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JD Slater: Hard Tracks   by OUT Editors with J.D. Slater.

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You may have heard J.D. Slater's music and not even noticed. Maybe you were too busy watching the visuals and working the hand puppet. If you've ever wondered what type of guy makes all those fucktracks, now's your chance to get all the goods. In an exclusive OUT interview, gay porn's most famous sound tracker J.D. Slater lets us in on the dirty secrets.


OutPersonals: What would you say are the main rules for writing porn scores? Could you talk to us a little about the process for doing porn music?

JD SLATER: The main rule for writing a porn score is to remember what you are writing for.T he soundtrack is not the main event, the sex is and it should not distract the viewer from the action. You have to be a compliment to the director's vision, an enhancement to the feel of the overall production, you are the invisible element that completes visual.

Now what that means varies from project to project, on something like Passport to Paradise where we had a very complex score my job was to create both an authentic Latin feel by using native instruments and traditional song modes and to act as an emotional response to the action drawing the viewer closer to the performers. For The Shaft and The Red and the Black I chose sounds that were mysterious and hard to identify to keep the audience off balance and to pump up the dark dreamlike quality of those titles. Sometimes my job is to fill the emptiness betweens grunts and groans, silence can occasionally slow down the perceived pacing of a scene and at those times you keep it dead simple just providing a beat to help drive things forward.

My process changes from film to film depending on the complexity of the compositions but it always starts with me staring at my computer for a couple of days till the moment of inspiration hits. That inspiration can be anything from the sound of machines and cars from the street to a melody that creeps into my mind while daydreaming. Most of the big scores tend to wash over me like a wave with one piece rapidly following another and I just try to keep up the flow. I go into a fugue state and I channel the music from my subconscious, if I stop to intellectualize at those moments I lose the organic tide of the total piece so I just write without thinking. Many times at the end I am totally surprised with what has come out.

OutPersonals: Do you view the footage before/while/after you compose?

SLATER: I watch some footage from each scene to get an overall feel for the mood, pacing and energy but after that I let the scene form in my head. I generally don't have the luxury of seeing a finished edit before writing so I create the movie I want to see in my head and write to that.

OutPersonals: Do you also cut and edit the music, or do you turn in something and let engineers and producers do that?

SLATER: Generally, after I am done, the music is turned over to the editors with just some basic notes as to what I think should go where. My stuff is pretty self explanatory and lends itself to easy mixing with the visuals. I also enjoy seeing how other people interpret my stuff.

OutPersonals: Does scoring a DVD go easier/faster when you find the guys or the action hot? Do you have to be turned on by a film at some point to write a really good soundtrack?

SLATER: Some movies have a more distinct feel than others like Titan's Gorge, Chi Chi's Conquered, or All Worlds' Zoot Suit, and with those I am helping to finish off the overall personality of the piece and they tend to write themselves once I get going. Videos like those, or our own upcoming Arabesque, help keep the whole process exciting for me. I like the challenge of writing in different genres. Those pieces also generally require the bigger more complex compositions so you can really sink your teeth into them.

OutPersonals: What personal work and lifestyle habits do you have when you are working on a score? Are you obsessive?

SLATER: When I'm writing I tend to shut out the rest of the world, the soundtrack becomes my singular point of focus. It's not unusual for me to write for 15 hours straight sleep for 6 then get up and hit it again. I tend to chain smoke, pacing for hours in front of my system; I have all my food delivered; I won't answer e-mail or the phone, and no-one sees me for days, so I guess you could call that obsessive. I rarely have time to let pieces sit and germinate, but when I go to make a CD I go back to pieces that really stood out for me and then I get to put on all the finishing touches that make them shine.

OutPersonals: Have you ever had disagreements with the directors or editors where you thought one thing for the music and they thought another?

SLATER: No actually I always seem to be on the same page as those I am working with. I'm lucky because in general they give me a lot of leeway in my work. Some companies have actually waited till I have finished the score and then edit to it. It helps that I have been lucky enough to repeatedly work with the best editors in the industry who have all done wondrous things with what I have handed them.

Working with Chris as closely as I have has made writing for his projects purely instinct at this point. Now when I hand in a soundtrack Chris doesn't listen to it till he is actually laying it in cause he knows it will automatically fit.

OutPersonals: What makes this collaboration between you and Chris Ward work?

