Date Published: 24 April 2008
Title: stuff.co.nz : Shihad evolve once again
Writen by: Chris Schulz
Original Link: http://www.stuff.co.nz
Shihad celebrate their 20th anniversary this year, but the Kiwi rock legends haven't got time to celebrate. They talk to Chris Schulz.
Shihad turn 20 this year, but you wouldn't know it.
There's been little fanfare about the anniversary of New Zealand's premiere rock act, but surely the band's four members will find time to mark this momentous occasion with a concert, a quick drink, or - at the very least - a group hug?
"We've never thought about it, dude," says front man Jon Toogood between bites of breakfast at an Auckland cafe.
"Every year with this band, all you're thinking about is, 'What are we going to do different? How are we going to make it better?'
"You spend so much time looking forward, you don't bother looking back."
That emphasis on forward-thinking has seen Shihad - Toogood, bassist Karl Kippenberger, guitarist Phil Knight and drummer Tom Larkin - evolve once again.
Like the musical equivalent of television timelord Doctor Who, they've regenerated, showing off a new sound with Beautiful Machine - their seventh album, released this week.
Gone are the bruising metal anthems of 2005's Love Is The New Hate - an album the band describes as "cathartic" and made in response to the band's well-publicised Pacifier experiment.
One listen to first single One Will Hear The Other proves the guitars have been turned down so Shihad can show off their new-found focus on hooks and melodies.
Toogood says the changes were necessary for the band's survival.
"The only way this band has stayed together is by forcing ourselves to come up with a new sound every time."
"It's a pleasure to come up with something you've never come up with before. It makes you feel worthy of existing. So that's what we did on this record."
'CLEANING THE SLATE'
Recorded in the band's new Melbourne studio, and mixed by Alan Moulder, Beautiful Machine still has moments of heaviness.
Count It Up is a feisty punk-rock number, while Rule The World and Chameleon rumble and kick like the Shihad of old.
But they're tempered by softer numbers - including second single Vampires, the acoustic tones of Waiting Round For God and the epic title track. There's even an electronic ballad called When You Coming Home that echoes themes on live favourite Home Again.
Toogood says Shihad aren't afraid of alienating fans of the band's heavier side, as they've faced criticism with every album release.
"Even on Love Is A New Hate, I remember comments from people who loved the Pacifier album going, ‘What's this dirgy metal shit?'," he says.
"We released Churn, and the people who liked Devolve thought it was weirdo alternative music. And Killjoy, which is regarded as one of the classic Shihad records, people said it was melodic (rubbish).
Kippenberger: "We got slagged for that record and I remember it took about six or seven months before people turned around. Now it's the definitive Shihad record."
Toogood says the band felt liberated after recording Love Is The New Hate.
"We got all that venom out of our system and it cleaned the slate so we could just go 'right, we could go anywhere now'. I think we were brave on this record. If it was an electronic idea, it got just as much time as a metal idea, or a rock idea."
Shihad have plans to tour New Zealand in winter, a UK tour is on the cards and a biography is on the way. But they say they won't be touring the US until there's a change of government.
And, despite skipping the band's 20th anniversary, Kippenberger says Shihad - who began as a "speed metal covers band from Wellington High School" in 1988 - might find time to celebrate their 21st next year.
"We're going to do a yardie tour," jokes Kippenberger. "We'll tour around town halls and drink yardies ..."
Toogood continues: "And not play, just throw up."
- Shihad's Beautiful Machine is out now.