“Music can touch the soul:” Slatz talks songwriting and new single ‘Snake Eyes’

“Music… is my passion, my solace, my escape and my connection,” Slatz said in an exclusive interview with Happy Mag.  

Sometimes a duo just works. Like bacon and eggs, salt and pepper, or — as listeners discovered upon the release of Snake Eyes last week — Slatz and J-Figure. 

Armed with a deft grasp on nu metal, razor-sharp lyrics and rapid cadence, the pair unleashed on the recent single and effectively whetted appetites for Slatz’s imminent album. 

Slatz interview 'Snake Eyes'

“​​This track serves as a reflection of [my] internal exploration,” Slatz explained when we sat down with him for a post-release yarn.

Below, the Sydney rocker goes deep on the genesis of his new single, his versatile approach to songwriting, and his long-held belief that “music can touch the soul.”

Catch our full interview with Slatz below, and scroll down to listen to his new single Snake Eyes. 

HAPPY: What’re you up to today?

SLATZ: A bit of rehab (I broke my back & crushed my vertebrae snowboarding in New Zealand in August) and have only just been able to remove my back brace.

I am also filming some content to promote my latest single “Snake Eyes” & working on the PR strategy. Later today I will be recording vocals for a new track I am working on called Unleashed.

The morning kicked off with a productive meeting with a potential collaborator from the US with the potential of working together on a track or two.

In an hour, I have a music mastermind Zoom call scheduled, where I regularly connect with artists from various corners of the globe. We discuss our ongoing projects and share insights on what’s working well in terms of promotions. So, it is jammed packed.

HAPPY: Tell us a little about where you are from?

SLATZ: I am Sydney born & bred. I am lucky enough to live towards the very southern area of Sydney bordering the Royal National Park, so I am right on nature’s doorstep.

I am blessed with easy access to amazing waterways, pristine beaches with great surf, and endless bush tracks with some of the best MTB in Sydney. As I border Sydney & the Illawarra area I am always down the coast surfing and have the best of both worlds.

HAPPY: What’s the music scene like in your neck of the woods?

DEAN: Not what it used to be that’s for sure. I was lucky enough to grow up back when music was thriving, I could go to a local pub and see 4 bands for a $2-$10 cover charge.

We also had so many amazing bands from all over the world come and play in small local venues. I saw Blink 182 at a small local pub with maybe 100 people max, right when they had just released Cheshire Cat. Bands like Goldfinger, Millencollin, Lagwagon, Unwritten law and even the Offspring came through every other week.

Music programs like RAGE & Recovery that showcased Punk, Metal & Hardcore bands were always on TV, and there were also lots of cool little record shops that would recommend good new music to you based on your taste.

Thinking back now, I actually really miss those times. Right now there are a small number of venues closer to the city that support local bands but not much down my way.

Having said that we just had a “Battle of the bands” final at our local. There were 6 bands, all in their teens. The talent and song writing were insane. If this is the calibre of talent coming through, we are in good hands, we just need the venues to support them.

HAPPY: What initially drew you to blend such diverse genres like Hardcore, Metalcore, Trap Metal, Hip-Hop, and Alternative Metal? 

SLATZ: My love for music is incredibly vast, and it has always revolved around what speaks to me on a personal level. I grew up with a diverse array of musical influences, from iconic bands like the Pixies, Nirvana, Pantera, Biohazard, Bodycount, Greenday, Pennywise, NWA, Ice-T, Suicidal Tendencies, and Rage Against the Machine.

My musical journey began with a deep connection to grunge, which shifted towards punk. The energy of hardcore, along with the chugging riffs found in metallic hardcore bands like Biohazard, Terror, Hatebreed, and Madball, always resonated with me. I’m also drawn to industrial sounds, such as Ministry and Nine Inch Nails.

I can’t really put a finger on what appeals to me; it could be the beat of a Dr Dre song, the lyrical story telling of Ice T or Suicidal Tendencies, the duality of more than one vocalists in bands such as Biohazard, Linkin Park, Crazytown, 311, Cypress Hill, or Blink 182, or it could just be a dirty low riff from Korn or the Prodigy’s or Regurgitator’s ability to fuse elements from different genres.

