HigherFrequency  DJ Interview


Slam Interview

As well as being one half of legendary tech-house duo Slam, Orde Meikle also continues to co-run Soma Records, one of the most credible and important labels in the story of dance culture. Breaking Daft Punk and more recently Vector Lovers and Alex Smoke, the label and Slam themselves have consistently prospered as rivals have faltered, which is particularly impressive given their refusal to compromise.

"Running Soma is a dream come true, it certainly is, and starting an independent label which still has a true independent ethos is something I'm particularly proud of," says Orde.

"We haven't sold out anywhere along the line, despite many moments when we could have, and we still very much see ourselves as being a catalyst for hopefully another Daft Punk - another band that could show the potential and hopefully with the right backing can crossover like they did."

Soma talk aside, Orde's chatting to Skrufff today to promote Night Drives, Slam's latest DJ mix compilation that's just come out on Resist Records. Decidedly minimal in style, the record matches the duo's DJ sets, says Orde, reflecting their perennial positioning somewhere between house and techno.

"We've always been looking for new and fresher sounds, and the compilation is an honest reflection of what's catching our ear when we walk into record shops," he says, "and it's fair to say that minimal is what doing it for us at the moment."

"There are some really fantastic new producers that for me are just the people that are really pushing boundaries at the moment; people like Alex Smoke and Nathan Fake, Guido Snider, the Black Strobe guys - we had them on at T In The Park, and also Matthew Johnson, who is a good friend of ours and fellow drunkard," he continues.

"Then there's the Hacker, who we've known for ages plus some older people; ourselves, Ritchie Hawtin and Model 500, (Juan Atkins), Funk D'Void. We are always looking forward, though we've never liked being particularly pigeon-holed."

> Interview : Jonty Skrufff


Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff) : Starting with the compilation, is it the case that the two of you sit down and say 'OK, let's take a pile of tracks and see which ones we can license ?

Slam : No, no, not at all. We're very lucky so far that for all of our compilations, we've always managed to get every track we've requested so we've never have to change the order or slip things in and out. It's usually the case that our first vision is the one you see. The main problem usually is narrowing down the tracks though luckily with this one it's a double CD, though even that was quite hard to choose. I think we've ended up with a good representation of what we are playing as DJs at the moment, where our heads are at, and some of the newer producers that are really doing it for us.

Skrufff : The album sounds very different from your artist album from last year...

Slam : Very much so. Yes. It took us about two or three years to make Year Zero, we started working on it initially when we came off the Alien Radio Tour at a point when we were listening to lots of old Sugarhill (hip hop) stuff and some of our other earlier influences. There were lots of vocals involved in it too and it ended up becoming a bit of a logistical nightmare getting everyone into Glasgow, recording them and back out again, so that album in some ways is a snapshot of where we were three and a half, maybe four years ago. By the time we released the record it was almost two years old from its initial concept and our DJ heads had very much moved on since then.

DJ compilation albums always give you a far quicker reference to where your head's at than an artist album. Artist albums, for us anyway, are reasonably lengthy affairs, but having said that, we've started working on the new one and we are trying to work a little faster.

Skrufff : Why do you think minimal has suddenly become hugely fashionable ?

Slam : I think it's about young kids coming through who have grown up on dance music and are wanting to put a new more electronic slant on house, it's almost a fusion. Some of it is very minimal and some of it is almost a new blueprint for techno.
It's still got lots of loops going on and stuff like that and it's still dark and heavy, even if it's lighter on the percussion.

Skrufff : The last time we spoke in April last year you predicted that some of the upper echelons of dance music might be pushed aside.' Eighteen months on, how much has that happened ?

Slam : It has happened absolutely, for example, your superclubs have largely gone, though they still hang on in the extremities of dance. Even in Ibiza, I've been told it's started changing musically. You always have people who will chase money rather than their actual particular love and when the focus of media attention isn't on something, they move away. You can see it now - a friend of ours up here in Glasgow has recently opened up a new club which is predominantly a rock night, with a little bit of rock - Balearic music thrown in there. It's a mixture of Prince's 'Sign of the Times' - Prince with the Clash, which sounds a bit like a school disco to me - a little bit retrogressive. It's always the way, isn't it? If the focus of the media's attention is elsewhere you'll find that some people who are slightly more fickle will just follow the limelight.

