Interviews

Interview with Gary Moffatt, vocalist Slam Cartel

Slam Cartel started as an idea in Terence Warville’s mind. On a boat, in the sun, with nothing more than a guitar and a tape recorder the seeds were sown for the thirteen killer tracks on critically acclaimed debut album “Handful of Dreams”.

The songs took shape with the guidance of producer George De Angelis, as the positions were filled by able musicians, including Marc Neudeck on Bass, Tom Hendriksen on Guitar and Steve Campkin on Drums.

As the band stormed stages at the Scala, Sonisphere, Hammerfest and Hard Rock Hell, the singles were snapped up one after another by Planet Rock, TBFM and countless independent radio stations around the world.

2014 saw a line up change, with Gary Moffatt taking over vocal duties and with 2016 seeing the introduction of their new guitarist JC who replaces Damo Fawcett, the upcoming April tour cannot be missed.

Adrian Hextall spoke to Gary Moffatt about the tour, the problem with the opening night venue in Manchester, new music and all things Slam Cartel;

MGM: I’d love to know what’s happening with you guys in Manchester in the first of April?

GM: [laughs] We had a message through because we were playing the Dolphin Club in Manchester and we had a message through a couple of days ago seeing that they were going through some sort of legal action which regarded Rock Groups. We thought that’s a bit weird. We sort of delved into it now but it would get much weirder to see now they’re going to change the venue and everything because they’re not allowed to play Rock Music on there for the minute so I thought ‘’Okay’’. We thought it was a bit of a cop out, and then we were like, “Okay, let’s see what goes on.” But they’ve come back to us yesterday and they said they’ve found a new venue which is Rebellion Club in Manchester and it’s all going to happen – and it’s actually free of charge as well so we’re not paying for tickets or anything like that so that’s good. So that’s all sorted out now which is good. It’s a bit of a relief.

We were worried ’cause we got a lot of people who were coming to the show and booked hotels and all that stuff and we’re thinking, “Oh, shit.” I just told them; “Hold your horses don’t make plans” ’cause we’re trying to sort stuff out and then it took about 24 hours to get everything sorted out. So happily it’s in the same town and then no one has lost any money on their hotels and all that so yeah, all good.

MGM: Who are you playing with on the first? And who have you got for the rest of the tour as well? 

GM: We got various different acts for the rest of the tour and we’ve local acts coming with us. When we were playing in Kent we know a couple of bands out there kicking about which are local acts which we thought was quite good ’cause it gives them a chance to play and bring their fanbase and all that sort of stuff.

We’re picking different acts. The acts that we have got on down in Folkestone that I heard on the radio called Wicked Stone and they are an excellent band. As soon as I heard them I thought ‘’they’re pretty good, let’s see what they are doing’’.

So we picked people like that and some of the venues that we’re playing around their country and sort of said, “There’s a good band. I got them coming around here.”

MGM: Is that your main event down in Kent? The one in Folkestone?

GM: We’ve got one in Folkestone and we’ve also got one in Hastings. I like to go down next to the seaside where there’s excellent view. [laughs] So, yeah we’ve got at Hastings, The Carlisle and then we’ve got a London show at The Garage, and in Oxford and also in Colchester which we’ve never been there before which is a — they were sort of the local-ish[?] ones to us. And obviously we’re going to play in Evesham and Manchester and Wolverhampton. So yeah, it’s all kicking off. So looking pretty good.

MGM: The Garage. It’s a decent sized venue. You should get a nice crowd in there.

GM: Yeah. We played there when I first joined the band a couple of years ago. That was one of the first shows. The first show was a little bit of a baptism with fire because it was 24 hours to learn a song and then we went and played at Planet Rockstock [Festival].

That was pretty eye opening and cool. But yeah, the first proper one probably with the guys was at The Garage in London which is a really, really good venue. It’s sort of overlooked  in London. It’s not one of their venues that actually sticks out because there’s a lot of them. I’ actually never heard of it before.  Someone says, “Oh, The Garage in London?” And then we went in there, “Oh, this is a great venue.”

We’ve also got the Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton which we played there before and that’s a great venue. It’s not a massive venue. I think it holds about four to five hundred people. It’s not a massive venue but it’s very intimate. Even though it’s got a big stage and everything. You really go up close and personal to everyone and you can see the actual back of the venue. Like even when the lights are on. So it’s an excellent venue for that. Plus there’s a lot of well-known acts who actually go there as well.

MGM: Yeah. Absolutely. And you mentioned Planet Rockstock as well. The reviews you guys have been receiving from Planet Rock have gone through the roof suddenly. It’s all been very, very positive over the last couple of years.

GM: It’s been excellent and especially since I’ve joined the band – I’d heard of them because they were quite well known around this area, and they were — obviously Terry got the band together and everything. And there was lots of critical acclaim. They worked really well, they would play a lot of good support slots like in Queensryche. I remember when the first time I went to see them, I was blown away by them. I was like, “Listen, our band needs to be like this.”

