Interview with Shaman’s Harvest: “Everybody’s got their issues. Just be kind.”

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American alternative rockers SHAMAN’S HARVEST are back after a long corona-induced hold-up with their newest album, Rebelator.” Though this album was already more or less ready to go before the pandemic set in, these guys were constantly forced to push the release date back. Well, the album is finally out today, so here is our interview with Nathan Hunt and Josh Hamler, where we discuss the album and the last few years! Check it out on YouTube or read the full transcript below.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me this… I guess, afternoon for you guys.

Josh: Yeah, thanks for letting us sleep in.

No problem! So, you guys have your new album coming out, “Rebelator,” pretty quick. Your last album was out in 2017, which is 5 years ago already. I heard that this album was actually written – and recorded even – before the pandemic set in.

Nathan: Yeah, we took a year off in 2018 to start writing. You know, just to kind of get our heads right from being on the road for so long. Just kind of readjust.

Josh: Learn how to be creative again. You get so… you turn into a robot on the road sometimes, because you’re kind of doing the same thing night after night after night after night. So it just becomes second nature. To learn to be creative again, it kind of takes a little change.

Nathan: Yeah, so we kind of forced that. And, you know, and then took a year to make the record and then oh next thing, you know, The Thing happened, right? So we’ve been sitting on this record for 2 years, almost, seems like. So we just finally said, well, the world’s never… I don’t know if it’s gonna change back, so let’s just release the record anyway, right?

That’s, I think, what quite a few bands who are in the same position as you guys ended up doing and… to varying degrees of success, probably.

Josh: Yeah. Because of 2020 and all the music that didn’t get released, there is just an overload of new music coming out now, like every band has material that they’re ready to release now. And so it’s pretty crazy. Seeing our name on the charts with like, GUNS ‘N’ ROSES, or PEARL JAM, or Eddie Vedder… some of these big iconic ageless rock acts and and then you see SHAMAN’S HARVEST was right there with them. So it’s pretty cool.

Nathan: A bit of a bottleneck.

I love that. Well, what did you guys do if you weren’t writing a new album in that time?

Nathan: I mean, we just kept thinking it was going to be like, well, “it’ll be another month,” “it’ll just be like, another month,” you know what I mean? So like, we’re kind of in limbo a little bit, you know. We focused on our personal lives, because they all needed attention after being on the road for as many years as we’ve been. Gave some attention to that, which also, in turn, helped us be more creative again. So, you know, we’ve got a few song ideas kicking off for the next record already, which is nice to be ahead of the game a little bit. I guess that’s the payoff, I guess, of not being sure of anything.

Josh: [laughs]

It’s always always interesting, because every band, it’s a little bit different, what’s been going on. So each story is always just fascinating.

Nathan: Sure, yeah. We can definitely that’s what we can say this times are definitely fascinating.

Well, apart from the ultimate purgatory, were there any other setbacks from the pandemic? Were you able to do music videos or anything like that, that you wanted to get done?

Nathan: We shot some music videos last year, you know, just a couple of them, just to have in the can to get out. But really, to be honest with you, I mean, we all live in different areas of the States here, so we’re just kind of isolated from each other. Not really intentionally, just because of life you know. So, we’ve really, before this tour that we’re on, we really just kind of started getting back playing together again, which has been amazing. You didn’t realize you missed it as much as you did until you do it. You know, it’s like finally connecting with a lost family member.

Josh: It’s like, we forgot how much fun it was. [laughs]

It’s good to have a little reset every once in a while to remind you why you love doing it in the first place.

Nathan: Yeah, for sure. We needed the reset for sure.

So of course, first thing I want to ask about is the album title, “Rebelator.” Where did that come from? What does it mean?

Nathan: What do you want it to mean? It was like trying to put a… I don’t know, there’s so much so much friction and everybody just felt like they were rebelling against something. Rebellion almost became the norm.

Josh: Everyone has their own thing that sends them over the edge, you know, so it’s kind of like…

Nathan: …that’s what it is. That’s the caveat. That’s the “Rebelator,” is like, that’s that moment.

Josh: It’s whatever it is in anyone’s life that just pushes them over the edge and makes them rebel, I guess.

Nathan: Or at least feel that crazy rage.

