DOORSTEP INTERVIEW: Shades | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Welcome to Doorstep Interview, where we find out more about the amazing bands and artists we have right here in the north east. This time Ziggy from Shades tells us more about the post-hardcore band.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you, where are you from?

Collectively, we are Shades, comprising of myself (Alexander “Ziggy” Paul), Reece “The Effect” Spencer, Glen “Big Juice” Sutherland, Josh Callon – now also of new alt-rockers Hunting Game – and Liam Tellum – who also plays drums in dark angle mongers Schultz. The first three of us are as yet undiscovered hip hop prodigies, sometimes sheltered beneath the entourage name “Common Past Fox Conglomerate Give Birth To None Care Deeply.”

What inspired you to first start making music?

Lenny Henry.

Who would you say are your biggest influences?

Lenny Henry.

How would you describe your sound?

We’ve been described as “the thinking person’s aggressive rock band” which I think sums us up brilliantly. The new EP Lose Your Chains encompasses a lot of musical technicality as well as lyrical complexity in terms of literary references, political messages and zen koans.

The title You Can Keep Your Immortality, Herpo is a Harry Potter reference – Herpo was the creator of the Horcrux, The OG in living forever. This song is a bit of a solemn one, referencing a personally dark time in my life where I was especially keen on the idea of self-termination. I’ll not get into the whole mental health side of things cos fuck being defined by that, but that’s the craic – reserving the right to decide whether you really fancy life or not. Your choice, no one else’s.

Duvaliant Thor is a play on Clement Duval the French anarchist, and Valiant Thor from the novel A Stranger In The Pentagon by Dr Frank E Stranges, where an Alien from Venus poses as a human and settles amongst the back room of the American government and try to preach world peace. The song itself is about the class division in Britain. It’s a call to arms to my fellow working class man, who should be rallying against the tax frauds and corporate elitist wankers and reject the attempts by propaganda to split us up with the whole “immigrants are the devil” fabrication being fronted by Cunt, or Nigel Farage, or whatever his name is. Every non-left vote this year is a vote for the Tories in my opinion. I wish it didn’t have to be that way, my self being an avid TUSC sympathiser, but realistically by veering away from our guns we are friendly firing ourselves into another rule of utter shit. And I can’t be fucking arsed for that.

The title of the single Wilde Out For Wonderlust is a slight reference to Oscar Wilde and aestheticism but more a general urging to people shuffling through the stagnant sewers that is day to day western life to just be free. It’s about going out on a limb and prioritizing love and happiness over all the synthetic non spiritual nonsense we’re constantly attemptedly coerced into valuing by society. There’s creativity imagery in “let’s add recklessness to our palettes and attack this canvas” – this is an explicit reflection of the arts and how they are undervalued and how we should be more forceful and ruthless with our expression and pursuit of a beautiful life. My proudest lyric of the record is “Honey, let’s seek Dionysus, steal his ivy weapon“, which references the Greek god of euphoria Dionysus, who was often depicted in art with a trademark ivy dagger dipped in honey. This reference alludes to stealing his trademark, or more taking a leaf out of his book – mirroring his outlook and going about life like he did. He was renowned for dancing a lot and generally being happy and carefree, putting joy, wonder and freedom above all else.

So yeah, Wilde Out is just about freedom and breaking free from social convention and conformity. “Nothing is everything, and everything is nothing” – means your job/relationship/car/education/whatever don’t define you and you can’t base your worth entirely on one thing – “nothing is everything.” You can achieve happiness very easily if you have the right perspective. You can have it all, you just need to know what you want – “everything is nothing.”

Have there been any major challenges so far in your musical career?

Not as such. It hasn’t been easy but we’ve had a helping hand from a few local heavyweights in terms of contacting the right people to get the right features/gigs what have you. Generator have been really good to us, as has Ross Millard.

Speaking of which, I was challenged at the last ever Split Festival that we had the pleasure of playing in 2014. I got absolutely wasted and lied my way onstage with a couple of my friends to watch Dizzee Rascal by using my urban charm to con the security into believing I was his close pal. As he came off after his set, his personal bodyguard rather forcefully told me to “back off” because I was standing apparently too close to him while waiting to get a pic with the boy in da corner with ex-Spark presenter Jess Iszzat. I suggested that this fella might want to calm himself down – the bloke was a good 6ft5 and 16 stone – to which he responded with “I will put you on the ground mate.” At this point the mixture of West Indian lager and Newcastle Brown Ale kicked in and I started yelling “DEE IT! DEE IT!!” I got pulled away and Dizzee ran into his car, it was all a bit of a kerfuffle.

That was probably the biggest potential challenge I’ve had to face in my career because this bouncer could have contorted my slight frame like a balloon animal and burst me just as easily.

“Every non-left vote this year is a vote for the Tories in my opinion”

What else have you got planned for the future?

