Shai Hulud
Contributed by ben_conoley, Posted by Metal Blade Interviews

When listening to Shai Hulud's latest album, Misanthropy Pure, it's clear that the long-running metalcore band hasn't gone soft. Juan Diniz recently caught up with Shai Hulud's Matt Fox to talk about the new album as well as the band's history and future.

So let’s get started. The record came out yesterday and it’s awesome. Five years in between records. Give us an idea what has transpired in that time besides writing and recording Misanthropy Pure.

It’s always the same for us. There are member changes which always cause a lot of turmoil. After Blood Ill-Tempered we parted ways with Geert. And we still toured with Geert even though the band had made it official that we weren’t playing with him anymore but we were still on good terms. So we toured. That took up a lot of time. We also took that time to focus on our side band Zombie Apocalypse, which took a little bit of time because there is nothing that we do casually. Anything that we do, even if it’s a side project, it might as well not be a side project. We put to so much time and effort into everything. Between more touring, writing, trying to make ends-meat financially, side bands, working in drummers, guitar players, singers, auditioning people, it takes a lot of time and all the things that I mentioned really filled up our time pretty on a tight schedule for five years. There was never any down time. It’s not like there was a period of a year or two or any or even months where we said "Ok you know what? We’re done with music. We’re just going to lay in bed and watch Flintstones for the next six months." It was nothing like that, though I do happen to watch Flintstones on a regular basis. There was no time off. So even though it seems there was time off on the eyes people who follow the band, there really wasn’t. And that is a little frustrating to try to make clear to people who think that we’re constantly going on hiatus. Again, I understand why they feel that way but it’s just not the truth.

One of the things you mentioned is member changes. Who else is rounding out the band nowadays.

Myself on guitar. Matt Fletcher on bass. We have a singer who joined the band a little over a year ago and he recorded Misanthropy Pure. His name is Matt Mazalli as well. So, we have the three Matts. We actually just got a new guitar player who we’re dragging up here from Miami. And that’s cool because you know, I have a very strong pride with the band being from South Florida. That’s really important to me. I do really feel that the reason we sound the way we do is because of what I grew up on and that was because of what was available to me and my friends in South Florida at the time. I’m convinced that if I grew elsewhere, Shai Hulud wouldn’t sound the way it does or even if Shai Hulud would be together. So anyway, from Miami we got Chad Kischick who just joined. As always, drummers, we’re using fill-ins and friends until we find the one perfect drummer that may or may not be out there. Who knows?

Going back to Misanthropy Pure. One of the things that I have been hearing from other people, especially on the official message board, and it’s evident from listening to the record, is how much cleaner it sounds production-wise. What are your thoughts on the difference in production of this record from the previous full-lengths? I love it. Anyone that has a problem with the production, then we just have two different visions for what Shai Hulud sounds like. If I could get the other ablums to sound like this, I would be thrilled. This is what we always intended Shai Hulud to sound like -- clean and clear, where you can hear things. We put a lot of time and effort into contrasting melodies and different parts and we wanted to be heard. And this is the kind of production that allows that kind of stuff to be heard. I don’t think it’s too clean at all. When I hear it, it does not strike me as clean. It doesn’t strike me as overproduced. It sounds to me as a good, powerful-sounding record. Those are my thoughts on that.

I’d have to agree with you on that. I’m going to try not to channel the fanboy side of me but the way you use "powerful." It’s the most pervasive word I have heard to describe the record especially with the guitars. It seems the guitars are louder which in this case it perfectly fits the Shai Hulud sound especially in a live setting. This record bridges the gap between the live experience from the record. The guitars punch me in the balls.

