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discover: Julie Slick

By Anthony Garone

A devastating force on the electric bass guitar.

Julie Slick is scary talented. Like, every video I’ve seen of her kinda frightens me. She has so much energy, capability, and fun playing music, it’s intimidating.

Check out Julie Slick’s website! 

Interview video

Here’s a video of our interview with Julie Slick:

Interview Audio (Podcast)

(NOTE: hitting the “play” button requires a hefty download of the entire audio file!).

Or, download an mp3 .

Thank You

Special thanks to Casey Williams, mega-fan of The Residents, for transcribing this interview. Saved me a lot of time and energy.

Interview Transcript

Anthony Garone: Hi, this is Anthony with MakeWeirdMusic.com and today we’re here with Julie Slick from Philedelphia. Julie, thank you so much for joining us.

Julie Slick: Thank you so much for having me! It’s great to be here.

AG: For anyone that might not know who you are, could you provide a brief introduction and talk about some of the projects with which you’ve been associated in recent years?

JS: Well, okay. So, I’m Julie Slick from Philadelphia, I’m a bass player. I’m probably most known for my work with Adrian Belew  and his Power Trio . I’ve been doing that for the last ten years, very fortunately. I’ve gotten to travel the world with him, and also through that have worked with The Crimson Projeckt , which also featured Tony Levin  and Pat Mastelotto , Markus Reuter, who I know has been on your program and of course Adrian and Tobias Ralph , and that’s been for the last couple of years until the king decided to start touring again. And then, of course, I have my own project, my solo albums and also my recent creation, my band EchoTest , which I’ve been doing for the last two years with an Italian bass player, Marco Machera .

AG: That’s cool. Can you tell us about EchoTest and some of the lesser known projects that you have-Philadelphia based?

JS: Sure. This isn’t really Philadelphia-based, but this is actually an interesting international project.

AG: Oh, okay.

JS: So, Marco lives in Italy. We met at this music camp that Adrian, Pat and Tony put on every year near Woodstock, New York. They do these music camps all summer long at this resort, in Big Indian-Full Moon Resort, and it’s the Three of a Perfect Pair Camp . They’ve been doing it for five years now, since 2011. There’ve been a couple of off years when we’ve had some other conflicts but Marco and I met there in 2011 and so I knew he wasn’t a total weirdo, but just weird enough in the good way, of course.

And when I was on tour with the Crimson Projeckt in 2014, I’d also, earlier that year, given up my apartment in Los Angeles. I had moved from Philly to LA for a year to try and pursue some other musical things, as we do as artists and so I got rid of the place because I was touring so much with Crimson Projeckt that. What a great opportunity! We’re gonna be in Europe, let’s do some shows. And so I made a status on Facebook and said: “If anybody wants to play some music with me while I’m in Europe, I’d love to hang out after the tour and maybe we can make some things happen.”

And of course, two bass players wrote to me right after that, Steve Lawson  in England and Marco Machera in Italy. So, I thought that was funny that two bass players contacted me to perform–not typical. You’d think a drummer, or a band or something or even just offer solo, clinic or something like that. But no, it’d be two bass players wanted to as a duo, specifically.

I went to England and I played some lovely improvised music with Steve and did some recordings with him, and then I went to Italy. I really didn’t know Marco that well at all. I just met him at the camp, and that was pretty much it. We had a Myspace conversation in 2007 when I first joined Adrian’s band. That was pretty much it. But, you know, an excuse to go to Italy; why wouldn’t I take that opportunity? I just went on a whim and Marco booked the two dates and I wasn’t really expecting to keep the project going after that week that we booked, but we started writing songs somehow, right off the bat as soon as we plugged in our pedals. It was like this instant magic, and so we kept with the momentum and we finished a record 8 weeks later. We’ve just been going with that momentum ever since.

AG: And for people who have not heard the music, how would you characterize it?

JS: I asked Marco this the other day because we were asked to describe our music in three words and he said “futuristic, artistic and bold.” and I kind of agree with that. It’s very cinematic and it’s unexpected. You think “oh, it’s a bass duo,” you’re gonna have a certain idea of what it’s gonna sound like but I really think it defies what you’d expect because we use a lot of effects and it’s a lot about the tone and the structure of the sound so it’s like taking the idea of these Fripp-ian soundscapes and this Eno quality but then this heavy groove coming from the fact that we’re both bass players. So, I think it marries those two in a very unique way.

