Slabdragger are one of the UK’s best underground bands, they have worked very hard and made a name for themselves playing finely-crafted sludge music. They are a band that truly deserve a shot at the big time and deserve every bit of success that comes to them. Bassist Yusuf Tary spoke about their excellent album Rise of the Dawncrusher, as well as supporting some of their influences, touring Europe, festivals and what the future holds for Slabdragger.
Jack: Hi, thanks for taking the time to speak to me. How are you doing?
Yusuf Tary (Bass/Vocals): All good man, not too shabby.
Jack: Before I talk about the album I want to talk about your amazing 2015. How did it feel to share the stage with Bongzilla and Weedeater at Temples Fest?
Yusuf: Really good. They are two bands that we’ve all listened to for a long time, long before we formed Slabdragger. Obviously, they are innovators of the genre we are a part of so to be given the opportunity to play along side with them is something of a benchmark in our time as a band together.
Jack: Two of my friends met you at Temples Festival and had their photo taken. Is it strange knowing that people want their stuff signed and photos taken with you?
Yusuf: Kind of, but it’s really nice. It’s actually hard to believe as we are the same as the people asking for these things. I consider myself to be a music fan like anyone else, I just happen to make and play it as well. I love to chat to people at shows that have taken the time to invest themselves into our band. At the end of the day, someone who you would never meet in your life otherwise, has bought your record or bought a ticket to your show so I won’t only sign a record or do a photo, I’ll have a fucking beer and laugh with people.
Jack: You’ve also embarked on a few tours with OHHMS, what was it like touring with them?
Yusuf: OHHMS are an absolute pleasure to tour with. They are an absolute force to be reckoned with live and they work their arses off like no other band I’ve seen in a long time. And to top it off, really nice, down to earth blokes. Their bassist Chainy is my bass bro. He’s always upfront or even sitting on stage when we play. If anything happens like my lead popping out, he’s there fixing it back in place before I know what’s happened.
Jack: You also supported High on Fire, what was it like to support one of your influences? Did you get a chance to meet them?
Yusuf: The High On Fire show was a great night. Our dressing room was the backstage toilet. I remember standing in there looking at our gear surrounding the urinals and in walks in Matt Pike. He looked at me sheepishly and said, ‘Duuuude, I’m so sorry about this, this is bullshit…’. I just kind of smiled awkwardly and said it was cool. Shook his hand and said ‘nice to meet you’ in the middle of the toilets backstage at Scala. They were all super nice dudes and obviously totally crushed live. We got rather messy at that show!
Jack: Rise of the Dawncrusher came out in February. Given the long delays in the album, would you say you are relived with the great response?
Yusuf: Absolutely. And I knew this would be the case. We just soldiered on through all the bullshit of normal life and made the album we had wanted to make. It was certainly a relief once everything was submitted to Holy Roar as it had been a long time coming. But at the same time, I don’t think there should be any kind of time limit to release a record. We do like to take our time when writing songs as it is. It’s easy to make an album for the sake of it. But ultimately, if we are going to release it through a highly respected label such as Holy Roar, we want to make sure it is the best sounding, best feeling record we can make. And sometimes that can take time.
Jack: Was there ever a point where you thought that the album would never be released?
Yusuf: I am a very patient person, so I never had it in my mind that it would not get released. I always felt that the more obstacles there were in the way, the more rewarding it would be once it finally did come out. We are very determined about sharing what makes us feel good.
Jack: The songs are much longer on this album, was this a decision before going into the album to make the tracks longer?
Yusuf: We made a decision long before writing ‘…Dawncrusher’ that it would be an album’s worth of material made up of only 4 or 5 tracks. We wanted to make a more concise journey with a more concise direction than we did with ‘Regress’. ‘Regress’ was literally the beginning of the band. All of the songs on ‘Regress’ were the first things we wrote and we started building a record straight away after forming, so it was very much a learning curve. Those songs are the prototype for how we write music. So obviously, when we started writing ‘…Dawncrusher’, we had a reference point in which to experiment with in terms of riffs, time signatures, themes etc. We decided early on that it was going to be a concept record, so this gave ground to the idea of having few songs making up the whole record.