Skrufff : The UN reported recently that Scotland is the most violent country in the Western world...

Slam : I find that shocking as well as the Scottish reaction to the report, it just got brushed under the carpet completely they haven't said anything about it up here at all. But I can't say I'm that surprised, you do hear about quite a lot of incidents and it has always has been a rough old town though I didn't realize that the UN statistics bore that out. I thought during the nineties Glasgow cleaned itself up a little, but obviously the figures don't stand me out on that. It's an image that I'd rather the city shook and definitely should be addressing. I think it's a terrible and very worrying statistic to lay claim to.

Skrufff : Do you ever encounter any trouble at the places you are playing at ?

Slam : Yeah, yeah. Over the years, obviously, there are always jokes made about being a Glaswegian in New York and not having to worry at all - it's safer in New York than it is in Glasgow. I think most people in Glasgow have grown up being much more wary of situations, whether it be in a club or in the street. You've always been aware that it has a violent side to it, but I 'd like to say that though it may sound bad, violence is not around you all the time, you are not constantly aware of it. A good friend of ours who ran the label for many years got his two front teeth knocked out for stepping into a kind of domestic between a couple, and Stuart and Dave have both been in a fracas in a bar where Dave broke his hand - Stuart had to sort them out.

I think everybody in Glasgow has probably been involved in a fracas at some time or other, it happened to me when I was at school. Gang culture seemed to fade away a little bit during the nineties, but in Glasgow it never faded too far, and it's really back with a vengeance at the moment. It seems to be very much the cool thing to do is to be part of a gang.

Skrufff : Do you have kids ?

Slam : Yeah, I've got two boys, they're six and three. They are slightly too young to be carrying steak knives just yet. That's the worry, I suppose for boys; it's drugs and fighting, and with girls it's drugs and whatever. There's always going to be that worry there. Where I live in Glasgow is not the poshest area in the world, to be honest.

Skrufff : I would have imagined you living in the richest part of Glasgow...

Slam : No. Glasgow house prices are the fourth most expensive in Britain, outside of the south east, of course. There are parts of Glasgow that I can merely dream about, it's a very expensive place to live. We live on the edge of Glasgow, though having said that, the transport links here are so good I'm only fifteen or twenty minutes away on a train from the centre. Though I'm probably further away than where I used to live, I'm actually closer in terms of the speed with which I can get into the city centre. It's a great town from that point of view, Glasgow is big enough to lay claim to some good shops and a bit of culture, but it's not a huge city to get in and out of and move around and get to know people.

Skrufff : As well as DJing and producing, you're also running Soma, how does that work on a day-to-day basis ?

Slam : We usually spend about one week a month there, listening to A&R tapes, obviously, we still get sent music from everywhere. The way we operate is that we've all chosen an aspect of the business which we are trying to develop as individuals within the overall partnership. So there are lots of general meetings to agree strategies and to sort out other people's direction for example. We're always really busy for the four days that we are actually in Soma, then of course we stay in touch with the office through e-mails when we are traveling. We are actually spending more time than we ever have in Soma right now.

Skrufff : So many people out there dream of having their own label then find it tougher when they actually set one up...

Slam : Don't expect to be paid from it, that all I'd say. I think as an artist you might see some remuneration from your label, but if you start it for glory then you'll struggle. It's a very, very hard time for independent music at the moment.

Skrufff : How easy is it to stay motivated year after year ?

Slam : To be honest the traveling is becoming a tad tedious now, but that hour or two behind the decks is still the same as it always been, and I still feel that thrill when I find a special record in the record shop. I think when that goes it will be very hard to sustain the interest in DJing or the band, but as long as you have it for that new record that you want to play to people or you want to try something; if that burn is still there and the nervousness, then I think it's still worth doing. If I lost that, I'd really question my particular involvement in dance music but I still have that burn.

Skrufff : Are you still in touch with Daft Punk ?

Slam : Oh yeah, very much so. Thomas has done a bit of damage to his hearing and obviously has so much success at such an early age I think he's just kicking back and taking it a bit easy. We are still very close to the boys and still very proud of them and the success that they have had and the attitude they have shown. They're not to everyone's taste all of the time, but they have done it all by following their own rules. We still see ourselves as being that catalyst for good music, rather than music that can make a buck.

Slam's new compilation Nightdrive is out now on Resist Records.

End of the interview

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