December 2002 - SHEPHERD
SHEPHERD are a new hopeful Doom-band, and I was positve surprised about their 3-song demo CD, named "Doomonstration". In opposite to German veteran acts like Mirror Of Deception or Dawn Of Winter SHEPHERD are less metal oriented and their sound is a bit more in the vein of later Electric Wizard, what means that it's more filthy and sludgy. Andreas Kohl, co-founder and singer of SHEPHERD is doing a lot other stuff, aside of the band. He got his own label Exile On Mainstream Records, sometimes he writes for the Visions magazine and diverse underground 'zines. And he's a very good and close friend of Scott 'Wino' Weinrich. A few days before Yule 2002, we had a long and interesting telephone talk, which included this interview, where we not only talked about the upcoming SHEPHERD album. Wino's new band and the Hellhound label were only two other themes of our informative talk.
My first question is about your band SHEPHERD, that is unknown for most of the people. Have you played in any other Doombands before and when have you come together?
I've never played before in any band, except a Punk-band, but we never played live...therefore we were too bad. No, but the story is relativ short to tell. I've played a rehearsel-tape of this old band two years ago, when I was in the right mood and Niko Kozik of Sissies and Payola was my guest and he was impressed, but I've said: that's sound total aweful...I can't sing...But then he returned to me, two or three weeks later and he said: we are doing a band and you're the singer..hahaha. Ok, everything was wrapped up, and then we've searched for a drummer and a guitarist and that ended up short. We've found Olli, who's playing guitar and he a real Down devotee....hahaha. and he fulfills all the beautiful clichés....got a nice long beard and...
I think, he's tattooed........?
No, he's not tattooed, but he comes out of Mazedonien, what means to be really doomed. Well, so we've started with practicing, and very soon we came up with four songs...hm..and from there it develops more and more. It should be nothing more than fun. We have thought about doing a cool cover-version, Curtis Mayfield's "There's A Hell Below" f.e...that is a doom-song, especially the wonderful intro. And then we realized, that the band means a lot to us, so that we decided to go one step further and I offered to make a record and to take care about shows and so on, and then we've played our first show on this years Stoned From The Underground Festival, and I think, that the people liked it. After the gig, some people said, that they can't believe it was our first show. We've sold 15 demos there.
So I guess, that the three-song demo was the first and only material, you've been recorded until then?
And in January 2003, your debut album will be released?
Not in January. We must...or better, I must change it to March 2003 because it would collide with other releases of mine, and we still need a bit of time. Everything needs to mature, because we are doing everything by ourselves. We have recorded everything at a school for tone-technicians here in Berlin, where our old drummer, but now second guitarist and our proper guitarist have learned tone-technician and so it was easy for us to get in. Both have mixed it at home at a computer, and the mastering was done by a friend of us.The record will be released on my own label and I doing the complete artwork. And so, everything is focused on March 2003
When you compare the album with the demo, aside of the better sound...where are the other differences?
I'm not quite sure, if the sound will be so much different...
Well, personally..and I've written it in the review...I like the sound of your demo, especially this roughness and so on...
The attitude of the sound, or the temperature shall stay the same. Some people said, the vocals must be more in front...but we: hey, stop complaining... the vocals stay behind. We're thinking serious about playing live in that way, that I stand on stage behind the drums, because vocals are so unimportant... Although I really think about the lyrics, but later more about it. The sound will be similar, of course a bit thicker and it will be mastered. What you know is the not mastered sound, and I don't know what the person, who takes care about the mastering, will get out of it. He had also mastered Payola and he's really good. The three songs of the demo will be included on the record in the same versions.
This demo is as the mp3 files for downloading. Today, every band that records stuff and wants to become famous, put something for a download in the net. We think, computers are crap..so we sell our demo for 5 Euro. It's a kind of download. So, this songs will be on it. There will be a small difference in the newer songs we've done. Well, there's one song, that is very very very slow, very weighty. It goes definitly a bit into the Wizard or Sons Of Otis direction. Then, there's a song that is a bit more Sludge with vocals between our bass-player Nico and myself. We cry a lot! He start's first with crying, and I follow him. That's how the song works.
But the direction is the same, we want to be as much cliché as possible...hahaha... a lot of Doom-clichés. A lot of bands are standing in opposite to it, but somehow it fascinates me to say, now I'm just consequent...we're a hell of a consequent-band. We're doing this sound and that's how we sound. That's printed in the info, too...I think, you've got one, too...Yes, for sure... no new ideas or a special development, just a pure tribute to gods as Vitus, Pentagram etc... close to the roots... And how will someone tell me to develop or improve the sound, that Vitus and Pentagram have stamped. I wouldn't never risk as band, because you can't do it better. But you can try to give your best!