SLATER: From the moment that Chris and I met we had an instant respect and rapport with each other that is quite unique. He is the most talented artists that I have ever collaborated with and is the most supportive. Over the last 6 years we have gotten to know each other personally and artistically on an intimate level that has brought out the best in both of us. We often finish each other's sentences and on set we communicate on such a deep psychic level that language often gives way to a series grunts and hand gestures. Both our directing styles and sense of esthetics compliment each other while remaining individual and that is very rare. Chris's encouragement musically has pushed me to heights that I had no idea I could reach and as a director I have been able to make movies I have wanted to for years. But the one thing that makes it work above everything else is that we really enjoy working with each other...sometimes this industry is fabulous and sometimes its a war zone but in either case, trust me when I say Chris Ward is the guy you want to be hangin' with. We have become very much like family to each other -- wacky, crazed, dysfunctional family, but family none the less. The entire RSS company operates as whole entity and I could not imagine my life without them.

OutPersonals: What are some of the favorite scores (in terms of how the whole turned out) that you've written and why? What were some of your favorite films to score in terms of their being fun to write for, and why?

SLATER: The Sexus, Nexus and Plexus trilogy was great cause I got to spread a series of ideas across 3 films over a 2 year period thus letting all the musical themes mature in a way that I don't normally have an opportunity to. Raiders of the Lost Arse was probably the most challenging, I had never done any serious orchestration up until then and having to combine traditional western instruments with authentic middle eastern ones was both exhilarating and scary, but Chris kept telling me that I could do it. The project took me over 5 months but when it was done I had a whole new sense of confidence and a much wider view of what I could do. Conversely, Bakersfield Station for Joe Gage/TITAN was much simpler instrumentation but it had to have a completely organic feel to it to capture what Joe was looking for. It was also going full circle for me because Joe was the person who brought me to video work to begin with so that piece has a great sentimental value to me. Chi Chi La Rue's Greed is another favorite of mine. The compositions just seemed to flow out of me on almost an unconscious level; I wrote over 2 hours of music in just about 3 days and each piece was a total surprise to me. I liked that one so much that it became the first disc in my Unrepentant 2-disc set. The heavy Latin feel of Passport to Paradise with its intense reliance on classical Spanish guitar was also an amazing experience. I don't often get to write anything that intricate or romantic so for many people it showed a whole new side to my music.

OutPersonals: Your musical background was influenced by New York punk, but you'd also written an off-Broadway musical. Musicals seem very conforming, where punk is all about non-conforming. How is it you're musically comfortable in both worlds?

SLATER: Both musical worlds had their formats and restrictions but ultimately it was about writing songs that you hoped would move people so I never felt any kind of conflict. Certainly writing for a punk band during the early days of the scene had a more immediate rush to it. You have to realize that I was there as the whole thing took shape, my band played with BLONDIE and TALKING HEADS when they first hit the scene. Hell, we shared the bill with TALKING HEADS on their first NY gig at CBGB's. Lenny Kaye of the PATTI SMITH group used to come up and jam with us, everyone was just discovering themselves and defining the genre. Meanwhile putting my musical together gave me the opportunity to work with an amazing group of singers, musicians and collaborators that was a hugely educational and satisfying experience.

OutPersonals: Would you consider writing for stage again, or are you focused on film?

SLATER: If the opportunity came up I would consider it, my music has been used by a couple of dance companies but all in all I am more focused on film work. Writing for the stage is a very long and drawn out process and sometimes it is years before you see the project come to fruition, I prefer working on things that have a more defined gestation period, its sort of like having musical ADD.

OutPersonals: Listening to your soundtracks, I'd have thought you came from being a club DJ, someone into trance and dance music. Do you ever DJ?

SLATER: I used to occasionally DJ for parties or events and I am a child of the early club scene days but my schedule has been so full for the last several years that what few moments I get free I try to spend in more subdued settings.

OutPersonals: How did you get to this particular soundmaking?

SLATER: With the advent of loop-based music programs my entire musical palette exploded. Suddenly I could have access to every instrument in the world. My whole concept of sound and structure evolved with the technology.

OutPersonals: Is it all about sampling? Do you have favorite samples or sources or do you create sounds from scratch?

SLATER: Sampling has opened up one's options but if you don't have a sense of composition and pacing what you write will still sound like shit. As far as where the loops come from its about 50/50 from scratch and from commercial sources, but generally I do a lot of futzing with the pre-packaged loops also.

