On a cold Sunday afternoon, in a hidden room in Cardiff’s student union, with the sounds of David Attenborough filling the room, a rather down-trodden, hungover Isaac Holman from Slaves confesses his delicate state after a wild and particularly heavy Saturday night out in Bristol. Not quite the manic, boisterous reception I was expecting on arrival, but it can be said that even a band as hard core as Slaves need a bit of Attenborough to keep them comforted when enduring a ghastly hangover. However, Isaac does not let this gift from gin get him down as he fills us in on the wondrous, punk world of Slaves. From albums, tours and all nighters with Wolf Alice.
With the new Slaves album Take Control only being released late September, Slaves are currently taking the new material to the UK and Europe. However, we must question, how does an extremely British punk band bode with a European audience. “Europe was mad, they were just mad for it, I think they loved the whole Britishness of it. If there was a crazy German guy on stage topless screaming about all the stuff we do. I’d fucking love it. So yeah they loved it.” The current tour, tested the waters on how the new album was received. Evidently, it became rather successful by reaching to number six in the UK album charts, which for such a distinct, punk album, is rather impressive, Issac praises its reception “It’s gone down well, gone to number six in the charts and sold quite a lot”. After the release of their debut album Are You Satisfied? being released in only 2015, Slaves have opted out of the stereotypical ‘let’s go find ourselves’ for the next album and instead, cracked on with album number two. However, don’t expect these records to be the same “We have progressed a lot as a band, so it sounds different to the last one. I think you’ve gotta keep moving, a lot of bands just record the same album four times. We just wanted to consciously make it different to the last one”.
This album is particularly special as it was produced by the legendary Mike D from the Beastie Boys. For anybody, this would be a big deal, but for Slaves there’s a higher level of importance as an essence of the Beastie Boys comes through Slaves’ sound in a range of tracks. We had to question, was there an influence there? “Big time! I was over the moon. He was working with someone else on our label and he got hold of our record and liked it and the powers that be, occurred. He called up Laurie and that was it. It was really bizarre”. It is clear that working with such talent has had a profound impact on the future of Slaves “He pushed us further than we usually go in terms of writing and instrumentation. It feels like he got the good stuff out of us”. Slaves couldn’t help but drop a tribute to Mikey D after such a collaboration with the lyric: ‘He used to be a beastie boy,but now he works for me’ in track The People That You Meet which was written with Wolf Alice’s drummer Joel Amney. In good spirit Mike D, allowed this witty mockery as “He thought it was funny” laughs Isaac.
Revisiting the topic of Wolf Alice, we must not ignore the rumoured ‘all nighter’ Slaves have had with the band that had been floating around recently. However, the naivety of us at Quench, thought this meant a musical collaboration, but when Isaac replied “I’ve had a lot of all nighters with Wolf Alice” followed by a cheeky grin, it was clear that music was the last thing on the agenda for Slaves and Wolf Alice. We won’t be holding our breath for a featuring any time soon! However, a certain artist Slaves have in fact collaborated with, is grime hero, Skepta. With Slaves covering his hit song Shutdown whilst appearing on stage with him at Radio 1’s Big Weekend in 2015. Here we saw how the combining of grime and punk together, somehow fits like a glove. We were intrigued to see what Isaac thought of grime music, with it being dominant amongst the current British music scene “I’m a big fan of grime. I take a lot of my influences from grime, I’ve loved grime for a really long time. Back in the day before it was popular like now, I would download Skepta’s early stuff onto my phone”. It’s intriguing to see how fitting the combination of these genres really are, as Slaves channel that raw grime anger and tension through elements of rap, and combine it with the shouty, punk riffs and heavy drums to make their unique sound.
Although, it’s not just Slaves sound that distinguishes their uniqueness. What is intriguing about this duo, is their fearlessness and enthusiasm to speak or should I say shout, about what matters, what’s wrong and what needs to be brought to the attention of the public. They throw a political stance into the music industry, a stance which many bands shy away from, out of fear and a lack of risk taking. So, in a world where Donald Trump is president, Brexit has got the go ahead and the Toblerone is disintegrating, Slaves as a controversial punk band, should have something to say “It’s fucked. It’s all just fucked”. It seems, that such madness has even silenced the all speaking, all shouting Slaves…
Slaves: People That You Meet (Listen out for the Mike D reference)