You've mentioned the lyrics. What about the lyrics? What are they about?
Of course, the lyrics are following the attitude of being consequent. Somehow, they are classic Doom-lyrics that are sometimes about trolls and witches in the forest. But it's more meant metaphoric. I spend a few thoughts about the lyrics, but I don't need much time for writing them. Mostly, it happens in the practice-room. Someone comes along, mostly it's Nico who's got an idea for a song and then we play and practice...I sit beside with a pencil and write down the lyrics very quickly. One was written during the recording sessions, half an hour before I had to sing my takes. But in a special way, they are metaphors for...let's say, the depressive bottoms of the soul. One can find analogies to the Blues, only from the songwriting. From the structure, it's a Blues-structure...to sing four lines, whereby the first and third one aren't a rhyme. And it's about the search of inner healing....soul-healing...
You've talked about the bottoms of the human souls. I've always interpreted Doom as a musical direction, with main topics about the bitter things in a human exsitence without being too pathetic. It's a part of the life, but it shouldn't change you in a way to end it. How would you judge the whole Doom-story, the summary of it...?
It's similar to me. "Learn to suffer in a healthy way". It's the opposite to the whole nu-metal movement, except the more authentic bands as Korn, although I don't like them. In this movement, there's more self-pity...no strength....
It's this strange kind of weakness...
Yes, and Doom is more a kind of exposition about this stuff and at the end, there's a kind of healing. I won't over-judge it, because in the end it's "only" music and the main-motivation is the joy, to make something extreme. Doom is just extrem. Doom is extremly slow, in cases of doubt extrem loud..I think, this are two fascinating extremes for me.
You're around for a long time, and you've noticed the development of this music for years. How would you judge the whole development of the so-called "Stoner-Rock" genre?
Hmm..difficult question ..hahaha...
I mean the tendencies within the last 4-5 years...
For me, in the beginning "Stoner-Rock".., I will use this term for now, although nobody likes it, but now it has become a term or statement, one can live with. It's ok for me, that's why I use it. It goes back to bands that I really worshipped as Kyuss or Monster Magnet and so on...in older times. They have brought me back to Doom, where I haven't been into for a while. Well, I haven't listen to it for a while and I wasn't really interested into it. I was fascinated from the early development. There were coming up bands like Monster Magnet, Orange Goblin, Electric Wizard, Sons Of Otis and I liked it all. It wasn't the music I would spend hours in. The basics of "Stoner-Rock" is the missing philosophical componet. For me, it was "Party-Sound". Have a good time, rock out...but therefore, it's damn good! It's better than Punk-Rock...the best thing to a have a beer. What I've noticed in the last one and a half years is, that "Stoner-Rock" or however we name it, is dying a bit right now. On one side, we've got bands that have turned into classic Doom and are going under this banner from door to door and on the other side, there are this bands that have so strong classic-rock or pig-rock tendencies, what's not really great. Monster Magnet f.e. I've visited their last tour, and I wished I hadn't, because since I've seen this clown with his flame-patched leather-dress and his two chicks to the left and right, I can't listen anymore to the old records. At this night, he had destroyed everything, what this band once means to me and it really hurts. And on the other side, there are bands like Electric Wizard f.e. In the beginning, they've got the typical, classic "Stoner-Rock" sound, but nowadays somehow they've got a doomy component, and so they've become aceptable for doom-fans.
Well, I've got the impression, that the term "Drone" has taken a bigger influence and I think, that Electric Wizard have integrated such elements, too. I found those parts in your sound, too...
Yes, all that are influences. We are big Wizard and Down fans, too. When I say, that we are consequent, I don't mean we are close-minded....hahaha...
After I've listen to your demo, I had to admit that you got something as an outstanding position in the German Doom-Scene (is there one?), soundwise. In opposite to the more-known bands, you're less metal-oriented and you've got no standard-classic-riff'n'roll sound. Where do you see yourself?
Well, for me personal, there never exsisted a German Doom-scene. I've discovered it all right now, due to the occupation with the Stoned From The Underground Festival and the Doom Shall Rise Festival and Doom-Metal.com. I don't know Mirror Of Deception before, or Dreaming... I've met them all now. Of course, I knew some German "Stoner-Rock" bands like Duster 69, but that's something that never really wake-up my interest. I'm strictly influenced from bands like Vitus, Pentagram or Internal Void. Well, Hellhound Records...I'm totally Hellhound-influenced. In former times I've got ever problems to accept or like something, that won't fit into the Hellhound-context. I've got always my problems to like something as While Heaven Wept f.e. or Solitude Aeturnus. Now I've realized how silly it was to be so close-minded, but in older days, it was a red blanket for me. If the band wasn't on Hellhound, it wasn't a Doom-band and I didn't care about...
