How is it going today? First, I want to extend my appreciation to you two for agreeing to do this long interview! So, being cousins did you two always live in close proximity to each other and hang out on the regular (or just family holiday gatherings and such)? What kind of kids were you, outgoing or loner types?
CHRIS: Going great, dale! The pleasure is ours to do this thing, man. We lived in adjacent towns growing up, still do actually, and mostly saw each other during the summer breaks, as well as the odd family thing. We were instant blood brothers from the start and shared similar interests in most everything. We were both into strange shit, like paranormal stuff and horror/sci-fi movies and eventually music and metal. I was personally mostly a loner as a kid as I spent a lot of my childhood out of town on an acreage. My sister and I were also pretty close and shared in the adventures of two kids in the middle of divorced parents. I had a few close friends from school growing up but we ran in small packs.
CLAYTON: I am a recluse, I like to keep to myself and didn’t have any friends growing up. I like being alone. I dove heavy into the occult, like Lovecraft, Crowley, the Necronomicon and things like that. I was huge into horror movies, they were a huge part of my life growing up. One thing I had and always appreciated was my metal and I had Chris as my brother. It was always just us together, I didn’t care about anything else.
Which one of you discovered hard rock and metal bands first? Did one of you get the other hooked, or did it happen independently of one another? What were some of the first bands and albums you discovered and became possessed by? Did you dub each other shit all the time?
CLAYTON: I was a little older and my mother was into all kinds of music including metal. That was where it stemmed from initially. Mom got Venom’s Welcome To Hell (Wow! Fuck yeah Mom!! – Dale) as an import in ’81 and that changed my life forever. There were also the other standards like Motorhead, Sabbath and Priest. In ’84 this evolved into the heavier acts which were surfacing via the Banzai Records roster…all of which are still my favorite albums today.
CHRIS: Clayton would bring down vinyls and tapes during the summer holidays of all this Banzai Records stuff (I bought anything and everything with the Banzai logo on it Haha – Dale) and it fucking floored me….i was possessed immediately. Some key memorable albums from those days, like starting in ’86, for me were Slayer – Hell – Awaits, Possessed – Seven Churches, Hellhammer – Apocalyptic Raids, Razor – Evil Invaders….just to name a few. He would play them for me on his Dad’s shit ghetto blaster and some of it honestly didn’t make sense to me at the time but it was amazing for me and i was instantly hooked….the music, the mystery, the darkness of it all was very enticing for me, having always had a darkness to my nature. Every consecutive time he would come down, he’d have new shit and eventually I was buying my own tapes and records here and there. Dubbing came a little later, like ’88…the first was when I found the ‘Justice’ album dubbed on a TDK tape when I arrived from school in September of ’88. Then Clay would dub me mix tapes and shit when we started getting together at his house in early ’89….he had a massive collection and I was a very curious kid.
CLAYTON: Just as a side note, I’d bring down records and tapes on these visits and on a few occasions my Dad would put the fucking things in his wood stove and burn them, citing ‘Satanic Panic’ (Brutal. Satanic Panic was wild in western Canada I can attest – Dale). So I quit bringing them down in large quantities…just one or two at a time after that. In ’89 we’d start getting together more at my place where metal was welcome and safe for us to blast without the bullshit opinions of more conservative family members.
Who was the first to start playing an instrument? Did your learning curves involve any kind of formal lessons or training? How soon after you both started playing did the thought germinate for you two to start a band together? How did your first attempts at such go?
CHRIS: I technically got my first guitar for Christmas ’86…an acoustic. I really had no interest in it honestly, I fucked around a bit with it, but I had really always had my sites on an electric guitar. I had been obsessed with music since I can first remember. In summer ’88 I got my first electric guitar and Clayton got his soon after. It took me a good year before I could play anything remotely decent and Clayton was firing away on his own at the same time….truth is we were separated for about half a year because of some trouble we got into in early ’89. When we were allowed to hang out again, we had both evolved on our own in our own ways and it was here that we decided to start a real band together. We had sort of had a thing in the summer of ’88 which we called Reek Havok, but nothing really cohesive came of it. A year later, we decided to just call it Havok and in the fall started making recordings together which was the real beginning of what would become Morbid Darkness. I was 12 at the time, Clay was 15 so it was bound to be rough, but we both heard something there that compelled us to keep working at it.
