This weeks band you should know once again hails from New Zealand (don’t worry, the next few won’t, promise!) Shihad. Shihad is a hard rock group and one of the most successful bands in New Zealand history. Formed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1988 Shihad has recorded 8 studios and has produced 4 number 1 albums and 3 top ten singles in New Zealand, they also have 19 songs that charted in the NZ top 40, which ranks them as number 1 in the category.. They’ve had a long history with a few twists and turns, including a name change (thanks Al-Qaeda) and playing with some of the biggest rock bands in the world.
Shihad was formed by singer/guitarist Jon Toogood and drummer Tom Larkin in 1988 while in high school. At the time they were big fans of the movie Dune, based on Frank Herbert’s novel. In the movie there are a lot of Arabic words used, the end battle was called a Jihad. Not knowing how to spell the word, or say it correctly the boys assumed it was Shihad and the band was named. Of course a few years later this would be a small issue. When it comes to their influences at the time, they were American metal bands such as Metallica and Megadeth. Since the beginning they have changed their style and can now be considered hard rock or alternative rock. Soon after forming they were joined by Phil Knight (guitar and keyboard) and Geoff Duncan (bass). throughout the years the lineup has stayed mainly the same. Bass guitar was a revolving door for awhile, Geoff Duncan was replaced by Geoff Daniels, who was then replaced with Hamish Laing. Eventually Karl Kippenberger settled in and became the bass player. With the line up solidified, it was time to release some material.
Their first album, Churn, was released on July 12 1993 in New Zealand and on June 25th 1994 in Europe. The album was recorded at the York Street Studio in Auckland, it was produced by Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke and was released on Wildside Records. It featured 2 singles that both charted. The first, “Stations”, was released in February of 1994 and reached 35 on the New Zealand Top 40 Singles chart. The second, “Derail”, was released in August of 1994 and peaked at 33 on the same chart. The album itself hit number 9 and was certified gold in New Zealand. Not a bad start.
The second album, Killjoy, was released in May 1995. Killjoy was the first of the albums to go gold in New Zealand. It was produced by Malcolm Welsford and Shihad and was also released on Wildside Records. Killjoy went all the way to number 4 on the album charts and spawned 2 hits, “Bitter” and “You Again”, that helped establish them as a premier hard rock act. The album garnered a little bit of international acclaim when, according to MTV Australia, both Iggy Pop and members of Metallica praised the album.
Shihad’s third album, which was self titled and is also sometimes called the fish album, was dedicated to the band’s manager who had died earlier that year, Gerald Dwyer. The album was once again produced by both Shihad and Malcolm Welsford and recorded at the York Street Studios, Auckland. It was released on Wildside records in September of 1996 and was once again certified gold. While the album only hit number 11 on the album charts it spawned a handful of hits, the biggest of them was “Home Again”, which is a great driving rock song and has become one of New Zealand’s biggest hits of all time. Other notable tracks include “La La Land”, “A Day Away”, “Home Again”, “Yr Head is a Rock” and “Ghost From the Past”.
Three years after the release of Shihad, came the groups biggest album success to date, The General Electric. There were a lot of changes since Shihad was released, first was the recording place. The General Electric was recorded at Factory Studios in Vancouver. It was the first album recorded outside of New Zealand. They also had a record label change, Electric was released on Wea Records. Even the producer had changed. The General Electric was produced by the well respected Garth Richardson, who had produced bands such as Rage Against the Machine and Red Hot Chili Peppers. The album released in 1999, the album contained 3 re-released tracks, “Spacing”, “Wait and See” and “Everybody Else”. The album was a major success for the band, it spawned 3 more hits, “The General Electric”, “Pacifier” and “My Mind’s Sedate”. It was the first album to not only be certified platinum in New Zealand, but eventually double platinum as well. It also was the first album by the band to chart on the Australian charts reaching number 23 and also the first to hit number 1 in their homeland.