The soundtrack from the movie Judgment Night also played a pivotal role in my love for cross-genre music. The collaborations between rock and hip-hop artists in that soundtrack showcased the immense power of blending different styles to create something truly unique.

Playing just one style of music would just bore me, it would be like painting with only one colour; I prefer to use the entire palette and then bring out the spray paint.

My music often pays homage to the ’90s, and I aim to steer clear of formulaic compositions that follow the standard song structure. So really it is just my love for all styles of music and my aim to keep it interesting & exciting for myself.

HAPPY: Could you tell us about a collaboration experience that particularly stood out to you and how it influenced your music?

SLATZ: Yes, I do love a good collab. I’ve always been aware that my music and song writing skills can only take certain songs so far. As someone with a less melodic voice, creating catchy ’90s-style hooks for choruses has often eluded me.

When I’m working on a track and feel that it needs that extra something, or during the creative process, I think, “You know who would sound great on this part,” I reach out to the artist whose sound aligns with what I have in mind. I don’t randomly choose collaborators; it’s a thoughtful process.

Working with J-Figure from The Weight of Silence has been awesome. His unique ability to capture such versatile vocals between flowing raps, aggressive melodies and brutal screams makes every song a sonic journey.

J-Figure also prefers to rock up and freestyle without any prewritten. Just vibing the song and his mood at the time. In the studio we were just bouncing off each other’s energy and his lyrics fitted perfectly. The finished product “Snake Eyes” speaks for itself

I am currently writing a song with Billy Grazieadei (Biohazrd) and this has been such an incredible learning experience watching an absolute legend at work, dissecting each part and spending time to enure each section of the song is as powerful as the last.

I tend to be more off the cuff and trust what comes out, where Billy is much more methodical and spends time on melody and trying to bring the art from deep within.

Out of all the collabs I have done, there has only been one negative experience and unfortunately it was with a very big artist who has an amazing voice.

I was so pumped on the feature and was really looking forward to getting their part back. But it turned out to be unusable. They were very obviously drunk and nearly incoherent.

The words were not just unrecognisable, they were out of key, way out of time and none of the tracks actually lined up with each other. The feature went straight into the bin & I reached out to another artist who absolutely crushed the section. So all worked out in the end.

HAPPY: Could you elaborate on the personal experiences or inspirations that led to the creation of Snake Eyes

SLATZ: Like many individuals, I’ve battled with the weight of depression and anxiety for many years. However, I was determined not to just mask these inner struggles but to confront them head-on, diving into their root causes.

I sought guidance from incredible mentors and harnessed a combination of techniques that allowed me to venture deep within my own mind.

“Snake Eyes” encapsulates this journey, detailing my experiences and challenges I faced whilst navigating my journey of self-discovery.

This track serves as a reflection of the internal exploration and the battles I fought against the demons that resided within. My intentions throughout this creative process were rooted in a genuine desire for healing and growth.

I am immensely grateful that I had the opportunity to confront these inner struggles, quite literally facing my demons. I am now a much stronger, and happier version of myself, one who now concentrates on all the positive aspects life has to offer. 

HAPPY: Could you share more about how the partnership with J-Figure came to be and what it was like working together in the studio?

SLATZ: I was actually driving down the coast for a surf and listening to some of my demos when what would become “Snake Eyes” came on. I started freestyling some vocals and then it hit me that J-Figure would be the perfect compliment to the track.

I reached out and sent him the track, then went for a surf (which was pumping by the way).Once I came back in there was a voice message from J-Figure who was pumped on the track and keen to jump on it.

We set up a time to hook up in the studio, and once there I explained the background of the song and where my head was at with my lyrics.

As I said previously, J-Figure prefers to rock up and freestyle without any prewrittens, just vibing off the song and his mood at the time. J-Fig absolutely nailed my intentions for the song and brought so much energy and emotion to the track.

It was all recorded in a single session and between takes we were just laughing and cracking jokes. A great experience to work with such a talented artist.

