Glasgow’s techno legends Slam speak ahead of their return to London
Slam are without a doubt legends within Scotland’s small but influential techno scene, having been around for over two decades now. They are the brains behind Soma Records which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year and they continue to work hard at their music, living and breathing it day in, day out. Later this month they will play a very rare three-hour set for London event Motek. Ahead of that special night I caught up with one half of the duo, Orde Meikle to get the lowdown on what they’ve been up to recently.
What are you guys up to, musically speaking, at the moment?
We are starting to write tracks for a new Slam album – which gives us more freedom to experiment and make tracks of different styles and tempos. The last couple of years we have been making music for the dancefloor, with singles and EPs out on Adam Beyer’s Drumcode, our own Soma and Paragraph and Len Faki’s Figure. During that time we have been remixing a lot of our peers such as Radio Slave, Pan-Pot, Paul Ritch and Carl Craig. Soma recently compiled a double CD of our singles and remixes from the last four years. There is some great stuff on there but it also made us feel like making a proper album for the first time in quite a few years. Having fun in the studio in a different way.
Have you had any standout moments or career developments this year that have really had an impact on you?
From a label point of view, Soma has had great impetus on the back of the 20th anniversary year last year. This has been good for all of the artists on the label and it has also brought a lot of new names to us like Kyle Geiger, Pig&Dan and Mark Reeve, as well as established names like Ricardo Villalobos and Carl Craig doing remix work for the label. Our remix of Paperclip People’s Throw which was for Planet E’s 20th anniversary made a big impact, becoming massive with the house fraternity as well as the techno people. We have always produced and played house music too but are much better known for techno.
After reaching the 20th anniversary of Soma Records last year, did you enter 2012 with a clear idea of what you wanted to achieve?
We wanted to give a nod to the past but stay as ever forward thinking, so we got in touch with a lot of new producers and longer standing supporters of the label from the scene and commissioned remixes of the catalogue. Many luminaries such as Loco Dice, Joris Voorn, Oxia, Maetrik, Carl Craig and Radio Slave all got involved. We ended up with a single release almost every week of the year and we still have a few not yet out including a remix by Ricardo Villalobos of Envoy’s Seawall which is a record that is still in his box to this day. It really brought a focus on the label’s history without us re-releasing/re-issuing many of the originals. We continued releasing albums too which has been a cornerstone of Soma and we brought some new artists in to complement the stable we have.
I saw a documentary recently where you spoke about making music with sounds that ‘no one has ever heard before’. How important is it to you to maintain this approach to producing music?
We always experiment with sounds in the studio. It’s a big part of our process of making music. We will get a groove with the bassline and drums and percussion, then substitute sounds and parts until we get something we want. Often that can be a happy accident. Like the original pioneers of acid house and techno, we try to get the machines and the soft synths to do what they are not exactly made or meant to do. We are starting the new album and this process will continue to be as important as ever.
Can you remember how your love for electronic music first began?
I was always into reggae, funk, disco, early hip-hop and stuff like Kraftwerk and Afrika Bambaataa as well as a lot of the bands from Sheffield (where I went to university many moons ago) like Cabaret Voltaire and Heaven 17. Stuart had gone from being a punk who liked Ska and Reggae to getting into Joy Divison and the Bunnymen, which of course lead to New Order and groups like Soft Cell even. When we started hearing early Chicago House and Detroit techno, it made sense immediately because they were taking influences from European music as well as their own rich heritage of dance music.
How’s the electronic music scene in Glasgow at the moment?
Gary Beck has his own label Bek Audio and has done releases in the past for Len Faki’s Figure, Richie Hawtin’s Minus, Nic Fanciulli’s Saved as well as Soma. His debut album for us, which is out next week, is stunning and he is someone who has worked hard to become a rising star. He is busy as a DJ now but when we first met him, he was working behind the bar at the Arches where we do our Pressure night. Next week he is headlining a party there for his album launch. In a similar way to Alex Smoke, he made a lot of early tracks that did not make the grade but he learned and improved, and persevered until he perfected his sound. He is someone we are all very proud of. Of course there is also Hudson Mohawke and Rustie from the ‘Lucky Me’ crew who are both now signed to Warp. Newer artists are bound to appear as it’s a creative city with plenty that’s gone before encouraging new talent.
What is it about Glasgow and its people that creates such a great atmosphere?
The place has a great history, both with creativity, invention and hard work in equal measures, and it’s post-industrial so there has been plenty of hardship and true grit to overcome the adversity. It’s also a big student city with three universities and folk from all walks of life mix well together. People in Glasgow have a good sense of humour generally and like a bit of hedonism too. We love our music and parties! It’s the kind of city where people will chat to a stranger easily and make friends with outsiders.
Obviously you’ve played in London countless times, what do you like about playing in the capital?
London is one of the centres of clubbing. It’s got a diverse crowd of clued up clubbers. We can play what we like and if we are on form get a good reaction. We have done some great smaller parties in the last few years as well as the Drumcode tent at SW4 last year. But mainly we play at Fabric, maybe five times each year and have done for quite a few years. It’s our ‘residency’ outside of our home town. They let us play five or six hours from the beginning of the night so we can really set the tone and take the audience on the journey which we love to do but seldom get the chance to on tour. It’s one of the best clubs in the world in our opinion.
How does it compare with Glasgow?
The main difference is that in Glasgow the council are a bit backwards and the usual licence is a 3am close still, which is pretty strange but it creates a more intense few hours in the clubs. We are lucky enough at our monthly Pressure night to get our fair share of extensions, when we can open until 4am or sometimes 5am, but this only happens five or six times in a year. There is an illegal after-hours scene in Glasgow but more often than not the parties get closed down by the police so its not reliable. So Glasgow is less European because of the authority’s view on late night opening. London can go for 24-hours which can dilute the vibe by the end of the party but there is a freedom there that we don’t get to enjoy back home.
What are you looking forward to the most about playing for Motek later this month?
We have heard good reports about Motek from Mark Henning, who also does stuff for Soma, and we like the idea of playing an alternative techno party in London. We are hoping to play deep at the start of the set and get more into the tougher techno material later in the proceedings. We have a three-hour set which gives us that freedom.
With careers spanning over 20 years you must have seen and done so much, what keeps you motivated after all this time?
It’s what we do. We live, breathe and eat electronic dance music! Pretty much it consumes us. Even on a day off we can be listening to promos, demos and new tracks and pottering about in the studio! For motivation we have always looked upon what we do as providing an alternative to the mainstream and as artists that’s what our mission is.
What does the future hold for Slam?
As we mentioned earlier we are working on a new artist album. We have spent the last four years pretty much doing remixes and EPs which are generally aimed at the dancefloor. It’s very rewarding and it also gives us a lot of material to play when we DJ or play live. But at the same time it limits us in the styles and tempos and textures we produce. Soma releasing our compilation album Collecting Data with a great variety within it from deeper house to banging techno closes this latest chapter. In the past we have experimented with dub, ambient, jazz and vocals and used more of an open palette. So although we will release some singles along the way, that’s what we will be getting our teeth into over the next few months. We have also been working hard on our live set to give us a performance alternative to DJing. We did a few this year, including Space in Ibiza and Voltt festival in Holland, but next year we will do a larger live tour which takes some preparation and planning.
Catch Slam in action at Motek later this month.
For more information on Slam click HERE.Tagged in: glasgow, Motek, Orde Meikle, Slam, techno
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