Where do you start to describe the enormity of talent for an artist that far exceeds his small name, Joe… With an immediate passion and weighty personal input, artist Joe Slater has used these unlaboured and eloquent skills to create the basis of his upcoming new EP, ‘State of The Ark’. The material is levelling and heart-centric. What began with 15+ songs then parred back to an elegant 5 with a bonus track, the word deep doesn’t do it justice or lay the ground work well enough. There is plenty to linger on here; a certain amount of grit and edge but completely uninhibited and authentic. The material doesn’t take you on a single road, it’s a wanderer.
At a recent private show, I got a precious opportunity to hear songs off the new EP before its release. Joe sweetly stated that, ‘In my mind, I am playing these tracks in order as they should be [on the EP]’ as they are still in the final stages of putting the EP together and getting the layout and track list just right. However, Joe took some time to sit down with me just before his set to discuss his origins in music, what inspired this new EP and where he sees this path going for him.
What brought you to music?
That’s a great question, and it deserves a big answer. The philosophical answer would be that music brought itself to me. I don’t know, man, its like, when people ask you this type of question, ‘why do you do what you do’ and what is the reason anyone does what they do, you know? We don’t know, we just do things, and we try this and if it doesn’t work we try that. However, I think for me, whether its music or whatever it is, I suppose that creativity and that kind of openness to life, I just discovered it. Its like when you are sort of digging through the dirt, and somewhere along in the process, you find a diamond, and you think, ‘I want to keep a hold of this’. The whole point is you just keep digging for more. That was what just happened with music for me. We are all here to do what we need to do. I need to make music.
So, how old were you then that first started to figure out that you needed to ‘dig’?
I was about 6 or 7. At that time, my uncle was writing to like Genesis and Phil Collins and all that, and he’s not a musician by any means but he bought himself a drum kit and he put it in my Nan’s garage. And, he taught me like the basics you know [demonstrates drum rhythms]. So, in my spare time and I just used to go in and just play. Remember those CD players where you would put in an actual CD and I would just put that in and just f***ing play. Just, come into my own little world. Not really knowing what I was doing, just doing it. It really started to all make sense when I was about 16.
How do you think that has shaped you then, since that age?
I think music properly changed my life. Erm, it wasn’t so much the music at that point, it was the people that I met, that were a lot older than me. They understood and what I understand, what I am trying to understand, those guys were like 50 years old that were taking me seriously at 14 or 15 years of age. And I think with music, anyone can play an instrument you know, but its what behind the musician, that is what brings it to the instrument I suppose. There’s a whole kind of philosophical, existential question of, ‘Why does it make me feel like this?’ or ‘What should I do with it?’ And, I always say that the music is fifty percent the musician and the other fifty percent is the person who questions the world and kind of rebels against what they were told to do. If you look at any great, John Lennon was the same. George Harrison was the same. Bob Dylan was the same. There are all these great song writers that had a bit of a back bone. You can’t teach that, you can’t go to the Royal Conservatoire and be taught that. You either understand that or you don’t. It’s that kind of working-class thing, not even working class, I don’t know, or maybe that’s just me, but I just saw it, I found the diamond, and I just wanted to keep on digging.
Going back to one of your older songs, which is a favourite of mine, what is the story behind ‘Lonely’?
I knew you were going to ask that! [laughs] So, I’m in Germany, yeah, on an island called Baltrum, in the middle of the North Sea, and I was there for about two and half weeks. And on this island, there is no cars, no street lights, there is like one pub, one shop, one police officer, that’s it. But, the truth is I don’t know where it came from, it just sort of happened when I was there. And, when something like that happens, it’s a momentary thing. Like sometimes, I know what I am saying, but its almost subconscious. It all comes from the same place. But, I was just describing where I was at that time.
So, if you don’t know where it comes from, does that mean that you have to seek out inspiration, things that ignite a spark, or do you just let it come naturally?
Creativity is like motivation, you have to feed it. And so, with writing, I can get motivation and creativity anywhere, like in a pub or just listening to people. Most times when I find it, its when people say things, and don’t even know what they just said is so profound. Today, for example, I was with a taxi driver, I’ll tell you what he said because I wrote it down, we were talking and I was saying about being in Liverpool and how everything looks different, and he was like, ‘Nothing has changed, you see it differently.’ And, I was like, ‘That’s f***ing genius!’ That’s where it comes from, stuff like that. From everything really.
Then, you don’t really have to look for inspiration, it finds you then?
It’s fifty-fifty. Because if you are out searching, you may not find the answer. What you are looking for is also looking for you. It’s that kind of bond between two things that just coincide.
If you aren’t really looking for inspiration, but sort of are in that you are open to what comes to you, are there artists that you gravitate towards to get the juices going?
I mean, look, I’m 22 years of age, and I’m growing and growing, and the things that excited me before and turned me on don’t necessarily excite me anymore. There are only so many times you can listen to Abbey Road, there are only so many times you can listen to ‘Definitely, Maybe’ or listen to whoever it is, once you’ve heard it, you’ve heard it sometimes, you know? Musically, the one thing that really inspires me is my perception of what is going on. Because, there are times where I go into this place where I get lost in my own self and I get very self-centred how I feel. For a long time, and its only very recently, I now kinda getting back from there. And, the thought at that time, in that place, makes me feel sick, because I can’t write. And, that’s why, some the greats, and I understand the process that they went through, get so addicted to things, like drugs or something, this gift is a beast of burden. And, it’s about managing that. It really is. The more open you are, the more things that can come in, you know? It is about just managing and to keep digging.
How did you go about creating material for this new EP?
Well, yeah, good question. So, I sat down with my producer, I had about 15-20 songs that I thought were good, and we narrowed it down to six. There are all good songs, and just what was right for now. That’s how we did it. Just going through and deciding which ones are standing out really. Some I thought stood out, and some he thought did, and we kinda found a middle ground. They were written over a year to eighteen months period.
You have some exciting dates ahead, although not all of the dates have been set yet, any in particular you are quite focused on?
To be honest with you, this is what I do, man. A gig is a gig to me really. If you are playing for 5000 people, that is f***ing mega, you know what I mean, but if you are playing to a few people in a bar, that’s great too. No matter where, its all good to me. I know who I am, or least who I want to be, it doesn’t change how I am going to play. I am just going to be me.
Talking about who you are, where would you like this journey to take you?
I want to take it. My ego tells me that I want to be the next biggest songwriter or I will be the biggest songwriter this world has ever seen. And, all of this s**t that is out now, that is not music, that’s not what music is about, it’s all a commodity. That’s not where it exists, that’s where its manipulated instead. So, my ego tells me that I want to do this thing and I want to change the world. But, truthfully, all I want to do is live my life in whatever state it is whether I’m 22, 28 or 32 and just live my life to keep creating. To see the beauty of what life is, that, is what the songs are all about. Ultimately, I see this going mad, just big.
Is that what music means to you, though, just existing in creativity or does it mean you want to take it to a larger audience?
Music to me, is what I feel. That’s not what I live for, because life is more than that. But, music is not the source it’s the connection to the source. You can feel that source through dance, through drawing pictures, through meditation, and music is just one of those connections. Honestly, if I keep it together I will get to where I need to be.
Follow Joe’s journey and upcoming tour dates here.
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