|LONG ISLAND FM RADIO GETS SLANT-ED!|
On a drizzly Sunday afternoon in late November, the members of the original-music rock band, The Slant, converged on the Student Union building at Stonybrook University on Long Island, NY. There, on the second floor, they set up their instruments in the studios of WUSB, the voice of radio-free Long Island, to tape a special hour-and-a-half installment of Long Island Bandstand, a WUSB showcase that profiles music groups from all over the island.
The band played live all the songs from their debut album, Try This, plus some new material played here for the first time, and then sat down together with their host, David Klein, to talk about their music, their history, their influences -- all things Slant-ed. Herewith are excerpts from that interview:|
David: How long has this band been together?
Bill: We regrouped in 95, and --
Denise: Originally, we got together in, about 1980, we played a couple of times...and then we broke up for awhile, and Bill and Tom were (playing music) together...
Rich: Of course, when we broke up, Its not that we broke up and didnt see each other --
Denise: Yeah, weve been friends for a long time.
David: You broke up for, what, 12 years?
Denise: About 10 years --
David: ...Most bands break up because they cant stand each other any more. You guys broke up but remained friends. How come (you broke up)?
Rich: Actually, that was kind of my doing...when we first formed the band, I was playing keyboards along with Tom..and we were having a very good time playing the music, but...I had commitments that I had to take care of and the music was encroaching on them -- as evil as it sounds; so I made a decision to leave the band, and we got our friend Chris to come in in my place...
David: So there were two keyboards, bass/guitar switching off, and vocalists --
Rich: We didnt have a drummer --
Bill: ...We had digital drums.
David: ...What made you get back together after ten years?
Bill: We got back together in 95, which was the tenth anniversary of us breaking up...and the major reason for it was we wanted to record something, like, for posterity...
Denise: We had written all this music and it was (all) kind of cool, we liked it and we enjoyed doing it, and...I was always pushing (to get back together) cause Bill and Tom were doing their own thing, doing their own music, so they had an outlet for their creativity, but I always wanted to have a recording of some of the stuff that I did with the group, because I wasnt at that point doing anything vocally. So I figured, let me push and maybe we can get together and get things recorded, so at least I'll have some kind of a record of what we did together. And as we decided to do things and to pick up once more, and re-rehearse all the old songs and everything, we started to do a little bit of writing and rewriting, and re-arranging, and started to get into it again...which then became a lot of fun. We picked up Rich as a drummer -- it was (great to) ditch the drum machine, cause that (sound) really stunk!
David: And the drum machine put up a big fight and everything?
Denise: Oh, Yeah!
Rich: --Sparks flying and all!...
David: ...Is there a distinct difference in -- I dont know yet which (songs) are old and which ones are new -- in the songs youve carried for ten years and the ones youre writing now? Is it noticeable?
Denise: I think theres a difference, just because weve developed musically and in what we listen to...a lot of the earlier songs have a lot of...the eighties influences. Were still very influenced by New Wave (music) and Blondie, The B-52s, stuff like that, but the songs that were doing now are stylistically different --
Tom: More organic...
Denise: Yes, a lot more of a mixture of styles now.
David: Give an example of a song.
Denise: Well, the old ones that definitely have 80s influences are Junk Mail and Call You On The Phone. There are more than that, but Junk Mail is definitely B-52s -influenced; Call You On The Phone is Blondie-influenced. A newer song would be Simple -- thats a little more introspective, not as playful with the lyrics...it seems to me, as a songwriter, it is a little more developed.
David: Lets just say a song...such as Rubber Ducky, which obviously is not so introspective, is one you carried from the 80s?
Denise: Actually no, thats one of Bills little treasures that he came up with--
Bill: Where that came from...after The Slant broke up in 85, I started doing some solo stuff, playing in the Village in Manhattan...I played Folk City and Speakeasy, and I started to develop more of a folky type of sound, like, more folk-rock, songs like Diane--
David: Was that written after you met your wife, Jennifer?
