The final Obsidian Conspiracy? Jim Sheppard speaks out.
Nevermore are a band that formed out of the ashes of the band under the name of 'Sanctuary' in the 80's, with the release of 'Refuge Denied' and 'Into the mirror Black' a cult classic album. Both Jim Sheppard (bass) and vocalist Warrel Dane never left up and carried on after the band broke up to form Nevermore, with the aid of guitar wizard Jeff Loomis to which later on came Van Williams. One of the finest bands to come out of Seattle along side the likes of Queensryche, Metal Church, Bitter End, Forced Entry to name a few... Having said the name Sanctuary, well the band are about to play their 1st gig in over a decade in 2011 on the 70.000 tons of metal cruise ship which features over 40 bands playing on a cruise ship which includes Saxon, Trouble and many more, just wish I could afford that. Well Nevermore have come a long way since the bands debut 'Nevermore' back in roughly 95 and have continued to release some fine albums through Century Media with the likes of 'This Godless Endeavor', 'Enemies of Reality', and so on.... Now the band return with their new stunning album 'The obsidian Conspiracy', which sees the band taking a more darker approach but still managing to keep their unique sound and style. The band have suffered with numerous guitarist quitting the band but have now I hope finally found a suitable eastern European guitarist, a young fresh and talented guitarist. I managed to catch up with the band at this years 'Bang Your Head' festival in southern Germany, a great festival which I highly recommend. The interview took place with bassist Jim Sheppard when I asked him about the new album and of course some warm up questions and what the future holds for the band. Here is what Jim had to say.
So lets start the ball rolling by asking you what the band have been up to since the last album, as you all took time out for either rest or solo projects, please tell me what's been going on?
"Well yes Warrel and Jeff did their solo albums, and for me I had to take time out because I suffer with 'Crones' and I need to take time off for surgery and I thought I would be in and out of the hospital and I thought I would be back on the road after 6 months to a year but there were complications over complications and in the end I ended up been in and out of hospitals for 3 yrs for surgery. So both Warrel and Jeff did their solo albums and Van's wife had a baby. So when he is that home he is the mum & dad doing all the work really. Van's wife supports him 100% so there's pretty much no problems with touring or recording which is a really good thing."
At any time did you ever think that your career with Nevermore would be over due to the fact you had some serious health issues?
"Well yes it did cross my mind as if I would be able to carry on been in the band and been a musician. After the surgery I did some touring and it was really tuff on me which really made me sick and so we took more time off and over the last year I have finally got my health back which I feel really great about. The good thing is, we got a couple of solo albums out of it and Van's got a baby so in the end it all worked out really well."
I remember see in the band at Bloodstock, to were there was a standing bass player who helped the band out, a friend of your I believe? tell me how that came about?
"I made it very clear to the band that I had no intentions to stop Nevermore's progress and they had the opportunity to play in Japan & my friend Tim Johnson plays bass in a cover band playing ZZ Tops songs and he is a very talented musician and so I asked him if he would like to help the band out to which he was very happy to apply too. I told him that if he plays Japan he had to wear the full ZZ Top's outfit with the beard and all (laughing) but he let me down he didn't wear it."
Looking back at your previous albums with the band, which ones are your favourite and least favourite if you have any?
"Well of course the new album is my favourite at the moment, but that is a tuff question as it like asking which is your favourite child. The album that made the most impact for me was 'The politics of Ecstasy', because the skill level had jumped from had jumped from the Sanctuary album to the Nevermore album from the 1st album to 'The politics of Ecstasy' had really jumped in progression and I questioned myself if I wanted to pursue a career in music? Of course I did as Jeff Loomis is an incredible guitarist and musician and he makes me a better musician so he 1 of the main reasons why I am still here. I think the 1st issue of 'Enemies of Reality' was my least favourite album, it was just mixed really horribly which was done by Kelly Grey who was once in Queensryche for a short time and the mix really did suffer as he wanted to ad a different angel to the music and production and tried to bring a pop mix to a heavy album, which really didn't work. The 2nd issue of the album mixed by Andy Sneap is just fucking amazing. (ED: I remember you could download the album for free if you already bought the original release). Yeah I remember that and record companies have a tendency to re-release albums for their own profit by adding a different song and re-packaging it and the last thing we wanted to do was to make out fans pay twice for the album."
