singer/songwriter/guitarist JENNY SLATER
Interview by Robert Urban for GAY GUITARISTS WORLDWIDE
Originally from Liverpool, Jenny Slater has played in various types of bands, duos, trios etc, performing in venues all over the country and on the continent since the age of 15. She has also appeared on local radio and regional television programmes in North West England as well as playing at the First International Beatles Festival in Liverpool.
Jenny is also a post-op heterosexual transwoman who transitioned nearly twenty years ago and, after overcoming the obvious hurdles along the way, got back on the road some years back. She then played in various bands often taking on the role of lead vocals but in recent years has played covers up and down the country as a solo act.
"When I came across Jenny's well-crafted rock songs on her myspace page - it was love at first hearing. Jenny claims The Yardbirds as one of her fav bands - and one can hear the charming influence of vintage Eric Clapton, George Harrison, late 60s Brit Invasion and a dash of what we used to call "Carnaby Street" in her sound. Jenny is additionally gifted with a simply lovely pop singing voice". - Robert Urban, URBAN PRODUCTIONS, NYC
- What brand/model/year instrument(s) do you record and play out with?
I use a Squire Stratocaster. I couldnít afford a Fender at the time but one day Iíll get around to getting one. Although to be honest, Iíve gotten used to the squire now. Iím not keen on humbucker type guitars (Les Paul, SG etc).
Any special/favorite amps/instrument tones/effects/approaches/techniques you've used/discovered in recording and/or performance that you really like?
Guitar wise, Iíd love to own a Rickenbaker 12-string. Amp wise, Iím not that bothered as long as it works. I currently use an old H+H solid-state amp, had it for years. My latest achievement was playing drums for a band in Liverpool last year; it was my first time and I was a virgin again- ha ha ha.
- Who are your main influences as an instrumentalist? Which artists? Which bands? Instrumentalist? Which artists/bands were your favorites in your youth?
One of the main bands I listened to as a teenager, were The Yardbirds. Others included Bowie, Magazine, Iggy Pop, Souxsie and The Banshees and The Cure.
But I also listen to and play a lot of classical and jazz as well. Vladimer Horowitz, Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarrett, Art Tatum. I'm also a huge Sinatra fan. Even though my music is not at all related to his, my performing style has been greatly influenced by him. Right now, I'm listening to John Mayer a lot at the moment, as well as the recent Springsteen record.
- Tell fans about your luv for your particular style of music, as opposed to other styles - how it became your favorite style, etc.I donít think Iíve really settled on a style yet, I just try stuff out and hope it works. Being a clever-arse, and multi-instrumentalist, Iím like a kid in a sweetshop (candy store to you yanks). I regard my style as ĎAlternative Popí, I suppose. Iím not working to any great scheme or master-plan, I just like making music.
- Do you play/compose/record only your own original music? Do you do any other work in music - e.g. teaching, recording session work, hired gun, producing, etc? Does your playing appear on recordings of any other artists?
Iíve been doing a lot of covers work in recent years. Not just for the money, but as a challenge to do it as a solo artiste. Now I have decided to give that a break and work on original stuff (if only for my own sense of achievement and pleasure).
- Is there a particular favorite solo or part you played on a recording, or a certain piece of composed music you wrote, that you feel represents your finest work?
That depends on what day you ask me. Off the cuff, Iíd say the ĎClapton-esqueí solo on my song ĎZappa The Catí. Itís simple but I think itís also effective.
Any special thoughts on your instrument, and what it's meant to you in your life?
ErmÖ itís a guitar, I donít intent taking it to bed with me and it doesnít have a name. Sorry people. Sometimes though, Iíve often cursed being a musician because itís hard to listen to anything without hearing all the component parts instead of hearing it like regular folks.
Can you relate any special feelings or experiences about being a transgendered player in the mostly straight music world... especially regarding your formative/learning years on your instrument?
Iíve had a lot of doors slammed in my face over the years, sadly even in some gay environments (there was no GBLT 20 yrs ago in Liverpool ≠ only G and L). Iím not too keen on Ďcock rockí. Even when I was at school I hated stuff like Status Quo and Chuck Berry because it felt so macho (at least The Yardbirds etc.. were a bit arty). Donít get me wrong, I respect that kind of music and the historical significance but it just represented a lot of things a disliked back then.- For an openly "out" glbt player - how does the overall music scene differ today from years ago?
Iíd like to think things have changed, but Iím still wary. The only transgender entertainers you seem to get at Gay Pride events are drag queens. Again, nothing against drag queens (those guys put in a lot of work) but I do often think that the gay community treats us as the Ďmad relativeí that has to be locked in the attic when visitors call around.
- How is the overall music scene in your locale?
Crap really. Itís either karaoke pubs with the occasional tribute band or the usual rock Ďn roll pubs with crap acts being cheered-on by their friends. I prefer real audiences that you have to win over. If youíre going to just play in front of your mates, then have house party. At least the entrance money could pay for some booze and not go into the pocket of some small time Ďpromoterí.
- Any advice for young, upcoming transgendered players?
Do what you do as well as you can, improve on it then be prepared to tell people to f*ck off as you may also have to learn to be self-reliant. Things are changing slowly; this interview is good proof of that. Also, try not to be too introspective. At some point some poor sod has to listen to your material and probably wonít enjoy being bummed out by a ďWhoa is me, Iím trapped in the wrong bodyĒ song. By all means get your message across but try to do it in an innovative way and not a personal rant.
- What are your current and future musical projects?
Iím currently finishing off my first CD of original stuff (itís called Zodiac as it has 12 songs on it ≠ doh!) and getting involved with a trans-band called The Treacles. Iíve also been talking to other trans musicians in the UK but distance might prove a problem.
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