Monday, September 10, 2012

Sliang Laos

In the fall of 1992, my friend Ben was in a band called Whirly*bird.  The guitarist was named Pat Snavely, and the drummer's name was (at the time) Greg Poppakostas (but spelled correctly).  Whirly*bird was supposed to play a show, but ended up not playing because Greg wanted to go see a band I'd never heard of called Sliang Laos.  To me, this was blasphemy of the highest order.  But then, I had never heard Sliang Laos.

Later the next summer, I moved in with my band to a house on Floyd Avenue.  We thought we were pretty good.  But then, I had never heard Sliang Laos.  This was soon to change.  In that dingy, Rhaphidophoridae-infested basement, my friends and I would hang out and listen to records.  Invariably, this masterpiece would come up.

01 Shining Path
02 Alabama Ego


A year or so later, I saw Sliang Laos play a show in someone's basement (is there a theme here?).  Their bassist lived in Maryland, so they just played as a 4-piece.  I remember at least 3 of them were on the tallish side.  Short hair.  Relatively clean-cut.  Stage right guitarist chain-smoked through the entire set.  He had kind of thick glasses and looked as though he hadn't shaved or slept ever in his life.  Stage left guitarist had a more youthful demeanor.  He almost had kind of a surfer hairstyle, but also seemed very dour.  The singer would crouch down sometimes, and his voice sounded like if Ben Kenobi was forced to live in Richmond instead of Tattooine (sorry, but this might not be the last Star Wars analogy in this entry).  The drummer had perfect posture, and had this interesting lurching wrist motion.
Their sound was very unique.  It definitely borrowed from the unconventional conventions of Richmond math-rock, but it took the genre to a new place.  The riffs were catchy, and had a certain kind of... pull to them.  The odd meters never sounded forced, or as if they would cut beats just for the hell of it.  Everything was very deliberate, almost fascistic in a way.  It was not at all "THANK YEW GOOD NIGHT" music.  None of their songs had big rock and roll endings, the riffs would just grind to a halt with mechanical precision.

In 1995, their demo started making the rounds, and eventually I got a copy from my friend Eve.  To this day I have it, and the actual tape is probably thinner than the master reels to "Bohemian Rhapsody."  Apologies for the tape hiss.  Here it is:

Sliang Laos demo

Later, they recorded a full-length album, and it was set to be released on CD.  Legend has it that something went wrong at the pressing plant and the discs were mis-labeled.  Instead of Sliang Laos's info, they were printed with Mao Tse Helen's (another Richmond band).  Maybe they took it as a sign, or maybe something else was going on, but the band broke up.
Andrew (vocals) went on to be in a band called Malacoda that I never have heard.
Ron Dimmick (stage right) also played guitar in the band Ladyfinger, so this is his second appearance in this blog.  Rumor has it that before one of their shows, he drank 37 beers and still played flawlessly.  I don't doubt this one bit.  I've met him a few times - the first time he looked at me like he wanted to kill me, and the second time he seemed to forget who I was.  The third time he told me that he wrote all of the Sliang Laos riffs, and the fourth time he also seemed to forget who I was.
Scott Hudgens (stage left) did an electronic music project after Sliang Laos whose name I forget.  He worked at Plan 9 Records in Richmond.  Once I mustered up the courage to talk to him and ask if he had any copies of the Sliang Laos album.  He looked at me, kind of looked away, looked back at me, and said, "No."  He went on to be in the band Hex Machine, who stays at my house every March.
Mark Smoot (bass) recorded countless bands (at least 2 of mine) and may still live in Maryland.  He was also in a band called Farquhar and makes the best non-vegan pancakes in the entire mid-Atlantic region.  I've heard a rumor that he set up microphones for Presidential addresses, but who knows.  People like to talk.
If you've gotten this far in this entry, we can have some "real talk" about the drummer, Scott Minor.  Here, watch this video.  If you listen closely, you can hear occasional orchestra hits and various bleeping noises.  I don't want to promote any myths here (that is mostly a lie), but it would appear that Minor is playing along to a sequencer.  Without headphones.  How is he able to play along to a metronome without hearing the click?  The closest that a real person has ever come to accomplishing this feat was when Luke Skywalker deflected laser blasts from a training remote with the blast shield down on his helmet.  Try it yourself - go to the bottom right hand corner of your screen, open up the clock, and try to count to 30 and have it match up exactly.  You can't, and you have been familiar with seconds as an increment of time for your entire life.  But then, you're not Scott Minor.  Later, he went on to play drums in Sparklehorse, which - no offense to Sparklehorse at all - was the biggest waste of a an amazing drummer in history.

Randy Blythe from Lamb of God said that Sliang Laos were "probably the greatest band to ever come from Richmond".  I'm not going to disagree with him, because he killed some guy.  KIDDING.  Too soon?

4 comments:

  1. Gods everyone of those young men in that band...those who are lucky enough to get to have a Dimmick riff rock your world, a Dugan baseline tremble your core, a Minor beat drop on your ass, a Hudgins loop throw you for one and a Sigler vocal grace your face, you are lucky indeed, indeed you are

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  2. Sliang Laos appeared on a compilation of Virginia bands called New Dominion (released in 1992 on cd and tape by Turn Of The Century Records) with a track entitled 'Legion". On that release, the band used an alternative spelling of their name, Slang Louse.

    Thanks,
    Scott

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  3. Used to work w/ Andrew (bike courier) during the Laos period- interesting cat. They blew me away live, and good... Stoked 2 find sum recordings after all this time. Thnx-

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  4. Malacoda preexisted Slang Louse (later Sliang Laos) by a number of years and consisted of Andrew, Scott Hudgins, and myself. The other sounds you hear are rhythm sequences programmed on an ASR-10 that drove the whole thing Andrew and I created. Scott Minor is an amazing drummer; the best I have ever worked with. He was able to sync to the sequences so tightly that you cannot always tell that it is nearly all sequenced. In the last year or so of Sliang Laos, I was losing my hearing (in my one ear I can still hear in) due to the many years we had been playing and had to take a back seat role. We put the sequences on to DAT tape and I would attend and get to experience it from the audience side where the mix was a heck of a lot better. - Rob Guess

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