As I slip the CD into my stereo and---for the umpteenth time---hear the beatbox intro to the noisy trashing of Take That's "Back for good", I can't help but begin to smirk. Four minutes later and the smirk has developed into a fully-fledged grin---a Slow Smile, then. Slow Smile being the current monicker of choice for one Gary Burt and the name under which he released the above-mentioned cover earlier this year. We reviewed it in the last issue of Robots and Electronic Brains and liked it so much we bought the company...well, almost. We liked it so much we got Gary to do an email interview for us.
How about if you just give us the Slow Smile story first? When you became Slow Smile and not Gary Burt, and why etc.
Well as you know I was GB for my "Pop From Hell" cassette and the one before that The Stretchy Legs Tour, however, over recent years I have sent out demos to record companies in the names of The Archduke Of Trivia, Contrary Mary, THE SALESMeN and Dial 'M' for Mouth Ulcer. It depends what I'm working on and how my biorythms are I suppose. I hit on the name of Slow Smile for no real reason other than I liked it, it sort of conjoured up my view on life. I seem to get there in the end, but slowly, and usually with a smile, albeit with an ironic, sarcastic or/and sceptical slant. Funnily enough my cousin is in an Edinburgh band called Sally Skull and I only just realised that's SS as well...spooky!
Do all the different bands sound much the same, or do you adopt different sounds/personalities for each name?
Well all the bands are me and I didn't vary the songs because of the band names, but I get concerned that maybe the name puts people off (or on). If you see a demo from a band called 'Kill all the Bastards' then it conjours up a sound even before you listen to it. Perry Como, Screaming Lord Such, Sham 69 all give out vibes. What I want to do I s'pose (haven't really analysed it 'til now) is to conjour up for the future listener a 'state of mind' rather than a sound. I don't want to ever be limited to a particular sound. I want to be able to write/sing anything from Childrens Lullabys to gut wrenching metal white noise..but with my slant on things..hence Slow Smile
Yeah, it's strange how the name takes on such a significance. It's not until you come to try and name something that you realise how influenced by name you can be. There used to be a band called The Machine Gun Feedback, what do you think they sounded like, on the basis of the name?
Hmmmm...let me think :)
Serious question...they actually sounded like a soft version of the Wonderstuff...which is a massive waste of a band name, I think.
Unless they wanted people to think that, then surprised them when they didn't. All these punks sat by their speakers going..'I'll kill that f'ing band when I see 'em'
Do you play live? is there a band slow smile, or is it just yourself?
I've done live stuff with other bands, but have never gigged my stuff. Next time it'll be Slow Smile on tour! But I don't know when. I'm 42 and if I get a band together I'd prefer to get younger band members than me around me. You know the saying 'if you're not young yourself surround yourself with young people'. The main reason though is I like indie music and there's not many players of my age that like my sort of music, they're more into 70's 80's stuff. So if anyone likes it and can play please Email me!
Do you think that works though? People like Bowie get some respect for trying to keep up with current musical trends by getting newer, younger people in to help with their records/remixes or whatever...but they are probably seen as trying to cash-in, rather than being innovators.
The main thing is that people I know of my age aren't into what I do. So I don't know where that leaves me really, maybe I need a band without a direction looking for one. I know what you mean but does that apply to Bowie, I liked his latest single. I think everyone, even subconciously, copies current trends. Sometimes it seems to be in the air, completely diverse people come up with the same ideas which happen to catch on with the public. I don't think I'm in an danger of that happening to me!
And on the live front, I forgot I did a battle of the bands in Feb '96 just me, guitar and my drum machine. Did "Jaguar", from the Pop From Hell cassette album, which they were all singing along to at the end. But the winners, who were good, did covers..I was the only act, that did original stuff. My daughter and friend came along to cheer me on!
The gig sounds like a nightmare! What sort of covers were they playing? The classic pub-rock set? or something a bit more adventurous?
One band was a Bon Jovi clone and the other was sax and a couple of other instruments. it was nerve racking but I'm glad I did it. I had some cards made out to give out to friends and family but not being 100% that I wouldn't bottle it, I decided not to advertise the fact!
So who else have you played with?
When I was in my late teens, early twenties I was in social club bands we did songs like Rubber Bullets/Stones Stuff/Long Tall Sally I was rhythm guitar and it was a good laugh. I've always written songs and recorded them at home sending out demos that sort of stuff. More recently I was in a band called Wirehead, we did a couple of gigs but I've always hankered after doing my own stuff, and what with work as well, I've only so much free time so I decided to to go it alone.
Are you a control freak with your songs then? Do you play all the instruments yourself?
Yes, except the drum machine, but programming that takes a while, trying to get the correct drum set or sets and then programming it with the right fills etc. It's a case of getting this on tape then building the other instruments around it.
I'm interested to know who/what inspires the kind of stuff you play..you've read my comments on your stuff, but who do you think it sounds like?
I don't know, I don't listen to JAMC (in fact I typed in JAMC into Alta Vista, when I got your review to see what came back......Jesus & Mary Chain.."hey cool", I said). I really like Mark E.Smith but I've never bought any of their stuff..saw them at Phoenix last year and they were good. I've been told I'd like the Pixies, but never knowingly listened to them. Music I grew up with was Beatles/Hendrix/Bowie/Zeppelin but over the last few years I've bought Gouge/Stretch Princess/Vega/Hatfield plus I like Foo Fighters so it's all this plus Sinatra/Jazz stuff/Hip hop you name it really if it has a good beat or a mood or a good groooove as they say...I liked that one by World Party - put the box in a car, drive the car around the world..do you know the one I mean? What I like and what I write/play are sometimes complete opposites though.
What are the plans for the band? Another name?
