While ‘Spiderland’ grew in mystery, word-of-mouth, steady sales and reputation through the early years of the ’90s after its release, so too did Slint’s mailbag. The reverse of the album cover printed an address and a public call for female singers for the group – a snapshot of what future Slint may have sounded like should they have continued – and they received many responses. One letter allegedly came from PJ Harvey, a rumour that turns out to be entirely true. “We didn’t really go into it too much in the documentary,” says Pajo. “We were going to re-print the letter she sent us in the photo book as it was really cool but we asked her first if it was okay and she said it was a personal letter and she would prefer it if we didn’t, so out of respect for her we didn’t want to talk about that too much.
“After we broke up, because Britt’s address was on the record, he started getting a lot of mail and it all just went into a cardboard box that we never looked at for years, and one time I went over to his house and we started going through these letters and we started opening them and some people had sent money for ‘Tweez’ from, like, Poland or somewhere, but it was three years old at the time or something, and then we found this letter from PJ Harvey and I don’t think she had put out any records yet but there was a big poster of a picture she had taken with her guitar and she wrote in there that she’d had some difficult times in her life and all she could listen to for a long time was Howlin’ Wolf and ‘Spiderland’ and she asked if she could be our singer, but we didn’t see this until much later, but we wrote her and thanked her for that letter.”
In the years in-between breaking-up and getting back together, Slint’s band members have all been involved in multiple projects. Pajo has recorded extensively as a solo artist and also been in Tortoise, Interpol, Royal Trux, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Zwan and many others. Britt Walford played a pivotal role in shaping the sound of the Breeders’ ‘Pod’ album as well as various other, often mysterious or un-credited roles in other bands and projects. He was also in bandmate Brian McMahan’s project, The For Carnation (whose eponymous record is an often overlooked gem) and Todd Brashear has been a long-time Bonnie Prince Billy contributor.
While the group didn’t reform until 2005, it was as early as 1993 that they began to get a feeling that their reputation and music was growing. “I was working a day-job and hating it, all I really wanted to do was play music,” says Pajo. “I realised that I was making more money from record royalties than I was from my shitty day job, so I just thought if this is what I want to do then I should do this all the time. It wasn’t that I made a career choice, it was by default, it just made sense. I thought it [‘Spiderland’] would taper off and disappear into the void for a while but it was pretty interesting to see the events that came afterwards. Unlikely sources where starting to reference Slint – I remember Mogwai did a David Holmes remix using the ‘Good Morning, Captain’ riff and Harmony Karine picked out the same song for the Kids soundtrack; it was really surprising that that record didn’t get lost in the shuffle.”
The mushrooming reputation and classic status that ‘Spiderland’ has attained has in fact changed Pajo’s own feelings towards the record. He says: “It’s definitely changed my perception of ‘Spiderland’. Pretty much throughout all of the ’90s I could barely even listen to the record, not that I hated it so much, it’s just all I ever heard were mistakes and things I wanted to change and how I wish we had more time in the studio and a better budget to make the album. Now I can appreciate it for what it is and look back in hindsight and think for a group of young kids from out in the middle of nowhere, we didn’t do too bad of a job. I can appreciate it now.”
One question this boxset does raise, along with the near decade-long reformed status of Slint, is that perhaps ‘Spiderland’ is now ready to be put to bed and left to rest. “I have a feeling that by the end of this year we will have closed that chapter, which I’m happy to do. I have felt that musically I’ve lived in the shadow of Slint, and that’s not a bad place to be, but I would like to move on from the songs on ‘Spiderland’.” says Pajo ahead of the group’s 2014 dates, including Primavera Sound.
“We have talked about new material,” says Pajo. “I think there is no shortage of song ideas; I think we just want to get through this year and see where we are afterwards. There has been no commitment to start working on a new record or release new songs.”
I ask Pajo if the success and reputation of ‘Spiderland’ has, in some sense, become too big to control? Too much of a monster that makes it a difficult, even fearful, record to move on from? “I’ve definitely brought it up with the other guys,” he says. “I know that we will never make another ‘Spiderland’ and I don’t think that we should – we did that when we were younger and in a different emotional state. Brian particularly, lyrically, his contribution to the record, he made himself really vulnerable in a way that I don’t know if he would want to again and I would never ask him. I think we would make a cool record and it would be compelling but it wouldn’t be– and I hope no one expects it to be – ‘Spiderland’.
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