Interview with Nathaniel Shannon- Artist of many forms, Master of them all!.
Interview with Nathaniel Shannon- Artist of many forms, Master of them all!.
We recently reviewed Nathaniel Shannon and the Vanishing Twin's absolutely gloriously deep and nasty EP "Three Mothers" that is what we coined Tom Waits on acid, it's dark, heavy, yet shoe-gazey and psychotic/psychedelic. Easily one of my fave releases of the year.
I had the chance to chat with this fantastic artist and as expected he completely delivered on every front, just like his music, art and photos do, what a fucking seriously talented and genuine guy. Enjoy this interview and check out all his various art forms. Love his process and dedication to his craft. Nathaniel is a craftsman with great taste and humour. Enjoy this beast of an interview:
Interview with Nathaniel Shannon:
Before we delve into the crazed brilliance of your new EP, you have certainly had a magnificent career with incredible musings in a multitude of mediums? How did you first get into the creative world? I fucking love how you mix it up, sometimes you are painting some seriously grim art, taking brilliant photos at riots or Monster Jam or mind-blowing pics in Costa Rica or making music. Plus what has the COVID-19 effect been on you as an artist; I cannot imagine you sitting on your hands being idle?
I really appreciate your kind words, as well as doing your research as to deep cuts of photographic and other visual art I’ve made. I’m interested in a multitude of different subjects, so spending time just documenting one, is just something I physically can’t do. I don't know that there was really any sort of a catalyst as a creative push in my youth, outside of being an only child, and spending an incredible amount of time alone with my thoughts as a kid. Not that I was some sheltered, or anti-social child because I wasn’t, but the fact is, if you don't have siblings, you have way more alone time. You don't have to share, and the world is yours within your own mind and bedroom. Most of that was always spent obsessing over comic books, movies, music, album artwork and daydreaming of a time in my life where I might know how to execute my interpretations of everything I was digesting. I’m inherently lazy, but even if I am not physically doing something creative, my mind never stops wandering trying to piece together the greater puzzle of a future endeavour. When it comes to photography, if I’m producing a fictitious illustrative fantasy, I’m documenting someone else doing something they are passionate about, be it, music, monster trucks, protests…the human experience is always fascinating.
Three Mothers is a perfect EP, but it actually sounds vastly different to the fantastic Trespasses album of 2016; everything seems to have a more vibrant tone, yet remains dark like the Movie trilogy that inspired it. What made you choose these films as inspiration? What else musically influenced you; because part of the treasures of this musical project is it doesn’t sit comfortably in any genre or sound like a carbon copy of anything.
I’m a horror nut, and stylistically, you can’t fuck with Italian Giallo, especially Bava and Argento. Suspiria is such a beautiful film. I started experimenting more with synths, due to the space constraints of living in a tiny Brooklyn apartment, and a huge love of G-Funk era hip hop. This EP is just a Bobby Brown record, that sounds nothing like Bobby Brown. It’s like Tony Tone Toni and Bobby Brown, hanging out with Mark Lanegan doing drugs with the three 6 mafia, after they all got fucked up watching the Catherine Wheel..and they are all talking about how sick the lighting looks in Italian horror movies. I had these three song scapes, and they didn’t fit with other things I was writing, and I was rewatching INFERNO, the second movie in the Mother of Tears trilogy, and it just dawned on me…three movies…three songs…..well shit, I have a concept EP. I also like the idea of the story being told from the antagonist perspective. If you’ve ever read the book Grendel, by John Gardner, it’s the retelling of Beowulf through the antagonist's eyes, which oftentimes is overlooked…why are witches doing witch shit? Why are monsters doing monster shit? Why am I ripping off 90s hip hop? Ultimately, it’s just a bunch of juxtapositions that fit together because I figured out how to pull what reference from where. Also having Fred Etsby from Dismember play drums was pretty cool. We worked together for a couple years and I played him the tracks and asked him if he would play the drums on them, which he obliged, so having live drums made a huge difference in the overall sound and organic nature of synth-driven melodies.
The cover art is mindfuckingly beautiful, talk us through its creation?
Thanks man, I had the art concept of the three mothers (literally with three 3 female models) for a while, it was just a matter of photographing the right models, and sitting down to collage them. I wanted something bright and punchy, maybe with a bit of a Mucha nod..nothing dark and gothy and grim…that shit is so played out and become a caricature of itself within “dark” or “moody” music…especially treading the fine line of writing a concept record about witches…which is already a borderline eye roll to me…so it was important for the art to be something on it’s own that I could think was just a cool print I would hang on my wall.
Live how has this project been received, the St.Vitus footage seems to capture the darkness that seems to dominate the themes lyrically? And where do these themes stem from; not pissing in your pocket, but you seem really well-read and versed on film and similar mediums?
