Atmosphere’s Slug shares stories of tour life
With their eighth studio album fresh of the press, Slug and DJ Ant, who make up the legendary underground hip-hop group, Atmosphere, have taken off on tour through Canada to perform the album Southsiders for the first time. On Victoria Day, in between a sold out show in Regina and a concert in Winnipeg, Slug took time out to speak about the evolution of touring and the strong bond between he and his DJ after years of touring, making music and most importantly remaining relevant through a transforming culture.
HOW HAS THE CANADIAN LEG OF THE TOUR BEEN SO FAR? The tour has been great. I think my favourite part so far has been the fact that some of the material that we’re playing at these shows, we’ve never played before and so I don’t know if it’s relative to Canada so much as it is relative to the fact that these are the first shows off of the new record. Luckily, we’re in Canada, but it’s been great to try these new songs and see which ones work in front of people, which ones don’t work in front of people. I can’t necessarily give Canada credit for that, I don’t think anyone can get credit for that. It’s just circumstantial that we’re here first. To be fair, it’s always really fun playing up here. I don’t know if it’s because the audience up here is just really fun, or if we get up here so rarely that when we do, people go all in.
YOU WENT FROM PREPARING THE ALBUM, PUTTING OUT THE ALBUM, TO BEING ON TOUR, HOW HAVE YOU EVEN FOUND TIME TO PRACTICE THESE NEW SONGS? We do our best. A little bit. We practice the songs how they are on the album just because we don’t know what kind of life the songs will have yet. Probably in the fall, we’ll start to see the songs manipulate and morph into ideas that are better suited for a live presentation, but when you first go out, you kind of want to present the song exactly how it is on the record, because that gives you the opportunity to see what that song’s strength is and the parts of the song that is connecting with people. People are accustomed to hearing it a certain way, but by this time some of these songs may look totally different.
At the beginning, you just want to party. In time, you realize that you can’t do that your whole life or you’ll die and so you start figuring out how to eat better and seek out a healthier life experience and still party and have fun. I’m not going to wake up in a stranger’s bed.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT ON THIS TOUR TO DATE? I guess the most memorable moment was actually the first show, the night of the release party, which was in New York City. All of our equipment broke. Like, everything fell apart in the middle of the set. We fixed it real quick and nobody could tell what had happened, but that’s the kind of shit that always sticks in my head, the things that go wrong. If I were to remember all the things that go right, I don’t know if I have enough memory space in my head.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO IN BETWEEN CITIES, DURING TOUR LIFE? We’re fortunate enough to be travelling by bus, so we get to sleep at night. We wake up when we’re pulling into the next town. We get to wake up, go take a shower and go record shopping. We went to Record Town in Calgary, we went to Vintage Vinyl, I think it was called, in Regina. I roll around with Ant and watch him buy records and that’s where I learned what to look for and what records to buy.
WHAT GEMS DID YOU FIND IN CALGARY? I found a couple of Genesis records that I had never seen before that I was really excited to get my hands on.
People use live shows as a means to lose themselves and get away from their problems or go out for the night and have a good time. They’re chasing fun, they’re chasing hope, they’re chasing some sort of release and that will always stay the same.
SO YEARS LATER OF BEING ON THE ROAD, WHAT IS IT LIKE NOW COMPARED TO THE BEGINNING OF YOUR CAREER? It’s healthier. We sleep better, we eat better, we take care of ourselves. At the beginning, you just want to party. In time, you realize that you can’t do that your whole life or you’ll die and so you start figuring out how to eat better and seek out a healthier life experience and still party and have fun. I’m not going to wake up in a stranger’s bed.
HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE CROWDS EVOLVE? The crowd evolves just like the culture evolves. So having been doing this for so long, I’ve seen trends come and go, I’ve been able to see the crowds, how they dress, how they speak, slang, that type of shit changes, but the thing that doesn’t change is it’s always rooted in people looking for somewhere to escape to. People use live shows as a means to lose themselves and get away from their problems or go out for the night and have a good time. They’re chasing fun, they’re chasing hope, they’re chasing some sort of release and that will always stay the same.
YOU AND ANT CONTINUE TO HAVE A FRESH ENERGY, AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, WHAT IS THE TRICK TO KEEPING THAT RELATIONSHIP SO FRESH? We’re such good friends that it allows us to really be free with each other. There’s no ego attached to working together.
YOUR RELATIONSHIP HAS LASTED LONGER THAN MOST MARRIAGES IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY. WHAT’S THE SECRET? [Laughs] I don’t know. If I knew, I would write a book about it and get rich.
Interview By. Samantha O’Connor