Many of techno’s great innovators and pioneers were born in symbolic towns and cities that lie adjacent to the genre’s ethos, mantras and history. Places like Detroit, Berlin, Manchester and Amsterdam are home to many of techno’s trailblazers. Luke Slater on the other hand, hailed from Sussex originally, a county that’s known for its bonfires and art festival, which is most definitely a far cry from Detroit or Berlin.
At 16 Luke left school and moved to london with no plan, but an ambition to make music, however way he could possibly do it. Luke worked a job, cleaning planes to make money, to get by. This seems pretty ironic as Luke now spends a sizeable amount of his time travelling on planes as a touring DJ. It was humble beginnings for Slater, making some of the most iconic techno records of all time with borrowed equipment in friends houses, a long-haul from the beautifully treated studios, with the slickest of equipment that is on offer to Luke now.
Fast forward to 2021 Luke Slater aka Planetary Assault Systems has just released his 7th original studio under his P.A.S. moniker. His previous studio album leaned heavily on ambient with experimental sounds and textures. This time Luke arrives back to our sound systems with a dance-floor driven collection of eleven of Slaters finest works. 26 years on from the initiation of Slater’s, Planetary Assault Systems alias and the UK electronic music pioneer is still fabricating the sounds of the future to the masses.
The release of Arc Angel in 2016 marked your last original album under Planetary Assault Systems, why did feel right now was the right time to release your next LP?
In a way it was a feeling of back to the roots, the core of everything. I missed playing when clubs and events were closed. I had a lot of drive to celebrate events opening and felt a lot of people needed the same. I wanted it to shout GO!
Staying on Arc Angel for a moment, it had a lot more ambient and melodic tones, whereas Sky Scrapper seems a lot more functional and club ready. What pushed you towards a more dance floor driven record?
I think I always write in reflection of what I feel around me, what’s going on. Planetary, when I started the concept back in 1994 now, was purely aimed at making records I could play out in my DJ sets. That was its main purpose. Over the years I took it to the left and right concept wise depending if it felt right. Arc Angel for example was in a way a concept in itself dealing with melody but built around the PAS rhythms I like. I’m so glad that album exists in that time.
The LP seems a lot more jacking and percussion driven than past P.A.S releases, was this a conscious decision based on the music that’s being pushed out at the moment or was this a more internal vision from yourself?
You know I have a big history in making records and sometimes I look back to go forward. Steal ideas I did before and re-do things, dip into the bag of before. After the Straight Shooting release, the other year on Mote-Evolver ,one track people grabbed like mad was ‘Give It Up’. That was built around a 909 with a lot of Spacestation Ø processing. I continued that idea into Sky Scraping .“Say It Loud” being the first result.
‘Say It Loud’ was one of the biggest techno anthems of 2021, was the reception a bit strange with the absence of clubs for a large part of the year?
Not really, I guess like me people, the crowd people, the dj’s, picked up on the “yes, we want to be here!” vibe which for me the track conjures up. That was certainly what I was feeling when I wrote it. And that’s the best you can ever do.
The album was written from various P.A.S. studio sessions but you also used components from P.A.S. live shows, did you feel the excerpts gave the LP a more raw dance floor feel in a time where we couldn’t draw this kind of inspiration?
Well when I do the live show I’m always trying out this and that, it was more of a case I had time to delve into the live show and pick parts I’d probably wanted to use for a while. I like raw as long as it makes sense.
How did the break from touring affect you mentally?
First two months were actually like a very much needed break, time to reflect and do things you never had time to, which I did, and enjoyed. It was like a forced early retirement. I thought things would be back to the old way that autumn. When that didn’t happen I got very depressed, so I started working on different projects relative to the moment we were in, which was lockdown basically. I collaborated with Surgeon, Tom Moth, Speedy J, Lady Starlight, KMRU on the Dialogue experimental video/audio release on Ostguton. I gladly took part in any Zoom talk, and a great live sync jam with Speedy J, studio to studio. I worked on remixes, teamed up with my long time friend and colleague Sie Medway-smith to open Spacestation Ø to the world. I worked on the 7th plain Live show. I missed the social aspect of being on the road more and more, but also valued the time I had with the family… Later on, I felt an intense need to write a new PAS album. That’s how I coped mentally, through doing stuff, writing and talking.
Have you noticed any significant changes in the industry as we begin to return to work?
All I know so far is the crowds are really enthusiastic to celebrate in clubs and events. Almost like it was in the beginning. Kind of like a welcome home. I love it!
Rene Wise’s release on Mote-Evolver was one of my favourites of the year. Rene and some other younger artists have really been pushing the genre forward as of late. How do you feel about the state of techno going forward?
Rene’s got the groove, I heard that as soon as he sent me some tracks. Before the pandemic when we did his first release. It’s actually quite rare to hear demos that you just think “yup that’s got that hidden vibe, no questions ” that you feel rather than hear. I tend to look out for that with the label . He’s very prolific too.
It’s been 28 years since the inception of your P.A.S. monarch. In a time of great technological advancement, how do you feel about technologies impact on society?
Technology is inevitable. Advancement and change are inevitable. Regression Only ever works as a niche or a speciality of a false safe space of the past. In reality, most of those false safe spaces were not safe, were in the middle of change or advancement, were up against a different set of problems. But as humans we tend to find change disrupts our perceived sense of security, which we all want. In the early days of steam, critics came up with all kinds of health scare stories around travelling over 50mph on a train, especially for women. Bell attributes this kind of reaction in part to the “moral panic” that a society experiences when particularly revelatory technological advances show up, specifically ones which interfere with or alter our relationships with time, space, and each other. Technology will change and has, but writing a track or playing a set or feeling music should come from being human and processing our situation whatever it is into this art. I guard and savour this knowledge like gold.
I was listening to an interview with Mike Banks recently and he stressed that most great music comes from a place of pressure, whether that be societal or more personal pressures. Can you somewhat relate to this and do you think the past 18 months may result in a revitalisation in creativity within techno?
Few artists have had careers that span as long as your 29 years releasing records. How do you keep reinventing yourself and has it always felt innate ?
I’ve never intended to leave this creative world, to stop, its saved my life, more than once. It’s also wrecked it a couple of times. But when all is said and done, I just like doing what I do. I’m a lifer.