It seems we have a little trend going on here at Untitled 909, becoming a hot spot for Brighton-based artists with previous features on Patterns and Alex Downey. Lobster Theremin affiliate Slacker now joins the crew. Real name Sam Black, the versatile producer and DJ moved to Brighton for university and became consumed by the coastal city’s flourishing music scene. Releasing his first EP on Lobster two years ago with the jungle-inspired ‘Amen To The Lonely’ as a way of dealing with his emotions, Sam went on to launch a party series called Take Time, booking the likes of Solid Blake, Transparent Sound, Alex Downey, Tasker, Sync24 and Carl Finlow. Returning to Lobster later this month with his second EP ‘Leviathan’ and a bunch of releases scheduled for the rest of the year, we catch up with Sam to talk about his beginnings, the relationship with Lobster and his experiences as a promoter in Brighton.
With your second EP on Lobster out now, what has your journey been like so far within music? How did it all begin for you?
Yeah, it has been a fairly positive journey. It all stemmed from a place of musical drive, I’d listen to tracks I liked and think “fuck yeah, this sounds sick, how did they make that”. I mean, that was with more of maybe the ‘better’ side of dubstep, and the post-dubstep things back when I was in school still. But, music has really helped me through some tough places and I believe I’ve even made some of my best/favourite tracks when I’m really pissed off, anxious or sad.
Did you grow up in a musical family?
Not really, my parents would always be playing music around me, stuff like Pulp, The Clash and Stone Roses. But I’ve been playing the piano since I was 5, so music has always been in my life.
Growing up in Bath, what were some of your earlier experiences within the nightlife scene? Can you recall some of your first raves?
So I actually spent my teenage years living in Totnes in South Devon, a really small town with insane creative output. So growing up there was (for how small the place is) quite the abundance of parties in barns and fields that, because of my older brother, I’d get an invite to. My parents moved back to Bath just before I moved to Brighton, and from my little interaction with the nightlife in Bath, it is not really much to shout about.
How do you think the city has influenced your sound and style?
Where I live in Bath is an idyllic small village right on the outskirts, rolling fields and beautiful walks, it definitely installs some form of inspiration within you, however, I wouldn’t say I’m maybe someone who can really translate their environment into sound. think I’m better at interpreting emotions and feelings than I am the environment, but I guess the environment always impacts that too!
What’s the scene like that’s happening in Brighton at the moment? How does it differ from your experience in Bath?
There are a few people doing some really good things in Brighton, Accidental Meetings, (my party) Take Time, SHOOK, Search History, First Floor and Discojuice (now defunct) are all putting on exciting things in Brighton, however, with recent club closures and the pressing need for the slightly ‘bigger’, or lets say mid-level (there’s no printworks or E1 in Brighton), clubs needing headliners to come in I fear that Brighton is maybe just becoming another ‘stop’ for touring DJs. I understand why people do it so that they can keep putting on nights and doing what they love too, it’s a systemic problem and real change is needed to tackle problems with nightlife culture for sure. Clubs have it tough from the council, with sound and licensing restrictions being enforced I do think that Brighton is having a hard time. However, these hard times sometimes form as a chrysalis for further creativity, so maybe with the number of people in Brighton wishing to go to nights, we could maybe see a change. I have had some great nights out in Brighton so maybe it isn’t as doom n’ gloom as I’m making it sound.
Can you talk us through some of your early influences and how they have impacted you?
As I said I got into the better side of dubstep when it was really coalescing with the UK Techno stuff that was happening. Livity sound, Hessle Audio, Swamp81, I really grew up with those sounds, this also led as the gateway to older Jungle bits through listening to Rinse shows and going to barn parties. I’ve always liked the ‘weightiness’ and experimentation of that sort of “post-dubstep” (I hate that term) so I guess I’m always trying to remember this mentality within my own work to push things further, (try) not stick to boundaries
You released your first record on Lobster two years ago. How did your relationship begin with the label?
So it was very much an ‘internet’ based experience, I was kind of into the ‘lofi’ stuff that was coming out before it’s explosion and mutation into essentially disco edits for huge crowds at motion. Stuff being put out by tlim shug, person of interest, xosar and patricia. Anyway, I made the lead track for that release ‘Amen to the Lonely’ after quite a heavy night out and literally finished it the same day, posted on a Facebook forum for that kind of lo-fi stuff and it kind of blew up on there, a few days later someone told me “hey, you know Lobster liked your track on SoundCloud” and then Jimmy messaged me a day or so after that, and that’s how it began! They were my favourite label at the time (and still do remain at the top) so it all felt a bit surreal.
Is there a particular story or concept that led to the making of ’Leviathan’, your latest release for Lobster?
