Soaring to the top of “The CashBox Top 50 Music Airplay Charts”, with his hit single, “Number One”, overpowering the number 13th spot, effervescently, vibrant rocker “Sluka”, also defies gravity while soaring beneath the clouds as a cultivated pilot, (Jet type-rated).
That’s not where it ends, in fact it’s only the beginning…..Chris Sluka is also a world accomplished painter, with his artwork being displayed in prestigious art galleries all over the world. He is also an avid distance runner, and a fierce multi-instrumentalist. When creating a song, Sluka writes with an inward, soulful passion that leaves life-long impacts upon the listener.
We had a blast attempting to make a comparison between music and flying, and the dangers they both entail, as well as an intimate perusal of his musical goals, and style.
Chris, how are you today?
If feels like there’s no problem too small that I don’t want to just fly away….
Well then perhaps you best not fly today.
Flying keeps me sane. You’ve seen the videos, the second one, “Verga”? I’m in the plane, and I’m taking off and there’s this dark cloud that looms over me. I take off and go out to the desert, that’s very much how I feel right now….I just want to escape. But eventually I’ll have to land on planet Earth, and deal with these problems. (Laughter).
Most people just get in their cars and take a drive.
Exactly. I go out to the desert in an airplane.
Chris did you ever have a close call in a plane?
Oh, yeah, all the time. When you train people to fly you spend most of your time training them for things that they hopefully won’t encounter. But yeah, I’ve had fires and all kinds of things.
Do you get nervous and panic
You know when those things happen you don’t really get nervous. It’s a very common thing I hear, you just work the problem. Some people don’t get out alive, others walk away and then they start shaking, ” OMG, what just happened to me”. Usually that training kind of takes over. Musicians are like that too I’ve noticed. When I was touring extensively the musicians would always get nervous right before their shows. They were just thinking about how horrible it could be. Once they get out on stage, they kind of find themselves. So I think flying is like that too. A lot of people are afraid of it, terrified of what could happen. When you are actually doing it, you are too busy to be afraid.
Well if you’re on stage the worst thing that can happen is they will throw a tomato at you, but if you are in a plane that’s on fire….
Well part of it’s a mystery too, “that’s not supposed to happen”, then it’s like “ok, we’ve gotta get on the ground”. “If we can get on the ground without dying, that would be nice”. You mentioned tomatoes, that just reminds me of the New York experience. Do you remember CBGB, we use to play there all the time. People would just crucify you if you sucked. But in a good way it makes you really, really good. You had to be or you would be crucified.
So a lots been going on with your music. You’ve been charting all over the place….
Yeah, it keeps going up and up, I keep waiting… I wouldn’t call myself a cynic, I’m more of a realist. I’m just surprised by the airplay and how we keep spreading. I’m also kind of fascinated that it started in Alabama. I think they took my sarcastic song, “Number One”, a little too seriously. That’s ok. I’m just happy that people are listening.
You also have some really cool, excellently produced videos….
We have some really good quality videos, a lot of bands don’t have that. It’s one of those kind of things, there are so many artists out there. There are so many platforms. Everybody says that they’re good, and everybody says “come see my band”….it’s not about being good, it’s about going beyond that. It’s about creating some kind of interest and excitement, so people will tell their friends. I’d like to do festivals because they draw more people and I’m confident that I can win them over.
A lot of people compare you to David Bowie. I myself find you very Bowiesque, what’s your view on that?
I understand why David Bowie’s name comes up. It has to do a lot with the vocal range, and the style, but I do not have that kind of mystique that he has. He was British, I’m American. I would say if anything it’s people that like David Bowie might like this music, but it’s not like I’m trying to be Bowiesque in any way.
Yes, that’s the whole point, you’re not doing it on purpose, but you are reminiscent of Bowie.