OutPersonals: When you're not writing sound for Raging Stallion, what are you doing?

SLATER: Directing movies for Raging Stallion, working on promotion of a Raging Stallion product, or volunteering at the Raging Stallion retirement home for toasted porn stars, the Centurion Muscle sports camp, or the Monster Bang home for wayward men.

OutPersonals: And what music do you make for purely recreational purposes?

SLATER: Well that's the beauty in what I write; it is also for my recreational use, so I kill 2 birds with one stone.

OutPersonals: You say you want to do some mainstream projects. Is this mostly about visibility and profitability or do you anticipate more freedom, versatility or creativity in other media?

SLATER: The visibility and profitability factors would be nice but on projects like that you loose a lot of freedom and you can only be as creative or versatile as they producers see fit. The job is, after all, to complement someone else's vision.

OutPersonals: What kind of mainstream film project do you see yourself being the perfect soundtrack writer for? What's your dream project?

SLATER: What I think I'm best suited for would be to score movies for Clive Barker or Michael Mann. Their style and subject matter lends itself to the sort of dark and ominous music I'm best known for. I would also like to do more work for television. My songs have appeared in shows on Bravo and the BBC. My dream project would be probably a sci-fi epic like Dune or Bladerunner, something either set in the future or another world where I could mix all the genres I write in to create a piece of wild fusion.

OutPersonals: Do you feel the atmosphere toward both porn and gayness in the film production community is growing freer in the same way? Is there a pressure, with things tending rightward, to hide your gay porn credits? Or how do you anticipate your long career in gay porn will affect your mainstream intentions?

SLATER: Well it's not like anyone pays that close attention to who composes soundtracks, so unless the production company publicized my background, I doubt anyone would care. I have never tried to hide my background in the industry; it would be futile at this point anyway. I discovered early on that if you don't play along no-one can hold anything over you. My work speaks for itself and that's the only thing I hold up to be judged. That rightwing crap only wins if you buy into it......As far as that last question goes I never anticipated having this long a career. Where it goes next is anybody's guess. I am starting work on a pair of books so apparently I still have something to say.

OutPersonals: In the early 90s you were diagnosed with three life-threatening illnesses and you seem to have dropped out of the action. And you'd been multi-tasking all over the industryup till then. Was this all about convalescing and getting your health together? What were you doing musically during this time?

SLATER: It was a very long period of recovery, there was a long stretch where, due to a severe seizure disorder, I couldn't walk or talk, so taking on any projects wasn't an option. I was told repeatedly that I didn't stand a chance of surviving, which, besides being very depressing, caused the loss of function to be even more maddening. I don't think until then I had really taken life seriously...I had taken all the gifts and talents I'd been given for granted, and it wasn't till I thought they would be gone forever that I really understood what I wanted to create and accomplish. The road back was very much one step at a time, you have to be able to function before you can fly.

Eventually, thanks to a very devoted group of friends, I was able to slowly make it back to work. My first projects were produced by my lover at the time Dan Anderson. He gave me the strength and will to come back to life, an amazingly patient man. He stuck by me and all my personal crap till I was up and directing again. It was also Dan who first got me into computers as a way of composing; he still builds all the systems I work on (even though we broke up 7 years ago).The piece of software that I wrote Filling Your Silence on was a present from him. The songs on that CD were my first attempt at serious composing in years and between recording, mixing, and re-mixing it took about a year to finish, and it was during that time that I really started to fine tune my songwriting.

OutPersonals: How have you managed to live with or beat these illnesses?

SLATER: More than anything else my survival has been dependent on my sense of humor and the love and energy of my friends. Quite honestly I should have died years ago; according to medical science I should have never made 40, so I find very funny that at 50 I've never felt better and am putting out more product to a wider audience than when I was 30. I am convinced God has a very ironic sense of humor, and I have just been lucky enough to be one of his better punchlines. It has been an extraordinary ride, one that no-one could have planned, I wake every day wondering what's around the next bend and that keeps me going on.

OutPersonals: Now you say you've got not one but 4 new CDs coming out. Could you tell us a little about them? Will we recognize your style?

