The Champ
(Angel Air Records)


A key founding member of the U.K. rock band Stackridge, Mutter Slater made fans quite happy with his 2015 album Absobloodylutely and in 2016 The Mutter Slater Band returns with The Champ. A riveting listening experience, The Champ is filled with memorable melodies, stunning lyrics and a rock band that won’t quit. Although he’s best known for writing quirky, Beatles inspired pop music and prog-rock instrumentals in Stackridge, in Mutter Slater Band, Mutter puts his rock boots on and the results more often than not brings to mind the power and the glory of 1970’s name bands like Led Zeppelin or Free. Giving Jimmy Page a run for his money, MSB guitarist Chris Cleaver heads up Mutter’s band that also includes Clive Astley (sax), Dan Wheeler (drums), Ian Oliver (bass) and Tom Hughes (organ). Speaking to about The Champ, Mutter adds, “The album is contemplative but hopefully not too heavily serious. Humor is always lurking in the background. I’ve come back into the game far too late for these image obsessed days and my music doesn’t chime with modern tastes, but there’s always another gig/album (i.e. fight). When all else fails I know my wife Linda will be there for me and be the answer to a prayer.” With Cleaver and Hughes producing and engineering, the nine tracks on The Champ takes the listener through all kinds of bluesy rock terrain and Mutter’s lyrics (printed here) are key to understanding the power and the glory behind Mutter’s latest rock classics. Best listened to several times to gain the full impact, with The Champ, The Mutter Slater Band has produced a 21st century music classic. /

“The Champ"
— the interview

: The new album The Champ is quite surprising and amazing at the same time! “Even Love?” sounds like a Led Zeppelin song. Did you want a powerful hard rock song with potent lyrics to blow open the door to the album? Must be a killer live. When the statue blinks, lol Is The Champ album like a journey? But from where to when?

Mutter Slater: Organizing the playing order is one of the final jobs as far as I’m concerned. “A Day On The Town” seemed like the best opener for quite a long time into the process then, “Even Love?” grew in stature as time went on and eventually seemed like a good place to start emotionally and musically. Organizing the journey started from there. I’m not sure about Led Zep, but I’ll take it as a compliment.

mwe3: How about that CD cover art of you looking rather grim. You look like Rod Steiger. Pretty stark welcome doncha’ think?

Mutter Slater: I wanted something as far removed from the quirky jollity of Stackridge as possible without being gross. Then I saw some black and white photos of retired boxers and looked into using one of those images. A few friends liked the concept but said that I should use my face to save confusion. The album is contemplative but hopefully not too heavily serious. Humor is always lurking in the background. If you look behind the lettering you’ll detect the beginnings of a smile.

mwe3: How about track two “Your Love Affair With Pain”, who was that written for? We used to be addicted to love and now we’re addicted to pain. lol Everything is so much more out in the open. It’s like a Tabloid / Cyber Jungle out there. And alcohol isn’t always the answer right?

Mutter Slater: A friend of mine’s wife left him for someone else… never a good thing to go through. We were all sympathetic for a while but time dragged on and he stayed in the same rut. He seemed to milk the situation, got interminably drunk and started a few fights as well. It seemed to me that he was getting too much out of it and that he had a love affair with the pain he was going through.

mwe3: “Your Love Affair With Pain” is a great song to feature the Mutter Slater Band members. Is the band getting even tighter than ever? Is it challenging to keep a 6 piece band together these days? Thank God that England is such a musical country, not just supporting great artists but great supportive audiences.

Mutter Slater: If you have a band of accomplished musicians it’s always difficult as everyone wants them in their band. The more you have the worse it gets. ‘Challenging’ is one way of putting it. I’m lucky with my friends in MSB though as they go that extra mile to make it work. England, unfortunately, is not as musical as it once was. Fewer venues interested in experimenting with original music. I really feel for the young kids trying to break into the scene. The band and I try to get together and play every week at Chris’s studio regardless of gigs. That’s how we keep tight.

mwe3: “I May Not Be An Angel” is a standout track on The Champ in that it’s very Nashville flavored. I was going to say, the melody kind of reminded me of one of those great instrumental songs you used to write in Stackridge. It begs for a strings / mellotrons arrangement, but funny enough it works and sounds great on The Champ as a pure rock track too. Plus it’s one of your best vocals. Any insight into who inspired the song?

Mutter Slater: The chorus melody to this song was written in a dream. This has happened to me before but this is the only time that I bothered to get out of bed and work out the chords. The others are lost. I worked on the chorus and added the verse structure that same night. Thankfully I remembered it after I eventually went back to sleep and woke up in the morning. I never record anything, which may seem reckless, but I figure that if it’s that good then it should stick in the mind. This system has let me down a few times. I have a few sheets of lonely lyrics that have been jilted by forgotten melodies.

With regard to arrangements: I try to keep it band-based as much as possible. Thanks for the compliment concerning the singing. I find it a challenge getting the perfect balance between sound, delivery and feel. I usually do 3 to 4 takes then we pick the best out of that. As in most things, it eventually comes to a compromise: forsaking sound for phrasing or articulation for feel, that sort of thing…

mwe3: “I May Not Be An Angel” speaks about the devil. You’ve been writing in this way since “Happy In The Lord” which dips into humor and religion. Anyway, the devil can wait for a while… Angels and Devils live on earth? What do you make of the “devil” these days?

