by Greg Adamson
Some people are good at producing records, some at running a label, and some at mixing a particular genre of music. Dance music encompasses these skills and more, while seeming to be only about getting people to lift their feet up off the floor. Slam, the team of Stuart McMillan and Orde Meikle, knows dance music. These two amalgamate cultures, sounds, and influences into one vision. Promotion, production, DJing, and label-running are merely their outlets. Slam understands as much as anyone, anywhere, what makes dance music breathe. The team has a long-standing reputation in Glasgow, Scotland, as a superb promoter. Worldwide, fans accept Slam as artists whose label consistently puts out good records, whose DJ sets are masterfully groovy, and whose productions quite simply rock. Stuart and Orde are the masters-of-all-trades in dance music.
Slam also intrinsically understands how to throw a good party. Actually, these guys throw two good parties in their hometown of Glasgow. Orde speaks of them, "One's called Freelance and one's called Pressure; they're named for our two residencies. Pressure is the techno one. It's in the Arches, a place for about 2,000 people, with three different rooms. The biggest room is the techno room. There's a house room, and there's an avant garde room which can really hold any kind of music. And then there's the Freelance Science, which is kind of our housey side." Apparently, a trip to Scotland is a requirement for both the uninitiated and the jaded. Orde and Stuart provide something every major city should have but does not, because not every city has Orde and Stuart.
As DJs, Orde and Stuart have gone on the road to spin their blend of house and techno for eager crowds in every major (and nearly every minor) city in the world over the past decade. They have played in Brazil, Thailand, and Philadelphia; however, from the DJ booth, the dance floors look very similar. Commenting on a gig at Zouk in Singapore, Orde explains that "apart from a lot of Chinese people, you couldn't tell where it was. People react the same way regardless of what music is in there." Slam likes to DJ for the entire night; Stuart and Orde "always ask for 4 hours, but it usually ends up being only 3. There's so much good music out there, and there's only two of us, obviously." The club owners say not to bother going on at 11pm, but Slam disagrees. "There is music we'd like to play that tells a story. We like too much music and want to play it all." That their last two mixed CD releases are double discs, therefore, comes as no surprise.
Soma, the label Slam co-founded, has been home to more than a hundred great house and techno releases. With such a deep discography over the past decade, the complete story of Soma would necessitate its own article. Noteworthy was Soma's discovery of Daft Punk and release of its first single, "Alive," back in April of 1994. Orde considers "meeting Daft Punk at a restaurant in France" a highlight of his career. He observes that "the first set of tracks was wildly different from what they produce now," but these French teenagers did not escape the discerning ear of Slam's A & R even though a year passed before "Da Funk" exploded mainstream. Slam knows that putting out great records is a labor of love and does not expect immediate returns even today. Stuart and Orde describe their DIY process"We wanted to make music ourselves, and we had to start a record label to put it out. Back then, dance music hadn't reached the top echelons, and there was no other way except to get a bank loan. We would sell a thousand records and then use the money to press another thousand. It's what we've done ever since, but it's not an extremely profitable existence." Funk D'Void, Chaser, Envoy, Silicone Soul, Percy X, H-Foundation, and numerous other quality acts also record on the Soma label. Soma also remains the home for Slam's own releases, including the great albums, Headstates and Alien Radio.
Slam recently released its second double CD, Mixer Presents Slam in America, and one listen reveals the depth of Stuart's and Orde's knowledge. They expertly work both their "Freelance Science" and their "Pressure Funk" while keeping the idea of dance music firmly in the forefront. "We always trod this land between techno and house, and I think both CDs very much mirror that," Orde notes. Slam admits that the CD "took a bit too long to make," but perfection has a price. "We try to wait as close to the deadline as possible so we can get the latest and freshest tunes for licensing. We each bring 45 to 50 records that we play in our sets and try to piece them together," the two explain. Thankfully, their final result is devoid of jigsaw markings and, to the ear, is both current and timeless.
Many people come and go in the dance music scene. The level of difficulty in making one or two good records cannot be compared to the staying power of acts such as Slam. Rather than finding any need for reinvention, Slam stays fresh by having so many methods for expression. Orde confides that "because we were DJs first, we thrive off of it. I'd hate to hear our productions otherwise. The longer we do it, the more we realize that we really are DJs." Nevertheless, Slam deserves immense respect for its comprehensive contribution to dance music.
Mixer Presents Slam In America
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