CLAYTON: My older brother wanted to start a band with me in ’87. His obsession with metal was to play everything from ‘Morbid Tales’ on the bass guitar. I started with aspirations of being a drummer but I realized you can’t write songs without a guitar, so I wanted to learn that. My first recording was December ’88 all by myself, and when the two of us got together again later we decided to start the band for real. I didn’t really want to have a full band, just the two of us from the beginning. The reason why is because in our area there was no one else into this stuff, and it always felt like it was us against the world (I know that feeling well, except I had no one besides me in my little isolated area unfortunately. – Dale).
Chris: We were both self taught guitarists, and eventually I would start banging on shit for recordings to serve as drum tracks. I remember the both of us having our own sets of drumsticks back in ’88 even before the guitars came into play. I acquired a basic drum kit right after we finished the 1991 MD demo, and as part of the deal for getting it had to take drum lessons for a year. That certainly helped with some hand-foot coordination stuff, but I was already blasting out beats on buckets and shit, since early 1990.
What were the first live gigs you attended and was it early on or later (ie – Some of us growing up, like myself, did not live in an area that had metal gigs)? How did you both discover there was such a thing as an UG metal scene? How did you discover this? Do you still remember what the first demos and/or fanzines you got your hands on? Were they local or did you order away from flyers?
CLAYTON: Where we lived there was no scene, no shows, nothing. I had the power hour on Muchmusic and some Venom and Metallica on vhs. The early days were just records, there was nothing else.
CHRIS: The first show I ever saw was a local band from my town called In-Slayn in ’95. They fuckin’ ripped, man…very impressive. Local bands were just starting to emerge around this time, mostly they were grunge or alternative sounding bands. Actually, a band existed at my high school in ’93 and they would play at school assemblies and shit, but aside from that there was nothing really heavy before that time. Years later, some big acts were coming through the area, like Anthrax, Priest, and even acts like Forbidden/Revocation/Havok came through which I saw. I know Deicide, Hate Eternal, Cannibal Corpse and Soulfly were among others that came through later but I didn’t catch those. Basically, when we were kids, we had videos and our imaginations to figure what it might be like to see a real show some day.
CLAYTON: I do remember summer ’90 in the area there was supposed to be a show with Razor, Sacrifice and Disciples Of Power but it was cancelled (That would have been an amazing show! I seen DOP many times live, they were great too – Dale). That was a real bummer for me at the time. That was the closest to anything like that in those times.
CHRIS: Yeah, that show would have been cool…though we probably would have missed it anyway… As for the UG…in early ’91 I bought Blasphemy’s Fallen Angel of Doom and upon looking at the j-card noticed they too were from our province of B.C. And there was an address and phone number in there. So we called ’em up one day to shoot the shit and later would send ’em some dough for a couple of shirts. When the shirts arrived they came with all sorts of ads for underground shit like Beherit, Samael, Blood, Impetigo etc. So we started sending letters to these and also to any addresses in the j-cards of bands we were listening to that we could find. We started making friends from around the world which was something new and exciting and could finally have a sense of kinship with other people in the metal scene.
CLAYTON: Calgary (Alberta) ’88. Disciples of Power, Power of Death demo. That was the big start for the underground but I really wasn’t interested at the time in anything but the mailorder business. Metal by mail as I call it.
CHRIS: For me the first demos were Samael – Medieval Prophecy, The Lord Diabolus – Down There, Misery – Burning Alive, Vader – Morbid Reich just to name a few from that first spring and summer of ’91. My first of only a few fanzines was Bloodshed zine vol.2. Later were Holocaust zine (one of my fave fanzines back then – Dale) and Infected Voice zine among others.
CLAYTON: For me in summer ’91 was Edge of Sanity – Kurnugia, Impetigo, Blood, Vital Remains and Absu.
Did you write bands or people from labels or fanzines regularly, early on, and who were a few? What was the local scene in your general area of British Columbia like? Did either of you get into tape trading regularly and have many traders?
CLAYTON: I wrote everybody, like 20 page letters, to labels and bands. My first two were to Banzai Records and Fringe Product. I tape traded with everybody I knew, even you Dale (Yes, you were one my fave tape traders, it strengthened our friendship / brotherhood – Dale), from ’91 to ’96. But it caught up to me, it was too much work and I felt it was draining me so I left in ’96. However, I have known a few bands since and Keith Dempe (editor of Eternal Darkness fanzine, ED Creations label / Distro & UG legends IMO – Dale) as well. Keith helped me build up my collection. Stevo Dobbins of Impetigo was the other big one for me back in the day. I do miss them all very much but nostalgia is not my thing.
