With collars upturned, Exposed recently went deep into the eye of the unrelenting storm that is Slaves. While the punk rock whirlwind prepared for another huge UK tour, Lewis Budden got on the blower with Isaac Holman (drums/vocals) to speak about working with a Beastie Boy, how to “make it” as a band and the age-old dilemma of eating a mouldy egg sandwich or getting punched in the throat…
Describe where you are in the world.
Right now I am in Liverpool and stood outside a kebab shop.
Rock star life treating you well, then?
You have just completed a UK tour of tiny venues. How was the ‘Back Of The Van’ tour?
It was lovely, the whole tour was brilliant. It was nice to go back to our roots and remember why we started doing this in the first place. It was quite humbling – and fucking knackering.
What was the best and worst job you had before the band took off?
Laurie used to work in a milkshake shop, which I remember he fucking hated. I have only had a couple of jobs, such as working in the stock room of a Topshop in Tunbridge Wells for a year, which was actually quite gruelling at times. But apart from that I was a care worker, so I actually loved my job and would still be doing it if we didn’t get signed.
When and why did you start playing drums stood up?
I have always done vocals in previous bands; I usually just marched around with a microphone before I started doing this. When we started doing Slaves, there wasn’t anyone in the area that wanted to join the band. We couldn’t find anyone that was as committed or really up for making the kind of music we were making. It was mostly kind of shit indie bands and DJs. Nobody wanted to drum for us, so Laurie brought the drums round to my house and said, ‘Why don’t you just bang these until we get a drummer?’ We gave it a go for about half an hour until my neighbours complained, then we stopped and decided we liked it.
Thank God for nobody wanting to join your band!
How did the band take off from the small ‘toilet circuit’ to the Main Stage of Reading and Leeds? What’s the secret? Working with the right promoters, management, labels?
It’s simply down to doing exactly what you want to do and just working hard. Being consistent and not compromising for anybody. We have known exactly what we wanted to do and have always done it. That’s what I would say – don’t let anybody get in the way.
Is that your advice to the budding bands out there?
Yeah, don’t try and sound too much like anyone else; get in a room with your mates and see what happens. Just persevere, and don’t give up because the progress isn’t quick enough. We toured for fucking ages in Laurie’s car before anything started to happen. So just do it because you love it and you believe in it. Stay hard and be true.
Following a massive debut release, did you feel the pressure when working on Take Control?
I think the expectations were there but the pressure wasn’t. We didn’t really feel it anyway; we just believed in ourselves and knew that we had something good again. You can’t really let things like that get to you too much. Just don’t think about it.
The new album has drum machines, synths and other production elements back in it. How is all that going to pan out live?
Well on songs like ‘STDs/PHDs’ I actually play a drum machine, so I’m going to play one of those live. We have rehearsals coming up so hopefully we’re going to nail all of these songs so we can do them justice live.
Is incorporating more production and instruments something you think you will do more of in the future?
Yeah, there are no rules or guidelines; we’re up for using anything. I am up for getting a fucking choir in or something, you know. I don’t care, I will use whatever.
As a two-piece, how much do you think consciously about experimenting with different sounds and production? Or do you just go with the flow?
It’s more just if there are instruments lying about we will more than likely pick them up and start playing with them, then before you know it we have a song. We don’t just play heavy guitar music, that’s not what we want to do. We will play anything if you put it in our hands. We can’t actually really play anything, but we can – if you know what I mean?
How was [Beastie Boy and producer on the album] Mike D feeling about this experimenting? Did he encourage it or was it a case of “stop dicking around and get back to the guitar?”
Not at all! he He loves all of his drum machines and that. He takes the same opinion as we do: if it sounds good, it sounds good.
How was being crammed into the back of small van with Laurie during the last tour? Play any good games to pass the time?
We played games in the van with [support act] Wonk Unit – like Horse Box! Basically, you’re on the motorway and you spot a horse box the first person to shout it out has got it, and then before you arrive at your destination the last person to have called “horse box” wins. Easy.
Classic. How about we play a game of This or That?
Go for it.
Tea or coffee?
Skepta or The Weekend?
Festivals or club shows?
Beastie Boys or The Clash?
… The Clash. Awks.
Mike D is going to be pissed!
*Laughs* I’ve got to be honest though!
Eat an old, sweaty egg sandwich or get a punch in the throat…
Well, I don’t know what the throat punch could lead to…. both could make me ill?
True, but you have to pick…
I will go for the punch in the throat, erm, please.
Consume or Be Consumed?
Slaves play 02 Academy Sheffield on Friday 25th November. Tickets available from www.academy musicgroup.com.