Mutter Slater: We had the devil and his buddies in “The Unforgiving Man” on the last album as well. You have to have devils and angels in songs because we all have them in our hearts and minds - it’s part of being human and so another way of connecting to the listener. I deliberately try not to be preachy though. I have no religious affiliations. He gets another mention on this album as well in “Jesus In The Backyard” and I dare say he’ll continue to make appearances in future writing along with angels.

mwe3: Is “Icing On The Cake”, son (or daughter) of “Absobloodylutely”? Sounds like something you’d do. You were always the most extroverted member of Stackridge. So the song is tongue in cheek? Buying a place in heaven sounds cool... Glasto is Glastonbury?

Mutter Slater: It’s a poppy melody but I wanted the lyrics to count and you’re right in a sense in that the subject matter, like “Absobloodylutely”, came from my impatience with the shallowness of modern culture: where people have thousand dollar handbags in which to keep their thousand dollar Chihuahua and festivals have bijou camping for people who helicopter in for half a day to mingle with suitably well-heeled friends then helicopter out again. Yes very tongue in cheek and yes, Glasto is the Glastonbury Festival.

mwe3: “A Day On The Town” is quite harrowing. Is it about the daytime alcohol culture? Man, that’s the ultimate daytime drinking nightmare song. Gimme ABBA or some down home blues! Sudoku? You mean the puzzle? Lol I got drunk just listening to it!

Mutter Slater: It’s an observational thing: noting the weirdoes who appear in a bar on a quiet afternoon, the barman’s routine, doing his puzzles etc. It gets so bad; you even begin to notice cracked bar mats and table stains and you look up every time the door opens. I’ve done it too many times I suppose but I love bars and British pubs because you get to meet the most interesting, the most perplexing and most infuriating of people. I’ve worked behind them and done my fair share of door work too but that’s a wholly different ball game. I much prefer sitting in a quiet corner whilst sipping a nice cold beer and watching and listening and chatting.

mwe3: The title track “The Champ” is quite depressing in a bluesy, almost New York City inspired way. Fans of Paul Simon or Randy Newman would like this. Your autobiography? It’s a modern day soul music classic!

Mutter Slater: It wasn’t meant to be depressing – far from it. The melody was my attempt to write an Otis Redding-type soul ballad. The lyric is autobiographical, but in my case it’s music rather than boxing. I’ve come back into the game far too late for these image obsessed days and my music doesn’t chime with modern tastes, but there’s always another gig/album (i.e. fight). When all else fails I know my wife Linda will be there for me and be ‘the answer to a prayer’…

mwe3: Track 7 “Jesus In The Backyard” sounds like ZZ Top, with that chooglin beat. Is it a put down of religion. “See That sky, we’re gonna fly”… What can you tell us about that song?

Mutter Slater: ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’. Edmund Burke said that, so I pussyfooted around the concept with this song. The more languid verse section reflects our comparatively well-heeled position whereas the ‘chooglin’ chorus refers to the underprivileged. The last two lines of the last verse though are to remind us that our position is not irrevocable – ‘Not every journey takes us where/ We want to go so take a care.’ I’ll take ZZ Top as another compliment – thanks. I was imagining Keb’ Mo’ though.

mwe3: Is “Why Are You Talking To Me” the single off the album? The song is a real hoot! Love ain’t always reconcilable ! Are you sending it to blues and rock radio stations? Wow it’s like a flashback to 1972. You gotta have a power pump remix down to 2:30 – sounds like Sam & Dave!

Mutter Slater: This seems to be the song on this album that communicates immediately with most people. I was thinking of a cross between “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham (& The Pharoahs) and any Delbert McClinton song…which I think I managed to pull off. I really rate Delbert as an artist and a songwriter. Shame he’s retired. It’s simple, the groove is just right and the lyrics are wryly funny. The fact that the band played their asses off in the studio capped it for me. ‘Power pump remix’? Not sure what that would sound like, but over to anyone out there who would like to take on the project.

mwe3: “I’m Not The Man” is quite sedate. That’s another kind of NYC inspired blues-rock tracks. Another classic break up song… It is quite haunting, and it’s so easy to relate to. Plus you take a rare flute solo. I miss your flute sometimes. Did you mean to close the album with that one? Wow, what a haunting way to leave the champ…

Mutter Slater: Yes. As I said at the beginning, sorting the playing order is one of the last jobs, but “I’m Not The Man” retained it’s mooted position as the closer. I love the way the song meanders, takes the listener on a little musical journey and leaves them in a different place to the rest of the album right at the end. The flute bookends The Champ in a neat way... I would have used it more but when you have such great soloists as Clive Ashley on sax, Chris Cleaver on guitar and Tom Hughes on organ there’s little need for it. When it makes a rare appearance it has more effect. I prefer it that way.

mwe3: Did you hear Andy’s Emergency Love CD on Angel Air. You and Andy Davis are the latest members of Stackridge with recent solo albums. How’s things with Angel Air? They’ve proven to be one of the great labels of the past decade. What’s next for you, tours more music?

Mutter Slater: Yes I possess and have heard Andy’s album which is unsurprisingly great. Angel Air are really supportive of us folk who are out on a limb – bless ‘em. What’s next? I’ve am writing and we’ve started to rehearse the follow up and we’re trying to book studio time for next February. I/we can’t stop regardless of the lack of attention from the mainstream. We really appreciate hearing from people like you who get what we’re trying to do and put themselves out to spread the word…


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