"Waiting for the next den of demons"
Not long ago, Sluka dropped Colorful Radiation, a 10-track album merging rock and pop elements into what has been described as "Syncopated Gothic Groove Rock."
With a sound likened to David Bowie, Cold Play, Imagine Dragons, and Radiohead, Sluka's sound is difficult to describe. To me, his music amalgamates flavors of Bowie and The Kinks' Ray Davies, edgy and burnished with nuanced textures.
Popdust sat down with Sluka to discover how he performs musical magic.
How would you describe yourself?
A self-aware organism with an instinctual need to make sense of my existence, that of our species, and everything else that can be contemplated in the universe … you know … just some guy.
What is the most trouble you've ever gotten into?
The daily inability to escape from a cardboard box or a fishbowl … the usual troubles.
What's your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?
I seldom sing outside of a concert performance. Actually, I never sing. I just assume anyone who might hear it would think my voice is terrible and I find that sensation inhibiting. I guess that's why I obsess so much in rehearsal to minimize the chance that it would sound awful in concert.
Who is your favorite music artist?
How did you get started in music? What's the backstory there?
My parents gave me a guitar as a present for my eighth birthday. A friend of my father showed me two simple chords and I found the sound and experience absolutely magical. That sense of awe, mystery, and magic with regard to all the arts has never left me. From that moment I have been immersed in a continuous journey of artistic discovery for which I am eternally grateful.
What musicians influenced you the most?
John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
How, if at all, do your musical influences shape and impact your music?
The Beatles really had the whole package. Their timing and many other factors were beyond their control. But they made the most of their opportunities, pushed the boundaries and expectations of what popular music could be, and never acquiesced to the pressure to repeat themselves. Of course, there have been many other artists I have admired. But there are also many other artists that I don't like at all, vehemently so, and yet they are also deeply influential … negatively. In other words, I don't want to do anything like what they've done.
What kind of guitar do you play? And why?
In addition to a Fender Strat and Rickenbacker, my favorite is the Godin acoustic/electric. I have a very percussive style of playing, almost violent, and the Godin really takes my abuse well.
For lack of better descriptors, your music has been tagged as rock, pop-rock, and prog rock. How would you describe your sound?
Years ago a reviewer came up with "Syncopated Gothic Groove Rock." I agree with that because it has all those elements, although some mistakenly think it is Goth, which it definitely is not. It has Gothic undertones in the sense of Kafka and other dark, Bohemian, somewhat paranoid atmospheres.
What inspired your recent album Colorful Radiation?
The whole thing just appeared in my head in a matter of days … playing over and over. I could hear the arrangements, instruments, harmonies … everything … quite extraordinary, very emotional and passionate.
Who produced the album? And are you pleased with the way it turned out?
I produced it, mainly out of necessity. I was intent to reproduce what was playing in my head and a producer could never do that. I am pleased with the result. Almost all of it was done in first takes with no editing or studio tricks and gimmicks (i.e. autotune, etc.). It has a very authentic feel, delicate at times, solid elsewhere. For me, it comes close to that elusive magical quality I have always pursued.
On the album, you play most of the instruments, including the French horn. How did this multi-instrumental capability come about? Are you a musical prodigy, or what?
I am certainly no prodigy. I'm more of "Jack of all trades, master of none." Again, it was a matter of necessity. If I had brought in a proper French horn player, they would have played it the way they naturally would, which most likely would not be the way I was hearing it in my head. I am very song oriented. It is imperative to me that the song is expressed the best way possible. I have found that often means the individual musicians must play with less flourish and more immersed into the layers of sound. They are often uncomfortable or unsure in that role. But for me, I'm just putting all the pieces together as needed. Other than guitar and piano, playing all those different instruments does not come naturally. I rehearse the parts incessantly until I can recreate just what I need and then record.
You're also a surreal painter with an edgy, turbulent style. Creatively, do you go to a different inner place when painting as compared to composing music? Or are they one and the same?
Thank you, and thank you for coming to the answer (for the first time in an interview) before I could respond! Yes! They are one and the same … well, sort of … more like when an author writes a book but also makes a movie … different ways to express similar ideas, emotions, storytelling. And it's all a maniacal catharsis.
What's next for you musically?
My mind is always on fire. I have more songs than I could ever possibly record. They are in many ways like my children, but also my demons. I'm waiting for the next den of demons to grab me by the throat and insist I make them real.
Will you be doing any touring?
With my touring band we have already done a number of shows all over. We love performing. One of my favorite things is to witness the reaction of an audience that is not familiar with our show. Lis Viegas is an animal on drums, Jodie Hill brings her unique experience to the bass, and Alexandra Holt… well, you just have to see her… amazing and so much fun! We have a big show coming up in San Diego in October and then we hit the road for some dates throughout the western U.S. We've got SXSW coming up in March, April and May we're in continental Europe, and in June we hit the U.K. If you want to see something really different, yet accessible, and at a high level of production – both sound & vision… come see our show, it's groovy!
Randy Radic is a Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.
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