To talk once again about the new record...have you planned any short or long promotion tour for next year 2003?
We definitly want to play. The problem is....Nico is still playing with the Sissies and I'm doing a job, that I like very much and I can't take a longer break, so there won't be an extensive tour. We will play with Thrones (Joe Preston) and Sunn O))), we definitly will play one or more shows with The Hidden Hand on their upcoming German tour in 2003 and we play with Place Of Skulls, if they are coming over, because I manage both tours for the bands. It's cheaper, as if an agency will do it and I've got my payment. And we will play other shows, sometimes. Of course, we'll play on the Stoned From The Underground again. I would have loved to play at the Doom Shall Rise Festival, and everything looked good, but we were too late. Now, Patrick of the Legacy magazine has talked again to the DSR-crew, and he said that SHEPHERD will play, and they've said it, too but it never happened. But there are playing a lot of other bands, that have deserved it to play there even more than us, because they are longer around.
You've mentioned a band that's totally unknown to me..THE HIDDEN HAND. Who's that?
Oh yes, THE HIDDEN HAND is the Wino's new band that you can call the follow-up of Spirit Caravan, if you're kidding. The fans don't need to panic, Wino is still together with Place Of Skulls and there will be a record. The main-reason why The Hidden Hand was founded is very simple. Everyone of the PLACE OF SKULLS members is living in Tennesee, except Wino. He had to take a car-drive about 6-8 hours for a rehearsel. Than, the band is practising for three days and he drives back. He wants to make music together with people once a week, and out of it develops The Hidden Hand. In May 2003, hopefully on the 2nd, the debut record will be released on my label.for Europe. It's just a typical Wino-band..hahaha...
Aside of SHEPHERD you've got your own label Exile On Mainstream Records. What have you released until now? I only know about the last Scissorfight, then you have released Good Witch Of The South ...what else?
Yes, exactly...Exile On Mainstream is my own label and it's not absolutley not focused on any special sound or scene. I haven't done all the things, you better should do if you found a label. I stand in opposite to every label-basics. So, as before said, released has been Good Witch and Scissorfight, that's more sludge-oriented. Then, ther's the last Payola and the Payola record before. May some of the people will know Payola...they've been often described as "Stoner-Rock", but they aren't. For those, who don't know it's the connection between Soundtrack Of Our Lives and Urge Overkill. In January comes out a record, where Doomfans will running away in masses, if they listen to it. The band is named Mikrowelle, and it's not really a band..it's only one person. It's Kraftwerk-electonic with a surf-guitar. But I've better shut up about it, when you're doing an interview with a Doom-Internet-Magazin ..hahaha... The basic of the label is just an ego-trip of mine. I release, what I like and due to the reason that I'm very open-minded in music, but the sub-summary is captured in the term "Extrem". If it's extreme Pop or extreme Hip Hop or extreme Punk or extreme Noise or Doom or what so ever. Everything that I like will be on the label. And, I'm really influenced form labels as SST or Homestead, which were never focused on a special sound. They've just released music, that may some people will listen to.
Well, you talkabout SST...I still got the impression, that the status of SST is still underrated today. Maybe that doesn't hit the nail on the head exactly, but although SST was very diverse there's was something as a red thread in it.
Without being ashamed or wasting much time in thinking about it, I can say that SST was the most important thing in the last 10-15 years for my musical and social progression. This label had not only given to me music, that I love, but it has shown me how to handle music. No other label had done that in this form. When I think about all the questions I've got inside my head, while holding a SST record in my hands....it was like a study.
Aside of Sabbath, Pentagram/Death Row and Trouble, Vitus are still my favorite band and without SST I had never discovered them. And, of course stuff as Meat Puppets, Würm, Hüsker Dü or Bad Brains f.e., although Bad Brains were no "real" SST band. Whatsoever, SST was very important. To talk about your label, how did you get together with Scissorfight?
It's a long story, but I'll make it short. Somehow, I received the Isis EP from Neurot Recordings, the "SGNL>05" and I really dig it a lot. So, I've ordered the "Celestial" directly from Hydrahead, and so I get in contact with Aaron Turner. I've checked out the website, and I've talked with Aaron about making Hydrahead a bit more well-known in Germany and so on and this was the way I received a package from him. It included a Scissorfight-album, their last one on Tortuga. I've listen to it and fall on my knees, and I was interested in the band, because I think their band-name is one of the best of all times, and than I heard from Tony of Shellshock / UK, whom I know very good due to the Dukes Of Nothing / Spirit Caravan tour. So I've heard, that he will release a Europe-compilation. I made a telephone call and asked him, whether he had a distribution and he agreed but he would like to work together with a label for promotion and so I said, that I will make it. And then, everything went on easily. He send me over a number of records...I've sticked my label-logo on it, done the promotion and so it goes.
