‘An imaginative blend of English whimsy, proper prog and not-prog metal,’ is how prog magazine described Tom Slatter’s latest album Escape. Not having been around in prog rock’s heyday, Tom Slatter came to the genre via his first loves of heavy metal and folky singer-songwriters, tracing their influences back and developing a love of the 70s masters as well as more recent prog bands.
His seven solo albums to date throw together those influences alongside a penchant for science fiction and surreal storytelling. He was nominated for a prog award in 2016 and has played solo sets at various festivals – Summer’s End, The Lincoln Asylum, the Phoenix alternative festival – as well as supporting acts such as Lifesigns, The Gift, Alan Reed, Simon Godfrey.
The Tom Slatter Band came into life in 2019, taking the full band version of Tom’s music onstage with a handful of gigs including a set at the Raising Steam steampunk festival and a London date alongside IT and Circu5. Post Lockdown the band recently played at HRH Psych in Liverpool and will be returning to the stage in late 2022 and into 2023
‘A latter-day Victorian street-theatre barker with a guitar promising tales of mystery, imagination, ‘orrible murders and bloody great waving tentacles’ is how Tom Slatter has been described. Since 2010 he has been scaring audiences with seven albums and numerous EPs of storytelling songs. There are songs about space ships and alien outbreaks, about tentacled sky-kraken and werewolves and murderers. Tom has written about death, madness and tentacles for the best part of a decade with no sign of slowing down or turning to more ‘normal’ subject matter. ‘An unorthodox songwriter whose songs push the boundaries of what can be expected from the solo acoustic guitar troubadour’, or possibly just ‘an experiment too far’.
Escape is Tom’s seventh album. It was written and recorded during lockdown in 2020 and 2021.
Tom says: “I originally had two competing ideas for the album. One was to write a concept album called ‘Overview Effect’. It was going to be a science fiction album, all about space travel, its outcomes and possibilities. So I wrote a load of songs about spaceships for that.
The other was to just write a load of long prog songs and indulge that end of my tastes. So I wrote some instrumentals for that and started thinking about lyrics.
But as lockdown wore on I sort of came to the conclusion that complicated concepts weren’t what was needed. Instead, what I thought I needed was just a bit of escapist fun. So I scrapped grand schemes, picked the most fun songs I had from each project and decided to record them. So there are some songs about spaceships, and there are some songs that tell other stories. Some are long and proggy, some are short and rocky, but I hope what they all have in common is that they are fun.”
His solo career began with 2010’s Spinning the Compass. That was the first of four steampunk-themed albums that saw Tom performing at various events across the country, from the Lincoln Asylum (Europe’s biggest steampunk festival) to the Phoenix Alternative Festival in Wales and Eppyfest in Gloucestershire. His live performances have been described as ‘discomfiting’ and ‘overly whimsical’.
Those four steampunk albums were haunted by the ghost of Seven Bells John, a murderous character that Tom finally exorcised with Seven Bells Redeemed, the twenty-minute rock epic from the album Fit the Fourth (Bad Elephant Music). The song was inspired by Tom’s love of musical theatre and heavy metal. Being twenty minutes long, it was (probably reasonably) mistaken for progressive rock and Tom was accidentally nominated for a Prog Award in 2016.
Determined not to take advantage of that hint of critical success, Tom followed Fit the Fourth with 2017’s Happy People, an album made up almost exclusively of short, verse-chorus pop rock songs. This was Tom’s first album not to have a steampunk theme, concentrating instead on a tale of dystopian near-future horror.
‘The world seemed to be descending into a dystopian hellhole. I thought we could do with a soundtrack’, Tom said about the album at the time.
Since then Tom has released an instrumental album Murder and Parliament, two more solo albums and fought in vain to stop the members of his online ‘Immoral Supporters’ group from making awful puns, and tried to find time to work on new music.