CHRIS: I began writing fairly regularly to guys like Vorph of Samael, Marco of Misery, Pat of Hellwitch, Dennis from Putrefest / Carnal Dissection, Mike May of Sarcoma were some of my first contacts. I would only correspond fro a short time from Spring ’91 to Spring ’92 as my living situation changed and metal and the mail were not much welcomed like previously…the shitty part of being a teenager with a parent that didn’t understand me or how important this music was to me. I talked to a lot of cool people during that time but really didn’t get much into tape trading. I bought a lot of demos, comps and 7″ vinyls though.
The original band you two formed was the great Morbid Darkness. How quickly did that come together? I know from my own collection you two recorded a lot of rehearsal stuff. How do you look back on those early days? Where did you get together to come up with those first few songs?
CHRIS: As I mentioned, we first really started seriously in September ’89 and over a couple of years experimented and honed our sound before resting firmly on the Morbid Darkness sound and concepts. Yes, we recorded jam tapes / demos / rehearsals every time we got together during those formative years and it all helped in creating what would become Morbid Darkness. Those days are magical to look back on of course. So many memories and firsts we shared when sharpening our craft. Everything was so new to us and we really tried to place an emphasis on having as much fun as we could with it. Later, some of the fun maybe receded as life and all that shit started happening in our late teens but the great times we had are the only ones really worth remembering.
CLAYTON: I had a brutal life and my music reflected that. I wanted to be the most brutal, vicious, outspoken person in the scene. I didn’t believe in playing my instrument, but hitting it.
CHRIS: The first few real songs for our first few recordings came about quite organically. We spoke over the phone about recording something that first September of ’89 and really had no preconceived notions about it. We were just to write some dark ass lyrics and improvise the rest, which incidentally would become the blueprint for most of our home recordings after that. We sat down in front of a Panasonic ghetto blaster with Clayton’s Squier 15 practice amp beside it, plug in, play and scream into the built in microphone. We were fucking blown away at how it turned out at the time….we were hooked on that feedback.
With Morbid Darkness in the early ‘90s you recorded a couple rehearsal/demos. With just the two of you how difficult was that, to record at home with multiple instruments? What kind of McGyver jerry rig things together to make those recordings possible with the rudimentary technology of two poor teenagers?
Chris: Most of our shit was just improvised riffs with mostly but not always pre-written lyrics, quite simply recorded on the spot. At the point which we decided to add other elements like drums and doubled guitars it wasn’t necessarily difficult it just added more steps to the recording process and of course there was less improvisation and more emphasis on writing and arranging actual songs. We’d start by recording the main guitars first on one of our tape recorders – with an amp in close proximity to the built in microphone – then playing that tape back on a separate stereo while tracking the second guitar part, and then drums over those and then vocals and solos last. That was how we recorded the first demo in ’91 and though the sound quality suffered with all the ‘bouncing’ of recordings, we were still fucking amazed by how it turned out. The rehearsal ’93 was done in much the same fashion though with lesser quality stereos to work with.
CLAYTON: Our urge to play our music was much greater than the need for high fidelity sound quality. Fun fact: We didn’t use real drums on the first demo.
CHRIS: Haha, yes they were a collection of ice cream buckets and a stool for a snare that we screwed to some wood frames. However, the hi hats were real, haha. It was something I put together in spring/summer 1990 when I was doing a lot of experiments with my solo stuff during that summer break.
If I am not mistaken your excellent 1994 demo “Return From Death”, is to this day, the only time you guys booked a professional studio to record together as Morbid or Shadu. True? Also, what memories do you have of those recording sessions, did you learn anything from it that you applied to future recordings?
CLAYTON: It was very stressful being in the studio. We had a very limited budget and only recorded an ep because an album was out of the question in the studio. I personally didn’t like the studio because I didn’t like working with other guys. It felt a little intrusive to our craft. After the recording some of those same people took it upon themselves to start dictating how we should do shit, so this was a bad experience personally. I personally think that a musician should have artistic freedom to play and record what they want (Agreed this is why, unless the band all want it, that I never understood bringing in a producer that often tells the band what to change and they feel pressure or even are forced to make those changes – Dale).
CHRIS: I personally have a much different experience than Clayton. For me this was a great opportunity to learn things about the studio. I had a blast in there and goddamn when we were playing back that rough mix at high decibels (and I was a bit high at the time) I was fucking amazed at what we had done. It was a bit tight for time and all that but I tried to take all the good I could from that experience, because I had a real interest in both creating music and recording it. One strong takeaway was that you need to have sound canceling headphones while tracking the drums. The studio did not have those and I will just say my ears fucking suffered because of it. Most of the recording I’ve done of late comes from a different place when considering those techniques applied on the studio demo. The one main thing that is similar from those recordings today is that I track guitars before I track drums…often bands will track drums first. Even our old recordings that had drum parts utilized this technique…it has become the norm for me.