So lets move on.., lets talk about the new album 'The obsidian Conspiracy', where was it recorded?
"Well it was recorded everywhere, it was done on the west coast of the U.S., South, and we started it in Seattle at 1 of our favourite studios we recorded the drums with Robert Lang in Seattle, and then we went to North Carolina to record with Peter Wiches who is also a family man so we didn't want to move him out of his area to come to Seattle. he area was such a beautiful area and we went out their and ended up recording the album there, which was really nice. We were near a lake, 1 of the biggest there and we really didn't want to leave, as we wanted to spend time there either swimming or fishing in between recording. In the end we ran out of time so we had so I have a friend called Bob Wayne who was in a local band but ended up in rehab due to doing everything from cocaine, booze and came out completely clean and ended up playing country and he played with Hank William's the 3rd. He has just got signed up by a German label and he was sat at Lake Norman where we were and he remembered that I was going to be there, so I told we had finished our recordings here but we haven't finished the album. So he said he would be right over and after a chat he told us to go to Nashville to finish the album. (ED: The album could of been a Country album?) Yeah it could of been (laughing). The album was also finished by Andy Gibson too. He ended up coming out and saving the day for us, and I have always wanted to record in Nashville, it's an amazing place!! It's known for Country bands recording there but there are also Rock bands that record their too. Nashville is the capital of music and I would go there again in a heart beat to record the next album. Andy Sneap was just in Nashville with Accept, so I think I would rather go there with Andy for the next album."
You usually record your albums in the UK at Andy's studio, is this the 1st time you have not recorded at Andy's studio in a while?
"Well we only did 1 album with Andy, he recorded the 'Dead heart in a dead World' which was recorded in Texas in a studio were we had done all 4 albums in. We were not prepared for the money problems that would come with recording there. So the money we had for the budget had ran out in the 1st week as the dollar was so weak against the pound. As beautiful as it is, I would love to go back to Andy's studio is it really expensive to record there."
So why did you decide to call the album 'The Obsidian Conspiracy'? Did you have any other titles for the album?
"Well Warrel does all the the concept and lyrics for the band, and artwork and Jeff writes all the music and I'm usually involved in putting some ideas together and with the writing but with my health problems was pretty written without me. The title and music was written and we took pictures for it were we have oil on our faces. My ideas at first were to have the pictures done with us washed on the shore covered in oil instead of the usual band pictures that most bands do. The photography had the same idea to match the title of the album, and after we took the pictures the oil rig blows up and a volcano goes up and the title pretty much says it all. To me it means something completely different, kind of like a for warning. It's a big like the song 'The river Dragon', was one of the last songs wrote on the 'Dead heart...' album and I was watching a show about a river in China, which was 1 of the 1st giant dam, to which it would block off to other 3 rivers which would run into the sea. A monk was watched 80.000 people washed away. His words were 'The river dragon has come'. I think you can say the same about the gulf right now. I think Warrel is trying to warn us about what is happening in the world with his lyrics and the title of the album. Jeff and Warrel had been writing songs for this album for so long now so it was really easy for Warrel to write the album."
Didn't Travis Smith do with artwork again?
"Yes he did, he has been working with us for some time now since 'The Godless...' album just to get a different feel and Travis connects with us so well like the 'Dreaming Neon...' was a concept album about a friend of Warrel's and when Travis did the artwork for the album he girl in the picture looks like a friend of Warrel's and Travis had never seen a picture of her before so it was kind of scary. He has a weird connection with Warrel."
So Jim are you happy with the title of the album and does the album's title speak for the music on the record?
