. We’re all still good friends with the other guys from those bands too which is the most important thing. By the end of the Naut, Chris, Joe and I all just wanted to bang away on one big slow riff for half an hour, instead of complicating things – and I guess we haven’t really changed in that respect.
Who writes your lyrics, where does the inspiration for them come from and how important is their arrangement to your overall sound?
Joe writes all the lyrics. It’s weird because we practise at full volume so can’t really hear the vocals that well when we’re writing. It’s usually in the studio that Chris and I hear things properly for the first time! We do agree on where the vocals should go first. The vocals are definitely very important to our sound though, as we aim to be as melodic as possible. It was important from the start to have a sung vocal rather than a screamed grindcore thing . Having a bit of echo on there hopefully adds to the overall sound too, and sort of uses the vocal as another instrument. As time goes on we’ve tried to use more vocals too. We’d love to do the whole three singer thing, but unfortunately Chris and I are tone deaf singers!
What releases do you have available to date and how can people get hold of copies?
To date we’ve a split 7inch with El Bastardo, two albums, and a split CD with Agent of the Morai. The first album “Flooding the Weir” is sold out, but we still have a few copies of the “Kalceanna” album and the 7 inch. The Agent split is down to about 20 copies and there won’t be another run. It’s available from our myspace site, and the labels and distros like Superfi have a few left too. Podge at Calculon is the man for the split.
Your latest release is a split CD with Leeds based sludge monsters Agent Of the Morai, so firstly, how did this 26 minute slab of heaviness come about and as its now been available for a while, have the reviews and feedback been encouraging?
We played England last summer, and Podge, the guy who runs the Calculon label, caught a show. He contacted us about possibly releasing something, and soon enough he suggested Agent of the Morai. I’d got into them a while earlier so was really into doing the split. I have to say Podge was a deadly cool guy to work with, he’s very enthusiastic and comes from the same DIY background we do. He plays in a band I really dig too. I like to think the bands complimented each other too and there’s plans to get them over to Ireland soon.
The reviews have all been very positive which is always a bit of a surprise. Better still, a lot of the reviewers have really “got” what we’re doing, and some have been immensely flattering. It’s still mad to think someone in America or France is listening to something we recorded!! It’s definitely the release I’ve been most proud of as I think it really captures how we sound.
And what about future releases? Anything on the horizon you can share with us?
Yeah, we have a long, long delayed split 12 inch with Like A Kind Of Matador coming out on Sound Devastation records next year. We recorded our side over a year ago so it’s been a long while coming. Matador had all sorts of stuff to deal with, and split up during the whole process, so it’ll be great to see it out finally. The Sound Devastation guys have been really cool and VERY patient!! It’s pretty exciting to have another vinyl release too, it’s definitely our favourite format – plus the packaging is a really cool gatefold.
I always assumed that we’d self release everything so it was pretty unbelievable when labels got in touch, and both the Sound Devastation and Calculon people have been brilliant. I’d love to do more with labels like that – they really represent what putting music out should be about. Plus, I really like the other bands on those labels, and it’s a good feeling to share a label with bands you like.
We first played with Like A Kind Of Matador at the Doom 101 festival and were all completely blown away. Their guitarist Paul now plays in Gruel who we’ve gigged with a fair bit too. We’d toured a wee bit with Matador and it’s a pretty big deal to me to have a record coming out with a band you really love.
We’re planning to record again around December, so depending on how things go between now and then it could be another 7 inch, split or album. We’re always up for doing splits with likeminded bands, so if anyone reading this is interested give us a shout!
You’ve also made your debut album from 2005 ‘Flooding The Weir’ available as a free download, quite a lot of bands of late have been using MediaFire as a way of making their music available, so why did you go this route instead of re-releasing it and while on the subject, what are your opinions on file sharing and obtaining music for free?
We always intended that CD to be a limited release. I think we only did about 400 copies. We don’t release stuff for profit, it’s more just to get the music out there. This band is a hobby, we all have day jobs and that, so whereas it’s great to have a record or CD to sell, once they’re gone they’re gone! As for making music available free, once a release sells out we’ll always make it free to download. I think it’s a great way to hear music, and I know that I’ve got into bands through hearing them online. I’m old enough to remember taping scratchy vinyl onto hissy 60 minute tapes. That didn’t stop loads of great new bands forming, and downloading won’t either. All this stuff about downloads killing music is shite – I’ll still buy stuff by bands I like. Like all normal working class people, it sickens me to see millionaire rock stars whinging about having their “product” stolen. Maybe the whole download thing will mean that bands have to be able to cut it live, which is no bad thing. Without sounding like a hippy, music should be free anyway!
As mentioned, you’re based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, so can you give us an insight as to what the extreme music scene is like there? Are there many opportunities for gigs? What about touring bands, do they often make the trek over to the emerald isle when touring the UK?
