Few have had as impressive a career as Glasgow natives Slam. Their long standing Soma Records have a long line of releases including the likes of Daft Punk, The Black Dog & Gary Beck. Dave Clarke was their manager for some time. They recently released an archival edits LP which had the likes of Terrence Fixmer & Silent Breed on it. We got a chance to speak to the Glaswegians about their career, their label and their efforts to give back to the community.
Hi Slam, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Monument, we’re thrilled to get to speak with you. Congratulations on the latest record, we’re all big fans of it.
Thank you very much – we’re glad you like it.
Few names in techno have such a long and rich history as yours does. You’ve seen techno evolve over the course of nearly 30 years and still are at the forefront of the scene. Do you find that you have had to evolve your sound continuously to remain within the eye of the storm?
It’s never been something that we consciously do with our studio productions – but we’ve always looked to challenge ourselves and push our musical boundaries ever forward. Electronic music is not a genre that enjoys sitting still , it’s always about the “new” and “ the unheard”. Our career has been obsessed with looking over the brow of the hill to the future
Your latest record has a number of remixes and edits. Do you find that as you are label heads of Soma along with DJs that there are some releases that never make the light of day even though you would like to release them?
No- not really! Most of the music that is sent to the Soma label , that we all like, finds its way on to the release schedule at some point. Can’t say there is anything that we remember that didn’t make it – apart from a few of our own things over the years.
Soma has long been a household name within the techno community for great music. Do you find that the label has taken more responsibility for you than DJing, or do you hold them both at equal merit?
No – both co-exist quite happily together and actually complement each other, we feel. It means we always have lots of great exclusive tracks to play in our DJ sets that will come out on Soma eventually.
Soma has released music from some of the biggest names within dance music (Daft Punk, The Black Dog, Rebekah, Gary Beck [to name a few]). Are there any currently active artists that you would like to release?
There’s always been, and are, lots of artists that Soma would have liked to released – far too many to mention. But you can only work with what you get a chance to find and hear – so we’re all very proud of the artists who have had a history with the label.
The 25th Anniversary Boxset you released back in 2017 was fantastic and a victory lap of sorts. You commissioned the likes of Jeff Mills & Robert Hood, among others, for it. How important has Detroit been for you as an influence in your music?
Detroit has always had a special place in the development of our music , DJing and the Soma label. So many great artists and labels have originated within its scene, we’ve always found an affinity with the combination of soul, funk and ground breaking electronica to be truly inspiring – still do!
Soma is currently based in Glasgow, which has a strong background of techno between Soma, Rubadub & Sub Club. When you formed Soma back in the day, did you know that the scene would evolve to become a stronghold of techno within the UK & Europe?
Soma was started with a very Punk / Independent ethos – we didn’t want anyone telling us what we could release . Financial motivation and renumeration was very low on the priorities for the label. We felt that it was always an artistic endeavour and never to be seen as a cash cow. This is an independent attitude that runs through many people and organisations in Glasgow, especially in the music scene. Techno is just one of the myriad of healthy genres that exist is Glasgow and all seem to have been immune to the fads and styles that the other cities suffer from.
Soma as a label has evolved to have its own radio, a studio mastering service and an electronic music production school facility. It’s great that you are giving back to the community in a way that encourages novice producers to become part of the scene. How long have you been running these services for now, and what was the motivation to start providing these services to novice producers?
It’s always been an aim of everyone involved in the label that we “give something back”. To impart and share some of the knowledge that we had to acquire on our journey into the music business. There was no one to ask, back in the day, on how to start a career, record label, producing or becoming a performer in dance music. So we’ve always believed that the more people you can encourage and involve in a scene the more productive and healthier it’s long term future will be. Soma has always been a big family.
Sub Club in Glasgow holds a dear place in many ravers hearts and souls. As two Glasgow natives, how important is Sub Club to you?
The Sub Club was the first club most of us attended for any long period of time – a place where you could listen to ground breaking music, of all types, in a safe and intimate environment. I think it would be fair to say it’s our “spiritual home” – and we’re still working there with our monthly Return To Mono nights – at which we play alongside friends and piers of ours.
Rubadub is also an integral part of the Glasgow scene. How important has Rubadub been to you through all your years of running a label and DJing?
Rubadub is an absolute institution – they’ve been instrumental in supporting the whole scene over many years. We still remember the first day they opened and the records we bought
Soma has a very distinctive sound as a label, as do you within your sets. When you are receiving demos, are there certain attributes that you look for in order to take someone on board?
We obviously are sent and hear a vast amount of demos. We are always looking for originality and something that musically makes the tracks stand out from the vast amounts of dance music.
In the past few years, there has been a resurgence in interest with hardware. This followed a large migration from hardware to software with the functionality and reliability of DAWs increasing steadily, combined with DAWs and computers becoming much more affordable. As producers who grew up with hardware and saw the rise of ‘laptop production’, how important do you think it is for a producer to own hardware in this day and age?
The “in the box” revolution started towards the end of the 90’s and led to a glut of second hand hardware being offloaded on to the market in preference to software emulations – which obviously then led to a treasure trove of purchasing for us ( especially Roland drum machines). At the end of the day we feel it really doesn’t matter whether it’s software or hardware on which you produce your music – it’s your ideas, attitude and ears that govern your output – how you get there is of no real importance.
When you are in the studio, do you rely on hardware or software more when in the songwriting process?
Our studios are pretty liquid environments – with a strong arsenal of software and plethora of old and new hardware. Many ideas are fleshed out purely on DAW software (in airports, on sofas and in hotel rooms) and then taken into the studio where certain parts will be run through various hardware units to develop. We personally find a mixture of both realms delivers the best results – for us.
If there were one piece of kit that you couldn’t do without, what would it be?
Probably has to be our DAW of choice – Ableton – which has advanced so much since its inception, almost becoming a one stop shop. But we also find ourselves using our Eurorack Modular setup a lot these days. In days gone past it was the Roland Jupiter 6 that became the “go to” synth for many Slam productions.
Lastly, are there any up-and-coming producers that you have in mind for Soma?
Soma is always looking to bring new producers to it’s roaster – so some of our new additions are Giordano, Kaiser, Temudo, Joefarr and a new Glaswegian producer – but that’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone
Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Monument, we greatly appreciate your time.
No – thank you.
Archive Edits was released on the 29th of November and is available here.