This week we caught up with musician and multi-instrumentalist Gregg Michel aka Clint Slate to discuss his latest track, The Sixth Trip Plan, being in a U2 tribute band and the release of his next album, Dragons next month. Have a read below now…
- How would you describe your music to new listeners? These days I go with ‘Broad Rock’ as I tend to explore and push the boundaries of a particular genre. I’m influenced by classic rock like Queen, U2, The Police or Led Zeppelin but also by Massive Attack, The Prodigy, Frank Sinatra, Björk or The Weeknd.
- How did Clint Slate form? I was in a pretty dark place a few years ago and I needed to start all over again so I stopped all my existing projects and looked for a name for my solo concept. I knew I needed a clean slate to start anew. I said it out loud and it became my new alias. I then released my first solo album, ‘Before The Dark’ in 2015, that I transposed on stage with a band, a voice over and videos projected on frames. I wanted to take the audience to a still travel in a theater and it was a wonderful experience. I came back to the theater to record the next album, ‘Woodn Bones’, where I was backed by 8 musicians and a choir for ten songs captured live on Youtube… in a single take! Then, after many parallel adventures, Covid forced me stop everything and I created a third album, ‘Dragons’.
- Your latest single, ‘The Sixth Trip Plan’ was released yesterday, what was the influence behind the track? I guess in my mind it had the colour of The Police, with reggae/ska guitars and beats, a taste of ‘The Game’ by Queen, lighthearted and breezy, a pinch of Ry Cooder in ‘Paris Texas’ with bottleneck parts surfing on beatboxing rhythms, all of this mixed with luck, nonsense and a catchy chorus.
- You are releasing an album next month, can you describe your song writing process? On forced vacations due to the lockdown, I thought I had enough time to try a few ideas that appealed to me for years, like the cut-up technique. Basically, you cut pieces of newspaper, put them in a bowl and paste them randomly to create surrealist sentences. It’s been used by William Burroughs, David Bowie or Thom Yorke and it’s a great way of getting out of your writing routines. For this project, I also decided to record every bit of melody I would find as fast as possible and email it to a rhythm section so that they could do the same. Both would not know what the other plays and songs emerged from this ‘exquisite cadaver’, with lyrics gathered from an online generator and styles collapsing, from urban to heavy, soul to electro, trip-hop to folk…
- What’s your favourite track of the album and why? I love them all because they are all different and a painting of a precise time and mindset. But if I have to choose I’ll go with ‘Dark Is Wire’ as it’s the first song that appeared out of nowhere. It really gave me the feeling this could work, as I followed my instinct and simply went with the flow.
- You have previously played in a U2 tribute band, how does that compare to being in your own band? I’m still in it, actually! Well, when we can go back on stage. It’s been a wonderful experience as I’m a huge U2 fan and, as a singer, Bono influenced me greatly. The songs are amazing to sing live but also a great pile of work because you can’t undersing them, you have to mean it and give all you have. The audience is there for U2, not for you per se, so it’s very humbling and challenging as I can’t let them down, or the band.
- What advice would you give to young musicians starting off in the industry? Don’t put your hopes too high but keep dreaming big at the same time because you never know. Find pleasure in what you do, find your own voice. And pleasure comes with work, work and more work. Then you can really play and enjoy yourself. Experiment too, push your own boundaries, never take anything for granted. Then work, work and work again. Before you play, play and play again. I’ve been playing guitar for 25 years and I the pleasure I feel when it’s in my hand never faded. Oh, and don’t listen to the others, follow your guts and be proud of what you do.
- What’s been the most memorable gig you’ve played so far and why? Well, I did lots of different things and every concert is unique, you have to enjoy it as this moment will pass in a heartbeat. But I’d say every first time I play a song is amazing, this mixture of anxiety and pure bliss, fear and joy. My first gig with the U2 Tribute Band was at a big festival, 2 or 3000 people waiting for us and I’d never played with the bass player and only once with the band six months before. I was excited and afraid but gave everything for two hours and the audience sang with us, the best reward possible. I’m also part of a French show called Les Franglaises and we do play in a 1000 seats several times a week, normally. The first time I did the show, the reactions of the audience and the standing ovation were thrilling. But I also played for the wedding of a friend in front of thirty people and it was amazing so…
- What are your aims and ambitions for the band over the next few years? I’d love to release an album a year and change style and technique every time. I am a one man band so I can choose what type of musicians I want for a song, if any. There are so many genres I want to explore, so many possibilities… I sincerely hope ‘Dragons’ will meet a wider audience and thrive. Songs and albums are like my children, I love all of them but I hope they will find nice people who will take care of them and love them as I do.
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