It seemed like they were going from strength to strength and then a year later after we supported them, something just wasn’t right. Like on stage, the singer didn’t seem to want to be there or couldn’t sing the song. And it was a bit of a let-down because I was really looking forward to see them again.

I got the call about 24 hours later. It was out of the blue and they said “Would you mind coming in after Christmas?” And then we were going through a couple of rehearsals and we took it from there.

And then they said, “We’re going to do that show and then we’ll get you after Christmas and everything.” And then sort of on Friday I’ve got a call from the band “Do you want to go to Planet Rockstock?” I was like, “Uhh, yeah?” Even though I didn’t know all the words of the songs. I knew all the choruses and everything and so I got myself a sort of a handbook for Christmas and then it was like, “Oh my God, I’ve got to do this?”

There was like 3,000 people there. There was no way I wasn’t going to do it. But it was a frantic 24 hours.

MGM: I’m not surprised. It was a real baptism of fire for you then?

GM: Yeah. Exactly I mean, because I was really keen to get in the band anyway so I didn’t want to feel all that dodgy because I knew how important these shows were to do. And I thought I’ll just get my head down for sort of 24 hours and get stuck into the songs and even on the way there I was learning the songs and then when the other bands were on stage I was walking around the caravan park and memorizing songs in my head and everything.

Eventually we went on and sort of got through it. And then we came off — actually it was Paul Anthony who was on there and he actually said after the gig through the crowd like sort of, “You only had 24 hours to learn the songs?” And then I was like, “Jesus Christ.” But it went down quite well even though I would really like to see a video of that show. I’m sure it didn’t go as planned. [laughs]

I did see a couple of people down the front singing the words to certain things I didn’t know so I pointed the microphone at them. It was such a great show anyway but it put the energy on stage all night. And then when they got told afterwards I only had 24 hours to learn the songs, they were like “Ah, now I get it.”

MGM: And of course since you joined as well you had Damo come in on lead guitar and you’re line up is solidified but now… you’ve got a new guitarist again?

GM: [laughs] What happened was Damo joined after me. I’ve been in bands with Damo before and he was desperate again. The band then — when the lead guitarist left us I went to Tel’, “You got to speak with that guy Damo.” They did and he came in and he had like 2 weeks to learn the songs and everything.

So we did a lot and about just before Christmas, Damo had another band going called Big River because Damo is a blues player. That’s what he does, he loves the blues and all that sort of stuff. And he had this little band and he couldn’t really do the two together.

His first love was to play blues and everything and he’s got really big work commitments and everything. He just said, “Listen guys, I can’t really go for the tour.” And he didn’t really want to drop us in it because we had the tour set for April, this was just before Christmas. “So I’m going to have to leave.” We all went, “Oh, right.”

And then 30 seconds later he was like, “Actually, this can be quite interesting. Let’s go and see how we feel about getting a new guitar player in.” We did and within 24 hours a couple of people came back to us. The one guy that we met he was — we saw him there in the pub and we talked to him. As soon as he finished talking to us like, “What you want to do?’’ We went through the bands he’s been in and everything. It seemed like he would perfectly fit in there. We talked in the rehearsals the next day and he’d learned about five other songs. It’s just been an absolute blessing in disguise to be honest with you, because it has given us like sort of a kick up the ass as well and made everything fresh and achieved a couple of things. So yes, it worked out really well.

In Paris, he’s called Jean Claude but he likes to go by the name JC.

MGM: Is that having an impact on what you’re writing or have you already gotten new materials? I think you were saying you got a new EP coming out as well haven’t you

GM: Yeah, we were sort of working on new material anyway. I think that the thing that added the most was the fact he’s coming in and he’s a great musician and we were hearing stuff in the songs that we weren’t hearing before. Like the live thing, because we obviously play the song as close to the record as possible, but for someone to come in who hasn’t been in the band and as soon as he heard the album when he’s come in he thought, “That chorus was going a little bit too quick there.” And we were like looking at each other going, “Is it?” And then when he’s actually said it and we saw it being played and everything it was like, “You know what? We were playing that like twice the speed.” So we brought that source of stuff in and he’s added little bits. Like, when we’d get to the rehearsal room, he would be in there for the last three hours working on his guitar songs and everything. So he’s like a really accomplished musician and he gave us a kick up the ass and you can hear the band sound fresher live. I think it’s going to be a massive difference for the people who haven’t seen us before than now. So I’m really looking forward to that.

MGM: As far as the EP is concerned, is that already recorded before he’s come along or is he playing on that as well there?

GM: There was one song that was fully recorded. So we were writing songs and we thought what we do, what we did, what we have been doing is sort of recording the song and releasing it. So it keeps everything fresh for the minute. Because we’re an independent band and everything, it’s quite hard.

