A Tale of Two Gigs

On the 28th and 29th of September I played two gigs: the Summer’s End Prog rock festival and the inaugural Steampunk Convivial at the Crossness sewage works.

I’m very glad there is no obligation to choose a favourite because both were great gigs.

The weekend also got me thinking about the tension between being an artist and having to afford boring but necessary things like food and a home. I travelled to Summer’s End with amiable man-mountain and certified good-egg Matt Stevens. We talked about the difficulties of being a musician, chiefly the economic realities. I have never attempted to make a living from my music and don’t particularly see why any artist should expect to – this is culture not commerce- but it was interesting to consider as we travelled on far too many trains to Chepstow.

Summer’s End consisted of two sets: one ‘busking’ in the middle of Chepstow, the other on the ‘acoustic stage’ (actually a section of Chepstow school dinner hall) between the full band sets.

Here’s a vid:

And here’s a review.

I enjoyed playing, but more than that it was great to catch up with friends and meet in the flesh several people who I’d previously only known on facebook. There was a very genial atmosphere and lots of lovely people – much like at the Crossness Convivial.

Here I performed as part of almost a cabaret that included steampunk morris dancing, umbrella fencing and of course the ubiquitous tea-duelling.

There are differences between prog crowds and steampunks – the clothing being an obvious one: band t-shirts versus the full retro-futuristic, neo-victorian be-goggled glory of the steampunk. More than that, steampunk is a cultural wosame that clearly appeals to a wider demographic: there were far more young people and women in attendance at Crossness than Summer’s End.

However there are also real and joyful similarities. Both are sub-cultures that are fuelled by enthusiasts. Steampunk has its costumes, model makers, tesla coils and tea-duellers but prog is equally as vibrant. Instead of silly costumes, prog has podcasters, collectors and of course musicians (all right, and a few silly costumes).

In both there are products for sale – cds, records, tickets and endless things with cogs on but make no mistake there is no-one making money from any of this (in the sense of cold-hard capitalism. There are very various lovely little niche businesses). This is culture not commerce. And it’s bloody marvellous.

Is it Prog, or is it Neo-skank Hardprog?

I’ve just started marketing my new album – including sending it to people who write about prog. Yup, I’ve taken the plunge and chosen to openly use that most contentious of terms ‘prog’.

My name is Tom Slatter and I make prog rock music.

Why should I be wary of the term?

Certainly not because I want to be able say ‘my music doesn’t fit into categories – it transcends them’ I’m not quite that pretentious, and my music definitely fits into some rather obvious categories.

Also, not because ‘prog’ is an unfashionable term. I’m not writing top 40 pop after all, the mainstream does not beckon.

No, I’m a little wary of the term ‘prog’ because a few times I’ve seen a certain section of prog fandom engage in discussions about what is or is not prog – and discussions like that are always tedious. You know the sort, those who really care whether Deep Purple are hard rock or heavy metal, who really care whether you’re prog metal or just complicated, overlong metal. Whether you’re progressive – or just prog. Dull, dull, dull.

Being the pretentious muso that I am, my unversity dissertation was on genre distinctions in heavy metal – In particular comparing thrash metal to the NWOBHM.

Yes, I know, I know,

However while researching that I came across Running with the Devil by Robert Walser. This is a great book for anyone interested in heavy metal and sociology (isn’t that all of us?). From this I took the idea of continuums of genre, which is a much more useful idea than strict categories. Think of a continuum that runs from prog to not prog, or from heavy to not heavy. You can place different songs, bands, movements along those axis.

Much more useful than ‘It’s soft trance progcore,’ ‘no it isn’t it’s nervecore hardprog,’ ‘Rubbish, they’re clearly Clockpunk nanocore’


Making up imaginary genre names is fun.

What point was I making?

Oh yeah, my music is on the prog spectrum, somewhere near where it crosses the English singer-songwriter spectrum.

That’s the point.


Heavy Slab.