I recently had the honor to talk with Shaman’s Harvest guitarist, Josh Hamler. Their new album “Smokin Hearts & Broken Guns” drops on September 16 (go buy it). This felt more like a conversation than an interview, as he is just a cool, laid back guy.
The Bob: I’ll start of with, your album, “Smokin Hearts & Broken Guns” was my introduction to you guys. I had not heard you before, and I have not stopped listening to this album all week. It’s been in my truck and the only time I took it out was when I took it in the house and told my wife you gotta hear this.
Josh Hamler:(laughs) Right on.
Bob: It’s that good. I really like this album.
Josh: Oh, I appreciate it, man. We’re really excited about it.
Bob: Yeah, I can see why. Honestly. I wanna ask; where did the name Shaman’s Harvest come from?
Josh: You know, we’ve always tried to come up with a cool way to say where it came from or how we came up with it, but in the end, whenever we were starting out years ago just being like a high school band, we were just kinda trying to pick a name. And we wanted a name that no one else really had and then come to find out, Nate’s mom said, why don’t you call it Shaman’s Harvest. And we said hey that sounds pretty cool, no one else has it. So instead of giving some BS answer about how it something deep and meaningful, that’s really the truth. (Laughs)
Bob: Okay. Okay. I watched the video that came out on Friday. Your, almost behind the scenes thing. If I’m not mistaken, you said that this was the first time you guys got to write in the studio. How is that experience different from writing on the bus or in someones living room?
Josh: Sure. On previous albums, we’ve had everything ready to go and knew what we were going to do in the studio, but at the same time, we had almost over thought things. So one of the biggest benefits this time around was everything got recorded while everyone was excited about it. Everything was being created and there was just this awesome energy about it. You know, it so easy in this line of work to second guess yourself or try to over think it and lose your dynamic in the process. So just being in the studio, laying it down as it was happening with the energy and the emotion and all that, it really added a much needed ingredient to the entire record. So, I’m sure in the future there’ll be things that we have kinda worked out and maybe have a way to do it, but we really like to go in the studio and lay it down with that full anticipation and energy. Whenever that can come across in the music its a win/win. So, it was a really good experience and we look forward to making the next one.
Bob: Right, right. Well I definitely look forward to listening to the next one. Going off that, with the energy and emotion, with your vocalist, Nate, and his prerecording situation. I don’t wanna dwell on that. That’s on the website. But there’s a really soulful feel to the record. Almost somber, but it’ll still kick your ass. So given the situation and given the studio, being in the studio to write, and with all the emotion, would that have played into how that turned out that way?
Josh: It did. It definitely added a different dynamic to everything and a sense of urgency and it really made us focus on not just making a record, but making the greatest record we could make. You know, not going through the motions. To tell you the truth, we didn’t know how things were gonna turn out for him. Where we were gonna go from here. We weren’t gonna continue without him. You know, the eight stages of grief where you try to get through that particular sad time or whatnot. The record kinda, each song kinda embodies each of those stages, from the anger to the unknowing to the struggle to keep going. And then you know, the light at the end of the tunnel. It definitely added a part to it, and lyrically, without saying it directly, lyrically it touches on not only what was going on in Nate’s mind but ours as well. And you know, it’s not the happiest record, it’s a dark, somber is a good word for it. It’s that dark color that can emotionally just grab you. That’s kinda how it all went down.
Bob: Okay. “Dangerous” I would say would be the anger part of that.
Bob: I swear that’s become my new theme song.
Josh: Right on, man.
Bob: I also think once people get a chance to hear that song, there’s gonna be a lot of people that that’s gonna resonate with lyrically.
