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Why It's Been So Long Between Albums For Kiwi Rockers Shihad

8 October 2021 | 1:31 pm | Tiana Speter

"For the first time in my life since I was 18 years old - I had no desire to write any music at all."

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If you like rock and roll with a conscience and/or lashings of riffy bliss, the name Shihad will be one that is entirely all too familiar.

Meeting in high school and forming in the late '80s, the Kiwi hard rockers bonded early on over a mutual love of thrash and heavy metal before evolving into an almighty paragon that took the world by ferocious storm, with the group ultimately becoming dubbed one of the greatest rock bands of all time

Beloved for their bombastic live shows, the Shihad legacy spans decades, a name change (and subsequent change back) and, as of today, ten studio albums, with their latest release Old Gods showcasing the Wellington quartet sonically at their most ravenous selves yet; and, as frontman Jon Toogood spoke about on today's episode of The Green Room podcast, it took the world falling apart somewhat to ignite this latest chapter for the band.

"This is the first time we've taken seven years to write a record," Toogood told The Green Room host Tiana Speter.

"Literally what happened after FVEY was...my wife and I had two children. And for the first time in my life since I was 18 years old - I had no desire to write any music at all, and it just became all about the kids.

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"But in the background, Shihad were still meeting up once every six months, jamming out some music...and I was just storing it all up in the background.

"About year three into that process, I started getting...I mean, 'cos I've got two children, and my wife's Sudanese, which was totally random, my best mate happened to be a Sudanese national.

"We decided to have kids, got married...then we had two kids, biracial, really interesting, amazing, beautiful children...but in the meantime in the background you've got images of people walking around with tiki torches in America saying 'the Jews will not replace us' - which is very reminiscent, I'm a big history buff 'cos I think it really serves to know where you are.

"I just started to think: 'right! I've got two biracial children and that's becoming mainstream again'. And then, basically, all this music made sense to me after not making...well, I liked the sound of it, but I just didn't have any words.

"Then Australia caught fire for how many months there, about three or four months. And again, that existential threat was there, and I'm thinking: 'man...what is the world I brought these kids into?'.

"And then lockdown happened," Toogood paused and laughed wryly. 

With Toogood based in Melbourne during the state's extensive lockdown in 2020, it would seem implausible to many that forced introspection and isolation would inspire much on a creative front. But for Toogood, a fortuitous proximity to a friend and a space to comprehend the madness going on around him was just what the songwriting doctor ordered.

"Luckily for me, I've got a friend in a band called Bodyjar, Cam (Cameron Baines), who owns a skateboard store within the five kilometre radius of my house," Toogood explained.

"So! He let me use the basement of that place, and I just took all the Shihad music and got out four years of just going 'what is happening in the world?! Is this just me feeling like this world's gone completely mad?'. 

"I just had this space and went boom! All these words came and all these songs came, it happened very naturally.

"I needed it for myself just to try and make sense of the world that we were, sort of, in. And also just to...yeah, I just needed to hear some music that was basically saying: 'you're not mad, this is wrong'.

"Luckily I play in this band that makes this really big sound! 

The end result for Toogood's basement writing adventures would go on to forge Old Gods, the group's tenth full-length outing, and the most majestic fusion of rage and hope, with brawling riffs and some pop-riddled hooks along for the ride for good measure.

"We've played together since we were kids at school," Toogood mused. "And now I've just turned 50...and it's the same guys!"

"We do know where each other plays, and we do know, after all these years...we've worked out what our strengths are, and our strength is basically making really heavy, riff-based music, that, sort of, heavy music for people that aren't really into the...more fantasy-style metal.

"For me, if I'm listening to guitar rock I listen to Idles or Sleaford Mods...which isn't really metal or anything. But it's hard music that's quite honest and brutal.

"I like that 'sticking it to the man' sort of thing in my rock and roll."

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You can listen to the full episode with Jon Toogood and host Tiana Speter below or here. Alternatively, you can also listen to full The Green Room podcast episodes below, as well as on Spotify, Apple Podcasts - or wherever you usually get your podcasts from.

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Need more music, film, TV and comedy in your life? Check out all previous episodes of The Green Room here - and did you know you can also watch episodes of The Green Room too? Head here to check out some of the recent videos, and if you're still hunting for content to feed your ears, be sure to check out some of the other exciting Handshake Agency podcasts below!