Studio report 1 – Jan 20th 2019 – ‘As mucus free as possible’

Here I am just before I attempted to record the first vocals for the new album.

I can’t shake this bloody cold. My Christmas break was pretty much wiped out by a cold and almost a month later it still hasn’t gone away.

This is not how I wanted to start vocal recording for my new album. Ideally for recording vocals you want to be as mucus free as you can be.

Is that too much information?

Running down the back of my throat it was. All snotty and unpleasant.

Too much information?

I was wheezing and leaking, so I was.

Nevertheless, I did get some good stuff recorded. In particular, I think I’ve got the lead vocals done to the studio version of ‘Wizards of this Town,’ as well as all the vocals to the album’s longest song and the third instalment of what I’m thinking of as my ‘tentacle trilogy’.

What’s that? I hear you say.

Well, on my second album I had The Beast of the Air, a song about hunting be-tentacled sky-kraken. I followed that two albums later with ‘Some of the Creatures have Broken the Locks on the Door to Lab 558’, a song about tentacled creatures er, escaping a lab.

This album also has an even number so it seemed the natural place for a third song about tentacles. In the first and second the monsters were the enemy. Will that be the case in the third song?

No. No, it won’t.

So the current state of play is this:

There are eleven songs. For those that have a traditional rock band set up, basic tracking of guitar, bass and drums is done. The remaining two will be recorded over the next month, as will the rest of the vocals.

What’s it like? Weirdly, despite none of the songs being autobiographical, this is my most personal album. At its heart this is an indie rock album, but with all the other things I like thrown in: prog, folk, a bit of metal, electroacoustic music, and a bit of classical.

I’ll share more over the coming weeks.

Do you want to hear an extract of the work so far? 

If you were a subscriber to my Immoral Supporters group on bandcamp, you could. Click here to find out more.

Me do marketing good

What do you think of the following marketing ideas?

Because my social media accounts want my involvement with them to be a commercial endeavour. And lots of people who make music seem to think there should be a music business of the kind they imagine existed from about the 50s to about the year 2000.

So I guess I had better get with the programme and start marketing my music.

I have noticed that big brands these days don’t mention their products and instead talk about feelings. They try to co-opt your experiences of family, or friendship or companionship and say ‘hey, buy our stuff and you’ll have those feelings’. I can do that.

Here are my advert ideas:

1.Being a parent is good. Buy my CDs.

It’s a rainy Sunday morning. We see a dad standing at the sidelines, cheering on his son who is playing football (not his mum. Sport is a dad thing. This is advert land. Only stereotypes exist). It is rainy and dad is tired. We see a montage of him leaving for work the previous morning, before his kids got up, and coming home after they went to bed. We see the alarm going off to wake him up. He looks sleepy and tired and sleepy.

But he takes his son to football. A matey other dad hands him a cup of coffee. He yawns.

Then his son scores a football goal and dad cheers him on. The son turns round and he is wearing a Tom Slatter t-shirt and has my face. He is tiny an childlike, but has my adult face. Dad and Slatter-son hug and are triumphant.

Slogan appears: Parenting is tiring but worth it. This music is now associated with this feeling of worth. Buy my cds.

2.Old age is scary, but you will care for your elderly relatives. Buy my CDs.

An old woman is alone in a flat in black and white. She sees the world pass by through her window. She is old and afraid and lonely and afraid. Knives and hoodies and electric lights flash past. A man with a non-specific European accent menaces her by existing. She is alone and afraid. You do not want to be her.

A younger woman, who you identify with, visits with flowers and chocolates. The film becomes colour. They talk and laugh and have a cup of tea and the women who is you nods and smiles and patronises.

The woman open the chocolates. Each one is a miniature Tom Slatter CD.

Slogan appears: Old age is scary but you are a good person who will visit old people. This music is now associated with your charity. Buy my cds.

What do you reckon? Will those work? Do you have any other ideas for how I could use the power of marketing to hoodwink gullible idiots into buying my cds?

(PS you can stream all music for free here).

Spirit Box Vlog 3 – Ashes

I’m slightly mean about the movie version of Sweeney Todd in this. Sorry Johnny Dep fans …. are there any of those left? Surely not.

Anyway, this is about the second song on my latest EP. It gets a little bit nerdy. If you like chords and stuff you’ll like this. Possibly.


Spirit Box – The Journey Continues

Spirit Box vlog!

This is the first in a series of as many as I can be bothered to make – probably 4. This episode sees me introduce the EP, insult ghost hunters, claim one or other of Jordan or Gareth is a hoax, and take the mickey out of Jordan’s trombone playing.

