TALKIN’ BOUT A REVOLUTION
Whatever happened to punk rock? Seriously! It used to be so exciting, obscene and inspiring. And not just in the early years when it was all new and shocking. Let’s not deny it: punk rock used to be the only way for rebellious kids to make themselves heard. It would let you follow your passion and creative without having to obey any rules. In these days, however, old punk rock legends have sold their soul to the jungle and hopelessly disappointing indie bands. And the modern day punk heroes? Too much of a cliché and uninspiring to be taken seriously. But where there’s life, there’s hope! Punk heroines The Slits are returning to give creativity and inspiration to those who got lost on the way. Let’s talk to Slits singer Ari Up about how to kill ‘em with love…
“WE WERE THINKING, LIVING, BREATHING MUSIC”
Ari started as a singer in The Slits when she was thirteen. It is hard to believe how young girls could be so determined and brave to follow their passion. And it’s not the money that drives them it’s “making a revolution” as Ari puts it. But what has changed in the past three decades? Young girls seem so very indifferent towards everything creative. “That’s because girls now lack the aggression again that we had. Everyone has to be all nice and friendly now – what is this? You gotta be really aggressive – you gotta really have the passion of anger with you. As much as people try to suppress anger now and say it’s a bad emotion, you gotta carry that with you into the music and then let your anger out, you know, it’s just another emotion that needs to be expressed.”
Is that also why there aren’t hardly any all female rock ‘n’ roll or punk rock bands? There are many all-male-plus-one-female bands. Is that musical evolution, something that just comes with time, or the easier way out? “It’s really hard to find girls. It’s really hard to find them because they’re not stable and disciplined a lot of times to keep it together as a band. I mean, The Slits were extremely disciplined. A lot of work, 24/7 – we were thinking, living, breathing music. We were thinking revolution along with music.”
BOREDOM + POVERTY = REVOLUTION
Surprisingly, the music scene in the late 70s wasn’t open to a lot of change and strong women were seen as intimidating and threatening. The Slits had a tough time with men trying to change the band’s image to become commercially successful. They did not back down though. And what didn’t make them popular within the music industry, made them hugely popular among their peers. Does it upset her at all that The Slits never really got the recognition and respect from the music business?
“I think we were never huge and certainly not popular but I think that we got a lot of respect from our revolutionary background and circle. So that means the fans and people that were part of The Slits they were all artists themselves, they were unique, a special type of and they still are. The Slits fans, even the new ones, even the young ones, they all – in some form or other – they’re doing some form of creativity (…)
Like what you said ‘hugely popular’ but in different sort of way. Certainly not in a commercial way because of, like you said, the absolute hatred and discrimination from the industry – they were like really hateful.”
But has anything changed? Is it still more important to be a commercial success than to have talent and passion and creativity?
“There’s another huge amount of people who’re just like on the edge, they’re just so on the edge. It’s almost ‘are they on the verge of a revolution?’ I think that there can be a revolution again, because some people are just bursting with boredom and absolute like ‘What the fuck? Are we just gonna press buttons all day and sit in front of the computer and just make money?’ And just get absolutely bored with the music, with their girlfriend – or boyfriend – with everyday life. Bored out of their heads. So, and economically, too, with this shit happening again, too. That’s always a mixture of revolution, you know, boredom and poverty. Those two, they make the mix.”
Nowadays, people only seem to be influenced and inspired by ‘fashionably correct’ bands, and individuality and creativity have taken second place. “They need bands like us who’re not categorised or who’re not labelled down to one type of thing.”
That’s exactly what makes Ari different to other artists. And it is what makes The Slits different to other bands: they just go with their passion, their creativity. But is she worried if the band signs with a record label, they’ll try again to change them? “Oh no. if a record company takes us up now, they would really know what they’re in for. They wouldn’t have a chance to change us. Of course they know that (…) If we get a label this time, that would either have to see… that this is gonna make money this time. Or they just accept us as we are, you know, they just like our style.”
After the interview I get a taste of their style when we meet up with original Slits bassist Tessa to listen to three new Slits songs they have already recorded. 'Slits Tradition' and 'Kill ‘Em With Love' both feature backing vocals by Tessa’s daughter, her niece – Miquita Oliver, (The Clash) Mick Jones’s daughter and (Sex Pistols) Paul Cook’s daughter. Kill ‘Em With Love was originally released on Ari’s solo album but The Slits’ version is not just another remix – they make it a completely different song. 'Number One Enemy' is an old, never before released Slits song that will get a new remix to move away from the heavy punk sound and bring in more influences.
Are The Slits back to kick some butt then? “Yes!!! That’s right! There you have it in one sentence.” Let’s get ready for another revolution!
Words and photography: Liane Eltan