We spoke with Eric Slick about drumming for Dr. Dog, venturing out as a solo artist, and starting a new record label.
When did you join Dr. Dog and how did you get in cahoots with those guys? What's your level of involvement in songwriting for the group? What was the first Dr. Dog recording you played on?
I joined Dr. Dog in 2010. I had been friends with them for a few years, dating back to 2007. Their drummer quit on the first day of a major tour, and our friend Dimitri Manos filled in. I got the call shortly thereafter.
I don't really write with the group, although I'd love to in the future. I've written some horn and string arrangements here and there for "Long Way Down" and "Twilight." I wrote the main riff for "How Long Must I Wait" in an app called Beatwave and then I translated it for guitar.
The first Dr. Dog recording I played on is one of my favorites. It was a double 7 inch. Not a lot of people have it. I was excited to work with them and I felt like we threw a lot of odd experimental ideas around. There's a mutant P-Funk tune called "Black Or Red" that we sometimes play live.
Aside from Dr. Dog, you perform with a group called Lithuania and also solo under your own name. How do these projects differ from one another? Do you compartmentalize different parts of your creativity with these groups?
My creative process is always the same. I write songs and then decide which project would be most appropriate. It's the Robert Pollard mentality. The louder material tends to go to Lithuania! I want it to sound like Shudder To Think or Speedy Ortiz.
My solo material veers towards my cerebral side. I want those ideas to sound more textural and abstract. They're more music theory minded, to show my chops as a composer.
Have you been recording any music for either of your solo projects? What's your recording and production style? Is it a quick and calculated effort or are do you have the resources to take your time and really workshop ideas in the studio?
When I record demos, I try to have the foresight to see where the song is going and where it's naturally gravitating towards. I'm not a perfectionist. I don't have a budget or any real gear to make my own music, so usually I record in GarageBand or on my Tascam.
A song off of my forthcoming solo record (Palisades) called "The Dirge" only took a half hour to write. It took an hour to record. Another song called "Evergreen" took 3 days to write and I was so wrapped up in it, I forgot to eat. It took 2 years to record.
You never know where it's going to take you. That's why it's important to be present.
You're based in Philly and seem to be a cultural icon in the music scene there for your work with Dr. Dog and other groups from the city. What makes Philly a special place for music? Who are some artists you admire from the area?
Thanks for the kind words. I can't believe you think that, and I am humbled. I certainly don't see myself as an icon or anything like that. I see myself as someone who has overextended his stay and played in too many bands. I lost a lot of sleep. I think the majority of my growth happened when I left Philadelphia for North Carolina and started writing songs.
I don't live in Philadelphia anymore. It's a difficult city for me to navigate these days. I don't think too many people like me there, besides my family and closest friends. I left because I had to hit the reset button on my life.
I will say that there was an incredible influx of music and that Philadelphia bands have a sound like no other. My favorite Philly bands were: Man Man, Make A Rising, Hermit Thrushes, Pattern Is Movement, Whales and Cops, and Capillary Action. My favorite band right now is Palberta.
What made you get into drumming? What's your earliest percussion memory and how has your taste evolved over time in regard to the instrument?
My earliest percussion memory is breaking my bongos at age 2. I had a lot of untapped aggression as a kid. Drums are the perfect therapy for that.
I used to play drums and feel like I was at home. Now the drums serve a different purpose for me. I don't want to play them as much. I still love them, don't get me wrong. I just didn't like how I viewed them. I'm taking a much needed break.
I wanted to be the fastest when I was young. Now I just want them to sound like the were recorded underwater.
My favorite drummers are the ones who play the least. Parker Kindred, Austin Vaughn, Jaki Liebezeit, Jim Keltner, James Gadson. They paint a picture when they play. It's magical.
Your solo album Out of Habit is among a long list of limited run album that sell out almost immediately from one of our favorite labels, People In A Position To Know. What's your connection to the label and what makes these records so attractive and valuable on the resale market? What's your take on vinyl scalpers? Do you view it as a merit of achievement or as a negative part of the industry?
I think Mike Dixon (he runs the label) has an insane amount of passion and energy. His imagination is limitless. He makes chocolate records for Christ's sake. He does amazing work and should be given an award for his relentlessness.
Is it rude for me to say I don't care about the state of vinyl that much? I think any way of digesting music is beautiful. What does it matter if you're sitting down to pay attention to something that somebody made? That's more than what most people are capable of doing nowadays. It's certainly much better than gazing into the abyss of your phone. I'm no better. Guilty as charged.
I do love that vinyl sparks joy in people. It makes people feel like they've invested in art, and that's a good thing.
You're making an appearance at SXSW this year under your solo moniker. How does touring with Dr. Dog differ from touring solo? What are the advantages of the solo travels? What are the things you enjoy most about the travels with Dr. Dog?
The thing I love most about touring is eating. And spending time with my closest friends. And getting any amount of sleep.
I haven't toured solo yet but I imagine I'll be a lot more anxious. I'm very comfortable with my role in Dr. Dog. I show up, hit some circles, go to bed. I love those guys so much. They treat me with the utmost respect. I hope they know that I'm grateful for what they've shown me - how to be a musician and how to be a good person.
My solo tour will be fun though. Expect some seriously bad jokes.
You've started a new label, Least Records. What's your vision for this label? Do you have any bands signed yet? What have been the challenges starting a new label?
Hah! I have no vision yet. I should. It's tough because I don't have the infrastructure to do anything yet. I'd love to start signing some bands. Anyone wanna throw me a couple trillion to make a super weird label that only puts out noise?!