In Other News

The EP has been reviewed again:

“If you have heard any of his material already then I am sure you have lined up to purchase this, but if you are new to his style of English folk prog crossover then you owe it to your ears to find out more.”

More of on Power of Prog.

Last but not least, I was interviewed by Emma Roebuck over on her ‘Northern Star’ Progzilla radio show. You can find a podcast of that show over at this link.

You don’t have a copy yet? 

Are you mad? Here’s the bandcamp thingie:

Spirit Box the story so far.

Spirit Box has been out for 3 weeks. It’s still undoubtedly one of my best releases. It sounds great, the songs are strong, and Jordan and Gareth’s contributions are excellent.

The CD version comes with two extra tracks, and also a letter. Here’s an extract:

“Hello you!

Thanks for buying a copy of Spirit Box. Your support is greatly appreciated. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the record business isn’t a thing any more and it is support of individuals like yourself that helps to keep absurd, commercially insane projects like this going.

Spirit Box is a project I’ve had half a mind to write for a few years now. On my second album, Ironbark, I’ve got a song cycle called The Miser’s Will. Five songs that tell a story that I can play in my solo acoustic set. The original idea with Spirit Box was to write another acoustic song cycle, but one that tells a story about the ghost hunting device known as a spirit box.

Butcher Boy came into being when I was walking around the City of London, taking a break from making the world better as the amazing, selfless charity worker that I am, when I spied a butcher’s van. I can’t remember exactly what it said on the side, but I do know that in that instant the opening lines of Butcher Boy turned up in my head. …”

It’s been reviewed over on The Progressive Aspect, which is nice. I think this quote is a keeper:

“If you have an inkling for a little darkness in your music collection then this EP, concerning some macabre murders and Stephen King-like clowns, is perfect…the weird is now wonderful.”

I’ve also recorded a podcast with Jordan and Gareth in which we discuss the songs, the meanings behind them and the process of recording them.

I’m dead proud of it. If you like it too, your support would be appreciated. Every penny it makes will go back into making more music.

You can click here if you would like a copy.


The Immoral Supporters

Pasting my face onto unlikely pictures has become a regular occurrence in the ‘supporters’ group. 

Sometime in 2016 I started a facebook group. I thought it would be a bit of fun. A chance for the small number of people who liked my music to band together and have a chat.

It descended into a swamp of bullying and punning as they all began to harass me. ‘Mubla’ was their cry, for reasons that I must admit now escape me. ‘Mubla, mubla, mubla’. And occasionally ‘penguin’.

I asked them to describe what it was like being a member of the group. Here are some of the things they said:

“It’s great to be in a group dedicated to the abuse of a so called musician.” – Andy

“It’s an opportunity to peer into Tom’s psyche (and wish we hadn’t)” – Steven

“You’ve only got yourself to blame and I take great pleasure in annoying you whilst enjoying your music” – Ian

“I feel queasy.” – Alexander

“I have just come from a meeting of the Windermere Self-Immolation Society.” – Roger.

I enjoyed it when people started jokingly asking where the new album was. David Elephant, Evil Record Label Boss of Bad Elephant Music had claimed that Happy People was overdue, and the Immoral Supporters leapt on this as an opportunity to hassle me about it.

Fool that I was, I encouraged them. They started asking in weirder and weirder ways, via code and semaphore.

Now, you could argue I was egging them on. I did hide the word ‘mubla’ three times on Happy People and encouraged them to search for it. And I did pretend to be annoyed when they were asking me where the album was.

Oh. Album. Mubla. I get it.

But that was no excuse to make so many awful puns.

I could understand asking where the album was, but why the puns?

If you are not one of the unpleasant people who insists on harassing me via The Tom Slatter Immoral Supporters Group online, please don’t join in. Stay away. It is an unpleasant group.

Here is a link. Please do not click on the link and join this group. 

Hello you! My latest release ‘Spirit Box’, a ‘concept EP’ about ghost hunting and murder, is out now. Evil Clowns, murderous butchers, failed attempts at ghost hunting, what more could you want from an EP? Here’s a link.

Studying Composition at Uni

I studied music at Roehampton University. Not exactly a world-renowned institution for music, but I applied late in the day and wanted somewhere I could study part-time. It was a bit of a last minute decision, but a good one.

Some of what I studied was a waste of time, and in common with a great many students, I found most of the course tutors lacking. However, my composition tutors were great and I learned a huge amount from their modules.