I made it in a relatively low moment, really stressed with uni work, a really close friend of mine had been going through some horrible stuff and yeah just dealing with the anxieties and fears from all of that weight on my shoulders, that’s when I made both ‘Leviathan’ and ‘Next Time’. 2 sorts of different tracks that for me convey how I was feeling at the time, to see this negativity turn into something I’m insanely proud of for me has been quite cathartic. The other 2 tracks, one is really quite old ‘Last Train’ I made a few days after a big new years day party and I guess is kind of a song about love, and ‘Journey past the clouds’ was made after my discovery of what I like to call “space-travelling electro”, ERP, Plant43 etc… and I wanted to emulate some of the sounds and feelings they put in their tracks.
Your first EP saw you exploring the realms of jungle and drum n bass, however, the latest release sees you move in a new direction with acid and electro influences – what do you think inspired this?
I have always been interested in both Jungle and Electro, however, the recent explosion of electro into the mainstream of dance music kind of inspired me to do more, be part of the amazing new electro that is coming out. After seeing Helena Hauff play b2b with DJ Stingray at Dekmantel it was kind of life-changing, so I guess that was definitely a big inspiration, seeing live music and having such an explosion of the sound of electro being reinterpreted in different ways kind of spurred me on to want to recreate some of this stuff. Artists and DJs like Sync 24 and Solid Blake who are pushing a new sound of electro constantly is definitely a big inspiration, but for myself as an artist I hope to never really ‘stick’ to one genre or one way of making music, so maybe in a couple of years you’ll be hearing a gabber record from me.
What is your current studio set up?
Literally just me, my kind of slow MacBook air and speakers and headphones, I reckon I make the majority of my tracks lying in bed surrounded by potato related snacks and dinners. Haha, by saying that I realise I sound like that meme of a photo put up by Four Tet, but yeah being a student who likes eating fancy food and is terrible with money doesn’t leave much room to buy any other gear.
You run a party called Take Time, what was the motivation and concept behind this?
The motivation was that we saw that there was a bit of a gap in the Brighton scene, There was a scarcity of stuff we wanted to go to, so yeah I guess that was the motivation AND the concept.
Do you face any issues as a promoter such as exclusivity clauses within the artist’s contracts and bigger events pushing out the smaller, DIY crew? It feels very competitive in London at the moment with the influx of new parties.
I think in Brighton the main problem is getting people through the door with bigger or sort of mid-level nights on at the same time. I still like going to those nights, seeing Shanti Celeste and Peach go b2b for 3 hours was such fun, so there is still a big respect to clubs like Patterns and sort of ‘mid-level’ promoters with some of their nights as they’re only operating within the material reality of increasing rents, council restrictions and an overly homogenous dance music scene and rosters, they are faced with. We’ve always made a loss on events but keep on going because that’s what we love doing. I think with the lack of good venues in the city that’s maybe the real problem. My favourite club in the world, MONO, open in Brighton for only over a year closed down before we started running events and I think that was a big loss for the state of dance music in Brighton. Behind parties, I think there needs to be a concept, an idea, that it’s essentially ‘for the people’, for everyone to enjoy but also to represent more than just pulling a crowd in with a name attached to the facebook event.
What do you hope to see Take Time grow into?
With myself and another member of the 4 of us moving away from Brighton next year I think Take Time has been placed on hold for a while. It was fun and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, however, the loss of money and finishing university seems like maybe it will be on the back burner for a short while. We ran 5 events in just over a year, and they’ve all been such fun, seeing some great DJs and live acts, and meeting new people in the meantime, so I guess that’s something to be really proud of.
I’ve also heard from the grapevine that you’re an amazing chef, what are some of your favourite dishes to make?
If you ask anyone I know they will tell you I love potatoes, dauphinoise, fondant, roast… you name it, haha. But most of all I love making curries and Indian food. There’s something quite satisfying to me to make something from scratch that can sort of be interpreted in your own way, a lot of food and cooking can be quite snobby, that things aren’t being done “right” but with Indian cooking, as long as you stick to certain guidelines they can be constantly reimagined and reinterpreted. It’s strange but the chaotic but methodical way of cooking curries really appeals to me, plus they’re bloody delicious at the end of the day.
Do you feel there is a similar discipline and approach to making a dish and producing a track / EP?
I’m quite a chaotic and messy but methodical cook, and I think the same can be said for my production values. I like method, to follow a loose set of self-imposed instructions, a rule book for ‘slacker’. However, like with my cooking, I like to get messy with that, constantly be trying new things, and at the end of the day, as with cooking, if it sounds (tastes) good, then who cares how it was made!
What do you hope to achieve with Slacker?
Well for me, it’s all so surreal. I started making music out of a place of creative output to deal with personal problems, and because I found it so much fun. So to see that I now have, not one, but two releases put out is crazy. Like something that came from an artistic soul immortalised is a pretty mental feeling. If it all had to end now I would be happy, so anything further than this is amazing to me. However, yeah after university I would like to start DJing out more, put out more records and the idea of recording a conceptual album really appeals to me too, all very loose!
‘Leviathan’ by Slacker is out now on the 24th May via Lobster Theremin – buy here.