New Zealand natives who also call Australia home, Shihad have really amped it up a notch with their latest album “Ignite” released recently through Roadrunner Records. The album sees the band retuning to their roots with a much more mature sound that fans have really taken a shining to. Deborah Konopnicki had a chat to drummer Tom Larkin who also produced the record. They spoke about the pressure of being in the band and being the head honcho for the production, the direction that this album is taking as well as the shows that the band played in New Zealand earlier on this year with AC/DC. Click below to expand this post and have a read.

Hey, mate! How are you going?
Pretty good! Yourself?

Perfect apart from that fact that I’m losing my voice so you’ll have to just bare with me for the next little while. What’s happening with you at the moment? I’m going to assume that life is pretty hectic?
Yeah, it is… but we’re getting used to it, Slowly. (laughs)

I actually just saw about an hour ago that your album charted at number one on the New Zealand charts! Congratulations.
Thank you very much! We’re stoked. It’s really good. We’re really proud of the album to be honest. We did the album ourselves – we produced it ourselves. It’s the first time that we’ve really taken control of an album from top to bottom. From artwork through to mixing through to recording it to producing it and all of those things. It’s been really gratifying to get all of that done. It took a lot longer actually. It was a harder thing to bite off and to take on all of that responsibility. Usually we give away our responsibility for someone else to stitch it all together but this time because we didn’t have that referee so to speak, everyone took their own role in the band a little bit more seriously I think. It means that it took longer but it meant that there was a bit more application involved in making the album. There was just more focus. It was more serious and we were just hell bent on making it great. We all had to live with it and we couldn’t point fingers so I think that it really helped. I think that we’re in that stage of being musicians to actually be able to do that. It keeps you involved with pushing your own boundaries and getting you involved with doing things that you’re a little bit uncomfortable with. It pushes you into that area which I think really helps. It gets your attention up and it gives you a little bit more satisfaction to have a finished album and know that your boundaries have been pushed a little bit, like a new frontier aspect to the album. I think that’s really important for musicians to be able to do that.

Well, you had the most significant role in the album; playing on it and producing it. Does that kind of control feel a little bit more liberating and does the uncertainty act has a motivator or can it get overwhelming?
Yeah, it is more liberating and it is more motivating but it’s a challenge if you know what I mean. There are times where your hairline is receding as well… (laughs). The biggest difference is not having that lazy attitude of leaving it up to everyone else or that talk between the producer and the band about what the final decisions will be. It was great to actually thump those questions out then and there and have those arguments and those disagreements and actually nut them out and solve them together. I think that was the biggest part of it. I think that with me personally, it was great to finally do it. I wasn’t into it to begin with. I was like “I work with other bands… I don’t want to take on this kind of responsibility”. In your own band it’s kind of like a doctor operating on themselves if you know what I mean. I think that was a really big part of it for me – to really overcome that aspect and be able to give it all to the band. The engineer or the album who helped record it with us was very helpful. To have a guy work with us on several other albums and kind of come and to a certain extent take the weight off of me, not from a decision making aspect so much but as a partner in crime to actually do all of the grunt work like all of the audio stuff and the technical aspects of it all – to have him behind me was really helpful.

With you at the helm, were the other guys in the band happy to fall in line and have you lead the way?
I think that was part of what happened but I don’t think that it was actually like that. In reality I don’t think that it felt like that but there were certain times when they said “You have to make the decision because you have to deal with it later”. I think that it cleaned up the decision making process a lot more. In terms of actual parts or whether a song should be this long or which chorus is better or which lyric works – that stuff was still debated. All that stuff was debated as would be the case with any normal band. I think that there was certain aspects of the band that I was kind of nervous about, that there would be a cluster fuck over everything. Like, “Oh no I want to use that guitar” or “Oh, no… I want to use that amp!” People left me to do that. I was scared that it wasn’t going to be constructed properly, but it was. It worked really well. That was a weight off my shoulders for it to go like that.