The “Return From Death” Demo, or most of it, a decade later was released as a 7” vinyl EP. How do you think that turned out? Were you happy with it? I may have done the layout on it, so take it easy on me Haha.
CHRIS: I remember Clay calling me up…we hadn’t been in contact for awhile. He gave me the news on this release. I was really surprised but hella stoked about it. We soon got together, I think at Denny’s, and he unveiled the thing right there at the table. It was really surreal. By that time in ’04 I had really moved on from that recording in a musical sense but it had always been a passion of mine to revisit it at some point and maybe have it released on CD or something. The demo still meant a lot to me historically and it was an honor for you to have released it like that…because back in ’93 I think it was intended to actually be released as a 7″ – even before we had written or recorded it. Props, Dale, for doing that. Much appreciated, brother! And the layout is great, man…seeing it for the first time like that just brought a flood of awesome memories back to me.
CLAYTON: In ’93 this guy wanted to release a record from us from the Netherlands but it never happened. Honestly, I am happy it didn’t because he was a fucking asshole! He wanted us to go as Satanic as possible and again, no one tells me how to play my music. Fact: I was against Satanism at that point because it was just guys in the scene busy trying to out do each other with their ‘evilness’ and not the music. We had this guy from Mexico telling me how he thought the band should be run…I told him to fuck off. Again, this band – this music – this is our thing, no outsiders allowed.
You two disbanded Morbid Darkness in 1996. Do you feel looking back that was the right decision? Much water went under the bridge over the years, so to speak, until you two demons reunited musically. What brought you two back together to form Shadu in 2019? This must have been an exciting time, yes?
Clayton: Morbid Darkness lived out its lifetime in that time period. It would have been futile to go on after ’96 with Morbid Darkness. I wanted to play, I wanted to go on but I didn’t know how and starting another band with Chris would have been the only way to continue music. I wasn’t even playing guitar for years after Morbid Darkness, it just wasn’t happening. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
CHRIS: Shit was getting fucked up around that time on many levels in both of our lives…I think it just came to a point where MD had come to an impasse and like Clayton said, at the time, i wasn’t sure where I was going either. For a time we did entertain possibly rekindling the thing but it never felt right, or something would happen between us to obstruct it. I eventually went on to play with different guys and in other bands over the years…it was fun and productive, but really a completely different animal from what Clay and I had been doing previously. I should be honest in saying that the road was real rough for our friendship at many intervals over those long years and the fact that I did release things under the MD moniker after ’96 was more of a personal thing and really was done with the mindset that perhaps Clay and I might never actually be friends again (I was not sure since I did not really know what was going on during this period, besides things going quite sour somehow, if I should even bring that up – Dale). There was a deep sense that there was unfinished business for me personally. It was a sad time in a lot of ways for me personally and I suppose there was a cathartic effect by working on some of those orphaned songs and riffs that until then were in limbo. It was as if the fading embers of a once roaring fire needed to be properly extinguished…a bit of closure on a personal level. When our friendship was finally rekindled later on, we did decide that we wanted to continue to make music together but we were both in agreement that it wouldn’t be as Morbid Darkness. We wanted to invent something new and to share in that excitement without any heavy baggage from the past.
Was there any thought towards reviving the name Morbid Darkness or did you just decide too much had changed, and a fresh start, or clean slate was in order? How did the early writing sessions go, was the old chemistry back immediately or did you have to foster it and work at it to get the old fires stoked again?
CLAYTON: I was scared to play again. I thought I lost it. In 2019, we tried again and it wasn’t a failure so here we are now with Shadu….simple as that.
CHRIS: A clean slate was in order, for sure, and it was cool to know that we were both in the same frame of mind about that. The first sessions in early ’19 were just free jams and it was really fucking fun. There was no pressure at first to make anything concrete, rather just to see if we still had the dynamic and chemistry to be able to continue as a band. In short order we were making plans to write and record an EP…it was so obvious to us that it was going to work and furthermore we wanted to share that connection through music creation again. It has been evolving in its own way ever since.
CLAYTON: Personally, I lost a loved one, I was homeless and on the street, broke and had a serious alcohol problem. I had to get over those challenges in order to be in a band again (I love the honesty brother – Dale).
Tell me about the lyric writing. It is my opinion that Shadu has some the best, well crafted and superbly written lyrics in the UG scene today. How does the lyric writing process go, do you work on lyrics all time or only after you have written a new song? What are some of the topics you often focus upon?
