Slushy Guts: Interview with Stephen Keane
Slushy Guts is the musical alias of Stephen Keane, from South-West London, who also makes awesome art as Chaos vs Cosmos. His work is weirdly experimental and wildly funny, produced in a steampunk style and making you feel that you’ve walked into a world created by a cross between Chris Morris and David Berman, full of exquisite poetry and outrageous humour. He’s played in bands (Collapse, Bromancer and most recently as drummer with Dignan Porch) and, as Slushy Guts, has released at least one cassette, two CD-Rs and a vinyl album (brilliantly titled ‘The Bloop, Julia, Train, Slowdown, Whistle, Upsweep And All The While - The Hum’), all available through his Bandcamp page. He also produces images that sear your memory as Chaos vs Cosmos, as screenprints or on t-shirts and other packaging (contact him for rates).
Slushy Guts is supporting R Ring (Mike Montgomery and Kelley Deal’s band), along with Golden Grrrls and Equinox the Peacekeeper on Friday, 8 March at the Lexington. Tickets are here.
(Interview was by Elisabetta P and Ged M in January 2013.)
SXP: How did Slushy Guts the band come about and where did you find the name? It sounds a little unpleasantly medical!
Steve: Well it started off just being me at home and I played shows for quite a while by myself. Then the recordings started to become more layered so I asked some friends to help me play the songs live. The name - it was just something I had written down somewhere years before which I came across again at the time and still liked. I liked it as a name for what I'm doing now specifically because depending on your perspective it's either the perfect sarcastic put down or totally apt. Or it's just totally inappropriate and misleading, more suited to a noise group or something. So I thought it was perfectly imperfect.
SXP: Who is Slushy Guts – we’ve seen you in lots of combinations but is there a definitive Slushy Guts band?
Steve: Slushy Guts is just me, all the recorded versions of the songs are just me, although I do currently have a band for live shows. Sophie plays drums and Gerry is on guitar, other friends of mine have also played at different times. Gerry and Sophie are both starting to contribute to the recordings and writing though. I just want to keep it constantly evolving, so different people come in and out, as and when but I suppose I am the only permanent.
SXP: Can you define the sound you make – we’ve seen you called “weirdo folk”, “experimental” and Pavement-esque alt-rock but have you ever tried to define it?
Steve: No, I wouldn't want to. I think anything too easily definable is probably quite boring. I'm cool with people thinking any of those things though. I like Pavement, but I prefer the Silver Jews.
SXP: Your recording has always been simple and cheap – sometimes on tape recorders and phones. Is that your preference or is it dictated by economics? And would you/ could you record it in a studio?
Steve: Well, a bit of both - if I had fancier equipment I would use it, but I don't, I'm poor and so all my equipment is rubbish. In fact the device I used to record the album I actually found in a skip, so it's literally rubbish. I do like being able to work at my leisure at home, which is not something you'd be able to do in a studio and I do think this has informed the way the all the stuff I've recorded up until now has ended up sounding. If I could afford it I would go into a studio though, it would change it no doubt but that would potentially be fine with me.
SXP: There’s a lot of surreal humour in the songs and the titles. Is that something quite natural or do you work hard at that sort of wordplay (e.g. “We’re Not Kids and We’re not in America”)?
Steve: I work hard on my lyrics, I spend a lot of time on them. The humour in there is just my sense of humour and so comes naturally to me.
SXP: Who are the inspirations for Slushy Guts?
Steve: Herschell Gordon Lewis, Robert Lewis Stevenson, John Waters, Woody Allen, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jose Mojica Marins, Peter Cushing.
SXP: And who are your inspirations as Chaos vs Cosmos?
Steve: Same as above really but with the additions of Lloyd Kaufman and Christopher Lee.
SXP: There are lots of patterns and symbols in your work as an artist – are they particularly significant for you?
Steve: Patterns, yes, although I think of them more as shapes I guess. I like repetition but at the same time I like disruptions and irregularities and imperfections in the repetition. Same as in the music I make. I like symbols because they suggest a deeper meaning, regardless of whether there is a deeper meaning or not.
SXP: Posters seem to be very collectable now, when up until recently they were mainly a promotional device. Do you see this as a new and legitimate art form?
Steve: They are and I do. I guess it depends on whether you differentiate between something being artistic and something being 'actual art.' I'm aware of why people differentiate but personally I don't, I just like what I like and I find interesting and stimulating elements in all sorts of things. There are some really great poster designers around at the moment and I think what many of them are doing is just as artistically legitimate as something in an art gallery.