Clint Slate’s ‘Woodn Bones’ was released in November 2017 after being recorded in a theatre, live on the internet and in a single take. Lyrically-Speaking talks to Clint Slate to find out more about this unique project.
What inspired you to go into music?
I was channelled into music after the Freddie Mercury tribute and seeing all the musicians come together such as Metallica, Annie Lennox, George Michael, you name it. It was very cathartic and right after this, I wanted to play the drums. It all went from there.
What is the meaning behind the name ‘Clint Slate’?
I was having a very difficult time in my personal life and needed to have something to focus on to get out of bed. I tried to find a new character or persona, knowing I needed a fresh start, a clean slate. It sounded like a name when I said it out loud so it became Clint Slate.
Tell us more about your new album Woodn Bones.
The first album, Before the Dark was a solo album derived from frustration and I did everything on it from producing to playing all the instruments. I thought to myself, ‘well, I’ve done the solo album, what can I do next?’ These thoughts transformed into ‘let’s get 30 musicians in a theatre, 8 cameras and record live on the internet in a single take’. Everybody thought I was crazy.
What made you decide to do it in this way?
I try to push my own boundaries mainly. It wasn’t clear in my mind at the time but now I think that it was maybe a statement. Auto-tune seems to have become the new singer and I wanted to make a statement against commercial music. Years ago, I saw a documentary about Motown and how they would record great tunes within two or three takes, all in the same room and then the song was released as a single two hours later. These songs had feeling and that is why they still work. Woodn Bones was about getting back to the human factor.
Any funny stories to share from when you recorded the album?
We were all very stressed because we didn’t have time to rehearse all the songs all together. The saxophonist, for instance, never rehearsed with us except for on the day. As a result, during the recording of ‘Blackmail’, he was just trying to figure out where he was through eye contact. It was strange because every musician was discovering stuff live. Strange and beautiful at the same time.
Can you describe the sound of the album?
I think that this one is more folk. Over the years, I must have written about 400 songs and I knew instantly what ones would work in this case. There are some songs that are straight rock such as ‘Long Way From Home’. At the same time, I never think about music in genres, I see it as just songs. Some say that it’s mainstream, underground, folk, electro, dark folk or rock. I wanted to put different things on the album, a song like ‘Above The Moon’ became through rehearsals something with a very Cuban flavour.
Which track from the album are you most pleased with?
The second track ‘Flowers’. I have some songs that I just have to get out of my system and others that are like novels to me. Like this one, I wrote it in 2009 and I have tried it with different bands at various points but it never worked. I like the story that it conveys and I think the whole album conveys around this track.
What was it like working with over 30 musicians at once?
They did a very good job. It’s quite hard to perform on a song you didn’t write so I tried to give them as much information as I could so that they could understand why I would put this type of sound on an individual song. You have to be part of the scenery in a way, even myself. I see songs as paintings in a way, you have to get the whole picture. It was stressful but we trusted ourselves and we had maybe 2 or 3 wrong notes on the whole disk which is amazing! The album wouldn’t have been the same without them and I can’t thank them enough for their trust and hard work.
What did you learn from the other musicians you worked with?
I’m a self-taught musician so I know how to do many things, but only my own way. So sometimes it’s hard to communicate with scholar musicians because I can’t read or write music. I had to learn why these parts I had in my head worked or didn’t work. It was the same with the instruments, I had to understand why something would work on a demo but not with other people. Every time I see a musician play, I learn. I’m a sponge.
Are there any tracks that are particularly personal to you?
Some of the songs are very personal but some as just short stories. ‘The Last Laugh’ can be read as a love song but I’m actually talking to my dad’s cancer but that’s my angle. I wanted to keep it cryptic but if you know me, you can decode it. This one was very personal and hard to choose but I knew I had to record it and get it out of my system. ‘Flowers’ is a short story of a woman in front of a grave and the ghost of her husband talking to her but you don’t know this until the last sentence of the song. At the same time, I relate to the guy so there are parts of me in this character too.
What is your song writing process?
I just play. I usually pick up my guitar and strum a little bit and a chord will hit me or a riff. Sometimes I just sing something and get lost in that moment. I always think of it as like a trance, you can’t write consciously, you have to get lost in the moment.
What was the highlight of 2017 for you?
I didn’t see the year passing me by. I was working on Woodn Bones and I was on some improvisation shows in France. I wanted to write a novel, do a painting and create a TV series. Maybe next year! People say I’m nuts but I’ll just keep going with it. 2017 was a good year for all this and all the musicians that I encountered. I just want to keep it like that.
What has been your biggest challenge as a singer/songwriter?
I think I’m still stuck in it but being heard. Everybody can write. There is no quality test about this. You just have to let everything out of yourself. Being heard and considered is still a challenge. I think that singers, writers and musicians, generally speaking, are not meant to sell themselves. It can create an unbalanced situation where you write things that are getting better and better and are still not touching enough people to fulfil the full purpose of it.
What has the best piece of advice that you have been given?
Years ago, I befriended Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal, a guitar genius who played with the Guns N’ Roses, and we’re still in contact. He told me, ‘don’t listen to other people, including me. If it sounds good to your ears, your head and your heart, do it. Don’t be a doppelganger or something else.’
Do you have any advice for anyone just making their way into music?
Try and have an eye on everything coming your way. I learned throughout this how to promote things, write things, arrange and mix things. It took me years and I realize now how important it is because I can have a say on everything. The more you know, the less you’ll fear and it can be very rewarding. You always have something to learn and something to work on. It is never achieved and that is the point: The most important thing is the travel, not the destination.
Website – http://www.clintslate.com
Bandcamp – https://clintslate.bandcamp.com/
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/ClintSlate
Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/clintslate
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/clintslate
Twitter – https://twitter.com/ClintSlate
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/ClintSlate/
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