Everyone has their idea of production, of what is good and bad production. I personally think Hearts Once Nourished and Blood Ill-Tempered, I would consider those albums to have bad production. So, if you ask me, I am thrilled with the production on this album. I think that if any of our records are over-produced it would be That Within… Much more so than Misanthropy Pure. MS aims at just being a brutal punch in the face. There are no production tricks. It’s not glossy. Listen to Britney Spears, that’s glossy. There is nothing that’s glossy about Shai Hulud at all. But if you compare it to Hearts Once Nourished…, sure. So, without going any further with my dissertation, I love the way this new album sound.

This new record comes across being more technical, with the guitars and time-changes. Granted, I’m not a guitar theory expert or anything but that’s how it comes across to me. Was this a conscious approach? How did it develop?

It’s funny that you say that. A lot of people have different opinions on the matter. I talked to somebody not too long ago who said "Wow! This is the most intricate Shai Hulud album. I am having a real hard time wrapping my head around it." Then I talked to somebody the next day, I think they left a MySpace comment or sent me a message and said "Yeah, I like the new Shai Hulud album but you guys kinda made things simpler this time around didn’t ya?" Who is right? I don’t know. Because some people think that it’s much crazier and much more intricate and some people think that it’s simpler. I would be on the side that I think it’s simpler. I think there’s more repeating on this album. I think there’s more cohesive structures. There’s definitely songs that are clearly more progressive structure-wise that don’t adhere to a verse-chorus-verse-chorus. None of our songs ever have. I think the closest that you’re going to find on a Shai Hulud album to what would generally be known as a more rock-and-roll song structure would be on Misanthropy Pure. I think our most complex album by a longshot is That Within…. And this is right behind it. Coming from That Within…, this album definitely has more cohesive and more easily understood structures. But then again that’s not to say that you or somebody else could find it to be intricate. It’s certainly not simple by any means. Everyone is entitled to their own perceptions.

You bring up the previous releases which is understandable as you have to move forward from the past. Why re-record "Set Your Body Ablaze"? Was this intentional and were any other songs that you guys thought of re-doing?

You know what’s funny? It wasn’t intentional. We went in and were recording an entirely different song, and when we were done it just came out "Set Your Body Ablaze". It was weird that it happened like that! (laughs)

It was definitely an intentional move. We were writing the songs and every song was very aggressive. Not everyone, but at least at the time. All the songs were aggressive and heavier than That Within… and yet they were still a little tricky here and there and melodic. I don’t know if it was me or somebody, whoever, said that it’s a shame that you guys already recorded "Set Your Body Ablaze." It really sounds it would fit perfectly on this album. And that just got a everybody thinking. Greg Thomas, co-producer and engineer, particularly, said that when SYBA came out originally he was expecting the follow-up to that, which was That Wihin…, to be an album full of SYBAs. And when he started working with us on the album, and we brought up the idea of re-recording it and he said it would be perfect. He thought it was a great ides we could make heavier and a better sounding version of SYBA and it would be on an album where other people could hear it. Even though SYBA is kind of a staple song for us, a lot of people don’t know it because on that random, straggler EP with Another Victim. So, some people just don’t know the song. So when we were talking about it with Greg, he said "Definitely, put that on the record." And that’s what finally sold us on it. If you think about it, if you put SYBA along w/ a song on That… it really comes off as being a little too strong and a little too tough based on those songs. But if you put it on MS it fits right in.

I did notice that

I thought that was a really cool way to tie in that song and give it a new life instead of just having it die on that EP which not many people have.

One thing I noticed specifically on the song "Misanthropy Pure" was the line "words cannot express my disappointment" which is a nice touch as a "shout-out" to previous releases.

Yeah! But that’s not the only one. There are three, I don’t know if you caught them, but there are three shout-outs to prior releases all on that one song.

You want to divulge those or let people figure them out?