CLAYTON: Thanks for the compliment! Lyrics are just as important as the music for me. It has to tell a specific story, like i am the storyteller, the narrator. I like to tell people how i feel in my darkest moments and when people can relate back, that is very satisfying. I write how I feel, I don’t just write for the sake of it. I write all the time, even when I sleep…I dream them! We’ve always had dark imaginations and I want us to relay those in the music that we do. All my lyrics are against everybody and everything in general. My fictional lyrics have real life based topics to them if you can read between the lines. I take my lyrics very, very seriously.
CHRIS: I occasionally I write lyrics for a song here and there…on this album it was closer to 50/50. Lyrics for me are more objective, less subjective. I like wordcraft and rhythm and I try to make them interesting and brutal. I have always imagined scenarios or scenes when I listen to music…sometimes based on lyrics, sometimes on a musical feeling or vibe. So that is how I tend to write my lyrics, I imagine a scene based on the vibe of the music and prepare a narrative based on it.
Chris, how often over the years do you practice? As you are a multi-instrumentalist and can play all traditional metal instruments (guitar, bass, drums). Did/do you find guitar or drums more difficult to master? They both have a very different physical rhythm, which do you find more taxing? Did you always want to learn different instruments, or was it born more out of necessity?
CHRIS: I was born musical. I knew that playing music was my future from a very young age…before metal, before any of it. I was just a sponge taking in what was playing around me. Once metal came into the picture I felt deeply that this was where I would be someday shaping my craft…decades later I am still at it. I try to play every day on the guitar and usually drums aren’t played unless they are being recorded. So in that regard, I suppose it is now more difficult to progress in the drumming department. Being in town and dealing with neighbours doesn’t allow for a lot of practicing without consequences. In the early years it was far easier to bang on shit and make a beat than to play really intricate guitar riffs… After you begin to master guitar techniques it becomes easier. I was obsessed with both drumming and guitar playing from an early age so it wasn’t so much out of necessity but out of passion.
Staying with this line of questioning for a minute Chris. Besides Shadu, you also do a number of solo/one man bands. Can you tell us a little bit about each of them. We talked about your physical playing skills, and practice regime. But how do you think your songwriting process and talents have progressed over the years?
CHRIS: Well, I am a creature of creativity. I have so many ideas musically that I have to invent new projects to accommodate them haha. I have a lot of projects on the go, some have become inactive, some haven’t yet come to pass. The main ones are as follows… VHOD, which is now mostly a thrashy death metal project, began in a more experimental state…there is always a chance that it will stray from the path from time to time, but will mostly remain grounded in death metal. Transir, is a melodic funeral-doom death project which really came about on a whim as sort of a nod to the band Winter, originally. This project showcases my modest keyboard skills as well. It has certainly evolved and will continue to I think. Edifice, started as a nod to the old school Swedish death metal sound and I do intend to continue in that vein. Eat Your Maker, is more of a death-rock thing I guess. Honestly, I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. I do plan on continuing this project though new material will be quite different…it is a work in progress. There really are too many to comment on besides these main ones. I just tend to go with the flow. If I have some urge to try something new or touch on something old in a new way I go for it. I am unencumbered by any artistic restrictions. I think the songwriting has become a natural exercise. I try not to fall into recurring formulae when writing, though I am sure it happens from time to time. I have developed a better ear and I feel that arranging songs has become a very natural process for me.
I have often commented and admired the sheer volume of music Shadu has created in just a few short years. I mean you have released 2 albums, alongside a small fleet of lengthy EPs. By my guesstimate you have released about 8 full-length albums worth of material in just 4 years!! So, keeping that in mind, and on top of all of Chris’ solo projects, how do you do it?! Do you ever hit writers block or worry about burning yourself out?
CHRIS: Honestly, it is all very organic. We have a very effective creative process. We don’t stress out and we really just go with the flow and live in the moment. I suppose this is a benefit to our output as it has all become quite natural and comfortable to do what we are doing. I virtually never have writers block, in fact I have the opposite. I will literally write a new riff every time I pick up a guitar to noodle, so even if I was struck tomorrow with writers block, I’d have enough riff ideas to last a lifetime (That is awesome – Dale). The real problem for me is deciding which riffs to use and develop while planning for any given project…there are just so many ideas. The long and short of it is, I love to write, to record, to play…it is my passion and my purpose so the fact that a lot of music happens is a testament to that. I don’t allow burnout to take grip…if i get a bit overloaded, I shift gears for a few weeks.
