While no one was listening, SLINT made some of the most important, influential records of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Then, the band simply disappeared-until a surprise new string of reunion gigs came to turn fans’ expectations on their heads. AP pieces together Slint’s short, strange story with the band and those who helped shape their legacy.
Story by Aaron Burgess
It’s not too big a stretch to assume that all of us who’ve spent the past 10-plus years listening to this great indefinable thing called underground rock have ended up within a few degrees of Slint’s music. Even if you’re not aware of the Louisville, Kentucky, band’s two albums-1987’s Tweez and 1991’s Spiderland-or self-titled 1994 EP, you’ve probably at least seen the band discussed on a message board; pondered over their inclusion in a Gilmore Girls plotline; heard their haunting song “Good Morning, Captain” on the soundtrack to the 1995 movie Kids; or read about them in any number of record guides or critics’ best-of lists. Could be you’ve just heard their new-school successors-from Isis to Mogwai to virtually every post-hardcore band that’s experimented with whisper-to-a-scream dynamics-expanding on the sort of weird, sparse, angular sounds Slint seemingly wove out of thin air during the five years they were together.
If Slint’s music seems odd for their time, the band’s story is downright alien-especially in light of the record-biz mentality that’d seep into underground music’s bedrock after their 1991 split. They barely toured; they never did interviews; outside of naming every song on Tweez after their parents and/or pets, they gave virtually no clues about themselves in their records’ sleeve notes; and they quietly broke up long before they had a chance to become legendary. Every great piece of praise they received came posthumously; every fan they gained after 1991 never got the chance to experience their legacy firsthand. Heck, the closest many of us have ever gotten to seeing them together is through the stark, black-and-white group photo on the cover of Spiderland. Until now, that is-and, honestly, this is where it starts to feel like the Martians have landed.
In February, after precious little advance hype, a reformed Slint stepped onstage at the weekend-long All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in the U.K., both as headliners and as curators of the fest’s lineup; the mere announcement of the band’s reunion had ATP selling out of all 3,000 tickets before a single support act had been announced. This month, the band play another leg of worldwide headlining dates, after which they simply plan to disappear once more. So, because we’re pretty confident we’ll never get another chance to do this, AP presents for the first time anywhere, the oral history of Slint. It’s willfully incomplete (despite AP’s best efforts, some of the players simply evaded us), and, frankly, there are some myths about Slint even we don’t want to dispel. But then again, when it comes to this band, most things are better left unspoken, anyway.
STEVE ALBINI: Recording engineer on Slint’s first album, Tweez, and their self-titled two-song EP. Has recorded too many seminal alternative-rock albums to list here; his own seminal bands include Big Black, Rapeman and Shellac.
TODD BRASHEAR: Bassist on Spiderland; played in Rising Shotgun with Slint guitarist David Pajo; proprietor since 1997 of Wild And Woolly Video, easily Louisville’s coolest indie video store.
ETHAN BUCKLER: Bassist on Tweez; left Slint to concentrate on his preexisting solo vehicle, King Kong, whose lineup has featured several Slint members throughout the years.
BRIAN McMAHAN: Ex-Squirrel Bait guitarist and Slint’s second, permanent guitarist/singer; later formed the For Carnation.
WILL OLDHAM: Slint’s original guitarist/singer; later the axis of Palace Brothers and a host of other solo and group projects, many of which feature former Slint members. Shot famous cover photo for Spiderland.
BRIAN PAULSON: Recording and mixing engineer on Spiderland; like Albini, responsible for recording countless seminal alt-rock albums.
COREY RUSK: Owner of the Touch And Go label, which released Spiderland and the self-titled EP, and in 1993 licensed Tweez from the Louisville micro-indie Jennifer Hartman Records And Tapes.
BRITT WALFORD: Slint’s drummer; also known from Squirrel Bait, Bastro, Evergreen, Palace Brothers and-under the pseudonyms Shannon Doughton and Mike Hunt-the Breeders.
ABSENT, BUT EQUALLY CRUCIAL:
TODD COOK: Bassist for Slint reunion shows; also known from Crain, Retsin and the For Carnation.
MICHAEL McMAHAN: Brian’s younger brother; third guitarist for Slint reunion shows. Came up with title for Spiderland; responsible for figurative painting on Britt Walford’s kick drum; also known from the For Carnation.
DAVID PAJO: Slint guitarist also renowned for his work in Tortoise, King Kong, Palace Brothers, the For Carnation, Zwan, and the solo projects Aerial M and Papa M, to name but a handful.
For the rest of the story, pick up AP 201 below…