A tribe of his own: Charlie Slick

A tribe of his own: Charlie Slick

The story goes like this: A tribe of Indians, given supernatural powers to travel through time, decides to travel into the future to escape invading white men. But something goes wrong and one of the Indians winds up stuck in the modern day, alone. “The Indian in the end of the story creates a new tribe of friends to live in an adjusted way,” Charlie Slick says. “Not to live the way everyone else is living, and not to live the way they did in the past.”

Slick’s new album, A Farout Indian, could well be named after himself. Drawn to the concept of “Indians” by his own quarter-Indian heritage (he says he never heard the term “native American” growing up), the 28-year-old Ann Arbor electro-pop showman just spent four months recording the album in his own home. It’s the first of his six records that hasn’t been recorded in anything resembling a traditional studio. “It was really nice, because I had a lot of time to be really creative and try different stuff out,” Slick says. “In the past, I’d been worried about spending a lot of money and paying someone else.”

Hanging out in Slick’s upper half of a West Ann Arbor duplex, it’s hard to imagine any use for the space except making music. In one corner of the room, an industrial-style shelving unit holds the many copies of A Farout Indian and Slick’s other records. Across from it is Slick’s desk—cobbled together from an old door, crates, and other scrap wood—which houses the computer, Mac Mini, and recording interface he used to make the new record. And there are plants everywhere. Slick says he’s developed an affinity for them since he started working at Downtown Home And Garden. “I love having tons of plants around me,” he says. “I was thinking about making this album in the basement, and I’m glad I didn’t.”

Of course, Slick’s pad also has plenty of instruments scattered about; there are synths, a guitar, and a pair of conga drums. Although Slick plays live with his two-woman backing band, Thunda Clap, they don’t put in much of an appearance on A Farout Indian. “I kinda Princed it,” Slick says. “All the music is me, and they sing on it.” Slick even designed a special modified guitar, named “The Jerk,” for the new album’s more guitar-driven tunes. In the style of a 12-string guitar, the Jerk is strung with two Es an octave apart, then two As, and another two Es. Whether playing his own instruments or designing new ones, Slick seems to prize a very high level of personal control over his work. “I definitely need to be mostly alone,” he says. “I like having total creative control.”

Slick’s penchant for doing things his way isn’t just limited to his music. While his wild, fluid dance moves are known for turning his shows into dancefloor parties, Slick himself isn’t much of a partier. “I’m really square,” he says. “I don’t drink that much. I used to not drink at all. I don’t do drugs. I like to have a good time and I like to dance, but I don’t party in the traditional sense.” Slick chalks this up to his mother, whom he describes as a stoner and an alcoholic; she raised him until he was 12. “I did not have a good relationship with her,” Slick says. “I grew up with, like, a really adverse view towards drinking and drugs and stuff, because I didn’t want to be my mother. I got so shocked with it when I was a kid that I never really want to have that much to do with it.”

Slick has prepared for the official release of A Farout Indian by dropping $4000 of his own cash on pressing a thousand copies of the LP. He readily admits that he’s “broke,” but at least he’s having his kind of “Funn.” That’s not a typo; it’s the title of the first track off the new record. Slick says the tune is an “answer song” to the Iggy Pop classic, “Funtime.” “The Iggy Pop ‘fun’ is really kind of like freewheeling, running around. It’s kind of like we’re out, it’s night, it’s wild, we’re having a good time,” Slick says. “My ‘Funn’ is different. My ‘Funn’ is like the fun you get when you work really hard, but it’s something you really care about. It’s like the satisfaction fun. Like if you have a job you really love, and you work really hard at it, it’s not really work, it’s fun.”

Slick’s record release show for A Farout Indian is Nov. 18 at Woodruff’s.

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