CLAYTON: I don’t have very much talent but I am very devoted. To me it is all about the riff and atmosphere. It is all about the music for me. I could write a new song every day right now. There is something about this band that I just can’t get enough. It is like a machine, it is always going.
So, Chris with this sizeable catalog of songs already. I know this is not always easy, but let’s put it at five, please tell me which five Shadu songs you think are the best ones you have crafted, or helped craft speaking from a purely musical stance (ie – taking the lyrics / vocals out of the equation, if possible)?
CHRIS: Wow, not easy is an understatement, but off the top I suppose….1. The Hell Beyond The Stars 2. After Devastation 3. Codex of The Serpent 4. All The Nocturnal Winters and 5. The entire Eternal Woe EP. In no particular order…mainly because these were very collaborative efforts for the two of us musically. The Eternal Woe is less collaborative, but cool because it reminds me how far I’ve come as a songwriter since ’91 and it was fun to write using that old tuning from those days.
Also, Chris how do you think your songwriting skills have progressed over the years from your past days with bands like Morbid, Godcursed, and through your one man projects like Transir, Edifice, VHOD et al… And of course Shadu? When you write a song what comes first, and what follows as you build a song? Has that changed over the years?
CHRIS: Well, they aren’t all home runs. At times I will look back on some old recordings and occasionally I am scratching my head at some riff or passage in a song…it happens. The main thing for me is the freedom I feel I have now more than in the early years. The magic of having been active for over 35 years in music is that I feel more liberated and unrestricted in my craft. We are free agents, which also helps. If we were under some contract or deadline or any other business related scenario, the flow might not be as unhindered. As for the songwriting itself…it varies. Sometimes I have a main riff or two. Sometimes I have a progression of riffs that organically come about. Sometimes I have riffs buzzing around in my head that require a physical translation to the guitar. For the last 15 years at least, the song really comes together as I begin tracking riffs. You could call it stream of consciousness….I just get into the moment and often songs write themselves. I’d say 90 percent of the songs I write are fully framed within a couple/few hours. I then spend time crafting and finishing them intermittently afterwards. Back in the old days there was much more analysis. It felt like it was far more important to impress the listener when we were starting out…like there was a lot at stake. After all these years it is more about how the song sounds to me and I think in turn that standard speaks to the fans.
Now, Clayton the same question for you with your top five songs from a purely lyrical stance, which are your favourites? When did you first start writing lyrics? Have you always been the main lyric writer for Morbid and Shadu? What are some literary works that have influenced your lyric writing?
CLAYTON: 1. Temptress of The Dark 2. Codex of The Serpent 3. Sunrise Over Arrokoth 4. Amid A Blackened Abyss 5. Torchbearer. I started writing short stories before I started writing lyrics and the darker the better. I am not the only lyric writer. Chris writes his share. The darker side of life has more influence on my lyrics than any fictional darkness. Anything to do with the Occult, horror stories, ideologies, theories on life and death. I love Satanic imagery but I can’t stand the religion. You have to believe in a god to be a Satanist and I don’t believe in anything. I am an atheist. There has to be meaning and substance to my lyrics and there is also a message in there to survive in this life.
Clayton, I believe, until recently you sang the lion’s share of vocals. What are a couple songs you feel are your best performances? How do you think your vocals have developed since the Morbid days? I have noticed you often challenge yourself to up your intensity at times, and or the length you can sing in one long breath. Do take pride, as you should in this? You were blessed by darkness with a great charismatic growling voice, but surely you have some vocal influences over the years. Please name a few?
CLAYTON: I can’t pick one, I love them all. My voice has definitely improved with age and I don’t sound like Tom Warrior anymore haha. I believe in singing from my lungs not my stomach and I don’t believe in growling for the sake of growling. I like to add in some spits and screams. I add a little melody in my voice but that is just to make it sound better. Some influences are Slaughter, Celtic Frost/Hellhammer, Winter, Sodom, etc.
Finally, for both of you, focusing on Shadu in particular with songwriting. How different is the songwriting process these days, compared to those old days? Correct me if I am wrong, but Chris you have always kind of been the foundation, or skeleton guy. At what point does Clayton bring his parts in, and you two work at building on or fleshing out everything together? Does this process for a single song then stretch over multiple sessions or does it come together quickly?
