Wed 30 Oct 2019

Interview with… Chinatown Slalom


The bric-a-brac Beatles Chinatown Slalom are preparing to take Liverpool’s North Shore Troubadour by storm next weekend, so we caught up with them to find out everything you need to know about the show…

You’re individually from Bury, Belfast, Stratford-upon-Avon and Macclesfield but now based in Liverpool. Would you consider this a hometown show for Chinatown Slalom?

We’re all quite attached to Liverpool now so don’t think we’ll be going anywhere anytime soon. Cheap rent, kind people and a great scene of super hard working creatives – it’s got everything we need and more.

How do you think your original hometowns’ local scenes have impacted the band as a collective?

Richard:  Belfast is known for its thriving creative scene which I felt really privileged to be a part of whilst playing in loads different bands in live and recording. We always had to be fiercely independent as industry help and funding is hard to come by in Northern Ireland so there’s a big DIY attitude there. I think that’s definitely carried through into everything we do in Chinatown Slalom. We can record, produce and mix anywhere as long as we have a laptop. When you can record anywhere at any time it really opens up the potential for sonic exploration as there’s basically no cost involved. There really are no limitations when it’s just us in a room with a laptop trying to make music that challenges and intrigues us.

Jake: There’s next to nothing going on in the music scene in Stratford, I think that’s allowed me to do my own thing and dictate my own tastes; though It was the birth place of Shakespeare! Perhaps my beats have been influenced by the theatrical air around town. I really spent most of my time as a young lad making songs in my bedroom on iPad GarageBand and then slowly started to figure out how to produce music to a high standard later on Ableton. I also play drums which comes in handy getting everything right when we’re time stretching a sample and making sure everything lines up.

Liam: Macc has a few local legends. Probably most notably are Joy Division and New Order. I went to Ian Curtis’ grave quite a few times growing up and it is always covered in guitar pics and flowers. I always found the way he performed so captivating. Hopefully that might have rubbed off on me somehow in the Macc air. I also happened to be taught guitar by a member of another iconic Macc legend called ‘The Macc Lads’. They were a super-outspoken, politically incorrect band from the late 80s. They would find it really hard to exist in 2019 but in Macc their songs are cult classics. I definitely hope their punk ethos might have impacted us. It’s hard to tell really, but probably just coming from the north is what impacts me the most. All the best bands come from the north and I’m proud of it haha!

Michael: Bury is known for a whole lot of nothing apart from maybe black pudding, there’s not much music to come out of my hometown apart from Elbow maybe. I think the lack of scene spurred me to spend more time indoors making weird noises with my friends just jamming my teens away and never really feeling constricted as I never had anything to compare myself to. My dad is also a big music nerd drowning me in all music since I was little.  Manchester was the closest city, also known as England’s music capital. I’m sure it had an effect on what I started listening to and how I wanted my own music to sound. Then I met 3 like-minded people in uni, which made being weird easy.

Describe your sound to someone who’s never heard of you before.

We use a really wide range of styles to try and create something different in every one of our songs. We use a lot of samples and they can come from anything like an Instagram story to a record we find in a charity shop. We try and flip them in interesting ways to create new sounds and textures. We don’t ever try and label ourselves into any specific genre because we’re always trying to evolve, never standing still and (hopefully) never getting boring.

Let’s discuss the name. We get the link to Chinatown in Liverpool, but where does the skiing reference come from?

When we all met in first year of uni, our respective accommodations all surrounded Chinatown in Liverpool so we’d be often going back and forth between each other’s flats. One day for whatever reason we were weaving in and out of the green bollards ala slalom, which go up the length of the street. One of us said “we’re doing the Chinatown slalom!” and thus our name was born into the world.

Around the same time we had this Instagram page that we’d post weird art that we would make on Snapchat (aka “snaart”) and decided to name it @chinatownslalom. We weren’t even a band back then, just some friends posting silly pics of each other, archiving a new stage in our lives. If you look at our page @tunatownsalmon all those early pics are still there where we decided to make it a time capsule of the time when we recorded our album, Who Wants to be a Millionaire. It really showcases a lot of weird hair decisions we made that year

You’ve once mentioned The Kitchen Sessions, where you’d use random household objects like pots and fire extinguishers to make music. Did any of these DIY instruments ever make their way into the studio with you?

We’ve always love jamming together, picking up whatever instruments and percussion we can find and having a go. We’d be up way too late playing way too loud and annoying all of our housemates by screaming nonsense improv songs in Mikey’s tiny little kitchen. You can hear some of Jake’s tea cups in ‘8:30’, if you listen close enough you can hear them just before the drop.

Not just confined to the kitchen though. We’re always breaking into a capella improv crimps, it quickly became a big part of our workflow while recording the album and is always really useful for figuring out where a song might evolve if we’re a bit stuck.

You released your debut album Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in June. What’s the story behind the album theme?

Around Feb 2018 was when we came up with the concept for the album which was pretty early on in the recording process. All we did at the time was lock ourselves inside and work on music all the time, living on a budget of next to nothing being totally content with what we had like pigs in mud. Basically we figure our time here is too short to get caught up in a rat race and endless pursuit of bigger profit seems virtueless and counter intuitive to living a happy life. We all need to slow down because if we all realised that we don’t have anything to chase, we might find we already have everything we need.

You’re on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Jeremy Clarkson hits you with a tough one. Who out of the band would be your ‘Phone A Friend’?

Liam has a pretty wide pop culture general knowledge so I reckon he’d be our best bet.

What would be your strongest topic if you were on the game show

Ricky: Probably just general music round to be honest

Jake: Ableton key commands

Liam: Either The Beatles or David Tennant-era Doctor Who

Michael: Capital cities

Which songs on the album are your favourites to play live?

Love playing ‘Every Minute of The Day’ or ‘WWTBAM’ at the minute. When we were figuring out how on earth we’d play them live after recording them it felt like we were worlds away from ever pulling it off in a live setting. Somehow we’ve managed pull most of the elements from the record together playing as an actual live band, there’s a lot of instrument swapping throughout the set but that just makes it more fun!

Can’t not mention ‘Dr Marvello’ as its always ridiculously fun to play – the whole set is actually really fun for us, but definitely challenges us as musicians.

With this being a local show, will you be pulling any surprises?

We’ve tried to find the venue and vibe that will best replicate the atmosphere we tried to build in our house parties we were throwing last summer, and honestly North Shore is the perfect place. Hopefully people come and feel like they can let go and lose themselves for a night, before we have to join the rat race again the next day.

Not giving too much away though because then it won’t be a surprise… you’ll have to come and experience the weirdness with us to find out!

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