Pupil Slicer at RADAR Festival: Interview

We caught up with the quite brilliant Pupil Slicer at this years RADAR Festival (our review here). We discuss a whole host of topics including music, online hate, playing live and much more.

We spoke to bassist, Luke Fabian, and guitarist, Alexander Brown.

Pupil Slicer

ATB: So, how was the set at RADAR?

Luke: Brilliant. So we played a new song yesterday; Departure In Solitudes. It’s the first time we have played that live, so we were all a bit nervous about him learning a new song with Pupil Slicer is not…

Alex: It’s not an easy task!

Luke: It’s not something to be underestimated.

ATB: It must be hard, because some of the parts in your songs are crazy. They shift so quickly. There’s a shift between Mirrors and Blossom. You can feel that the sound has evolved in style, and the content has evolved. But just within any of your songs, there’s just an awful lot going on.

Luke: It makes it fun to play.

Alex: It went really well to be fair. With this one specifically, when we got to the rehearsal room for the first time…

Luke: We just looked at each other and we literally just played it. I looked around like ‘this doesn’t normally happen!’ We’ve been working hard, though. I’ll be candid…we had some reviews that were a bit mixed about playing live. We thought, don’t be don’t be sore about it. Fix that. Work harder. We’re conscious that we get all these brilliant opportunities. Not all bands do. It’s not to be taken for granted. It’s kind of like, ‘Well, come on, guys, step up to it a bit.’ So when we learned these new batches of songs. It’s like, holy shit!

Alex: The press for the album was so good,

Luke: Yeah, and everyone’s been like, wow, this is like, you know, this, generally speaking, it’s been an amazing reaction is so overwhelmingly positive. Right. Yeah. And what is noted often is there’s this big step up. So it’s kind of like we’ve made a rod for our own back.

Alex: We’ve got to present that now.

ATB: We saw you with Ithaca in Manchester, last year (review here). It’s an uncompromising sound. I’m not sure how far it is from the stage to the floor at RADAR, but at the Deaf Institute, you’re on top of people. The stage is super high and you took the show to the crowd.

Luke: It’s really high. And it’s really small. And you’re like you’re playing down with people. And you got to stay on that fucking stage! I said to Kate, you gotta be careful! That’s the occupational hazard within the band; Kate’s general movement on stage. We need to hire someone to just do safety assessments!

ATB: But just having that uncompromising nature, I think is great, because it’s almost like a belligerent outlook. You will listen to this, no matter what.

Luke: Kate’s command is improving in terms of a live crowd. We’ve kind of been learning with that too.

Alex: The Boris tour was really helpful for that. Just, like, playing 20 shows and getting into it.

Luke: I’m either on backup vocals and talk mainly really to support Kate. Sometimes you can see Kate is warming up or getting into the show a bit, or she’s maybe not totally 100% there yet. So I’ll kind of jump in to do that. But because Kate’s so erratic, and it’s hard to call, In the past, we’ve sometimes spoken over each other a bit because I’ve spoken in the slot where Kate hasn’t said anything. You see it on tour some nights; Kate didn’t say anything and she’s burnt out. So I just had to start saying random stuff, and I’m talking bollocks. The vibe when I address a crowd, my style of communication, is so different to Kate’s that it sends out a different vibe.

Alex: Luke’s more like a south London geezer! Imagine that on the continent, like, in Europe, people are just like, what?

Luke: But like I said, this is all learning. So yeah…I think it’s fun.

ATB: It’s unpredictable, isn’t it? Kate’s a whirlwind.

Luke: That’s it. Physically and creatively. Yeah. And emotionally, to be honest.

ATB: It must be great being in a band with someone like that?

Luke: I sort of look at it like, Kate is my sibling. I’m about seven or eight years older than Kate. She’s the youngest in the band. So I’ve sort of started to develop this relationship with Kate. She is a great musician but not always the most equipped person to go on the road. It’s like you need to gather protection and care around your striker, because if you striker is not playing…we just went to Old Trafford, so that’s probably why I said that right. Terrible analogy. But like, It’s true, though, isn’t it?

ATB: Yeah.

Luke: So that’s that that is how I look at it really. Then I’ve got an attacking midfielder (Alex). Being a bass player, I would say like, it’s kind of like you have one of those defenders, but who can….I slap the bass, but I can get upfront! And your drummer is your goalkeeper.

