Shai Hulud


I’m lucky enough to have interviewed Matt Fox before, but for those of you who aren’t already in complete awe of Shai Hulud (and shame on you if you’re not) you should read on and see what the ring- leader of one of modern music’s most innovative bands had to say!

Interview w/ Matt Fox (Guitar)
of Shai Hulud on Wednesday May 21st

By Cameron Chambers


Hey Matt, how are you doing
today?
 

I’m good man, how are you?  

Very well thank you. Where
are you guys at the moment?
 

Just hanging out at home man. 

It’s been a few years since
the world last heard from Shai Hulud, what’s been keeping you busy?
 

Well, you know… I would say
the same thing that keeps most other bands busy, especially ones that
have had the same problems as us, ha ha.  

Since the release of our last
record we parted ways with our singer Geert that we had in 2003 and
you know, replacing a singer is always a tough time because you need
someone that suits the sound that you get along with and someone who
is in it for the long haul.  

That was the main issue up until
recently so we focused on our side band a lot. Even though we had parted
with Geert we ended up doing some US shows and two Japanese tours with
him, as well as going to Australia, as you know. So we were still pretty
active with that line up even though we had technically broken up. It
definitely took up some time. 

Between that and real life and
looking for new members and the side band and obviously writing new
material… that pretty much took up all our time! There wasn’t a
sabbatical from music or a Hawaiian vacation or anything like that,
we just tried to keeping active and to keep the ball rolling.  

Your Australian tour was supposed
to be something of a last hoorah for you guys but that obviously didn’t
eventuate – or we wouldn’t be talking. What happened to changing the
band name?
 

I was just talking about this
with someone else. We did our best to make sure the tours we were doing
were our last but at the same time, if we saw anything that said “Shai
Hulud’s last tour” then we would get upset, because that’s not
the case! Until you’re dead then nothing is your last. I mean, the
new Indiana Jones movie just came out and I can remember reading interviews
with Harrison Ford saying that there wouldn’t be another Indiana Jones
movie and look where we are now, ha ha.  

Just because you’re sick of
something at one point in time doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Human
beings are resilient and you don’t ever want to give something up,
especially when you’ve put your heart and soul into it.  

As far as why we didn’t actually
change the name, well, at the time we thought we would. We were certain
enough as uncertain people can be… in fact, we even posted on our
site that we were changing the name to “The Warmth Of Red Blood”.
Then we recorded a three-song demo and sent it to Metal Blade, because
the whole purpose of the demo was to sign to Metal Blade as they were
the label we wanted to be a part of.  

Anyway, during the writing and
recording we played the demo to our friends and they were like, it’s
cool but it sounds like a massive Shai Hulud rip off. I’m like, “what
does that even mean”? They said we should just keep our name because
we’d get attacked for sounding like our old band and you know what,
we write what we write. If I’m still writing this kind of music in
thirty-five years it’ll still sound like Shai Hulud.  

Hearing that comment from so many
of our close friends made it evident that keeping our name was the best
way to label the music. Whether or not it’s good for sales, well,
probably not, ha ha, but that wasn’t the focus. It was about keeping
integrity.  

Like I said before, we don’t
claim to know all the answers, we don’t know what the fuck to do half
the time or if there is even a correct answer… that’s the ultimate
answer! At the time we took the path of least resistance… to quote
the band! Ha ha 

I think it goes without saying
that you made a lot of people very happy by keeping the Shai Hulud moniker!
 

Can you fill us in on who’s
actually in the band now, what they do, how you found them etc…
 

Sure. Right now we’ve got myself
and our bass player Matt Fletcher. I’ve been here since day one and
I play guitar and Matt’s been here for ten years… he’s still around,
ha ha.  

We had a few options for a singer.
There’s a local guy who lives close and his name is Matt Mazzali and
he sang on the new Shai Hulud record. The album was written and recorded
by four people. We have the previously mentioned “Three Matt’s”
and our good friend Andrew on drums… he was actually the drummer on
the Australian tour we did. He really helped out with song structures
and arranging on the newest record too! 

He’s a long time friend of the
band and a very clever guy… he just has such great drum ideas and
he’s such a good friend. Since we didn’t have a drummer at the time
he was clearly the best option to record. He’s not in the band now
though because he’s being a family man in Seattle, but his presence
and personality and drum work is a very big part of the new album.  

Now, it’s not released yet
(at the time of this interview anyway), but I’m one of the lucky few
that’s been given a copy of “Misanthropy Pure”… can you walk
us through the record? The writing, the recording, the concept behind
it etc…
 

You mean a brief little dissipation
about it?  

Yep, that’d be great.  

Sure! Every record is a process
for us… we’re never as prepared as we should be and we pay too much
attention to detail, ha ha. It’s never a two or three-week thing for
us, which part of me loves but part of me hates it too. It’s always
a pain in the arse, and it’s back breaking and its frustrating and
emotionally taxing but I love it! I know the end product is always very
unique and it sounds different from other bands. One thing I’m proud
of with this record is that it doesn’t sound like anyone out there.  

This isn’t part of the question
but I’ll say it anyone. There’s a song by NOFX called “Mediocore”,
and I’m paraphrasing here but it says something like “can’t you
write music no one’s heard before”. It’s easier said than done
for most bands because most bands take a formula that works for their
friends so they try it to see if they’ll get big.  

Our natural instincts as a band
combined with having that NOFX lyric always in the back of my brain
always make me want to push the boundaries and not do what people expect.
That’s pretty important to us. At the end of the day there are going
to be similarities to a certain degree because when you’ve guitars,
drums, bass and screamed vocals then you’re always going to a little
similar to a lot of other bands, but outside of those fundamentals the
band is entirely different.  

As far as the theme for the record,
we knew that after having a five-year lapse we had to come out swinging.
“That Within Blood Ill Tempered” was a very emotional sounding record…
it was very pretty sounding and inherently Shai Hulud is a pissed off,
angry band. So as proud as I am of “That Within Blood Ill Tempered”
it didn’t showcase our anger, so we had to make sure it was fucking
clear on this album! 

It’s emotional, not emo! We’re
a hardcore band, we’re a metal band, and we’re a punk band. We are
all of those things combined! We don’t have pretty hair or right jeans
and this is an album that showcased the true nature of the band, which
is that we’re fierce and emotional! All of the songs on the record
discussed the different levels of hatred that we have, whether they
are valid or invalid… and that was our overall intention!  

Shai Hulud’s lyrics are one
of the defining points of the band, with a change in vocal personnel
were you ever concerned that the lyrical focus might not be as strong
as it once was, or do you guys still approach your lyrics as a collective?
 

You know, our very first singer
was a guy named Damien Moyal, who sang for As Friends Rust, Culture
and Morning Again, and he’s a great vocalist and a really talented
guy.  

Anyway, he was the kind of guy
that sings for a band and writes all the lyrics because he has so many
great ideas, so he wrote all our earlier stuff. When we parted ways
with Damien there was no one person interested in writing the lyrics,
there were a couple of us! I had a focus that I wanted to be conveyed
through the lyrics and that was the profound hatred theme and I wanted
to get that out there when we started recording. So yeah, when he left
we didn’t have anyone writing the lyrics and since I had some sort
of vision for what I wanted the band to stand for I opted to write the
lyrics… so since then I’ve been the guy that has predominantly written
the lyrics.  

Changing singers has never really
had much of an affect on Shai Hulud because no matter what has happened
it’s always been a collective effort. Any time I have an idea for
a song I’m like “hey guys, here’s a title and this is what it’s
about… write me some bullshit and then we’ll pick through it and
make a song”, ha ha.  

Everyone is always welcome to
contribute but fortunately we’ve never had to rely on getting another
singer and worrying about whether or not his lyrics will be any good,
because I predominantly handle that… we do it in house! Some bands
replace a singer or a guitarist and you’re like, “holy shit, he
wrote the last record that I love”, but that doesn’t happen with
us.  

That Matt’s are always directing
the output of the band. No matter whom we get it goes through the Shai
Hulud filter and it’s been like that since day one… we’ve always
maintained sounding and writing like Shai Hulud so no one is going to
define us!  

In saying that, was the song
writing a group effort amongst old and new band members, cause I know
that you have handled the lion’s in the past?
 

There were lots of bits and pieces
from a lot of different people. It’s funny, whenever there’s one
guy in a band who’s been there for a long time and has written a few
songs then everyone assumes he’s a Nazi. That’s what James Hetfield
and Dave Mustaine gets accused of… not that I’m comparing myself
to those musical geniuses coz they’re on a higher level than me!  

I think Shai Hulud and I get accused
of keeping this fortress around the material, which isn’t the truth
at all. We’ve had so many people in this band, I mean, we’ve had
three or four fill in drummers and other people helping out at various
times and their ideas made it onto the album! When Geert was in the
band he’d offer up suggestions and Matt Fletcher writes music as well….
He’s a huge part of the song writing! When our new vocalist Matt and
our co – producer Greg Thomas heard the title track from the new record
they both thought it was too long… although I thought it was perfect.
Anyway, it was ninety seconds longer than it is now and I listened to
their ideas and said, yep, I can see what you mean, so we cut it down!  

It’s a collective effort…
sometimes we’re recording and I’ll always be open to ideas but sometimes
I do get a hard time because if I’m certain of an idea then I’ll
want to keep it, ha ha. New members, old members, close friends of the
band and anyone else who heard the record all had input that we took
into consideration. We wanted a really cool, effective album that could
relate to as many people as possible. I’m not saying we’re masterminds
like James Hetfield or Dave Mustaine though, coz they are real masterminds!  

Do you think this is the strongest
line up to date?
 

