Slam Interview: Techno down to a T

Ben Gomori caught up with Slam ahead of this year's T In The Park to discuss their infamous arena, festival highlights and techno as a whole.

Becca Frankland

Last updated: 29th Jun 2016

The Slam Tent at T In The Park is one of the highlights of the UK’s dance calendar, with the Scottish techno stalwarts bringing together a stupendous line-up of talent from across the global scene year in, year out for over two decades now. 

Slam have always weathered the storm in terms of techno’s wider popularity, and the fact that a mainstream festival such as T has always had a room for a resolutely underground arena such as theirs is testament to the duo’s unfailing dedication to the genre and to making it a key part of Scottish nightlife since the early 90s.

While Calvin Harris, The Stone Roses and Red Hot Chili Peppers hold court on the mainstage, thousands of tech aficionados will stomp in the Slam Tent to the sounds of Len Faki, Richie Hawtin, Seth Troxler, Chris Liebing, Nina Kraviz, DVS1, Marcel Dettmann and a clutch of other quality selectors.

Aside from the mammoth task of running this stage at Scotland’s top festival every year and a hectic touring schedule, Slam also run their legendary Soma Records imprint, which is still going strong several hundred releases later.

Those who have discovered a love for techno in amongst the recent vogue are advised to pore over and study their illustrious back catalogue. From releasing Daft Punk’s first trio of releases from 1994-96 to bringing through fellow Scottish talents like Funk D’Void and Silicone Soul, they have made a momentous contribution to electronic music. 

Ahead of this year's T In The Park, we spoke to one half of the duo, Stuart, to get the lowdown on the legendary tent and this year’s line-up.

How’s everything in the world of Slam? What’s going on at the moment?

It's pretty hectic at the moment. We just had our Riverside Festival and we've just been in Ibiza for Cocoon for the opening party and in Istanbul... in the studio a lot... the label... never get a spare moment at the minute!

Would you say there is anything that defines this period in your career particularly? Are things markedly different compared to 5-10 years ago?

It's been fairly consistent for us, I think, in terms of DJing and production–but I think now is definitely a good time. A lot of good things are happening. Careers are a bit like a rollercoaster, aren't they? But hopefully the depths are fairly moderate.

How much of the year goes into planning the tent?

What happens is that as soon as one finishes, we jump back on it. It kind of has to be like that, because there's so much involved. Essentially, we've been trying to improve it as things have gone on, so we'll have a day or two off to recover and then we'll have a quick meet-up and have a chat about what we can do to improve things – sound and lights and any issues. 

Then obviously we jump on the line-up and get a wish list together for that. The line-ups for us is key to get right. It's a fairly huge part of the event and it's extended now to four days–with a sort of warm-up on the Thursday and then it really kicks off on Friday. Thursday is more for the campers and it's great, actually, because everyone's really excited to get going.

You’d think that after so many years running it, it becomes straightforward. But I think we all know that’s probably not the case. What are the challenges and hiccups from year to year?

Nothing's ever straightforward in the world of agents and travel and stuff like that. In terms of logistics of the tent, that's obviously become easier. There's a crew on board to take care of backstage and all that kind of stuff, and we're not physically out there.

We've got a team as well with people we work. So it has become – I wouldn't say it's easy – but I would say the hardest part is discussions with agents, organising travel and all that kind of stuff. I'd be a liar if I said I did that myself, but that's the difficult part.

Who are you excited to see make their debut this year?

Well DVS1 of course. He's such a great guy. We've played with him a lot of times before and I think Ricardo [Villalobos] and Raresh back-to-back will be amazing as well, and they're good pals. Marcel Dettmann, he's played before... Scuba... I'm not sure if it's first time but it will be great to have him. We've become quite good friends recently. The thing is that because we're in this industry as well, we know everybody personally as well–so it's a good hookup to meet everybody.

What have been some of the most memorable sets over the years?

Richie Hawtin's 'Decks, EFX & 909', when he first did that was amazing. Daft Punk. Jeff Mills, one of the first times he played was amazing as well. It's all been great. It's just such an incredible atmosphere. It's almost just like every year keeps getting better.

But I think in terms of amazing sets, Richie just blew us away. It was the first time we'd ever seen anyone bring anything into the booth aside from a bag of records and two turntables. It was '95 or something? When he still had the bald head and glasses, ha ha...

What’s your view on the techno scene as a whole at the moment?

I think it's really strong. It's strange because I've seen it come in and out of fashion and I've seen other things come in and take over for a little while and then people go back to the source, if you will.

I think it's different for us because Scotland's always had a strong affinity with techno... things like the Slam Tent and our Pressure nights and so on. It's always been a sort of mainstream music here. I think now is a great time for techno. Not only is there loads of amazing music out there, I think there's loads of great DJs coming through. It just seems like it's on fire at the moment.

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