"Yes I think so, of course. I think the music speaks for itself."
How long did it take to record the album?
"Well it is the longest time we have spent recording an album, it took about 2 months to record the album with us been in various studios. We are happy as hell with it, and for me not been involved with the writing and coming in late and learning some of the stuff as we are recording really started hitting me as we are recording it, it kind of freaked me out, I was amazed by the song structures. I am so happy to have my health back, it is such a blessing for me and I'm glad we have a new album out."
Out of the new songs on the record which 1's stand out for you and why?
"Well for me I would have to say 'And the maiden Spoke' stands out for me the most, because it is an experience we had in England were the studio that Andy has is so old that it was built in the 15th century and it's an old farm and it is defiantly haunted. Warrel had heard female voices there 1 day and we are looking all over the place for Andy's mum or maid and there is nobody there. So Andy's mum tells a story about people that had lived there in the past and there was a female who died there but we didn't know her name. The song 'Lidia' is a song about her, the female who lived there. They have heard chairs moving when they are upstairs and when they come down the chairs have been moved. One night the band went out for food and I decided to say behind and learn my bass parts before I recorded them the day after when I saw a light behind me and I was sitting I saw a shadow walking between the light walk past me. I was ok about it but it was kind of freaky. I really like the song 'Emptiness Unobstructed' and at 1st I wasn't too sure if I would like it. I think it is 1 of the more commercial songs on the album, and if it wasn't for Warrel I wouldn't wan to play it every night, it is a more rock influenced song and the song is about a friend of ours talking about dark stuff and she had a son who was taking guitar lessons from Jeff and he had some mental problems who was a schizophrenic who had to take medication. So 1 day he went into work and smashed all the computers up and jumped out of the window to his death. So the song is wrote for this guys mom were Warrel is telling her he is ok on the other side. Warrel is a singer who doesn't like to tell people what the lyrics are about, he let's them decide to what they think the lyrics are about."
Are there any songs form the new album that you don't like and why?
"Yes there is, it's a cover song by the band called The Tea Party, the song is called 'Temptations', and we had to have so much music for the record which I can understand, but record companies but pressure onto you to do bonus trax, and I'm not a big fan of it but if we have an extra track then that's ok. After we did that the Japanese also wanted a bonus track, I really don't know what makes them so special but they have also bonus trax on their CD's. I wasn't too happy about doing bonus cover songs, so we all picked a cover each and I do like The Doors cover 'Crystal Ship' a lot and we have done it totally different to the original one like we did with the Judas Priest song 'Love Bites'. I do think that The Tea Party song sounds silly to me, as it just sounds like the original version. We did a cover of 'White Rabbit' on the debut Sanctuary album and and we totally fucked it up, this si something we like to do. I remember been at Wacken festival and I saw a dressing room with Rob Halford on it, so I was very interested in knocking on the door and speaking to him. His manager came out and asked when I wanted, he told me to fuck off and leave and as the door shut I shouted 'Its Jim from Nevermore', and 2 minutes later the door opened and Rob came out and said our version of 'Love Bites' was the best version he had heard from the 'Judas Priest tribute' CD's that Century Media had released. So that made me feel very happy. I wasn't happy that we chose those songs for the bonus trax, it was just something we did to make our labels happy and I am totally against that."
Are you or have you done a promo video for a song from the new album? If so which song?
"Yes we did, we recorded a song at our London show that you were at Jason, we filmed the show and we did it for the song 'Emptiness Unobstructed'. We recorded it twice, and on both times we fucked up (laughing), and we filmed some of it on the cliffs of Dover and the guy who filmed it did a pretty good job, it doesn't look cheesy or anything like that. The crowd at that show in London were awesome, and in America 'Head Bangers' Ball' won't even play the video (Ed: I doubt if Kerrang or Scuzz will to over here) Head Bangers Ball said it is just too soft for them to play, so it's better if they play shit like this Emo stuff right?"
