By Lord Randall
For 16 years, Belfast, Northern Ireland has been home to one of doom/sludge’s most horribly kept secrets, the trio known as SLOMATICS. A host of split releases has been the band’s forte thus far, to say nothing of six (count ‘em!) albums of memorable psychedelic, riff-heavy tuneage guaranteed to satisfy the most selective. Lord Randall sat down with founding guitarist David Majury recently to discuss the band’s recent split 7” with Australia’s YANOMAMO…
WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: The last time we spoke, it was for “Canyons”, and you (very politely) apologized up front for not being too forthcoming on answers to questions about lyrical inspiration/meanings. Arseholes. You did mention Philip K. Dick as at least a cursory reference for 'Griefhound', though. So, let's take another track...Having heard of Philip K. Dick for decades now, but honestly just never picking up a book, what would you say is a good starting point, or, if 'Griefhound' were a book by him, which would it be?
DAVID MAJURY: Ha!! Yeah, I felt a bit miserable not answering that question at the time. Sorry!! With PKD, I have very little critical faculty, having really enjoyed almost everything I've read. If I had to recommend a good starting point, then “The Man In The High Castle” is perhaps one of his most accessible. It feels particularly relevant to today's politics too! What I love most about PKD is that his books are based in realities that are really only slightly different to our own, but those small differences spiral out of control. It's like all his books are cautionary tales, written long before any of this stuff was real. He's brilliant!
WC: You've always enjoyed split releases, even from the start. What is it that appeals to you about the format, and what about YANOMAMO made you want to be involved? Seems a bit obvious how a 7" is useful these days, as so many barely make it through a couple songs without skipping to another band. Seems like not many have the patience for albums anymore, so why not play the game, hook them in with the 7", then your work is done.
DM: That's a really interesting perspective, and not something I'd thought of before. I was really surprised but very pleased that Jason [Higson, guitars – YANOMAMO] was interested in putting out a record with us, as we are literally on the other side of the planet, but to be honest that made it even more appealing. I don't listen to a huge amount of sludge metal but I do think YANOMAMO are the perfect band for a seven inch, so it was a no-brainier to agree. As a record nerd, adding another 7 inch to our catalog was very satisfying.
WC: Even 10 years ago you couldn't give away an album, but now you've got these kids thirsting for that physical connection with music, God bless 'em. At the same time, though, there's the "collector" mindset, where lots of times the albums are basically wall art or a "Look what I've got" type brand of one-upsmanship. I never understood that. It's like, damn, listen to the album, right?
DM: Agreed 100%. I buy records all the time, and in an age where everything in life is increasingly disposable and fleeting the experience of sitting down and listening to an album seems even more pleasurable. That being said, I am by no means a collector, and I don't understand that weird fetish around 1st pressings and all that. I'll take the cheapo re-issue every day! A lot of it - like so much in life today - does seem to be fuelled by social media and the need for constant gratification. I have to say that some labels are very guilty in all this too, charging insane amounts for limited runs. It's just a record after all, the music is way more important than the gold sparkle vinyl! It's like that with guitar gear too, collectors buying up mountains of fuzz pedals just to keep them on a shelf, or post pictures online. I don't get it at all - as you say there's an unpleasant one up- manship to it all.
WC: Spoke to Don [Anderson, ex-AGALLOCH] at length about that awhile back, and it seems there's a segment of the younger generation that wants to feel what it's like to hold music in their hands, to read the liner notes, to put on actual headphones and lose/find themselves in an album. Talismans, then, to ward off the click-and-rush-through lifestyle of our times? Gives a little bit of hope, at least.
DM: That's very true, and I hope it continues to increase. Not just from some nostalgic viewpoint either, it gives more longevity to any art form if people are prepared to invest in it. I don't mean to contradict my previous answer - I think that younger people connecting with the physical format means that there's a market for small bands like ours to continue to release records. Just because kids are younger doesn't mean they're any less likely to be turned off by the click-and-forget nature of media streaming. That emotive response to playing an album whilst pouring over the artwork and liner notes is universal, and that is surely a good thing. I know how much I enjoyed that as a teenager, so I'd love to think young folk still get that buzz.
WC: So far this year, you've put out another split (with UNGRAVEN), as well as the “Live At Start Together Studio” album. Were you just sick of not being able to play "out" as normal, so figured a live album from back when live gigs were regular was the next best thing? Have you done any livestream type deals, or is that just not the SLOMATICS way? Do you need that visceral, real interaction?
DM: Not really, to be honest. We'd recorded that a couple of years back, just as a fun thing to do in the studio. We knew the studio we use - Start Together Studios, here in Belfast - were like all small independent businesses feeling the squeeze with lockdown. With the Bandcamp Fridays thing it seemed like a good idea to put the audio of the gig up on Bandcamp, with the money going direct to the studio. Being the lovely people that they are, the studio used the money to offer free recording time for young heavy bands, so it felt good to be able to help out young musicians during all this chaos.
The UNGRAVEN split started pre-Covid, so it just took a bit longer than usual to finish. We always release something between albums, but due to the pandemic we'll end up putting out three records between albums this time. We like to stay busy and I've always felt that a band needs forward motion, so with gigs not happening for a while we figured releasing more records made sense.
WC: Many thought we'd have moved further past the pandemic stage at this point, and, in the US at least, festivals are starting to be held, even as early as this month. This is now two years of the Summer Festival circuit being held back in Europe, and that amounts to a huge lost opportunity for a newer band to expose themselves to an audience. I think it's a fair bet to say the live event experience is still in flux, at least for the foreseeable future. Thoughts, and what is the climate towards shows/gatherings in Ireland now?
DM: That's easy to answer. At this moment there are no indoor gigs of any size allowed in Ireland, and there's no date set to relax that. Our Covid numbers are going up pretty quickly, despite vaccines, so it's really hard to know when things will open up. Outside shows are permitted but there's never really been an outdoors heavy show here - it does rain a lot in Ireland! There are gigs booked that just keep getting canceled one by one, which is grim. To be honest as much as I miss playing live I'm more concerned for folk working in the venues, promoters and stage crew. They've really got it tough. We played England last month, they've dropped all restrictions over there, so at least we've actually got to gig again. There's shows on the books for next year, so fingers crossed.
As for festivals being put back, it's of course a nightmare. I'm aware that this is the main source of income for a lot of people, so we don't feel in a position to complain, as we all have jobs outside of music. One thing playing England showed us was that people's appetite for live music is stronger than ever, so I think the festivals next year will be pretty wild affairs!! It is what it is, but it's reassuring to see even the smaller fests still planning for next year. Good times ahead!