interview | Shihad

After spending the best part of the last six months touring Europe’s festivals and America’s metal hotspots, New Zealand’s driving, melodic powerhouse Shihad bring their stadium experience to this summer’s Big Day Out entourage. ADAM CONNORS shared a moment with Shihad’s Tom Larkin.

Getting home for Christmas was the end of a gruelling many-month tour for Shihad, a welcome break finally giving the lads time to pen their follow up album to 1994’s much lauded Killjoy. Their sharp, heavy chops, reminiscent to the mighty Helmet, has been winning fans on the stadium and lunch canteen circuits – I kid you not – from one end of the earth to the other throughout 1995.

Taken under the wing of such luminaries as Faith No More, Ministry and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, drummer Tom Larkin waxes lyrical of the highs and lows of the months on the road.

“We’ve lived in about five different tour buses over the last year, played most of the major festivals in Europe and have eaten a lot of bad, dreadful truckstop food”, says the articulate Kiwi.

“Faith No More took us on their whole European tour and we’ve hooked up with a lot of bands from last year’s Big Day Out – Ministry came out and really enjoyed what we did. Iggy Pop came to see our show in New York. He came just to see us, stood at the side of the stage and raged, now that was really cool.”

Apart from their peers’ nods of approval, Shihad can claim such diverse worldwide gig locations as Poland and Woolongong as bad gig spots. Their Poland event was as part of a death metal festival, unbeknownst to them and very un-Shihad.

“The crowd hated us. Half of the 8000 people were comatose, sleeping or puking from alcohol halfway through the day, there was nobody behind the mixing desk and they had the military as security. It was absolutely bizarre, very depressing.” However, Larkin considers this memory as not quite as bad as a university gig in Woolongong.

“It was one of those lunchtime gigs, kids eating chips and playing video games in the common room. I didn’t feel like hitting my drums, easily one of our strangest gigs.”

Speaking of his beloved homeland of New Zealand, Larkin has a bit of a giggle about my description of that omnipresent folk flavour that seems to dominate the New Zealand scene: Flying Nun’s Chris Knoxy guitar babble and rubber chicken tunes. Apart from label compatriots Head Like A Hole on Festival’s Wildside, Shihad are fairly much in the minority in their country.

“Yeah, it’s interesting to see how we’re not really regarded as a signature New Zealand band. People don’t link us because we’re going in a totally different direction to the (laughs) jangly, quirky bands.

“The way we’re going is somewhere that a New Zealand band’s never been. But we’re big Flying Nun aficionados actually, it’s just that we have a lot more in common with Bailterspace and the dirty, secret little Flying Nun bands – the darker, heavier stuff that doesn’t get to the front of the catalogue.”

With single releases including B-side industrial/dance remixes of their album tracks off Killjoy and Churn (a tactic which has seen Fear Factory lead their field), Larkin would like to see dub remixes come in to play for their new generation of singles. Their new album, which the band are taking the time off to write and record now, is set for a mid-year release.

Big Day Out-wise, Shihad are set to barrage the Stage 3 crowd with the many tricks they have picked up over the past year. Playing England’s Phoenix Summer Rock Festival, Holland’s Dynamo Festival and LA’s Foundation’s Convention during 1995 are surely all the credentials that you and I need for a good mosh.