On 20th October 2010, Arianna Forster (aka Ari Up), vocalist and founder of pioneering Punk band, THE SLITS, passed away at the age of 48. The news was announced via John Lydon’s website, which stated:
John and Nora have asked us to let everyone know that Nora's daughter Arianna (aka Ari-Up) died today (Wednesday, October 20th) after a serious illness. She will be sadly missed. Rest In Peace.
Forster was born in Munich, Germany on 1st January 1962. Her mother, Nora, was known within the music industry via her promotion of Jimi Hendrix in the 60s and having dated Chris Spedding for a few years. It was through Nora’s relationship (and eventual marriage) with SEX PISTOLS frontman Johnny Rotten that lead to Arianna’s exposure and experimentation with Punk Rock, reputedly learning guitar from Joe Strummer of THE CLASH.
At the tender age of 14, along with drummer Palmolive, she formed THE SLITS. Joined by Viv Albertine and Tessa Pollitt, the band became one of the most notorious on the early London Punk scene with an unconventional, abrasive sound that mixed reggae dub rhythms with scratchy abrasive guitars creating something that was both angry and joyous. Of the band’s debut gig supporting THE CLASH in Harlseden on 11th March 1977, Forster said, “It was something I was born to do. It was like an explosion for me. Made that stage my living room. We were musically so fucked-up and untogether. And we were just so amazing in our time-bombing up there, we just went up there totally fucking up every single note, every single beat! And we were just great. We were brilliant at it.” A month later, Forster was nearly the victim of a stabbing as THE SLITS supported the SEX PISTOLS are the infamous Screen On The Green shows, as an anonymous punter declared, “So you’re the SLITS huh? Here’s a slit for you!”
Later in 1977, the band supported THE CLASH on the band’s White Riot Tour and again the following year on the Sort It Out Tour before dropping the classic debut album, ‘Cut’ in 1979. After the ever more experimental follow-up album, ‘Return Of The Giant Slits’, released in 1981, the band split up.
Following the band’s split, Forster moved with her husband and twin children to Indonesia and Belize, living among indigenous people in those areas, eventually settling in Kingston, Jamaica.
Her musical legacy continued, first with the NEW AGE STEPPERS followed by a solo career that resulted in the release of the 2005-album, ‘Dread More Dan Dead’. Later that same year, Forster along with Tessa Pollitt reformed the band for which she will always be remembered - THE SLITS.
An EP, ‘Revenger Of The Killer Slits’ was released the following year featuring former SEX PISTOL Paul Cook and ex- ADAM AND THE ANTS guitarist Marco Pirroni. The next two years saw the band tour USA, Europe, Australia and Japan, culminating with the release of the 2009 album, ‘Trapped Animal’.
Besides THE SLITS, Forster had played occasional solo concerts and toured with her band, THE TRUE WARRIORS and appeared on recordings with JAMMYLAND ALL STARS, German Technoheads TERRANOVA and LEE ‘SCRATCH’ PERRY.
In a tribute on THE SLITS' MySpace page, her manager Jeff Jacquin paid tribute to her, “unyielding passion for music and life. She influenced generations of women and created some of the most memorable music of our time, but Ari's true magic was how she affected people on the street, face to face, every day,” he said.
“She ate life up and spit it out.”