Slam are synonymous with cutting edge, quality underground electronic music, making them the perfect headline act for the UK’s Noisily Festival, held in Leicestershire on 11-13th July. Stuart McMillan and Orde Meikle have been a constant and dominant presence on the electronic music landscape for over 25 years, powered by an uncompromising passion and love for truly underground electronica.
Forget fashion, fads and fickleness, Slam stay true to the cause and it shows. Their legendary Soma record label has been described as ‘Scotland’s finest musical Export’, releasing over 400 singles and 100 albums worldwide. Relentlessly busy with the label, Slam Radio, T in the Park preparations and a new Slam album in the pipeline, Orde found some time to chat with Pulse about Festivals, Frankie Knuckles and all things Soma...
First and foremost, can you give us some insight into the Slam secrets to success? You guys have been blasting dance floors and delivering top-quality productions for over 25 years. No real secrets – just a honest love of underground electronic music, strength of conviction, and a wish to always be ahead of the curve with what we play, produce and sign for release on Soma Records.
Just shy of its 25th anniversary, we have the mighty Soma Records, the label you co-founded in 1991, described by many as ‘Scotland’s finest musical export’ and notably, one of the longest running and most successful independent UK labels. How are things at Soma HQ, and what do you guys have in store for 2014? Soma Records was started because we couldn’t find anyone else with our vision or belief in the then emerging genre of “dance music,“ and to find ourselves honing in on our 25th anniversary is as much a surprise to us as it will be to many others. Soma has had many new signings recently to add to our established artists roster and we have a great team of people working at Soma HQ.
2014 is turning into a really exciting year for us. We’ve had a fantastic album release by Lewis Fautzi and singles from new artists such as John Barber, Roberto Clementi, 04LM, Charles Fenkler and Woo York to name a few. We also have a new Slam album in the pipeline due for release in September or October, and singles from Jeff Derringer, Secluded, Petrichor and the long awaited return of Funk DVoid to name but a few.
Also, we have a new series of Soma Nights due to start travelling to the world’s best clubs towards the end of the year.
With Soma’s reputation, the label has seen many big name releases over the years, yet there is always an emphasis on homegrown talent as well. Is this something that is important to the label, and to you personally as label owners? Soma has always had a very eclectic musical release policy and has always been very aware of home grown talent and the need to offer the encouragement and knowledge to help these artists develop and emerge onto the global dance scene, but we are always on the look out for great music regardless of where in the world it originates.
What does Soma look for in its new artists and their music? Not sure we’re able to put into words what it is exactly that makes Soma choose a new artist. It is a democracy though, with all of us adding our views to our A&R meetings – but strangely there is a fantastic amount of agreement
Can you tell us a bit about the Soma Skool project? Soma Skool was started as a way of passing on some of our acquired knowledge of the business to people wishing to make a career out of music. Not just in the areas of production and marketing, but also in areas that some people may be unaware of when first considering a job in music, such as law, promotion, management, and may other avenues. Information we found very hard to find when we first stated the label. All put together in a one or two day experience
At the moment we have a music production course run by Simon Stokes that allows people varying degrees of Ableton tutoring – a very popular course indeed
Slam hold residencies in 3 of the UK’s best nightclubs – The Arches and Sub Club in your home town of Glasgow, and Fabric in London. How do the two cities compare in terms of the clubbing vibes? Pressure at the Arches is a three room extravaganza for about 2500 people – a monthly event in Glasgow hosting some of the worlds biggest underground dance DJs alongside up-and-coming performers that are on our hit list of people to bring to our crowd in Glasgow – always a fantastic atmosphere and rapidly becoming a favourite with many of our guests. The Sub Club is the venue for our mid-monthly residency, Return To Mono, an intimate 400-500 basement venue often used as a testing ground for DJs who’s productions we love but haven’t had a chance to catch their performances, and artists that we can’t always get due to diary clashes for the bigger events
Fabric is just Fabric – probably one of the best clubs in the world. The guys always afford us a 4 or 5-hour set from the start of the night, allowing us to indulge our eclectic love of electronica. The crowd are always super enthusiastic – we just love it. To be honest, the vibe of all three of these residencies is always fantastic – a good club is just a good club regardless of locale.
