Slaves' Laurie Vincent: the 10 records that changed my life
Thundering Tunbridge Wells punk duo Slaves first burst into public consciousness back in 2015 when their debut album Are You Satisfied? soared into the top 10 in the UK, garnering a Mercury Music Prize nomination in the process.
As a live act, the band’s stand-up drummer Isaac Holman and guitarist/bassist Laurie Vincent have built up a fearsome reputation, repeatedly scorching the minds and souls of audiences the world over with their aggressive, tight, sweat-soaked sets, while Laurie's keen ear for riffs saw him voted Total Guitar's best new guitarist of 2015.
September 2016 sees the release of Slaves’ second album Take Control, produced by none other than ex-Beastie Boy, Mike D, who was already a fan of the Kent two-piece by the time he hooked up with them.
“I think [Mike D] got handed our first record by one of his friends and said he loved it,” says Laurie Vincent.
“Then, through someone else, he ended up talking to our manager and A&R. Mike was up for working with Slaves, so we ended up having a phone call and he said he wanted to take Are You Satisfied? and make something even better.
“He said, ‘I’m not interested in making this album again. It’s great, but I want to make something bigger and better’ and we just seized the opportunity, I guess.”
What kind of initial production chats did Slaves have with the NYC hip-hop legend?
“We spent a lot of time talking about writing and how we write,” explains Vincent.
“I think it’s fair to say that sometimes we used to just finish a song and not really reflect on it. We’d just move on and we wouldn’t really think about hooks either.
“Mike was kind of like, ‘I want to push you, and if I don’t think your demos are good enough, I want you to rewrite them.’ Before, maybe we wouldn’t have been willing to do that.
“We spent ages talking about bands we liked, and I was talking about Gang Of Four and The Specials and The Clash and Black Flag. I think he was surprised that we knew all of those bands so well.
“In terms of arrangements, he really did push us, and songs we thought were going to be singles, he thought should be B-sides. He was just really honest with us and made us think about everything a lot more.”
Sound-wise, Take Control certainly packs a sucker punch, and nailing Isaac Holman’s unique, full-throttle drumming was always going to be key.
“One thing Mike brought to the recording process was really wanting to make the drums sound good,” Laurie tells us.
“He has this bee in his bonnet about old hardcore records and old punk records that, at the time, were great, but when you listen back, some sound really badly recorded. He was saying, as a drummer, it frustrated him hugely. There was a lot of emphasis on getting everything recorded really well but without losing its raw edge.”
Before we move on to Laurie Vincent’s life-changing records, we just wanted to ask about the guitars and gear he utilised across the new record…
“I’d just bought a Gibson SG, and I was using that in the studio a lot and I always play my Mustang bass,” he explains.
“A few songs like Cold Hard Floor and Steer Clear were recorded at Shoreditch Grind. There’s a little demo-ing studio above the coffee house, and I used a Fender Telecaster there. We were just writing so I wasn’t using my touring rig. I also used a Vox Apache bass and so did Isaac on one of the songs.
“I switched around with the guitars a lot… and I also used a Selmer head. My favourite distortion pedal comes from New York and is made by Big Ear, which is still quite a boutique company. I’ve been playing their pedals for the past two or three years and they are my favourite go-to effects.”
Take Control by Slaves is out now.
1. The Clash - London Calling (1979)
“It’s a very generic place to start but… The Clash, London Calling. I probably love Combat Rock more than London Calling, but this is about what changed your life, not about your favourite album.
“I just remember the way The Clash looked was what I saw as punk, and then I listened to this record, which was quite soft, and it was really confusing. I grew up in the age of nu-metal and Kerrang! and heavy bands, but there were songs on that record like Lost In The Supermarket - with that weird story-telling - that I couldn’t really relate to, and I had to try and work out.
“I just remember having it on my Walkman and, wherever I went, I’d just play that one CD. I desperately wanted to get into it, but I couldn’t quite understand it and then - over time - it just clicked, and that was brilliant. I guess it opened me up to how you don’t have to just scream to be in a punk band. And the front cover is probably the best front cover ever!
“When I first heard it, I was in primary school still. I remember skateboarding down the alleyway near my primary school and it kept jogging because it was on my Walkman. I must have been seven or eight.