Josh: It’s kind of crazy whenever you invent a word, then you have to explain the definition. [laughter]

I recently heard something* where they were saying that, in the simplest way possible, that the first fallen angels were – before evil – were actually just rebels who didn’t like the rules put down by God. I thought that was a really cool way of putting it.

Nathan: I love that. Even angels fall.

[ed: * that would be a later episode of Dimension 20’s Fantasy High: Sophomore Year]

So I discovered you guys a few years ago when Mascot shot me a promo for “Red Hands, Black Deeds,” and I was really impressed by the variety of sounds on the album. It was really alternative rock, but it felt like there’s a lot of blues, jazz, funk, country, like a little bit of everything on that. And then listening to “Rebelator” sounds a little bit more straightforward in sound. So was that an intentional shift away, or was “Red Hands, Black Deeds” a bit more of an experiment and sound? How would you explain the difference between the sound on the albums?

Nathan: Sure. Well, every record we’ve done is… I mean, they’re all experiments in sound. I mean, they really are, even this one. Yeah, it’s probably more straightforward from… I guess in a modern sense, you know, like a modern sound. But for us, that’s an experiment. It still has like… banjos and all kinds of stuff in the background in the ambient parts, and weird drums, and we still had fun exploring that. We just did it in a more, I guess, traditional in the “now” times.

Josh: I think a big difference between the two, is the two producers – both equally awesome in their own right. Keith Armstrong with “Red Hands, Black Deeds,” is a real analog guy, you know, the old school tones and just that kind of stuff, and Kyle is a more modern, more metal type of producer/songwriter/guitarist himself, so I think you get a little bit of that in there too. And this being our seventh record, each record you learn a little bit and so your palate gets a little bigger as far as knowledge and skill base, so it all just kind of adds to it and helped in the creation of the new record.

Nathan: It’s really a testament to, like you said, the influence a producer has on a band and they become another member, really. They should, and if it doesn’t feel that way, then you’ve got the wrong producer for sure. You want them to be excited, you want them to feel like they have creative ownership in the process, because then then there’s the passion. This what we all listen to music for, the emotional experience. It should feel that way when you’re making it.

Well, that in mind, I looked online and I saw that – or at least the internet told me – you guys don’t currently have a bass player in your lineup. Is that still accurate?

Nathan: It was necessary to part ways for everyone involved, but we do have a current bass player, his name is Cord Bishop, which is one of the coolest names. His parents actually gave him that name. And he’s phenomenal. He’s normally a singer and a lead guitar player in another band named TROY, but we kind of tried to snag him. It’s been amazing because he’s really injected a new energy, like every new member should, but right when we really needed it. You know, with every wall that we’ve hit in these last couple years, you just kind of get a little torn down as far as your passion towards the project, but he’s just like, “Nah boys, let’s get this done and let’s be excited.” He’s really injected what we need.

Josh: It’s cool. We’ve been friends with the guy for over a decade, his band’s done a lot of shows with us over the years, and it’s just cool to see our relationship grow into this new chapter of now him being part of the group. You know, on bass, he stands out, he holds it down. Vocally, you know, he hops right in on the harmonies. His energy on stage is on point, and off stage, it’s even better. So we just started this new tour, we haven’t toured in almost 3 years, and it’s coming to find out it’s just like riding a bike. We can still do it. [laughs]

So, the first question I wanted to ask about the album then was, what inspires you lyrically? Because I know “Red Hands, Black Deeds” is a little more political than you guys usually step into, from what I read. So what was “Rebelator” about and do you find any general themes on the album or are they all kind of a collection of concepts?

Nathan: Well, almost every record we ever make, it’s always… from song-to-song, it’s quite a bit different. Genre wise, the feel is different. Whatever it’s emoting feels different. This record might even be more juxtaposed between songs. So each song I find, you have to serve the song. The last record was kind of a concept record, the whole thing, for us. This record is, you know, each song demanded what was its own.

