Tuesday, 29 December 2009

EXCLUSIVE Interview with Tommy Gleeson from Slaves to Gravity.

Hey guys,
Hope everyone had a good Christmas! Looking forward to New Years?
I recently got the chance to do an interview with Tommy Gleeson, the lead singer from London’s Slaves to Gravity. An excellent band I recommend you all check out!
So, to keep you entertained in the lull between Xmas and New Years Eve, here’s the interview:

1. You've just finished touring with The Butterfly Effect. How did the tour go for you?
It was great to get back in a van and hit the road. We’ve been locked in a studio all summer, so there were a lot of cobwebs to blow out and energy to unleash. The Butterfly Effect dudes are some of the nicest people on the planet, and it was a real pleasure sharing some stages with them, great band. Nice to reconnect with our audience again and play some new music, which I think went down a storm. Everyone was very patient and allowed us to try some new stuff, which we appreciated. Based on the response from these gigs i think the new record is really going to make a connection.

2. Any amusing stories from the road?
Plenty, but our sense of humour is pretty abstract and probably wouldn’t translate all that well in print! For me, just watching our new drummer Gem get pissed and go insane every night was ample entertainment.

3. You've been playing some new songs on this tour, how have those gone down with the crowd?
Very well I think. It’s always a gamble playing new songs live that no-one has heard before, and 7 out of 8 songs in our set were from the new record! We toured Scatter The Crow a lot and whilst we all love those songs, we were dying to share our shiny new tunes with everyone. I think the new songs translated very well in a live setting. They rock like bastards and they get people’s hearts racing and their feet moving. People seemed to be picking up on the lyrics and singing the last chorus’ back at us too, which was really cool. Even the bizarre time signatures didn’t shake them off!

4. Speaking of new songs, how’s the new album coming along?
We finished tracking back in September and mixing has just started over in L.A. It’s the first time we’ve not been in the room for the mix which is strange and a little disconcerting, but Bob (Marlette – Producer) has amazing ears and we trust him. We’re getting tracks through via email, making our comments and sending them to him so he can make any little tweaks required. It sounds fucking amazing to me and I’m very proud of what we’ve created. It’s a big, dynamic record with a lot of subtle shading and twists in the plot and I really can’t wait for people to hear it.

5. Have there been many changes in your musical direction on the new album, or can we expect a release quite similar to ‘Scatter the Crow’?
In a sense we set out in a similar way – to write the biggest, baddest, songs we could, but as the process unfolded the record took on a sound very much it’s own and ended up quite different to Scatter. To me that album is very dark, quite claustrophobic and guilty of being a bit linear at times. With the new songs, there’s hope glowing quietly in the corners. There’s a warmth and a humanity about it. It has a very dark side, but it doesn’t take itself so seriously. We’ve taken several large strides forward in my opinion. The song writing is better, more direct, and we have really improved as musicians. Having Bob on board was great. He had a skeleton key that opened all manner of strange doors that we’ll never close again, to quote Bowie. He encouraged us to really push our creativity to the limit and to have the confidence to go out on a limb without fear of falling or looking stupid. He’s an incredible musician too, and he put down some fantastic parts on Keys and Harmonica that added some really nice fairy dust to the album.

6. What was the recording experience like this time around?
We made this record in 2 sessions, split over 3 weeks. Scatter the crow took the best part of 3 months. We were much more focused this time around, largely down to having a producer keeping us on track. He wouldn’t allow us to procrastinate about a single guitar part for 3 days. If the knee-jerk reaction was that it sounded cool, it stayed. There was no analysing anything. It was another thing for us to get our heads around, but I think that’s where a lot of the humanity I was talking about comes from. It’s in the slight imperfections and the spontaneity of some of the performances. The studio (Monnow Valley) was really great, too. The people that run it are super cool and it’s in a beautiful setting in the Monmouthshire countryside, away from the choking mess of London. You could hear yourself think there, and there were cows to talk to when things got tough.

7. Your first album was self released through your own label, Gravitas Records. You're now signed to Spinefarm Records. Has that had any affect on the recording of the new album?
Our deal with Spinefarm was only for the release of the last single from Scatter The Crow (Doll Size) and the redistribution of the album. Our distributors had gone skint at the end of 2008 which really fucked us, and Spinefarm are plugged into the marketing and distribution of Universal, so it made sense for us to ink a deal with them and get the album back out there. The new album is totally separate. We’ve made it on our own without any label backing, and we’re looking for the right home for it now.

8. Have you set a title or release date for the new record yet?
We’re aiming for a March / April release, but as yet it’s officially TBC.

