Shihad frontman Jon Toogood's summer acoustic tour is underway, and he took some time out of his schedule to talk with Attila Balassa from Radio 13 on multiple topics - including his favourite ever live performance, the Shihad song he loves to play the most, how the recording of the next Shihad album is going and when we can expect it to be released.
AB: Shihad - 30 years as a band. Congratulations! Did you ever think when recording Churn you would hit 30 years playing together?
JT: I had absolutely no concept of that sort of time period when we were recording Churn. I think we were all in our early 20s and at that stage had a plan to be the biggest band in the world by the year 2000. It’s now 2019 and we’re in the middle of writing a new album. Ha!
AB: Is there still a song that chokes you up every time you play it live? And why?
JT: I think Run from the Pacifier album holds a special place in my life as it was one of my Dad’s favourites and I ended up played it acoustically at his funeral. So every time that song comes up it takes me back to that time. I still love playing it though. I reckon it’s one of the best songs we’ve written.
AB: I was totally behind you guys when the band’s name changed to Pacifier to try and break into the American market, but I was surprised how many Kiwi’s weren’t down with the name change. Looking back, were you kinda offended by the reaction of some of your Kiwi fans?
JT: Not at all. Even though it made sense from a logical perspective I still felt like a complete sell-out once that decision had been made. It was the 1st major compromise of our career and it just didn’t feel right to me. But with the band being a democracy I still fought tooth and nail to make it work and in fact, some of our best live shows were around that time as we’d kneecapped ourselves so badly we had to work that much harder to prove that we were still an awesome live rock band. Still, I wouldn’t change a thing as it’s now a massive part of our story and we wouldn’t have been able to write an album like FVEY without going through what we went through with the Pacifier album.
AB: Shihad holds the record for most charting singles on the NZ singles chart, with 26. How many more do you think you have in you?
JT: I’ve never thought about the NZ singles chart when going to write music with this band. I don’t think any of us have. In fact all we’re trying to do each time is to capture the sound of a band we’d want to sound like that hasn’t existed before. Something new and exciting that challenges us and captures what we love about rock music - that reflects our own record collections. That being said, considering we sorta fell into songwriting via just needing something to play through big PA’s that would be good to mosh and stage dive to, it’s a pretty cool achievement.
AB: Do you feel like Shihad could just keep going on and on like The Rolling Stones – and hit 50 years together as a band?
JT: Having just spent 3 days in a studio in Melbourne with the band writing new material and completely buzzing out at how good it’s sounding I would say yes. But I’m also fully into filling my life with new challenges too, be it playing with my other band The Adults, working on an MFA (which I just completed) or playing music on my own. Life is short and now that I’m 47 I don’t want to waste a day doing something that doesn’t inspire or challenge me – thankfully though writing and performing music with Shihad is still something that definitely does that!
AB: My favourite Shihad gig I saw was at the Big Day Out in 2003 when Queens Of The Stone Age stopped playing due to the rain, and you guys totally rocked out when it was pissing down. Do you have a favourite gig that sticks out in your mind? Do you miss the Big Day Out?
JT: I definitely miss the BDO. It was the only festival in the Southern Hemisphere that could bring all the musical tribes together and work so well. More recently festivals have tended to specialize and cater to one form of music only where the BDO had everything. Shall I check out Aphex Twin? Or maybe some Rage Against The Machine? It was great. They were all special to us but if I had to pick a favourite gig it would have to be supporting AC/DC at Western Springs in Auckland on their Black Ice tour in 2010 (their last one with Malcom Young) – playing in front of 60,000 rock fans in our home country, supporting our favourite rock band of all time? What’s not to love?
AB: Jon, I saw you on the last acoustic tour playing at the Kings Arms in Auckland (awesome show by the way!). Are you gutted by the closure of the Kings Arms?
JT: That show was the first time I’d ever played there and I absolutely loved it! Yes, it’s a bummer it’s gone. I’d seen some awesome shows in there. But someone will come along that loves music and starts something new. It’s always the way.
AB: At that acoustic King’s Arms gig, you played a fucking EPIC cover of Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades. How important was Lemmy and his songs to you as a youngster when you were just getting into the world of music?
JT: Motorhead was one of those bands I was fascinated and a little intimidated by at the same time. They were loud and they were ugly but I just had to get my head around them so I forced myself to listen to their classic live album No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith (which is still my favourite album of theirs) over and over until I could pretty much verbalize the entire album (including Fast Eddie Clark’s blistering guitar solos) I loved that band so much I stole the font of their logo for the original Shihad posters (I just straightened out the writing) It was such an honor to have been asked to support them in NZ on their 1916 tour.
AB: At these acoustic shows around NZ, can fans of yours request songs to play? If someone yells out a certain tune will you play it for them?
JT: If I know it and like it I’ll play it. But please remember most Shihad songs are practically impossible to play on a solo acoustic guitar so you’ll have to keep your expectations in check somewhat.
AB: You must have had some epic rock n roll moments in the last 30 years – looking back, what is your favourite memory (or memories)?
JT: Having a pancake breakfast at the Bel Air Hotel in LA with Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols.
AB: Did you ever get to play with your music idol/idols?
JT: Every one except the Stones. When they came to NZ last time they brought Nickleback as a support act rather than use a local act. Poo.
AB: Do you get frustrated when people only wanna hear the old songs?
AB: Do you feel like albums such as Ignite and Beautiful Machine didn’t get the love they deserved?
JT: Nah. I’ve met people that absolutely love those albums, some who hate them and some that don’t even know they exist. I have no control over that. As stated above, every time we go to write an album we’re just trying to create music we wanna hear that doesn’t exist in the world yet. When you’re doing that you’re never gonna please every body so we just try and please ourselves.
AB: Can you put out another live album please? The 2003 live one is epic, but isn’t it time for another one with songs from the last 4 albums on it?
JT: I’d be open to that. But to tell the truth I’d be more interested in finding out what the next Shihad album sounds like.
AB: Can Shihad fans look forward to a new album anytime soon?
JT: Yes. Hopefully something new towards the end of 2019. It’s gonna be heavy.
AB: How many songs have you written for the follow-up to 2014's FVEY?
JT: We write music first and there’s lots of that. Songs come together later.
AB: Have you thought about putting out a solo acoustic album?
JT: Yeah Nah. Better to see that shit live!
Tickets to all shows can be purchased here.