The Slicker Plan: A John Hughes


Once upon a time there was a little boy. When his father would go to work, the little boy would often go with him. But his father didn't have any old job like you and me. His father lived a dream.

He made films.

Not the sort of IQ-depreciating factory flicks we're used to seeing today...these films actually meant something - the sort of timeless coming-of-age classics to which any human being with half a soul can relate...films that captured those young, confusing, carefree years when shit that we could care less about today mattered more than the world itself: The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Bueller...BUELLER!!!

So what of the kid you ask? Did all that early subjection to teenage angst lead to self-mutilation, we have a 12, or at least auto erotic asphyxiation?

Well, no.

But the countless hours that he spent playing with toys on his dad's cutting room floor allowed a whole world of cheesy 80s synth-lines and hollow clapping drum machines to be beaten into his eardrums over and over again. The soundtrack to our favorite childhood movies became the soundtrack to his life, as John Hughes Jr would eventually adopt the moniker "Slicker" and set out to nurture the intrigue behind those rinky-dink sounds. He may have been tortured by their primitive constraints, but under the spell of artistry, he was excited about their wondrous possibilities.

With the recent release of his fourth album, 'We All Have A Plan,' Slicker found himself re-charting waters almost forgotten.

"With this new record, I really wanted to challenge myself by working with musicians that were really coming from a different spot than I was, so I tried to dig up some really obscure musical heroes of mine. People like (legendary Motor City funk-jazz artists) Phil Ranelin and Wendell Harrison. They brought this spirit to the record that was just unique and it definitely lingered. I just think electronic music has gotten way too on the club side, and that's a good side, but I'm more of a fan of using electronic instruments to still write songs. I want to have so many influences on my record where it sounds stupid when you say 'oh it's hip-hop meets jazz meets this meets that.'

In order for slicker to accomplish this masterful melting pot of imperishable jazz, soul, hip-hop, and funk, served on a blanket of electronic beats and production tweaks, he decided to rally a stellar supporting cast, including vocalist Khadijah Anwar (of Sugar Hill Gang fame), Detroit MCs Phat Kat and Elzhi (Slum Village), Dan Boadi, and a vocalist from Ghana who moonlights as a cabdriver while running a network of Ghanian musicians. Slicker works on a Pro Tools setup and employs various outboard gear including "Spring Reverb," some vintage Neve equipment pulled out of old boards, a set of compressors, a set of EQs, an old EMS Vocoder, and a retrofitted Roland 303.

All kinds of stuff."

Insisting that he "hates to beat a dead horse with this whole 'spirit' thing", it is precisely that uninhibited emotional connection that plays a distinctive role in not only his personal creations and inspirations ("I've got a wife and baby at home so I don't have to look for for inspiration"), but in the running of Hefty Records as well. He set up the label as an engine for his work and the work of artists he believes in with a roster boasting such acts as Telefon Tel Aviv and Savath & Savalas (aka Scott Herren, aka Prefuse 73).

While most artists admittedly shy away from the barcode hustle in favor of creative expression, Hughes prefers to look at it as "this nice balance, where during the day I worry about promoting these records, then at night, I can make tracks. When I know I have a limited amount of time to work, that's when I do my best stuff. If I had all day to make music, I don't think I'd make any music. I just know how it goes.

With Hefty, we feel it's important for artists to be involved in the way the record is promoted," he explains. "You work so hard, then someone quickly puts together a marketing plan, or doesn't put one together, and it takes away from the record.

Great music isn't great if no one hears it."

And is poppa listening?

"I'm sure he's happy that I'm in the arts and making it work, so..."

Like father like son...kinda.

(This was originally published in WAV Magazine, which gave birth to Kotori Magazine, in the Summer of 2004. Click here for a PDF of the full print magazine, which also includes interviews with Ozomatli, Michael Franti, Shepard Fairey, the Mars Volta's Ikey Owens, Congressman Henry Waxman, and much more.)