Interview ~ Nathan Hunt of Shaman’s Harvest

It used to be that a band to pay its due to achieve a career in the music industry. These days, just about anyone can become an overnight sensation due to YouTube and singing shows on television. The proof is in the pudding, so they say, and many of these artists end up having no staying power at all. Then you have a band like Shaman’s Harvest who has been battling it out in the musical trenches for well over twenty years. Although they have received more than their fair share of bumps in the road and hurdles to overcome, they never gave up. Their 2014 release Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns really garnered the band plenty of much deserved attention. The album had numerous singles released from it that made it to radio. They won critics and new fans over with not only that album, but also their kick-ass live show built on substance over style. These guys don’t rely on smoke and mirrors, but rather let the music do the talking. They’re about to release their much anticipated new album entitled Red Hands Black Deeds. They could have played it safe and released a Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns Version 2.0 but that’s just not how these guys operate. They’re continuously raising the bar and pushing themselves harder and further. When the critics and the industry think they’re going left, they decide to go right. I had a chance to sit down with lead vocalist Nathan Hunt recently and talk about the new album and much more.

There’s quite a vibe flowing throughout this album that I don’t think I’ve ever heard from you guys. Was it written on the road, after you got off tour or maybe a combination of both?

Nathan Hunt/ Shaman’s Harvest: We got off the road and we started messing around with stuff, but we really needed to take a break. We had been touring pretty hard for the Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns record so we just had to put the instruments down for a minute. Before the producer came in and started recording, we only had two songs for the record. We told the label that we had a record and we told the producer the same thing. He heard the demos and he thought they were great; he asked us what else we had and we told him that was it. He sent us back in the room and we started messing with ideas and trying to figure out the direction of the record and the sound we needed to go for. It was very spontaneous and there wasn’t a lot of pre-thought put into it, which I love writing that way. The songs dictate the energy that they need to have and they feel a little more genuine that way. The one thing that we did note going in was that we wanted everything to feel real and genuine; not over edited or any of that stuff. We wanted to capture as many authentic tones as we could and I think we captured that. Keith (Armstrong) kind of redefined the sound; he was like another member of the band. I don’t think anybody has heard these particular guitars with these particular amps that sound like this.

Did you come up with more than just the twelve tracks that made it on the album?

No, we’ve never been a band to go ‘here’s twenty songs, let’s pick the best of them.’ We’ve all been doing it a long time, so after a song survives that first hour of writing then we know if it’s going to be worth a shit or not. If it doesn’t survive that first hour, then it doesn’t survive at all. When we do have some sort of feeling towards a song in those initial phases, sometimes it takes days or weeks to finish and figure out where it needs to go. Luckily, not very many songs on this record took that long. There were a couple and “Blood Trophies” was one that we were messing with on tour. We had that riff going on and we kind of knew what that was going to be. There’s also the acoustic number at the end of the record.

“Tusk & Bone?”

(Laughs) I’ve been dealing with working titles for so long that I’m still learning the names of these songs.

That’s one of my favorites on the album, so that’s kind of how I remember that one.

Right on man; those two definitely needed some space. “Skull Crusher” is another one and that melody has been written since the end of Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns, but it was more metal. It wasn’t right for what we were trying to do; we simplified it a lot and now it feels good.  I think it may be my favorite on the record too.

That’s a funky little number.

Yeah man, the girls absolutely killed it and their vocals were done on one take.  I don’t notate anything and I want artists to feel like they’re a part of the creativity process and they nailed it.

Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns was such a big album for you guys with quite a few single making it to radio. Did you guys feel any pressure from that going in to make this new album?

There was a big amount of pressure and the reminder for us not to be pressured. Once you start feeling pressure, it kills the creative vibe. You just have to put the guitar down and walk away for the night and hopefully pick it back up tomorrow. There’s nothing good that comes from it, especially from a creative standpoint. Yeah, the pressure was definitely there and the pressure’s even there now. Our people didn’t like it and it’s so different than what we’ve done; we try to make every record that way.  Are fans going to be able to relate that to us or will they just appreciate it for the body of work that it is? Who knows what’s going to happen; it’s exciting and terrifying at the same time.

Kind of like one of those big ass amusement park rides.

Yeah man!

You touch on a lot of different topics than most bands don’t. You delve into stuff like immigration, race issues, depression and all of that is part of that vibe that I feel throughout the album. I think your press release said it best with the line of “tension and dark anxiety.”

When a record makes you feel something, although anxiety is not a pleasant feeling, then it’s something special. We realized that the body of work made you feel a certain way and we kept going with it. That’s a one in a million thing for us, for the music to manifest a consistent feeling in a listener. It is dark and it felt like the lyrics needed to be something more than just an internal struggle and they needed to take on things that are relevant right now. This is bigger than any one person in the band and bigger than any one person’s personal struggles. The last record had a lot of stuff on it from stuff going on with me and my struggles and shit. This was kind of refreshing and like going to school to a writing class. It was learning how to write from a different standpoint.

It is dark, but very real and with a sense of urgency to it. There’s way too much fluff out there and we all like fluff from time to time, but I need content that I can sink my teeth into. I appreciate you serving that up because it’s very much needed today.

Thank you; it’s nice to have mac and cheese, but every now and then you want to have a big ol’ steak too.

You guys are out with Nickelback right now, but you’re also doing some headline dates.

Unfortunately the first date with Nickelback was cancelled due to the venue flooding out, but last night was our first real show with them and Daughtry and it was pretty intense. We have a travel day into Canada tomorrow and our first time across the border so we’ll see what those folks like to do.

It looks like you’re hitting new markets on this run of dates.

I know we have fans from Canada who contact us all the time and they’re always as mad a Canadian can be that we don’t get up there. There are quite a few new markets for us on this tour; I can count on one hand how many times we’ve played California so getting out that way will be good for us. There are also some bucketlist venues like Red Rocks, that’s a big one, and The Greek in LA is another big one for us, so we’re tickled pink.

Those dates run into October and the album is out on July 28. Is there anything else that you want to mention? Are you guys working on a music video for any of the tracks?

We shot a video for “The Come Up” which is the first single off of the record. We were doing a show in Vegas and we drove out to the middle of the desert in Death Valley. It was 125 degrees and we played in the dust all day; it was a miserable/rewarding experience. I expect that thing to be out sometime next week.

You guys are definitely keeping busy and I saw that several of the other guys were doing interviews as well. It’s always good when someone wants to talk to you.

(Laughs) yeah man; when people stop calling then you know you have to step your game up a little bit. I just want people to give this record a good, hard listen. Listen to it for the body of work that it is and the first time you listen to it go straight through and don’t go back and listen to a track. I know that’s hard to do in a singles driven era, but give it a good solid listen and then go to the internet and judge away. At the end of the record, keep listening to it for about another 40 seconds.

What? Dammit; did you sneak something in on me?

(Laughs) In order to do it right, you’re going to have to go back and listen to the whole record and then keep listening; it’s a total mood change!

Order your copy of Red Hands Black Deeds:

Physical: http://smarturl.it/SH-MLG
Stream: http://smarturl.it/SH-RHBD-digital

Top band photo credit: Adrienne Beacco

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