Last night I chatted to Jon Toogood - I'd never interviewed him before. We were on the phone to speak about his upcoming appearance at Wellington's International Festival as part of the Jacques Brel show. And of course he mentioned tonight's show with The Adults and the APO and, being very generous with his time, he talked a lot about Shihad, specifically the upcoming new album.
There's been a bit of excitement about this, since last year's reissue of Churn on vinyl reminded people of the magic between the band and Jaz Coleman. Coleman, who I interviewed last year, has talked about being a fan of Shihad, not just a friend or colleague, a former producer of the band, but a fan. He told me then that he wanted to work with the band again, wanted to bring out the sound that he knew was there. And now it's happening. After murmurs of rumours that he was on board with them and they were on board with him it's now a case of full steam ahead. The record isn't just happening - it's very nearly happened.
Toogood sounded excited - genuinely excited. He reckons the record is arriving at a very good time for Shihad, the collaboration crucial too.
"Jaz called us up and said 'let me make the record that I want to f**king hear, as a fan of you guys' and when Jaz Coleman says that you know you're in for a ride".
Toogood's got a busy start to the year with The Adults show and then the Brel, but he says the focus, towards the second half of the year certainly, will be Shihad.
"We were all just so f**king up for it, you know, it felt good and after 20 years of learning recording and playing we just went back to rocking out live, we had four weeks of jamming and we just hit every day, not very rock'n'roll really, up and into it at 10am and working through until midnight. We just went for it. Everyone was really happy and focussed. It feels like a good time for a hard and heavy Shihad album, on the back of our tour with Black Sabbath and Churn coming out on vinyl and doing the shows last year where we played the Meanest Hits and a full set of Churn material. That was our favourite thing, just hitting through that Churn material. It felt so good".
Toogood says Coleman's advice to the band was "to take our time, to ride the riff and just let it happen, to conjure the magic. Jaz is a big believer in magic of course, actual magic and as crazy as it all can seem he's convinced of magic and he's right here - we just made tracks of ourselves playing a riff and locking in to a groove. Where I've previously been concerned with, ya know, getting to chorus by one minute and 10 seconds and then, ya know, make sure you're out by three and a half minutes, here it was just a case of seeing what happens, of not being concerned with that at all".
And he's already excited about the prospect of hitting out with hard and heavy live shows in support of the record.
"The battlefield is the live show and we want a lot of great ammunition, that's how I see it. I mean that's always been what we hope to do, but at the moment it feels very good for Shihad to be returning to our roots, returning to a sound that we all want and already these tracks we've created feel great, I just want to take them out and play them".
Toogood says he knows his place as a musician, knows his strength, "you know I can sing, or whatever but the thing I'm best at, the real thing I offer is I'm a good rhythm guitarist, and I just love that, I'm never trying to be a lead guitarist, was never interested in that, I just love locking in and being part of the sound. We recognise that that's what Shihad has - what it's got - it is a really great band, a great-sounding band and it's just such a good feeling hitting that sound, being part of it".
Obviously the proof is in the pudding and so far there's some 18 tracks that were laid down in just 12 days, vocals are still to be added, the record will then be handed over for Coleman to further conjure his magic - but it was hard to not get caught up in the excitement as I heard it from Toogood.
I want another really great record from Shihad - because on the night they're the best live rock band I've seen from this part of the world. One that I think could hack it - and deliver - on any stage in the world.
And it feels good to be caring about their music again.
You can read the full interview with Jon Toogood by clicking here.
But I thought I'd open it up here for discussion around hopes for their new album. Are you excited to learn of the developments, that the boys are back in the studio with Jaz Coleman? Did you rediscover Churn when it was released on vinyl last year? Are you a Shihad fan? Or are you really not interested in the idea of a new record from Shihad? What are your thoughts around this?
You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts