Sunday, May 12, 2013

Interview with Canada's Shock

Sometimes good things really do come to those who wait. Such is the case with Canadian thrashers Shock. The band,  which actually was formed back in 1985, just recently released their first official LP. "Once Denied", which I  just recently reviewed (link below), was a long time coming for this class act, but it was well worth the wait as it comes packed with 8 tracks of superb power/thrash! Recently I had pleasure of chatting with Shock members Steve Monette (bass) and John Tennant (guitars) about "Once Denied" and the band in general. I just want to thank the two of them for taking the time to talk with Heavy Metal Time Machine. If you haven't had the opportunity to listen to "Once Denied" yet then be sure to head over to the group's bandcamp page ( ) . Especially if you like straight-up heavy metal along the lines of Megadeth. And finally be sure to check out the band's Facebook page as well:

Andy- First off I would just like to congratulate you guys on the long-awaited/long-anticipated "Once Denied". Can you give us a brief rundown on how, after forming over 25 years ago, this new album went down?

Steve – Thanks very much, we’re very happy with how it has turned out. When the band split up it was very amicable. We had been going for approximately 6 years and had done numerous demos and pushed really hard, but we were hit with the record industry’s push towards grunge that was coming in the early 90’s and that wasn’t who Shock was, so instead of compromising our music and who we were, we decided to end it. Fast forward to the end of 2011 and Tony decided to call everybody up and reform the band – mostly for the enjoyment of playing the songs again.

Andy-Now, Shock actually formed back in 1985 right? How did the band come together?

John - The band was formed by Tony and myself. We worked near each other and would meet for coffee to talk about our musical interests; both of us were 'between bands', so we met to knock around a few ideas. Slashing to Live came out of one of these riff-writing sessions. We came from the same 70s hard rock background, and became infatuated with the NWOBHM and Bay Area bands who were redefining Metal in the early 80s. That was our motivation when we formed Shock in 1985 - to be a part of that new movement, and try to play with as many other bands as we could. Our ambitions were actually pretty modest!

Andy-What were some of Shock's early influences?

John - The band's early influences are the usual hard rock reference points - Rush, KISS, old Maiden & Priest. We started to write around the time that No Life 'til Leather & Kill Em All came out; they were huge influences. We were also big fans of the first 2 Megadeth albums. We can listen to a lot of our older songs & reference exactly what we were listening to when we wrote them!

Andy-Despite rave reviews for your demos Shock was never able to issue an official release until now. Was there ever any offers from labels back in the day?

John - No, we never had any concrete offers from labels back in the day. We mailed out countless press kits, and met with some A&R people, but nothing came of it. With hindsight, the production quality & rushed performances on most of the recordings definitely didn't help our cause, although we still believe in the quality of the songs. We did, however, sign a 1-year management deal with Seip Management, which managed Helix: this led to a series of gigs and more contact with labels – but nothing ever materialized from that.

Andy-You guys choose 8 classic songs for "Once Denied". Was there any talk about recording a new track to go along with these songs?

Steve – It was briefly discussed when we first got back together about writing some new songs, but it was quickly decided that we would concentrate on our back catalog. We easily have enough songs for another two albums – that’s not to say we are never going to write new material, but we just have so many songs that we like that were never released it seemed pointless to start to work on new songs right now.

Andy-The band reformed in 2011 from what I've read online and then you guys opened for Helix at a sold-out show in March of 2012. How did that come about?

Steve – It was in the fall of 2011 that we had our first rehearsals, with no real goal in mind – just to play our old songs and enjoy them. Right from the beginning everything was sounding really good. At that point we decided to enter the studio and record 3-4 songs so we could have them for our own listening with much better production than how the originals were recorded. While we were in rehearsals for that we were offered the Helix show, the band was tight and we only needed to add a few more songs to give us a full set, so we did it. Once that was over we were entering the studio and we already had a full album’s worth of material ready to go, so we figured we might as well record them all.

Andy-In all those years apart how were you guys keeping busy?

Steve – Tony, John and myself all had families, jobs and the usual things. Tony kept playing music and teaching.