2012 saw the launch of your weekly Slam Radio broadcast on Soundcloud, showcasing all things techno. What gave you the inspiration for the project? How have people reacted - peers and fans? Slam Radio has now reached its 80th episode and we couldn’t have ever have realised the popularity and reach of the show prior to launching. The inspiration came from listening to other DJs on our travels, and from various mixes we would hear in cars and on various social media sites. We felt that some off these mixes we’d hear needed to be brought together under one heading and put out in a recognisable and easily found format. Now we hardly have to ask for shows as artists come to us asking to do a show. We’d just like to thank all the contributors for the great music. and for making the site so internationally successful.
Is the electronic music industry a better place with sites such as Soundcloud and Mixcloud? Absolutely. Sites such as Soundcloud and Mixcloud have a fantastic diversity of music and mixes. As long as you’re willing to spend a bit of time honing your searches, there’s always something to be heard for the first time.
Who have been your biggest influences over the years? The list is endless – Kraftwerk, Can, Steve Reich, Brian Eno, Gorgio Moroder, George Clinton, The Clash, Afrika Bambatta, (a lot of reggae artists), Yello, Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Lil Louis, Bam Bam, Phuture, Mr Fingers, Jeff Mills… These are only a few, the list is truly endless. Then there’s labels – Celluloid, Trax, R&S, Trojan, Warp, Sleeping Bag, FNAC, Nu Groove, Transmat...
What was your reaction to the recent death of Frankie Knuckles? A real tragedy – to lose such a great talent so young – a real pioneer whose torch burned so brightly, an icon within the dance scene. A first we couldn’t quite believe it – then the sadness set in and the memories flood back.
After spending such a large proportion of your lives dedicated to music, can you envisage a time when you say, ‘That’s enough’? If one of you was ready to stop and the other wasn’t, do you think Slam would function as a solo project? No idea – we’ll cross that bridge if we ever have to cross it – we tend not to look that far ahead and both feel there’s just so much more to be achieved – we’re still just enjoying the journey too much.
The weekend of 11-13th July 2014 is going to be a busy one for you guys. You are hosting the legendary Slam Tent at T In The Park, alongside a small detour to the rolling hills of Leicestershire to perform at Noisily Festival. Do you enjoy getting your feet dirty and performing in a field? Summer festivals are just the best – such an all-encompassing experience. We’ve been doing T for over 15 years, and it just gets better and better – the Slam Tent now runs over 4 days Thursday to Sunday – and we have the same crew of sound and lighting guys with us for all of that time – so its like a long camping trip with your best mates, add in some of the best DJs (now friends) and bands in the world – what’s not to love?
Noisily Festival is a far more intimate and underground affair compared with T in the Park. What are you expecting from the festival? What can we expect from your set? We’re both look forward to the appearance at Noisily – hoping to make some new friends. Slam now play on two laptops, eight decks, drum machines and samplers – almost a live remixing set up - so anything could happen.
With the explosion of festivals across Europe and sunnier climes, do you think it is important for the UK to continue to cultivate and embrace its outdoor festival legacy? Absolutely – its imperative that all UK festivals, large and small, continue to thrive, prosper and push the envelope. They’ve almost become a right of passage for most young people. Not everyone has the budget to travel abroad and shouldn’t be deprived of that special outdoor experience.
What are your all time top favourite pieces of music?
1- Manuel Gotensching – E2 E4
2- Mantronix – Ladies - 10
3- Slam – Positive Education – Soma
4- Lil Louis – Blackout - FFRR
5- Jeff Mills – The Bells - Axis
Catch Slam at Noisily Festival, taking place from July 11-13, 2014. For more info, head to www.noisilyfestival.com
Listen to Slam on Pulse Radio.