Slaves to pleasure

The punk duo on why performing is ‘like an hour-long orgasm’.

Slaves get on a big high from performing
Punk’d Slaves take great joy from their time in the spotlight... when they can tour in one piece.

“Being on stage is literally what I live for,” enthuses Isaac Holman.

“That hour in the day is like an hour-long orgasm,’ he goes on, continuing with the sexual metaphors. “There’s a lot of foreplay to get to it, a lot of ups and downs before the shows. I’m shy and anxious off stage, and playing shows is the only time I feel normal and good.”

Holman was speaking to Loaded before a recent gig – during which he dislocated his shoulder.

His injury meant the duo’s tour has had to be postponed until January. However Slaves admitted they weren’t certain if their decision to continue with it after the horror at Le Bataclan club in Paris was correct anyway, with Holman saying he was “unable to comprehend” the atrocity.

He said, “I can’t get my head round why people would do that. I don’t want what happened to stop us being able to express ourselves, but at the same time I understand we need to put the fans’ safety first. I just don’t know what to make of it all.”

The state of his shoulder has put paid to that idea for the moment anyway.

The duo’s album Are You Satisfied? – which got the nod from Mercury judges who nominated it for this year’s award among the likes of Florence And The Machine, Aphex Twin, Ghostpoet, Jamie xx and winner Benjamin Clementine – has been hailed by some critics as the most exciting debut in years. Fans hail them for capturing the voice of Britain’s pissed-off youth. Others have labelled them cartoon rebels rehashing old punk.

Slaves on how performing is better than sex
Premature Isaac Holman’s on stage slip ended the band‘s chances of touring.

Before the accident, Holman said the Mercury nod was a vindication against those who only value Slaves as a live band, rather than for the quality of their recorded tracks such as The Hunter and Hey.

“People say our recordings don’t do us justice,” scoffed the 23-year-old. “Nah, I’m not having that. We put everything into our record, so it’s nice to know it paid off with the nomination. Out of all the awards in music, the Mercurys is the main one for us. Most musicians would agree it’s the purest.”

Holman and 22-year-old Vincent also hate being labelled as punk music, calling it an outdated concept – and they’re certainly not rock purists. The pair became friends when Vincent joined Holman’s previous band, a grime collective called Bareface.

They’ve also been working with grime elder statesman Skepta, and admit they’re open to collaboration with other musicians. “We appreciate songwriting in all its forms,” said Holman. “We love great pop artists. Charli XCX has a good attitude and she does what she wants. We’d work with other people, but we’re quite precious about having too many other musicians on our own records.”

Slaves are “over halfway through” writing the follow-up to Are You Satisfied?, which reached No 8 on its release in June. Their fans have already helped get the record into shape, thanks to the mad gifts they give the duo.

“We played in Moscow recently,” recalled gruffly-spoken Holman. “We got loads of presents at the venue, like vodka, chocolate and even paintings of us the fans did. We’re going to put the paintings in the practice studio we’re sorting out to record demos for the new album.”

If the next album doesn’t work out, at least Slaves could turn to their acting ambitions.

In the video for their single Cheer Up London, the band recruited Shaun Williamson – destined to forever be known as ‘Barry Off EastEnders.

And they have further soap leanings. “We’d love to do a film score, something dark and eerie. But as well as music we’d maybe like to act too. We could start out in Hollyoaks.”

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Loaded’s deputy editor John Earls has covered entertainment and sport across a range of national newspapers, plus several football and music magazines, since 1990. Follow him on Twitter at @EarlsJohn

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