GIRL, OUTRAGEOUSLY Ari Up of The Slits

“I don’t think the Slits
will ever die as a legend”: a previously unpublished interview with the punk
provocateur, who passed away Wednesday.

 

BY FRED MILLS

 

“You haven’t said yet how good I look on my website!”

 

A throaty chortle comes down the phone line. Ari Up is still
as merciless a tease as she was in 1976 when she and her fellow Slits would
bait journalists and audiences alike with their outré brand of distaff
punk. I have indeed consulted Ari’s site (AriUp.com), and I now inform her I
may download her photos to hang on the wall next to my copy of the Slits’ Cut LP – the one with the infamous nude sleeve.

 

Another burst of laughter. No teasing this time. I could
swear she sounds pleased.

 

***

 

It was November of 2004 and Ari was speaking to me from England, where
she was visiting friends and doing some recording. The occasion of our
conversation was the upcoming expanded/remastered re-release of Cut, due in January – in 2009 the album
would be reissued yet again as a two-CD Deluxe Edition – and the interview was for a feature,
“Girls Together Outrageously,” in BLURT precursor Harp magazine, for my regular “Indelibles” column in which classic
recordings got revisited and reappraised.

 

Cut, without a
doubt, qualifies as “classic,” and it’s long been one of my favorite artifacts
from the punk era. That three-girls-naked cover didn’t hurt, I suppose, but
Ari’s effervescent, provocateur personality played a huge part in that
estimation, too.

 

Now, as I write, it’s October of 2010, and Ari has just
passed away, on October 20
, at the age of 48 following a battle with cancer.
The unexpectedness of her death – unexpected at least from the outside – seems
all the sadder because not long after the Cut reissue arrived, Ari put the Slits back together for a well-received
reunion (I saw them play a rousing set a few years ago at SXSW in Austin) that culminated
in last year’s Trapped Animal album.
Here at BLURT we were proud to publish an interview with Ari exactly a year ago
in which she talked about working again with Slits bassist Tessa Pollitt, about
putting together the new album, about being a mother and more. Of her plans for
the future, Ari seemed wholly energized and optimistic, saying, “Next we’ve got
to have more tours and albums. We should really have a DVD. We must put our
music in a visual medium. I’ve got tons of old stuff. And I’ve also got tons of
stuff on tour that we did recently. We want to mix it up, sure.”

 

Sadly, she wasn’t able to fulfill those plans. By way of tribute,
then, we’ve got my original 2004 interview, most of which has never been
published, below; I think there’s a lot of detail about her back story and
insight into Ari’s outlook on life worth documenting and preserving. And take
particular note of the comments she makes near the very end, about having no
plans for a Slits reunion. Sorry, Ari, but in this case we’re glad you didn’t
keep your vow.

 

You can also read contributor Jennifer Kelly’s 2009
interview with Ari elsewhere on the BLURT site, and after you do, we suggest
you run to the nearest independent record store and purchase a Slits album or
one of Ari’s solo records. You’ll quickly discover what the fuss was all about.

 

 

***

 

Ari Up (real name: Arianna Forster) was born to rock. With a
concert promoter for a mother, as a child she met countless musicians — among
them, Jimi Hendrix, and later, members of the Sex Pistols. Drawn into the punk
vortex, at a Clash concert one night she met drummer Palmolive (Paloma Romero).
Looking the striking14-year old Ari up and down, Palmolive abruptly announced,
“Hey, I’m building a band – but it’s gotta be an all-girl band.”

 

“That was it,” says Ari. “The next day, I went to rehearsal.
We did ‘Blitzkrieg Bop.’ The Slits were made.”

