eric13 (Sex Slaves)
Ritual Dance is a collection of nine stripped-down tracks that are broken down to the basic elements; guitar and vocals. From the good-ol-boy twang of "Baby Please" to the pop-oriented "Miss You Like the Beatles", fans of the band will love this record mostly because of eric's wholly engaging voice. I spoke with him recently to talk about his first solo record.
antiMusic: Why did you want to do a solo record?
eric13: I've been playing solo acoustic shows for years, long before the band and I still do it in between tours when I'm in my (dual) hometowns of Philly and NYC. I have a repertoire of probably 500 songs and I've always secretly wanted to record them all just to have 'em. In the last few years though, I started wishing that I *really* wanted to have recordings of all my original songs. If I were to die tomorrow, I don't want all those ideas to die with me. I started making rough demos of many of them for posterity sake, and when the opportunity to do this record arose, I couldn't pass it up.
antiMusic: Were you going for a particular sound or vibe?
eric13: I didn't consciously try (as evidenced by the many different styles I attempted on it!), I just wanted to capture what I do when I'm on stage alone and choose some songs that I thought I played well.
antiMusic: Where do you see yourself fitting in, in terms of styles?
eric13: That's the million dollar question! I've been told some of my songs have a Johnny Cash vibe, or Bowie, and of course my Beatles influences are often pointed out. Probably in this format my influences are more purely represented because it's so stripped down. And there's not the melding of influences and styles you get with a band. I just listened to the Billy Idol unplugged album and I think we have a lot in common. I call it American Underground.
antiMusic: Why did you decide to cover some of your own Sex Slave songs?
eric13: When I play solo shows, I, of course, play Sex Slaves songs. Some of them are close to the originals, others I really try and take to a different place. I wanted to get those versions down on tape too. I like when artists have alternate versions of songs, so why not?
antiMusic: Talk a bit about the following songs:
eric13: Waiting : It's an early Sex Slaves jam, ironically just re-released by the band right around the time I put out Ritual Dance. This was the first one I recorded for the solo album.
Please Kill Me: This song was a bit of an experiment. Most of the tunes on Ritual Dance have been kicking around for a while and had a chance to develop and mature. This one I wrote late in the making of the album. I wrote it about 2:30 in the morning on a Tuesday and on Wednesday I was tracking it. I had obviously never performed it, or even had a chance to let it stew! But I wanted to see what an extremely fresh idea would be like on record, so I just went with my gut and did it almost live in the studio. I thought of touching it up, but decided instead to see how a raw song idea would stand the test of time. I guess we shall see…
Dead Boy: I've opened my solo shows with this tune for the last 8 years or so, and originally I wasn't gonna record it, but one day some friends popped in the studio and I needed something they could sing on. I'm so glad they did come, cuz we had a blast doing it and it turned out really great!
Baby Please: Wrote this part in Brooklyn and part in Texas. It's just a fun outlaw country jam. Sex Slaves have actually played this live a few times. We've played many a show in rough roadhouses, and at the end of the night sometimes you gotta appease the wild bikers and keep cowboy hat wearing rowdies smiling. This tune always did the trick.
Out of Luck: A style of classic American country that also interests me. I didn't intend it to sound like Cash, but I enjoy the reaction from people when they hear my low voice, plus I love whistling….I think it owes as much to Hank as it does to Cash.
antiMusic: You did a solo tour of Europe last year. How did the songs go over live there?
eric13: Europe was awesome! Admittedly I was a bit nervous of how the shows would be received. My record didn't have any legs yet over there; I was basically riding on the name of the Sex Slaves or playing places where no one had ever heard me or my music. But my booking agent Fabienne did a great job putting me in appropriate places and I was rewarded with some amazing response. The crowds were really open-minded and ultimately the shows were incredible experiences. I would typically do an hour or 90 minute set and at 4 or 5 shows I ended up doing another hour of encore!! So I guess they didn't hate it that much…
antiMusic: Who is Eric Bower and Brian Burke who are credited on the record?
eric13: Eric Bower is a recording engineer out of Philly, and an old friend from the Philly rock scene. He played guitar in one of the best underground Philly rock bands 'The Union Dead', and I've always been a fan of his. When I heard he built a studio I tracked him down and asked if I could come check it out. We started Ritual Dance the next day.
Brian Burke is an original member of Sex Slaves, the first person I actually shared the band name with! He, of course, isn't in the band anymore but we co-wrote almost all of the early material in the band including some fav's like 'Contagious', 'No More Reasons' and 'Me and My Friends'. He now has an amazing new album 'Demons and Demos' under his new stage name 'Sunny Climbs'. I actually released it on my label, Loch Ness Records. You should definitely check it out. (www.lochnessrecords.com)
antiMusic: You are usually in the studio with your band. How liberating was it for you to be the only person calling the shots this time out with your solo record?
eric13: It was certainly a change! Haha. The Slaves are very democratic, and we each always offer input on the other person's parts, performances and motivation. We hold one another to a very high standard and are accountable, sometimes forcibly. It's actually a great thing, and rooted in the passion for our music. I try and do the same when I'm solo, but I guess it really allows me to indulge my personal tastes and share things that may not have been appropriate in the band context. My extensive studio experience with the Slaves was certainly a boon to my solo stuff, but I also feel that doing the solo stuff made me a better member of the band in that I can get some things out of my system and not have to force everything I want to do artistically into the Sex Slaves.
antiMusic: What came first for you for your material on here; the lyrical idea or the music?
eric13: I almost always write them simultaneously. In the last couple of years I've started to tuck away a few lyrics for later use, but mostly I find inspiration for an idea and attempt to flesh out the whole thing at once.
antiMusic: Where does the "13" come from and how long have you been using it?
eric13: The real story is too long for print, but involves my Dad hanging out with Jimi Hendrix in NYC many, many moons ago. The nickname actually predates my birth! My Dad's been using it my whole life, but I took it officially as a stage name when the Sex Slaves started in 2004
antiMusic: When did you first start playing guitar/writing songs?
eric13: I started playing guitar when I was 9. My Dad and I took lessons together. The first two songs I learned were Van Halen's "Ice Cream Man" and AC/DC "The Jack. I got my first electric - a Gibson SG, a couple years later and immediately started learning Black Sabbath songs. It wasn't until I was about 18 I started writing songs, and boy were those first ones terrible. Eventually I figured out how to make them a little less cringe-worthy.
antiMusic: What gives you more personal pleasure, writing or performing?
eric13: Now that is a tough question. I live to play. Really. I love singing, I love cranking up my amps and god damn if that aint a good way to travel around the world *and* get paid for it. I spend countless hours jamming on my acoustic too. But....I do have a saying - I can have. a million things on my daily do list that I blow off, I can miss all my appointments, I can be stood up by a beautiful woman, not even get out of bed til nighttime; but any day I write a song is a good day, and nothing else is important.
antiMusic: Do you anticipate doing more solo work in the future?
eric13: Absolutely! I already have another full album written that I can't wait to do, and even during the creation of the new Sex Slaves album I still pop out ideas and new songs that are better suited for my solo style. It's gonna be a little bit before I get to though, as the Sex Slaves are making a new album then doing a world tour, and that's my priority.
Morley and antiMusic thank Eric for taking the time to do this interview.