Source: The Evening Post
Date Published: 23 September 1999
Title: Power Play
Writen by: Simon Beattie
Wellington guitar merchants Shihad played upstairs-downstairs with heroes AC/DC in Canada and the result was a monster of an album. Simon Beattie sees similarities with a Kiwi rock legend.
Who say history never repeats? In 1979 a popular Kiwi band moves to Melbourne and releases their fifth album, the hit-laden True Colours, making them Australasia's biggest group, which puts a wide smile on their band manager's face. That band, of course, was Split Enz.
In 1999 a popular Kiwi band moves to Melbourne and releases their fourth album, the potentially hit-laden The General Electric, a knockout record with commercial appeal which should cement their position as Australasia's No 1 sons - and if God is a metaller - shoot them up the international charts. That band is Shihad. The comparison between the two bands makes sense to Shihad's powerhouse drummer Tom Larkin.
"Oh yeah the comparisons are there for sure and I truly believe we are the best band in Australasia at the moment."
Larkin is as proud as punch of the new album. And rightly so. The former Wellington outfit has been touted in recent years as the Kiwi band most likely to have the goods needed to succeed on the international stage. With The General Electric they have produced an album that, in time, looks sure to gain classic Kiwi rock status. The guitars are loud, the melodies rich and catchy, and singer Jon Toogood's voice is in peak condition.
"Jon actually gave up smoking so he could give everything to this album," Larkin says. But Larkin dismisses claims Toogood, whose slight physique could have nabbed him a role in weed commercial, has put on an ounce of weight as a result.
The General Electric was recorded at The Factory studio in Vancouver, the home of 80s bands like Bon Jovi and Motley Crue. Shihad's rock idols AC/DC were downstairs in the studio at the same time and Larkin thought he had died and gone to bogan heaven.
"I love AC/DC so much [that] if I to pick had one rock'n'roll band in the whole world, it would be them," Larkin says. "They were really cool guys. For us it was like being Catholics in the Vatican." The album was produced by GGGarth Richardson (Rage Against The Machine, Skunk Anansie), who spells his name in recognition of his Max Headroom-like stutter. Larkin says the time in the studio was a dream - unlike the band's experiences with an international producer. They fell offside with Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman who pulled the punches on their first album, Churn.
"We got on really, really well with GGGarth. We had a tremendously good vibe between us. It just felt natural. It sounds amazing and that's the bottom line."
Larkin believes Richardson and mixer Randy Staub (Metallica) successfully bridged the gap between the manic energy of Shihad live and the Shihad that records in the studio. "Someone said this to me the other day, that we need to go in for about three weeks of rehearsals to match the recorded stuff [on the new album]. Which is something we have never done before.
"The recording is just over the top. We captured a lot of passion and Jon's singing has come a long, long way - it's just huge.
"You can leave it in these guys hands and they make anything sound good." He says it won't be easy trying to crack the international market especially the United States which hasn't been lucrative for most Kiwi pop musicians.
"We've only had two international successes out of this country. Neil Finn and OMC. It's hard, hard work."