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Overcoming The Demon: An Exclusive Interview With SHAMAN'S HARVEST Vocalist NATHAN HUNT

By Brian Davis, The Velcro Merkin
Thursday, October 12, 2017 @ 12:27 AM

"As rock singers we can’t all be Myles Kennedy, some of us just have to accept who we are and be Johnny Cash."

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Riding high on the release of their exceptional new album Red Hands Black Deeds, SHAMAN’S HARVEST rolled through Seattle for just their 2nd time ever, briefly stepping off a full blown arena tour supporting NICKELBACK to deliver a rare one-off headlining performance at the tiny but rockin’ Crocodile Café. To commemorate the occasion vocalist Nathan Hunt opened the tour bus doors to KNAC.COM and provided poignant insights into the pros & cons of collaborating with the WWE, social decay, the art of music and his inspirational victory over throat cancer.

KNAC.COM: So I just personally discovered you guys last year and I was blown away. Since then it’s been nonstop, you guys have become one of my favorite rock bands. I’m a big metalhead but I just love what you guys do. The new album I reviewed for you guys, I was super impressed with it. I really liked the last one [Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns], it has some great songs but what I really like about Red Hands Black Deeds is it has this consistent flow, it plays like a full record. Instead of just skipping songs here to there I just put it on and it goes. I sense an effort from you guys to layer it and build a more long term experience to ride like a wave.

HUNT: I think the goal always is to write music that is timeless. You always want to make individual songs that kind of stand up 10 years from now, that’s the goal. And I think in order to do that you have to have a dynamic body of work. I’ve listened to records my whole life that you listen to the whole record, you know? Of course you’re going to find your favorites and you’re going to put them on replay, but that’s one of the things I try to tell people –the first listen just try to listen to it all the way through and just experience it, as opposed to just listening to a song.

KNAC.COM: That was my experience, and I mentioned that in the review a little bit that we are conditioned as music consumers to kind of seek out those songs, kind of track hunting. You play it through, listening for which one is going to jump out, which one is going to stand out. With this record they stood out in a way but it was hard to just pinpoint a specific song that I wanted to go to every time. The more I just hit play and let it go the more drawn in I was and more content with the whole thing.

HUNT: Well I’m glad that worked out because that was the plan. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: It sounds like it. Doing what I do, obsessing over music like that, I really look to see if you can see the passion – if you can pull that out, the drive and the commitment to the music. Again, that’s what makes you guys stand out so much, it just seethes from all of your stuff. So I was reading today that you guys did a whole lot of organic stuff that you really hadn’t played with before, like there was a reference to goat toes and some sand paper?

HUNT: Yeah it was…you know, percussion is a great layer in music. It can kinda help drive it or even give it a more primal feel whenever you’re looking for that tribal kinda vibe. And there are the old cow bells and shakers and all those things that are traditional, but we just kinda like looking around the studio trying to find things that make noises to cover those parts. The goat toes you can crush it in a tape delay and a tape crusher, it’s a big crusher, it’s an analog vibe and it just makes it feel woody. But yeah that’s what they are, they’re actual goat toes.

KNAC.COM: Yeah that’s pretty original that you can make anything into an instrument if you try I suppose. So I read that you had throat cancer?

HUNT: Mmhhmm

KNAC.COM: Fuck man, I lost my mom to pancreatic cancer. The disease is an evil bitch, but for a singer to have throat cancer…

HUNT: Yea I mean that’s what cancer is - it’s an evil fucking demon and it goes for the jugular. It was an intense time there but I was making a record too while I was going through those treatments so I could focus on my parts I was going to do that day, or something I wanted to change in a song or something. Sometimes I think we can manifest something and really physically make it worse. There’s a lot more power in our brains than we utilize every day, so I wasn’t that focused on the fact that I was sick, you know? I just focused on making a record every day that I thought was gonna be my last record I ever made. It was a battle trying to figure out a way to sing around the treatments but it also made me hone my craft a little bit more. I’m more of a blues singer, so seeing vocal coaches for the first time and stuff like that taught me how to be technically better and to not lose my voice so fast. I can last more shows and do more shows in a row and last more time in the shows, stuff like that.

KNAC.COM: Yeah if you do survive those kinda things they do tend to...

HUNT: They make you better.

KNAC.COM: Yeah you gain something from it. So are you in the clear, are you good?

HUNT: Yeah I’m still in remission and feeling like a warrior. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Fuckin A. Now you were saying 1. The fact that you were a blues singer and 2. The way it made you approach your singing, I think that really kind of explains the vocals on the new album because similarly on "In Chains" and songs like that you’ve got these amazing soaring vocals but they’re these moments of exceptional power whereas on this new album it’s bluesy, it’s…maybe not restrained but it’s just not focused on belting things out, it’s about playing with a song and going with the flow.

HUNT: Yes there’s less bite until there needs to be. If you have like a vocal peak that’s there all the time there’s no longer really a peak, you know? There are some times when that’s appropriate, but also on this record I kind of just embrace the fact that I’m a baritone singer, I am a lower singer. As rock singers we can’t all be Myles Kennedy, some of us just have to accept who we are and be Johnny Cash. (laughs) KNAC.COM: Play the cards you’re dealt.

HUNT: That’s right and use the tools you have.

KNAC.COM: I was curious as far as the name SHAMAN’S HARVEST, is it reference to actual shamanism?

HUNT: It’s the idea that music is the last mystical, magical thing in this world, it’s easy to tap into. The world has lost that ethereal thing, that otherworldly thing, and music is the most common magic there is in the world, the oldest magic.

KNAC.COM: Do you see a change for that? I mean obviously the world is just fucked up right now, but do you think it’s coming to a head and we’re going to break through to something better?

