Thursday 7 September 2023

Atomic Times With SLOMATICS. An Interview With David From Doom Metal Titans Slomatics

Doom Metal Titans Slomatics return with their epic new album Strontium Fields on September 8th 2023. The album is a heavy and majestic blend of Slomatics classic trademark Spaced Out Fuzz based sounds. 

Slomatics cover new creative ground in places with a more richer and fuller sound especially the synths and Marty's first rate vocals. 

I caught up with David (Guitars) from the band which you can read below. 

Hi David. Thanks for doing the interview. How are things with you all today.

We’re good thanks, just home from the rehearsal space where we are working on new songs.

We're here to talk about your new album Strontium Fields. What can people expect from the album.

Hopefully more of everything - the aim was to try and push all the elements of our sound further than we have before, so more light and more shade. I mean, after 20 years we aren’t about to completely reinvent ourselves, but hopefully this record is our most diverse. We wanted to increase the melody in the songs too, so hopefully that comes through - I guess it’s up to the listener to decide!

The record is quite different to your previous records. As I felt this album is more low-key and maybe not as heavy as you might expect. Don't get me wrong. It's still beautifully heavy but also in many different ways. Was that you wanted to achieve with this album.

That’s interesting to hear, as I think it’s our heaviest record yet. To me, heaviness is all about perspective and individual taste. I know a lot of people will disagree, but for me a lot of downtuned, harsh vocal sludge records just lose impact straight away. It’s like after 2 minutes there’s nowhere to go. ‘Heavy’ for me is more about how you actually ‘feel’ a record - so the Stooges are heavy, Pink Floyd are heavy, Boards of Canada are heavy, to me at least. So I suppose we still consider it a heavy album, but maybe just in a different way this time round.

Marty's vocals are more restrained and peaceful in places. Was that a hard vocal style for you to deliver on this album though we have seen glimpses of this change on previous Slomatics releases.

One thing that people might not realise is that Marty was never a singer before joining the band, at least not in a band sense. I always knew he could sing so when he joined I’d always assumed he’d sing as well as play the drums, which I suppose is actually a pretty big ask! He’s been honing his voice more with every record, and we have been placing more emphasis on the vocals as an instrument, so this record really represents the next step forward in that journey. 

There’s no doubt Marty has really pushed himself, particularly over the past three or four years, so when we started writing for this record I was thinking about space for the vocal with everything I wrote. I write the riffs and Marty writes the melodies, that’s how we’ve always been, and usually it’s a great moment for me when I hear how he has fitted around the riffs - but this time it was like he completely transformed the songs. He puts so much time, thought and feeling into what he does, it’s great for us as a band to hear him do it! All our favourite bands have melodic vocals so this has always been what we have been driving towards. I think he did a great job!

Where did the name Strontium Fields come from. What inspired you to call the album that.

I’m aware this is a really unsatisfactory answer, but we never talk about what any of the titles or lyrics of our songs are about. I’ve always liked a bit of mystery in music, and I like the idea that songs can mean different things to different people. Strontium Fields can mean whatever you want it to mean.

Was this an easy or hard album to record and write for compared to your previous albums.

Honestly, I’d never describe recording as a chore, we love being in the studio and working with our producer Rocky O’Reilly. That said, this one was incredibly easy to record - maybe just as a result of having used the same studio, Start Together Studio here in Belfast, and Rocky for over a decade. We are always well prepared going into the studio, Chris in particular has notes for every second of what we do, so it’s always a fun experience that flies by. Rocky loves to experiment as much as we do so the energy in the room is always good, but it felt this time like he was an equal part of the creative process. We can’t wait to go back! I sometimes read about bands who hate recording and just can’t understand that at all!

This album has more sonic experimentation especially with the use of more synths and heavier FUZZ grooves. Was that hard for the band to adjust both musically and creativity speaking.

Not at all - it’s just an ongoing evolution of where we are at. We’re always writing new music - my iPhone is full of riffs and ideas - and when I take that stuff to the rehearsal space things tend to come together very quickly. Chris is really our synth guy, and he has a long history of being obsessed by electronic music like Autechre and Four Tet, so he just loves being let loose on all those Moogs. 

Nothing is ever a bad idea as far as we are concerned, so experimentation is always part of what we love about recording. As for fuzz, I’m never going to not be excited to plug into a new fuzzbox, and every time I do I feel very inspired. There’s just something about making your guitar sound broken that really resonates with me.

I read in the PR Blurb you consider this album as a post pandemic reflection. How did the pandemic shape up the narrative and recording of the album.

Yeah, I think it is. Although maybe everything in life now is a reflection, certainly there’s been a lot of change. The initial lockdown was the longest period in the time we’ve been a band that we didn’t play music in a room together, so when we did finally get back to it, it was such a joy. We all love playing music together, it’s such a positive experience, so I do think that probably came through in the new songs. 

The benefit of all the restrictions for us was we ended up with more time to write the album than previously, so we were able to be quite meticulous about things. We wrote quite a few songs that didn’t make it onto the record which was different for us. So time was a luxury for once!

When the pandemic hit Slomatics were quite busy releasing different splits with bands such as Ungraven, Yanomamo and DOMKRAFT. How did those splits come about and looking back are you happy with what you delivered on those splits.

We were as busy as we could be - we always like moving forward so while gigs weren’t happening we just wrote a lot. Those three records add up to an albums worth of material. They all came about because we are friends with the bands - we only ever do splits with people we like. The Domkraft one has its origins way back when we first met up at Psycho Las Vegas Fest about 6 years ago. 