Yeah, I don’t have a problem with that, but I don’t ever want anyone to come to a show believing that if you love Bowie, you’re going to love this. I don’t want people to think I’m intentionally doing that. I mean I’m definitely not hip-hop or country. I’ve had people say I’m Goth. They would criticize me, “the guys laughing on stage, how can he be Goth”? I’m not Goth, in any way.
It was your last album, “Gothic Cavalier”
It was the idea of Gothic in the sense of Bohemian Goth, but not Gothic…that old world gothic cobblestone streets, dark and all that other stuff. When people go see a goth band they don’t expect it to sound like “The Cure”, but they expect it to be within a certain realm. For me I think one of my biggest challenges in trying to promote this is how do you describe it other than saying what you just said? You could say it’s Pop-rock, but what the hell does that mean….? I have heard other things that are a bit more contemporary like “Imagine Dragons”, “The Killers” and “Coldplay”….
Yeah those too, for sure. So what else have you been working on since we last spoke?
Most of the focus has been on making sure the band is not only good and tight, but interesting, in terms of what we do. We whittled it down to a three piece. It’s kind of interesting as a three-piece. I’ve been working with triggering samples with the foot switch, so I’m able to do a lot of that kind of stuff, which is cool. I could bring a keyboard in but that just looks weird when I go over to play keyboard. I’ve had an idea of releasing each song with the video. They are really high quality videos with good songs. We have to make them stand out because like I said before, if we had a specific genre like goth, or like rock, or what people call doom metal, …..when you say something like that if your into metal and you hear something like that, doom metal, you would want to check that out. But, what I do isn’t like that. That’s why I understand why people have to get their head around it somehow. That’s why they put out Bowie….once it gets popular then they won’t have to do that. You know The Killers, Coldplay…..now everyone knows who that is, but in the beginning they had to go through something like that as well. So that’s really the ultimate challenge because you just can’t say that it’s good. Everybody says it’s good…i really want to spend the next year raising the profile of this. It doesn’t mean that I’m not still writing. I’ve told you before, I can’t stop, like the voices in my head. I’ve got loads of stuff. Right now in the last two years there have been two albums, 23 songs, with 23 high def videos on blue ray, and the 3D videos haven’t even come out yet. Looks like they will be out in January. I’ve seen three of them and they look so cool. I like the song “Vega”, it could be an unusual single.
All of your songs and videos are unusual.
Good. I’m happy you say that because it’s one of my own little insecurities because I have this horrible, horrible desperation not to suck. I think it comes from my New York experience. I learned very young that it sucks when people are yelling at you ” you and your band suck, get off the stage”. We cannot suck, because I cannot ever experience that again!
A lot of artists suck at singing but they have something else to offer that makes them great. I know many gay, flamboyant, charismatic artists that are held in high esteem because they can work a crowd.
I had an older brother who died of AIDS, and he was very flamboyant. He was obsessed with being famous, so much so that it had an influence on me. But he had zero talent, and yet he wanted to be famous. He even made business cards saying Jeffrey Sluka the famous whatever, and it was black printed on black. You could barely read it. He just thought that was so cool. I told him it was annoying, and I asked him what he was famous for? He felt like talent was secondary, and that fame was the most important thing…..and he was great. He would go to a party and he used to be loud…..
And people loved him.
Yes, they did.
Are you nervous before you perform live?
No…it’s really, really weird. I have this very strong urge to make sure that I’ve done everything that I could, and thinking about what I could be forgetting….it’s kind of like flying. Everything I do is like a pilot. When I get on stage, something changes. There is a part of my personality that doesn’t exist off stage. It comes out and I love that. I’ve heard that from a lot of different people. A lot of people that come see me say, ” who the hell is that”? “That wasn’t you”. In a good way. Off stage it’s the nerdy me and everything else, the scientist, the engineer, the pilot, worrying about details that I can’t do something about. Then on stage I don’t think about anything. The songs take over, I get very emotional in a good way, and I think that resonates with an audience. That’s what I’m told….