The first Tom Slatter Band gig happened last Thursday at The Fiddler’s Elbow, as part of a triple bill with IT and Circu5.
Did we do well?
Yes, we did!
I’ve wanted to play some of these songs with a proper band for a very long time. Three Rows of Teeth was released in 2013 and this was the first time that Mother’s Been Talking to Ghosts Again and Dance, Dance, Dance have been played live. It was also the first time Some of The Creatures… has been played in its entirety, rather than the truncated acoustic version. I even got the mad guitar solo right, which I wasn’t expecting (and which made up for the mistake in Mother’s where I forgot to repeat one guitar bit).
This was the first time I’ve played guitar and fronted a full electric band for a very, very long time and I’m really happy with how it went. Partly that’s because Michael, Gareth and Keith played a blinder (yes, the only big mistakes were mine, unsurprisingly). But also it’s because of the audience. Were there hundreds of people? Of course not! But were there more people than I expected? Yes, there were and plenty of them came along specifically to see our set. The Immoral Supporters were out in force, tentacle fingers and all, which really made my night.
The other acts on the bill were also really good. Circu5 played a great set that was equal parts prog cleverness and singalong choruses. Here’s a link – I really like the song Stars in particular.
I’d seen IT before at the Bedford in Balham a year or so ago, so knew I was in for something proggy but with a groove and pop sensibility that you don’t always find in the genre. They definitely didn’t disappoint. Highlights for me were ‘Revolution’ and ‘Hands
I can’t deny, I thoroughly enjoyed myself at this gig. After more than a year off stage, this was an exhilarating return to performing. Thanks to IT and Chris of the London Prog Gigs facebook page for making the gig happen.
I’m really looking forward to the next gig which will be in May at the Raising Steam steampunk festival May 10th-12th in Bromsgrove. We’re playing early on the Saturday afternoon, at about 1pm.
All the info is at this link.
Next week’s debut Tom Slatter Band gig (we’re not calling it that. Are we calling it that?) includes a couple of songs from Three Rows of Teeth that have never been played live before:
Mother’s Been Talking To Ghosts Again
This is a tale of duplicitous spiritualists hoodwinking the bereaved and gullible. It’s got bits in 4/4, 5/8, 6/8, and three flavours of 9/8. I didn’t write with so many different time signatures to annoy Gareth Cole, but I am glad they’ve had this effect.
Dance Dance Dance
This is a song about dancing in the face of annihilation. Which, let’s face it, is what we’re all doing. Of course, a song about dancing has to have a chorus that’s difficult to dance to. So it’s in 5/4. Of course.
Three Rows of Teeth is an album of sci-fi rock songs, and I’ve wanted to play them properly for years. Next week at the Fiddler’s Elbow is going to be great.
Or awful. There is some difficult stuff here. It might be awful.
There are definitely recurring themes in my songwriting. I tell stories, I sing about murder, about steampunk monsters and body horror, about being at a distance from the real world.
Dreams and nightmares turn up more than once. Here are three examples.
Three Rows of Teeth
This is song is all about dream logic. We start off riding in a hot air balloon, which is then torn to pieces by some horrific sky creature with three rows of teeth. We tumble down to the ground only to be confronted by more monsters. This second set of monsters are evil living church steeples with spindly legs and gaping maws.
It is a strange song, even I am prepared to admit. But one with a great riff in the middle.
Spinning the Compass
The title track from my first solo album is similarly dream-like. Inspired by the Alfred Bester novel, The Demolished Man, this song is from the point of view of a person who finds their world vanishing and shrinking around them, until the very physics of the world shrinks and vanishes and stops making sense. It’s about being unsettled, feeling as if the world simply doesn’t make sense any more.
These Tiny Things Are Haunting Me
This is a fun little song about the tiny monsters that dance about at night, nibbling at your toes and haunting your dreams. The same monsters might be about to return on my next album…
My new album (out soon, I promise!) will continue the theme of nightmare songs.
None of these by the way, are actually based on real dreams. I very rarely remember dreams, but I do know that like lots of people I do have really weird dreams. Most of these songs have lyrics that turned up while I was very awake, most often while playing with various word randomisation techniques. The oddest ideas can occur in the most normal circumstances.
Thanks for listening!
… I played electric guitar with a band last week. That’s right, the inaugural rehearsal of the Tom Slatter Band took place at the Amersham Music Studios.
The last time I played electric guitar in a band was a one-off gig that was supposed to be a warm-up for a steampunk festival that in the end never happened. Before that, I couldn’t tell you. Probably we’d have to go back to when I was in college.
Amersham Music Studios are the premises of Michael Cairns who played drums on my album Happy People, and on the up-coming new album as well. Michael is playing kit for the gigs as well, and we were joined by Keith Buckman from The Far Meadow and Gareth Cole who’s played some acoustic gigs with me before.
