Steven loves exchanging links to funny videos of things gone awry. All day web surfing is a luxury only someone in his position can afford. Even if Steven airs the lax attitude, the creative surf bum is driven. You’ve heard his work although you probably didn’t even know it. Listen up, Slabco Steve's dropping knowledge.
How many careers have you had? What is your current title?
[I’m] still waiting on a career and a title, but I’m only 33.
What project will you be working on next?
Next…I have no idea, currently I am working on music for some MTV spots, designs for a clothing company and mixing a record.
Your house is burning down. What one possession (aside from human/animal life) would you grab on the way out?
The computers, because I don’t back anything up.
When and how did we meet?
When you started working at Tokion [Magazine in 1999]. You got stuck at a desk outside my closet-sized office.
What does Slabco mean?
Hmm. My friend and me thought it up...it used to just be slab. Like a slab of record I guess was the thinking. And we used to always joke about words we hated -- slacks and cottage being pretty high up there. One day my sister was like, "You should call it slab cottage," which got shortened to Slabco.
No way, Slabco is short for slab cottage?!
Yeah. I never call it that. But that’s what it stands for. I think my business license says "Slabco co."
You and your friends make up the Slabco collective. Were these people you happened to hang out with and already know or did you actively search for new musicians?
I happened to hang out with [these people]. We were all friends in Colorado and everyone just got the music bug, I guess. Some of them already played instruments. Some like Stephen who makes the Explosion Robinson records didn’t have anything to do with music except for being a fan.
Aside from putting out your own music you also produce other groups?
No. Maybe. Hmm. No.
So how do the other artists work under the label? Distribution only?
It’s my friends and me and we all just sit in front of computers making music a lot. Well…it’s not like a traditional label. We never had contracts, split everything 50/50, did everything the wrong way, but it’s all still worked out.
Your music tends to straddle several genres. How would you describe it to people who aren't familiar with your work?
I’m still having trouble with that one. First you have to size ‘em up. Like if it was my mom’s friend, I’d say it’s like pop music with no singing a lot of the time. Sometimes I say it’s like hip-hop instrumentals. Other times I say it’s like a lot of the music you hear, just a little goofier. As you can see, I’m not very good at describing it cause I’m not really sure what it sounds like to people.
I would say it was a mix of indie rock and dream pop.
Yes. Sometimes I say that. Indie rock with loops.
I know you travel to Japan a lot. Where else do you absorb ideas for future projects?
Surfing always gets me excited to work for some reason and riding my bike. I have a road bike and go on long rides and I kinda plan out everything I’m doing while I’m riding. I can think more clearly.
Tell me how you got involved with Bape Sounds. How is it that you ended up working for a Japanese street label cum record label?
It was when we did an Explosion Robinson show in New York City in 2000. I think you were there with [Takagi] Kan and he liked it. So when I was in Japan I went and met with them and they wanted to do an EP. So I sent them three songs and they liked them and wanted more. So I made a record’s worth.
What is your next album going to be like?
It’s like the last but recorded better I think but still similar. It’s not some whole new thing. [It’s] music to nap to midday.
If someone asked, what do you do, how would you answer?
I hate that question. It’s like describing the songs. Usually I just say what I’m doing that week. Like if I’ve been working on a song for a commercial, I say, "I make music for commercials." Sometimes I say, "Anything that pays well."
I think it's incredible that you released so many of Slabco's albums for free on your website. Why’d you do this?
Because selling records of bands that don’t tour with little money is like pushing a rock uphill. But selling licensing of songs that just sound like commercial songs is really easy. So we all figured it was better to get the music out there and just work on licensing and it’s pretty much been the best thing we’ve done so far I think.
It's always cool to hear one of your songs come on the TV through a commercial. How did that work come about?
Most of them find us usually, which is where the free music comes in. Some of it though is through producers that we do steady work with. For a while now, I have been doing MTV commercials on a steady basis with someone there who I guess likes the work and keeps coming back.
Okay, let's go off topic.
I don’t know why I don’t have a girlfriend. Ha ha.
Dude I wasn't going to go there!
I know. I’m just joking.
Tell me what movie you last watched at 2:00 A.M.?
Valley Girl. Last night. I hadn’t seen it in a long time.
Last Saturday, I’m sure I walked my dog because I do everyday in the morning. Then, I know...I was home working and Paul asked me if I wanted to go surf at sunset and it’s been really bad lately but we were desperate. So we went out there and it was amazing for some reason -- no wind, no people, and lots of waves.
Oh...and then some guy asked us if one of us could drive his car to Santa Monica with him cause he was having panic attacks. So I did and he was this older Iranian guy. Really nice. I asked him if I could trust him and he got really sad and serious and said in his accent "I am a married man...I’ll give you my license to hold.” He had just had a car accident two months before and the PCH at night was freaking him out. He didn’t get back in time to beat the sun.
And then I was at the liquor store and some dude asked me to buy him a beer but handed me money. He wasn’t allowed in the store. He was an older dude with a tear tattooed on his face. I felt like the good Samaritan that night.
You caught some good waves. And you helped some strangers out. That’s karma.
I’ve known you to be a DJ, artist, skateboarder, surfer, musician, graphic designer and dabbler in clothing design. You say you haven't had a career yet...what would you want it to be if money wasn't a factor?
Ha. Just doing what I’m doing now with a little more capital to fund projects of mine and friends and a little more freedom to turn down jobs that sound bad.
Slabco's greatest hits of the first 50 releases are available for free to download. It's a doozy at 153 megs but it's worthwhile. I promise. Thanks for the comped songs Steven!