The Slits: Interview

    Ari Up probably could have waited around to inherit her share of the fortune from Der Spiegel, but the freedom of the punk lifestyle proved to be too alluring. She formed the Slits in 1976 with drummer Palmolive and jumped squarely in the middle of the exploding English punk scene. During its original six-year run, the Slits played shows with the Clash and helped to broaden the worldview of punk by incorporating elements of reggae and dub music into their raw sound. The band imploded in the early ’80s, and members found work with bands ranging from Siouxsee & the Banshees to the Raincoats. Absence helped the Slits’ reputation, and by the time Up and Tessa Pollitt decided to get the band back together, the world was ready to be reintroduced to their distinct sounds. The Slits’ Trapped Animal, the band’s first album of original recordings in over 25 years, will be released on Oct. 6 by Narnack.


    Hello. This is Mike from Prefix. I’m supposed to talk with Ari.

    I’m here. You caught me at the right time. I just got up, so I’m the best that I’ll be all day.


    I’ll try to make it quick, so you can get on with your day.

    I would think you’d rather make it good.


    I’ll try to make it quick and good.

    Like sex?


    Uh, sure.

    Most people think that you have to be at it for a long time to have good sex. There are always people talking up the virtues of tantric sex, but you can have a spontaneous moment of great sex that happens very quickly. Two people are just in sync and want the same thing at the same time. It’s a beautiful moment and then the moment passes. It’s the same way with music. The Slits have always been about capturing that perfect moment and then moving on to find the next one. 


    The Slits went on hiatus for a little over 20 years. How did you fill the time?

    I’ve been continuing the journey of music and sex throughout the years. It’s been a long journey. Whether I was with the Slits, a solo act, or just out living my life, I was out there breaking down barriers and living like a warrior. I was taking everything in and spitting it back out.


    Why did you decide to come back now?

    That was unfinished business, just like unfinished sex. If you have to stop in the middle in either one, you have a need to finish. It happened instantly. Tessa ran into me at one of my solo shows, and we knew that it was the right time to bring the Slits back. We’re not like a lot of guys who decide to bring back a band for the money. We’re action people. We’re people who created a revolution. We’re also not dreamers. There are plenty of people who had the dream but never brought it to fruition. They just wanted to have it, but they lack the commitment. They’re dreamers.


    We’re totally committed to the Slits. We’re involved, responsible people, ready to play music and give our all to the band. It’s just like being in a relationship. That’s maybe why the younger generation will find it hard to relate to us. Young people have no tolerance or patience for a relationship. They are enemies in relationships. We’ve been training them for so long to be against each other, to be constantly on guard, and now this whole generation knows nothing about the work and compromise needed to be in a successful relationship.


    What has been the hardest part about getting back into music?

    This is a very good question, I think. Musically, everything happens very quickly. The creativity side is so easy; it comes within five minutes. All the rest of it is murder. That’s the hell. The industry and the economy make it so difficult to be a band.


    How are the Slits different today?

    You’re going to see it in action better than I could put it in words.


    Tell me about the new album.

    How can we put it? It’s like the passion of the Slits. I think that it’s a tribute to the band, but it also sounds very current and inspired. It shows how we were born in the chaos of the ’70s and were really the first band to play world-beat. That term didn’t really exist until we came on the scene. It’s not vintage, though. It sticks to the roots and beginnings, but it shows the future and where the band is heading.


    What have you listened to over the years that influenced your music?

    The same stuff that I’ve always listened to is still inspiring to me. Urban music, rural music, the stuff from where I’ve been living in Brooklyn and Kingston, all the real shit, the real music. The band has always listened to any upstart music.


    Does punk music still exist?

    I think it’s more a question of punk vs. punk music. Punk was always about doing everything you feel like, and the music came out of that aesthetic. Bands are out there saying that they are punk, but they’re really ripping it off without giving it any real credence. What’s really happening is out in the underground. There are lots of punky bands and girl bands out there. Reggae musicians are incorporating all kinds of music, and that’s really more punk than anything else.


    Do you think that critics will be kinder this time around?

    I don’t even have time to think about the critics. Really, any press is good press. It’s attention. If the critics write nasty things, and they are about the music, it could even be good for the band. We might think about the criticism and make some changes. Criticism rarely is given on that level, though. It’s all about personal agendas, usually, and what is the hip thing of the moment. I really have no time for that sort of criticism. It serves no real purpose.


    What does the future hold for the band?

    That’s really another good question. We plan to do many albums and many tours. We should tell people that we’re going to be out there making music as a working band. Why would people know that? Maybe people are just happy to have one album or taking it for granted that we’re going to be around forever. I can say that this is not a one-off project. Other than that I don’t want to be tempting fate.