HAPPY: Your music is described as a journey through the human experience. Are there specific emotions or experiences you hope your listeners will connect with when they hear your songs?

SLATZ: I tend to embrace a positive outlook on life and aim to uplift others rather than tear them down. Many of my compositions resonate with this rather optimistic theme.

Through my lyrics I hope to enable listeners to connect with the wide range of emotions and situations conveyed in my songs. However, I also delve into the deeper, more complex emotions and struggles that characterise life.

In recent years, a sense of awakening has stirred within me, leading to moments of confusion. I’ve observed friends and family turn against one another due to differing opinions.

I’ve witnessed the media disseminate narratives that align with a specific agenda, and social media platforms censoring individuals with alternative viewpoints.

This overall tension in the world has left me feeling disconnected and numb. My songwriting process is often spontaneous; I either freestyle into the microphone or begin writing without predetermined ideas.

Upon reflecting on my lyrics, I’ve realised that many of my songs question the current state of society and ponder the ways we can contribute to positive change.

The nature of my music creation is influenced by my current mood and the thoughts occupying my mind at the time. Consequently, the resulting songs can vary from uplifting to deeply emotional. For me, music is a conduit for human connection, and I appreciate the opportunity to nurture that connection through my songs.

HAPPY: Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming album and what listeners can expect in terms of themes and musical diversity?

SLATZ: I currently have 24 songs written, all in various stages of recording. My approach is to release these songs gradually, aiming to create momentum and broaden my reach within the fanbase.

There might also be a few surprise releases interspersed throughout this journey. The album, when complete, will be a compilation of both previously released singles and a set of unreleased tracks.

I have a versatile musical approach, driven by the desire to avoid artistic monotony. This means I create music based on my current emotional and creative impulses.

Sometimes, it leads me to write straight out hardcore or punk tracks, while at other times, I delve into hybrid compositions that blend different styles. 

Listeners can expect a diverse range of songs and styles including many tracks with features from big global artists. The tracks range from the gritty, old-school vibes of New York Hardcore to a more contemporary take on metallic hardcore and metalcore.

Additionally, the album will feature darker elements of trap metal, infused with synths and 808 beats. Lyrically, I explore a wide spectrum of themes, from personal experiences to commentary on the current societal landscape.

What makes this album even more intriguing is the inclusion of a surprising cover song from an iconic Australian music legend. I have a new single called Positive Hardcore featuring Tanner Wayne from In Flames on drums to be released in November which will also be on the album.

Slatz single 'Snake Eyes'

HAPPY: Looking ahead, what are some of your long-term goals or aspirations for your music career? Is there a particular message or impact you hope to leave with your audience through your music?

SLATZ: In terms of my goals in music, it is simply to continue to write, expand my catalogue and explore writing in different styles.

I have a list of artists that I would love to work with in the future and will continue to reach out to them for collaborations and features. Playing a large festival is also definitely on my list of goals, as is supporting Biohazard on a tour.

In terms of what message or impact I hope to leave with my audience: I would like to reconnect with people through music, to share my experiences both positive and negative and show that what you may be going through, that others have also experienced similar.

I grew up listening to music at every opportunity, music was and still is my passion, my solace, my escape and my connection. With the advent of social media people’s attention is now focused on a different form of media, but music can touch the soul.

I would also like to inspire people to push themselves to reach their goals and to also help others reach theirs. Also to encourage people to ask questions, be curious and try to look at situations from different angles to increase your own perspective.

HAPPY: Lastly, what makes you happy?

SLATZ: FAMILY; first & foremost. I love hanging out with my wife & kids, surfing, playing music & going to concerts & festivals. Sharing my music passion with my kids is an amazing experience.

Surfing is another major passion of mine that allows me to fully live in the moment surrounded by amazing scenery, friends and laughter. Being creative; whether that’s music, art or shaping boards, I really like to get in flow state and just create.

Day to day happiness: I like to think that life is about having as many amazing experiences as possible. Travel, play music, laugh, dance, mosh, go hard, have a cuddle, smile & be grateful we are alive.

Happiness is about enjoying all the small moments that make up your day/week.