Tommy Gleeson and Toshi Ogawa - Slaves To Gravity - Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by David Whistance   
Saturday, 01 May 2010 06:00

Slaves_Group_3When we had the idea recently to run a loosely themed set or interviews and reviews with 'newer' bands we think you should check out, London rockers Slaves To Gravity were always going to be on our list.  Their debut album 'Scatter The Crow' more than turned a few heads at ÜRHQ, and the members' previous dalliances with bands such as AntiProduct and The Ga Ga's certainly gives them the credibility boost sometimes needed to break a new band. 

So, all was going well, we had everything planned and then some clever fucker our side piped up that Slaves To Gravity have been around since 2006 so as such aren't really that 'new' anymore. Well fuck it we say, we like and think you will too, so we got Tommy and Toshi from the band to have a chat with David Whistance one date into their current UK jaunt with the Black Spiders and just ahead of the release of album number two by the band, the tongue twistingly titled 'Underwaterouterspace'.


Hi guys firstly many thanks for taking the time to talk with us at Über Röck


I once recall spending my birthday at Cardiff Barfly watching the debut Welsh gig by The Ga Ga's, a gig that literally blew me away, along with the band's highly rated debut album 'Tonight The Midway Shines', I believed the band were destined for greater things, what exactly happened?


We signed a bit of a shitty record deal with a label that was - unbeknown to us - going skint, then our guitarist quit, at which point we decided to find a new guitar player, write some new songs and start over. Truth be told I don't think we really cut it as The Ga Ga's. We didn't have the songs at that point, and the aesthetic wasn't cohesive - it was four guys doing four different things. It was a very valuable learning experience for all of us that in retrospect served us well and provided the springboard for what we're doing now with Slaves.


Slaves To Gravity display a very different musical style to your previous band, was it a conscious decision to start afresh with Slaves To Gravity rather than change musical direction whilst remaining under the Ga Ga's moniker?


We decided right away that we would be starting over with a new name. The Ga Ga's had become a bit of a stigma in as much as we had become associated with that whole genre of sleaze rock that was never really our thing at all. We didn't really know who we were, so we allowed ourselves to be cast in that role, just so we felt we belonged somewhere. It was absolutely a conscious decision to work MUCH harder at writing songs, and not to settle for a throwaway verse or a generic chorus. Things naturally went in a darker direction, in part as a response to the negative experiences we had with The Ga Ga's, and in part as a result of us all just having grown up and being in a different head-space.


ScatterYou justifiably received rave reviews for the 'Scatter The Crow' what can we expect to hear from 'Underwaterouterspace'?


It's a real progression from 'Scatter'... We've finally established a sound that I think is uniquely our own. The gap in our record collections, as opposed to the sum of them, if you will. The record has a warmth and a tangibility that we missed a bit on Scatter, and the songs themselves are just fundamentally better in my humble opinion. Working with Bob Marlette was a great experience. He taught us so much, got some incredible sounds and helped us be brutally honest with ourselves when it came to arrangements and performances. It was tough at first handing the reigns to someone else, but having that external influence; the unofficial 5th member who is able to be more objective - to be the audience - makes the world of difference to the overall result.


Slaves To Gravity are currently on their third drummer since their formation, what is with your band and drummers? What happened to Gemma and how did your involvement with Pitchshifter drummer Jason Bowld evolve?


Jason - our original drummer - left to spend more time with his family after his Dad suffered a stroke just before we went in to track 'Underwaterouterspace'. We found Gem after auditioning thirty drummers. She had a lot of raw talent, but that's nothing without a strong work ethic and a strong spine. It transpired after a few short months that she had neither and the day after we sat down with her to discuss the issues, she quit. Jason Bowld is a pro. He's an unbelievable drummer with a great attitude and he's got his head screwed on super tight. We feel really lucky to have him playing with us and It inspires us all to be better players, which can only be a good thing.


I first encountered Toshi whilst he was a member of AntiProduct where he graciously stepped forward and replaced Danny McCormack during his infamous burn out at the Dudley JBs gig, after playing in a Wildhearts tribute band back in Japan, how did it feel to suddenly be part of a band you were a fan of?


(Toshi) It was surreal. It was this strange mixture of feelings, of course I was excited playing with those guys (as a fan, who wouldn't be?), but at the same time I was pretty sad to see Danny like that, and to see what was going on behind the scenes.


I enjoyed playing with them though, and it leads to what is going on today, so I guess I did a pretty good job. Didn't I?




At this point we normally give you the chance to tell us about a Gig From Hell that you have done or witnessed.  So with that JB's gig in mind what was/is Slaves to Gravity's Gig From Hell?


(Tommy) The Gig From Hell is usually the first night of the tour. Last night in Dundee we showed up three hours early and still ended up walking onstage totally unprepared. You can do as much legwork before hand as you like, you'll still arrive on day one with your head up your ass. I fell into the drum kit on the second song and my rig broke down three songs from the end. The merch table looked like Top Shop on the first day of the January sales, and we got lost on the way to the hotel afterwards, where I'm talking to you from now. I reckon we're golden for the rest of the tour though. We got all the fuck ups out of our system last night.


Going back to the Wildhearts, I once recall reading that Tommy was introduced to Toshi by Ginger, do you still keep in contact with The Wildheart camp?


I haven't seen any of those guys in some time, but it's always nice to run into them. They're a great, legendary band who have helped us out a lot in the past and they're lovely chaps too.


Slaves_Group_4Along with The Ga Ga's another great British band I was saddened to see breaking up was Groop Dogdrill, Lead singer Pete Spiby has since bounced back in fine style with the awesome Black Spiders your current touring partners. How did the unlikely pairing occur and are you a fan of each other's work?


It came through our booking agent. I wasn't aware of them before hand and I know they weren't aware of us, but once we had been introduced via our industry friends the pairing looked like a good one. They fucking rock though, man, and again they're a really nice group of people, which is always a bonus.


What has 2010 got in store for fans of Slaves To Gravity?


The new album sometime in the autumn preceded by two or three singles, a lot of touring - hopefully including some festivals and general footsteps in a forward direction. Apparently Toshi's getting a Ramones haircut at some point too, so that'll be something to look forward to.


Over the years I've witnessed so many fantastic bands, break up Compulsion, The Crocketts, The 60 Foot Dolls to name a few, whilst many mediocre bands hit the big league, what bands would you have loved to have seen make it but disappeared without trace and on the current music circuit who floats your musical boat?


Span were a great band who never seemed to get the break they deserved, as were the Marvellous 3 - although their singer went on to achieve cult status and a lot of behind-the-curtain success. As for right now I'd say everyone needs to check out The Defiled who are a killer metal band from London, and a new band called Metallicass that I just invented.


Just to finish off we like to have a bit of fun with your MP3 player/iPod/iPhone whatever, where we ask you to scramble and tell us the first five tracks that come up (and please no cheating)


Crucified - Army of Lovers

Trippin' On A Hole In A Paper Heart - Stone Temple Pilots

I Love Rock 'n' Roll - Joan Jett

I'se A Muggin' - Django Reindhart

No Son Of Mine - Every Time I Die


Cheers guys, thanks for talking with us again at Über Röck, we wish you all the best with the Black Spiders tour and look forward to seeing you destroy Clwb Ifor Bach on April 28th and also to hearing 'Underwaterouterspace' when it's released later this year.


Band photo kudos - Ashley Maile