Tony V and Steve Monette of Shock Interview (Part 1)

Date: September 10, 2015
Reviewer: Olivier
Photos: Wayne Archibald (4th and 5th photos)


Sleaze Roxx: Please tell me about the new album, at what stage are you at and when is it going to be released?

Steve Monette: Well, we don’t have an exact release date.

Sleaze Roxx: Please hold it [the dictaphone] closer.

Steve Monette:  Closer? Got it! You are going to have to get microphones so that you can clip them on people and they can use it.

Tony V: (Laughs)

Sleaze Roxx: (Laughs)

Steve Monette: You got to talk to the guy that runs the website (laughs). Anyways, we don’t have an exact release date yet. At this point, I think that we will be shooting for mid-October. Not that far off — like a month and a half possibly. That will be firmed up probably within the next week and a half. Once we have the final mix or close to the final mix of the album, then we’ll be able to sit down and really firm up the date for the release. We are in the final mixing stages of the album so all of the recording is done and all of the tones are pretty well set to what we want and it’s just now mixing the levels of the instruments and the vocals, and getting the performance parts right. So we are really not that far off.

Shock live photo with logo 2Sleaze Roxx: How did you choose the songs to be on this record? Last time, you chose songs that Shock had from the past and I understand that you have done the same thing this time. So what was the process like to choose the songs?

Tony V: Once again, it’s basically the same thing. We had many demos out so we sifted through all of them and we picked some of the ones that we wanted to rework, rearrange and play.

Steve Monette: Yeah!

Sleaze Roxx: (Laughs)

Tony V: (Laughs)

Steve Monette: I am kidding. I am kidding (laughs). When do I ever have a one word answer on anything (laughs)? That was kind of the same process as the first time as well that we played the songs live and through playing them live, then we decided this would be a good one to include on the album. But we are going to have to change a lot of parts of it. There are still a couple of songs that we did not include on the recording this time that we played live or that we rehearsed but never actually played live like “Dead In Your Dreams.” There are [still] songs from the back catalogue.

Sleaze Roxx: I understand that at one point, you had Jeff Waters from Annihilator involved in this project. So what was his involvement and where are we at in that regard?

Shock group photoSteve Monette: Well, Jeff has been a big friend to the band. That goes back to the early days of Shock and Annihilator having started out in Ottawa back in the ’80s in the same sort of metal scene and all that. A bond or friendship was made back in those days and then he moved out to Vancouver with Annihilator stuff. We sort of lost touch with things and then once the band reformed — he’s living back here [Ottawa] again — and we sort of reconnected through the local metal scene and got the opportunity, a few times now, to open for Annihilator when they have done one of their warm-up shows in Ottawa before they go do their big tours. He has always been really great about supporting the band and has been a fan of what we are doing. So we had had discussions about him working with us on the new recording and for a few reasons, it just did not work out logistically for both bands — mostly really on our end of things. He has had a really busy crazy year this year with releasing a new album this September, doing the festival circuit in Europe in the summer and they are doing a big headline tour in Europe in the fall. It was difficult for us to fit in what we wanted to do with the schedule that he had. In the end, he helped us out by talking about arrangements and things like that — just giving us a couple of ideas for some of the songs — because he is a great songwriter and he has worked with a lot of other artists in various forms of our genre of music in the songwriting end of things. He just did that as a friend more than anything else and he didn’t expect anything in return which is good because we don’t make anything.

Sleaze Roxx: (Laughs)

Tony V: (Laughs)

Steve Monette: So we have nothing to give him (laughs). We can give him 100% because 100% of nothing is still nothing. But anyways, so that was his involvement.

Sleaze Roxx: For your long-time Shock fans from back in the ’80s and early ’90s, can you tell us what songs that you have chosen with the original titles?

Tony V: Well, we have chosen a lot of songs that people will be familiar with but we had to change (laughs) a lot of the titles to sort of fit the new arrangements and the new way that we were putting together these songs. In terms of the songs that we are reworking, there was one called “Love To Hate” that we are going to call “Bend Or Break.” There is one called “Second To No One” — we might have to change the title of that one. Basically, we are taking some songs that should have seen (laughs) the light of the day and re-working them. Many bands have done that. We are not the first but we are going very back into our catalogue and we think that we re-worked them to the best that we could have done (laughs).

Steve Monette: Hold on! Let me finish that (laughs). So, hmmm. Some of the song titles in our opinions had to change because they were original sounding song titles back in the ’80s and they are not anymore. So (laughs), they may have been — we are just too late in releasing those song titles. We missed our chance with the song titles! Some of them sound very cliché now but they did not sound cliché when the songs were written back in the ’80s but now they are so we just decided that we are going to change them. Some of the songs got completely re-worked in terms of the arrangements and the lyrics as well as the song titles, that’s purely out of our desire to have the songs sound different. At the core, they are still the same songs. Like Tony said, lots of bands do that. They’ll have songs that they never released and they’ll go back and they’ll maybe steal riffs from them or whatever. We didn’t really steal any riffs from them. We kept the core value of each song but a lot of them are very different arrangement wise and lyrical wise.

Shock Tony Ve photoSleaze Roxx: So you’ve mentioned two songs from the album but you have not mentioned the other ones and I was curious to find out what other songs you have chosen for the album.