 

With the arrival of guitarist Viv Albertine and bassist
Tessa Pollitt (replacing original members Kate Korus and Suzi Gutsy), the Slits
quickly make a name for themselves. Not always a good name either, as
their modest skills, combined with a provocative stage presence, often drew the
scorn of the British press. “Oh my god, we were just eaten alive!” recalls Ari.
“And we were attacked onstage several
times too. It was insane, people storming the stage. Palmolive had to run for
her life with a snare in one hand and cymbal in the other.” As
wild-coiffed, ripped-stockings punks the ladies were targets offstage as
well. Ari once got stabbed while strolling in the streets of London,
and she remembers the cultural climate
in England
at the time as being akin to “a witch hunt. It was like medieval times: ‘Burn
them at the stake!’ Girls were safe when they walked around in the daylight in
a tight circle, but if we walked at night, or by ourselves, that was asking for
it.”

 

Yet the band developed quickly enough to land a support slot
on the Clash’s spring ’77 “White Riot” tour. Early evidence of the Slits’ edgy
charisma can be heard on The Peel Sessions CD, BBC recordings from ’77
and ’78. In particular, an embryonic version of future Cut track “Love
and Romance,” with its coruscating guitar, tribal beat and Ari’s proto-Bjork
squeaks, growls and yelps, is a 2 ½ minute adrenaline rush the equal of any
punk 45 of the era.

 

The Slits were approached by several labels but, sensing
they were viewed as an all-girl novelty, the ladies held the overtures at arm’s
length. Sex Pistols svengali Malcolm
McLaren actually managed the group for two weeks but got the heave-ho when it
became apparent he wanted to turn the group in to a female version of the
Pistols. “He wanted take our heavy bass sound out – which is what made us sound
so good – and told us the guitars should be out front,” Ari says. She further
notes that yet more unwanted advice came from none other than the Clash’s Mick
Jones, Albertine’s boyfriend at the time; he suggested the Slits overhaul one
of their quirkier tunes, “Typical Girls,” as a straightforward punk number,
“like a Clash song, smack-boom-boom-boom, one-two-three-four.”

 

Along the way the
Slits lost Palmolive, who Ari says was “really good in that crazy tribal
way of drumming” but couldn’t adapt as the band began exploring different
styles. Replacing her with future Siouxsie & the Banshees drummer Budgie
the Slits signed in ’79 with Island Records, receiving complete creative
control and the services of veteran reggae producer Dennis Bovell. That summer
they hunkered down in a rurally situated studio to make their debut.

 

Cut appeared on Island in September 1979 (in the
U.S., on Antilles), and while it barely dented the British charts its impact
over the years would prove enormous, the album getting ranked alongside such
postpunk statements as PIL’s Metal Box and the Pop Group’s Y. Key
track “Typical Girls” is a left-field classic, an angular, reggaeish number
featuring singsongy vocals, blues guitar and jittery piano played by Ari. The
LP’s avant-garde sound – part splatter funk, part tattered punk, and a whole
lotta dub  –  reflected a meeting of the minds with
producer Bovell, whose mad-scientist working methods were simpatico with the
Slits’ desire to broaden their palette. “For instance,” says Ari, “on the song
‘New Town” I’d say, ‘I want live, organic crazy percussion!’ And he’d get
inspired, take a matchbox and a fork and a knife as percussion – if you listen
to old dub albums, they’ve got toilets flushing, doorbells ringing, crazy
stuff.”

 

Matters of commercial impact aside, Cut certainly
made its visual presence felt: The sleeve presented the three Slits gals
as Amazons smeared head to toe in mud and clad only in pale loincloths. Some
reviewers who took note of the group’s socially-conscious lyrics (“Typical
Girls,” for example, is a hilarious putdown of female conformity) hailed the
sleeve as bold and laced with irony, while others accused the band of setting
back the feminist cause by years. Ari maintains, however, that the sleeve was
more afterthought than statement.

 

“We were supposed to have an album cover [idea] but we didn’t
think of anything. They were coming to take pictures, and we were in the
country and there was lots of mud everywhere. We were feeling kind of tribal,
so – ‘Fuck it! Let’s just roll around in the mud!'”

 

Following a U.K.
tour with jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, the Slits left Island,
surfaced for a spell on Rough Trade imprint Y, then subsequently signed with
CBS for 1981’s Return Of The Giant Slits LP, which ladled Middle Eastern
and Afro-beat elements into the punky reggae stew. But with myriad pressures –
no management, no money, next to no support system other than themselves —
conspiring against them, the Slits quietly called it a day in the early months of 1982.