Josh: Yeah, I mean, it’s one of those songs that not only when you put in on in your vehicle, you end up speeding and get a ticket, but everybody has that moment in life where somethings keeping you down, somethings holding you back, you know. You take that force that’s against you and you turn it around to your benefit. It makes you more dangerous than you were before, it gives you that gut that just makes you push through to bigger and brighter days. Hopefully it can relate and I’m pretty sure that, not only “Dangerous”, but a lot of the songs on the record, I think it can mean a million different things to a million different people and everybody be just as right. The entire record, it’s vague in a way to where each person that hears it can draw their own meaning, something that’s meaningful to them. And it be just as meaningful as whatever it means to me. So we’re pretty proud that it came out that way.
Bob: Right. Currently, it changes almost every time I listen to the record, but currently my favorite song is “Blood In The Water”.
Josh: Yeah. That stomp clap bombastic. Swampy.
Bob: Yes, exactly. As I was listening to it the first time, I pictured you guys sitting on a porch, on a back porch playing. It starts off all nice mellow and you got like three people standing and watching and then all of a sudden, you’re just kickin everybody’s ass and by the end of the song, you’ve got the clapping. And then like everybody who was in the vicinity all just kinda migrated and went what’s happening. That song totally brought that visual.
Josh: Yeah. I think you just came up with our music video. (laughs)
Bob: Alright, cool. That’s awesome. Another thing I picked up on; “Country As Fuck”. I love this song. I’m a Louisiana boy, so I can appreciate the whole country as fuck attitude. The question is, is that a play on Pantera I pick up at the end of the song?
Josh: Yeah, you know, we threw a little Pantera plug in there. The record itself is pretty serious and we kinda wanted something that was not so serious. Something just more fun than anything. And it turned out to be “Country As Fuck”. Being from the midwest, it seems every time we come out to the coast, you know, the coastal areas, basically there’s a stereotype that midwestern people are, well, country as fuck. And we kinda just decided to go with a little spoof on that and just play it up. Maybe go a little extreme. It’s one of our favorite songs to perform live. It’s just straightforward rock. It’s fun and it always has great energy live. And who doesn’t like to say country as fuck. It’s fun to say. (laughs)
Bob: That’s the song I’m worried about getting a speeding ticket with. When that comes on, I gotta make sure the cruise is on, or I’m going a little to fast.
Josh: I can relate.
Bob: Okay, “Dirty Diana”. I gotta say that that is just a stellar cover. That song is the reason why I took the album into the house to play for my wife. My first thought was ‘Alien Ant Who?’
Josh: Yeah. (laughs)
Bob: That’s just amazing. Whats the story behind covering Michael Jackson, and that particular song?
Josh: Well, for anybody to say that Michael Jackson isn’t somewhat of an influence, in this business, I’ll call them a liar cause, you know, he was the king of pop and we all grew up to all his tunes and all that stuff. And regardless of whatever his situation was, he came up with some amazing music and amazing performance. You know, it’s kind of a daunting task whenever you’re like let’s cover a Michael Jackson song. It’s like, you gotta do it right. You can’t let not be great. So, “Dirty Diana”, that song itself, that’s a song that would just happen to be on a playlist that once or twice a week we’d be listening to while we were traveling. So we were on your way up to the studio one day and we were like what are we gonna record today. About that time the song came on and we were like, you wanna give it a shot and we all kinda looked at each other and kinda laughed about it and that night came home with the finished product. Everything from the guitar solos to the feel, you know, the hard hitting bass, and Nate’s vocal are really strong in it too. It couldn’t have turned out any better. Were really happy about it. We hope that if MJ, rest in peace, can here it up there in the heavens that he’s giving it the two thumbs up. (laughs)
Bob: Right, I would hope so. Definitely.
Josh: It was a fun track to do.
Bob: I can imagine. Actually, I play rhythm guitar and bass, and I was in a band and everybody in the band except me wanted to be Hatebreed. I grew up with grunge, that was my thing. We were doing our warm ups and, I was playing bass at the time, and my two warm up songs were “Bullet” by The Misfits cause that’s fast, to get my picking hand warmed up. And then I would play “Smooth Criminal” to get my fret hand going. I started playing that, everybody stopped, looked at me, what are you playing, I paused and never got a call back to play again.
