Future Echo Returns is, basically, a great album. Mixing sheer heaviness, colourful vocals, infectious melodies, atmospheric synths and a real emotional connection to the listener, I simply can’t say enough good things about this record. So I won’t bother trying – just make sure you get your claws on it and let the band sweep you away. David, the band’s guitarist, took the time to tell us all about the album, his band, and life in general…
Introduce us to Slomatics!
Hi. We’re a three piece based in Belfast, Ireland. The line up is Marty on drums/vocals/synths, Chris on guitar and I’m on guitar too. We formed in 2004, toured and put out a couple of albums and some splits. Marty joined us in 2011 and that’s really when things kicked off.
What are your influences?
Nothing specific, more a combination of everything we’ve listened to over the years. It’s not like we ever sit down and decide to rip off anything directly. In terms of where we are coming from its older stuff like Hawkwind, Sabbath and the Stooges, along with bands like Mudhoney, Ride, Loop, Tad and all that noisy stuff that came along in the early 90s. I’m probably more influenced by bands we play with really, like early on Like A Kind Of Matador changed things for us, and more recently the likes of Ommadon have made us want to push things further.
Name 5 things you’ve listened to that you’d recommend
Here’s the last five albums I’ve bought:
1. Scott Walker – Scott4. I’ve always been aware of Scott Walker but to my embarrassment I’ve only really started listening to him quite recently. This album is just totally flawless and all the superlatives about Scott’s voice are well deserved. I’m becoming a little obsessed with his stuff.
2. Monoliths – Monoliths. Every now and then I start to think I’m done with heavy stuff and then a record comes out which just floors me and gets me wanting to write heavier and louder riffs. This record is by friends of mine from Ommadon and Bismuth, and is just jaw droppingly heavy. Two long songs that are essentially built around one riff each, just battered into submission. Amazing and very inspiring.
3. Thee Oh Sees – Live. I’m generally not a fan of live records but this one is up there with the likes of the MC5 in terms of energy. Every song is great and the band sound like they’re wild.
4. Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger. It took me a few listens to get this record, it’s a bit weird and creepy, almost like early Butthole Surfers in places. How that guy records so much music I don’t know but it’s a pleasant and refreshing change from all those bands who take 5 years to write one album. His quality control is high too, the Fuzz II record from last year hasn’t strayed too far from my stereo since its release.
5. Switchblade – 2016. I’m a bit obsessed with unusual line ups, so two pieces are always going to interest me. These guys got way better once they’re bassist left, maybe I’ve something against bassists! It’s a hard record to describe, sort of minimalist prog with an amazing use of space. I loved their last record and this one is just as good.
Tell us about your latest release – Future Echo Returns
This record is the final part of the trilogy we started with A Hocht and continued with Estron. The aim was to sort of tie the whole thing up which we’ve hopefully succeeded in doing. We tried to extend and push further all the aspects of the previous two albums, so hopefully there’s a little more light and shade with this one. We’re certainly happy with it. It was recorded in two different studios which was fun, we did the guitars, drums, vocals and mix at Skyhammer in England, and all the synths here in Belfast at StartTogether. It felt like we got the best of both worlds really, Chris at Skyhammer has an amazing ear for heavy tones and guided the whole thing really well. It doesn’t hurt that that studio has the most amazing amps either! We got to experiment with endless vintage synths at StartTogether too, Rocky the engineer there is like an encyclopaedia about synths and is really into pushing sounds so we got to create some cool textures there which hopefully enhance the songs. Using the studios meant we got to have some friends on the album too, so Jon and Chris both feature, along with Phil from Drought and our pal and trance wizard LOR here in Belfast.
How were the songs written?
Usually we write by jamming ideas together in the practice space and building songs from there, but this time we took a slightly different approach. We’d booked studio time so there was a deadline to have everything written by, so I wrote all the riffs at home with my tiny valve combo amp, recording them onto my iPhone. I’d bring them to the practice room pretty much fully formed, and then Marty would get stuck in and change things around, adding all the melody and lyrics as well as often changing the dynamics. It worked really well, and was fun to do as the songs often ended up very different to how I’d initially imagined them. Marty has a musical vocabulary which I don’t, so he was great at moving things around to sound better. I suspect our next project will likely be more jam based again, we’ve a song to write for a film soundtrack and already we’ve a few ideas that have sprung out of jams.
What’s your favourite song on the album and why?
I honestly don’t have one yet. Usually it ends up being whatever is most fun to play live, which is a little hard to predict. On the last record a song called “Lost Punisher” became a bit of a live favourite, but when it was written we weren’t even sure it would be played live at all. With the new one I enjoyed recording “Ritual Beginnings” as it was a bit of a departure for us. I like ” In the Grip of Fausto” too as it was fun to write, it just came directly from a jam Marty and I had one night when Chris was working. When he got to the next practice the song was completely done which was a pretty efficient way to write! When an audience reacts well to a song that’s obviously a buzz so we’ll have to see what works in the set.
What ideas do you have for the next Slomatics album?