 

“I
think it’s because we grew on our own, without any help,” says Ari of the
split. “You’ve got these girls in a twilight zone going through stages and nothing
to hold it together. You have to develop and have somebody to say, ‘Okay, let’s
take it to this direction…’ Also, the ‘80s changed everything as well. The
music sucked: ‘We can’t deal with Punk, but New Wave is acceptable. So let’s go
with that – MTV, here we come!’ That wasn’t us.”

 

Post-Slits, Albertine went into film production, Pollitt
took up painting, and Palmolive, after a stint in the Raincoats, became a
Christian and moved to Massachusetts.
Ari Up spent time in Jamaica
as a dancehall singer and clothing designer and now splits her time between Kingston and Brooklyn,
where she performs with her band and is currently recording a solo album. In
2004 she appeared at the Morrissey-curated Meltdown Festival in London doing an all-Slits
set.

 

“I don’t think the Slits will ever die as a legend,” she
says, with unmistakable pride. “It’ll be more like a Xena the Princess Warrior
type of legend. It never dies, it just goes on.”

 

 

***

 

The Complete Ari Up
Interview

 

 

FRED MILLS: What
first drew you to music? How did you become interested in making music?

 

ARI UP:  That was
never questioned. That was like from Day One, as long as I remember. Most
people can only remember back to about age 5, but I can remember to when I was
2. I grew up in a bohemian family, a background of being totally surrounded by
music, left to right. Both sides. All my relatives were artists, and my mom was
a promoter in Germany.
So I meet all these people I didn’t know – and didn’t care! Jimi Hendrix – so
what? This is a guy backstage that my mom was hanging out with, just another
guy, another musician – so what? So I grew up around music and musicians and
there was never any question of ‘Why?’ No, ‘Why am I doing this?’ It’s like I
was born to do it and that was it.

 

I understand you and
Palmolive met at a concert. What was the connection?

 

I remember it was a Clash thing. She didn’t look like the
audience or a fan. She looked ready to explode! She was ready to lead a revolution,
you could tell. She had a pig in her ear – not a real pig, but a pig earring,
which I thought was flattering at the time. I think we mutually walked up to
each other, because she probably knew I was ‘Ari, Norma’s daughter,’ which had
to do with that whole Sex Pistols ring because my mom was hanging out with the
Pistols. And I was looking like a little schoolgirl so I’m sure she didn’t look
at me thinking, ‘Wow, big revolutionary here!’ Cowgirl boots, long hair down to
my butt, a total schoolgirl hippie look. But it just shows that you overlook
that when you’ve really got the attitude. No matter what I wore that night, I
stuck out, like I was meant to be in a group, because she approached me: ‘Hey,
I’m building a band. It’s gotta be an all-girl band.’ And that was it, the
Slits were made. The next day, I went to rehearsal and we started singing a
song. Palmolive had wrote a few songs already but I didn’t really know them, so
we did ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’! [sings a few lines from song] So that’s how it
started. I was into drumming so I jumped on the drums too, but I knew Palmolive
was going to be the drummer.

 

 I came across an early live review from about
’77, written by a ‘Sharon Spike,’ and it wasn’t too favorable…

 

 Oh, we were torn down
by the press! [voice goes up an octave] Oooh! You think that they
were all like, ‘Wow, the Slits!’ No! Oh my god, we were eaten alive! But that’s
what legends are made of. Legends are always eaten alive when they first come
out.

 

 Did that strengthen your resolve to keep going?

