Sly & the Family Drone in interview: “The ‘noise scene’ is so ridiculous, it’s impossible not to take things with a pinch of salt”

Sly & the Family Drone in interview: “The ‘noise scene’ is so ridiculous, it’s impossible not to take things with a pinch of salt”

| Outubro 26, 2019 7:41 pm

Sly & the Family Drone in interview: “The ‘noise scene’ is so ridiculous, it’s impossible not to take things with a pinch of salt”

| Outubro 26, 2019 7:41 pm
© Scott Simpson
One of the most interesting noise bands that appeared in recent years, Sly & the Family Drone are returning to Portugal to play shows in Lisbon, Leiria, Aveiro and Porto. We talked to Matt Cargill, a member of the band, to understand how they came back from a “tumultuous 2018”, how can a band play with their sheer intensity and to understand their relationship with Portugal.
Threshold Magazine (TM) – You had a tumultuous 2018 with lots of personal problems for your band members. In what way did that inspire your music?

Sly & the Family Drone (Sly) – Yes, 2018 was very difficult, we had to cancel our planned European tour as I was involved in an accident when our tour van flipped en route to Paris. I was seriously injured and was in hospital for three weeks. Unfortunately all our equipment was stolen from the wreckage, so the main gear I use for sly had suddenly disappeared. It took a long time to regain the confidence, desire and physical equipment to begin performing again. But we managed to tour again in England at the end of the year and have been enjoying a renewed sense of focus and enjoyment in playing live.

TM – How is that transmitted on your playing?

Sly – Physically it was quite difficult. I’ve had 4 surgical procedures on my arm which is now held together with metal. I’m having ongoing physiotherapy twice a week to regain strength and mobility which is very helpful. It has impacted how I perform live, but I’m managing to play drums and carry amplifiers again.

TM – Even though you’re regularly described as a noise band, silence plays a big part in your music, that is especially noted on the first track of the album, Heavens Gate Dog Agility. Do you consider yourself disciplined musicians?

Sly – I think its quite easy for people to be dismissive of ‘noise bands’. In recent years I’ve had many people say to me how surprised they are that we are now deemed to have ‘songs’. However, I do believe that we’ve become more disciplined when it comes to space and structure. That has certainly come with the recording of Gentle Persuaders – which is our first record with incredible baritone sax player James Allsopp. We’ve been playing with James as a full time permanent member for almost 3 years and his addition has made us all step up our game in terms of performance and how we approach new material.

TM – Noise music is known for its seriousness, but you use humor in your work (“Jehova’s Wetness” is an amazing music name). Is it important for you to express this side even though you play some dense and somber music?

Sly – We’ve always used humour in our presentation as a band, even the band name itself is a joke. I think sometimes that does us a disservice but actually the ‘noise scene’ is so ridiculous, its impossible not to take things with a pinch of salt. The music sometimes may be dark or oppressive but its always fun in its application.

TM – It is known that England is going through a new jazz movement, with groups like Ezra Collective or Nubya Garcia finding lots of success at international level. Do you draw inspiration from this movement?

Sly – I have never heard of those groups you mentioned. I don’t think we really fit in a jazz scene, or have any point of reference for those groups. Sometimes we get labelled jazz, or noise and people have a difficult time trying to comprehend that you can be both, or neither. Our influences are far more disparate than to just come from one area

TM – Your shows are known for its chaotic energy and sound. How does a band prepare for a show like that?

Sly – For the live shows, practically we like to have a few things in place. We can play in any place that has electricity and we love unusual spaces but essentially whatever venue we arrive in needs to have a decent PA system with subs. We like to be close to people so we play ‘in the round’ without a stage.

TM – How does someone capture that live raw energy on studio? Do you try to replicate it or do you do something completely new?

Sly – When it comes to recording we always record ‘live’ in the same room as each other, at the same time. We generally record in the warehouse where we also live and put on shows. The things that end up on a record may have come from things that have morphed organically over time when playing shows and then we may bring ideas from that when we come to record. I do feel like they can be separate entities though, it’s not an exact replica of what we’d do live. 

TM – Are you excited to play in Portugal?

Sly – We’re very excited to come back to Portugal! This tour will be our third time. We had an amazing time in 2016 and 2017 at Milhões de Festa. I’m mostly excited to bring what I feel is the band at its peak to audiences in Portugal. What they may have witnessed before isn’t necessarily what they’ll be getting this time around.

TM – Are you a fan of anything of Portuguese origin?

Sly – Musically we like DJ Nigga Fox, João Pais Filipe and the atmosphere at your festivals and shows. Our show at Damas in Lisbon was one of our favourite ever in the history of the band. Everything was perfect and just made for a very memorable evening. Our drummer Kaz also likes your coffee.

TM – If someone who didn’t know your band came up to you and asked what to expect from a Sly & the Family Drone concert, what would you say to them?

Sly – I find it quite difficult to describe the music itself because it encompasses so many feelings for me. I would say to expect a lot of dynamic electronic music with live acoustic drums and baritone saxophone. But I’m not a writer so shall use some quotes from people who are better at describing things than me. Hewn from multiple drummers, banks of electronics and a saxophone, and at various points sounds like the Butthole Surfers, Wolf Eyes and Joey Beltram playing through a broken PA, Ramones and Throbbing Gristle. The whole thing is a glorious, abrasive detonation of sheer primal energy.

Interview by: Hugo Geada