9. When it comes to writing songs as Slaves to Gravity, how does that work? Do you turn up with the main bulk of the songs or is it entirely a group effort?
With this album, I demoed most of the songs in fairly complete form and bought them to the band to listen to. They’d learn the arrangement and then we’d start trimming off the fat as well as adding meat to the bones. …everyone just adding their creativity and ideas. There are 2 songs that I co-wrote with Mark that sort of worked the other way round… Working off of his home demos. Once we had about 18 songs, we demoed them again as a band. Some of the songs ended up more or less exactly as they started out and others are almost unrecognizable.

10. What influences you as a writer and performer?
I knew I wanted to be a musician from a very early age. I started playing drums when I was 5 and got hipped to Guns n’ Roses when I was 7. Hearing them for the first time was like being electrocuted. Ever since I’ve wanted to make music that could have that effect on other people, because it’s the greatest feeling in the world and everyone should experience it. I want to take all the danger and sex and desperation in the world and turn it into a big, swaggering riff that makes people want to dance and fight and fuck each other!

11. You've got four gig dates set for January, but they're all down south, any chance of seeing you up north in the first part of the year? Or will we have to wait till the album’s released?
We’ll be touring a lot in 2010. You’ll definitely be seeing us in your manor.

12. You’ve recently had a new arrival to the Slaves family, after the departure of former drummer Jason this year. How did that affect you and the other members of the band?
It was hard because I’ve been playing music with J for 7 years. He was one of the first guys I met when I moved to London and we have been a huge part of each- others lives ever since. It was a huge blow when he told us he was leaving, and it came just a couple of weeks before we started tracking the new album, but we fully understood and supported his decision. His dad had a bad stroke and J wanted to be there to look after him. Things like that make you reassess your priorities in life. We’re still good friends.

13. How is Gemma settling in to the band? Did she get a chance to lay down any of the drum tracks for the new album, or were those all handled by Jason before he left?
J played all the drums on the new album, and did a really great job. Bob is pretty brutal when it comes to drums and J had to take a lot of stuff on the chin, but he raised his game and played his ass off. It hopefully gave him a sense of closure as well. Gem’s been settling in just fine though. She’s a fucking revelation! Her style is very different from J’s and it’s given us a real shot in the arm. She’s mad, absolutely mad and just a brilliant drummer. In some senses it would have been great if she’d played on the record, but it just wasn’t ever going to work out that way. It’s definitely spiced things up live though and I can’t wait for us to write together.

14. Have there ever been times in your musical career when you've considered giving it all up and working in an office?
Yeah there have been a few. It’s tough out there for musicians. The industry is in bad shape it’ll take you down if you’re not careful. I’m lucky that I have an incredibly supportive fiancĂ© and family who keep me going through the dark times. They have to put up with a lot of shit because of my chosen path, but I think they realize that my soul is in this, and without it I’d be dead, so they stand behind me. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have had the courage to stick with it and I’d probably be stacking shelves to pay for smack.

15. Many people reckon that the recording industry will cease to exist in its current form within the near future. What are your views on the current state of the recording industry? How does it affect you?
It affects me greatly! There’s no doubt that the industry is in trouble, but it’s always been a shit business. It’s the result of the gory train-wreck that is the collision of art and commerce. As an artist, you have to be very strong and committed to what you’re doing, and you have to find a way of keeping your art pure. It’s very hard to make a living, especially now stealing music is widely accepted as being OK, but you just have to keep going. Competition is fierce and you need to be prepared to work your balls off to get where you want to go. Embrace the new media and be smart about the moves you make and the people you work with. I don’t know any better than the next guy where things are going with the industry, what shape it will take in the future, but I do believe that people will always want to hear music of substance, so I still have faith.

16. How has illegal downloading and file sharing affected Slaves to Gravity? Is it something you’re opposed to or do you view it as a 'necessary' evil and that's its getting people to come to the shows that matters?
Call me old school, but I’m still of the opinion that stealing is wrong. I know a lot of people who are trying to work a system whereby they accept that no-one is going to pay for their record and therefore they try to make money elsewhere – through touring, merch etc, but to me it’s missing the fucking point. By giving away a record that has taken a year of blood, sweat and tears to write and record, you are implying that it has no intrinsic value. That’s the wrong message to be sending out. I wonder how they’ll react when kids just start stealing t-shirts?

18. Anything else you’d like to add?
Just to say thank you to everyone for their continued support! If you haven’t done it already, stop by Myspace, Facebook, Bebo, Youtube etc and say hi. See you on the road!

I want to thank Tommy for a great interview. Very much looking forward to the new album!
If you want to check out Slaves to Gravity, you can find them at: Myspace, Facebook, Youtube.