AG: I’ve heard some of your music, and I love how there’s layered electronic beats and delays and reverbs and it sounds like you’re playing guitar on the bass- I wasn’t quite sure, you might have had a six-string bass that looked like a guitar, or something like that.

JS: When Marco and I first started playing, it was very evident to me that I would be playing more on my six-string bass because he plays a five-string. So he’s got that low B, to get technical, and on my six-string, a lot of people think it’s a guitar because it’s a Bass VI , so I’ve got two high strings on that beast of a beautiful instrument. I have a high B and a high E, so I have these extra high notes notes, Macro has that extra low note.

We have our separation in tonality there, in spectrum, but then we also have the slew of pedals and the longer Marco and I have been working together, the more and more I’ve been influencing him and getting him some pedals that are very similar to mine. We both have these Eventide H9  pedals and I love the way they interlock together.

Basically, because when we would start recording, that’s another part I was going to get into–when we record, sometimes we are together and sometimes I plug him through my pedal board, so it became a necessity for him to have some of the same pieces that I have so that we could work these ideas together with some of these harmonizing things that we have going on. And then, also, I have a MIDI pickup  on my bass so I can make it sound like I put it through a Roland VB-99  and that I can access another array of tones, I can make it sound like a Strat or a Les Paul or an organ or different synthesizers, and then of course once I take the output of that and put it through my pedal board so I can make it sound totally crazy, put it through these harmonized pedals, through these different reverbs, through my loopers.

That’s another reason why I’m saying you listen to the music and you don’t necessarily think “this is just coming from two basses, that’s really something” because so far, the two albums that we have out are pretty much strictly bass and a little bit of programming, except for the one song, “The Drift”, had some guitar on it because it was a song that I wrote before Marco and I started working together. Also, there’s some violin tracks on some of the stuff and viola tracks, but other than that, everything you hear is bass and the programmed drums.

That’s another thing that I was gonna get into–sorry to answer your question in such a long-winded way–but growing up with my brother , who was the original drummer of the Power Trio with Adrian, I’m used to having… The drumset would be right here, behind me, and I would be standing over there, where the TV is, and we’d be jamming King Crimson songs in our living room and recording them. So, I’m used to, like, “Eric, play a B,” when I have an idea.

Whenever I come up with a new idea, I use the computer and the technology in such a way, like it’s my digital brother. I can’t call up Eric and be like “Hey, can you play this?” We’re getting close to that point but as far as it stands now, it’s easier for me to just open up Logic , make a quick program with Ultrabeat or something, and then I record my idea, and then I usually end up making four more drum tracks because I like weird polyrhythm stuff and playing against that and that helps me because playing to a click is obviously very boring and not easy to do when you’re trying to get a vibe going, especially as a bass player. So that was my long-winded answer for that; that’s why our music sounds the way it does.

AG: That’s cool. Don’t worry about being long-winded, that’s what people want, it’s what they like about these interviews. Did you record anything with Steve Lawson?

JS: Yes, we did! Steve always records everything, so I think we put that up pretty quickly after it happened, too. We’re due, though, for some more because I think we really haven’t done anything since then, so we should. But we have put up, I think it was called Marinate , it was a free download for those that bought–I think we were offering it when we released our first Echotest record, Fourth Dementia , which was from before we were called Echotest, it was still Julie Slick and Marco Machera at the time.

And then Steve had released… I’m bad, I’m forgetting… He releases so much music, can’t remember what specific release it was, but if you bought both of those, we offered Marinate as a free, four song EP. That wasn’t recorded at the gig, though. I wonder if he has the gig. Good question. I think he put one of the Soundclouds up, like one of the songs up on Soundcloud. I think that may have been also the gig that we did with Andy Edwards  on drums. So it’s a trio, actually.

AG: Very cool. I just spoke with Steve Ball the other night and he talked all about the Tiny Orchestral Moments  and we have some sample audio that we’ll be posting in a week or two or something like that. So, how did you get involved with that whole guitar circle, King Crimson world?

JS: Ok, well, the King Crimson world, that was getting involved with Adrian, that’s a whole other thing. That was from the Paul Green School of Rock . I was a student of Paul Green ’s, starting back in 1988, basically the year that he founded the school. I saw it grow from this guy’s apartment to an actual, brick-and-mortar school, to another school, another school, a movie, Adrian’s coming to do tours, all of a sudden I’m in Adrian’s band. That’s pretty much how it happened, it’s pretty insane.