I don't know that people know what to make of what I’m doing, recorded or live. It’s a mixed bag of bullshit that I like, filtered through me right? With the advent of streaming, everything is being more and more homogenized based on trying to get people's attention. When I grew up photographing and playing in the Detroit music scene, there was the ska band, the emo dude, the hardcore youth crew band, the metal influence hardcore band, and then the death metal band playing one show. (Oh and dont forget the white rapper kid that was “totally woke” before “woke was woke”…) Because everyone was friends, and it was fun. Now, there are 5 death metal bands that all sound the fucking same. It’s boring as shit. My buddy Damien Moyal (Damien Done, Check out his project if you like my work at all. ) were JUST talking about this afternoon. Where would we fit on a bill 20 years ago doing what we are doing now? Would we have the same troubles we are both having, (booking, getting people to listen to us) playing something that isn’t so easily labelled. Honestly, I don't really fit in anywhere, which artistically is cool, but it makes it harder relying on booking agents to throw me on shows because they don't want to risk people having to see/hear something that isn’t exactly the same as the act before. Shocking right? The point is, I don't know what I’m doing, but it’s not X or Y, or Z, so the reaction most of the time is “oh that shit is weird man”, which most the time says to me “I don't get it”, which is hilarious to me, because while I get, the music is dark and moody or whatever, most of this shit is just to make myself laugh. Without being even longer winded, most of the lyrical content is film, literature and personal experience-based. I think it’s so ingrained in me via photography to have a narrative, that most of my music is story-driven if that makes sense.
Post-Lockdown what’s next for this band, a full album surely beckons?
I’ve been working on another full length for a while now, and just getting back into file trading with a few people who are going to be playing on it. I don't really have any long term plans for the solo project other than to keep recording and exploring this little niche I’ve carved out for myself. I have an ambient concept record entitled “SCREEN MEMORIES” which will have an accompanying photography zine I’m in the process of putting together, and I am also about to release a Cassette Tape and Art zine by another music project of mine called SUSPECTS which features Detroit's own madman Sean Hoen of Thoughts of Ionesco singing. It’s 4 songs of Deadguy / Snapcase/ Jesus Lizard influenced lurking. I hope to have that out in April, if you want to creep my instagram @nathanielshannon that will have all the info on where to pick that up. I’m pretty stoked to have that done finally, it’s been a long time coming, and I am a huge fan of Sean's, as well as being old friends, so it was pretty cool that he was a part of this record.
What films/albums or books are stoking your fires at present or over the last year?
I’m currently reading CHAOS: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties, which is pretty cool. It dives deep into the theory that everything we know about the Manson “murders” and Spahn ranch is pretty much bullshit, and all stem from the book Helter Skelter, and not from anything factual. Current tunes I’ve been spinning are:
-DISEMBOWLMENT - TRANSCENDENCE INTO THE PERIPHERAL
-EYEHATEGOD - A HISTORY OF NOMADIC BEHAVIOR
-JEFF BUCKLEY - SKETCHES FOR MY SWEETHEART THE DRUNK,
-STEVE MOORE - VFW SOUNDTRACK,
-CHRISTOPHER LEE LEWIS - SON ON THE FLOOR
-CHAT PILE - THIS DUNGEON EARTH / REMOVE YOUR SKIN
-LORD GOAT / STU BANGAS - FINAL EXPENSES
-OLD MAN GLOOM - SEMINAR IX / SEMINAR VIII
-RAY LUV - FOREVER HUSTLING
-MASS 187 - KROOKED CITY
-HUM - INLET
-THE CURE - HEAD ON THE DOOR
-TODAY IS THE DAY - NO GOOD TO ANYONE
-CARCASS - DESPICABLE
What is art so important and for you where do art and music intersect? Is your work cathartic?
I don't know that I think art is important, and what I mean by that, is I think art is a distraction from the horrors of reality. Is that important? To be distracted? I go back and forth on this. Some people like myself, use art as therapy to cope, other people; drink, fight, fuck, watch reality TV…these are all distractions at this point. You could make the argument that art is communication, which it is, but what new ideas do we have to communicate? (Speak specifically about the world I'm working in) I’m not saying or doing anything new, and what I say and do doesn’t matter. There is some nihilism in my view of what is important, but the nihilism comes from a place of love and understanding in terms of everything is pretty much meaningless so why NOT do something. People obsess over giving things meaning right? But since life is meaningless, what’s the point? Well, the point is, who gives a shit why things are important, if you connect with something and are passionate, pour your energy into it because it doesn’t mean anything to anyone but you. Just like working a 9-5 job, or doing something else meaningless that you probably hate, why waste your time? It’s all relative, so I guess that could be considered cathartic, but really it’s strictly selfish and a way to keep myself entertained, because I bore easily, and spent years digging myself out of deep shitty holes I fell into, lurking for some sort of meaning, when the answer of importance was right in front of me the whole time…..shut the fuck up Nathaniel, and just go do whatever it is you are talking about doing. That's the true art, accomplishment. Just finishing something, and reflecting on how you get to that point.
Any final messages or words of wisdom?
Be excellent to each other.Thank you for wanting to chat with me!!!
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