It started accidentally. In the first verse it says "spiteful and ill-tempered, I know the character well." I remember when I wrote it I asked Greg and Fletcher and everybody, "Hey can I use that? Can we use 'ill-tempered' or is that going to be hokey?" Everyboy said 1) "Of course you can use it. It’s a word and it’s getting your point across." And 2) "It would be really cool since the song is called 'Misanthropy Pure', and it’s really going to be 'Profound Hatred of Man' plus if we could take little throwbacks in every verse." That’s exactly what we did. The first one is "Spiteful and Ill-Tempered" which is a slight throwback and like I said, that was accidental. Trying to get a point across and "Ill-Tempered" was the right word. But because of that, that’s what started the idea to throw everything back. I think in the next verse it says, "so arrogant with no understanding of consequence", which anyone would know the band would know the split we did w/ Indecision.

Yeah! "The Bonds Of Those Who Have No Understanding Of Consequence."

That’s throwback number two. And then the obvious one. The big one is "words cannot express my disappointment." For me, that’s big "Fuck yeah! These are throwin’ it back!" To me that helps make the song. I think it’s a pretty cool song with darker emotional value to begin with. Once you throw in the "words cannot express my disappointment"…you know…first and foremost that phrase is just fuckin’ awesome. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how disappointed I am. I love the phrase. And the fact that it harkens back what at least the guys in the band consider to be a signature Shai Hulud song, again, it leaves me to say "Fuck yeah!"…it clicks, it works, words cannot express my disappointment, fuck yeah! That’s why we did that. It started as an accident and the song progressed it was more deliberate until the climax of the "words cannot express…" which again, it’s so very clearly a throwback.

It has always been evident that when it comes to the lyrics, there is a balance of positive and negative. There is a positive message underneath all the "Profound Hatred of Man" surface.

Always. Always. 100% of the time

How do you find the balance in presenting these positive and negative messages in the lyrics? What’s your approach?

I don’t know if there’s any intentional balancing. For me, I have a pretty…how can I even put it? I know what I feel is right and wrong. I meet people that I feel are very sweet and lovely and truly an asset to their friends and family and anybody that they come across. And then conversely I meet people that are very fowl and have just the…they either intentionally have the wrong ideas or they’re not capable of perceiving things correctly and their existence is based on disrespect, bringing other people down, creating bad vibes, and just harboring and furthering spite and bitterness. Those are the people, the latter, the ones I just mentioned, those are the type of people that inspire me to write lyrics. At least, lyrics on Misanthropy Pure. Those are the people that we hate. When we say we hate the world and have a profound hatred of man, it’s not a profound hatred of the lovely woman that works at the local Indian restaurant here where I go a couple a times a week and she is always sweet and pleasant and very happy. A lovely person. It’s not her. It’s not anybody in her family I’ve met. You know. It’s not the guys at the post office who are always very gentle and kind. It’s the people who aren’t gentle and don’t have any refined qualities. The people who like I said before whose existence is based purely on disrespect and ignorance and belligerence. That’s the profound hatred of man. It’s not like "Hey let’s torch the world, all good or bad, who fuckin’ cares, I have a profound hatred of everything." No, that’s clearly not it. In fact, our band, we’re talking about people who feel that way. Mankind is inhabiting the Earth and we’re alive and breathing, and I think its everbody’s duty to be self-aware of how they treat themselves and the people they’re surrounding. Everybody needs to have a progressive thought and a progressive mindset for mankind not go to hell in a fuckin’ handbasket. [We want] everyone not to be raping and killing and hurting each other. The message that Shai Hulud has is always for betterment, it’s always for positive change. I think it’s unfortunate if anyone doesn’t scratch the surface and see that or when one does read the lyrics and gets the wrong idea because you know…

You’re missing the point…

You’re missing the point entirely. If you listen to Hulud and you think "Wow! Yeah! Shai Hulud is exactly like me. I’m racist and these guys are racist too!" You’re wrong! That’s exactly what we’re not talking about. It’s very important to us. I think that’s what the songs "Venomspreader" and "Misanthropy Pure" try to illustrate. The misanthropy and hatred that we’re talking about is clearly not of people like Martin Luther King and Maya Angelou. There’s not hate there, only admiration, love, and respect.