Steve Monette: You want to know the names of the songs? So you’re asking us what are the cliché names of the old songs so (laughs) that everyone can see what they are. For the ten people that are going to know…

Sleaze Roxx: (Laughs)

Tony V: (Laughs)

Steve Monette: (Laughs) …if you want, we can do that. Which ones did you mention already Tony? “Second To No One,” “Love To Hate,” “When Worlds Collide” — these are all songs that are going to have different song titles. “Your Money And Your Life” is another one. The other songs that are on it that are not changing are “Not If But When”…

Tony V: (Laughs)

Sleaze Roxx: (Laughs)

Steve Monette: I like it! Tony doesn’t. John can be swayed either way so we’ll see how that debate turns out. “Sonic Assault” and “Ringleader” — although “Ringleader” has changed completely in terms of the direction of the lyrics because it was formerly about a mobster kind of person and now it is about a terrorist so it is just something that we decided that we wanted to write about.

Steve photoSleaze Roxx: There is one more.

Steve Monette: Oh yes — “Patriot.” “Patriot” is pretty much…

Tony V: The same!

Steve Monette: …it is pretty much the same. It is the same lyrics.

Tony V: It’s about a soldier.

Steve Monette: It’s about a soldier and a very simple story about that.

Sleaze Roxx: Most of the songs on ‘Once Denied’ were written within a two year period and appeared on Shock’s 1987 demo ‘Burning A Hole Through The Heavens’ that was initially planned to be released as the band’s debut album back in the day. This time, Shock has chosen songs ranging from “Sonic Assault” which is one of the first songs ever written by the band to “Second To No One” which was on Shock’s last demo from the early days in 1990. I have always thought that Shock’s style of songs changed from 1985 to 1990. Do you find that there are different styles within the songs on Shock’s upcoming album and if so, how does that play out overall on the new album?

Steve Monette: You know, a lot has been said about how the music was all written back in the ’80s. Some people online even made the [erroneous] assumption that the first album was just a re-release of the recordings from the ’80s. The fact is we have taken songs from that period and reworked them all — some more than others on the first album and a lot more on the second. And although we thought it was obvious, let me state that both albums are all new recordings. It’s not uncommon for bands who have released several albums to go back and rework songs that were left off of previous records or just take riffs from them to use in new songs. On our new album, all of the songs have had a pretty extensive working over — from all new parts added, to lyrical and title changes, to major changes in the arrangements — all making them true to the current sound and direction of the band.

Sleaze Roxx: Last time, you had very nice artwork for your debut album ‘Once Denied.’ What will the album cover look like? Have you decided on that yet?

Steve Monette: I am surprised that you have not asked what the name of the album is — because we have not fully decided on that yet. We had an album title picked out and we’re probably not going to go forward with that. At one point, we were completely sold on it. We really liked it. It was one of the lines pulled from one of the songs, which we like to do. In the end, we decided “You know what. That is not what we want to do.” It was going to be difficult for us to come up with a visual concept for an album cover for it. At this point, Gary Frederick who did the artwork for our first album as well as for the “Slashing To Live” video is going to be doing the artwork for the new album. We just have to make a final decision on the title so that he can actually draw something without wasting his time (laughs).

Tony V: (Laughs)

Sleaze Roxx: (Laughs)

Steve Monette: Once we finalize that which will be in the next week or so, then he will get to work on drawing something up.

Sleaze Roxx: Since you have decided not to go with that title, which title was it that you were not going to use?

Steve Monette: I am not going to give that one away!

Sleaze Roxx: Tough crowd (laughs)! One of the major changes that the band has undergone since we last spoke back in January 2013 is that your drummer has changed. Historically, Shock have had a difficult time with their drummers. So Chad Wallis is no longer in the band anymore. What happened that led to Chad’s departure?

Steve and Tony photoSteve Monette: What happened was that we had a show where we were going to be opening for Annihilator and Chad wasn’t able to play that show, you know, for personal reasons. We were going to leave it at that and he said to us that if we wanted to play the show, we could play the show with another drummer and he did not have a problem with that. So John contacted him. It kind of caught us off guard when he said that. John said “Are you serious?” He said “Yeah. I have no problem with you getting another drummer to play that show.”

So we got another drummer to play that show and that was Taylor under fairly short notice to learn a whole set. Then he played that show for us and we got an opportunity for that same weekend to play another show in Quebec City with Annihilator, which ended up unfortunately being cancelled the week before the show was to take place. But Taylor was going to play both shows because he was rehearsed for the set that we had prepared for that show. Everybody understood that. And then afterwards, things sort of played out to the point where you know, Taylor was available and he had the set learned and he was interested in playing. You know, we have a very sort of spotty schedule with playing and rehearsing and recording because we all have other commitments as most bands do these days. Very few bands are full-time musicians so Taylor’s schedule fit better into ours. The reality is that Chad is a drummer and that’s all he does — he teaches drums and he plays drums in several different bands so he had a lot of commitments to the other bands. At that time, Taylor only had us that he was playing with. Right now, he plays sometimes with another band but it is nothing that ever conflicts with any of our schedules.

Sleaze Roxx: What has it been like having Taylor [Calderone] in the band?

Steve Monette: It’s been great having Taylor in the band – he approaches his part in the songs from a different perspective having been influenced by newer metal bands as opposed to our influences. Taylor’s style of playing is much different than Chad’s. Taylor plays on a very small kit but makes it sound big and he’s very locked in with the bass, which will probably be something only the bass and drum geeks out there would even notice (laughs).

Sleaze Roxx: There is a very big age gap between Taylor and the rest of you. Each of you could be Taylor’s father due to the age difference! How are the dynamics in the band having such a big age gap between the two of you and John compared to Chad?

Steve Monette: There is a big age gap but we all get along quite well seeing as how we share similar personalities and approaches to playing music. Ultimately though, it works because he’s very mature for his age and we’re very immature for ours (laughs).

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview which takes a gloomier turn with in particular Monette’s take on the music industry as a whole.