Jack: The album reminds me of Sleep’s Dopesmoker, not just in influence but in the way all the tracks transition into each other. Was this always planned while making the album?
Yusuf: I’d say comparing it to ‘Dopesmoker’ is accurate in the sense that we were trying to make something as big as possible. Obviously, Sleep are a band that we love and are innovators of the Doom/Stoner genre. Some of our riffs are very much influenced by Sleep. But then again some of our riffs are influenced by Mahavishnu Orchestra or Sheer Terror or Led Zeppelin. But it being a concept album, we had to make sure there was a level of seamlessness to make it feel like a story because that is was it is.
Jack: The album is a sci-fi concept. Did any sci-fi novels and albums influence it?
Yusuf: We basically wanted to have something that was a cross between the film Heavy Metal and the comic book, The Incal. I’d never heard of The Incal before Sam introduced me to it. I loved the art, it has such a gritty, far out style. The Incal has such a great energy to it. You look at some of the artwork and it’s like a futuristic Where’s Wally! It has a very beautiful blend of dystopian vs spiritual vibes that really resonated with me. We wanted to make a sludge record with an 80’s post apocalyptic sci fi backdrop. Something really dark and heavy but with a psychedelic ambience. Crushing and beautiful at the same time.
Jack: You recently played some dates in Europe, how did they go?
Yusuf: [Laughs] We were scheduled to play 3 shows in Holland so it wasn’t a proper euro tour visiting several countries. We had a great time the first 2 days. The last day not so much as the last show didn’t happen. It was our first time out to Europe so I’m not totally surprised. The band we went over with, Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters kick arse. Was great to play shows with them and I hope we do more.
Jack: A lot of bands say that Europe is better than the UK in terms of hospitality, do you agree?
Yusuf: Well, we only had this one experience so far but as far as hospitality, it was great. Everyone we met was very friendly and the Dutch are very chilled.
Jack You played Holy Roar Fest on the 21st May. How is it been working with Holy Roar Records?
Yusuf: Working with Holy Roar has been great. Alex (Fitzpatrick, Head of Holy Roar), likes our music enough to put it out which means a lot to us.
Jack: With Slabdragger becoming more and more successful, is it harder to fit in the band with day jobs?
Yusuf: I think it’s hardest for me. I work a 9-5 job with limited holiday time so as things start getting more hectic, we have to make sure anything we do is going to be worth the while. Jack (Newnham, Drums) and Sam (Thredder, Guitars/Vocals) are self-employed, so they can afford to be more flexible. We don’t make much money if any from this otherwise I would not have to work a day job. Maybe one day. [Laughs]
Jack: You were slated to play Hevy Fest which unfortunately was cancelled, while Wildfire Fest (formerly Les Fest) in Scotland is currently undergoing crowd funding to save this year’s addition of the festival. Do you feel festivals are more under threat than ever?
Yusuf: To be honest, I don’t really know. I see a lot of independent festivals making names for themselves and really growing. It depends on what situation the festival organisers are in financially and logistically. I imagine organising a festival is like being in a band in that it depends on your personal situation and drive to get it done. I don’t think anyone is under threat per se, just unlucky sometimes. I suppose there is more of a risk loosing the bigger a festival gets.
Jack: Regress was dealt with the earth and Rise of the Dawncrusher was a space themed album. Where will your next album take you?
Yusuf: We have been tinkering with the idea of making an angry ‘street’ album. Not a concept record as such, but making songs about real life. We might have a punk rock/hip hop vibe with the general theme. Write songs about skating, drugs, riots, personal loss, pissed off youth etc. Not that we are going to be making rap metal or anything! [Laughs] It’s still going to be heavy sludge/doom music. I really want to go the other way with it. For instance, I want there to be lots of 2-3 minute sludge ragers rather than epic 15 minute monsters. I want there to be loads of skits and samples in between songs. Some people might hate that. I don’t really care because I know it’s going to smash.
Jack: What are your plans for the rest of 2016?
Yusuf: Have just recorded a song for a split we will be doing with Wren. You’ll have to wait and see…
Jack: Finally, what is the best Black Sabbath album? My favourite is Vol 4.
Yusuf: This is a trick question right?