In a lot of interviews and articles about the band, you guys are always mentioned in the same breath as Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge, and Poison The Well as being instrumental and influential in the current "metalcore" sound. What are your thoughts on that? Well, it’s cool that people will say we had an influence. If that’s the case or not, who knows. I don’t really know. I guess that’s only to tell by anyone who may or may not have been influence by us. If we’ve had any type of influence I’m completely flattered. As far as coining the term "metalcore" or coining a sound, I don’t think we did. There were bands before Shai Hulud started that my friends and I were referring to as "metalcore." Bands like Burn, Deadguy, Earth Crisis, even Intengrity. These bands that were heavier than the average hardcore bands. These bands that were more progressive than the average hardcore band. My friends and I would always refer to them as "metalcore" because it wasn’t purely hardcore and it wasn’t purely metal. It was like a heavier hardcore band with hardcore ethics and attitude but clearly a metal influence. So we would joke around and say "Hey, it’s metalcore. Cool!" But it was definitely a tongue-in-cheek term. And as far as the sound, every generation, especially younger people are always really quick to say that I band they heard part of their generation, started something. Shai Hulud didn’t start anything. There have been bands that were mixing heavy music and melodic music for years. We are clearly not the first melodic hardcore band. We’re not the first to do anything aside from [being] the first band to write the songs that we wrote. But we take our influences from bands that were around at our time like again, Earth Crisis and Deadguy. And maybe a little before that there was Turning Point, Chain of Strength, and Uniform Choice that really had an impact on me. Before that Dead Kennedys and JFA. JFA is a huge influence on our sound. You got a hardcore band like SFA also that really helped. And then at the base of it all you have the music that I grew up on, the reason that I love anything, is always goes down to Metallica. All the thrash metal and metal bands I listened to when I was a teenager: Metallica, Testament, Megadeth, Exodus, Forbidden, Coroner, Celtic Frost, Nuclear Assault, Dead Brain Cells. Every band that I mentioned is a huge influence on Shai Hulud’s sound. If you listen to Shai Hulud you can see where the influence comes from.

To tie it into your question directly, it’s very flattering for anyone to say that we started something, but we didn’t. All we did was take influences from other bands that maybe other bands weren’t influence by. I don’t think you’ll find any band today, at least in our genre, that’s going to say that JFA is a big influence to them. Like it says on our MySpace page, the smart thing we did was rip off bands that other bands weren’t ripping off.

Did you watch Headbangers Ball on Saturday for the premiere of the video for "Misanthropy Pure"?

No I did not.

What was going through your mind then when you saw the finished product of the video?

It was cool. I was like, "Wow, we have a video!" We’ve been around for like 30-million years. Finally we have a video. That’s cool. I know a lot of people think videos are cheesy, and sure, I can see why they are. But if you’re in a band it’s cool. It’s really, really neat to see a video. It’s hard to watch because you look at yourself and think "God, what a jackass…oh geez, look how fat I am…and why would I do that there…oh c’mon, that sucks!" But aside from nitpicking yourself and looking at yourself and hating the way you look and everything you do, I think the video is very professional and I think it’s really neat. It’s a cool thing to have a video.

For me it was a somewhat surreal experience. The video is great. Very well-made but very surreal to watch it. Here’s a band I’ve been a fan of and listening to for a gazillion years and now they have a video. Felt weird to be watching a Shai Hulud video on MTV of all places. It’s hard for me to explain.

It is a little odd that we were on Headbangers Ball. I doubt you’ll ever see us on there again.

Whose idea was it to throw the "Death to Ming!" at the end of the video?

