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Payin' Dues: King Size Slim

Standard-bearer of South Coast blues inspired by Chuck and Fleetwood Mac.

Toby Barelli’s been trading under the name of King Size Slim since 2005. His latest album Milk Drunk, a kind of modern-day Alan Lomax field recording, was cut at Kent’s Rimshot studios with producer Mike Thorne and guest Andy Newmark, the one time drummer for Sly Stone.

What was the idea behind the new record Milk Drunk?

I’ve always had CDs to sell at shows, in a kind of ‘white label’ fashion, recording songs in a small studio if I had the money, or doing mixes on my home PC, pretty lo-fi stuff, then doing a limited run of CDs. When we came to record Milk Drunk and [label] Treehouse 44 got involved, I had the luxury of pre-paid studio time in a beautiful studio with a magnificent live room, with valves everywhere and a mic cupboard filled with everything you could ever want.  So we set out to make a studio album presentation of what I was doing live with the benefit of multi-tracking percussion and vocal tracks to make the whole thing bigger. 

  

What was it like working with Andy Newmark on the track Monkey, Where Are You?

What I really respect about the way he played is his empathy to the song. He listened to me play the song, jammed on it, found the groove and immediately owned it. Then we worked out the breaks and pushes and pressed record.  

 

What was the record that made you think, ‘I want to do this’?

A friend of my dad’s lent me a Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac collection. That’s when it made sense. If a boy from East London can sing blues then a boy from the Thames Delta can do it, too.

 

Can you remember when you first picked up a guitar?

My mum got me and my brother guitar lessons when I was eight, from a local teacher, once a week on classical guitars, all posture and scales and not a whole lot of fun. But I kept with it, got an electric guitar when I was 12 – it was horrible but I played it to death – then a few months later my dad bought me an old Japanese Squier Stratocaster, which I didn’t put down. 

  

You were a one-time member of ska band The Selecter...

I’ve played in ska bands since I was 19, I got my chops together, got really tight and learnt about dragging rhythms around the beat as part of a rhythm section. I toured pretty much non-stop all over Europe with The Selecter and went over to America with them. 

Milk Drunk is out now on Treehouse 44.

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