The “scene” – if such a thing really exists anywhere – is really good here. There are loads of good bands, probably more so than anytime I remember in the 20 years I’ve been going to gigs. There’s a good network throughout Ireland – we’ve been on five/six gig Irish tours, which I know isn’t a month round Europe but is still good for what is really quite a small island. There are three or four really good venues for small gigs in Belfast alone. There’s a local festival on every summer called Curfew which is really amazing – every year I go I seem to see two or three really amazing new bands. The last time we played Curfew there were 250 people crammed into a tiny bar all going nuts and rocking out. It was an amazing experience.
There’s a load of great Irish bands playing now, someone should really document it. Anyone reading this who likes heavy bands should check out De Novissimis, Sea Dog, Drainland, War Iron, Wreck of the Hesperus, Mongolia, Truck, Dwell in Sun, Wretch, Oak, Triggerman, StandupGuy, Electric Red, Fuckhammer, El Bastardo, We Are Knives, Dutch Shultz or Black Bear Saloon. We’re honestly spoilt for choice! There are an increasing number of touring bands playing here too. We’ve just had Torche, End of Level Boss, Pelican and Dead Meadow, and the Melvins, Don Caballero, Stereolab, Ghenghis Tron, Raging Speedhorn and Nebula are all coming soon.
And sorry for showing my ignorance here, have you ever been over to the mainland UK to play a few dates and is this something you’re hoping will happen (again) in the future?
We’ve played England twice – once for a weekend trip with Like A Kind of Matador, and last summer for a week with Gruel from Leeds. The last trip was so much fun, we played with really great bands and had a blast meeting new people. We played with some really weird improv and drone bands and it was a great musical experience for me. It’s great going over and we’ll be back for sure. We’re playing Stoke next June with Space Witch, but hopefully we’ll get over again before then.
Let’s get on to your sound by giving us a brief insight into the gear you use and are there any endorsements you can talk about?
We’re complete nerds. Both Chris and I spend way too much time reading about valves and fuzz pedals on the internet. Playing without a bass player means we need to get as heavy a sound as possible, which can be as much about how we play as the gear we use.
I play SGs, I’ve a Gordon Smith and a Gibson, both are heavily modded with new parts like Warpig pickups. Chris uses a Les Paul Standard, again with a Warpig in there. It’s a running joke that if you want to devalue an expensive guitar, give it to Chris. He removes the tone circuits, changes the pickups, and paints fucking skulls on everything! We both use D*A*M pedals, Dave Main has been really cool and hooked us up with some amazing pedals over the years. He makes the greatest gear, and is really into the same tones we are. I think he’s really raised the bar in terms of quality. Those pedals are probably the most central part of our sound. Chris uses more effects than me, like a phaser, tremolo and wah. He’s really clever about that stuff, whereas I’m more into a straight fuzztone. Chris bought me a Space Echo recently and it’s taken me a month to work out how to use it! We both use custom Matamp 120 heads and 4x12s, and crank the amps flat out. Matamps are the best amps I’ve used, but they need to be cranked to sound their best. It makes us unpopular with soundmen from time to time! There’s a couple of secret weapons in there too, like bass boosts and stuff. Like I said earlier, playing is our hobby – some people like cars, we like fuzz pedals!!
Joe, on the other hand, is pretty much completely disinterested in gear!! So long as there’s room on stage for his gong, he’s happy. He likes it simple for sure – he’s the only drummer I know who freaks out at two rack toms!
I’ve also heard that your helping to put together a compilation of bands that use D*A*M effects, can you tell us a little bit more about how you became to be involved in this and what bands are likely to be featured?
I’d been planning to do that for a while. I’ve had a good relationship with Dave since he started building pedals and thought it would be a good way to document some of the great music he’s responsible for. There’s a lot of bands use the D*A*M forum, and I thought it would be cool to put something together to demonstrate Dave’s pedals. There’s a pretty wide range of stuff going to be on there – bands like Misericorde, Conan, the Deadists and Grimpen Mire might ring a few bells with people at the Sleeping Shaman. The plan is that each band will get a master copy, and can then give copies away or sell them at cost price at gigs. It means that music by all the bands will get round the world too.
2008 has certainly been an interesting year with many great albums being released so what would you say are your 3 favourite albums of the year so far and why?
Only 3?? You’re not making this easy!! Definitely on the list is “Meanderthal” by Torche, which amazingly exceeded the hype. I love heavy bands who still included melody in their music. The Melvins “Nude with Boots” blew me away too. As much as I LOVE the Melvins, they really went off the boil over the past ten years and then – bang! – “Senile Animal” and now the new one!! They’re still the band I listen to most often. Can I have a tie for third place? Mudhoney’s “The Lucky Ones” and the Go! Team’s “Proof of Youth”. Both fantastic records. The thing is my favourite records every year are usually not new, just new to me. I only bought “Yeti” by Amon Duul this year, and seriously think I’ve played it at least once a day.
Thanks for the interview David and I’ll draw it to a close by asking you to use this space for any final words…
Just thanks to the Sleeping Shaman for helping us out, hopefully see some of you soon. Cheers!
More info on Slomatics at: www.slomatics.co.uk
Interviewed by: Lee Edwards
Photo Credit: Cian