Song Deconstructed: ‘State Of Mind’ by Slovo
Faithless guitarist and producer Dave Randall talks us through the politically charged electronic-pop track by his South London collective Slovo
Slovo is a South London-based collective founded by former Faithless guitarist and producer Dave Randall. He has contributed to multi-million selling albums by Dido, and worked with Sinead O’Connor, Emiliana Torrini and many others. Randall has also been involved in a number of political campaigns and is the author of the book Sound System: The Political Power of Music.
In the summer of 2019, he met a kindred spirit, the Italian singer Barbarella (Barbara Pugliese of Barbarella’s Bang Bang) at a pub in Brixton. They decided it was time to make new music for a troubled and polarised world. The resulting album Bread & Butterflies is due for release this summer and State Of Mind is the lead single out now.
“State Of Mind is a message of hope, love and solidarity during these deeply troubling times,” explains Randall. “It features Barbarella and experimental hip hop artist Mike Ladd. All proceeds from sales or streaming of this song will go to the homeless charity The Brixton Soup Kitchen.”
In his own words, Slovo’s founder tells us more about the track’s genesis, development and production…
The theme that runs through many of the songs I write for the Slovo project is politics – my belief that, whether we like it or not, our lives are shaped by the political struggles that have gone before and by those being waged now. State Of Mind is no exception. It was written towards the end of last year when it became clear to me that the right-wing Conservative government here in the UK would win another election victory.
This would be a deeply bitter blow for millions of progressive people, in particular the young, who believe we need a different world where the needs of people and the planet are put before big business and private profit. I felt I needed to write a song that encouraged people to never give up. By chance, that same spirit feels fitting now, as we all go through the strange trauma of isolation and fear brought about by COVID-19.
I suppose the most interesting moment lyrically in the song, is my adaptation of the traditional poem about the goose and the common, recited by my friend, the experimental hip-hop artist Mike Ladd. I think that the poem dates back to the late 1700s when the ‘enclosure acts’ were forcing people off the commons and into work for landlords or the owners of the new factories. This theft of the commons was the foundation of the economic power of the ruling class, who have been exploiting us ever since. As the poem concludes: “Geese will still a common lack, ‘til we go and steal it back.”
In some senses, State Of Mind is one of the most musically conventional tracks on the album. It is a 138bpm dance tune with a long build and (hopefully) euphoric four-to-the-floor dance section. That kind of classic, uncomplicated arrangement felt appropriate for conveying the message of the song. Barbarella’s distinctive voice and Mike Ladd’s recital of the poem help to lift the song beyond the predictable. Hopefully, the lyrics and the detailed musical layering do too.
In The Studio
Myself and my main engineer and friend Andy Marlow used Logic with various tasty plug-ins and a few nice bits of outboard gear for this tune. I used an AKG 414 for Barbarella’s vocals and my trusty 1976 Telecaster Custom for the guitar parts. I played the bass on a new Sire Marcus Miller bass that seems to record really nicely. All simple stuff – the way we like it.
We never expected to release this as the first single from the forthcoming Slovo album. Initially, we wanted to go with something more musically experimental, edgy and overtly political. But when COVID-19 started to take hold we decided that the priority was to try to lift people up and express some hope. This is our message of solidarity and love. Oh, and any profits from sales or streaming go to our local homeless charity The Brixton Soup Kitchen.
State Of Mind is out now. For more information, take a look at slovo.co.uk