Kiwi rock icons Shihad have released their tenth studio album Old Gods with first taster from the album Tear Down Those Names with another nine awesome rockers begging to be played. Also the band will embark on their first Australian headline tour since 2018. They will be blasting around the country in January through February to deliver the new and classic songs live, with the pulsating live show Shihad are known and loved for. Karl Kippenberger talks to Hi Fi Way about the album and upcoming tour.
Congratulations on the album. You must be really happy to get that one over the line, given how tough it’s been for everybody at the moment?
Yeah, not just in the music industry, but everyone’s had to work really hard to get things done. I’m the only one living in New Zealand, so I was lucky that I got over. We got to play a couple of shows in Melbourne before we went up to New South Wales and did the album, and then I got home. So it all worked out. It was all touch and go for a while there, but it all worked out.
Was there ever any point where it was going to start to get too hard to try and get it done? Even trying to work within Australia and even within the same state probably would’ve been complicated enough.
Yeah. I reckon that the worst job in the music industry right now is being the manager. Our managers, they’ve had to sit on government websites and hit refresh every thirty seconds to try and get MIQ slots and flights sorted out, especially with us guys. We’ve done a couple of things in New Zealand so the boys got to come over here and vice versa. But there’s been some things we’ve had on that we’ve just had to pull the plug, just because it hasn’t looked too promising. Doing the record, we’d postponed that for, I don’t know, we’d moved that along about four times and we just finally went, “We just need to do it now and if we can’t then…” Luckily enough, it worked out.
Do you worry about the longer term future and the damage that might have already been done?
I feel like we’ve been a little bit fortunate that we’ve been able to play to some crowds in New Zealand. Not many, we played New Year’s and we played one show this year, but so grateful to be able to play in front of people. Everything’s been getting postponed constantly, and I don’t want to bitch about it because as you know there’s people far worse off and struggling a lot more than what we are doing. We’re just trying to make music and keep our craft going, and it has been tough but, as I say, just getting the album done just gave us that push to just keep going. I don’t think we would’ve split up or anything.
Did it make the band work a lot differently this time?
Well, it’s weird because we probably have more meetings now than we ever did. I guess pre-COVID, and pre-Zoom even, we’d do the odd Skype call, but generally if we weren’t together we’d be lucky to have a meeting every month. Through the lockdowns and stuff, especially because the other guys were in Melbourne, they live over there and they went through their lockdowns last year. I think just the fact that we could all see each other and talk to each other, even though we weren’t doing each shows or couldn’t really jam or anything, we could still make stuff happen and just connect I guess.
Can you believe that this is album number ten?
No, but at the same time I feel like we’ve been slack arses for taking seven years to do this tenth one. But at the same time, I guess, with the same guys for so long you do start to lose count a little bit about halfway, I think the first three or four records, you really remember those, and then it just gets blurry in the middle there and then a bit of a renaissance towards the end, I guess.
When you listened to the new album back, you must have been pretty stoked with what you actually achieved on this one?
Obviously we’ve got our favourite records in the past that we’ve done, and then obviously you’ve got influences, young and old, coming through. But definitely this record that we’ve just done and FVEY before it, there’s been a really good feeling between the band. I think especially after FVEY, working with Jaz Coleman and just reigniting our, I don’t know, I guess the intent and wanting to be mean, if that makes sense. I guess the world’s a bit of a struggle to live in right now, so there’s lots of reasons to be loud.
Was it intended to be as mean and obviously it is quite album? Was that born out of frustration?
I guess with the political stuff, we’ve always had an element. Gosh, we had a song on Love is the New Hate in 2006 called All the Young Fascists, and a lot of it, even on the Churn, it’s mostly about society and feeling a bit like a cog in the machine or whatever. So I guess we’ve always been looking at that stuff, but the whole worlds become political, if that makes any sense. I guess ten years ago there was some people that just didn’t really have a political viewpoint or didn’t care, now everyone has an opinion, everyone has a side that they stand on. Whereas I feel like with us, as far as people and hanging out together, we’re always talking about world stuff and what’s happening the world, and what’s happening in our neighbourhoods and what’s happening in our cities, and people that we meet along the way. That’s always been our discussion in the band, so it’s not like a new thing, I guess. Plus there’s a lot to talk about.
Did you have a clear idea before starting the whole creative process of what you actually wanted to do? Or was it a matter of just Jon goes away and writes some songs and everyone else goes away and write some songs?
The big part for me is really the sonics, and for the band that’s what the four of us bring together. Lyric writing, as far as the messages and stuff, some of the stuff he writes about is stuff that we all talk about together, other stuff is personal stuff that Jonny’s dealing with. I guess some of our biggest songs have been Jonny dealing with breakups or dealing with stuff in his own life, because it’s really coming from his heart. For me it really is mostly sonics because we don’t really hear Jonny’s lyrics, he gives us bits and pieces over the years that we’ve been jamming out this music. It’s not really until we’re in the studio that he’s writing it down in front of us and we’re all having a good look at it, having discussions about it and all that sort of thing. My job as the bassist in Shihad is really just to be sonically over the top, I guess.
I guess with Jonny being all married and loved up and all that sort of thing, you’d be a bit more happier you’d think?
You would think so, wouldn’t you? Can’t please everyone, can you? [No, you can’t]. There’s always something to complain about, I guess. He’s happy, like all of us he’s got kids and a wife that he’s totally happy with, all of that. No one’s really happy with having to stay at their homes during lockdowns, but we’re all trying to cope, I guess. Sometimes I actually don’t know what he’s thinking.
Do you start to feel a little bit more optimistic about the rescheduled Australian tour dates?
Yeah, well, I hope so. But I guess we’ve got to look at it state by state as well and what the realities of that look like.
How stoked were you with the resurgence that you experienced with the Split Enz cover, I Got You. That must have been a real buzz, not only being able to cover that song but commercial airplay it got?
Oh, we were totally stoked. I was surprised that song was still up for grabs. I would’ve thought that would be the first song that would’ve got taken off that another band would’ve picked, because we weren’t the first to be asked. So we were totally stoked to get that song, and thought it would come and go, but I’m totally surprised that it’s that right place, right time. Everyone was in lockdown as well, I guess that helped in some way for music. I know that I probably listen to more music now that I don’t get to see it as much. It had its own life, we were completely surprised.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch Shihad on the following tour dates. Tickets from shihad.com…