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Living Among The Prole
IP Catches Up With Slugwrench
by W. S. Brewster
August 1998

Far into the stratosphere of what is ordinarily deemed music, beyond the tired conventions of "modern" rock, lies the uncharted realm of Slugwrench. This is by no means to say that the Slug does not exist in our own musical universe. On the contrary, our world is his instrument, played in collages of textured sound. No encounter with his music is the same, as Slugwrench is a subjective sonic experience. Leave your label-matic stereotyping shackles for a moment and consider tones from the other side of the mirror. All you "Rapture-ites" out there, this bag is not for you! (But we dare you to listen anyway!)

A year and a half ago, I visited the domain of Slugwrench for the first time. I was not prepared for the instantaneous departure from ordinary musical time and space that awaited me once the speakers started to pulse. I was converted after the first track, and once you become part of the Slugwrench collective, you can never go back. During a three hour rap-a-thon with regular doses of sound dimentia, IP came to know and respect the "man behind the curtain"-- the madman at the helm of the mothership, the incomparable Jason Shepherd. A studio wizard as well as a versitile player, Shepherd not only writes and performs, but produces his own recordings. This is in keeping with the self production ethic that says you can't truly be intimate with your music unless you are in complete contral of its creation. Shepherd most definitely has achieved this union of soul and craft as the master of a tone-splitting, jaw popping, mind altering rhythm machine of his own design.

One of the central functions of the Slugwrench is, from this writer's perception, constant stylistic expansion, a perpetual metamorphosis of both music and musician. This was self evident when IP caught up with Shepherd recently. A new transformation was in progress as expressed through the dense electronica known as Prole. The first Cd released on local indie meta-label Intollerence Records, this all new 20 track panorama of vibrant audio stimuli. Demo cassettes 1 and 2 (released over a year ago) were only a taste of the voodoo-juice that Shepherd can brew. This one requires x-ray glasses and a surge protector, Are you plugged in yet?

"The music has changed a lot," Shepherd relates. "It's gotten less industrial. I don't know why really. I've just gotten more into the electronic aspect, away from regular instruments, so to speak. I don't think all songs require the standard four piece band. With electronics, you just have so many more options-- it gives you that much more ability to express your creativity through the music."

Through the mediums of 3 Pentium computers, a Korg X3 and a Kurzweil K2500RS, Slugwrench warps the wave spectrum, interweaving etherial electronica, poignantly minimalist vocals and yes roots nuts, real instruments. The product is a darkly saturated vortex of tonal texture the likes of which middle America rarely glimpses. Each track Slugwrench cuts is uniquely and almost entirely Jason Shepherd.

"On Prole, it was just me on about ten tracks," says Shepherd. "Then I had DJ Gagball on the other ten...He helped in the studio with sound manipulation and sequencing. Also, he listened to recordings for level adjustment and mixing- kind of an all around assistant engineer."

As cryptic as Slugwrench itself, is the new album's title- an Orwellian reference that begs for explanation. Unfortunately, due to the code of secrecy imparted to IP by the master Slug, we can't tell you in this article. However, when you pick up (and you will pick up) the CD, examine the cover closely for the method in the message. Slugwrench urges all to find the secret picture...

"I wouldn't say that the album is drug music," says Shepherd. "But, many of the songs were almost customized for someone listening on acid with headphones." (Laughs)

Do you remember that episode of The Simpsons when the whole town thought it was the end of the world, when it was only the opening of a mall? Do you think they would have seen right through the marketing scheme if they had been on magic mushrooms? If you answered yes to both of these questions, you at least partially understand both the meaning of Prole and the significance of its cover candy. The rest is in the music, and the auditory hallucinations are free.

Though Slugwrench has only played select shows so far, each performance has proven to be a signature reflection of electricity beyond. Live, the master Slug calls upon the unique talents of some like, musical minds. Their contributions to the sound sphere bring a raw defining element to the liquid layers of Slugwrench's penetrating power. During his last show at the Cain's, Shepherd took the stage alone. For upcoming Prole promotion dates, he will play with friends.

"In addition to playing some shows alone, I will bring in my band Aeroin and Tampon on bass and drums," says Shepherd. "No official dates have been set yet, but we?re going to mix it up, practice and go from there."

If you simply can't wait to hear what the Slugwrench sound is all about, you won't have long to simmer. Prole will be available in stores on August 20. Look for it at Starship, Mohawk, Sound Warehouse and Borders in Tulsa, Rainbow Records in OKC and Shadow Play in Norman. Simultaneously, a barrage of loyal Slug-sters will be spreading CD's across the nation. Once the assault begins, only the Slugs will survive. In a glitz globe of industry idiocy, remember that music is best when cultivated at home. Innovative, unpretentious and chronically potent, Slugwrench will twist your pipe, tighten your nuts, and remove the plug that has been lodged in the center of your sweet musical ass.

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