There’s been a fair amount (well – not like a whole lot, but – some) written about this band – how they were inspired and who they inspired. And … they just reunited for a couple of shows, I didn’t get to see any of those shows, I’m a little bummed out about that; but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
So, this is my Slow. The one that plays all the time in my head. I don’t want to write the same things as everyone else – though when you are talking about a band with a cult following and a limited selection of recorded material, it’s difficult to not say the same things. Probably the best way is to get a bit personal.
Slow were possibly legendary, definitely infamous. Most of the infamy surrounding the band was tied to their Expo 86 performance – which I remember well. Not because I was there, but because I was making a point to not be there. I was 15 at the time, and part of a small and mostly unheard group of Vancouverites who were actively boycotting the whole Expo thing – due to the displacement of many of the City’s long time residents in order to accommodate the throngs of tourists. I was attempting to be a little political in my youth – go figure.
Around that same time, I was in my first band – the University Hill high school band known as The Zelnick Experience (it’s a long story, which I might share at a later date…). It was one of those horrible but fun and sometimes even good high school rock bands – we described ourselves as “psychedelic noise jazz” and we were inspired by the Velvet Underground, Flipper, My Dog Popper, Jimi Hendrix, and Slow. We managed to actually play a couple of live shows, one of which was a “lunchtime performance” with us and a friend’s band (and I cannot for the life of me remember the name – I think I might have a flyer we did somewhere…) at a neighboring elementary school.
I know this – so far – hasn’t got much to do with Slow, other than they were tied to U-Hill, played a crazy high school event, and annoyed their teachers. And, our friend’s band had as a member the brother of the girl (Joey) who did those backing vocals on the Slow song “Have Not Been The Same”. And when we did our lunchtime rock show, we actually managed to start our own mini-riot. In our own high-school small way we were working on being “legendary” and “infamous”. There we were, four high school kids; plugging in and getting ready to play songs like “Bitch At The Devil” and “Bums on PCP” for a lunchroom full of kids – 4th – 6th graders – all ready to hear a “band”. So we turn up Spinal Tap style and start playing … and before the first song was over, we had kids running out, kids sitting on the floor crying, and the principal of the school pulling the plug on the set.
We were so happy.
So, back to Slow. Possibly the finest example of post-punk, pre-grunge Canadiana there is. Hell with the Seattle sound; it started here. I mean, Slow’s last gig was with Green River, eh? This was one dynamic live band that pulled no punches, and they hit over the border as well. Mudhoney hit with their first album in 1988. Nirvana’s Love Buzz / Big Cheese single hit that same year as well. So, what was the “Label of Grunge” doing while Vancouver was dealing with Slow in 1986? Releasing Sub Pop 100. featuring bands like Skinny Puppy, Scratch Acid, Sonic Youth, Naked Raygun, U-Men, Steve Albini, and Steve Fisk, among others. Green River and Soundgarden in 1987. The Seattle “grunge” of 1986 was actually found on C/Z Records – the Deep Six compilation.
I know I have to get out of ‘history lesson’ mode, but this is where it started for me, 16 years old and headphones on. Lost in Soundgarden, the Melvins, Skin Yard, Green River, and Slow. I have many other stories and connections that spread out from these bands, into others, but I’m trying to stay focused (a little) here.
Slow was a band that inspired me, a band that I admired, though I didn’t really play the same style of music, I wanted to play with the same kind of intensity. Home alone in my room with the “Against The Glass” EP spinning on the record player, just loving the edge of the guitars, the melodic yet rough snarl of the vocals, the scattershot machine gun steadiness of the drums, the pulse of the bass getting my blood flowing fast. I was never musically ignorant; I was never really a “punk” either. I liked the Stooges, I had seen the Ramones, I had grown out of my KISS phase, but Slow? They were my neighbors, my peers, I knew people who knew them, and they weren’t much older than I was. They were real, alive, and doing what I wanted to do.
Slow broke up after that whole Expo deal, leaving a couple of songs, and a truly (for me) timeless EP. And now I get to listen to it on brand new unscratched vinyl. I enjoyed the resulting side projects, but none quite as much as the original grouping of in your face attitude. There was Stephen Hamm – who spent time in the Evaporators, Canned Hamm, Copyright (aka Circle C), and Tankhog.
Tankhog is the one for me here; doing a nice split single of Ministry covers with Windwalker (who was fronted by the ex-singer of Silent Gathering, which is the band I joined after my high-school experience, and the degrees of separation just keep hitting) as well as a full length out on Zulu (“House of Beauty”?). Then there was Tom Anselmi, who formed Circle C, aka Copyright, and managed to create a scandal as big as, if not bigger than, the Expo 86 deal. They released an album (produced by Skinny Puppster Dave Ogilvie) in 1990 with a huge “Major Label” advance and contract – which they managed to destroy in true rock ‘n’ roll fashion – both the advance and the contract buried and torn under waves of excess. Copyright managed to come back, though perhaps not to quite as wide of an audience as they could have, with a release in 1996, and then a third in (I think) 2001. The Circle C ( © ) connection here, for me, was through one of my best friends at the time – Scott – who introduced me to that post-Slow incarnation, and then proceeded throughout the next couple of years to introduce me to a whole new realm of music that lead me from Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Mogwai, and his own band – Molasses. Other stories for other times.
So perhaps this is not as much about Slow as it is about the connections that move from one place, one band, to another. This is a Mixtape Time Machine.
There is a history within every song, and I’m connecting the dots to help me understand my own.
“talk low, talk slow and don’t say too much.” – John Wayne