Perhaps it’s not obvious, but I don’t make anything for my writing– I only review bands I really like or really hate, and I definitely don’t squander my Life’s Time interviewing bands I don’t love.
Sloath, from the south coast of England and on Riot Season records, made (unless something radical happens in the next few weeks), my number one album of 2010, inching out almighty sludge and doom merchants Dark Castle, Salome, Howl, Cough, and Conan. See reviews of Sloath’s massive wax here, here, and here.
I was, maybe needless to say, PSYCHED to interview them.
Thomas House plays bass guitar and Leon Marks, guitar. DIG, baby, what they say…!
I’ve described this album, among other ways, as massive ambient. How do you describe and/or think of your music?
Thomas House: I believe it’s fair to say that most of us think of sloath as a heavy rock band. when we started we knew we wanted to play slow and loud, that’s the period of the band represented on the LP. More recently we’ve playing shorter, faster tunes. Still pretty loud though.
When you were recording the LP, what was the recording process like? How did you get that thick, almost oppressive sound?
TH: We did it live all in one room together, not worrying about bleed or separation or whatever, and it’s taped pretty high up in the red – we were aiming for one big dirty sound rather than a more clinical, detailed recording – more like what it sounds like actually standing in front of the band live than that studio perfection thing.
Your favorite part of the album? Least favorite? What would you, if anything, change on your next one? Any songs written for the next LP?
TH: I like the bit where it goes to one note at the end of “Cane Trader”, and Kai’s vocals throughout are pretty sweet. We actually recorded the next LP earlier this year, we set up in our practise room for a weekend and did it live again. it just needs mixing, which always seems to take forever….
Leon Marks: I think my favourite part of the record would be the middle section of “Please Maintain”- the only part of the record with overdubs and wah pedals… Some of my playing is a bit wonky, I would of liked that to have changed on the next record but I fear that the beer probably got the better of me…
What about Legs or The High Commissioner? Will they appear on any formats in the future?
TH: “Legs” will be on the aforementioned LP, we got a good take on that one. “High Commissioner” was the first song we wrote, hopefully we’ll crack it out again at some point in the future…
LM: There was a fault with the studio recording of “High Commissioner” from the same sessions as the recod – it wouldn’t of fit on the same LP anyway. Prehaps it would be suitable for a free download or somthing of that nature?
Legs seems like a new direction, almost like ZZ top or Stevie Ray Vaughn, like a combination of Texas blues and Sloath that really works. Was that intentional?
TH: “Legs” is quite representative of what some of the next record will be like… I think when we’re working up songs we tend to just go with what feels good, and [guitarist] Luke and Leon have been bringing in these riffs which have more of a hype vibe, so… i don’t wanna say it’s a good time rock’n’roll record but it’s kind of a… good time rock’n’roll record, Sloath style.
LM: Hopefully it will become our “Pleaser.”
Any lineup changes since the album release?
TH: Our drummer David left after we toured spain about a year ago, which was a shame. Tom Barnes is our new drummer, which is great.
Having never seen you play live, what do you get, or want to get, out of playing live? What do you want others to get?
TH: Playing live in Sloath is, on a good night, serious fucking fun. Personally, as a bass player who’s still learning how to play bass, I really enjoy locking in with [drummer] Tom (and Dave before) and being part of this big noise. As for the audience, if they’re enjoying it on any level, that’s very satisfying. It’s great when anybody picks out anything specific like “great guitar sound” or “what’s that really groovy one?”
LM: It is all about having fun. If one is interested in writing, recording and performing any kind of music then being on stage is always a kick- even if the performance goes wrong for any reason… Also, because of the nature of the music and our location, gigs are mostly good social events….
Do you have a favorite song (cover or original) to play live?
TH: Probably “Men of March” or “The Toucher” or this one that’s only got a working title (“Shorty,” because Leon wrote it. And because it’s a short song)…. The only cover we’ve ever done was a rather amusing take on “Foxy Lady,” when Dave was in the band.
