Slime: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyors of: Sax-y skronk with a dusting of scuzz. In short, slime music.
File next to: James Chance (in his more pissed-off moments), Ornette Coleman (in his more sloppy moments), No Neck Blues Band (in general)
Playing: WL 653, Friday March 27 at Ratio

Neil Rankin is a man about town in the truest sense of a bad cliché. Whether he’s slinging drinks, food, or tunes (Google him for a taste of all three), Neil lives by the spirit of robustness and reinvention, having performed with and/or appeared as a wide range of musical outfits: Gay, Foxfire, White Suede, New Positions, etc. Neil also co-founded Feast in the East, a sleeper success story that will soon be in its fourth year, having brought both killer bands and tasty vittles to some of the lesser lauded areas east of the Don Valley Parkway. Neil’s latest project is Slime, a deeply personal endeavor where Neil excises his new found sax(ophone) addiction on-stage, oozing attitude and clatter in equal parts. Wavelength contributor Cam Gordon caught up with Neil recently to see how he “gets his Slime on” and to ask a few long-winded questions about saxophones, food and YouTube.

Describe Slime in one sentence.

The slipperiest, skronkiest, filthiest, yet somehow still, sexiest show in town.

When Gay split, did you consciously focus on playing music that was completely different from your former band?

Over the years I’ve played with several different bands with their toes in various styles/genres, so doing what I’m doing with Slime now wasn’t a conscious decision or a reaction to where I was previously.

When did you come up with the basics that became the live version of Slime?

Slime evolved from a desire I’d had for a long time to play the saxophone and now I don’t really know how else I would play solo. Piano and guitar have never really come as naturally to me and playing solo bass is only good if you’re a highly skilled player. The best part of playing free sax is that you don’t even have to be that good! At least that’s how I’ve been approaching it… as for the when of it, I was doing some droney stuff under the name New Positions and then one day added sax to it all. Eventually New Positions expanded into a duo (with my pal Jude from HSY) and I felt I still needed a solo outlet. Thus, Slime was born!

How far back do your noise roots go? When did you first discover this kind of music?

Pinpointing exactly how far back my noise roots go is rather difficult, but I can give a couple of examples of when I was deeply affected by music that was far beyond what I was used to hearing. Listening to Boredoms as a kid (with a slight musical theatre background no less) is one very distinct moment. That really blew me away. A few years later, I found myself at a show that my friend, roommate and co-promoter Tad Michalak (although we were none of those things to one another at that point) was running at the Smiling Buddha.

What was it about that gig in particular that clicked for you?

It was VERY abrasive. I think Knurl was playing and I can’t recall the rest of the acts, but I do remember that was the point where I discovered that a) I was really into this chaos and found it strangely soothing b) I thought “Hey! I can do that to some capacity!” and c) I should ALWAYS wear ear plugs.

What is the backstory of you and the saxophone? Were you a band kind in high school or was this something you picked up later in life?

Despite my longing and desire to play saxophone from a young age, I didn’t actually put my lips on one until a few years ago, so no, not a band kid in high school.

Where did you get your sax from?

The actual physical sax that I’m blowin’ on these days is on a sort of permanent loan from my good buddy Tom Avis (who played drums in Gay). He played sax in high school and it was just sitting in our practice space so one day I got brave and assembled it and started playing. It wasn’t until actually watching a few other real saxophonists play that I realized that I’d been holding it all wrong. I guess there’s something to be said for lessons!

Do you ever watch YouTube videos to pick-up on sax techniques or approaches? Anybody you’re particularly fond of?

Although I’ve not watched any videos to learn online, I do try to watch people when they’re playing live to pick up on what they’re doing. Locally, I really enjoy watching Colin Fisher, Brodie West, Karen Ng, and Dennis P (I don’t know his full last name, that’s just how he’s listed online). And generally, I’ve become a big fan of guys like Albert Ayler, Pharaoh Sanders, and Ornette Coleman. Ya know, all the heavies.

Switching gears, Feast in the East is on the verge of its fourth anniversary, which is both impressive and insane. Any surprises (you can share) in store for the anniversary show? Is the meal served going to be extra special, extra tasty?

Yeah I know. It’s NUTS! Hard to believe actually, especially considering that we only intended it to be a one-off show. Then, we just kinda kept going. Now, we’re here four years later and we’re still chugging along. If I told y’all the surprise, then it wouldn’t be a surprise now would it? That’s just me covering for the fact that we’re still working out all the details…but! I can assure you that it’s going to be A LOT OF FUN!

In closing, what do you typically eat and/or drink before shows?

Depending on the show I’ll usually just grab a slice or something quick, or nothing at all if I’m running late. Gay had a great tradition of having a nice sit-down, fancy “big boy” dinner before every show but on my own, I’m much less disciplined. A beer and a visit from “Uncle Jameson” are frequently all I’ll consume before playing… or if I’m on super late, then I’ll be several dad pops in. That’s when it gets REAL greasy.

— Interview by Cam Gordon (Completely Ignored)

Photo credit: Morgan Yew