 

 Well, not
‘strengthen.’ It’s just that we made it a rule to say, look, what the fuck? We
don’t base our life around press or music business or the society we are in. We
base our lives on what we want to do as girls, and be free, and do the music we
want to do and to express ourselves the way we want. You can’t say, ‘Oh, we’re
down now because of them…’ Or, ‘Get better because of them!’ Because if you’re
in a revolution, you don’t even think like that. ‘Fuck it! Fuck! Who cares!’
And you know, we were just lucky to be alive sometimes. We were attacked
onstage several times. The stage was stormed. Me and Palmolive and the first
unit of the Slits, when we were all girls, we went on a couple of gigs and it
was insane. People stormed the stage and came to attack us! Palmolive had to
run for her life with a snare in one hand and a cymbal in the other. A couple
of our friends who were kind of bodyguards for us tried to push the audience
back down from the stage – it was real rough.

 

 I lived in North Carolina when punk hit, and some of my
girlfriends who’d dress up kind of ‘punk,’ the minute they did that in public,
the way they were treated changed. Rednecks would harass them, make lewd
comments.

 

[sarcastically]
No! You experienced some of that too? You saw some of that? It was like a witch
hunt in England,
for sure. It was like the medieval times: ‘Burn them at the stake!’ Really, I’m
serious. If you had anything like boots, min dress, torn up stockings –
Madonna, later, sort of tamed it down and made it look nice and neat – when you
had anything like that and just looked the way you wanted, it was just –
‘Ohhhh!’ I guess girls were safe when they were walking around in a tight
circle – in the daylight, around everybody. But if we walked at night, or by ourselves
somewhere, that was asking for it. I got attacked with a knife. Somebody
stabbed me in the back. There were so many gangs in England in the time – the
skinheads, the Teddy Boys, the Mods, and punks were the least. You also had
this big John Travolta following – the disco, the Saturday Night Fever people. And one of those people stopped me. Here’s the irony, too: We were
always told in the papers that punks were violent, keep away from them, they
are the most violent! And who was the most violent? We were the least violent
out of all them people, you know? It’s almost funny.

 

 Journalist Caroline Coon’s account of the
Slits when the band went on the Clash’s “White Riot” tour was pretty vivid.

 

 Ah, Caroline Coon!
She was like a surrogate mother to me at the time…

 

The way she describes
the Slits on that tour is almost like you were the troublemakers on the tour. There’s a quote from Viv going, ‘We’re
not being nice little girls…’

 

 As far as in the
views of the bus driver, for instance, and what some of those people expected.
It was totally a fun time, though, and if we were being ‘bad,’ it’s not like
the Clash, who did the ‘bad’ stuff like throwing stuff out the windows and
destroying hotel rooms, typical boy stuff. But we didn’t do none of that. But we
were so offensive, whatever we wore, at the time, that just being ourselves, I
think, was enough to be outrageous. We were like girls are now, maybe – I
dunno! We didn’t have to do anything! We didn’t know that the driver had to be
bribed! He was just furious, really upset. Back then, there was no way – the
only guys who were supportive were in our circle, the punk people. Everyone
else outside, it was the same reaction. There was no ‘fifty percent’: ‘Oh,
maybe they’re okay…’ Either we were totally hated, or not, you know?

 

 What about audiences?

 

 They were… mixed, I
guess. I dunno. I was just like 13 or 14, and I think I really didn’t care if
the audience liked us or not. The basic thing was just to get on with the work.

 

 Do you remember going on the BBC to do your
Peel Sessions?

 

 Yeah, that was great.
He [John Peel] was really very laid back, very easy to work with, and he really
liked us as well. If more people were like him in the business I think a lot
more would get done. A lot more exposure, a lot more better stuff. Because
there was no ego with him. He was just into experimenting with new music. And
he was never offended by anything to do with what other people saw in us as
offensive. I would love those [sessions] to be re-released again since Cut is being re-released because they fit in with that album – some of the tracks
were remade [for Cut] in a different style later on, and it would be
nice to hear the old ones, the original versions. ‘FM’ for example sounds
really different, really ‘70s punky, mixed with – whatever. That guitar, the
way it sounds, totally raw – almost like one of those old rock bands mixed in
with our flavor, the tribal flavor coming on.

 

 You signed with Island
in ’78 – had your sound already begun changing by that point?