SLATER: This Years CD releases really show my stylistic evolution through a number of genre's. The first two (released spring 05) are a sort of yin and yang set, meant to cover the full spectrum of moods you experience during sex. Harder kicks it right out of the gate with heavy hip -hop, house and then Linkin Park like rock .Its sleazy backbeats and balls out guitar as it winds through it six numbers. Deeper covers the more ethereal and eclectic, combining several different ethnic flavours, jazz and tribal. Its tracks soar and glide through its own musical lexicon as it invokes a fever dream like state.

My most recent offering is Stations of the Cross which is composed of 6 very different yet perfectly matched tracks that together give you a overview of where I am trying to take this sonic fusion next (this one is available both as a stand-alone release and as the bonus 2nd disc with The Red and the Black).

The last one in the series (which is scheduled for release December 05) is called Naked (Songs for Sexual Subversives) . This one features more organic and acoustic instrumentation than I usually use making for a very intimate and passionate collection, its sort of JD unplugged...I'm very proud it as I am of all of them. It is a musicians greatest luxury to be able to let his sound run free and that's what this year has been all about.

OutPersonals: The autobiography of the porn industry that you're writing sounds fascinating. What are some little known facts about the industry that readers of your book might find a revelation?

SLATER: Its actually 2 books, one is my autobiography covering my life in and out of porn, art, music, society and the famous and infamous folks who populated my world from 76 to now entitled Your Mileage May Vary. The second one will be a sort of chronicle of the changes and persons who have shaped the adult industry over the past 30 years and the many sordid paths they took to the top, I'm calling that one Fear and Loathing in My Pants. Between the two there should be wealth of revelations about about the maelstrom of events and people that have been seminal in the founding of contemporary popular culture. I had the uncanny ability of being in the right place with the right people and it has given me a rather unique perspective on the last 3 decades....Trust me it'll make for an interesting read, I just hope they can get Colin Farrell to play me in the movie.

OutPersonals: What would you say are the 3 biggest changes that have happened over the past 30 years in the porn industry?

SLATER: That's easy, the advent of home video and mass distribution, H.I.V. and the move to safe sex, and the birth of the internet and the wired culture.

OutPersonals: What are a couple of the more subtle changes?

SLATER: The switch to talkies, the advent of amatuer porn, the development of the sub-markets ( bears, fetish,ethnic,gonzo,etc.), and the invention of Viagra.

OutPersonals: You've seen the industry from all sides. How does your experience fit in with that of others in the industry?

SLATER: Well I'm the only person in the industry who has worked in every aspect of it both business and creative, I have been fortunate enough to work with all the great founders and innovators and it has given me a rare perspective on how the industry runs. I don't know how representative my experience is of anyone else's for the most part I invented all I became, I was an early porn pilgrim and one of the few to survive till present. I figured out young that to keep going you had to keep evolving and start the next trend instead of waiting for it. I have also been one of the most blessed people on the planet many times landing at just the right place at just the right time. The whole circus of my life has been such a riot of chance that just about any comparison would be ridiculous. At this stage of the game I am proof of the old saying "Politicians, whores and ugly buildings all become respectable if they last long enough". A couple of years ago I got both the GAVN 'LIFETIME ACHIEVMENT' AWARD, and the GRABBY 'WALL OF FAME,' so I guess the next thing up would be to name a theater after me... either that or I get my own reality show on FOX.

Check Slater out at: [extern url='' target='_blank' text='']

Euphoria shrouds me in this night.
It has its own atmosphere.
Its scent clings like that of primal
passion to animal hides.
Its temperature rises to meet the dark sun
whose zenith is the center of this landscape.
This heaven is my dream,
and I wake in my dream.
This dream that engulfs me
dream upon dream,
day inseparable from night.
The line between planes has been erased,
boundaries are but memories.
Limits have no meaning.
I know nothing of the names of the spirits
but I do know their touch.
That sensation has a sound
and that sound has a color
and that color has a taste,
a taste that I crave like the salt
of my own sweat.
In this dream, dark is given luminance
the light attains chrominance.
All motion and fury are contained in one word,
the same word for all that is at peace.
I feel that word in my thoughts,
yet I speak not at all
for I am unsure whether this dream
is a beginning or an end.
I have always been a pilgrim
in the realm of the senses.
The journey has been both my crusade
and my grail.
I have seen what few dare imagine
and I dare to imagine still more.
Such is the strength of my pilgrim heart,
and such is the reason I awaken
to this dreaming
to continue dreaming when awake.

John Duffy Slater