So what sort of reviews has the new album been getting so far?
"Well so far the reviews have been good, but it doesn't mean a lot as far as sales go, so we kind of take them with a grain of salt but now with the experiences that I have been through I am very grateful for the good reviews. It's good to get good or bad coverage it helps the word get out either way."
I have noticed that you have gone through a few guitar players in the past with Pat from Cannibal Corpse, Tim ex Forbidden and Steve ex Testament, who come you don't keep your 2nd guitarist for long? Are you pretty much getting fed up with having 2nd guitarists all the time?
"Well we are mainly a 4 piece when we record albums and we try to it live a couple of times but I knew it wouldn't work as we need a 2nd guitarist in the band for live work because of the complex guitar work live. I was getting tired of having just 1 guitarist on 1 side of the stage and somebody with a little bit of a ego on the other side of the stage and wouldn't take advice from us, so it was kind of hard for us to work with them. Our new guitarist Votila is just awesome, he is young and excited and he is from Budapest. It's a bit like Spinal Tap, they have the exploding drummer, and we have the exploding guitarist (laughing), and our guitarist's go onto bigger bands. I know Chris was a big fan of Megadeth and Pat was a big fan of Cannibal Corpse."
Are you still friends with most of them and do you see them at all?
"Well yes we are with most of them still friends, there are a couple that I just don't see anymore, like Steve I really don't see anymore and we do see Pat a lot on tour and we do stay in touch with Tim Calvert a lot too. The funny thing about when Pat joined us he was he was living with Warrel and myself and I woke up 1 morning at 10am and he was playing the song 'Fucked with a Knife' and I said no Cannibal Corpse till after 6pm please. So to see him go from us to that band is a great story and I am very happy for him he loves that band."
Moving on, just how many festivals have you done this year besides 'Bang Your Head'? How did today's performance go for the band?
"The show today went great, I have been looking forward to today's performance for sometime. I kind of felt sorry for Warrel as we all were looking forward to the show but it took us 2 days of traveling and and after traveling Warrel got sick after the 1st song he was so run down with the travel, it took it's toll on him. We came over in summer and we played in Austria, Germany, Budapest, and we did 3 more and then went home for a break and then came back and did 'Hellfest' in France and then went home again. We then came back to do more festivals. (Ed: I guess it's rather expensive to fly home and then come back and forth right?). It all boils down to us and our management and we knew that this and another festival was so close together it was silly to go home for a week, so we ended up going home for a week due to family commitments. If I had to do it again then I would stay in Europe."
What's the biggest festival you have played so far? I remember see in you at Wacken 2006 and see in the biggest crowd suffering, I guess that must be 1 of the right?
"Well that is 1 of my favourite ones was Wacken but my all time favourite is Dynamo 95 (Ed: Yeah I remember that, great festival sadly missed), and we had just released our debut album. We played at noon to 80.000 people out of 150.000 and it was great!!"
Would you like to do Bloodstock again but with you in the band?
"Yes we would love to do Bloodstock again, I know the guys enjoyed it and I would love to play finally. (Ed: I have noticed that you only play a 1 off show here in the UK, why not a full UK tour? It get rather frustrating for us living in the north). We have done those type of shows before but if you do just 1 show in the UK then your guaranteed to sell it out as to appose of only having it half full if that. We hope to come back in February 2011 so we hope to play more shows in the UK."
So what's the future plans for Nevermore? Touring, recording new albums and maybe a live DVD?
"Well as for a new live DVD, it is too soon to make 1 after the other one, but we will be making a new album, touring of course and we like to play new places and countries with each album so we can open the doorways for the band. I would like to play Africa, India, South America, only time will tell?"
Well Jim thanx for taking your time out it's been a long time coming this update interview, so do you as always have anything to ad before we finish off and you grab a beer or 2?"
"Yes thanx to our fans for their support, thanx for listening too our music. Check out the shows and we hope to see you again soon. Great meeting you again Jason, stay metal!!"
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