Hyperbole is a mainstay in musical journalism. Words like "legend" are thrown around too often. Of course, the status of "legend" is in the eye of the beholder to a certain extent. Just ask Paul McCartney or The Stone Roses.
Detroit gets much respect in the techno arena, which is all due considering Kevin Saunderson, Kenny Larkin, Juan Atkins, Jeff Mills, Carl Craig and Derrick May are synonymous with the genre as pioneers and tireless ambassadors over the past three decades. But when you start talking European equivalents, Slam would likely be the first act out of your mouth.
The Glasgow-based duo founded the label Soma Records and have enjoyed almost as long as stint as the names mentioned above making taste and setting trends on the techno landscape. Alongside tech-house veterans and fellow Scottsmen Silicone Soul on the housier tip, Slam has put Scotland on the map in the mind of partygoers for more than the country's famed brown libations. With releases from Gary Beck, Pig & Dan, DeepChord, the Black Dog, Mark Broom, Joris Voorn, Prompt, Samuel L Session, Christian Prommer, Radio Slave, Paul Ritch, D'Julz, Adam Beyer, Steve Rachmad, Itamar Sagi and Funk D Void on Soma, it's easy to see why the label is so seminal.
We showed that it was possible to be an independent label and make decisions based on the quality of the music and the integrity of the artist.
None other than Chris Liebing aptly applied the term "legend" to Slam in a recent CLR podcast and we couldn't agree with him more. They just wrapped a mini-tour with San Fran tech-house icons H-Foundation, but for those lamenting the lack of an LA stop on that jaunt, local promoters Incognito and Dirty Epic Productions are bringing both members of Slam back across the pond for a special engagement at a TBA warehouse location tomorrow (Saturday) night.
Not content to just trade off tracks in a traditional b2b setup, the two man outfit require two Xone:92's to properly flex the Turbosound rig that will be gracing tomorrow's party, meaning techno-savvy Angeleno's are in for a rare treat.
We caught up with one half of the duo, Stuart McMillan, for a brief interview ahead of their gig. Here's what he had to say:
How do you think Soma has grown and influenced the scene over the years? Musical tastes and stylings?
We feel that Soma’s influence has been two-fold – firstly we showed that it was possible to be an independent label and make decisions based on the quality of the music and the integrity of the artist. Now the scene is made up almost completely of independent labels. Also we did not allow ourselves to be pigeon-holed. We avoided sticking strictly to one genre. Soma has released great house music and techno and also many more experimental tracks featuring jazz and funk and vocals and also chill-out stuff. We are very proud that we have always released albums which crossed many genres of electronic music as well as dance music singles. We have been tenacious too. In a fickle industry we have released over 100 albums and it looks like we will get to our 400th single at this rate!
How has your two-man show evolved over the years and what are some of your secrets for keeping it fresh in an age where there is so much variation in two man performances?
Well we are almost telepathic now which helps a lot. We have worked together for 25 years both in the studio, behind the decks and performing live. It’s true that it’s hard to find points of difference in the performance side. Everyone has access to the same technology and equipment and many DJs play back to back these days. So we don’t spend too much time thinking about it and we just make sure that when we play we are both feeling it and getting into it and mainly playing music that can move people both physically and emotionally.
How does the Scottish scene differ from the UK and the rest of Europe? The US?
Glasgow has some great clubs and many good DJs and music makers. Things have evolved naturally here. People have been exposed to some great music and many amazing performances. The city has produced many fine producers and DJs. That’s only just starting to happen in other parts of Scotland where things have been more parochial. There are good places to play in Edinburgh now and Aberdeen in the North and we take part in a great festival called T in the Park which is now 20 years old and where we have organized the Slam Tent for 17 years,
You and Silicone Soul put the dark techno/tech-house sound from Scotland on the map. What is your relationship with them and who are some of the up and coming Scottish artists that are moving you right now?
Silicone Soul fly the house and tech-house flag for Soma and for their Darkroom Dubs imprint which has just hit its 10th anniversary. They are playing at our Pressure monthly club night at The Arches in Glasgow next weekend to celebrate that fact. We are great friends and have a mutual respect for one another. Other Scottish producers and DJs who are doing it include Jackmaster, FunkD’Void, Gary Beck, Harvey McKay, Clouds, Vine Watson, Animal Farm, Thunder Disco Club, Optimo and Alex Smoke.
Talk about the new directions you’re taking with your new imprint Paragraph and what upcoming releases we can expect to see in 2013.
We are just about to release a collaboration with our Berlin brothers Pan-Pot as part of our Alliances series on Paragraph. After that we have a few singles up our sleeve but mainly we will be focusing on a new album for Soma, our first since 2007. We have spent the last 5 years doing remixes and singles many of which were complied on the ‘Collecting Data’ album last year and we are just about to drop our remix of Envoy’s classic Soma track ‘Dark Manoeuveres’ which in it’s orignal form is a techno bomb which has stayed in Djs boxes for 10 years.
We are basing our album around sequences. We have just aquired a Sequencer which was made in Scotland and which we will use to bring back much of our analogue gear back into our music making. We will not consider the dance-floor or what DJs play or buy during the making of the album and we are getting into headspace in which we will allow ourselves freedom and we will experiment much more with textures and rhythms than we permit ourselves scope for when making music to play in a club or at a festival.
What percentage of your skills were you born with? How did you go about acquiring additional skills? Learning from others? Teaching the self?
Some things are instinctive and most things are learned with some evolution and pre-programming certainly. We were born with rhythm and musical ears. Everything else is learned as far as what we do in the studio and behind the turntables with a heavy dose of instinctive feeling and maybe some intuitive understanding of people and what moves them.
Favor us with a moment in life that changed the course of, or defined, your sonic/aesthetic philosophy/position.
For me it was when I was let down for a Clash ticket and Dave Clarke (not the DJ, our manager) arrived at the bus-stop where we grew up. My two mates had a ticket each but the third ticket for me had not materialized. Dave’s mate from school had been made to stay in by his parents so Dave says ‘Hi’ and announces that he has an extra ticket. We went on to see one of the best shows in a lifetime – the Clash on their Sandinista tour at the Apollo in Glasgow. It was 1981.
We became firm friends – with a keen interest in music and the when we got older in the party scene. Later Dave got me a job in the bar he worked in which is where we both met Orde. Orde and I used to fight over the music- who put on the tapes in the place.