Reece, our guitarist, has a compilation in the works called Shades and Friends, which, if it comes into fruition, will showcase a host of Newcastle alternative bands including a new track from ourselves called I Can Only Hope That The Answers Will Come To Me In My Sleep. It’s a very emotional song (shock) and has been widely commended as up there with our best work when we’ve played it live. Other than that we’re writing a new record which we will be looking to release as soon as it’s done really. We’re not going to go stagnant for a year with releasing music like we did last time. Stay on your toes ‘cause we gots a whole loada noise for ya.

Where do you see yourselves fitting into the local music scene?

It’s nice because our sort of open ended rock sound tends to fit into a wide variety of genres when it comes to gig lineups. For example, when it comes to touring bands we’ve supported a range from This Town Needs Guns, Wot Gorilla? and And So I Watch You From Afar to ’68, Trophy Scars and we’re supporting Such Gold in May. This broad variety works in our favour because we get to play with great musicians and good friends alike on the local scene, like Schultz, Bernaccia, Kobadelta, Cohesion, James Carroll, Future Horizons, Antlez, Goy Boy Mcilroy, Charlie Dancer, Pure Graft, Mountains At Sea, Picture Frames… the list goes on.

It’s also a massive credit to the Newcastle scene that most of the more active promoters at the moment are either musicians themselves or musically driven, rather than business people. There’s none of this pay to play bollocks, it’s the scene feeding off each other and combining into a joint effort from promoters and bands alike. We seem to have garnered a certain air of respect from what I’ve gained from reviews and general comments from people at shows, and proven by being asked to play Evo Emerging, Stockton Calling and Split Festival. It’s fantastic to know that by purely doing what we love to do – writing good songs, putting on good shows – gets rewarded in the north east scene.

Tell us a bit about your live performances. What can we expect from a gig by Shades?

With us there’s no fakery or even showmanship, we just feed off the noise we make. The fact that noise happens to be aggressively primal is purely coincidental. I’ve been asked if I’m on drugs on more than one occasion after a particularly energetic set, but I’m not, I’m just a bit whacked. For a proper representation of what we’re all about you just have to look at the two EP launch shows we’ve put on. Crowd surfing, stage invading exuberant jostle fests. Ask anyone.

Can you tell us what gigs you have planned in the region in the near future?

We’re supporting the mighty Arcite on Monday 27th April at the O2 Academy Newcastle. This will be the heaviest bill we’ve ever played so if anyone is a metalcore/hardcore enthusiast, message our Facebook page for a ticket to this one.

On Thursday 30th April we share a stage with Bearfoot Beware at The Head of Steam before we head to Manchester to play with our friends Cøllege on that leg of their UK tour on May 5th.

Upon returning, we’re delighted to be warming up for Such Gold at Think Tank on May 8th; we’re seriously excited for that one, and we’ll take some time to etch some new songs into our set.

Tickets can be acquired directly from ourselves for pretty much all of these shows so if anyone’s after nabbing one, message us.

What do you think has been your biggest achievement so far as a band/artist?

Tickets For me it has to be the TTNG show in 2013. Our buddies at Look Who’s Talking offered us the opening slot alongside the late great Arcs & Trauma, Victor Villareal and TTNG. What you have to understand is, TTNG are my favourite band of all time. Like, the ultimate musicians, who I’ve loved since my early youth. To get to meet and play with them was literally a dream come true, especially with it being so early on in our career so to speak. We got ridiculously excited and did the classic Geordie guitar band trick and got absolutely cream crackered on a deadly amount of beer and a questionable portion of rose wine – which I now do not touch. It was the eve of Reece’s birthday so he was on stage with TTNG for a good 70% of the set, I was shoved on stage pint of wine in hand and before I knew it I was sharing the mic with Hank belting out Adventure, Stamina & Anger in front of a sold out Cluny 2. It was actually insane.

Other than that it has to be how well Lose Your Chains has been received. Having such a successful independent record release and pushing ourselves into the forefront of the local scene has made us excited about having a big hand, in creating a platform for the rock scene to take off and finally get the recognition it deserves here. It’s a revolution, and we’re taking to the streets.

BONUS QUESTION: Is artwork a prominent factor when making the record?

All of our artwork is DIY. We tend to give Reece the foundation of an idea because I can’t draw for shit, then he does his thing. For Lose Your Chains, Reece drew a photo of this handmade mask that my mam picked up from a market in my dad’s native Grenada which is on my living room wall, then added his own spin on it. The sort of half and half visual represents the conscious and unconscious, with the chaotic, surreal multi-patterned side being the unconscious, and the cleaner, calmer side being the conscious mind. What you’ll notice is the perimeter of the personified conscious mind on the front is disjointed. That represents damage. Abnormality. Reece has awesome ideas, we trust his judgement enough to let him get on with all the artsy stuff we do.

Shades play with Arcite at Newcastle’s O2 Academy on Monday 27th April and then with Bearfoot Beware at the Head of Steam on Thursday 30th April.

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