 

 I think we didn’t
want to be glued to or categorized, to be stuck in the stigma of what they were
labeling as ‘punk.’ I think we wanted to not be typical punk, and we also
wanted to grow. Musically we grew anyway. You get bored with the same style.
Somebody should have recorded us when they had the chance, ’76, ’77 – that’s
when the should have had an album out on us. But we couldn’t get stuck in that
time or that music.

 

 Why didn’t you sign with a label earlier?

 

 They weren’t really
pursuing us. People in ’77 who wanted to cash in wanted to make us a gimmick.
They wanted to rip us off and make a total gimmick out of us, or they wanted to
change our style. They didn’t want ‘us.’ They wanted something they could
recreate, and they would have changed everything. There weren’t any small indie
labels at the time, only those mega-big companies who only wanted to fuck us up
at the time.

  Island didn’t want
us in ’77 either. They wanted us in ’79, maybe because we’d changed by then,
and we were looking around then for a label that would suit our style. But back
in the day there was no way for us – women – to be allowed to be ourselves. And
with that name – the Slits…

 

 Malcolm McLaren approached you too?

 

 He did, he did. He
managed us for two weeks. He wanted us to be the female Pistols. I think a
manager shouldn’t try to be the musician, and he wanted to be the musician too
much – tell us how to play the bass. You know how our heavy bass sound goes? He
wanted to take that out: ‘The guitars are to be out there and in the front, not
the bass.’ Our heavy bass is what made us sound so good. In the early John Peel
session you can hear the heavy bass on it, but still with the punky loud
guitar. Malcolm wanted to take that out; he was complaining about that.

 

 Your vocals are as much a signature of the
band as anything else. Your tangents, the call and response, etc. What were
your influences? Any particular singers who…

 

 No, no, I totally
went off on my own. That’s why they sound like that! I wasn’t inspired by
anyone. I was too young. I listened to every music there was. I grew up with
all the hippie music, all the swing, the Frank Sinatra, all the classics. And I
loved all of the music. At the same time, I couldn’t relate to any of it
[regarding] my stuff. There was nothing there for me, so I just went off on my
own. Of course I listened to reggae as well and that inspired me, but I didn’t
sing like that. I gotta say, I just made my own style.

 

 I know the Slits as a group were big fans of
reggae. Why did Palmolive wind up quitting? Were her musical tastes diverging?

 

 No, I dunno if she
was quitting or if we all said it’s not gonna work. Because she was really good
in that one way of drumming – that crazy tribal [makes tribal thumping sound],
you know? She couldn’t do anything else. And if you listen to Cut there’s all kinds of different drumming on it. But there was only one style
that Palmolive did, and that was the style we had in ’77.

 

 How did Budgie join the band? Why didn’t you
get another female?

 

 I have no idea how
that happened! Good question. But there wasn’t any females! There weren’t any
female drummers at the time. There were none in the punk, underground and
reggae environment. Even now it’s hard to find them. We auditioned a million
drummers at one time and oh, it was dreary. So I think I wiped that chapter out
of my memory. Even one Jamaican guy played ‘Grapevine’. The drums on that is a
Jamaican drummer. But he didn’t stick with us; he could only do one style as
well, in the reggae style, funky, whatever.

 

 How did Dennis Bovell come into the picture?
What did he bring to the table?

 

 Because he worked
with Island a lot. He brought the sound to the table a lot. He brought a lot of
help. He was like another Slits member. There’d be things like, if we did ‘New
Town,’ for instance, he’d get inspired – like maybe I’d say, ‘I want live,
organic, crazy sounds – crazy percussion!’ So he would take a matchbox, and a
fork and a knife, and you’d hear those actual things, as percussion. The crazy
organ sound too. We were all like that, just feeding off each other.

      That’s how dub is created anyway. If you
listen to some of the old dub albums they’ve got toilets flushing or door bells
ringing and stuff. So I wanted to have some of that, definitely, on some songs.

 

 Who played piano on some of the tracks?

 

 Oh, I played piano on
‘Typical Girls.’ Just a little plinking around, nothing professional. I learned
a little bit when I was little.