HUNT: It’s like that law…I don’t know what the law is, I think Einstein talked about it…if you introduce anything into the world you can’t go backwards, it’s just ‘this is how this is now’, on and on and on. And as much as I’d like to just blow up the internet or whatever I don’t think that we are ever going to get back to that space of being able to…we’ve lost our ability to have things like intuition and stuff like that. I was reading something the other day that was talking about how at some point we were based on knowledge and things like intuition, the knowing of things, and now we're just based off information – if we want to know something we just look it up on Google, you know? It’s instantaneous, we don’t retain anything, we only use part of our brains anymore; the left side doesn’t…I think that we’re evolving to be a species that – in evolution because you don’t use it you lose it and it’s kind of a bummer. I mean unless we tap into the world a little, tap into nature, tap into whatever that is on a regular basis I don’t think we as a species are going to be able to go back.

KNAC.COM: And I think for so long now we’ve been kind of forced out of evolution by “the man” or governments or whatever – they found a way to keep people docile consumers, they can’t let get us get beyond a certain point or we’ll move beyond a need for all this fake comfort.

HUNT: And that’s so big man, I don’t believe that we can fight that at all; it’s become our nature to consume…well, it’s always been our nature.

KNAC.COM: But we perfected it.

HUNT: Yeah we perfected it, and so as long as we have that need to click on those little things and then all of a sudden there’s an advertisement for something we have to have and we go out and buy a bunch of shit we don’t need; or we sit up until 3:00am on Amazon and next thing you know you’ve bought a crossbow and a tennis racket and all kinds of shit, man. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: (laughs) And so then now more than ever is the importance of music and doing what you guys do, for your own sake, for your own sanity you have to keep that connection to something bigger than what they want us to see. Plus, for everybody else music is either a release, an escape or some connection that we as fans and lost souls are looking for to remind us that it’s not all bullshit.

HUNT: Yeah exactly.

KNAC.COM: So you guys have had some success with the WWE, you’ve had several songs that have been used – how did that come about? Did one of the wrestlers reach out to you?

HUNT: Yeah their music director – his name is Jim Johnson, I think he’s still with them – he heard "Dragonfly" and he liked the vibe, the tone of it, but he writes all of his own material so he sent us some stuff. It was like – I swear to God – a Casio keyboard and he cannot sing at all, no pitch whatsoever, and he’s singing into a telephone with his Casio keyboard. (laughs) This guy’s got like a 15 million dollar studio that the WWE pays for but he’s on the phone on a Casio keyboard singing this song then he’s like, ‘Alright now make it yours’. We’re like, ‘What are we supposed to do with this thing?’ It wasn’t very good at the time so at one point we were like, ‘Is this worth it? Should we even do this?’ Then we started crunching numbers and it was like, ‘Well there’s like 5 million viewers every night on this show RAW – Yes we should do it!’ (laughs) So we went to the studio and the first one we did was "Broken Dreams" for the wrestler Drew McIntyre, we had some back and forth and finally landed on a version that all parties could like. He dug it and then the fans started really digging it, it was voted the best entrance theme in 10 years or something like that. So he sent us some more stuff and they were gracious enough to put "Dragonfly" on a movie that they had that they produced and yeah, the rest is history. We’ve done about 5-6 different things for them, promos and a couple spots for some movies they were doing and a Wrestlemania theme, so yeah it’s been cool.

KNAC.COM: Obviously that’s a pretty cool achievement that you guys can put on your bucket list or whatever, but is there something that stands out for you in particular that’s maybe the part that you’ve loved the most, whether it’s a particular experience or just an element of what you do?

HUNT: Making records, that’s it for me. I mean I love playing live but I don’t do this because of that, I do this to make records. We have this thing in us as humans where we have to explore and discover, which I hope is something that never gets turned off or evolved out, but that’s the whole thing about being in the studio, that’s why on this record we’re just able to kind of play around and just discovering what SHAMAN’S HARVEST is right now and how we’re making this record, you know? It’s the last frontier – art seems to be the last…and you’re discovering yourself as well. Yeah, just experimenting – I love that, it’s the number one thing for me.

KNAC.COM: You gotta keep that muse happy.

HUNT: Yeah, yeah.

KNAC.COM: I learned the hard way. I’m artistic, I like to write and draw and play a little guitar, but I had a bad run with chronic migraines & prescription meds, shit like that and just went down a bad road. When I finally came out of it I realized just how much of my misery stemmed around my lack of expression, you know? Like I was so unhappy not writing and not doing this, not connecting with all of that and I think it has a major impact on a person’s psyche to resist the urge to create, an artistic calling.

HUNT: Right, yeah a world without art…its tough these days, money is a factor, you know? If you’re gonna tour all year round it’s not like you’re gonna work 9 to 5 around the house, but there’s no money in this – I mean we’ve cut 5 top 30 hits and we’re all poverty level income; we don’t do it for that but it makes it pretty tough, there’s no real government funding for the arts programs, we lose them all the time. So I mean the world makes it hard to continue to express yourself, but that’s not why you do it anyway. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: (laughs) Exactly. Alright that’s about all I’ve got, you just came out with a new record so I assume you’re ramping up – how much do you plan to tour this album?

HUNT: I don’t think we’ll be home for the next couple years. Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns, the first year it was out we did 260 dates, the next year it was 270 dates, so it’s 2 straight years of touring; we came home to make a record and now we’re back at it. That kinda ties in to what we were just talking about, we want people to hear the live expression of those records as well, you want to bring the music to those people, but in order to pay for making a record you gotta tour your ass off, man. So it’s the reward but it’s also the cost.

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