What are you left to do over the weekend while it’s being sold for the first time? Do you sit at home twiddling your thumbs? Do you hop on the net to see what people are saying? What’s your mindset like?
Well, you still get a little nervous. You still get a little nervous about the release but to be honest I’m in the middle of making another album for another band. It’s kind of like I haven’t left the ship! Just jumping from one album to the next. Whenever I do an album I do it very professionally and invest myself very heavily into whatever I’m doing so I feel like I haven’t actually stopped since, just the characters had changed.

When you first started the writing process were you conscious of returning to your earlier sound? Did you know what kind of album you wanted to create beforehand?
Yes and no. The yes part is that we tend to reject whatever we have done previously and that’s a fairly organic thing. We just start jamming. Every album is like that. We just naturally start jamming and then we get a collection of songs that we’re all feeling the vibe of. Usually when we create an album that’s kind of light, we started feeling and putting a lot more effort into the stuff that kind of kicks against that. Somehow the band’s just always worked like that. I don’t know why, cause it’s fucking difficult on business at the best of times but that’s just how it is! At the same time it refreshes the band and I think that if you look back at the history of the band there were some decisions that weren’t the right thing to do career wise but at the same time, it’s lasted so long that there has to be something about the process that works and to keep us still going. The ‘never settling for one thing’ aspect might be a hindrance but I think that when you start to make an album it’s kind of organic. I think that when we started and had about five songs that started to sound like they fit together, that kind of guided our way with the rest of the material.

It’s pretty widely acknowledged that this is a return to the earlier sound that made your band a household name. Would you say that it was a case of the band returning to musical roots or a mature progression that funnily enough lead you around full circle?
I think that it’s more of a progression. My musical taste is pretty fu#ked up. I can easily relate to Slayer fans and Slipknot fans on one end or people that are into Glassjaw and stuff like that, but if people want to hit me up about fu#king Backstreet Boys singles or 80’s pop like Rick Springfield I’m just as into that too! (laughs) I have a very schizophrenic music taste! I’m also into indie rock and dub and all of that kind of stuff. I’m as passionate about it all as each other. I’ll have conversations with people that find it interesting but then I’ll have conversations with people who are the same and who have made something of themselves through one of those threads and can still relate to the other ones. It’s interesting to see who’s out there. It’s funny. I think that when it comes to a musical taste thing, yeah… I think that we just fell into a groove and that was the groove that kind of worked for this album. The other thing is that if I’m going to be objective about it, I think that the band itself actually plays into the kind of heavier stuff. Collectively I think that we do that better than anyone else. It’s like if you’re good at cricket and you’re good at soccer and you’re good at rugby but you’re just that little bit extra good at soccer.

Any favorite tracks from the album yet?
“Final Year Of The Universe” for sure. That’s kind of a strong track. I’m a really big fan of “In The Future” which is like a Bowie track for me. It’s a really fu#king amped-up-hard Bowie track. I really like that one. I really like “Ignite” because it tickles my pop buttons. What else… I like “Engage”. I think that the music on the song is really fun to play as a drummer. Its movements are really good physically. It feels really good to play that one. I’m fan of every song, genuinely but I’ll give you those as my three little islands that I like to park on.

Yeah, I’d have to say that “Final Year Of The Universe” is my favorite as well at this stage. It’s a rather slow building track that gets quite epic in an unassuming way.
The thing about that one was that it all started off as a jam. We originally called it “Mass Of Sabbath” as kind of a reminder that was kind of between Kyuss and Sabbath with its feeling. It was much longer initially, but then when we started playing it and layering it and particularly when the vocals were done, it was a total surprise because I actually thought that it was quite average until the vocals were done. When they were done it was like, “Wow.. this is fucking amazing! This is really epic”. It really jelled things together. I enjoined it to play before then but just listening back on it I found that it was a little bit boring to play. At least in terms of our reference point, it moves away from the Kyuss and Sabbath thing for me and particularly at a mixing level I had Massive Attack very, very strongly in my head and that kind of wilting and menacing and that slow poised kind of track that Massive Attack were really good at in the mid 90s. For that track I think that it was just resonating in my head. I think that we created that with the actual band movements and the singing. I think that when I mixed it, it just jelled all of those things together. The pacing on that song is very important. Things kind of unfold very theatrically and they keep your attention even though they are kind of long. That’s the song that we’re going to open up with when we tour.

