Friday, April 16, 2010
Denton’s Paul Slavens moves on from weekly gigs at Dan’s Silver Leaf after five years
With a new record coming out, Slavens is focusing on other projects.
Every Monday for the past five years, Denton’s own Paul Slavens has been creating some of the most hilarious and interesting music at Dan’s Silver Leaf just past the Denton Square. Now when I say “creating music,” that is exactly what I mean. Slavens, who is intelligent, talented, and at times eccentric, actually creates songs –- lyrics included -- right off the top of his head. The only catch is that you provide the song title for him and make sure that a little cash is included with the song title. The more money you attach to it, the better the song will be. But as Slavens says at the beginning of each set, “No refunds, no guarantees, and sometime you get ripped off.”
So beware: Slavens is the one who is in charge and he decides how the song turns out.
Now how did a man of Slavens’ caliber come to be? It all began in a rural area in northern Nebraska near Sioux City where Slavens spent the vast majority of his childhood making music. At age 9, he started taking piano lessons from his mother and began writing music.
In high school, Slavens was in the choir and the marching band. It wasn't until he studied piano performance in college that his eccentric style, which he is known for all over North Texas, began to develop. While visiting the University of North Texas with his school’s jazz band, Slavens fell in love with Denton. The scene was just his style, and when he graduated he moved to the quirky little town.
There he joined Ten Hands, a band with high energy and a sound unlike any other band in existence. As Slavens put it, Ten Hands had a unique style. His vocals brought a Frank Zappa-quality to the music that, as some people have said, sounded similar to Meat Puppets. Think of it as a cross between jazzy funk and psychedelic funk.
When Ten Hands broke up 10 years after Slavens joined, he started exploring other options in the entertainment industry. Slavens began doing some commercial acting, comedic acting, and voice-over work. His talents eventually led him to be the original music director for the Four Day Weekend Improvisational Comedy Troupe in Fort Worth.
Slavens also began producing the Texclectic Hour and a Half, performed at Club Dada and other venues in the Dallas area. The show featured an interesting mix of his improvisational music and comedy, which was made to sound like a live radio show broadcast. Abby Goldstein, who worked with Slavens at KERA, caught wind of his act and offered him his own radio show every Sunday night. Slavens stayed on the air at KERA for six years before he moved to Sunday nights at the newly-formed KXT 91.7.
Paul Slavens at Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton
“There is something magical about a Frank Sinatra tune going into a Pixies song,” Slavens says of the music he plays on his radio show. ”It does something to your ears to hear both of those things. It really opens you up to where you are really hearing music.”
Slavens, who has become a sort of maverick in the music community in North Texas, can do it all, but his heart is and always has been set on composing.
“I have always wanted to be more of a composer than a songwriter or performer,” Slavens said one Monday night before he began his weekly set at Dan’s Silver Leaf. “I approach most of my music as a composer, even if it is songs, but then I do a lot of straight composing. But now I am getting into electronic stuff. That is the next thing I really want to do. I am OCDing on it right now.”
When Slavens gets his mind on some musical thought, he takes it to the extreme. Take his forthcoming album for example. The record, called Alphabet Girls, features a song about a girl for every letter of the alphabet.
“All the songs are kind of different. They fall into a couple of classifications,” Slavens says of one of his biggest undertakings yet. “There are some ragtime pieces, some jazzy ragtimey things with vocals, some straight up jazz quartets with Bach Norwood playing bass and Steve Hill playing drums. Then there are some kind of alt-pop stuff and some more classical instrumental stuff. It is kind of a warped all over the place jazz record, although I like to think of it as rock and roll.”
With a new record coming out, Slavens has decided to end his five-year residency at Dan’s Silver Leaf so that he can focus on his other projects. However, he has recently started a residency at the Kessler Theater in Oak Cliff where he creates songs if you give him the title. But what exactly makes a good title to Slavens?
“The really good song titles are the hard ones because with the really horrible, stupid ones you can easily fart your way through it,” Slavens says. “The best ones are the open-ended ones.“
That mantra for creating song titles is exactly how Slavens leads his life: open-ended. It always leaves room for creativity and something more.
You can catch Slavens every Monday night until the end of April at Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton, every Wednesday at the Kessler Theater in Oak Cliff, and every Sunday night from 8 to 10 p.m. on 91.7 KXT.
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