Andy-"Once Denied" was given some serious props by the likes of Dan Beehler (Exciter) Joey Vera (Armored Saint/Fates Warning/Engine/Anthrax and countless more!) and even famed journalist Martin Popoff! I'd imagine that was a rush of encouragement right?

 Steve – Anytime someone “gets” what it is that you’re trying to do with your music it’s really the most satisfying thing any musician can ask for and when it’s someone who you respect and admire for what they’ve done in their career it only multiplies that.

Andy-How did you manage to reel in drummer Chad Walls?

Steve – Chad works as a drum teacher at the same music school that Tony teaches guitar at, and they’ve known each other for years. When our last drummer was unable to join us, Tony approached Chad about paying with us and after Chad listened to a few of our old demos he was in.

Andy-So far the reviews for "Once Denied" have been glowing. In your eyes does that affirm that Shock was (and still is) the real deal and that record labels screwed up by passing on you guys back in the day?

John - Bitterness is a negative emotion, so that's not a factor. However, we do feel a great deal of pride and vindication at the attention and positive comments that our work is bringing in 2013. We chalk it up to a series of life experiences, most importantly, get the best musicians available to do the job, and get a guy behind the engineering console who truly understands what you're trying to do.

Andy-You guys have opened for some huge bands like Motörhead and Saxon. Any shows that still stick out after all these years?

John - Megadeth was a highlight ... we were, and still are, huge fans. They were touring just before the release of "Peace Sells", with King Diamond - we wanted to open the show, but the club owner didn't think there  would be room for 3 bands. The day of the show, King Diamond cancelled, so we were called, on short notice, to open. We got to hang out with Megadeth during the day, and they were very gracious to us; they also put on a killer performance. We were told later, by a mutual contact, that Megadeth really enjoyed our show as well. And ... Gar Samuelson - RIP. We were also fortunate to do a few shows with Montreal, Canada band Sword, including a sold-out show at the Spectrum in Montreal in front of about 1,500 people. Great guys: they've reformed, so our tour trails may cross again!

Andy-Hailing from Canada and all what's the furthest from home that Shock has ever played?

Steve – We’ve played in the farthest reaches of Ontario and Quebec, which is actually 1/3 the size of all of Europe

Andy-Are there any plans to tour now that "Once Denied" has been released? Perhaps in Ohio LOL?

Steve – Long range tours are not in the plans right now, but we’re certainly open to interesting shows and festivals.

Andy-Getting back to the album for a second it does seem as if the title, "Once Denied", is like a subtle jab at the music industry. Was that the case?

Steve – The title came from a line in the song "Fighting Chance", that states “Once denied…now my right” and we all felt that the lyrics of that song really summed up the history of the band and that line in particular stood out. Was it a jab – not really, it was more a statement that we weren’t taking no for an answer this time – we were releasing this CD one way or another.

Andy-What's your favorite song on the new album?

John - Favorite song is always a tough one, like asking who your favorite child is! I am very partial to "Splitting the Atom", though - the song has taken on a life of it's own with the band's new rhythm section. The song's main riff is very powerful, and sounds like a tank - the lyrics are also, unfortunately, timeless, as the spectra of nuclear war remains in the headlines. The acoustic guitar break & a couple of studio effects make the song a good headphone listen as well.

Steve – Favorite song is a difficult one as John said. For me it can really depend on what kind of mood I’m in. It can also depend on if you’re asking favorite song to play or to listen to. Overall though I would have to choose "Paths of Glory", as it’s a really heavy song with some cool time changes and I really like the lyrics

Andy-Good call as both of those cuts are killer! So, what does 2013 and beyond have in store for Shock?

Steve – Right now we are just trying to promote the CD as best we can, and get the word out. We are also looking for some interesting shows to play like some opening slots for bigger bands, as they can be great for exposure and opening us up to new audiences.

Andy-I'll leave you with the final word. Anything else you want to add, share or say?

Steve – Andy, we just want to say thanks to you for the interview and for reviewing our CD. As stated earlier it really means a lot to us when someone “gets” what we are doing – we’d all rather play to a crowd of 5 people who are totally into our music as opposed to 500 who don’t care. 

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