Headbangers India talks to the guys from Shepherd– the sludge/ heavy rock outfit that’s been getting a lot of attention of late, and with good reason! Read on to find out more about their sound, influences, recordings and more!
HBI: Hey guys, thanks for this interview! How’re you all doing?
Mahesh: Doing great and all set for Sonic Doom!
Deepak: Doing good! Looking forward to kicking ass at Sonic Doom and watching Orchid, and Djinn & Miskatonic.
Michael: Not too bad, though, I seem to be getting old with all my back problems.
HBI: Tell us a little about your musical influences, and the elements that brought you together to form Shepherd.
Deepak: We’re all into different kinds of music, but the slow heavy kind of rock is basically our common ground. I love listening to hardcore punk because to me there’s nothing more life affirming like the unrestrained force of bands like Discharge, GBH or Fear. And I hear a lot of people talking about rock n roll being dead, but they’re just looking for it in the wrong places. The essence of rock n roll is alive and well and what we’re doing is trying to tap into that.
Mahesh: We’ve always wanted to play music that is loud, pummelling and ensnares the audience. That has been the central idea of Shepherd since its inception. Influences are quite a few and go beyond music. But as far as the band is concerned we draw a lot from bands like YOB, Godflesh, Eyehategod and The Melvins to name a few.
HBI: Sludge wasn’t exactly a very well known/ popular genre when you guys first started out. Were you skeptical about what the response to your music would be like?
Mahesh: We’ve been clear about playing stuff that we want to. We weren’t really thinking about the audience while figuring our sound out. Also the fact that we play a style of music that isn’t something you hear often adds to the novelty of the band. As far as the response is concerned, it’s been pretty encouraging. When we started off people would mostly just stare but TSF III was where that changed. It’s been an education so far and we’re looking to play and learn more.
Deepak: We just wanted to play music that we like listening to. But since we’ve been playing for a couple of years now, we have a sound structure that we like to work with. We still get cold stares and the occasional slow clap once in a while but it’s all good. We’re not in this for the kudos. For some of us being on stage and playing this music is just an experience we don’t have to access to otherwise.
Michael: I don’t think it is a well known/popular genre now either. I’ve always wanted to play this kind of music live, but apart from some random jams with Rajeev in the Sanctum jam room, nothing ever materialise until these guys gave me a call. I guess we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and over time maybe more people will get into it.
HBI: Some time ago, I remember reading an interview that Anirudh (Metal Assault) did with you, where you happened to mention that your sound was going through a trial and error phase back then. Has it settled now to something that you and your audience are comfortable with?
Mahesh: That interview was with Muneeb and was done after our second or third show. Abhishek Michael (Inner Sanctum) has joined the fold since and it’s been really good. Sound wise, we’ve found a place that we’re comfortable with. As opposed to on stage jams that the band used to do back then, we’ve been playing a full set that we are settling into. Once the album is done and we have our current material recorded, we’ll get to work on newer material which will evolve from where we stand right now.
Deepak: Our only aim is to pummel our audience with riffs and as long as there are people who like real heavy music, we’ll be alright.
HBI: What’s the status on newer recordings and full length albums to be released?
Deepak: We’re just waiting on Michael to come back from Europe, where he’ll be touring with Inner Sanctum, so we can relax and hit the studio and get this thing done. Mahesh is working on artwork for the album, and merch that’s going along with it. All our effort will be going into making this album the heaviest thing to come out of this side of the planet.
Mahesh: Sonic Doom is a precursor to the album. Once Michael’s back we’ll hit the studio. We’re looking at playing gigs as soon as we’re done with the album. A launch, et al is in order. More on this later.
HBI: Of late, there has been a lot of focus thrown on merchandise/ artwork apart from the music- (event posters, album artwork, t-shirts etc.) Shepherd is a part of this too, so tell us-
– How good has the response been?
– Does it establish a stronger sense of community among the bands and fans?
Mahesh: Merchandise is instrumental in keeping a band afloat. Both Deepak and Namit have designed tees, Deepak’s done a couple of posters and I’ve got some artwork lined up. The response has been fantastic. We’ve sold most of the tees and posters. It definitely establishes a sense of community because we as a band know that there’s a bunch of people who enjoy what we do and are willing to invest in the band.
