Interview: Slaves

Zach Hughes, Sam Cooper and Harvey Falshaw interview English punk duo Slaves at their recent gig in Manchester Albert Hall

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Photograph: bronx.

Slaves are all about energy. From their meteoric rise to success, producing two albums in two years and touring pretty much constantly, it’s hard to argue with their stamina. Their sound is a 21st century punk rage, voiced and shouted and screamed by lead singer/drummer Isaac Holman. They sing about everything from massive social over-consumption in Consume or be Consumed, to searching for a friend’s car in a forest suspected to be home to Bigfoot, in Where’s your Car Debbie? So it was with some definite curiosity that we went into their dressing room for a chat. It wasn’t perhaps what you’d expect of a punk outfit, their tour manager Neil was lovingly brewing Isaac a peppermint tea, whilst guitarist Laurie Vincent surveyed the array of fruit on veg laid out on the table in front of him. This was our first indicator that Slaves are at their core, just lovely blokes.  After some hugs and handshakes and with the ice suitably broken, we sat down for a bit of a chat.

Zach: Given the current state of affairs, Brexit and Trump etc. How badly do you think we need punk right now?

Laurie: We need everything, we need all the creatives you know? We need the painters, the film-makers, I don’t think it comes down to one genre to hold a political backlash or the voice of the people. All creative voices are involved, that’s what I believe. The punk attitude goes through to everyone’s heart though.

Harvey: Obviously your song ‘Consume or be Consumed’ is an incredible song about the capitalist society we live in, but in relation to the music video itself (an orgy of over-consumption) just how many hot-dogs did you manage to consume?

Laurie: Do you know what, it’s a lot harder than it looks. I only managed to eat about ten on the whole day. The take I ate the most in I ate about three and a half. It’s not the hot-dog it’s the bread that really gets you, I was full on dipping them in water. There’s times when you’re shoving it in your mouth and you’re choking and it’s horrible. It’s a pretty vicious video, proud of it though.

Harvey: You have a distinctly British sound, how did you feel you went down in the states when you were on tour with Wolf Alice?

Isaac: I think they liked it, I think they liked the ‘Britishness’ of it.

Laurie: There was a lot of faces like “what the fuck?” at first but ten minutes in they’d get really into it. That’s what we experienced in the early days anyway.

Sam: How would you say your sound has changed since you started making music together?

Laurie: Really just production value. So in terms of the way it sounds, when we recorded it (Take Control), we spent more time and used better equipment and better people. Our early recordings were really really low-fi, compared to what we do now. In the way we write, we don’t limit ourselves anymore, we’ve learnt to experiment and use different instruments.

Harvey: On the latest record you’ve incorporated a rap element into your sound, do you have any ideas of if you’re going to change your sound for the next album at all?

Laurie: We’ve been writing some stuff with some jazz chords, which will be pretty cool. I always want to maintain it to sound like Slaves though and I think we managed to do that with ‘Consume or be Consumed’, and songs like ‘Steer Clear’. So as long as we’re not changing who we are then yeah maybe some jazz influence, not the genre, just the sound of the chords. Just to challenge ourselves. I’d like it all to go a bit more mad like our first recordings.

 

Zach: Your music clearly has political overtones as we can see in ‘Consume..’, are we going to be seeing more of these themes in future records?

Laurie: I guess ‘Consume…’ is more like a social theme. Like when you walk into House of Fraser around Christmas and you see everyone going up to the Chanel counter, and there’s this woman who’s really dolled up, then when you dig under the surface you realise she doesn’t lead a Chanel life, and people buying Chanel don’t live a Chanel life. It’s like we’re all buying into something that we’re not actually a part of. So I think that’s what fascinates me when I’m writing, and that’s what our music looks at. That sort of ‘Black Mirror’ effect I guess. 

Sam: What influences do you have that people might find unexpected or surprising?

Laurie: I like some of the more chilled stuff, I’m really into Elliot Smith. Isaac always plays mad instrumental electronic music like Swindle. It’s hard though because what you deem surprising to yourself isn’t always surprising. Eminem is huge though, all of Eminem’s career, I just adore all of his stuff.

Zach: With your (Isaac) Hyper-mobility (A condition which makes Isaac’s joints susceptible to dislocating easily) how do you find the motivation to keep throwing yourself about in such an energetic set, when you know you’re at risk of injury?

Isaac: It has put a little bit of a dampener on what I do live I think because I’m always worried that it’s going to come out. I think in some ways it’s good though because its restricted me. Sometimes I get a bit over-excited and jump in the crowd for no reason.

Laurie: At the moment one of Isaac’s shoulders is the weakest its ever been but he’s not dislocated it, so I think that proves that he can control it which is a positive thing. 

Isaac: I’ve stopped getting smashed and doing stupid things as well.

Laurie: We’re looking after ourselves.

Sam: How do you find playing gigs of such differing sizes, especially after your back of the van tour?

Laurie: I think you can have good gigs and bad gigs in any size of venue. I think it comes down to the artist. If you’re bad in a small venue it could be worse than being bad in a bigger one potentially.

Zach: If Slaves could be a cocktail, what would it be?

Laurie: A tequila sunrise [laughs]. Definitely a tequila sunrise.

 

You can buy Slaves latest album ‘Take Control’ from their website right here: http://youareallslaves.com/