If we went away and got an album, we’d probably be out for about a year. That can be quite hard for a band to not have anything come out and say, “We’ve been away for a year but this is our new stuff.” So what we did was record a song, released it. Record a song, released it. Just kept everything out there. So we’ve got enough songs to do an EP now. We got a song called “World Star Love” which is coming out probably, hopefully in the middle of the tour. It was going to come out beforehand but Damo left so we have to sort of scrub his guitars and then get JC do his lead bits and all that sort of stuff. It’s just getting mixed now and it should be mastered in the middle of April and then we will release it after that. And then we will get all our act together in the middle because we’re going back out on tour in October. In the middle of that we’re going to get the songs together properly and then release a video and then work on the EP so we’ll get the EP out as well.

JC’s coming, he’s got some songs as well which is suiting the band down to the ground so we’re going to play a couple of them as well.

MGM: That gives you your chance to try this out on the live scene as well, doesn’t it?

GM: Yeah, definitely. I mean we’ve got a couple of new songs out — well we’ve got about three or four new songs out going in the set and we haven’t played them live yet as well. I think that’s quite interesting. I mean, you can go into the studio and write great songs but putting them out live is the key bit. Now, I think you know of the live stuff that you get a good reaction off, than you think “Yeah, that’s definitely on the EP.”

MGM: That gives the new fans out there something to look forward to since you’re coming off the back end of the tour, doesn’t it?

GM: Exactly, yes.

MGM: Now in terms of where you are playing there, you’ve got a spring tour coming up. The summer gap in the middle that would suggest that it’s the festival season so what have you got coming up there?

GM: We’ve got the Ashford festival which we play every year. Big community thing there. We’re trying to get little things set up sort of trying to get the festivals, like we went to Ramblin’ Man but we didn’t get that, so we’ll see if we can get that next year.

MGM: With JC in and Damo out, I assume you’ll need to do new promo \ press material too?

GM: We’ve got a new photographer lined up. He’s supposed to be really, really good. He’s got the lighting and everything and he’s different. He stuck us in front of a white wall. The initial thought is that this isn’t going to look very good but it’s probably the best pictures we ever had before. So yeah, he knows what he’s doing. We had a photo shoot in London in August, September time last year with the guy called Kevin Harris. He was absolutely brilliant. But unfortunately Damo left the band so I need some new photos. [laughs]

MGM: Yeah. It’s one of those things, isn’t it? You can have the best photos ready to go for press whenever you need it but as soon as you change band members, its start all over again, isn’t it?

GM: Well, with that said we’ve got a brand new website opened and everything in January. I mean, sort of middle of December. And everything went on there and then all of a sudden it was like, “Oh, we need to change our line-ups.” [laughs] But it’s one of those things about being in the band. People leave and people come and go all the time.

MGM: You were talking about being independent. Are you looking for a record deal?

GM: I mean if someone comes over and thought of and give us a record deal, we’d definitely look at it. And if it’s the right thing then yeah, definitely. Without a doubt. We’ve managed quite well up to now. With the producers, the production team and everything, the mastering team, and that sort of stuff. Our tours have always made a profit so it’s financed the next one. So we’ve done quite well. If everyone’s feeling like getting a record label will get us pushed out there, if that ever happened it would be like the best thing in the world. So we’re definitely pushing towards that.

It’s really strange because the way the industry is at the minute, it’s like it doesn’t invest in the artist anymore. It’s all good, I mean the digital downloads stuff and the record industry it’s changed so much. It’s got good points and it’s got bad points on both sides.

But we’re doing very well independently at the minute to get out there because our stuff gets played on the radio and we are always pushing stuff out there on social media and all that sort of stuff. So it seems to be doing the trick.

MGM: You’ve got to make your money off the back of your tours now, haven’t you?

GM: Oh, without a doubt. There’s no money in records anymore. Unless you become an independent — I mean Ginger’s [Wildheart] a perfect sort of example of what he’s done with the PledgeMusic stuff. His tours and everything and everyone else and people get money on tours now off the merchandise and off selling tickets and all that sort of stuff. I mean, for me it always has been about the live stuff.

Gary’s final word on the subject is one all aspiring bands should take heed from;

You make a great album and then get it out there but if you’re not that good live, you’re not going to have a really long career.”

TOUR DATES IN APRIL ARE AS FOLLOWS:

FRI – Apr 01, 2016 21:00       Manchester, Rebellion Club

SAT – Apr 02, 2016 21:00      Evesham, Iron Road

FRI – Apr 08, 2016 21:00       Oxford, The Wheatsheaf

SAT – Apr 09, 2016 8.00pm   Folkestone, The Harp Club

THU – Apr 14, 2016 21:00     London, The Garage

SAT – Apr 23, 2016 21.00      Wolverhampton ,The Slade Rooms

FRI – Apr 29, 2016 21.00       Coalville, Leicester, The Victoria Bikers Pub

SAT – Apr 30, 2016 21:00      Hastings, The Carlisle

SAT – May 28, 2016   All Day Festival, Canterbury,  Maidens Head

THU – Oct 06, 2016 7.30pm   Nottingham,  The Maze

FRI – Oct 07, 2016 8.00pm    Milton Keynes, The Crauford Arms

LINKS:

http://www.slamcartel.com/

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