CHRIS: The songwriting is different these days for sure. Although we both mostly write riffs separately, like the old days, we try to meld the two parts together in a more cohesive way more than we ever did in the past. Mostly, we sit together and exchange riffs that we have each worked on and sometimes riffs that come to life in that moment. There is a fair amount of translating when working out Clay’s riffs…sometimes they get tracked as they are, sometimes I add a part to them, sometimes I have to put my own spin on them. It is all about putting down riffs first and then working on structures afterwards. Once the structure is established, I go into tracking mode and add drums, bass, solos and laydown final guitars before Clay comes in to lay down vocals…then we usually mix the thing together once tracking is done. These methods were not so possible in the early days as we didn’t have the recording mediums that we do now.
Let’s focus on recording. As I understand it a lot of this is in Chris’ wheelhouse, and the rehearsal area, recording studio, recording equipment is all at Chris’ residence. So, can you speak about how this process goes, what type of equipment do you use?
CHRIS: Generally when we get together to do the initial riff-out, I run our guitars through plugins in Cubase software, via Tascam interfaces, or if I am writing alone I will do the same…I would refer to it as a writing session. It is basically throwing down any rough riffs we have at the time and afterwards I will arrange them together and add or subtract as is needed. At times we both work on arrangements together, other times I do it alone. Once structure/arrangement is finished, my final guitar tracking begins. I will often do some amp blends. Usually I run into Blackstar or Marshall heads or lately an Orange practice amp and blend mic/line inputs – often I do some subtle blends with plugins as well. Bogren guitar plugins are my new fave in this department. I change up Stompboxes between different guitar parts for some texture. Drums are a multi-take affair and everything is mic’d acoustic, no triggers. I’ve got a lot of mid-ranged quality mics, nothing too fancy. Cad condensers for vocals mostly, Shure and AKGs for drums, Shure and Sennheisers for guitar cabs.
Was it a long process to learn this whole procedure, and how do you think with experience you have improved? Do you two do the mixing together, or does Clayton largely just trust your judgment in this area?
CHRIS: The early era of digital / computer based recording for me was so much different from now. Inputs, mics, software, plugins…it was all so different…way more limited and constrained in those initial years. It came pretty natural to me in terms of executing it and being organized about it, but it did take a while for some things to make sense. It is still a work in progress for me, just like writing and playing. Clay trusts me with main mixes. As the prominent music guy it makes sense that I mix what I track. Though, we do sit and mix clay’s vocals together after he has tracked them.
As far as I know, you two have never played live together. Though, I do recall there was some brief thought towards adding a drummer in 1994ish to make things like this possible. I may have even traveled to your province with my friend, so he could audition for this possibility (it did not go well as my friend kept losing his timing – believe it not he did go on to get a music degree and has played drums in many bands since haha). Was it ever a serious thought, in adding a third member? Do you guys even care about playing live? Do you think you will ever play live?
CLAYTON: No. Live shows do nothing for me. I only believe in the studio. In ’94 we were thinking of adding other members but that is as far as it went. It is just the two of us, no outside influences allowed because they just don’t work for us.
CHRIS: Yeah, I still watch that vid from time to time Dale. Although the audition was maybe destined for failure for many reasons, we all had some fun that day. We had considered other members like Clay said, but really the dynamic would have been transformed to a point which may have done more harm than good. There was another kid we were considering and did jam with a bit, but again, the dynamic got a bit strange for Clay and I. Since the beginning we have been a duo, and we feel there is no need to change that. Things are so fluid and natural in terms of creating music that adding other elements to that would slow things down, if nothing else. I have been in other bands and have played live. Honestly, it is great fun, but those bands were born in that world, in that context of being live acts. We were conceived in a world where that didn’t matter, one more insular, and so therefore we didn’t put much stock in it.
Oh, I suppose I should ask whether or not you guys have any interest in working with some record labels? So far, Shadu controls all aspects of the band from writing, recording, to the distribution of your music. Do you prefer to keep it this way, or would you be open to work with a label(s) to put out some vinyl or other physical formats?
CLAYTON: I would sign up with a good label devoted to the music and not the business cause I hate the business. Too many bands rely on labels and the labels in turn ruin them. I don’t want anything to do with that. But I’d be willing to do an album and reach as many people as I can. But we do everything ourselves so we have total artistic freedom in our creations.
CHRIS: I think for what we are doing, this seems to be working just fine. When we are finished a recording, it gets released immediately…we don’t have to wait around for six months for physical media to be released. It allows for the creative flow which I think is key to our output. Finish one, on to the next seamlessly. Now, I certainly would love to be able to license music out for physical release, but it doesn’t seem likely to happen. I personally think we would be a record label’s nightmare….they couldn’t keep up with us haha. I would challenge a record label to try, though.
