After a cracking performance at The Waiting Rooms in Colchester (reviewed here), I managed to talk to Slabdragger‘s awesome bassist and vocalist Yusuf Tary about their recent gigs, Damnation Festival, the importance of Sleep and their debut Regress (reviewed here).
Yusuf Tary (Bass/Vocals): Well our previous drummer left these shores to live in Australia indefinitely. We’ve known Jack for a while, and we did a split with Meadows in 2012. We asked if he would be up for filling in and he agreed. We are not sure if Sev will be coming back or not so until he does, it’s looking like Jack is our permanent drummer for now (laughs). But it’s great because he’s a fucking awesome drummer and fits in Slabdragger so well.
Jack: How did the weekender go for you guys?
Yusuf: It was a blast! We are right at home playing DIY shows as we are a DIY band. Our good friend Khaled from the band Messenger drove us and we had a great time hanging out. And also we had access to Jack’s awesome collection of 80s and 90s hip hop cassettes for the journey to Norwich.
Jack: Did any of the support acts you played with stand out in particular?
Yusuf: They were all great. We didn’t manage to catch Goat Monsoon in Colchester unfortunately, as we had just arrived as they started and we were all starving! Earthmass, Grey Widow, Three Thrones and Jøtnarr were all excellent and it was my first time seeing all those bands.
Jack: It says on your Facebook you’re influenced by Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard and Entombed among others, are these artists the ones that got you into metal?
Yusuf: They are definitely bands we love among many, many more. Between us we all listen to a huge amount of music beyond metal including hardcore punk, rock and roll, hip hop, blues, jazz. Hardcore punk has just as big an influence on our writing just as much as metal.
Jack: You’re also influenced by Sleep, how important are they as a band to the stoner, sludge and doom communities?
Yusuf: I personally think they are very important. I think Black Sabbath are the ultimate band to influence nearly every facet of metal after them but to me, Sleep are the only band to successfully pick up where Black Sabbath left off sonically. Sleep are very much an iconic band in the sense that they are a milestone in Doom/Stoner/Sludge/whatever you want to call it. As much as they are an influential band, we are not trying to copy them or anything like that.
Jack: Your album Regress is three years old now. Are you still proud of the album?
Yusuf: For me, I am proud of it in that it is the first full length album I’ve ever made in a band. I love it but I can’t really listen to it anymore as we played those songs for five years! To be honest I think it’s a bit early in the game for us to be getting proud. We’ve only made one full length! I just want to look forward and carry on putting out music.
Jack: You’re going to be doing a new album soon, will the new material sound similar to Regress or will you be going in a completely different direction?
Yusuf: The basis of our sound in Regress is still there but we are introducing a few twists and turns. There is some fast stuff on there; there are some crusty death metal riffs and some proggy sections as well. I want to keep our base sound but I don’t want to regurgitate anything either. I think it’s important to keep it fresh without losing your sonic identity.
Jack: What’s taken so long to do another album?
Yusuf: Well one reason is our history of revolving drummer. In 6 years we’ve had four drummers. That almost averages out as a drummer a year! That has certainly dented our momentum at times. Also we aren’t in a rush to just put out some slapdash material. We are super anal about what we do, but that is because we are trying to retain what we feel is special about our little band.
Jack: Sam is quite prolific recording bands and producing albums, is it hard to fit the band in around his busy schedule?
Yusuf: (Laughs) I know during the Regress recording sessions he nearly had a mental breakdown as he was mixing and recording 7 million things at the time!
Jack: Your page on Holy Roar Records says you sing “about epic quests to Nepal to find killer weed, rubbish Roman Centurions, battling huge Octopian creatures and drinking rum”. What inspires your lyrics?
Yusuf: Basically, we like to have fun when writing lyrics. We like to use our imagination. The first song that Sam ever wrote for Slabdragger, “Splice the Mainbrace” was a short story about pirates that overcame a sea monster. We then wrote lyrics based on the story. We have taken this approach with the whole of the next record. It started off as a concept describing journey through the centre of the Earth. Over time, it has turned into a huge story involving characters, a narrative etc. It’s now a huge sci-fi adventure. It’s super fun! And that is an intrinsic part of being in a band for us, is to enjoy it and have some fun, but still writing about things that are heavy.
Jack: Will Slabdragger ever tackle serious matters with their music?
Yusuf: We have never really tackled personal issues or struggles simply because we feel that it’s kind of played out and boring. I’m not against it or any bands that write like that, and I wouldn’t rule out writing about more serious things in the future. But at the same time, when you use your imagination, the possibilities are endless. When you chose to write about personal issues you are already putting up boundaries in a way. But maybe we will do something more personal in future as it’ll be something different for us.
Jack: ‘Murky Fen’ is your most popular song on iTunes and the one with the most YouTube views, do you consider this song your big ‘hit’?
Yusuf: A hit? It’s a hit in the balls! (Laughs) It’s that riff I guess, it’s a real neck breaker of a riff that Sam wrote. It also happens to be one of my favourites to play live. I always get caught in the moment and end up on the floor smashing my bass strings. That’s the effect it has on me! Basically that’s how I judge how happy I am with a song. It’s got to make me want to smash the ever loving shit out of my bass/myself.
Jack: You played Damnation Festival last year, how did that go?
Yusuf: It was excellent. We had a great time playing to a packed room, meeting and watching all the amazing bands and festival goers. Also dancing to Anthrax at the after party and having a massive laugh. It was a great day.
Jack: You’ve also played Desert Fest this year; do you think that smaller genre-specific festivals will be the future of the festival circuit?
Yusuf: This year was our second time at Desertfest and as always it was an absolute pleasure. I definitely think that more genre specific festivals will be something that will grow in the future and that is great in my eyes. The days of big festivals like Donnington etc are coming to an end I feel. There are only a few of the big headlining bands left that can pull that kind of audience and sell tickets. You look at Download, Sonisphere etc, it’s as if they rotate the same bands every other year. It’s always either Iron Maiden, Metallica, AC/DC etc simply because we are now in an era where there are so many bands and so much access to music that no one can really dominate a festival like that anymore. If Iron Maiden headline, you have guys taking their whole families. The wife, the kids, the fucking dog! That’s a lot of tickets because bands like that grew their legacy before the Information Age and before there were so many sub genres. Now metal and rock music has split off into so many different areas that lots more different festivals will have to appear to accommodate them.
Jack: Do you have 2015 planned out or will you just go with what comes up?
Yusuf: Simply we are going to release the album, gig the shit out of it and see what happens. I don’t like to hold expectations because it’s more fun that way.
Jack: Finally, I have to ask, you uploaded a photo of one of your amps attached to a crane hook to Facebook. Can you explain this?
Yusuf: (Laughs) We practiced at Jack’s Dad’s place of work which is a metal tubing warehouse. He used the crane to take the amps up a platform as the stairs were very steep. We are going to be making a music video in there very soon.