Josh: Each song was its own concept. [laughter]

Nathan: Yeah, really. So, some songs, it’s the old relationship stuff, you know, that every rock and roll singer croons about sometimes. And, some of it’s fantasy, like, there’s a song in there about cops and robbers, and that’s a whole fantasy [laughs], you know, kind of storyline in that song. There’s some little hints of politics in there, but we really do try to reduce that as much as possible. It’s just whatever we’re feeling. Some of it is like… “Bird Dog,” for instance, is a song that is kind of… we can walk out our door and see the the effects of methamphetamines and pills and stuff on our surroundings and how industry’s really dried up in all these little small towns and people get desperate. And so, some of it is our direct surroundings and some of it’s… it’s how you should write a record. You should be a little bit of everything. It can’t be the same bullshit.

Josh: Well, I remember “Bird Dog.” Whenever we recorded the demos for that, Nate was traveling back and forth from his little cabin out in the woods, it’s about an hour away from where we were at. And when he went out to drive through all these tiny towns that at one point in time, not too long ago, they were thriving communities, and now they’re just decrepit and look like they could use a hug [laughter] so, I figured… we came up with that riff and then once Nate started throwing down some lyrics on it, I just felt like… you came up with some of those lyrics driving home.

Nathan: Absolutely.

Josh: All those late nights driving back to the small communities and wouldn’t even have a gas station or petrol or whatever everyone calls it everywhere else.

Talking about the songs, the first one I wanted to ask about was “Toe the Line,” because I could swear that I am hearing someone growling in the back of that like a death metal guy. [laughter] Is that [Nathan]?

Nathan: Again, I just want to… from song-to-song, again, I want to try to touch a little bit of every genre out there that we can, and yeah, it is me and luckily Josh pulls it off live. [laughter]

Josh: I get to do it live. [laughter] Yeah, so the devil’s diggin’ ‘er spurs in. That’s what it is.

Nathan: So yeah, sure. Little death metal. Why not?

I love it; again, that’s I think what made me fall in love with you guys immediately when I heard “Red Hands, Black Deeds,” was just how easily and smoothly you added little bits of any sort of genre that you wanted into the music and just how well it worked little things that I never would have expected.

Nathan: That’s the most exciting thing about writing music. I mean, if it was visual art, the piece being like, seven or eight different mediums in one piece, that’s how I think all of us see in the music. For instance, we could make a really cool just-death-metal song, but how cool would a banjo be in this one little part? Right? [laughs] So just tickle the ears, you know what I mean?

The next song I wanted to ask about was “Voices,” of course, as the major first single – I know it wasn’t the first single that came out, but the big premiere single – as someone who personally has some mental health issues and a lot of voices in my head telling me that I’m not good enough or whatever, I thought that really hit quite strong. So I was interested in what inspired the lyrics for that.

Nathan: I think it’s a common, especially… I think everyone feels more comfortable to talk about those things. I think we all… everybody in this band, we’re all [laughter]… do better, look better, be better, get out of bed. We all go through these depression states and for us, we have to get up every day to do these things. I just think the whole world is more comfortable in talking about this, right?

Josh: It’s getting there, yeah.

Nathan: We didn’t make the song to be relatable to a lot of people, I think that’s a byproduct of making the song.

Josh: I think a lot of the way we write it, it’s kind of vague enough to where what it means to you can be completely different than what it means to me and we’re both correct in what it means, because you leave enough room in there for personal interpretation. And really, I think that’s why some people get so…

Nathan: They have an attachment.

Josh: Yeah, the connection between a particular song and one’s reality, it’s creates that bond. So I really think that’s really one of the focuses in our sound, is finding those kind of moments.

Nathan: And “Voices” is one of them.

Josh: Sure.

It’s great too, because it’s got that really singalong quality, so if you’re having a bad mood and you want to sing something to get that stanky energy out, it works really well.

Nathan: Awesome. Yeah. I love a good hook.

Josh: And that guitar solo. Wham!

Nathan: Yeah!

Josh: I mean, that thing… it’s got to be the best guitar solo of the year.

Nathan: It was probably the most pressure of the entire thing, was how that guitar solo was written. It was like, it has to be the best because it’s the longest solo we’ve ever done.

Josh: Guitar solos like that don’t end up on radio anymore. So we had to fight to keep it in the final mix.

Nathan: Yeah, the label was like, “maybe we don’t need a guitar solo like that.” We were like, “pretty sure we do.”