“My parents aren’t really into music but HMV used to do three albums for a tenner and my Dad would buy three when we went to town on the weekends. I remember he bought that and some other really random shit. That was the first taste of getting a punk album in my house.”
2. The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free (2004)
“I think I might try and do these chronologically, so I guess the next one would naturally be The Streets. Again, if I was choosing my favourite album, it would be Original Pirate Material, but I wasn’t aware of it when it first came out.
“The first songs by The Streets that I was aware of were Dry Your Eyes and Fit But You Know It. That was one of those records where you really realise how it’s great to have an English accent and you actually benefit from it, and it’s quite inspiring to hear someone talk about really normal things in life. I just knew it was different, and it just sounded like it shouldn’t be popular and that’s why I liked it.
“It’s quite naïve, but I only found out a couple of years ago that it’s a concept album. I’d grown up loving the album for the songs and not even realising that they all flow into one, so that gave them an even greater meaning to me.”
3. Eminem - The Eminem Show (2002)
“I guess all of my early ones are albums that I stumble across that are not the coolest or the best records by that artist, but they’re the ones that were most important for me. The next one would be Eminem and The Eminem Show.
“You’ve got The Marshall Mathers LP  and The Slim Shady LP  and everyone said he went downhill after those but, for me, The Eminem Show was fucking revolutionary!
“That was the first parental guidance CD that I managed to get away with having. I just loved the fact he was this white American dude with bleach blonde hair rapping. I think that connected with a lot of angry young kids.
“I think I got it for Christmas. It was on my Christmas list, and I was maybe nine, 10 or something like that. I guess it was maybe the way he delivered his lyrics. I never really think about why I like stuff, but I just knew that I liked it.
“Analysing it now, I guess it’s all quite aggressive and not very radio-friendly, and that always appealed to me - the anger and the passion. I always loved tracks like Hailie’s Song and My Dad’s Gone Crazy and all that stuff. It influences me now in the way that I think about music in the studio, and adding skits and sort of comedic dark black humour.”
4. Dizzee Rascal - Boy In Da Corner (2003)
“I’m not quite sure about the time order with this one, but I would have been quite young. I remember Channel U on the music channels, and everyone was just buzzing about Dizzee Rascal. I Luv U and Fix Up, Look Sharp and Jus’ a Rascal… the amount of hits on that album is incredible!
“There’s a really weird story to this, because basically me and my sister were big fans of his, and we were on holiday and we were sat in a restaurant and he comes and sits next to us!
“I was saying, ‘That’s Dizzee Rascal!’ but they didn’t believe me, and then my dad ended up seeing him in the toilet and then asking him while they were at the urinal, ‘Are you Dizzee Rascal?’ And then I ended up sort of being friends with Dizzee Rascal for this weird week on holiday and I’ve never met him since. I’m still waiting for the day where I can say, ‘I’m that kid that you played pool with on holiday!’ and I reckon he’d remember me.
“So that was my first experience of meeting someone I really looked up to as an artist. We played pool and we’d hang out in the games room. The thing I remember about him initially was that he was wearing this massive Jimi Hendrix t-shirt, and I was just thinking, ‘That’s cool!’ because where I grew up, you either liked rap or rock and grunge and punk and stuff. I always liked that fact he did a mix of styles.”
5. Rancid - Indestructible (2003)
“Everyone was listening to pop-punk like Green Day and Blink-182 when I was growing up, and Rancid were a band I discovered that had a slightly harder edge mixed in with the ska-punk element. I really like bands like The Specials, and Rancid had that English sound.
“I listened to it every day on repeat for two years going to school and back on the bus. It’s pretty flawless for me.
“I think I first heard it back in the days of dial-up. I remember being a really unsuccessful illegal downloader of music, you know, like Napster and stuff. I don’t think our internet was good enough for me to do it, but I feel bad because that Rancid album was one of the only albums I managed to download like that. I used to just search the punk category and that’s how I stumbled across it. It’s one of the only albums I successfully managed to download, but I have bought it since so that’s all right!
“Pretty much every album I’m telling you, I still listen to on a weekly basis. My girlfriend does the same with films. Putting them on is kind of like a comfort thing, so I just play them over and over again.”