Bob: I think I got kicked out for playing a Michael Jackson tune.
Josh: Aw, man. That’s just sad (laughs). You know, our band, we’re influenced from everyone from Merle Haggard to Pantera. Each of us listens to just about as different kind of music as you can. We really feel that that’s one of the things that add to our sound. Kinda that sonic jambalaya that we all seem to create. You know, it all comes from different influences. People like Michael Jackson or bands like Clutch or Metallica or Pantera or Willie Nelson, you know what I mean? It’s like you take all those ingredients, you mix em up and then you got your own thing, you know. So that’s always been kinda a focus of ours and try not to, you know. Everybody always tries to tell you what kind of music you are. But in the end, it’s all about the song. You know, what kinda song is it. What does the song represent? Cause, you know, we’re a heavy rock band, we’re a hard rock band, we’re a country rock band, you know. The one constant is we’re a rock band. It doesn’t matter what prefix you put on it. We’re a rock band and we’re gonna play rock n roll however we see fit and use the ingredients we have to make it as good as it can be. Its something we’re blessed to do and, you know, the brotherhood within it all. Me, Matt and Nate, we’ve been at this almost seventeen years now, and it’s nice to be moving in a positive direction. We’ve had our shares of highs and lows, but right now things are moving at a good pace for us, so we’re really excited about the upcoming year and the release of this record on the sixteenth. Just everything that’s gonna go with it and actually getting to get out on the road and do some serious touring and play some loud ass rock and roll.
Bob: Right. Speaking of tours, any info? I was on the website the other day, cause I was actually hoping you guys were playing around here, and I saw there was only a handful of shows. Are you guys planning a huge tour?
Josh: Yeah. It’s all in the works right now, You know, we’ve teamed up with Mascot Label Group and we got a great team behind us. So everything is just kinda,you know, the ball’s in motion. We’re waiting to get a lot of information. We actually met with our agent last night and brainstormed some ideas and stuff that’s gonna happen, but we’re gonna go out and do some dates with Theory Of A Deadman. Things are poppin up. We gotta few headlining stuff coming up, but we’re hoping within the month that we’ll start knowing, tour for the next year type stuff. It’s just one of those things. Hurry up and wait. (laughs) It is gonna happen, it’s just something that’s in the works for the moment.
Bob: One more thing, I noticed that there is no credited drummer.
Josh: Yeah. I don’t know how to actually say it. We’ve had more drummers than Spinal Tap. Put it that way. It gets to the point where , we wrote all the drum parts, the drummer that performed them didn’t write anything on there, so we, we actually came up with all that stuff in the studio and then we tracked a reel. Because contracts cost money and this and that cost money and people wanna leave it costs money and this and that and the other, we decided we’re just going with a hired gun basis and right now we have a badass drummer named Joe Baggins. He’s our hired gun back there and he’s solid and keeps time and everything. You know, one of these days, maybe there will be an official person who’s a member of the band that’s playing the drums, but we just haven’t had the best luck with drummers. I mean, we’re on our ninth drummer, so (laughs). Whenever you can say you’ve had more drummers than Spinal Tap, maybe you oughta just get a hired gun (laughs). We’ve been blessed with some good drummer throughout the years, though.
Bob: Is there anything you want to share with our readers, your fans or any potential fans?
Josh: You know we’re just really excited to be out doing it again. We took a little time off to heal the soul and we were lucky enough to put out a new record and have a great team of people that stepped up to back it and we do all this for our fans. I mean musically, we’d do this with or without fans, but in the end, it’s a fan driven business and we’re very appreciative of the love we’ve gotten over the years and the new love that we’re getting daily. And we just look forward to coming to each and every city and laying it out on the line and making a bunch of new friends and making our fans feel just as a part of it as we are. Welcome to the family kinda thing.
Bob: Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.
Josh: Yeah, no problem, man. I appreciate you having me.