The proto Riot Grrrl and femme-punk extraordinaire on the comeback industry
Everywhere I go people still want to talk to me about The Slits.
Sometimes it’s old punks and rockers reminiscing about the anarchy of ‘77 to ‘79, sometimes its riot grrrls and 18 year olds that have just started their own band.
It doesn’t make any difference to me whether their questions are original or I’ve already heard them a million times before, the important thing is people still want to know about The Slits.
Whatever anyone else says, we weren’t just a punk rock group – we were four girls on a mission to bring about the revolution. We could have chosen film or theatre or literature or art as our medium but we chose music because we knew it would have the most impact and immediacy.
I look at the bands making music these days and most of them seem happy to play by the rules and do what their managers and record labels tell them.
They might call themselves free-spirited but you can tell they are in it
for the exposure and the money and the record sales. It was never about
anything that superficial for us. It was about passion and politics and the
four of us coming together to create this incredible explosion of energy.
People assume we must have had dozens of offers to reform The Slits over the years because bands like the Pistols have, but nobody ever asked us. I don’t know why but I think its probably because we were so bolshy and
People were either with us or against us. There was never an in-between.
Me and Tessa are the only original members in the new incarnation of The
Slits. The other girls are all new. They bring the youth and vitality and we
bring the roots and the history and the legend.
We don’t see what we’re doing as reforming The Slits either because we’re not interested in nostalgia. We’re interested in moving forwards and taking the group to the next level.
I can’t comment on how the other girls in the original group feel because that’s a touchy subject. It’s too personal and too political to discuss in the media and I don’t want to upset or deceive anybody. Tessa and I just knew we had to continue our mission.
We lost touch completely when I moved to Jamaica but I’m glad we’re working together again. She’s an incredible bass player and an incredible woman.
It took us ages to recruit the right girls but eventually we found Nadia,
Adele, No, Holly and Lauren. Nadia and Adele both play the guitar, No plays the drums and Holly and Lauren both sing and are jacks of all trades. Holly is the daughter of Paul Cook from the Pistols and Lauren is the daughter of Mick Jones from The Clash – so the punk legacy continues!
We played our first gigs together in London recently and I have to say, I think we sounded pretty good. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed myself because enjoyment is not a word I’d ever use to describe playing live but the audience seemed to have a good time.
We played ‘Typical Girls’, ‘Instant Hit’, ‘Spend Spend Spend’, and a couple of songs from my recent solo album Dread More Dan Dead.
Since then, we’ve gone into the studio with Marco from Adam and The Ants and recorded an EP, which should be out soon.
There’s four tracks on it including a hypnotic, reggae version of ‘Kill Them With Love’ and a really raw version of ‘Number One Enemy’. That’s an original song that we wrote in ‘76 and never released or recorded. There’s also a completely new track which combines the sound of the old skool with more cutting edge hip hop.
I don’t know what people will make of it but I like the fact all the tracks are so different. It would be great if one of them got lots of airplay and become a big hit but I can’t imagine that happening, not when the music industry is just as difficult as it was in ‘77.
Men still overshadow women and women are still being depicted as sex kittens.
I’ve been told bands like Le Tigre and Chicks on Speed have kept the spirit
of The Slits alive over the last decade, but it’s hard for me to comment
since I’m not that familiar with their music.
I like the idea of there being lots of baby Slits dotted across the world, though. I find that very empowering. The line-up and the sound might have changed but the attitude and intention of The Slits is exactly the same.
We were musical terrorists then and we’re musical terrorists now. The revolution continues!
ARI UP WAS TALKING TO SARAH-JANE
Ari Up’s solo album Dread More Dan Dead is out now. For live dates and more info about The Slits visit www.theslits.co.uk