If you are a fan of WWE wrestling, then there is a good chance that you have heard the music of Shaman’s Harvest over the past few years. Hailing from Jefferson City in Missouri, the American rockers have had music used by wrestlers including Drew McIntyre, Wade Barrett, The Corre, Bray Wyatt and The Undertaker. This year has seen the band hard at work on their brand new album Red Hands Black Deeds and Dave Griffiths caught up with Shaman’s Harvest’s lead singer, Nate Hunt to find out about an album that sees the band use some very interesting instruments along the way.
Nate begins by telling us that when they first started planning Red Hands Black Deeds, they always knew that they wanted to do things a little differently. “We knew straightaway that this is the album that we always wanted to make,” he says. “We’ve always wanted to make an organic record like this, but from the get-go, we just went out there and said: ‘Hey, let’s make the effort’ and we found a studio that had all this vintage equipment and then we went and found all these vintage tapes, reverbs and tape delays so we utilised all that. Basically, if it was anything digital we just had no interest in using it because it would just muck up the vibe. For us, with this record, the vibe was the most important thing.”
Of course, going back and recording an album the vintage way meant that the band had to go about doing things a little differently. “You have to get a really good take,” he says laughing. “It’s not like you go back and ‘fix it up’ or edit it in post. So it is very important that it sounds good going in but you also have to learn to accept some of the mistakes… you just have to let ‘em ride and let ‘em be in the mix. You’ve just got to accept that we are all human and I think we have all forgotten what that sounds like – I think we’ve forgotten what a human band sounds like – we haven’t made albums like that for ten or fifteen years so it is new to us again. It’s kind of like when you are looking to go somewhere so you ask Siri – which mine, by the way, is set to a sexy female Australian voice – directions somewhere, and yes, it gets you somewhere, but you know looking at an old map maybe you’ll find that old BBQ joint on the side of the road that you wouldn’t have found if you were following Siri. Sometimes the road less travelled is the way to go.”
It wasn’t just vintage recording equipment that Shaman’s Harvest used to create the unique sound on Red Hands Black Deeds they also used things as strange as sandpaper and goat’s toes (yes goat’s toes). “Yes, we did use goat’s toes,” says Nate laughing. “At the end of the day we used anything that we thought could make a noise for percussion instruments. With the sandpaper ProTools has these plugins that helps you create that scratchy record sound but instead of using those plugins we would just use sandpaper and some wooden blocks to get that sound. So anything that could possibly make a sound, not necessarily an instrument we would utilise. Goat’s toes were literally goat’s toes we would click them together to make a percussive sound with. The album is designed to be listened to from start to finish, we are in a very singles orientated world and everybody likes to download their favourite single but the point of Red Hands Black Deeds is to be a full record. So at least the first time you give it a listen let it take you on a bit of a trip.”
The bad worked with legendary producer Keith Armstrong on this album and Nate says he brought a lot to the album. “Keith really did become the sixth member of the band while we were doing this,” says Nate. “He’d have really, really crazy ideas that we weren’t necessarily on board with until he would just say ‘trust me, just go with it.’ We would go with it and sometimes it was great and sometimes it would be so awful that we had to re do it but he also had a lot of vision and when we had an idea he would know how to get there sonically and how to get that end result. I think that it is priceless that when you are making a record to have a producer that is trying to compliment the band’s sound as opposed to those producers out there that say, ‘well, the band is going to end up having my sound because I am this big-time producer.’”
Red Hands Black Deeds also looks at some pretty deep topics including war and depression, and Nate was only too happy to talk us through some of the things that were inspiring him when he was putting them together. “We wrote these songs as we were recording them,” he explains. “So it was all happening in real time so it seemed appropriate to have something a little deeper behind it then ‘I broke up with my girlfriend’ or ‘here’s a bunch of songs about strippers’. I felt like the album needed to talk about what was going on around us for it to have a genuine feel to it. When you are working on the fly like that, you really just have to go with the flow, and some days there would be no flow at all so you have to take full advantage of the day where there is.”
Nate is also quick to admit that his own battle with throat cancer had a heavy impact on the topics explored on this album as well. “That certainly gets you back in touch with the fact that we are mortal, even in rock and roll,” he says. “We are mortal, and we have to accept that there are consequences to the way we live. Before I was drinking a lot and I was living the rock and roll cliché. I was doing drugs, I was drinking and staying up late, eating terribly and doing all that stuff that you do when you are on the road. But now it’s a lot less sex, drugs and rock and roll and a lot more… well, my healthy smoothie from this morning, and you know, I do my cardio. Having cancer definitely changed my outlook and I think maybe it did hit this record a little harder than it has other records that we have done, and I guess that is where some of the depth comes in with this record.”
Red Hands Black Deeds is out now.