In Memoriam: Slats

Chris Harvey, aka Slats, in Seattle in 1983.
Photo from Michael Lavine’s book

Sitting on the patio of Linda’s Tavern on a Wednesday night in late March, friends of Capitol Hill’s omnipresent punk icon Slats gathered around a table to commemorate the life of their buddy, who died on March 13 from complications stemming from a hip injury. “Everyone knew Slats,” bandmate and friend Blake said. “On the street people would call out his name who didn’t even know him.”

The attention paid to the tall and scrawny rocker was often positive, or at least harmless. “A lot of the street kids around the Hill would always want to talk to Slats, and he always gave them the time of day,” Blake continued. “He was always respectful to people.” Unfortunately, respect wasn’t always returned. Last December an article that ran on the Stranger’s blog about the bad fall that led to Slats’ hip replacement garnered dozens of slanderous comments ridiculing the former Silly Killers guitarist.

“I asked Slats one day if he had seen any of the bullshit people posted online about him,” said Ross Beamish, a former band member of Slats’ most recent group, Pain Cocktail, “He just shook his head casually and continued with whatever he was doing. It really didn’t bother him.” Opinions concerning Slats, born Chris Harvey, were often extreme. It’s no secret that Slats had his battles with addiction, and many people assumed that he was still actively using. Those close to Slats have been quick to stand up for their friend. “People judged him but didn’t know,” Blake said. “People just wrote him off as a junkie, but he hadn’t even touched the stuff in years.” Still, Slats’ thin frame and sunken features left the door open to judgment and criticism.

However, there was a man of substance underneath the wide-brimmed hat and the ratty hair. Both friends and acquaintances often refer to Slats as being charming and funny. They love telling stories about his obsession with bubble tea and burgers from Dick’s. That night on Linda’s patio, his bandmates recalled their attempts to keep up with his eccentricities onstage. He was loved by them and by so many others. “His heart was bigger than his body,” said his girlfriend, Coco. •