We have a real kinship with those guys so that record was about three years in the pipeline. With Ungraven, obviously our connection with Jon Davis of Conan is a long and well known one, so when he asked did we want to do it it was a no brainer. Add in that Dave Ryley (ex-Fudge Tunnel) is on the record and it’s a really special release, we are all big Fudhe Tunnel fans. The Yanomamo 7 inch came about through me chatting to Jason online, he’s such a nice guy with a real passion and enthusiasm for what he does, and I’ve a bit of an obsession with Aussie bands like The Saints and The Scientists, so it felt like a great fit.

I’m happy with all those records, to me the Ungraven and Domkraft records were a bit of a turning point for us in terms of songwriting, being mainly shorter and more direct songs. The Yanomamo record was just total fun, revisiting an old song and doing it justice with Marty on board.

Your split with Swedish Doomsters DOMKRAFT was rightly critically acclaimed which is perhaps my favourite split release you've done to date. Were you surprised by the response that release received.

That’s very kind of you to say! We really enjoyed that whole process, from the recording to working with Majestic Mountain records, to the amazing artwork by Roland Scriver, and of course getting to both record a Domkraft cover and hear their version of our song. As for the response, it’s obviously great when people enjoy what we do, but honestly we don’t worry about that too much. I’m just glad that the lads in Domkraft liked our version of Dustrider! That’s what really counted!

You recently supported DOMKRAFT in London recently while I was there. Great to finally meet you guys. Brilliant gig. Audience seemed to enjoy the new songs. How has the new songs been received overall.

Well thank you, that was such a great night. The London Doom Collective guys really do run excellent shows, and there’s been a great atmosphere at their shows we have played. We played two new songs that night, both are up on Spotify, but it was amazing to see that people seemed to know those songs already. I’d happily play the whole new album live but we are aware that when we fly into shows there’s probably a lot of folk haven’t seen us before so we try to play stuff from across our back catalogue. The response online to the new songs has been great, it’s always nice when people seem to get what we are aiming for. We’ll be playing a couple more off the new record once it’s out too, hopefully they’ll fit the set well. We always think about the live set when we are writing.

What future gigs have you coming up and will you be promoting the album more next year.

We have three more this year - we don’t tour, and only play around 8-10 shows a year, but we are really lucky in that most of them are GB/European shows. We have a great show lined up in Copenhagen in October, it’s actually a 50th birthday show for a mate of ours from the band Bethmoora. The bill is us, Conan and Domkraft, so it’ll be great to play with old friends and such amazing bands. After that we have our first visit to Helsinki in Finland for Fall Fest, which is a three day fest with the likes of Ufomammut. 

We can’t wait to play there! Finally there’s an album launch show here in Belfast with two of our fellow Irish riff worshippers, 7.5 Tonnes Of Beard and Skypilot. That’s it for the year, but we already have more European shows in the pipeline for next year. New places too. We’ll try and play a few more shows maybe, and even put together a couple of short runs in Europe. There’s talk of doing a few dates with Domkraft which would be a lot of fun.

The artwork for the new album is sublime. Who designed the artwork and how much involvement did you have with the final design.

The art is by a friend of ours called Ryan Lesser, he’s well known for his artistic involvement in the Guitar Hero game and also playing in a band I absolutely love called Megasus. They’re sadly long gone, but he’s just put out a new project called Eyes of Argus which is really excellent. He did the art for our Ungraven split - to be honest I still find it hard to believe an artist of his stature is into doing stuff for us. With this album we were in a bit of a corner with art and I reached out to see if he could help - he was unbelievably cool and really went the extra mile to sort us out. 

I do really love his work and we will use him for the next record too. In terms of our involvement, that varies from record to record. With Strontium Fields we had zero input, with the Ungraven sleeve we discussed some very general ideas but Ryan really ran with it himself. He’s got a very clear vision which is great. We have been really lucky to have worked with some amazing artists over the years, such as Glynn Smyth, Roland Scriver and Tony Roberts. I do really love this new one though!

It will be your 20th Anniversary in 2024. Did you expect to last this long and even to release your 8th album with Strontium Fields.

Absolutely not, and I can’t imagine anyone who starts a band ever expects more than a year or so. Our initial aim was simply to write a few songs that we liked, and maybe even release a 7 inch. We have just been incredibly lucky in that all three of us get on really well, and are equally invested in what really is just making a horrible racket. 

We all have families, jobs and real life responsibilities, but we also all really value doing this - it’s totally different to our day to day lives and we all get a lot from playing loud music together. It sounds a bit trite, but we’d be doing this whether anyone came to see us and released our records or not. If you’d told the teenage me that I’d be releasing my 8th album and playing shows all around europe I just wouldn’t have believed it. We definitely appreciate what we have, and how fortunate we have been.

How does it feel to be considered innovators of the Doom/Stoner Metal scene and inspiring so many great bands to follow the Spaced Out way of Doom/Stoner Metal

Ha!! That’s very kind of you, but I’m not sure I’d agree! There were loads of bands doing what we do long before us, I really don’t think we are innovators. But it’s nice to be considered part of something, that’s for sure. I’m sure that a lot of bands who share our sense of Space also share our love of Hawkwind and Pink Floyd - they’re the real innovators!!

Before you go, do you have any words of wisdom for your fans currently out there

I’m not sure anyone should look to us for words of wisdom to be honest! I fear we’d be woefully under qualified to advise anyone on major life decisions. However, if you are wondering whether or not you need that new fuzz pedal, the answer is yes you do. If you have a nagging fear that your amp isn’t loud enough, you’re probably right. Finally, if you think your record collection is lacking releases by Irish 3 pieces, our new record ‘Strontium Fields’ is our September 8th!

Words by Steve Howe and David from Slomatics

Thanks to C Squared Music for arranging for the interview and to David for doing this interview.

Strontium Fields will be available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl via Black Bow Records from September 08th 2023


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