Not yet, I quite like Slow Smile but who knows..maybe a new name might come along under the Rice Pudding Record label. I'd like to gig but I don't know if I could stand all the agro...the band members would have to be perfect people and that's impossible.
What has Rice Pudding put out? Anybody other than yourself? How about Weasels Records (the label that "Pop from Hell" was on)? And did you sell many albums through Virgin?
I started Rice Pudding because I couldn't get a label to do "Back For Good". The little labels said 'You need a big label for marketing etc' and the big labels said 'We tend to stick with acts who can offer longevity? and are gigging etc'. So I thought I'd go for it myself. However, now I've started who knows where it will end... Weasels is a record shop in Southampton who kindly stocked my stuff and Virgin (Southampton) stocked my tapes and put the CD on the listening post for me. Didn't sell many though :(
How many of the cd have you pressed (and sold)? And have you managed to get a distributor?
500 and they're going like stale buns at present, but am I downhearted..no. My philosophy on life is..well I haven't got one actually so maybe there's a problem to start with. I've sold 10 yes 10, but I was reading about a well known band the other day Chemical Bros or someone like that, they sold 3 of their first single. It's all a matter of comparison. I bet my 10 cost less to produce than Take Thats million (or two), there's logic for you. I'm doing some stuff for Zoe Ball and Chris Evans at present to see if I can get some airplay. This could be a good selling point. I'm not well either, I think the tablets are giving me a false sense of insecurity! Distribution is through Else, yes Else, no ones heard of them either!!!
Do you have a follow-up planned? I know I asked you already about future plans, but I reckon you must've recorded a follow-up already.
Well I've got six or seven numbers done and I might stick them on an album. But then it's the cost. Maybe a vinyl 33rpm would be cheaper, but I couldn't even afford that at present. This cd is costing me and I've got another 23 payments to go yet and -40 quid in the bank. So unless we can get some airplay or get a band for gigging (and CD selling) then it'll have to go on the back burner. I've done the Chris Evans letter - a two pronged attack as he's on TV and Radio as of next week.
What did Take That/Gary Barlow think of your version of their song?
Well...I only heard through his publisher that he was staggered by it. I've never spoken or corresponded with him. I rang up Galaxy fm in Bristol this week to see if they'd played my promo I sent them and the guy said Yea we played it a couple of times and that GB was due in over the next couple of weeks to do an interview and he might play it on his show and get his thoughts. I can't wait! I do like him though, he was on Clive Anderson the other night and always comes over as an ok sort of bloke.
On Radio 1 this week I heard that Robbie Williams 'did a punk version of Back For Good on the first night of his current tour this week and it went down very well' I don't know what to think about that, apparently he's been playing it a while, but coincidently he's signed to Chrysalis which is in the same building (and probably company) as EMI who I got the permission from.
Tell us about the MTV thing, did anything come of it? What is the video like (for us mortals who don't have cable)?
I sent the CD off to Toby Amies of Alternative Nation and he rang me the next day! 'Wow' I thought, 'Cool' he said. When you do the video (which I said I was working on) send it in. Well to cut a v-e-r-y long story short I eventually shot it on a mates camcorder and edited it and sent it in. They had a phone-in on the 19th Aug where all through the prog they played 20secs of each of three vids and asked people to vote for it. The winning vid got to have their vid played in its entirety? which was mine! So that was great, but unfortunately the end of the prog was 00.40 so I don't know how many people saw it. I've just written a note to Jamie Caring (the main main for selecting vids to play) pleading to play it some more, he's reconsidering and asked me to contact him Tuesday, but I don't know how lucky we'll be. If you're feeling energetic enough give him a ring on 0171 284 7777 and say you've got thousands of students with placards demanding to see the video!
The vid itself is me, my daughter (Hayley) and her friends prannying around in the forest with gnomes and stuff. I'll send you a copy. I did a literal view of the words and put some deep and meaningful thoughts in with Hayley and her friends acting it out. They just thought I was bonkers..Hmmm. I'm selling it to prospective transmitters(?) as the complete antithesis of a Take That vid, no big budgets, no famous film directors, no expensive sets!
By the way the Box turned down my video because the film quality wasn't good enough. Took them six weeks to tell me that. I've heard it said that lo-fi is on it's way in. If so it would help the smaller labels like me that can't afford 40,000 on a pop video.
I'm trying Rockmania which goes out on ITV and there's also a set-up called The Exploding Cinema which shows otherwise unviewable stuff ie 8mm, 16mm amateur film projects, etc. They exhibit in London and they do a thing called Volcano which goes round pubs, clubs, art gallerys etc during 1st half of November.
I saw your advert in the NME, did that get any response?
No, none, ziltcho...except an invoice. I stoop at nothing for free publicity though. I sent Minx magazine...for teenage girls...a demo and they did a nice write up. Called it a 'New York-punk-type assault on the original'. The Minx article sold me ONE in Scotland...my first cheque...
...but hopefully not the last. You can buy the Slow Smile single on CD and the "Pop from Hell" album direct from Gary at the address below:
L3.20 for Back For Good CD L4.00 Pop From Hell cassette album L2.00 PFH T-shirt or Special Offers: L5.00 For Tape and T-shirt L7.50 For all three P+P is 1.00 for one item, add 50p for up to 3 items
Contact Slow Smile c/o Rice Pudding Records, PO Box 135, Totton, SO40 2ZN or wkweb1.cableinet.co.uk/gb/ and Sally Skull at www.nsl.co.uk/sallyskull/ (Gary's cousin is "...Claire she's the singer and she's on guitar. They are a female three piece with the others on bass and drums. They've just completed a mini UK tour (Manchester/Brighton/Leeds/??) and are based in Edinburgh. They've had two 7" singles out and are distributed through Slampt Mail Order.")
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