Friday, November 1, 2013
The Folks Behind the Music - Shaman Lee - The Sleeping Shaman and Shaman Recordings
One of the best UK sites bar-none and one of the cooler boutique labels out there. Both the brainchild of Shaman Lee. Check out The Sleeping Shaman and Shaman Recordings to get all the news.
Start at the beginning, how did you get started with this crazy idea of writing about music?
Completely by accident, I’m not a music journalist, never have been and probably never will be, the birth of the site was just somewhere to put (terrible) photos I was taking at gigs as at the time I was also messing about learning web design and I always find I learn better with ‘real time’ projects. It wasn’t long after the site was launched that I was approached by long-time friend Mark Burns (Vocalist/Bassist in Volition) asking if I fancied sticking the odd review up, what the hell, why not I thought and it kinda snowballed from there.
We're all the product of our musical past. What's your musical history? First album you ever bought? First musical epiphany moment? First album that terrified the hell out of you?
When I was growing up, yeah, we had music in the house as we had a stack of old 7”s and LP’s along with an old Fidelity turn table (the one where you could stack about 10 x 7”s records on!) but it was just something you put on in the background, so family influence certainly isn’t to blame. I do remember my mother telling me before I was born, she went to see a clairvoyant (she’s into all that airy fairly nonsense, but hey, if it makes her happy!), and she was told you’ll have 2 sons (which she did) and one would be heavily into music, coincidence, maybe, I really don’t know, but as it turns out, music has played a huge part in the last 25+ years of my life.
The first 7” single I ever bought (don’t laugh!) was Adam & The Ants ‘Dog Eat Dog’, I must have been about 6 years old (give or take), but the first proper album I bought was Iron Maiden ‘Peace of Mind’ closely followed by ‘Number of the Beast’ & ‘Powerslave’, that band changed my life forever so I guess you could also say discovering Iron Maiden was my first musical epiphany moment as something about them just spoke to me and off the back of them I discovered the likes of Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Metallica etc so they were definitely a gateway band.
And the first album that terrified me, OK it wasn’t an album, it was seeing the video of Slayer’s Hell Awaits, I must have been about 11 at the time and was like, what the fuck, this is crazy, I have gotta get me some more of that as I had no idea at the time music could be that extreme and being shocked that Kerry King didn’t impale himself on his now infamous 6” nail wrist band!
What's the last album to grab you by the throat and insist you listen?
Ohh crikey, that’s a tough one as being the editor of a webzine, your exposed to sooo much music and at times it can be a bit overwhelming, but right now I’m digging the Brutus album ‘Behind The Mountains’, I’ve also been giving the new Windhand album ‘Soma’ a few spins, wow, a slight deviation in places from past material, but this is seriously heavy! The new Dethscalator album ‘Racial Golf Course No Bitches’ was also a release I had to check out from the song titles alone, that band are as mad as a box of frogs. I also have to mention Uncoffined and their debut album 'Ritual Death And Funeral Rites', a filthy slab of Death Doom and I’ve not long had the new Earthless promo ‘From The Ages’, an album I’ve been eagerly awaiting! Sorry, found it difficult to keep it to just 1 album!
What do you see happening in the music scene today, good and bad?
Hype (although let’s face facts, that’s always been there), for example, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, not a bad band by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly nothing special and I thought a little static live, so I do struggle to grasp that hype over hard work and sheer graft has propelled them into the popularity states and their early vinyl now sells for ridiculous sums on eBay and Discogs, I just don’t get it? On the flip side, there are bands like Conan, they offer something a little bit different and in the early days, they played anywhere and everywhere and that hard work is now paying off so if any band deserves the recognition and hype there now getting its Conan.
I guess as well with the popularity of the internet and how easy it is to record and get your music out there, we can at times be oversaturated so it does take that something a little bit different or special to stand out, is that a good or bad thing, I don’t know, but it does mean, you can also get a little over critical.
With so many music sites, how would you describe what you do? What's your unique take on the music and writing?
I don’t think we’re unique really as we’re much like any other webzine/blog that features news/reviews, but where I do think we’re strong is the standard of writing that some of our team of scribes aim for, which often surprises me how willing they are to go that extra mile, I mean check out Saul’s recent reviews of the 2 Saint Vitus reissues, amazing pieces of writing and something I’m proud to have on the site, plus without the writers there would be no Sleeping Shaman, so it’s something I’m eternally grateful for.
Illegal free downloads on your site. Yes or no, and why?
Point blank NO, bands and labels work hard to get releases out there which cost money! Lesser known bands and labels rely on the sales to help them move on to record and release new material, nuff said
What's been your all time greatest "Find"? That band you "discovered" before anyone else and started the word spreading?
From a personal level where I’ve helped spread the word, it has to be Black Magician, around 18 months ago they were relatively unknown, but with a lot of hard work from myself and the band, their name is starting to spread like wild fire, more so now they have signed to Svart Records. Would this have happened without my involvement? Probably, as the music speaks for itself, but it’s also been a proud moment to have been involved in and witnessing them playing the legendary Roadburn Festival earlier this year was the icing on top of the cake.
If you could write a 1,000 word essay on one song, which one would it be, and why? What makes that song so important?
