The Slits | It Was Always Gonna Be Music

prof_slits_sm.jpgIt’s Terminator all over, man. Wasn’t that a great movie?








When someone who wasn’t in the scene "back when it was real" imagines a punk from the 1970s, normally the image that dominates the imagination is of someone with an attitude that could back off a pit bull, who doesn’t take any shit from anyone, and is the archetype of disenfranchised youth and angry rebellion. Had I retained any semblance of that image when I dialed The Slits’ Ari Up’s phone number, it melted a few seconds after we began speaking. Ari Up can talk about anything and makes everything she talks about relate to her beliefs, when she’s got a voice to do so. My conversation with her took place a day later than it was originally slated, after she’d gotten that voice back, because she’d played a show the night before and lost it.

I actually dialed a wrong number when I was calling. I think I really scared the hell out of the woman who answered when I told her I was calling to interview her. I’m sure it would have scared me too.

Yeah, you know sometimes, they’ll just call and say, "We have a satellite dish for you" [affects a mocking voice]. You know, they just call about shit, but sometimes they’ll make these threatening machine calls, like "you are being selected"…and they’re like really nasty. They put on some really threatening machine talk, so you got to listen and call them back, you know? They try every tactic to get you sold, basically.

The machines are taking over.

It’s Terminator all over, man. Wasn’t that a great movie? Arnold Schwarzenegger said he took his kids and they said it was better than the original one. [Laughs] His family thinks the latest Terminator is better. I think it is really good ’cause of the filming.

I haven’t seen it yet.

Oh, no, you can’t watch it on the TV screen. You can’t watch big movies like that on a little small thing; the whole point is to watch it on a huge screen right in the first, second, third row, and let all that 3D effect come at you, even though it’s not 3D. But you know the was the camera angles, it’s just amazing.

In just a few words, how do you describe your music today and the sound that you’re putting out right now compared to that of the mid-’70s and early 80s?

If you heard it, you’d know already and there’s no way you’d describe… You would describe it in your own words very easily, because it’s everything that The Slits sound like before, so it sticks to the old Slits the way they were, and describes really the Slits philosophy on sound. And it’s futuristic; it’s got the future in it. It’s a mixture. It’s a combination of old and new. If you heard it, you’d be able to describe the sound really easy because it really represents The Slits. That album [the impending new release, Trapped Animal, due in October] really interprets what The Slits stand for, I should say.

You were 14 when The Slits formed back in ’76. Do you have any words for aspiring musicians of today, and do you believe that a young musician today would have it tougher than you did in your time?

Yes, I think musicians now have it really tough, ’cause don’t forget back then there was a little open window, a little loop just like a sci-fi movie, just like the Terminator movie, where you skip between times and zones and future and past, and there was that little window that was open that you could jump in and have a revolution and change the world forever. And so no matter what age or sex or culture, it didn’t matter where you came from, what kind of age you were, and if you were a girl, like in the case of The Slits; it didn’t matter then. Even though it was a terrible struggle and a terrible fight against the world, because the world was up against us, but there was the support system in our little revolution that we had. There’s the support system of the few people who were in it, and that made it possible for someone like me to just step out. I think now it would be virtually impossible to step out in underwear and ballet shoes, you know, without people thinking you’re crazy and not making a statement of rebellion. But back then it was like a shockwave to the people. Back then you could wear underwear and be very shocking and threatening to people, and people were scared of you but people were also questioning it, and thinking "that must be the new evolution, there must be some mutants taking over the world." It’s another sci-fi movie; The Slits were like, "Oh my God, these are not creatures from the Earth."

And it turns out they were kind of right.

In a way they were right, but they were wrong in another way, and the other way is that they reacted violently to us, and instead of being open and curious like a child would be, they were corrupted. Because of the corruption in their hearts, it enabled them to close themselves up in fear. So fear causes ignorance, or ignorance turns to fear, fear turns to violence, and so that’s what they were doing. That’s their reaction. So they were wrong with that.

You mentioned looking at things in kind of a childlike way. Do you believe that motherhood has made you more or less childlike?

No, motherhood I don’t think has changed me at all, except being really responsible. I have to be thinking for more than one person all the time; I have to be worried, I have to be responsible. When you’re a mother you’re constantly walking around paranoid, you know? That’s the only thing that makes me more mature, but it doesn’t necessarily take away your childhood and purity. I think I haven’t changed in my ideology and in my passion, and my passion is still that of my childhood. So I’m able to kind of balance the mother and the child in me, too.

That’s good. I’m a parent myself and I think my children have helped me be more childlike.

Yes, they help you be more childlike, that’s true, because you end up going to the park with them, which you might not do. Doing things, seeing things through their eyes, teaching them about the animals, and the ABCs, and the trees and the leaves. There’s a different eye; you go to places with them and see the world through a different eye, I guess that’s what Michael Jackson wanted to experience with his kids, too, you know?

How young were you when you knew that music was going to be a central part of your life?

Two. I remember when I was two. Because I grew up in it, I grew up in it anyway, and on top of it, it’s in my blood. I grew up in it by being surrounded by it, my surroundings of music, and it was in my blood as well. So it immediately went into my memory bank, instantly. It was always gonna be music. | Jason Neubauer

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