What made techno guru LUKE ‘It was
SLATER change course for prime weird
time electro pop? Words: Henry Northmore getting uke Slater is one of the dons of UK techno. back from pumping out tunes as far back as 1991 under a tEChnO guises such as Planetary Assault Systems and
gig and getting up to play on
Clementine. Then in 1997 came his deﬁning moment: Freak Funk. Or so we thought. His latest long player. Alright On Top. is a delicious slice ofelectro that has more in common with Depeche Mode than Dave Clarke.
Never one to stagnate. Slater is constantly moving Old forward not just musically but literally: he‘s wandering Joanna, the streets. mobile pressed to his car. as he‘s conducting this interview. After popping into a newsagent to pick up some fags and a lighter. he seems calmer and starts to discuss his new direction. So what made this techno stalwart indulge his passion for underground electronic pop? ‘1 just wanted to get some emotion back in the music. things were feeling very cold.’ he says. ‘I started writing on the piano. It was a bit weird getting back from DJing at a techno gig and getting up the next day to play on the old Joanna. I just got into the mode of writing songs rather than beats.’
This really is an album of songs — Jesus. there’s even a lyric sheet included with the CD — embellished by the rich atmospheric vocals from the Aloof’s Ricky Barrow. ‘Ricky was great.‘ says Slater. ‘He’s probably the most indecisive
man in the world. but you can't knock someone for that. We tried
not to think too much about where we were heading with it: were we allowed to sound like this or that? We just tried to think: “Do we like the songs?" And we did.‘
Expect a full live show from Slater and the boys on his tripTych date. with Barrow on vocal duties and Slater and his long time collaborator Al Sage on synths and FX. ‘We didn‘t want to tour unless we could do it live.’ says Slater. ‘I’ve always
hated how faceless electronic music is sometimes. I found it very uncreative just to hide away. I'm really excited about it.
which is a strange thing. I'm wondering what's wrong with me.’
Describing himself as ‘an optimistic, depressive. melancholist'. Slater wanted to produce an album that reﬂected his own changing moods. ‘I‘m optimistic about my
depression and melancholy.‘ he says. ‘I find happiness in that.
I listen to songs in the charts and I can‘t connect with
them they are so happy. I feel like it‘s this club I’ve
never belonged to. That‘s why Alright On
Top is sad in places. I
wouldn‘t like to be happy all the time: that’d be boring.’ And being boring I, is one thing you could never accuse Luke Slater of.
Luke Slater plays live on a double bill
with Richie Hawtln at the Venue, Edinburgh, Sun 28 Apr.
Time for another musical New York story. Words: Leon McDermott
he Silver Jews' David Berman I said it best: ‘Punk rock died
when the ﬁrst kid said “punk's not dead".‘ Now that punk has been ripped apart and analysed to death. what came next - the explosion of experimentation that fused punk's DIY ethos with the rhythms of funk, dub. disco and the attitude of the avant garde - is next for reappraisal.
Things were happening everywhere, but New York was the epicentre. Here. the nascent hip hop scene collided with the burgeoning art scene. On the fringe were ESG. They were four sisters from the South Bronx, whose mother bought them instruments to keep them out of trouble. and who taught themselves how to play. They encapsulated their producer Martin Hannett's demand (made of Joy Division. rather than ESG. but enough hair-splitting) to play ‘faster. but slower'.Tracks such as 'Moody' and ‘U.F.O.' were big. echoing slabs of funk. Paradoxically rushed and relaxed. ESG made disco that wasn‘t disco. funk that wasn't funk. and punk that wasn't punk.
Elsewhere in the city. one of the people who fostered the explosion of no wave was still hosting parties. David Mancuso started putting on parties to help cover the rent on his loft apartment; after a while, these nights became known simply as the Loft. There. Mancuso. on some seriously hi-fi equipment. played anything and everything with the kind of eclectic attitude that would put most of today's so-called ‘eclectic' 0.15 to shame.
His approach was simple: no mixing of records — it dilutes the music, he reckoned — and as near to perfect sound reproduction as possible. His lengthy sets were a precursor to house music's global domination. And now both ESG and Mancuso bring the original noise of NYC to Scotland.
ESG play Barrowland,
Glasgow, Fri 26 Apr; Dave Mancuso plays CCA, Glasgow, Sat 27 Apr.