ATB: That unpredictability must make the shows fun though?

Luke: Yeah!

ATB: When people go to a show, they know you but they know it’s not gonna be like anything I’ve seen before. You might have seen Pupil Slicer live three, four or five times before, but you know it’s gonna be different. I think that’s great. And from what I’ve learned from speaking to you is like you were saying about learning that sort of humility. You’re taking a bad review and thinking, Oh, we got to do better. And I think that’s, that’s a really admirable thing,

Luke: Thank you. I appreciate that. There’s no point getting it and going, Oh, well, it must have been them! It’s not.

ATB: As a website, we we don’t write negatively about things and some people think that’s good; some people think it’s not being a music critic or whatever. The thing is, we just don’t think it’s fair to stick the knife in on people when you know people have poured everything into their art. If you’ve nothing nice to say, don’t say it.

Alex: Some people build their entire website to be nasty. Real negative. Imagine going into work every day and all you are seeing is just this negative light. It must eventually wear on you and make you feel uncomfortable.

Luke: You know what, though? Kate reads everything. All comments on social media. Everything. It’s it’s sad to say, but Kate does get hate online. It’s fucking well out of order. Just random republicans being like ‘Fuck you.’ But then again, people say this shit, and we just take it and just talk about it and laugh. The one that we were talking about on tour was that someone called us Biden rock. And I was like, ‘Well, I’d rather be Biden rock than Trumpcore.’ So it’s like, let’s get Biden rock on shirts! There was one comment that was like was like, ‘Get this Anti Fascist metal away from me!’ Oh, so you’d like some Fascist metal?

Alex: Right wing people make up like imaginary scenarios and like and comment. There was someone literally doing that in the sponsored posts for Blossom on Facebook. And I was like, made it!

ATB: Imagine, each morning and thinking, I’m going to find something that I don’t like it, and then I’m gonna voice my opinion. And then I’m going to tell everyone that I don’t like it.

Luke: So with that in mind, this is what I say about caring for Kate and stuff. You know, I don’t get any hate, because I’m a white man…a white straight male. They might hate me because I’m a bass player, which is normal! I’m just very conscious of that. It means that we should be doing what we’re doing. Obviously Mirrors was more activist leaning in a sense because Kate actively talks about the trans experience and Kate’s lived experience of that. Whereas this is like, things and some of that are extrapolated out of the concept of the album, not like directly or anything, but just like, you know, the idea of, I don’t know, kind of like, despair, or joy, and rebirth and all that rather than like it being about Kate’s lived experience. And because of that, you put that out there. And yeah, it’s helped the band in ways but in other ways, it’s like, you know, people are like, fuck you.

Alex: Yeah. And if you’re someone that reads every comment, you’re gonna see all of that.

Luke: I think a really good one was at Bloodstock, someone put up on Twitter or something that was like, I saw some geezer wearing a Burzum shirt, they saw you guys play under the trans flag. They looked really angry and they just walked out.

Alex: I remember that being shared. Kate did the real short speech of like, ‘It doesn’t matter who you are, you can all be here. This is a safe space, we want you here.’ As soon as we started playing, the person in the Burzum hoodie moved all the way to the back.

Luke: Legit. Yeah. Mad innit?

Alex: They were really young as well. And I was like, What are you doing?

Luke: But then you meet some people. And they’re like, they just come and talk to you. And it’s like, oh, thank you for being the band that you are in the metal scene its really important. And I feel like I can come to your shows. There’s so many people that like, this is the first metal show that I’ve ever been to. You’re you’re watching my band?! Why? Why don’t you go and check out some Amon Amarth or Arch Enemy! Metallica… see how you go!

ATB: Entry level!

Alex: Kate’s entry into metal was things like Dillinger Escape Plan

Luke: I’m trying to talk about it more because it’s important. We got this question from a reviewer, and it wasn’t like snide or anything, but it did make me think; ‘Of that in your band, how much of that is done to put out the band, and how much of it is real? I paraphrase, but that’s the vibe you get. I thought about that a lot. And I was like, the answer to that is that the fact that Kate does get hate, means that the band is validated even more so to exist and be allies. My wife is big on being an ally to the trans community. Okay. She like has instilled in me that you guys are on a huge fucking platform to do that in, and this is not to cuss metal or anything, but in a in a place that is not traditionally like that. Or they might be resistant; resistant or you might get some kickback for that you know? Being honest, you can be a queer artist to make pop music. How easy is it being a queer artist in metal? Or a different ethnicity? Not that easy. Sorry, I went off on a tangent there.