On the Deluxe version of the album you included a bonus disc with remixed tracks. What was the reason for heading down that road?
It comes down to two things. One, the industry in New Zealand is frightfully small so you’re often rubbing shoulder with guys and girls that do write different things but you connect and share experiences together because the industry is so small. It doesn’t sustain scenes and pockets very well. If you have scene you’re usually bumping shoulders with people that are doing wildly different things. So, what that was about was a group of people that we like started saying that they would really like to do something and that kind of scenario came up and it was the one that took off. We took off with that one and it gained more momentum as people kept on coming in and then more people chipped in with certain tracks and said that they really wanted to do one as well and the results of that were really exciting for us. I think that’s what really triggered that one for us.

Have you had much feedback from the fans about them yet?
Yeah, we have. There are some fans saying that they are unnecessary bollocks and some fans saying that they are fucking amazing. They are pretty much along the lines of when I expected to be honest.

Earlier on this year you guys played some very epic shows with the very legendary ACDC. How was that?
They were fantastic. It was really, really good. Talking about my fucked up music tastes, if I was to name one band as my favorite, they would probably be it. They mean an awful lot to me. They mean an awful lot to the whole band so to be able to play shows with them was just perfect. I think that it re-invigorated us. I think that we were still doing the album at that stage but I felt like it just got a little bit of pat on the back and we got to swim in their ocean for a little bit. We played two shows in our hometown of Wellington and one show in Auckland. The first one, there were several little mishaps before we got to go on stage so we had to do one of our commando shows when things weren’t working very well and we were a little bit under the gun but we kind of pulled it off. The next show, the night beforehand we went out and unfortunately pretty much the whole band got completely written off and kind of crawled out of bed at 4pm in the afternoon, got to the gig and I played a shocker! I was really angry with myself which takes us to the third show which was the biggest in front of 60,000 people in Auckland. We were just collectively feeling really good at that point. We were very weary of having let ourselves down and me personally having let myself down at the previous show and just having one of those ‘top ten shows of your life’ kind of thing in Auckland. It made up for it. It was great. There were 60,000 people and they were all on side, well… from the ones that I can see. They were enjoying it. It was great.

Just finally, recently you played some shows where you played “The General Electric” and “Killjoy” all of the way through. That must have been a real treat for you fans as well as for you!
It was great. It was really good to refresh that. I was pretty nervous about that but we managed to pull it together in the last minute pretty well. At the end of rehearsals, Karl ran off to do the artwork and I went back to mixing the album. We would book these rehearsals for like 10am and rehearse till one and then I’d go and work 12 hours in the studio and collapse into bed and repeat the process. After about a week of doing that it just became dysfunctional so we just canned rehearsal and kind of listened to the CD a lot and had one long sound check before the show and managed to pull it all together. It sounds slack but we did it by the skin of our teeth and it worked! It’s a very odd thing to just focus on one era. One of the amazing things and particularly with the older tracks off “Killjoy” which did really well in New Zealand, was to see familiar faces that we haven’t seen for years and years kind of lurch out of the crowd you just notice that there is just a generational thing between albums.


Standard Edition
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Limited Edition
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4th – ANU Bar, Canberra
5th – Gaelic Club, Sydney
12th – The Zoo, Brisbane
13th – Cooly Hotel, Coolangatta
19th – Corner Hotel, Melbourne
20th – Fowlers Live, Adelaide
25th – Prince Of Wales, Bunbury
26th – Rosemount Hotel, Perth
27th – Indi Bar, Scarborough
28th – Mojo’s, Fremantle
Supporting GUNS ‘N ROSES & KORN
1st – Reid Park, Townsville
7th – Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide
11th – Perth Motorplex

Supporting KORN

4th – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney
5th – Festival Hall, Melbourne

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