Electroacoustic/Acousmatic music

I did a couple of modules looking at electroacoustic or acousmatic music. This is a classical approach to electronic composition that comes out of musique concrete. One of my favourite examples is this by Adrian Moore:

We’re used to to thinking of music in terms of harmony, melody, accompaniment. Much electroacoustic material simply can’t be thought of in those terms – there might be tones, but they aren’t necessarily going to be tuned notes. There might be foreground and background, but accompaniment and melody aren’t the right terms. Instead we can think of gesture and texture.

Gesture is almost analogious to melody – it’s those sounds that are focused, moving, perhaps in the foreground – almost a solo voice that moves through time.

Texture is more likely to be in the background, perhaps more static – a feeling that stays for a time rather than a moving foreground sound.

Music as sculpture

The biggest lesson I took from having a go at this kind of music was in putting all those seperate sounds together into one piece. With harmony, melody, rhythm and all the ‘normal’ musical ideas out of the window, I found that my main concerns were things like pace and shape. It seemed sensible to leave long pauses of silence, or to worry about whether the gestural material joins together properly. Tiny details seemed incredibly important, and much use was made of the volume and panning automation in Logic.

Learning about electroacoustic music took me out of my comfort zone. It made me really explore some of the things that can be done with technology, and made music seem more than notes and chords – it’s also about timbre and shape and feeling and texture.

‘Proper’ music

I did lots of more regular composition at uni as well. I don’t really have any recordings made at the time, but the bassoon piece in the middle of this very sensible episode of my old podcast written for my sister’s recital was written just after I left uni.

This piece, Firecracker, was written for a string quartet – probably incompetently – but became a louder more guitary piece on my recent Murder and Parliament album. A lot of the pieces on this began life when I was at uni.

Do I think everything I did at uni was worthwhile? No, and much of it had a classical bias that I found maddening. But I learned a lot about how to write music while I was there, and I‘ve used those skills every day of my life since.

Why I don’t write personal songs

My dad died when I was fifteen. Cancer. In my memory it was a few short moments from him complaining of chest pains in our kitchen, to him being close to death in King George’s hospital. It was only a few months. I remember it as being both instantaneous and lasting forever.

At the time I wrote some songs about it, but ever since I’ve held back from that sort of writing.

My lyrics are not about me. There’s a style of lyric writing that is ultra-confessional and sometimes it’s brilliant – Tori Amos has some amazing songs that are all about the most painful, heartbreaking moments in her life – but I can’t do it. I tried when my father died and for a fifteen year old I think I did the experience justice, but now I can’t imagine singing songs about such personal episodes of my life.

For me music is transcendent, which is just a pretentious way of saying escapist. Escapism gets a bad rap in art, as if it’s somehow shallow, but I absolutely don’t think it is. I want songs that tell you a story along to a rock drum beat with some funny chords and silly solos. I want to do – in a different style – what Iron Maiden do. Cos singing songs about dreams and monsters and science fiction stories and taking lots of other people of a journey is more fun, more mature and more of a challenge than writing about your own feelings.

I’m sure I read once about Bjork telling Thom Yorke that he should be less self-indulgent. That the audience matters more than his feelings. I’m not sure if he ever really got that, but it’s something I’ve always felt pretty keenly. The point of music is to evoke emotions in others. Going around emoting is doing exactly the opposite.

To be honest, because of that I find confessional writing a little dishonest. You can’t feel heartbroken all the time. That break-up from fifteen years ago can’t possibly feel as raw now, as you sing it for the thousandth time, as it did when it was an open wound and you happened to grab your guitar. Whereas that fictional story? That’s true every time you sing it.

Having said that, here’s a recording of a song from when I was 15 and all emo. It’s not a bad song in my opinion, despite the obvious influences and lack of singing lessons.

My songs aren’t about me, and how I’m feeling. They’re about the audience and how we can all feel something joyful and silly and escapist together.

We recently marked the 20th anniversary of my father’s death, which is why it’s on my mind. I’ve lived more of my life without him than I lived with him and I am sure all my memories are more than little inaccurate.

My mother was a music teacher, but actually my dad was just as much an influence on my music as my mum. During the period when he was ill I borrowed a four-track recorder from my school and started to figure out how to record songs. Our bathroom was next to my bedroom, and it was when my mother was helping my ill father in the bathroom that he heard me messing about with this four-track recorder and suggested to her that they buy me my own four-track. So in more ways than one, all this music is his fault.

But I don’t write lyrics about myself, and I certainly wouldn’t write a blog post about anything so personal. So you didn’t read this, it isn’t here.