How did it go? You know what, it went pretty well. It was a weekday evening after a long day at work, and an annoying commute for all involved. So given the lack of energy we might have bought to the studio, actually it was sounding pretty good.
The set list is a mixture of songs from Happy People, a couple from Three Rows of Teeth that I’ve always wanted to play live, Some of the Creatures… and a version of Wizards of this Town, a song that will finally appear in recorded form on the next album later this year.
Thankfully, it turns out if you get good people in the band, things go really well, everyone learns their parts and things are relatively painless. If I’d known that before maybe I’d have put more effort into it before.
Or maybe not. It’s a lot of effort.
Anyway, come and find out for yourself if I ever learn the solo to Some of the Creatures… at the first show in London on 28th March:
PS. I think I’ve finished mixing the album. Possible final mixes have been sent to the Evil Record Label boss and he hasn’t sent me any death threats in response. So watch this space, a new album might be turning up interfrasticly.
This weekend I took delivery of the last parts for the new album. Gareth Cole (who for reasons best known to himself, now wants to be known as ‘G-Wrath’. Whatever, Gazza) has done a blinding job with the lead guitar work on my new song ‘Drop Dead’. So good in fact that I’ve put a version of the whole song in the bandcamp subscribers only post.
My brief was that he should listen to a few Bowie songs, especially some of the lead work on Heathen. Of course, G-Wrath mostly ignored this but nevertheless turned out a lead part that fits the song perfectly.
What I like about this sort of collaboration is that it turns up parts I would never play. With my lead guitar parts I have always deliberately tried not to sound like a rock guitar player. My approach is that what I can do well is pick the notes you’re not expecting. So I’ll do that. Gareth here is turning out the kind of legato rock ballad playing that I just can’t naturally do. And it works really well.
In other news – I’ve mostly been mixing. I’ve learned a lot about how to do this over the last year. My Rubble and Dust/Run double ‘A-side’ single was an attempt to mix something a bit more rocky, whereas Spirit Box was a real learning curve in terms of recording and mixing my own vocals.
With Rubble and Dust I wasn’t entirely happy with the mixing of the vocals. I think I also fell into the very easy trap of piling too many layers on top of each other. Not that it’s a bad recording. It’s not. Have a listen here.
But those are all lessons for album 6 and it is sounding really rather good.
Reminder! My next gig is a the first proper full band Tom Slatter gig. It will be good!
28th March in London.
I spent the last two Friday evenings at St Paul’s Church in Goodmayes with the Barley Singers. We rehearsed and recorded an arrangement of my song ‘Cutting Up All Of Our Dreams’.
The Barley singers are my mum’s choir that she started a few years ago since retiring. They’ve put on a few concerts and my mum has written several songs for them.
I’ve had Cutting Up All Of My Dreams for a few years now, but hadn’t found the right arrangement for it. No matter what I tried, nothing seemed to work. So I sent my mum the vocal part that I would be singing, and asked for to arrange her choir around that, figuring that if I couldn’t work out how the song should go, maybe she could.
She did! It sounds great. Bandcamp subscribers can hear a rough version over on the bandcamp subscribers page.
It won’t sound absolutely perfect – we didn’t have the time or resources for that. But it does sound good, and honest, and like some people singing a song and enjoying doing so.
In other news
David Elephant, maniacal boss of my record label Bad Elephant Music has now given me a deadline to get the final mixes to him by early March. With David, the word ‘deadline’ must be taken very literally so I will do my best to meet this demand. Or else Mickey Knuckles will be sent round to remind me of my contractual obligations. Again.
But it’s okay, because I think this will work. The tracking is all done, bar vocals on one song, the mixes are mostly coming together, the demon voices have nearly been transferred from my head and onto the digital tape. The new album slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.
Be afraid. Run. Hide in the hills.
For at least twenty years I have been insisting that the instrument my sister, Rebecca, plays is called a ‘honk-pipe’.
Technically this is untrue. It is a bassoon. But that’s not as funny.
On Saturday Becca came round to record a bassoon duet with herself for the new album. The piece she is playing on is called ‘Patterns of Light,’ and I haven’t quite figured out what all the words are so I can’t tell you what it is about. But it’s a track from the middle of the album that gives us a break from the more rocky material around it. My aim is to create something that’s sort of ‘sickly-sweet’, a feeling I’ve tried to achieve by forcing together two major keys that don’t belong together.
Being a proper musician, I was able to just throw together a little score and as it is a short piece we were done quickly. It sounds really good.
I’ve also made some good progress on vocals, now that lingering bastard of a cold has mostly gone away. Lead vocals and a large chunk of the backing vocals are at ‘draft one’ stage. There’s maybe another days worth of work to do on those and I’ll have vocals finished.
Well the next two Fridays include recording of a small choir. More on that next week!
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.
A gig? A live gig? With an actual band?
You may have seen over on social media that I have the first Tom Slatter band gig in the diary. Here’s the poster. If you can get to London on 28th March, it would be great to see you!
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.
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?