Shadu always keep their nucleus of influences, their core sound and attitude intact. But often your sound slightly morphs, often from one release to the next. This a conscious thing, or whenever you write for a new release do you just go with what comes out, and/or lean towards styles you have been listening to recently (i.e – a doomier style, thrashier, more black or death heavy)? Do you think this will continue in future?
CHRIS: We just go with the natural flow of things. Sometimes we will lean into a specific style for certain elements of a release but nothing is really contrived, it all flows out naturally. As for the sound element, I am constantly changing things up with my own recording processes so that could explain the tonal differences, etc. I am always learning something new about the process and challenge myself to keep it even more interesting. I’d say that if our latest album sounded exactly like our first EP, something would be seriously wrong. The influences are always fluctuating for me, and there is no doubt that those influences creep into the music in some way or another…it is unconscious in any case unless it is an obvious nod.
There are so many individual releases, in such a short time period, so I have a bit of a hard time singling out releases to talk about. So, let’s hit the start of the band with your debut 2019 self-titled EP, and thoughts you have looking back on it? Then let us bring it all the way forward to the new album and tell us all about it, with it being current and fresh in your mind? How do those two releases compare to one another?
CLAYTON: I was just trying to be brutal for the sake of it for many years. In Shadu I like to express myself artistically. I still love the first EP but I love the album better. I am moving on to the next project already.
CHRIS: I always look back on releases with pride, though honestly I am a bit critical in my own head about some of them. I I often will not listen to something much once the recording cycle is done…but I will revisit it down the line and most of the time I am impressed. The ball just continues to roll with Shadu, so there is not a lot of down time between projects and I don’t linger on things to long. As is often the case, I am happy about what we are doing in the moment and this new album is no exception. I think it is a strong release and it has some new elements in it for sure.
You filmed a great old school style music video for the track “Haunted Tracks”, off the new album. Why did you choose this track to make a video for? How did you find the process of filming and editing? Was it more work than you expected, and from the amount of cuts how many times did you have to run through the song? Any thoughts of doing more music videos in the future?
CLAYTON: I always wanted to make a video as old school as possible and keep it real. What you see is what you get…no acting, no face paint, no fire breathing or bullshit. Just a good old metal performance. I’d definitely do it again in a heartbeat. There will be more vids in the future (It really reminded me of vids I watched on the Power Hour in the ‘80s! – Dale).
CHRIS: The thinking was that this song had a pretty cool flow, a great chorus. We ran through the shoot together about 4 times and I did a single run through for the drums, all using 2 cameras. The editing process is the funnest, and I mean that sarcastically. There was automatically a sync issue that I won’t get into. It required some lucky ingenuity to remedy. And then sometimes the computer poops out and all that other good shit, but like anything I try to have as much fun with it as I can. We had a lot of fun shooting the thing and I think that can be seen in the footage that made it to the final cut. We definitely have plans for more down the line.
Well, this interview has turned into a written length that compares to the running time of “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner” Haha. I offer in my defense, besides loving to do long interviews, yes. But, I also have a 30 year history being a diehard follower of your musical activities and friend / metal brother of you two, to cover! So, I will finally wrap this up by giving my deep thanks for doing this gargantuan interview (please do not hate me ;)). Please finish off by giving any pertinent information to readers on how to get in touch with you and find your music. Cheers!
CLAYTON: Thanks for the great interview, keep it metal and keep the ancient flame glowing!
CHRIS: No hate, man. This interview was great, and thank you for this opportunity, Dale. You have been a blazing beacon of support to us over all these years and we are so grateful for that. All the music can be found on bandcamp and all the streaming platforms and we do have youtube channels that we keep up with regularly, so please check ’em out! Cheers, brother!
Shadu-Nar-Mattaru 2019 EP
The Midnight Towers 2019 EP
From The Darkest Corridors 2019 EP
Nocturnal Winters I 2019 EP
Dawning of Nibiru 2020 EP
Sad and Grave 2020 EP
Twilight Vespers… 2020 EP
Nocturnal Winter II 2020 EP
The Eternal Woe 2021 EP
Doomwards and Downwards 2021 EP
Ghost Parades 2021 EP
The Sorrowful Frost 2021 Full-length
Nocturnal Winter III 2021 EP
Temples of Twilight 2021 EP
Naught For The Fathomless Eyes 2022 EP
Murder by Magic 2022 Single
After Me Come The Flames 2022 Single
Premonition of Doom 2023 Single
The Spooky Gloom 2023 EP
On Pathways Macabre 2023 Full-length