Michael: It’s been great! For some reason, people in India have really gotten into the whole merch scene. It works for us coz it’s quite profitable so we do have some extra cash to record the album. Not sure about it establishing a stronger sense of community or anything, we just like seeing dudes wear our tees.
HBI: The genre specific gigs like what The Mighty Riff aims to do, along with other bands like Bevar Sea, Dying Embrace etc, worked to your advantage. In your opinion, do you think streamlining the metal audience has any pros and cons?
Deepak: I think it’s great that there are genre-specific gigs happening because you know what you’re getting into as a fan. It establishes the bands involved as part of a community. But at the same time I don’t think I know anyone who listens to only one sub-genre of music.
Mahesh: Playing a genre-specific gig is a plus cause you’re playing to an audience that is aware of the band’s musical roots and hence might better appreciate your music. Playing alongside bands like Bevar Sea and Dying Embrace has helped us reach out to an audience that enjoys doom and hence potentially enjoys our combo of sludge (a doom derivative) and hard rock. Having said that, we’ve also played shows alongside acts that are nowhere near our musical territory and it’s been equally good cause we played to a new audience. The way I see it, streamlining of the audience is something that a band should not be concerned about, as long as the band is clear about who they are musically.
HBI: Great job on your version of “Sacrifice”, by the way. I think it’s one of the best in the album to be honest! What are your thoughts on the Motorhead Tribute? Any particular favourites?
Deepak: Djinn & Miskatonic’s ‘Don’t Believe A Word’, definitely.
Mahesh: Same here. I’m looking forward to Djinn’s ep. I got to hear a rough mix and they’re the band to look out for.
Michael: Even though I might sound like a dick, I have to agree with you. I thought we did a damn good job and it turned out better than we expected. I enjoyed Albatross, Witchgoat and the hidden Bevar Sea track as well.
HBI: If you were to work on a tribute album for any other band, who would you choose?
Deepak: Fear, maybe. But I’ll have to get my chops up.
Mahesh: The Melvins. That’ll mean everyone needs to get their chops up.
HBI: So what are you listening to right now? Do you like any modern rock/ metal or do you stick to the older bands?
Deepak: I’m still trying to catch up with a lot of the older stuff. Some swedish hardcore/d-beat bands – Anti-Cimex, Totalitar, Driller Killer. Newer bands like New Keepers of the Water Towers, Pissed Jeans and the new David Bowie album have been doing a lot of rounds at my place.
Mahesh: I’ve been tripping on Flipper for the last month. Also on the list is Acid King and Black Cobra as far as stoner metal is concerned. Boredoms, Throbbing Gristle and Merzbow to satiate my appetite for dissonance. Oxbow are a fantastic band that I’ve been listening to and Horn of the Rhino’s latest album, ‘The weight of Coronation’ has been blowing my mind. Javier Galvez is one of the best new singers I’ve heard.
Michael: I guess I listen to a bit more modern rock/metal. Heck, if something sounds good, I’ll give it a spin, doesn’t really matter when it was released. I’ve been digging the new Intronaut and Klone, both are pretty awesome albums. I’ve also been listening to some Graveyard, Torche, Ironweed and the new Meshuggah.
HBI: What’s coming up for the band in the next couple of months? Anything exciting that we could look forward to?
Michael: Sonic Doom! It’s our first headlining show, so that’s awesome. We’re going to be hitting the studio after I come back so that’s definitely something to look forward to.
Mahesh: Our main priority after the gig is to hit the studio and get the album done. It should be out in a couple of months. We’ll keep ya’ll posted on that front. A few shows may follow to promote the album.
Turn up for SONIC DOOM on the 26th! It’s the first time we’re headlining a gig. There’s some really cool bands on the bill, artwork, a stand up comedian, merch and a good time in general!
HBI: Thanks for talking to Headbangers India! \m/
Check out the official event page for Sonic Doom here. And watch this space for more exciting gigs and interviews, all coming your way very soon!