Josh: “Maybe we don’t need a label.” [laughter]

It wouldn’t be the same without it for sure, but sometimes you got to put your foot down with the label, definitely. That actually answered my next question, which was about the solo, so the next track I wanted to ask about was “Mama,” because it’s so short, so sweet, almost like an interlude. So how did that song come to be?

Josh: Well, honestly, that’s what I kind of thought it was going to be, would just be a little interlude piece, and it was just one of those things. Nate was tracking another song in a different room and I had this guitar part stuck in my brain and I was just playing it, playing it, playing it and the melody kind of popped in my head. We took a break. Nate went to go get everybody some dinner, and I asked Derek, like, “Hey, throw a harmony on this with me. Let’s see what it sounds like,” and our engineer at the time, Jordan Westfall, was like, “Let’s just track it real quick while Nate’s not in the room, get something done.” And here comes Nate with a bunch of food coming back in and he’s like, “What are y’all workin’ on?” We’re like, “Oh, just wanted to track this idea real quick.” So we played it back and he goes, “Yep, we’re working on that the rest of the night.” So me, Nate, and Derek laid down the three part harmonies and just kind of made a nice little concise little tune.

Nathan: And it’s cool, because [Josh]’s doing the main vocals. Since we’ve been making records-records, you know, that’s the first time that’s happened. It feels like a whole new energy comes in when that hits. The drama of that song, I absolutely love. I just love the mood and all the ambient noises and the guitar parts and stuff like that. It’s perfect. I love the strangeness of it. It’s too long for an interlude, but not quite long enough for a full-full song. So I just love that it is what it is. And it’s beautiful. And it’s perfect.

You also worked with Clint Lowry on “Pretty People.” How did you guys hook up with him and what was that like?

Nathan: We’ve been friends for…? Probably a good decade.

Josh: We met him… he reached out to us on MySpace back in the day.

Nathan: Yeah. So that’s how long.

Blast from the past!

Nathan: Yeah, so and we’ve we’ve toured together off and on with his different projects throughout the years and we’ve always talked about collaborating on something, whether it’s for SEVENDUST, or one of his things, or one of our things, or whatever, and then we were having… I feel like we were having… it might have been a creative stump moment, because we were stopping and starting so much making this record. So we were kind of in a… we hit that wall, as people do, and the label was like, “Well, how about a guest writer to bring in some energy?” And we knew exactly what it was. Next thing you know, boom. And it was a fury frenzy writing.

Josh: He’s just such a professional in the studio. I mean, you know, not that we’re not professional. But he’s dotting I’s cross the T’s. I mean, he’s just really the real deal. He came in, got to it, and knocked it out.

Nathan: He’s one of those players that’s like… he’s tracking the part and he’s thinking about the next three parts he’s got to track. So it’s mapping all in his brain. One of those people… like almost a savant in the sense of his workflow. It’s really smart.

Josh: Great guy.

Nathan: Great guy.

One thing I noticed while browsing your albums is that the album art, through all of them, has been really different, like stylistically and everything, even including the single art for “Voices.” So I was curious, was that a conscious choice or did you just feel like every album just had a totally different vibe so it needed totally different art?

Nathan: That’s it.

Josh: Yep.

Nathan: That’s it. I mean, it would probably serve us as having a brand better if we were to go, this is it, the vibe for each thing thing, which I always love. RIVAL SONS is one of those [bands] that have a cool… they have the same artist/art style from album to album. I love when people do that, but it just… I don’t know, our records are so different from each other that it just needs something else. A lot of times, it’s like a tattoo artist that one of us likes, or a buddy, or whatever.

Josh: It’s kind of like, we don’t know what any of its gonna be, but then when we see it, that’s it, you know? Ah, there it is, right there!

Nathan: So, the poor artists never have any direction from us. [laughter] We just give them the record, “Make something and don’t… Make it good. Don’t make it shitty, and then give it to us.”

Josh: Make it to our liking. [laughs]

I love it, but maybe that’s because you just described the way I’ve done all of my tattoos. [laughter] Never the same artist twice, always want someone different. Now, as I understood you guys were actually supposed to have a show yesterday, so did that go forward?

Josh: Yeah, we did, sold out.

How’d it go?