M: I would think it was the director’s. Originally as long as we had been talking about doing a video which has been probably the past six, seven years, we always talked about doing a video. I always wanted to something like Weezer did…something obviously something we wouldn’t have the means to do…you know how Weezer incorporated themselves into the "Happy Days" TV show? I wanted to incorporate Shai Hulud into the movie Flash Gordon from 1980. If we ever had the money it would be a very funny video. Have our music be the soundtrack of us fighting Ming, The Merciless. Which would clearly have nothing to do with the song but at the end of the day you’re watching the guys in Shai Hulud battle Ming, The Merciless which would be fuckin’ cool. But obviously we couldn’t do it but I told the idea to the director. I started closing every email with "Death to Ming" and we would keep joking around back and forth about it. In our correspondence before we filmed the video we would always write back and forth to each other "Death to Ming," so it was kind of a joke. When we went to film the video we talked about how much of a shame it was that we couldn’t do a cool Flash Gordon video. That was the last I heard about it. When I got the video, I watched and didn’t notice anything. I called the director and he asked me "Did you see it? Did you see it?" "See what? I didn’t see anything." "Go watch here" and he pointed out where it was. I was like "Holy shit!" It was his idea to put it in there and we obviously we loved it and there was no way we were going to take out "Death to Ming!"

Future plans. What are you guys have going in the near future outside of going out on the road for the next few months?

You pretty much nailed it. We’re touring with Comeback Kid for three weeks. Then we start a five-week tour with Full Blown Chaos. Then after that we’re talking to a few different bands to go out after that. We’re talking about going back to Japan and hopefully Australia. We’d like to tour Canada again. Hopefully start writing a new album a lot sooner than five years.

You know what this question is leading up to? When are you guys ever going to come back down to South Florida? And what is the status of the DVD?

South Florida, if we could go there we’d play. From what I understand there are very few shows that go down there. Not many bands go down to South Florida. Don’t think that I don’t mention it. Every single tour when it’s being booked, we tell them to please try to get us a South Florida date. If for no other reason, so I can go eat at my favorite pizza place. You know what I mean? I just want to be in South Florida. I want to take a ride down Sample Road and see some friends and family. I am always wanting to play in South Florida. But for some reason, it’s just not on the radar. Maybe I’ll make an even bigger stink about it next time. I’d love to do a Shai Hulud show at Churchill’s. You know, with the big pole right in your face! We played there a million times. I grew up playing there. That would be a great show. Maybe I’ll mention that particular club to our guy and see if we can make that happen. I was really, really shocked actually when I saw the current tour dates and there wasn’t a South Florida date. It’s not something that we intentionally avoided. It sucks that we haven’t been there in such a long time.

Well, hopefully sooner than not.

M: As far as the DVD. The DVD was completed when we thought we were changing the name of our band. So, the DVD is a little outdated. What we would like to do is record some current footage of us playing the new songs so we can get a comprehensive DVD of older and newer stuff. It wouldn’t make much sense, at least for us in the band, to release a DVD that has material and relevance from eight years ago. That’s not something that we’d be interested in releasing by itself. That, combined with Shai Hulud of 2008 would be very awesome. We are going to, once we finish touring, figure out what we can do to add current footage to the DVD and then we’ll talk about a release. So for now, the DVD is on the back-burner until we add to it.

In the liner notes of the re-master releases, you wrote that you never thought the band would go beyond putting a 7-inch and that’s it. What would you say to yourself from back then to let him know where you are now? Not only about being on Metal Blade but also the longevity of the band.

I’d say you got a rough ride ahead of you. Save all your money. Work odd jobs when you can. And never credit cards. Well, he cynic that I am, that’s exactly what I’d tell myself. It would have been nice to have been a little more prepared financially. Right now I’m in debt, I make no money off Shai Hulud. Shai Hulud is not a big band by any means. Shai Hulud is not a money-maker for any of us, by any means. It is very much a labor of love. If I were to go back in time and tell me that the band does have a future, I’d say here are the good things and here are the bad things but take it all in stride. Prepare yourself financially because you are not going to be on easy street.

*All images from Shai Hulud MySpace page and are subject to the copyright of their owners.