Bill: (Laughs)No, that was written a while before I met Jennifer--
Denise: Actually, we have a song, Jennifer in Blue--
David: --Thats for Diane!
Denise: --Right!!! (Laughter and merriment all round)
Bill: Jennifer in Blue isnt on this album -- hopefully it will be on the next one -- but that (song) I wrote the day I met Jennifer.
Tom: She was wearing a uniform, wasnt she?
Bill: No, I was wearing the uniform--
David: She wasnt wearing anything?
Denise: He wishes!
Bill: Well...ah...she was wearing a lace top...she wasnt wearing anythingblue...it was artistic license. I wrote the entire song that night in about, maybe, fifteen minutes...
David: Going back to the influences, everyone does point out the eighties New Wave, and you can hear it and particularly in the older songs you definitely hear the Blondies, the B-52s, the Lena Lovitch, the keyboard/synthesizer type stuff. I also hear a lot of late 60s/early 70s progressive/art rock, especially in the new sound of the keyboard. It hearkens back to the imagery of some of those bands...also the trading off of the harmonies...like your song Outside My Dreams is something Jefferson Airplane could have written...do you guys have influences outside the New Wave stuff?
Bill: One of my heavier influences was a group called Yes--
Tom: Never heard of em.
Bill: --And, uh, the first time I heard them -- it was around that time that I started to take an interest in the bass guitar, and I would say that Chris Squire was a definite influence in my bass playing. I also was interested in bands like Genesis, which I thought had an interesting perspective musically...Renaissance, also--
David: Denise, tell us about your newest song, Dark World. What inspired you to write it?
Denise: Bill had written this classical guitar piece; I had always wanted to write lyrics to it. One night -- it must have been six oclock in the morning -- it came to me what I wanted to write about...Ill never forget, it was pitch black in my room, and I hadto get up in the dark, fumble about for a pen...couldnt find a piece of paper, I used the back of an old envelope, and the words all just came right out as I quickly wrote them down...as I was reading them back, I was starting to cry, cause it hit me--
David: Whats the song about?
Denise: Its about...basically its (written) from the viewpoint of a mother who has an autistic child...who is kind of withdrawn. (Someone very close to me) had autistic tendencies...and he didnt talk until he was about two, two-and-a-half years old...When he was a baby...he would lay in the cradle and just look straight out, and, like, youd make faces at him and wave your hand in front of his face, and he would never see you, he wouldnt make contact with you. And I remember (his) mother going through...her own kind of personal hell trying to make her contact with him, cause he just didnt -- he was completely disconnected. So basically thats what this song is, the mothers pain of trying to contact the child, and then my husband gave us the idea of putting the last verse in, which gives hope. Which, actually...there is always some kind of hope somwhere, because (this person) right now is an adult, he has a job hes kept for years and years, hes happy, he drives...from a point in time when (his) mother was taking him to different doctors, and some told her that he was so bad that she should put him in an institution...special schools and stuff...his mother always had faith in him. She put him in regular school, he passed all his regular classes, he got his diploma, he got his drivers license --
Tom: Hes a musician. He plays beautifully!
Denise: He has perfect pitch, and he plays classical piano, and...even when you saw him as a baby, and he didnt say a word,and he was just, like, looking through you...you would never know the person that he became now.
David: Okay ... you guys want to do the words to Game Player and well end it there?
Tom: Try not to laugh through it--! (All laugh)
David: I thought it sounded really cool!
Bill: ...Are we ready? (All nod yes) ONE, two, three, four, TWO, two, three, and--
Denise: Before we leave, Id like to thank D. Klein, and over at The Spot, Id like to thank Godfrey and Wilbert for all their help. Weve been playing over there a lot lately, and its a really nice play to play, and its a nice place to see a show...and theyre very supportive of Long Island bands and Long Island music. Once again, were The Slant, and we hope youve enjoyed our performance for you today -- if you liked it, come see us sometime!