Nathan: It was awful. [laughter] It was amazing. It was a beautiful moment, it was the first show that we’ve been on stage in 3 years. All the emotions were there. The jitters were like… I haven’t been that nervous since my kids were born, you know? So it was wild. It was wild to go through the thing where… it’s like you’re going to prom or something, you get the jitters and whatnot. And then, you know, about halfway through the set and it’s like riding that bike. Then you get… the crowd is in your hand again, and you’re like, “Okay, let’s have this experience.” Tapping into that live energy is… you don’t know that you miss it until you don’t have it.

Josh: Right. We’re touring with THEORY OF A DEADMAN and we’ve toured with those guys quite a bit in the past, and they’re just a great bunch of guys and we knew going into this tour, this was going to be a great way to re-establish us. You know, say, “Hey, we’re still here and we’re rockin.” First night out, sold out crowd? You can’t ask for more than that.

Well, in my experience over these last few years, you know, not a lot of shows going on. And the crowds have been a little… maybe a lot extra bananas than normally, just because they’re so concert starved.

Nathan: Well, they were extra bananas last night, it’s off… we have some pretty intense COVID protocols that go along with a tour. The audience does not. So it’s kind of hard to make them understand… like, normally we do meet ‘n’ greets and hang out and sign whatever you want signed, take pictures. So that’s the only kind of… you feel like an asshole. But you hope that they understand that you have to go to the next night. The tour has to maintain. So that’s the only down part of the whole thing.

Josh: Yeah, we’ve always been a band that… we took pride in the fact that we wanted to create an experience for the people to come out. And so we love getting out in the crowd, taking pictures, signing autographs, and all that stuff. Last night was literally the first time in our career that we went to the bus. And people come to the bus and, “What happened to you guys? Y’all used to hang out outside the bus.” We want to we want to stay on this tour.

Nathan: The world happened to us.

Josh: I don’t know. We didn’t make the rules. We’re just we’re just trying to get to the next city, trying to keep as many people happy as we can. [laughs]

Speaking of THEORY OF A DEAD MAN, I’m not hugely familiar with their music, but I thought that pairing you guys together was kind of interesting, and as you mentioned, you’ve toured with them quite a lot. So do you find there’s a big crossover in your fans or do you think the musical variety brings new fans for both of you?

Nathan: Both of those things. There is some crossover. We’ve always kind of been, as far as Apple playlists and the Spotifys and all the things… all those ways to hear us, they always pair us with the same kind of genre, which is interesting because we’re completely different musically. But as far as… I always love a tour package that goes out and they are different. A) it’s more interesting for us, B) there’s more people in the crowd because you’re not just drinking from the same trough, you know?

With [touring] in mind, have you guys ever played in Finland before?

Josh: No.

Nathan: We had a tour booked through there in 2017 and it fell through like 3 days before we were supposed to get on that plane. Hopefully, and I mean, it won’t be this year, but it sounds hopefully within the next 2 [years], we’ll be over there.

Josh: Getting getting over to Europe, the UK, Finland, all the extra places is top priority. We’re really, really doing everything we can. Right now we’re just trying to get our legs back under us, start with some shows here close to home, and try to get that train rolling.

Nathan: But as soon as the world allows, we’ll start sorting that.

Well, I guess I’ve used just about all my time here, so one more question was: if you could pass on one message to the world and make some sort of change with your music, what do you think that message would be?

Josh: I’ll just say: be kind to people. You don’t know what kind of demons people/strangers you bump into are dealing with on the daily. Everybody’s got their issues. Just be kind.

Nathan: Zero judgment. That’s it. Zero judgment. Be kind. And that fixes almost everything. Kindness. Probably 90% of the bullshit.

Amazing. I love it. Well thank you so much for your time; I know this time difference is a little wild to work with. Is there anything else you guys want to say before I let you go?

Nathan: Yeah, I mean, just please buy the record? Please? Pretty please? [laughter] Buy this… it’s been a 3-year-long process of making this record. Or whatever. Or don’t, but mostly please.

Buying albums still matters. Come on, people! [laughter]

Nathan: Yeah, you want to help the artists more than anything, more than streaming or anything else, buy that record.

Josh: Thank you in advance.

Nathan: Because we know you will!

Thank you so much. I’m just gonna go preorder your album now. [laughter]

Josh: ‘atta girl!

Nathan: There’s one! We did our job! [laughter]