Touring plans? Any plans to come to the states?
TH: Hopefully, when the record is done, we’ll get out and do as much as we possibly can. it’s gonna take a lot of forward planning since everybody (except me) is pretty busy with their jobs and other bands and what have you.
LM: My job got in the way of a European tour that was due to be happening as I type. Not too cool….
I’m pretty sure that I speak for the whole band when I say that we would love to come to the States but it is a finacial impossibility, sadly… Maybe if we won the lottery… Or met a very enthusiastic, rich, well-connected fan… Is this you…?
Don’t I wish…! Apart from apparent doom metal influences, there are bits of many genres, like drone, ambient, industrial, etc., seemingly present in your music. What, or who, in particular influenced you or made you want to play?
TH: Initially, the five of us got together because we all knew each other from sharing bills in other bands we played in. None of those bands were really much like Sloath, but luke and leon had this idea to do something slow and heavy. what made me want to play was more to do with who was involved than what style of music. i knew it would be fun, i figured it might turn out to be quite good, and playing bass was a new challenge.
Any musical idols?
TH: Yeah. Skip Spence, Prince, Neil Young, the for carnation…
LM: It changes on a daily baisis for me. Scott Walker is my man of the moment (at the moment).
What would be your ideal tour?
TH: I dunno, a month in Europe opening for [psychedelic rock band] Bardo Pond?
LM: A month going coast-to-coast in the States (Rhode Island to California via Texas) followed by a trip to Japan and then a month in Europe, sharing the bill with [Japanese psych-rock band] Mainliner. There is no chance of that ever being a reality -Mainliner split up 15 years ago and we all live in poverty- but it would be ideal (for me).
I actually bought a record player to hear the vinyl– you really can’t appreciate albums without it, which I think is particularly true here; is it frustrating to you that seemingly so few people (relative to most other formats) buy vinyl?
TH: When I’m involved in the making of an album, I tend to think of it as a vinyl lp from the very start of the process – you know, side one and two (about twenty minutes each), twelve by twelve artwork… the format (along with its limitations) is perfect for a long form listening program, so it makes sense that the finished article should take that form.
Andy from Riot Season, or anyone putting their hard earned cash down to press records and cds, might not appreciate me saying this, but my feeling is that as soon as music is digital at all these days, it might as well be free. You can find almost any album (including ours) online without even having to use file sharing software. I think that makes cds all but completely redundant. So for those of us who still want the physical object, it’s gotta be vinyl, and I for one don’t mind paying, even if I can download a record for free, for a nicely cut piece of vinyl (yes it does sound better than any other format) with cool (and big!) artwork, that I’ll sit down and listen to from start to finish. I guess that’s not so much part of the culture these days, with iTunes and shuffle play and such, but getting frustrated at change just makes me feel like an old fart (when sound was first recorded, purists thought it a sacrilege to live performance). Much better to do what you love and believe in, and if it’s not fashionable any more, by god you’d better make it good if you want it to count.
I could go on a lot longer about this – it’s THE current can of worms for anybody who has anything to do with releasing music.
LM: Vinyl is alive and well in the realms of DJs, collectors & various different Dancefloor musics… I guess we are just snobs in the end but releasing a CD would’ve cheapened the content, artwork and all. It is still available in two digital formats- MP3 or FLAC- with a JPEG of the artwork I’m guessing- it’s just that the data is contained on a server somewhere and not on a plastic disc. I would like to think that the few people that will know of this records existence will be turntable-owners. I’m flattered that you got a turntable in order to have a Sloath wax!
So there you have it; give Sloath a listen– raise your consciousness and raise the Lads from Brighton from poverty. It’s seriously good shit. I wouldn’t waste your (or my) time.
Looking forward to the new LP, though I’ve not stopped playing this one. Thanks to Andy from Riot Season records and to Leon and Thomas.