I was actually thinking about
this today and all I can say is “who knows”! As far as sound goes
and our personalities and sticking together and our live performances…
it’s hard to say. Throughout the years we’ve always had line ups
that have had their strengths and weaknesses. It’s definitely a strong
line up though! 

I was thinking earlier today that
people always like the first album better but this is a really strong
record. I don’t really listen to anything that we did… I mean, why
would I listen to Shai Hulud when Metallica and Megadeth are out there,
ha ha? But when I do hear our album I think this is a really strong
album. I mean, it definitely has its flaws and there are things that
I’d change a million times but I think it’s a much better record
than “Hearts Once Nourished With Hope And Compassion”.  

If you think that this album is
better than “Hearts Once Nourished…” then you’re wrong. If you
like it better or it impacts you the most then that’s another story
but comparing the two – and I’m not talking about the strength of
the line up – but the song writing and the strength of the record
then I think it’s clear that Misanthropy Pure is a much better record!
You can’t change someone’s opinion though.  

In my opinion
“Misanthropy Pure” is your heaviest record. Do you feel this is
due to the member changes or is it a natural progression from
“That Within Blood Ill Tempered”?
 

I would say it’s a bit of both.
It’s a natural progression in song writing and as you do with anything
you learn from your mistakes. If you’re a footballer and you break
your left arm you learn to tackle with your right arm. As far as our
song writing goes you just get smarter and don’t make the same mistakes
again.  

A natural progression comes through
our member’s changes because our music definitely isn’t influenced
by this current sound that’s out. Fletcher and I have been planning
this album for a long time, going as far back to when we were recording
“That Within Blood Ill Tempered”, and we’ve been able to maintain
the ideas that we had for this album all the way back in 2003. Now we
finally brought it to the point of completion! 

When we were doing “That Within
Blood Ill Tempered” we realised it was really pretty and melodic so
we knew our next record had to be insanely pissed and heavy.  

Were there any prominent influences
on the latest record, either musical or otherwise?
 

Definitely. I’ll tell you what…
anyone that knows anything about our band will know that we’ve had
a lot of member changes and problems, so we were dealing with all that
shit and I’d just sit at home and go to bed and think “fuck, what’s
going on around here”! Everyone is always so angry with us… our
friends, or other bands or whoever, but it just seems like we’re always
under attack and that’s what inspired the song “The Brunt Of Many
Blades”.  

It’s not a stab you in the back
song, it’s about friends who’d snub us and not talk to us and then
all these people on the internet would violently hate us for some reason.
How are two nerdy guys that don’t leave the house inspiring such hatred
in these people? We don’t talk to people, we sit at home and watch
Startrek. So that was one thing that really defined the album. It rekindled
the profound hatred that we have. We are fun loving and decent people
that were getting attacked and we’re not fighters, we don’t confront
people about talking shit, but we will take our guitars and write something
extreme on this album. It illustrates the hate we have for the negative
and poor characteristics of people.  

Musically there weren’t any
influences that we haven’t had before. Tragedy got really popular
over the last few years so I guess we fell into the whole Tragedy thing
too. I’ve been listening to His Hero Is Gone for a long time but when
Tragedy put out Vengeance. It made a huge impact! Propagandhi put out
some cool music too so I think we bled that into our sound too.  

Given the band’s tenure are
you still influenced by the same music you were ten years ago or can
you find inspiration from newer acts as well?
 

I don’t know. There are a lot
of cool, newer bands so maybe some of them were an influence. I got
heavily influenced by Propagandhi and I’ve always loved them, but
there was something about “Today’s Empires” that really hit me.
The same goes for Tragedy’s “Vengeance”.  

Actually, bands like With Honour
were a big influence on us. We played with them after “That Within
Blood Ill Tempered” and I’ve never seen them live or met them before
that but they were incredible. I got all their CD’s and fell in love
with that band. I don’t know if they impacted our music because we
don’t sound like With Honour but we were inspired by their aesthetic,
their demeanour and their stage presence. You’re not going to listen
to the new Shai Hulud and hear a With Honour song but them existing
was a big inspiration.  

The guy who engineered our record
at his home studio – which is called Silver Bullet Studios – his
band The Risk Taken have been friends of ours for ages and he said that
the thing he liked the most about Shai Hulud were the darker, unexpected
notes we played… and that stayed in my head. So I’d say that Greg
and The Risk Taken were a big influence. I’m sure there have been
others but they are a couple of examples.  

It’s here that we get
the hurry on from the operator…
 

When are you going to get your
much anticipated side project Traumatic Chicken going?
 

Ha ha ha. Our debut album will
be released in two thousand and never. Traumatic Chicken is the best
band name of all time by the way and if I’m lucky enough then I’ll
get to record an album one day, ha ha.  

That’s all we’ve got time
for Matt, is there anything else you’d like to add?
 

Check out the new record and thanks
for the interview! 

Thanks for your time man! 

 



For all things Shai Hulud head to the bands Myspace page.

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