Thursday 14 January 2016

Rise At Dawn!!! - An Interview with SLABDRAGGER

Has it been 6 years since today's guests released their critically acclaimed debut album – Regress. Which has became a firm favourite of the UK Sludge/Stoner Metal scene. Now in 2016 they're about to release their incredible 2nd album – Rise Of The Dawncrusher.

The album is heavy as the name suggests and has the potential to be classed as one of the best records of the year. It's seriously that great but it's an album that the band had an almighty struggle to record which they explain in this interview.

It's my pleasure to be interviewing SLABDRAGGER....

Hi guys. How are things with you today. Thanks for doing this interview.

Yusuf: No worries, thanks.

Sam: All good, thank you for interviewing us!

So why did you choose the name SLABDRAGGER for your band. Any specific meaning as I always wanted to know this.

Y: Sam came up with the name sometime before the band was formed. He was recording a band and the vocalist did this heavy growl that sounded like concrete being dragged along the ground. He then named that vocal, calling it a 'Slabdragger'. Then when we formed later on, we decided to use it because it sounded so ridiculous.

How did the band get together. Did you all know each other before forming the band.

Y: We did know each other before from local bands and general circles of friends. We all played in other bands and gigged together previously. Sam wrote and recorded a demo for what became Splice The Mainbrace on Regress. He played it to me and our original drummer Matt and asked us if we wanted to form a sludge/doom band. We agreed and the rest is history.

How would you describe your music. Apart from it being pure fucking heavy.

Y: Pure cunting heavy?

S: Progressive doom sludge fusion metal with elements of hardcore punk and a slight death metal tinge. And stuff. Or something.

Your new album – Rise of The Dawncrusher – is fucking incredible. Beyond heavy but very melodic at the same time. It's finally being released after years of being mentioned. Can you tell people why the delay with the release of the record.

Y: Thanks a lot. We started writing the first song of the record in 2012. To cut a very long story short here is a list of events that happened: drummer left, new drummer joined and wrote album with us, we attempt to record, computer breaks, we hire new equipment and record album, new drummer leaves, new(nham) drummer joins, we record overdubs and play shows, Sam's lung collapses, Sam gets better, we finish recording, we mix it, we go insane mixing it, we get it mastered, we have artwork problems delaying it by 5 months, we submit album to Holy Roar.

This whole experience lasted 3 and a 1/2 years.
S: I think Yusuf nailed it with that timeline.

I bet your beyond excited waiting for the world to hear this record. What can people expect from the album.

Y: A heavy, riff filled, doom laden space adventure.

S: A twisting and brutal, melodically crushing epic of astrosludge metal-rock

Was Rise Of The Dawncrusher a hard album to write and record for as it's a very complex sounding album especially on tracks such as Shrine of Debauchery and Implosion Rites.

Y: We took our time writing it, that's for sure. We never rush our writing and we just let it come out naturally. We've always got so many ideas at any given time, it's just about putting them together in a way that makes us excited about it.

S: Hard to write, not really, Yusuf and I take some almost generic riff and form and twist them until we both look at each other with a grimace. Then we know its ready so we lay it down and expand upon that until a song feels complete, adding twists and turns where we see fit. The lyrics were all written after the music was fully complete and sequenced, written in chronological order like a book; The first song is the start of the story, the last song is the end. Hard to record, for me at least, yes, a bit. I even had to coat the ends of my fingers in superglue in order to nail a riff properly without blisters bursting all over my fretboard. I was also worried my vocals wouldn't be up to par after surgery but it worked out well and I think I did some of the best sounding vocal takes I have ever done.

It's been 6 years since your debut album Regress was released. Where it's not considered a classic within the UK Sludge/Stoner Metal scene. Have you noticed this yourselves people labeling the album as such.

Y: I've heard people say it's one of their favourite albums which is extremely flattering. I never thought I'd ever hear anyone say that. It was our first album and for a first album it was received way more positively than I could have imagined, which I am very grateful for.

S: Yeah it's kinda of weird but entirely cool as fuck that so many people love it, it's definitely a beautiful thing

Looking back would you change anything about Regress.

Y: I don't think I would change anything to be honest. Like with any record you make, you could work on it forever and still not be satisfied. One of the hardest parts about making a record is knowing when to put it to bed and put it out to the world. I see Regress as the beginning of this band and I'm glad it came out how it did.

S: I had about 50 mental breakdowns recording and mixing that thing. I'm not even going to say anything here. Haha

Your new album is very different to Regress with you guys focusing on more progressive riffs and melodies.