 

 I can’t imagine you doing that song earlier,
like in ’79.

 

 Yeah, and we almost
didn’t do it in ’79, because Mick Jones was going out with Viv, and if it
wasn’t for Viv sticking to her guns we would have never had ‘Typical Girls.’
Mick wanted to change it, suggested, ‘Keep it straight, keep it straight!’ Like
a Clash song – straightforward, smack down, boom-boom-boom, one-two-three-four.
According to Mick Jones. But ‘Typical Girls,’ if you notice, is totally crazy,
like a jazzy, bluesy, crazy beat with all kind of shit mixed in.

 

 Who brought in ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’?

 

 Good question. I
don’t remember! We were listening to so much different music – obviously we
weren’t listening to punk. Or very little bit. And Viv was a fanatic about ‘60s
music, so maybe it came up by us listening to it and we just liked it. We took
it and made it our own – it’s not a Marvin Gaye joint no more. It became ours,
because if you do a cover you gotta make it your own, make it really stunningly
your own. Otherwise it will sound worse than the original. I sang it live –
sang it on the spot. I knew the lyrics and I was singing it live.

 

 Any memories of touring the States? I read an
interview with Tessa and she mentioned you hanging out in Death
Valley.

 

 We toured in ’80 and
’81 – I think in ’79 we went down and had some gigs in New York. That [Death
Valley trip] changed Tessa for life! It gave Tessa that ‘desert
look’ she got – if you look at the Return Of The Giant Slits [sleeve],
it’s all inspired from that desert look we got in America, and sort of an
Arabic flavor too, because our music was sounding a little Middle Eastern.

 

 How do you rate Return?

 

 Rate it? Oh, I love
it! It’s another step in the evolution. It’s totally underrated. I think it’s
really different, and it brought us to a different stage again.

 

 You split up not too long after that. Was the
band already beginning to fall apart?

 

 No, I don’t think so.
Not falling apart, no. I dunno – I think it was too much ‘outside world,’ you
know? Outside pressure.

 

 Tessa admitted in the interview she’d gotten
into heroin too.

 

 Yeah, but there’s so
many bands that survive heroin. That’s no excuse to break up; lots of bands
have a heroin addict. I think it’s more that we grew on our own, without any
help, no management – it doesn’t help if you have no management! So you’ve got
girls on your own, way ahead of their time, and you’re just in a twilight zone
going through three stages – like the Pokemon! We evolved through three stages:
three evolutions, poof! poof! poof! just
like that! And had nothing to hold it together, nothing for us to hold onto
except us. And you can’t stand on your own two feet all the time just
like that for so long. You have to develop and have somebody to say, ‘Okay,
let’s take it to the fourth album now and take it to this direction, get this
label so we can get it on the road properly…’ Yo know? There was none of that.

       The ‘80s changed everything as well. The
‘80s were the yuppie, new wavey, totally opposite direction of us. Nothing
wrong with business; the music business is always ‘business.’ But the music
sucked in the ‘80s – ‘Okay, we can’t deal with Punk, but New Wave is
acceptable. So let’s go with that – MTV, here we come!’ That wasn’t us. And
that time was a bad time.

 

 Let me ask you the inevitable question about
the album cover for Cut: What went into the planning for that? What are
your memories of that photo session?

 

 We were supposed to
have an album cover but we didn’t think of anything! So we said, okay, let’s
just roll around in the mud. We were living in the country doing the album and
there was lots of mud everywhere, and we were feeling kind of tribal, being
stuck in the country since we were from London.
‘Okay, let’s just roll around in the mud. That’s a very tribal thing to do.’ So
we rolled in the mud as the picture people were coming to take pictures for the
album. They probably wanted something really slick. [emits evil cackle]
So we said, fuck it, let’s do something else – our way! And that’s what we did.

 

 Were you surprised at some of the reactions?
In some corners both men and women were reportedly outraged. I remember in some
reviews there was a dichotomy that emerged, particularly among women; some
people thought it was a wonderful, humorous and bold visual statement, while
others thought you’d set back the feminist cause 100 years.

