Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
Here’s an interview with David Majury from Slomatics
PD. What type of artist are you?
DM. We are one of the many, many independent bands doing it ourselves with no desire or dream of commercial success. I think we fall into the ever-increasing group of bands who just keep going because they love what they do, not for sales or fame. In terms of genre we get tagged with the whole ‘doom metal’ thing, which doesn’t bother me too much. That seems like a fairly broad church to me, so I don’t worry about it too much. Genres are really for the listener to decide I suppose.
PD. Tell us the brief history of yourself.
DM. It’s a bit long-winded, so I’ll give you the short version. We formed from the ashes of another band in 2004, quickly recorded an album and toured, recorded some more and played with a load of great bands. After a few years and more records we ran into a bit of a rut, around the time our first drummer quit. From that point on it’s been a much more focused story, in the past five years we’ve released four albums, an EP and a seven inch, played around Europe more including Desertfest and Roadburn, played the USA at Psycho Las Vegas, and are about to release a collaborative album with Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. It’s fair to say we’re more productive now than ever, something we’d like to maintain.
PD. Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
DM. Musical – I suppose to me an influence is something that makes me want to play, rather than anyone I’d attempt to copy. In the band we have some tastes in common – we all listen to stuff like Pink Floyd, Hawkwind etc. and I’m a big fan of bands like Mudhoney, Sonic Youth and Soundgarden, but as a guitar player I’m not really trying to sound like those bands. I’m inspired more by people we play with, and will often come away from a gig wanting to try something new. Playing with bands like Headless Kross and Ommadon definitely makes me want to push my sound further.
Non-musical is a hard one to pin down, I suppose the whole band is influenced by where we live and how our lives work, due to having jobs/families etc. That makes us want to meet up every week and play as it’s a release from our daily routine, so maybe that has some part in our longevity.
PD. What are your dreams and goals?
DM. We achieved those long ago, certainly as soon as our drummer Marty joined the band. It’s still the same now as it was in 2004 – just to be able to meet up with folk who are great friends every week and create music of our own. I know that sounds really pretentious, but the aim has never been world domination. As amazing as it has been to play to full houses at festivals or sell out of records, that was never our goal. We play London next month on an amazing line-up, but if that was to be our last show we’d still meet once a week and write music. It’s a true pleasure and we feel very lucky that our lives have panned out in such a way as to make this possible, I know so many people who love music but stopped doing a band due to work, where they live or money. We’re in a good place and that won’t change. I honestly think that the downfall of a lot of good bands is that they set goals measured in audience numbers or record sales, whereas success to me is writing a song that everybody in the band likes.
PD. Who writes your songs, what are they about?
DM. It varies from record to record, some are more collaborative and others are more pre-formed. I’m quite good with ideas and sketching songs together but it has to come together for everyone in the practice space or it gets dumped. I record ideas on my iPhone all the time and some of these go on to be the building blocks of songs, once Marty and Chris have their input. I think we have a good set up as we tend to play to our strengths – I’ll write the riffs, although Marty writes a lot on piano at home too, and then Marty interprets what I bring in. Chris has a great musical knowledge and he will try out every imaginable dynamic and variation on the riffs before we agree on anything. On our forthcoming record there was a fair bit of collaboration in that one song was written literally as three separate parts and then joined together.
We don’t have any over-arching themes in our music, although the last three records did form a conceptual trilogy. We like to leave the lyrics and music open to interpretation, and hopefully let the listener decide their meaning for themselves. At the same time, if someone wants it just to be a soundtrack to walking their dog or have a beer at the weekend, that’s grand too.
PD. How do you promote your band and shows?
DM. We have the usual social media, although I think to call it promotion might be a push! We have a record label – BlackBow Records – who do an amazing job of getting our music out there, but I think in the scene we’re part of it’s got a lot to do with word of mouth, blogs and people recommending bands to each other. In terms of shows, we generally put on a couple of Irish shows per year ourselves, beyond that our shows are mainly fly-in gigs where we’ll be booked by a promoter.
PD. What do you think about downloading music online?
DM. I don’t personally download music, I prefer a physical format, but I appreciate that’s due to how I grew up and that downloading is where most folk get their music now. I’m amazed that so many people pay for downloads on our bandcamp page, as they could get the music for free if they hit any one of thousands of sites. I suppose that’s still a person supporting a band they like, so it’s no different really. Downloading music is no different really to when I recorded records onto cassette as a teenager, so I’m certainly not against it, even though I don’t do it myself.
PD. What’s your outlook on the record industry today?
DM. It’s much more democratic than it was twenty years ago, that’s for sure. Before the internet a band like ours from a small city on the edges of Europe wouldn’t have had access the way we do, and a lot of the best experiences we have had, like playing Norway or the USA, probably wouldn’t have happened. It’s easier to record your music now, and it’s great that the ability to get music out there has been given to every band with a microphone and internet access, without needing the money or permission of some label executive. I don’t feel any pity for the huge multimillionaire rock stars whinging about people downloading their music for free, although I do resent that it’s pushed door prices through the roof. The one drawback I think is for smaller bands who have committed to doing music full time, as there seems to be less industry money around to support touring etc. The last large independent record store here in Belfast has just closed, which I really miss, but I accept that’s the way things have ended up. That’s an experiential aspect to being a music fan which has gone unfortunately. One thing that has remained constant throughout all the changes is new music, and I think that’s a very reassuring thing. I’m at an age where some of my friends haven’t looked for new music since about 1997, and they complain about the lack of good new music, but to me they just aren’t looking in the right places. I find amazing new music all the time, so that’s a positive sign that maybe things haven’t changed too much.
PD. What song do you wish you’d written and why?
DM. I’d like to say some shit by Coldplay because then I wouldn’t have to go to work anymore, but I think if my legacy was inflicting that sonic stain on society then I might not sleep as well at night. There are so many ‘perfect’ songs for me, but if I could choose one right now I’d go for ‘High on the Hog’ by TAD. It’s a simple song but is just so perfectly formed and does everything I like a noisy racket to do in about three minutes, which is a real skill. That song is full of drama and emotion and has never grown old to me. Ask me again tomorrow and I’ll tell you something completely different of course!
PD. What are some of your pet peeves?
DM. Bands overplaying their set, cutting stage time for everyone else. Bands who just copy one specific artist and have no scope to their sound. Bands who embrace genres without any desire to look beyond the rules. Postal services who lose merch packages with alarming regularity. Gigs which involve long, thin stairways and heavy cabs.
PD. What is your proudest moment in music?
There are so many, as I’m a completely talentless guitarist and am critically aware that I’ve somehow ended up playing in a place I have no right to be. Maybe the most overwhelming was playing Roadburn. That festival has achieved almost mythical proportions although before we played I’d never been due to work, but having been there I now understand why. We hoped we’d have enough folk in so the venue wasn’t empty as we clashed with Warning, but when they had to shut the doors before we played the first note that really was a special feeling. During the set I saw loads of familiar faces from all around the world in the crowd, and the thought that they’d taken the time to catch our show was something that really blew me away. That the set was recorded and released by Roadburn really was the icing on the cake.
PD. Tell us about your next shows and why we should be there.
DM. Our next show is in the Camden Underworld, London on 3 February. You should go because it’s an all dayer event with loads of amazing bands such as Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and SLabdragger, who are worth the ticket on their own. You should be there because the Black Heart bar is just round the corner, so you get to be deafened by amps all day and then drink delicious beers with the bands in a nice pub afterwards. Hard to beat!
Band location – Belfast Ireland
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