With so many cool bands out there to check out I offer you some minor guidance by introducing you to Steve Slater, REKUIEM’s lead guitarist. Anders Ekdahl ©2020 – 18th May 2020.
We all come into music with our own baggage. We want different things from the music. How does the vision you had for the band when you started compare to the vision you have for the band today? What is this band really all about? What do you want with your music?
-When we first started the band as Requiem way back in 1978 we were all very young lads fresh out of school. Our first ambitions were aimed at making the grade in local music venues. We wanted to play stages such as the famous Lafayette music club in Wolverhampton where Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath had appeared earlier in their careers and we gradually worked our way up through smaller venues to eventually hit this high note. We also headlined local theatres to sell out crowds and played the Peterbrough Music Festival. We never wanted to simply play small pubs like most bands did back then, we couldn’t see the point in playing to small crowds. The same applied with our music, we never thought small and we never wanted to do covers, we always wanted to play our own compositions and release our songs on record to our growing fan base. We always aimed high and since we reformed in 2001 nothing has changed in our ambition. We still want to play the bigger stages and release our music worldwide.
Is there a difference in people’s attitude towards you if you don’t come from a cool place like LA or NY or London?
-Wow yes. With our band coming from the West Midlands we all have what some folk refer to as Brum or Yam Yam accents. To us it’s normal to speak like this, but to outsiders it sort of stands out. I think sometimes you have to work that little bit harder to get folk to take you seriously when you come from around Brum. Certainly with the London crowd, you have to go to them, they won’t come running to you.
When you release an album that get pretty good feedback, how do you follow up on that? How important is that I as a fan can identify album to album?
-Funny you should mention this as this is a topic that has recently cropped up within the band. I feel very strongly that a band should really try to create its own identity and that this should be recognisable from album to album. If you have a growing fan base who have spent their hard earned money buying your music I feel you need to try to keep these followers happy on the next record. By all means show progression, but never desert your true followers.
What is the biggest challenge in the creation of an album? How do you write the really cool songs?
-Our last album ‘Time Will Tell’ was jointly produced by myself and drummer Karl. Wilcox. Our work system is based on me writing the songs and then doing a demo of these songs. I then give this to Karl to work through doing edits and suggesting changes to song arrangements. It usually ends with us having a haggle before any final decisions. This system worked very well for us on the last album and is a system I am very keen to re-use on our next album. We like to bounce ideas off one another; Karl might send me a drum part and if I like it we will keep it, same with guitar solo’s, or lead vocals, we bounce ideas back and forth. We also try to give a lot of thought to the running order of songs on a finished album as it’s important for songs to flow naturally into one another.
As regards the actual song writing process I have two methods I like to use. For some songs I will go back through all my previous practise files where I’ve recorded riffs and progressions that have come to me over the previous months or sometimes years. I will then write in any missing musical parts and only think about melodies and lyrics after the backing music is complete. The other way I write songs is to come up with a catchy vocal melody first, usually a chorus hook, and then write the music around this to suit. Both methods can work well, although I feel the better songs are the ones that come easily and naturally. Sometimes the more you work on a composition the harder it gets.
I saw Dave Grohl’s documentary about Sound City and it made me wonder what it is about analogue recording that you don’t get with digital? Have you ever recorded analogue?
-Yes, before the digital age we recorded all of our early material back in the 80’s through analogue gear and on analogue tape. I think you certainly do get a warmer sounding product using analogue gear. Even today I do love using an analogue desk for recording purposes. From 2003-2011 while working as a front of house sound engineer I regularly recorded the performing bands live performances via the 48 channel Midas XL200 analogue sound desk. The desk pre-amps were the best in the world in their heyday and the recordings sounded sweet sent straight to tape. I think the best compromise for me nowadays when recording is to use an analogue desk with some nice pre amps to record instruments or vocals, but after this it’s really got to go down into the digital domain for mixing/mastering, etc. You can’t ignore technical progress.
What is it like to sit there with a finished album? Do you think much what people will think of it?
-It’s great when the band can finally heave a great sigh of relief when an album is completed. I am a bit of a tinkerer and sometimes pop back to do a finite adjustment here and there, but you really have to draw the line at some point. Our records take long enough to appear as it is! Obviously we all hope the fans and new listeners will like new material. We have had some great reviews so let’s hope that continues into the future.
How important are the lyrics and what message do you want to purvey?
-For me lyrics are vitally important to our music. Back in the early days we found reading the lyrics of our singer Mike Reid was a motivation to us all. We had our own original message of doom and gloom way before any other bands had thought about using that style of lyric. Nowadays with Mike no longer in the band I have tried to carry on with my own style of writing doom lyrics with titles such as ‘Black Death’, ‘Werewolf’ and ‘Death Row’, and new titles in the pipeline such as ‘Sacrifice’, ‘Doomsday’, and ‘Raise The Dead’. I try to write thought provoking and meaningful lyrics with a hint to the dark side.
Ever since I first got into metal the art work has been a main motivator in buying a record. What part does art work for album covers play in the world of the band?
-I always like to get involved in band artwork. Back in the day we designed our own band posters, concert tickets, and even the record label of the 1980 ep. With the last album ‘Time Will Tell’ I worked closely with the designer Rory Fiorito on our Egyptian concept for the album cover. I had wanted to convey some of the meaning from the lyric to the title track ‘Time Will Tell’ within the cover artwork. This is represented by the figure of the Egyptian Goddess Isis accompanied by the mythical snake. In the background are the pyramids seemingly connecting with the heavens. Hopefully when listening to and reading the lyric to the title track it all begins to make sense.
When you play live do you notice a degree of greater recognition from the fans with each new time you pass through town?
-In the early days back in the 80’s we built up a strong local following in the Midlands area and other parts of the UK. Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Coventry, and Stafford were our regular main stomping grounds, and yes we recognised familiar faces whenever we returned. We played countless shows around the UK back then including festivals and support tours to bands such as Budgie. Since we reformed the band has mainly concentrated on writing and recording. I think in total the band has only played 12 shows since getting back together; the last show was the NWOBHM Hard Rock Hell festival. If things fall into place as planned we will be out there playing more festivals when this horrible virus pandemic allows.
What do you see in the future?
-Hopefully we will see more gigs, support tours, festivals, and albums. We have a lot of catching up to do! The next album is planned for release in the Winter of 2020 will be entitled ‘Raise The Dead’ and will feature 10 brand new tracks. In the meantime we hope you grab a copy of our new special re-release of ‘Time Will Tell’ out now on the Dissonance label. It includes an extra bonus track and the whole album has been specially re-mastered for 2020. You can also check out our website at www.Rekuiem.com or find us on Facebook.