ATB: Not at all. It’s really important. I think it comes back to what I was saying before about that humility and about owning everything and saying, you know, we will stand and we won’t back down, you know, and that the music that you create, certainly Mirrors, is Kate’s embodiment of getting rid of that vitriol, isn’t it?

Luke: It’s highly vitriolic. It’s like, fucking acidic seething pain. Just coming out. It’s mental

Alex: All the Mirrors songs, when you play them live, like Martyrs, Villified, Worthless, Wounds….they give mad energy.

Luke: We need to bring back Panic Defence at the start

Alex: We need Panic Defence and Save The Dream in rotation.

Luke: Panic Defence is about, I think, in America there was a law in some parts that state that if you feel threatened by trans person, you can attack them. So Kate, wrote this song called Panic Defence. So basically, it’s a banger. It’s a minute and a half grindcore song. I’m campaigning to bring that one back. We’ve never played that live really? As you say, you’ve got these big complex songs from Blossom. And it’s really cool to just throw in some real ‘get in, get out’ material.

Alex: It’s also the musical heritage of the band as well; being a math-grind band.

Luke: My agent hates us, because I’m always like DIY, but people contact me generally, rather than Kate. Just because I’m a bit more in that scene. And they’ll be like, ‘I’ve got £150, will you come and play this gig in London?’ I just go yeah! I’m still in the mode of like, someone’s asking us to play a show. This is dope! I don’t Like consider it, I should consider it more but it’s the point that like I’m just grateful to have all that shit.

ATB: You have got a lot of good press off the back of Blossom.

Luke: Man, it’s mental. I mean what do you think (to Alex).

Alex: When you rang me back in October, and you’re like, Frank, he’s gonna have a baby can you come in? I was like oh okay, I’ll look forward to playing some mathcore…oh well! You sent me the stems of the album and I was like, ‘Whoa,’ this is different. But different in that the strength of the material speaks for itself. There was no doubt really, that once it came out, that obviously you know everyone in the band is thankful for the good press, but as a kind of an outsider but also an insider, I was like, ‘this is a really impressive piece of work’ so I wasn’t really that surprised, from my perspective, that when it came out, the press was as good as it was.

ATB: I read somewhere that Kate plays the violin?

Luke: Kate plays viola. I’ve been trying to get Kate to play viola on something for ages and we just haven’t found the right thing. That’d be a really cool live thing. Let’s play some delicate piece; and we do like nice arpeggios and then just put that down and play some grind core.

ATB: You’ve got those little D&B interludes.

Luke: Yeah, that’s the Nine Inch Nails thing. Or Code Orange. The industrial vibe. Kate loves electronic music. And we listened to a lot of that stuff in the van.

ATB: Did you see Perturbator at RADAR?

Luke: Yeah. Alex is well into them. We both like Depeche Mode. And he’s been seeing them quite a few times recently. I need to go and see them. So I was just like, wow, this is like heavy Depeche Mode. And you’re like, exactly, yeah.

Perturbator at RADAR Festival 2023
Picture: Mike Ainscoe

ATB: Have you listened to any of the latter day Gary Numan stuff?

Alex: Yeah

Luke: Not really.

ATB: It’s brilliant.

Luke: Is it getting towards that then?

ATB: The last three or four albums are just absolute dynamite. Splinter is great. The way he’s redefined his older songs as well is excellent. There is a big NIN influence.

Luke: We need to get Kate onto some Gary Numan! Maybe that’s how we get to Trent! Our publicist said to us, is there anyone that you’d kind of like, like to work with or get to remix a song? And I was like, well, we need to get Robert Smith to remix a song. And it was like, don’t I we can afford it. Yeah. I was like, Can we ask? I was like, get Liam from Prodigy to do one. Or Martin Gore.

ATB: I think Liam Howlett would be great shout.

Luke: It would be nasty!

ATB: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Alex: We are on tour playing various festivals in the summer including Boomtown and ArcTanGent.

Luke: Please buy a record or something to help us keep going. It really does make a huge difference. Shout out to all the team at Prosthetic Records too.

Our thanks goes to Luke and Alex for their time. You can check out all of Pupil Slicer’s tour dates here.

Pupil Slicer: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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