Source: The Evening Post
Date Published: 10 December 1992
Title: Right Royal Frustrations Of Annus Horribilis
Writen by: Kerry Cooper.
After years of hard work, Shihad seemed destined for great things in 1992. In 1991 their Devolve ep had gone top 20 without any commercial radio or video clip to support it. They'd just completed a headlining national tour with Head Like A Hole. This year promised much, but while Head Like A Hole enjoyed success, Shihad were ominously silent, working through their own annus horribilus. "It's been one of the horribilist, hardest, yuckiest years of my life." Shihad singer John Toogood admits.
"But I feel that things are so strong now and the music is the best it's ever been. Our new songs have so much power and the power between the four people in the band is stronger than ever." Recording plans were made and then shelved as Shihad sat on ice in the practice room waiting for something to happen. Drummer Tom Larkin confirms they weren't happy times. "We've been very unhappy and very frustrated and very depressed this year. But there's been a whole developmental phase for the band, which has been out of the public eye and I think that's been really important for us. We've reached a point where each member is completely happy with what we're doing."
For long-time fans, the time they've spent discovering themselves has also been frustrating. Their newest songs, Derail and Screwtop, debuted late last year, were the best they'd ever written and the promise Shihad had held for so long looked liked being fulfilled.
"Derail was the beginning of us finding our own completely new form of music," Toogood says. "All our little experiments before with little bits of this and that were OK, but they weren't right. We've scrapped about 20 songs this year and we've built up nine or 10 really strong new songs."
Larkin says this year has given Shihad the chance to explore fully the potential of songs like Derail and for Shihad to discover their own sound. "Our music is much more an entity in its own right now... We can be who we are, rather than trying to live up to the old expectations of who we were when we were 16 years old [They're aged between 19 and 21 now] I think this year has made us stronger than anything else could have. We've really got a sound now, we feel that it's our own music now. No one is going to be able to say 'Oh they sound like...' That's really crucial, that's something we've all been trying to achieve."
This year the only Shihad track released has been What We Get, for the Prime Sex soundtrack. The band sees that song as the old Shihad's embark into the unknown Toogood says "It was a nice breakpoint, because the new music is totally different. The music now is pure rhythm. It's bass and drums, rhythmic vocals and guitars, sometimes totally rhythmical and sometimes textural... We've just written a new song called Stations, which is like a real breath of fresh air... It's like the first uplifting song we've written, but it's still really powerful. It takes my head away when we play it, it's amazing."
In the time Shihad spent waiting for things to happen they all had to face up to their future together and the fact that this time next year they could well be overseas. They've had to be honest in working through musical and personal differences, their hopes and expectations for the band and what direction the band would take in the future. Toogood says that has translated itself into Shihad's new songs.
"The music is much more honest now and it's coming out lyrically in the songs as well. Even on the Devolve tour, which was great, we were playing songs that were two years old and were going 'Blaahhh' But this time we're all really looking forward to playing. This tour is just like playing for the first time all over again, because we're in love with our songs again and we're in love with playing music again."
The desire to record a truly great record has been at the heart of Shihad's inactivity this year. A planned single never eventuated and while the band worked through their tensions and fears in the rehearsal room, manager Gerald Dwyer was travelling round the world trying to find them the best deal possible.
An overseas label has offered to distribute the band's debut album in England and Europe and Dwyer is still talking to interested parties overseas. Labels have been enthusiastic about Shihad's demos and also for the proposed production credits for the album. In January, Killing Joke leader Jaz Coleman will record and produce the album at the new studios he has built. Shihad have just started a national tour with Head Like A Hole and newcomers Conventional Toasters (they play Shed 11 tomorrow) They go into the studio with Jaz Coleman in January, tour in March and are likely to leave to tour overseas midway through next year.