 

 No, I wasn’t aware of
anyone being outraged. But that must be a real American view, right? It’s such
a fucking difference [between] Europe and America. We could debate that in a
book! America
is so sexually hung up; anything is taboo over there, even a slight breast.
Here in Europe, you go in a park in the summer
and everyone is laying in the grass naked and it’s like nothing. Nobody even
looks at you.

 

 When Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland and
Blind Faith’s album came out, both sleeves had to be changed for release in America
because the British versions had naked women on them.

 

 Oh! That ruined a
good thing. What a shame. But there you go. Jimi Hendrix, the big legend, can’t
even say what he wants on his album cover without compromise. And here we are in
the ‘70s, these women, nothing like Jimi, just revolution punk girls, and we
decided to have artistic control. We wanted artistic control, which most
artists didn’t get at the time – which is probably another reason it took
forever to get a contract. We needed that artistic control.

 

 With the Slits, I take it that art always came
first, secondary to money.

 

 Oh yeah. Well, money,
there was probably something even before money, which would have been last. And
that was probably a big mistake. We should have tried to be a little more
commercialized to get out there. But that’s crying over spilt milk because we
were in those times, and you don’t know what might have happened if we’d done
that. Maybe Cut wouldn’t have been! Other things wouldn’t have been.

 

You’ve continued to
make music since the Slits, deejaying as well, and I understand you’re
recording a solo album too. What’s that like so far?

 

It’s sort of ‘continued Slits,’ the same type of thing,
except it includes a lot of dancehall, world music, hip-hop, dance, that the
Slits probably would have picked up if they’d continued – and still punky
reggae stuff. My band doesn’t have a real name yet, but I have a song called
‘True Warrior’ so some have unofficially called us The True Warriors. I’ll do
some more work on the record in New York in
the spring, and we’ll also be doing some touring and gigging, mainly in Europe.

 

And I understand that
earlier this year [2004] you performed at the Meltdown Festival and did an
all-Slits set?

 

The music sounded really current, right? If I was playing it
‘vintage’ I’d feel really old: ‘Oh, I can’t go through! It sounds so vintage!’
But it’s modern, really hard hitting and cutting edge. It was great to play it:
‘Ah! Okay, that makes sense. It’s fitting into the time, finally.’ That’s why I
don’t mind doing Slits songs, mixing them in as mine. It’s really just a
continuation anyway. In fact, they are evolving, getting better I think. But
it’s still the roots of the Slits, and it mixes in with my stuff perfectly.

 

There’s a great
saying in the States: “Don’t Kill The Legend.” But would you consider getting
the Slits back together?

 

No, no way. The old Slits are not playing anymore. If
anything I want to build a new Slits! I would never want to have it like a
reunion. I guess it’s easy enough if people are addicted to touring and music
and they got the fever, and if they don’t want to kill themselves, the next
best thing is that they join into a reunion group! [giggles] Poor
people. You got to think of the artist as well. When they do it they’re
probably not thinking about doing it for money. They just really can’t do
without the music they grew up with. But you’re right: ‘Don’t kill the legend.’ I’m writing that down in my book right
now!

       I don’t think
the Slits will ever die as a legend in this case. The reunions of some bands is
that their reunion is doing what they were, already, and what they became. But
the Slits never fully became, never fully got out there at the time, never
fully got what they deserve – or what the people deserved to get. So every ten
years that go by with the Slits, it’ll be more like a Xena the Warrior Princess
type of legend; it never dies, it just goes on. And in a hundred years when
we’re all dead, they’ll dig up the Slits like some old Beethoven skeleton:
‘Ahhh! This is way ahead of its time! Listen to this!’ And they’ll treat it
like some classical music.

 

 

[Photo Credit: Angel
Cebellos. NOTE: according to Ari’s manager Jeff Jacquin the image comes from
one of the last photo sessions Ari ever did. “She loved these butterfly pics,”
says Jacquin]

 

 

 

 

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