Not even a broken down tour bus could dampen the spirits of Shaman's Harvest vocalist Nathan 'Drake' Hunt ahead of the release of their sixth studio album Red Hands Black Deeds. Broken down on the side of the road and waiting for a replacement vehicle, he was in surprisingly jovial spirits when we spoke to him.
"It's just normal rock and roll boring stuff right," he bellowed down the line.
Hunt and his bandmates have every reason to be excited about the release of Red Hands Black Deeds, an album that utilizes a variety of different elements that combine to make perhaps one of the finest rock releases this year.
"I'm ready to get this son of a bitch out," Hunt laughed. "I'm tired of waiting on it. I want to see what people think because it's a little bit different than the rest of our records."
Part of that difference extended to the recording studio, where Shaman's Harvest decided to strip back to the bare minimum and shun conventional methods and devices in search of a new, unstructured sound.
"We use a lot of, I guess you would call it primal, tribal instruments from a percussion stand point," Hunt offered. "We used a lot of really old amps that we thought were gonna catch on fire - the whole time we were using them you could smell smoke (laughs). As far as guitars go, I don't think we used the same guitar twice on the whole record. I'm pretty sure we used a different guitar for every song, just trying to find the right tones that the song demanded."
One way of creating an authentic sound was the use of vintage amplifiers, a stark contrast to most bands who utilize and embrace the most modern things technology has to offer.
"You can use something digital," Hunt surmised, "but you lose something in the process. I think that most people would agree that digital ones aren't even close to being as warm and what you can't duplicate with an amp is how old the tube is and that brings different sounds and the accidental floods you get when the reverb strings blow out... yeah man, you can't duplicate that kind of stuff. It's the happy accidents that are the best thing on the whole record."
'The Come Up'
Not content to utilize existing methods and sounds, Shaman's Harvest also opened their creative talents to the use of things as outside the box as sandpaper and goat toes, with the resulting sounds providing another dimension to the finished product.
"Yeah man," Hunt laughed. "We used goat hooves and just beat them together. I think there's like twelve that we used so, as Josh says, goat hooves are the new cow bells (laughs) and I think it just brings a whole darker kind of vibe. The sandpaper you just rub it together with a couple of two by fours and it creates a sound like things are going backward so you don't have to fake it with real instruments; you can do it organically. For the whole record we would look in the studio and look around and when we were bored with what we were doing we'd go and find stuff in the guy's house and just start making noise and see what sounds we could make. I think that's how most of the record went. Usually, we experiment to the proper degree as any band should when they're making a record but this is definitely the first time that we have felt kinda free to do so. The record label said do whatever you want, we have faith in you and we were like okay, you probably shouldn't have faith because we're gonna make a bunch of goofy stuff (laughs) but luckily enough for them and us it worked out."
The album title, Red Hands Black Deeds is a reflection on the entire album, not just a select song name, and as such Hunt feels it adds to the psyche surrounding its contents.
"I think it is a good summary for how ominous this record is," he revealed. "It is a darker record at the end of the day, even though we did all of this goofy stuff, and I think it just represents the nasty, darker nature that we as humans have."
To reflect the eclectic use of instruments and styles, Hunt says that Shaman's Harvest went into the album with one clear goal in mind.
"We wanted it to sound unlike anything we had ever done or is on rock radio now," he stressed. "If it sounded anything like what is on the radio stations we were like, nope, we're gonna have to take a sharp turn left, and that was our only goal. We only had two songs written before we went in, to be honest and the producer sat us down and in about three hours we knocked out how the songs were gonna go so I think that kind of lends itself to the vibe. It's a consistent vibe, even though the songs are very different to each other. I think at the end of the day the whole piece has a good proper arc to it."
Hunt started Sharman's Harvest with bassist Matt Fisher and guitarist Josh Hamler in 1996 and says that there were no delusions of grandeur or high hopes of success, it was more a case of a group of mates coming together to have a good time and see what transpired.
"We didn't have any kind of vision," he laughed. "We just wanted to pick up girls and find reasons not to go to school. That was it. We're all very, very stubborn and when we didn't find immediate success we didn't quit, we just kept going and going and the vision kind of worked itself out from there."
Looking back now on their early work Hunt admits it's not surprising the young group had to work for their success after the release of their debut album Last Call for Goose Creek in 1999.
"Oh God, that first record is so bad man," Hunt reflected honestly. "Never buy that by the way. You can tell everyone that you know do not buy our first record! I mean, we were kids, fifteen or sixteen years old when we started recording that album so it's terrible. Not all of us can be Silverchair and be good right away (laughs). We were just kind of... with every record you want to grow otherwise you should probably quit. - unless you're AC/DC then you can keep the formula the same as pie - but the rest of the world we have to grow as humans and musicians. You can only hope that your fan base accepts that and appreciates that your tastes change as well."
Although Shaman's Harvest have never toured Australia, Hunt says the flame is burning bright and with any luck, we could see them out here with eighteen months.
"No man, we've never been," he said regretfully. "It's been our goal since about 2009 when we opened for AC/DC and we were like holy shit these guys... there must be something in the water down there because these guys are 65 or something like that and they are running and sprinting across the stage constantly. They don't stop, it's just pure 100% unadulterated rock and roll so we were like, we gotta get down that way! We are looking at being there by the end of 2018, hopefully the beginning..."