Not yet as we’ve a couple of other projects lined up to do first. We’ve put out three albums, a seven inch and an E.P. withing the last four years so we do like to stay busy, but I think it’ll be a year now before we get into the next album. We’ve a film soundtrack thing and another E.P. lined up first. One thing we are sure about is that we’ll move away from the concept thing for a while. How I think the songs will end up changes from time to time too, like right now I’m thinking about short melodic songs, but it’s hard to predict how that will be by the time the next record comes along.
Your band has a lot of close ties to Conan – tell us about this
Yeah we do. Jon is an old and dear friend, I think he was maybe the first person outside of Ireland to buy our first record “Flooding the Weir” and we met at a show we did at an art space in Liverpool around the same time. We’ve been in touch ever since really and always shared a passion for music, gear, fuzz pedals and all that. I’m the one who advised Jon to just press the first Conan record onto a burn CD and play small DIY shows, so thankfully he’d the sense and vision to ignore my terrible advice! We’ve hooked up a lot over the years and as everyone knows Jon has been an incredibly generous supporter of the band – we owe him a lot and I’m certain that a lot of the good things that have happened for us wouldn’t have without him. I’m sure people wonder are we paying him for PR! Really though we’re just quite similar people, have the same outlook on most stuff and have families and all that real life stuff going on too. I think a lot of the ties that people see come from the split record we did years ago, but in reality we go back much further. Jon’s been on stage with us a few times which has been great fun, and he’s actually now been on two of our records too. We’re planning a collaboration next year which should be a blast. Obviously we’ve recorded a few times at Skyhammer with Chris Fielding as well, and we know him well as he used to travel to Belfast a lot when his fiance used to live here. They’re all lovely people and it’s always a huge pleasure spending time with those guys.
How important is album artwork to you, in these days of increased digital consumption of music?
It’s hugely important. We all grew up listening to vinyl so the whole experiential thing of vinyl is still there for us. There’s no question artwork looks better on the larger format too. I think that within the scene we are associated with there’s still a lot of value placed on the physical format and we really want to produce something which adds to the creative value of the record. I remember pouring over old Sabbath and Hawkwind covers when I was a teenager and that really added something extra to those albums for me. I don’t think this is an unusual view, I’d say most musicians regardless of genre care about how their music is presented. I’m not knocking the digital thing either, it’s not for me but we sell a lot of music digitally and I definitely see the advantages of having your music library stored online or whatever. I’d hate to see that being the only way people consume music though.
Having been around for 12 years now – what inspires you to keep playing music?
Just the same thing as 12 years ago, it’s fun, a release from the regular routine of daily life, and without wanting to sound too pretentious it’s also a creative outlet. We never set out with any “career goals” or anything so essentially we’re still playing music for ourselves. I’m quite sure that at some stage we’ll stop playing live and recording music but I’d be amazed if we didn’t keep meeting up every week to make some noise together. We’re all old friends -I’ve known our drummer Marty for well over 30 years – so there’s no egos or any of that nonsense to contend with. In a way Marty joining the band four years ago was like a completely new band anyway and we certainly upped our game since then, so in some respects it feels like we’re only together a short time. At the end of the day, turning a loud amp up full, switching on a fuzz pedal and hitting a guitar string just feels really, really good.
What are your experiences with how the music industry has changed in the last 12 years or so?
If I’m being honest I don’t pay an enormous amount of attention to the music industry. I’m on the fence about whether the internet has changed things or not. I see the advantages to having access to so much new music as maybe outweighing the loss of revenue through sales, and it’s fantastic that small bands can get their music out there without relying on labels or even studios. I love hearing a new band that have recorded something in their practice room that’s just amazing. I’ve a friend who had a theory that in every large town in the world there’s an amazing band in some garage who would blow your mind and the internet has definitely allowed me to discover more of those bands. That being said, when our record was leaked I couldn’t help but think that whoever decided to share it was essentially ripping off a small band and making it harder for the likes of ourselves to keep making records. I suppose things are just more high tech now, maybe it’s no different to the tape trading I did as a teenager. All the jaded bullshit older people – so people my age really – come out with about music being less good or whatever is just rubbish, there’s no end of amazing new bands right now, maybe even more that when I was young.
Do you have any upcoming live shows you’re looking forward to?
Yeah we do. We’re going to Norway for the first time in a few weeks to play the Hostsabbat festival, which we’re really psyched about. It’s a great line up, looks like a really well run set up. I’ve always wanted to see Oslo so this is a great opportunity. Our launch show for the new album is up shortly after that and we’re playing with our two favourite local bands – Hornets and Bosco Ramos, so that’ll be special. After that we’ve shows lined up in Manchester and then Jersey so plenty for us to be excited about.
What does the rest of 2016 hold for Slomatics?
Aside from the upcoming shows we’ve signed up to contribute a song to the Planet of Doom film soundtrack, so we’ll be writing that and then recording again. We’re really excited about it as we’ve always thought about writing music in slightly cinematic terms so it feels like a good match. There’s some really great bands and artists involved in the project so it’s something we’re proud to be involved in. Beyond that we’re recording an EP early next year in Skyhammer so we’ll be writing towards that too. Keeping busy!!
Any final words?
Just thank you for taking the time to chat to us. Oh, and anything less that 120 watts is never enough!