During the recording of their 5th album, Pacifier, the band decided to change their name due to the 911 terror attacks. They originally chose the name remote, but since it was already taken, they chose Pacifier, named after the hit off of the last album. Released in 2002, Pacifier was recorded at Pulse Recording Studios in Hollywood. It was produced by the producer of 30 Seconds to Mars and Weezer, Josh Abraham. The album was released on Warner. Pacifier also featured some guest stars, such as Scott Weiland and DJ Lethal on the track Coming Down. Once again the album smashed the New Zealand charts at number 1, and also cracking the Australian top ten for the first time at number 8. It was certified gold in Australia and once again double platinum in New Zealand, yet the band still didn’t manage to make a dent in the US. In fact in retrospect, The band and Jon Toogood himself have said they weren’t pleased with the effort, calling it “overproduced” and saying “bullshit, that would’ve been the wrong album to be big on.” None the less the album still spawned a handful of hits including “Run” and “Bulletproof”. As a side note, some editions of the album contained bonus discs. One was Weapons of Mass Destruction, which contained the tracks “Toxic Shock”, “Early Grave”, “Analizer”, “The Wrong Idea” and “Really Glad”. The other was the Helen Young Sessions, which contained “Run”, “Weight of the World”, “Coming Down”, “Brightest Star”, “Walls and Home”.
For the band’s sixth studio album, they returned to Vancouver and Garth Richardson. The Album is a return to the band’s heavier rock style from the early days. After trying to make it in the US and failing the lyrics became darker and political, mainly because of the US tour under the Bush Administration. For me, it’s a great album, and I wish the guys didn’t tour here during a dark period in the US history, notably the 911 attacks then the following wars. I’m hoping they try again and don’t base everything about the US and rock fans off of the people and experiences of that time. Anyway, like I said it’s a great album that spawned a good amount of hits, “Alive”, “All the Young Fascists”, “Shot in the Head”, “None of the Above” and “Dark Times”. The album entered the New Zealand charts at number 1, went gold in two weeks and platinum in 4. Again it was a success in Australia as well, hitting number 11 on the Album Charts.
The 7th album, Beautiful Machine, was released in April of 2008. Once again they changed a whole lot, starting with where it was recorded. While not in Auckland, the album was recorded in nearby Australia at the Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne. They also changed producers again, this time using Alan Moulder, Scott Horscott and of course themselves. Not only was that a large amount of change, but the album left the hard rock sound of the previous album and went softer, but it also went more electronic, with sounds that were reminiscent of the 80’s rhythms. At one point lead singer Jon Toogood even called some songs, dance songs. Not what one would expect from a hard rock band. The album still entered the New Zealand charts at number 1 and the Australian at 11 and even went gold in its first day. Unfortunately it failed to go platinum, their first album in 12 years not to go platinum. The two singles, “One Will Hear the Other” and “Vampires”, both at one point were the most played songs after their release, but still the album wasn’t the success the others had been.
For the 8th album, 2010’s Ignite, the band once again changed things up. For this album, Shihad took control of the producing themselves and changed to The Studio in the City, Melbourne to record. Ignite was a return to form for the boys, the album once again went gold and charted at number 1. It was a return to a harder sound and was well received by critics. With the debut of Ignite, Shihad became the first New Zealand band to have 4 number 1 albums. The album is a great piece of work and one of my favorites. The best part? It shows that they aren’t done yet. It spawned a handful of great singles, “Sleepeater”, which is featured in Pro Evolution Soccer 2011, “Lead or Follow”, “Ignite and Engage”. All great tracks.
So, there it is, a shortened version of a 22 year journey. Most bands don’t stay together nearly that long, let alone stay successful. With the last release Shihad showed that they aren’t done yet and hopefully there will be much more to come. If you want a nice miz of their music, you can pick up their greatest hits, The Meanest Hits. You can find the Pacifier album on iTunes, you can find some on Amazon, or you can find all of their stuff at http://www.amplifier.co.nz/ So give them a try and thanks for reading!