Aside of your own label, is there a "dream-label", where you would like to see the release of the SHEPHERD album?
Since I played in this band, the greatest honor for me was, as Michi Böhl, ex-Hellhound label-chief, who got not much in common with Doom today and who's totally out of the scene, said to me after listening to the record, that they would have signed us for Hellhound 10 years ago. After this nothing was like before for me....hahaha...and everything was clear. Well, if I could chose I wanted to be on Hellhound, if they were still alive. Another label is Southern Lord, due to the image, because they got a damn good image in the USA and I think, that there's one or another who would like us. I don't have an insight in the American market-structure and that's something I can't do with Exile On Mainstream. But it will be released in the USA over a distribution, but all in all I'm satisfied with my own label, because I'm a control-freak and I'm glad, when I can do everything by myself.
You've mentioned the legendary Hellhound label. Everyone, who's into Doom must be aware of it. Are you in contact with one of the former bosses?
Yes, I'm in contact with both!
What are they doing today?
Well, Michi Böhl had worked as a booker in a club, named "Trompete" here in Berlin. It's the club of Ben Becker (German actor), but he's out there, because he didn't like it that much. He's very busy in the electronic music-scene. Here in Berlin is a very good electronic music-fair, that's been called "Musik & Maschine", where he has been involved and he has taken care about the bands and the contents. And Tom...hmm..I haven't heard anything from him since a long time. The last thing I know about him was, that he had been working for City Slang Records Germany.
I guess, none of them is interested in re-activating Hellhound?
I think, they don't want it. The label went official bankrupt. There are still a lot of righteous problems, but aside of that they won't do it. Well, Michi is totally out of it.
I've read in several interviews, that some of the old bands, especially Dan Fondelius of Count Raven, don't lose any good word about Hellhound today. Ok, none of us two is involved into it, but what do you think about these reproaches?
I can't say much about it. I know the people, but they aren't friends of mine. If you're into the music buisness, here in Berlin, than it's only a question of time to get in contact. I've bought the Hellhound back-stocks from Michi. I don't really know, but as far as I know them I think they are super-correct. I can imagine, it's all based on founding a record-label. Sooner or later you're into the position, where you've got a dispute with the bands. The bands are expecting things from you, you can't afford and sometimes you can't tell it to the bands, because then they go to another label. Well, I guess there are a lot of difficulties. I know, that both have worked their asses off for Vitus and The Obsessed. In the past, when there were problems with the recordings, or Wino was lost somewhere, both have taken the next flight to LA, payed from their own money, just to search him. They were really into it.
That are my thoughts, too. Except of Vitus, Count Raven and Revelation, Hellhound have discovered all this bands and they have given them the opportunity to release records. It seems, as if this has been forgotten. For me personal, Hellhound is a ultra-legendary label and there was no record-label before, which was so much focused on this kind of music.
I could ask Michi, if he's interested in doing an interview with you...
Good idea! A few years ago, I've thought about the same...
Because, he's no difficult person, but once he told me that he has finished with the past. But I will see, what I can do about an interview.
Why are you playing with SHEPHERD? What's your intention and why have you chosen Doom?
As I've said, we're doing it mostly for ourselves and because we like the music and we like to do it. It's loud as hell in our rehearsel room, and we do for the people out there, who like it because it makes me always a bit angry, if bands say that they are only doing it for themselves and they don't care if there are 4 or 10 people at their shows. We care! I'm glad, if the venue is filled and the people are into the sound and you can feel it. But....hmm...I don't want to roll-up the Doom-scene from behind as a maniac, and I don't want to take it a step further. That's not my ambition! Therefore other things I'm doing are important, too. I want to etablish the band, to play a few shows and that the people are buying the record, but that's all.
What about an appearance on next year's SHoD or the Emissions Of The Monolith Festival? Two years ago Calamus have played at the SHoD and SHEPHERD can make it, too...Have you ever thought about it?
Yes, I've thought about it. Especially the Emissions I've thought about. Right at the moment, I'm checking out the first contacts and maybe we can save money to make the journey. I'm really interested into the whole thing. In this moment, another thing comes to my mind. You've asked me for my personal wishes... I would love to be on the second "I Am Vengeance" compilation. I MUST be on it!
No idea, if Richard Anasky and Game Two Records have compiled all the bands...
I will check it out in the beginning of the next year!!!
Ok, Andreas. We've reached the end of the interview. Is there anything, that you like to say at least? If so, than hurry up...
Buy our record! Instead of buying it in the Media-Markt or at Saturn, you better visit the small record-dealer around the corner and come to our shows. Buy Southern Lord records! We see us at the Doom Shall Rise, because there I am, too...