6. Jamie T - Panic Prevention (2007)
“That was at a similar time… and it showed me what it was possible to do with music, because he did rap, punk, indie and everything. He didn’t necessarily sing with a great voice, and that kind of inspired me to think, ‘Well, it’s possible to get around not being the best singer in the world!’
“Also, what he was singing about was very normal everyday things, which I could relate to a lot. The album took everyone by storm, I think. Everyone that was my age was listening to it. I remember seeing If You Got The Money on MTV2 and thinking the song was just genius. I just stopped what I was doing and stared at the screen. That was pre-YouTube, I guess, so that was how we watched music videos.
“I remember just waiting for that song to come on again. It would be on like an hour loop or whatever and I’d try to catch it every time it came on. I used to eat my breakfast watching the music channels and you’d always end up having to go to school when a song you liked was coming on!”
7. The Cribs - The New Fellas (2005)
“I think one of my friends at school showed me the song It Was Only Love, and I just remember thinking how weird it was with these weird voices… but I just loved it, but I didn’t really know why. It wasn’t like anything else I’d liked before.
“I listened to the rest of the album and it had that really brash attitude, which is quite common in all the music that I tend to like. After that, they just became pretty much my favourite new band… and they’re still my favourite band that’s still around, I guess.
“That album had a big effect on me. Knowing that there was a band like that doing the kind of things I wanted to do showed that it was possible and it was happening currently. There was a band that I could really relate to that had just come out in the UK.”
8. The Gaslight Anthem - Sink Or Swim (2007)
“For me, every song of theirs is really anthemic and singalong. Maybe they’re not very cool in England, but I just really love their music and literally listen to them pretty much every day.
“I first heard them through my ex-girlfriend’s little brother. It was weird, because he was younger than me at school, but he put these CDs on in the car and I was like, ‘Wow, I really like that’. I looked for them on my computer and I’ve never looked back. He had both those first two albums they brought out and they were wicked.
“[Sink Or Swim] is quite an unknown album. It’s not on Spotify or anything, but it’s got some real bangers on it. I used to watch them pretty much every time I went to Reading and Leeds, and then I finally met Brian Fallon backstage at the main stage the other day and I was very starstruck. I just told him that I loved his music and then I just sort of walked off quietly!”
9. Crass - The Feeding Of The 5000 (1979)
“This was as I got older and would have been when I was doing my GCSEs or starting art college or something. By that time, it was a lot easier with things like Spotify to just click on related artists, and I just remember hearing tunes like Banned From The Roxy and Punk Is Dead and I was just like, ‘Woah!’
“It was just mind-blowing and the lyrics were just so captivating. I loved how raw and how badly recorded they were as well, because it felt like something you could do yourself.
“I liked their ethics in that they’d let anyone play in their band even if they couldn’t play an instrument. One of the guitarists used to just make noise. I just thought everything about them was pretty cool.”
10. Baxter Dury - Happy Soup (2011)
“That last choice [Crass] had a life-changing impact because that was the record I was listening to when we formed Slaves, and then, as soon as we formed Slaves, Isaac produced Happy Soup by Baxter Dury and we just had it on repeat as we were writing our first album.
“We just took so much influence from it and we’re obviously huge fans of his dad [Ian Dury] as well. Not many people know about it, and he’s really, really underrated. In my eyes, he’s a very overlooked artist. I just think it’s one of the greatest albums of all time, and no-one even acknowledges it.
“It’s so wicked but surreal that he’s on our new record [guest vocals on Steer Clear]. It’s a long story about how it happened, but I think he mentioned stuff on a 6 Music show. I can’t remember the exact details. I think he might have done a playlist and picked one of our songs to play and we were like, ‘Oh shit!’ and sent him a thanks tweet.
“Then he released the album It’s A Pleasure , we went to see him at a Rough Trade in-store and I went up to get my album signed by him afterwards. I basically introduced myself, ‘I’m in Slaves’ and he was like, ‘Oh wicked - I love your music!’ So, at that point, we swapped numbers and I just texted him when we were in the studio and I was like, ‘Do you want to come down and maybe jump on this track?’
“We already had this track written and he just had to sing a chorus, so it just happened from there. I can’t wait for everyone to hear that one, because it’s definitely a softer side to Slaves.”