Noise Annoys: David Majury of Slomatics quizzed about new LP, Canyons
Belfast prog-doom trio Slomatics have just released their new album, Canyons: What better time to quiz guitarist David Majury about how these Noise Annoys favourites created their latest crushing magnum opus?
CONGRATULATIONS on Canyons: can you tell us a bit about how it was recorded?
We recorded here in Belfast at Start Together Studio, with Rocky O’Reilly. We’ve recorded there before so knew how Rocky likes to do things. Our previous three records [A Hocht, Estron, Future Echo Returns] had been a trilogy, with the final one sounding quite dark and oppressive, so we saw this album as a clean slate.
We aimed to push the soundscape side of what we do to the fore, adding all those textures and adding (hopefully) more light and shade. Knowing Rocky’s love for and expertise with old analogue synths and experimental recording techniques, we knew Start Together would be ideal.
Drummer/singer/synther Marty’s vocals sound particularly good, has he been taking lessons?
No, but he’ll be delighted to hear that you think he has! Marty has always been a great singer but this is the first band he’s ever actually sung in, and when you add that to also being the drummer/synth player/booking agent/merchandise manager/band accountant, it's been quite a lot to juggle.
His confidence has grown over the last few albums and we really wanted to put his vocal front and centre this time. Marty definitely put a lot of time, thought and effort into both the lyrics and the melodies and we probably spent longer in the studio on the vocals this time too.
He’s a huge Queen fan so has been trying to channel his inner Mercury!
Have you played much of Canyons live?
Yes, we’ve played the first side of the album live already, and now that it’s out we’ll probably play the whole thing. We found with previous records that some songs which worked really well in the studio just didn’t transfer to the live set as well, so this time the aim was to write 40 minutes of music which could all be played live.
That was an interesting challenge as there’s quite a lot of synth on the record, so we’ve to try and recreate that live.
Given the quieter more reflective/atmospheric moments on your recent records, would you consider exploring that ‘soundtracky’ side of Slomatics further?
We've done some soundtrack stuff already, for an animated film that’s coming out later this year. We definitely enjoy that side of things and are all big fans of soundtrack stuff like John Carpenter and Popul Vuh, so it wouldn’t be too great a leap to abandon the guitars and fuzz pedals for a full album.
A lot of reviewers refer to our electronic songs as ‘interludes’ which always amuses us, as it makes those songs sound like we just mucked around on synths for five minutes in the studio – whereas, in reality, those songs are often the longest to work out.
Will you ever write a ‘fast’ song?
Speed is an abstract concept. Maybe we just haven’t recorded a REALLY slow song yet!
Do you all share similar musical influences or is there diversity/disagreement in there as well?
Not really, although we do have some overlap in what we like. Chris [Slomatics' other guitarist] is the only real metal fan in the band, he listens to quite a lot of that growly stuff that I can’t really get into, along with Iron Maiden and all that.
Marty and I are a few years older so have more ‘vintage’ tastes in some respects, but then all of us will agree on the likes of Black Sabbath, Kraftwerk, Hawkwind etc. We try not to be too directly influenced by what we listen to anyway, it’s never a good thing to just rip-off bands you like.
We all love Pink Floyd, but the idea of us trying to sound like them is ridiculous.
What are your plans for launch events/touring?
We’ve some festival shows lined up in Germany, Sweden, Finland and England, along with a few Irish and Scottish dates. Some really great bills with great bands, which should be fun.
In Belfast, we play Culture Night this year [September 20] along with Documenta, so I suppose that’s our local launch show. We haven’t toured in years due to work/family commitments – we’re strictly weekend warriors now!
Is there an 'upside' to that?
It works well for us. We’re all on the same page with jobs and family so there’s never any resentment when one of us can’t travel to Sweden for a show because it’s his kid’s birthday (which has actually happened).
Our lives are very routine which has advantages, as we can all commit to regular weekly rehearsal and can plan up to a year ahead all the time – we’re already booked for Germany next May.
Also none of us expect or want anything more from the band than what it is – three mates making a racket together for fun. We’ll still play every week long after the gigs and recording sessions have dried up.
The income thing is great too, as none of us expect to make any money from this. All money made is channelled right back into recording/flights etc, and we’ve been self-sufficient for years now.
The best thing about that is that we never have to make decisions based on money or raising our ‘profile’, so we only ever play shows or sessions that we all really want to. We all have regular jobs too, and getting to play really loud music once a week is such a break from the norm, it’s a real release.
Black Bow have done a fantastic job with the vinyl release again, do you still get a thrill seeing your music ‘in the wax’?
Absolutely! We all grew up listening to vinyl so there’s a real nostalgia thing involved, along with the artwork looking so much better on that format. It’s all very hipster these days and I see vinyl for sale in Sainsbury’s, but it's still the best format to listen to music on.
Our inner teenage music geeks will always be immensely proud when we first take those beautiful gatefold sleeves out of their wrapping. We never expected any labels to want to put out our noisy dirge, so every time it happens we’re in slight bewilderment, but very proud.
What’s been your proudest moment with the band so far?
We never had any goals beyond writing some songs that we liked, so our targets were all met long ago. There have been moments since that have so far exceeded any expectations – getting flown out to play a huge festival in Las Vegas, or any of the European festivals we’ve been lucky enough to play. Just getting to play places like Norway, Denmark, Germany or the Netherlands is pretty mind-blowing.
When we played the Roadburn Festival, which is a sort of mecca for this type of music, they had to shut the doors 20 minutes before we played as the venue was so rammed – that’s almost 2,000 people. That felt like something special for sure. If it all stopped tomorrow, we’d be very satisfied indeed.