INTERVIEW: Nathan “Drake” Hunt – Shaman’s Harvest

Dark, visceral, layered, vintage, organic, analogue, authentic and political. Shaman’s Harvest have always been a band to embrace music rather than merely regurgitate sounds in the hope of gaining nods of approval.  They’re also a band that’s done a lot in their 20 years and had some real success too along the way. With 5 great albums so far we’re lucky that we get to hear this sixth with singer Nathan Hunt now recovered from his brush with throat cancer. The most amazing thing about new album ‘Red Hands Black Deeds’ though might be that despite the struggle this could well be their best album so far.

Mark: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today about the amazing new album ‘Red Hands Black Deeds’, it must I guess have been quite an emotional album for you to make?

Nate: Yeah, I mean there was a lot of struggle making this record, I struggled vocally, I struggled medically for days and days, but I’m kind of glad that that’s there because you can kind of feel that in the record.

Mark: What do you want people to take away from the album? I mean I get so much from it in everything from the way that you’ve put it together, the fact that you have that warm analogue sound right at the fore to the way it takes you on a journey through an interesting and diverse soundscape. What are you hopes from listeners?

Nate: Hopefully first of all they will listen to it (laughs). But really we tried to make a diverse record and to make a record that we needed to make for ourselves for once and I hope that people can kinda fall into it and love it as much as we loved making it.

Mark: Was it a hard record to make? Did it take a long time for the album to come together?

Nate: There were times where it was moving at the speed of light and times when we were at a standstill, but all told studio time was just a few months, and the last record I made it took me ten months. So it was kind of fast we fund the flow of the group.

Mark: You’ve got a very unique sound and you always have which is something I for one love about the band. It’s hard to put you in a ‘genre box’ like people are apt to these days. How do you consider the music you make? Where do you see yourselves fitting in or isn’t that something that ever crosses you mind?

Nate: It’s hard in the States when you don’t fit into a particular market. But it’s just music to me, it’s just the song that matters and that takes precedent over everything. I don’t really think about things like writing a rock song or a blues song I just kind of write a song and see where the emotion takes it, what it taps into and that’s just what it is.

Mark: How do those songs come to you? Does the melody come first? The riff? How do you go about creating?

Nate: A lot of times I’ll sit with an acoustic guitar? Though sometimes I’ll just be driving in the car and have this melody in my head and just put it in the phone or whatever. But a lot of times it’s the melody that dictates where it’s gonna go, but it never goes where I think it’s gonna go! (laughs) That’s part of the magic of making a record, sometimes the music takes a completely different path to what you intend.

Mark: I guess that’s the beauty of it? Is it all about the voyage of discovery?

Nate: That’s the entire point you know. The best thing about music for me is making records it’s not the touring. I mean I like touring, but I think as humans we’re made with this curiosity so when you discover something you want to learn more about yourself, and music is a great way to do that I guess.

Mark: So what do you get out of touring is it the joy of seeing people who share your love of the music, or is it more watching the reaction when you play something new at you’ve maybe just created?

Nate: It’s definitely a great feeling and I guess you get some validation out of it but I mean the great thing about playing live is that it’s just raw energy! It’s just joy, you know! Pure joy from the people listening and the people performing and you can’t really get that any other way, not that I know of. And you get to see these people that take your song and they make it their own so it means something to them that might be different to what it means to you. And you get to see their passion as well and that’s really the best part of it. Touring itself sucks! (laughs)

Mark: For me ‘Red Hands Black Deeds’ is a true album in that it takes you on a journey, not just a collection of songs and I think we’ve lost that over the last couple of decades. It’s an album you want to play from start to finish

Nate: Definitely. This record more so than others. I mean it’s kind of hard to hold people’s attention these days, it’s one thing to get their attention but to hold it is something else! It’s a singles driven world and people want to hear their favourite song for instance, but on songs like ‘The Devil in Our Wake’ there’s a build up before the song kicks in and I guess sometimes you have to have patience to get the reward (laughs). But I think yeah, we saw the album through then we figure out the order and that’s kind of how it’s meant to be heard as a whole piece, or that’s how we see it.

Mark: So how are you presenting it ‘live’ are we going to hear the whole thing?

Nate: Well right now we’re doing about half of it and half of our last record and finding time to also fit in people’s favourites. But at some point I think we’re going to end up doing this record front to back. Right now we’re opening with the first few songs live then going with some of the older stuff.

Mark: There’s some great songs and they all deserve to be heard. I particularly love the Tracklisting though. You mentioned ‘The Devil in Our Wake’ which has a real nice hard rocking groove about it and its fits so beautifully against ‘Blood Trophies’. There’s such a great flow- did that flow suggest itself naturally?

Nate: I mean there are certain songs in the order where we just kind of rolled a dice or flipped a coin to see where it was going to go! (laughs) But for the most part as the songs would come out or as they were being developed you kind of realise “Oh this is the first track definitely” you know “This is going to be in the first three” so that your mood and emotion can shift with the record in a flowing way as opposed to a jarring way.

Mark: For the remainder of the year then as far as playing live goes you have the US Tour about to start and that takes you into October, are there plans to take the album overseas?

Nate: We’re looking at going overseas in 2018, the rest of the year as you say we have pretty much booked out here in The States. The current tour ends in October then we’ll be picking up one of three tours after that and that’ll finish up the year. But yeah next year, early next year we’ll be heading out.

Mark: And hopefully you’ll find time to visit us down here maybe for something like Bluesfest one of our big institutions Downunder.

Nate: That’d be great, it’d be a great goal for us man.

Mark: You’ve been around for 20 years now and put up some wonderful albums in that time but there are still some parts of the world you haven’t visited. Are you actively looking to seek out new territories to spread the word?

Nate: Yeah I mean when we signed to the label, we’re on now the Mascot label group now that was really the whole reason for it. We were independent till then, and they have the ability to take the music global. That’s the whole point because in 20 years we’ve saturated The States about as much as we can. And also live music here in America, it’s pretty hard to get people to come out to shows any more, it has to be a pretty big event to get the passion for it right now. And I know that in other parts of the World it’s different.  Especially somewhere like Australia, we’ve been talking about it for months now. We’ve just got to find the right bill.

Mark: Take it all the way back for us – what was it that made you realise that music was going to be your life? Was there a defining moment or a gradual realisation?

Nate: It was pretty gradual. I remember when I was a kid about 6 or 7 I went on a field trip with the school and they made us close our eyes listen and imagine colours as a different way or seeing and I saw them so clearly it was a different way of communicating and I just wanted to learn as much as possible about it. And as you do know the Grunge era hit me pretty hard so I got pretty passionate about that. I have memories of being 8 or 9 years old and performing to Fleetwood Mac when my mom would put it on, I’d get the Playschool microphone out, the guitar and have concerts in the living room.

Mark: That paints a great picture. If we had to put you on the spot and ask you to name one single song that really exemplified your feelings about music, it’s power and emotion what would that be today?

Nate: That’s quite a spot! I mean for me it’s all about the performance, whether you’re performing in the studio or performing live, it’s the honesty or performing. But I’d have to say probably Jimi Hendrix – Machine Gun when he was with Band of Gypsies that’s probably the song that really, really to me says what music is supposed to be.

Mark: Wonderful song and if you wanted someone to exemplify performance that’s the man. If that one didn’t stump you they do get harder! What is the meaning of life?

Nate: (laughs) Well, 42! (laughing)

Mark: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today, it’s been a pleasure.

Nate: Thanks brother.

Mark: Everyone should now rush out and buy ‘Red Hands Black Deeds’.

Nate: I couldn’t agree more!

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