I discovered him, and then was buying microphones because he was endorsing them, and playing bass, wanting a Stingray  because of Tony Levin, and my brother was buying a Sonor  because he wanted what Danny Carey ’s drums were like, and then we ended up working with Danny down the line and it’s just mind boggling.

But the Seattle thing; that was just another Facebook connection. You have to give it to Facebook, I mean, I actually made a status that was a little negative and I normally try to avoid doing those sorts of things but I was expressing my frustration with self-management and having to wear so many hats and how exhausting it can be, and Steve took note of that. I was actually gonna delete the post and it’s a good thing I didn’t.

He saw it, and he saw an opportunity because he was planning this Tiny Orchestral Moments session and gig, I guess for a year. And I didn’t know about it at all and it was the weekend before, I made this update on Facebook and he contacted me, weekend before with an emergency, that his bass player, Amy was going to have to fly out for a gig in Turkey. So he did a replacement quickly, and saw my post and just figured why the heck not reach out and see if I’m available?

And I wasn’t, really, because I was really stressed, working on the–I play with this Talking Heads  tribute band, Start Making Sense , and we did this recreation of the film, Stop Making Sense , to a T and I had to do all of Tina ’s mannerisms and dance moves and I had to sing Genius of Love  which was insane. So I really saw this as a great opportunity to go to see XXX(insert name here, couldn’t figure it out, around the 15:00 mark) and procrastinate and connect with amazing musicians so I wouldn’t have to practice the crab dance.

AG: Yeah, I’ve seen the Instagram posts. I can’t believe how intentionally accurate and to every detail you guys got it.

JS: Oh, it was so nerdy. It was completely so specific, making the cut–I straightened my hair. You know that means it’s serious. If someone put a hot iron on my head… Not messing around.

AG: I hear you. My wife does it everyday, I can’t believe she’s not scorched all across her head.

JS: I was so scared, putting the blue in my hair and I keep seeing it creeping in more and more and more blue, which I think is cool, but as long as the stylists keep letting me do that, that’s fine. But you know, things like that, like I’m already burning my head. This is the kind of breaking news I know you want to talk about on Make Weird Music.

AG: Absolutely, yeah. Tell me more about your hair.

JS: Yeah, exactly. Like, what’s the actual combination of colors? Like, hue 64, yeah.

AG: You know, people get really into the details of instruments. I don’t know why we can’t get it to hair colors.

JS: I know. I mean, honestly, I have no idea. That’s why I pay somebody else to do it.

AG: So, for someone who would like to get into your music, where do you suggest they start, in terms of hearing Julie Slick, an innovator on the bass, someone who thinks outside the box?

JS: Well, definitely my Bandcamp is the best place right now because I now even have a subscription service available . So like, for 15 bucks a year, you get all of my music, which is a lot of albums, I think there’s 10 up there right now so that alone is worth it, so you get all of that, plus I update with behind-the-scenes videos and working on new demos in the studio, on tour kind of stuff. And I hope to be putting up more of those sorts of videos up soon; I hope to be on the road more soon, both with Echotest and with Adrian in the coming months. And that’s really the best place, would be the Bandcamp. And there’s of course, you can stream stuff and check it out as well. There’s a few things on Spotify, but I don’t really recommend that people go there, of course, but…

AG: But maybe an album or two or a few songs to note?

JS: Sure. The latest Echotest record, Le Fil Rouge , I would check out a song called The Drift on that. It’s one that actually does have guitar. And also the last track, Pleasant Torture, is quite nice.

And then, there’s the other album, Terroir , which looks like this, my second solo record, which came out a couple of years ago now and that one features a bunch of awesome guests like Adrian and Steve Ball actually, and Pat. A lot of people. David Torn  plays amazing guitar on that as well, so… That’s something a little bit different, a little bit older but I think it’s cool to check out the sort of evolution of the way things are going with my career.

AG: Excellent! That’s great. Thank you very much and I look forward to seeing you on tour. Hope you’ll come through Phoenix at some point.

JS: Oh yes.

AG: I missed the last Crimson Projeckt.

JS: Oh, that was with Danny too, when we were playing in Phoenix.

AG: I know. :(

JS: Aw man!

AG: I punched myself for it. But, awesome. Thank you so much for your time.

JS: Thank you so much. And hopefully you’ll get to work on time.

AG: Yeah, thanks!

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