That’s another tough question as there’s just so many killer songs out there and faves can change depending on your mood, but if I had to narrow it down to just one it has to be Saint Vitus ‘Born Too Late’, I reckon nearly everyone involved in this scene can relate to those lyrics and quite often I do think I should have been 18 in 1969!
Give us three bands that we need to keep our eyes out for.
Coltsblood - Seriously heavy doom from Liverpool, John from them has also played in Conan & Black Magician so has a bit of pedigree and their 2 track demo was simply monolithic, they’ve also just literally finished recording their debut album so one to keep an eye open for when that hits the streets.
Staying with Liverpool, which seems to have been a breeding pot of late, Mind Mountain, the members have messed about in numerous Liverpool bands over the years, but when their new Self Titled EP landed in my inbox I was simply blown away by the Kraut/Space Rock worship with a nod to fellow Scousers Mugstar, one to definitely watch!
And we’ll stick to the UK with the final band, Monolith Cult which features members of the mighty Khang and Lazarus Blackstar, seriously heavy slabs of heavy doom rock and Lee’s guitar tone on their debut album is something to behold.
I would have also liked to have added Undersmile and their acoustic alter ego Coma Wall, but that would have just been plain biased!
Tell us about your personal music collection. Vinyl? CD? What's your prized possession?
When I first started collecting music, there were no CD’s, so it was vinyl and cassettes only, plus I was heavily involved in the old days of tape trading, there was no internet back then, so was a great way to discover new bands, I guess looking back it infringed every copyright law under the sun much like todays file sharing, but was also a great way for smaller bands to get there music out there.
As the popularity of CD’s boomed in the 90’s, I did stop buying as much vinyl as you started finding that albums were either being released on CD only, or the CD featured bonus tracks so you opted for that, something I now kinda regret as I’ve gone full circle as for the most part, I’ll usually buy albums on vinyl now.
What makes it all worthwhile for you?
Sometimes I ask myself the very same question!
In all seriousness though, I get a real buzz just being involved in the scene, meeting some great and passionate people, both online and in the real world, being exposed to new music which you might have quite easily overlooked, seeing the site get a constant stream of traffic as well as seeing bands you’ve supported in the early days, who worked hard, played to preverbal one man and his dog, then go on to bigger and better things.
How would your life be different if you weren't writing about music?
Well I don’t really write about music as such so my role within the Sleeping Shaman is more editor, I have wrote a few reviews over the years, but I don’t find creative writing comes naturally to me, fortunately, I have a strong team of scribes who are better than I ever could be, so I leave it down to them while I can get on with what I’m good at and that’s managing the site as believe me, that’s nearly a full time job in itself!
But to answer your question, I’d simply have a lot more free time, but then it would leave a huge void in my life and I’d probably fill it with reading about and listening to music anyway!
Ever been threatened by a band or a ravenous fan?
Fortunately not, there’s been the odd grumble when a less than glowing review has been published, but most bands/labels are mature enough to take constructive criticism on the chin as after all, a review is just one person’s opinion.
In the end, what would you like to have accomplished, or be remembered for?
To just be happy, I’ve had a hell of a lot of up’s and down’s in my 38 years on this planet and that’s one thing I’ve learned, to try and be happy and everything else will fall into place. I’m not really in this to be made a martyr to the ‘scene’ or anything silly like that, we just kinda do what we do, and if people enjoy reading the site and/or the music released via Shaman Recordings, then that’s good enough for me.
Many people may not realize the hours you devote to what you do for little or no pay. Is there a day job? If so, how do you find the balance?
Yup, it actually costs me to run The Sleeping Shaman, we have had a couple of adverts which helped towards hosting fees, but that’s it, everything else comes out of my pocket.
As for a day job, I’m a freelance web designer/developer so work from home which sounds much more exciting than the reality, I do enjoy it though and it can be a juggling act keeping on top of the site, publishing content and also fulfilling clients work, as The Sleeping Shaman takes up a hell of a lot of hours just managing everything, replying to emails and making sure our writers have everything they need to write a review etc etc.
What's next? Any new projects?
I have no idea, I’ve got a steady stream of work on at the moment, but when that dries up, which is getting close, it’s anyone’s guess! And to just continue to regularly update The Sleeping Shaman and steadily chip away with Shaman Recordings.
Finally, other than the music, what's your other burning passion?
Motorcycle racing, I absolutely love it, I enjoy the Grand Prix’s and British/World Superbikes, but for me, my true passion is the ‘real road racing’ scene, it mainly happens over in Ireland, but the big race of the year is on a little island in the Irish Sea called the Isle of Man where for 2 weeks of the year in June they hold the TT (4 weeks if you include the Classic TT/Manx GP which happens in August) and its possibly the craziest race in the world, 1 lap is 37 3/4 miles on closed public roads that goes between houses, kerbs, walls, hedges, trees, up a mountain and over tram lines, seeing really is believing as the superbikes can hit 200mph!
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just put ‘Isle Of Man TT’ into YouTube and all will be revealed!
And I’d like to finish by saying a big thanks to Todd and John from all things that Ripple, keep up the good work with the site and label, along with everyone that contributes to and reads The Sleeping Shaman, we salute you.