Y: We like to try new things and keep the riffs and structures interesting. It's easy to play the same riff over and over again for the sake of catharsis. There is nothing wrong with that at all but it gets to a point you have to start challenging your formula to give birth to something new. But at the same time, we like to keep our core sound loud and clear. We got proggy in places as we knew we were making a concept record with an intricate story line, so wrote it with these intricacies in mind.

S: It's a continuation of our original influences, we've just touched on stuff with a slightly different approach and had more ideas regarding new sounds we could incorporate without compromising our original style. More heavy and more weird but still Slabdragger.

Was recording the album a different experience to Regress. Did you do anything differently when recording the new album.

Y: We used more amps, had some new equipment. We used a synth and made our own weird spacey sound effects on a Korg MS 10. Obviously, we also had a different drummer. And also I think we approached the vocals differently and experimented more. There is more 'clean' singing but without compromising the brutal vocals as well. I tried a few different voices as I sort of wanted to portray characters. It was a really fun record to make.

S: Yeah this time we tracked the guitar, bass and drums live in the same room without headphones and literally recorded overdubs over that live foundation, keeping all the previous takes. We used our own amps for the initial takes but the 5 guitar overdubs were done with various blends of 3 different Matamp heads and an extra bass track through a 1970's Orange head. As Yusuf said we also did some synth layers using Korg stuff, MS10 and Monotron Delay and some synth app on Yusuf's phone. We had some electronics/noise on 'Regress' but this time we experimented with adding sweeps and textures over the music and I even did a synth solo on the last track.

The album is being released via Holy Roar Records. How did you hook up with them.

Y: Alex from Holy Roar released Regress after Sam sent him a demo of Iron Vulture. He liked it and said if we made a record, he would put it out on Holy Roar. We made it and he put it out! He agreed to put out our second record if we wanted to and so continues our relationship with Holy Roar Records. It's a great label with some awesome bands.

S: What Yusuf said. Holy Roar is awesome and Alex has always been great to us. They put out a few bands I recorded and I knew they took pride in the packaging of their releases which I think is a very important aspect of an album. The fact they put out loads of awesome looking vinyl really grabbed me and made me want to contact them. Luckily they were pretty much interested straight away and Alex loved it from the get go. It's great being on a label with such a diverse amount of artists too.

How hard is it being a band in today's world. What are the most difficult aspects in being in a band.

Y: Finding the right balance of time, money, energy, resources and motivation is a very big task in this day and age. I feel very lucky as we don't have to spend money on studio time and rehearsals as that is all done at Sam's studio, The Cro's Nest. Other bands don't have this advantage. There's barely any money in it, so if that's what you are primarily after, you will find it very hard.

S: Keeping on top of everything I'd say. Sorting out shows and stuff and making sure everything's running properly can be a bit daunting when our band does things DIY as fuck and doesn't rely on management, agents or PR people. Playing in the band is easy. All the shit that surrounds it is hard but you have to endure that, it's a given. At the end of the day, Jeremy, we do this because we love it and love always has its ups and downs but you can't let the downs effect you because, well, heavy metal.

What is the song-writing dynamic in the band. Is it a group collective or down to one individual.

Y: Sam and I both write the riffs and lyrics, pretty much. Or I'll write some lyrics and Sam and I will edit them to fit together. It's pretty much a collective working. Someone comes in with an idea and we all feel it out to see what works and what doesn't.

S: We all have input. Any one of us may come up with a whole song but we all shape and mould them all until we're all happy. Sometimes Yusuf and I play with weird musical concepts, for instance using a haiku structure for lyrics like in the verses in 'Iron Vulture' or playing a pattern based on a randomly chosen number or something. We can play around so we do.

Will you be touring this record heavily this year. I know you have an upcoming tour with OHHMS happening soon. What can people expect from that tour.

Y: More of the same from the last tour. Us and OHHMS smashing through the UK, going batshit crazy.

S: Half the length but double the concentration. A 3 day tumult.

Before you go, do you have anything to say to your fans.

Y: If you keep coming, we'll keep playing. Thanks for the support

S: Skate and destroy.

Well guys, thanks for doing this. All the best with the new album as its' a brilliant album.

Y: Thank you very much!

S: Peace!

Words by Steve Howe and SLABDRAGGER

Thanks to Alex at Holy Roar Records for arranging this interview. Thanks to Yusuf and Sam from the band for talking to me. Rise Of The Dawncrusher will be available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl from February 26th 2016 via Holy Roar Records.