By Rod Whitfield
Kiwi rock institution Shihad are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their breakthrough self-titled album, which has since become known as The Fish Album due to its cover’s depiction of said aquatic creatures, by issuing a re-released, re-mastered version of the record. Listening to the album two decades later, it still stacks up beautifully, and still sounds fresh, real and unique. Speaking from his home in Melbourne’s east, legendary frontman Jon Toogood agrees.
“To me, it was a really experimental record at the time,” he recalls, “we pissed a lot of hardcore metal fans off at the time, because (their previous album) Killjoy is such an angular metallic beast, and (debut) Churn even more so, in fact probably more industrial metal. And out of this walks this organic rock band with not too much studio magic going on…more of an AC/DC sort of approach.”
Toogood can actually pinpoint a specific moment that inspired such a minimalist approach on the Fish album. “That all came out of seeing Oasis live at Roskilde,” he remembers, “and thinking ‘these guys’ guitars are even louder than AC/DC live, but they’re a pop band at the same time.”
He has many memories, both happy and sad, of that period in the band’s career, that are re-conjured when listening back to it. “One thing that had happened just prior to making that record, we lost our manager to an overdose,” he looks back with sadness, “and we were in a bit of disarray, because he was always a bit like an older brother, who said ‘this is the way forward’. All of a sudden it was a bit like being the masters of our own destiny, but we were still just kids.
“That record sounds, to me, I can remember how I was. Still feeling like a kid but presenting the face of a man to the world. I can still hear my own insecurities on that record, all my anxieties and worries, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s a very human record.”
It’s a little difficult to grasp the fact that that album is two decades old. Even more so is the fact that it was their third album and you can trace the history of the band almost thirty years.
“It’s absurd,” he admits, “we met at High School back in 1988, so it’s almost 30 years! It’s absolutely insane.”
And after all that time, almost three decades, 10 albums and countless tours and live shows, Toogood can still nail down an absolute favourite moment from the band’s career. And it’s an absolute cracker.
“Supporting AC/DC on the Black Ice Tour in Auckland in front of 62,000 people,” he states without hesitation, “it was a f*cking city of rock! It was literally like playing in front of a small city of rock, where everyone turned up. And not only were we playing in front of that many people, we were playing in our home country where they knew all our back-catalogue, so we basically had them all singing from the start.
“I just remember thinking ‘f*ck!’” He laughs.
So, much reminiscing and delving into the band’s past was done during this chat, but both the band and the man are still going strong and still have much to say moving into the future. It’s been almost two years since the last album FVEY, and Toogood has plans for Shihad and for some of his other musical outlets in the coming months.
“We’ve got a writing session slated for late June, and then following that up in July,” he reveals, “I’m working on some Sudanese music that I’ve recorded, my wife’s Sudanese so I’ve met all these Sudanese musicians. The music is absolutely ‘off the hock’, man, it’s kind of Arabic but it’s got this African groove to it, it’s f*ckin’ amazing. So I’ll be doing some of that soon.”
The re-release of The Fish Album is out now, and the band have a string of Australian dates coming up, beginning in late June.
Shihad: Australian Tour Dates 2016
23 June Settlers Tavern Margaret River WA
24 June Rosemount Hotel Perth WA
25 June Rosemount Hotel Perth WA
26 June Newport Hotel Fremantle WA
01 July The Triffid Brisbane QLD
02 July Pigsty In July Hunter Valley NSW
15 July The Factory Sydney NSW
16 July The Croxton Melbourne VIC
Tickets are on sale now: shihad.oztix.com.au