Okay, okay, so we might be pushing the boundaries a little here with what can reasonably be termed “new”, considering that this hard-rocking Californian five-piece have been releasing music since, ahem, 1996, and have shared stages with everyone from AC/DC, Alice In Chains and Cheap Trick along the way. However, their signing to Mascot in 2014 ushered in a second wave for the band, and they’ve just come back with a new album which experiments with an entirely more mature new sound. So let’s look at this in terms of a rebirth, shall we?
Inspired, like many of their countrymen currently are, by the recent turn in US politics, new album Red Hands Black Deeds is darker, and more jittery, than anything the band have recorded before. “The tension in the record kind of speaks for itself,” says guitarist Josh Hamler. “There’s a dark anxiety, tension-filled feeling that reflects what’s going on in the world.”
We catch up with the band to find out more about them, the new album and what they’ve got lined up for next.
Can you introduce yourselves – where are you from, who does what and what are your roles in the band?
“Shaman’s Harvest is Nathan Hunt vocals and guitar, Josh Hamler on guitar, Matt Fisher on bass, Derrick Neckbone Ship on guitar and Adam Zemenek on the drums.”
How did you guys meet and start making music together?
“We met at a party I threw on a weekend my parents were away. Was down in the basement playing guitar and Matt and our original drummer Ryan Turnbull came in and picked up my brother’s bass and a bucket, and we started fiddlin’ around. We were terrible, and none of us knew each other or particularly liked each other, but it was the first time any of us played cohesively with someone else. Caught the bug right then and there. A few weeks later we met Josh who bought a guitar a month before (so he knew as much as we did about playing), and we were off.”
What were your key influences/inspirations in getting the band together?
“This was the days of Seattle grunge, so that had a big part in it. But the blues was something we gravitated towards immediately and we learned early on we could make a few bucks and free pizza playing the four hour blues and classic rock sets at the local biker bar and blues joint.”
What’s the story behind the name of the band?
“Music feels like the last mystical thing. Whether you’re making it or listening to it, it controls your emotion. It’s one of those intangible things that shouldn’t ever be recreated with tech and it whispers to us that we are in fact primal. We wanted something that summed up that feeling in a few words. Seemed appropriate.”
You’ve toured with an impressive list of artists already. How did it feel to share stages with legends like AC/DC and Alice In Chains?
“It always goes by so fast. But every time we play with one of those legends it re-shapes how we see the bigger picture. We learn a bit of something and we come away somehow more than when we went in.”
What makes you special/different to other bands out there?
“I don’t know about special but one thing we aren’t interested in is playing one style of music. It’s important for us to be able to bend the genres and colour across those lines.”
How would you describe your sound in three words for people who’ve never heard you?
“Primal. Visceral. Soul.”
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What’s the story behind new album, Red Hands, Black Deeds?
“Well, we didn’t really have much material done ahead of time. And something I learned from our previous record, for us at least, the best stuff was made in spontaneity; when the creative bug was biting. So I really fought the notion that it needed to be pre-conceived. So other than I think three tracks all the writing was done right there in studio. Everything feels raw and the initial excitement of a freshly-written song is captured right then. Before the soul of the song gets ‘perfected’ out.”
What were your key influences on the album, and what drew you to the themes it covers?
“The biggest influence is the need for discovery that is kinda built in our DNA. Having the freedom to explore who we are as Shaman’s Harvest now and not being tethered to who we were on previous albums. We recorded almost exclusively analog. So the music was demanding the lyrics to be, for the most part, on the weighty side. You can turn on the news in any part of the world now for that kind of inspiration. A lot of the material reflects the darker side of our nature.”
What’s your favourite story/anecdote from recording the album?
“I had an idea for a song, which wound up being Long Way Home, so we ran the tele through an old busted tape echo that you had to kick to get running, and proceeded to play and sing the scratch track. When it was done we realised it couldn’t be recreated. So we left it as the final cut.”
What, in your opinion, is the stand-out track on the album?
“Not sure yet. It still feels new, but if I had to pick a favourite right now it would be Soulcrusher.”
What do you hope people will take away from the album, and your music in general?
“That you can listen to the record as a whole. To have the patience to experience it. At least the first couple listens.”
What’s been the highlight of your time in the band so far?
“Every day in this band feels like a highlight. I hope we never have that big highlight. Means it’s all down from there.”
You’re heading out on a mega-tour with Nickelback soon. How are you preparing for life on the road?
“It’s happening right now as we speak. This is our first arena and amphitheatre tour so there was no preparing for it for us. We’ve always been a theatre and club band so this experience has been pretty intense. Loving every minute of it.”
What are you most looking forward to about the future?
“The thing we look forward to the most and what’s next for us is crossing the pond and doing a UK tour in early 2018.”
Shaman’s Harvest’s new album Red Hands Black Deeds is out now via Mascot Records. For more information, including full tour dates, you can check out their website.