“It actually starts on the Internet with 13-year-olds and 16-year-olds, they are the one classifying bands – their bands! – for people and they don’t even know what genres are practically! You know…post-punk-pre-industrial-grind-grunge…what does that s**t mean?…. I just made that up, but it’s a good one! What it really comes down to for me is good solid heavy music., not even necessarily metal. I mean, I think Waylon Jennings is heavy. He speaks of the human condition and about being a man. That’s heavy to me.”
Guitarist Shane Clark of Three Inches of Blood is propped up on a collection of stacked speakers, kitty-corner to the backstage mayhem of the Rockstar Energy Drink Festival. The long-time guitarist is talking intensely about his distaste in the ever-multiplying and meshing genres in the music world, in between discussion about the band’s new album, Here Waits Thy Doom.
In typical fashion for Vancouver-based Three Inches of Blood, the band has been crunching over the skeletons of many genres, old and new, in a medieval Trojan horse for years (along with a revolving door of ever-changing band members). It doesn’t matter who you are, be it skater punks, metal heads, or Dungeons and Dragon nerds (cue South Park joke) – for ten years this band has mystifyingly broken the seal of every audience except for mainstream. Which is kind of how they want it.
As Clark sips from a red plastic cup, a large gust of wind blows desert sand and concert fliers across the tents straight into his eyes, which widen as he looks at the black clouds rolling in, “Ahhhohhh…..that would be nice to be here for an Arizona monsoon!”
As we retreat further to avoid the insistent gusts of wind into the maze of stereo equipment, Clark discusses how ancestry relates to the music, why Salvador Dali kicks a**, and the best new bands rising from Vancouver.
Lauren Wise: I’ve read that the last album, Fire Up The Blades, was influenced by – “low quality beer, b**g rips and listening to black metal in the dark,” So what can you say Here Waits They Doom is influenced by, since you guys seem to follow your usual formula – no formula?
Shane Clark: That’s a lame one! Well, good up until the black metal comment…. I remember Jamie [Hooper, their previous vocalist] said that. We were all in the van listening to him do an interview one day and he said that and none of us knew why? [laughs] Low quality beer and bong rips for real. We love hot knives. That’s where Fire Up the Blades came from. [laughs]. But really, black metal music is a big influence on the band. You don’t hear it too much in the music, but it’s there.
LW: So is this new album is influenced by anything different?
SC: Well both albums definitely have a lot of the same influences …we have our, you know, our beer and our weed. I kinda stopped saying we don’t have a formula, but we actually do. It’s sticking to pure heavy metal, stuff that we grew up on. And the formula is, without having a formula, it is, writing songs that we would just want to hear if we were buying records. Putting ourselves back to teen years and the stuff that got my blood boiling when I was learning to play guitar and getting into heavy music.
LW: What were you listening to then?
SC: Metallica was huge for me in the mid-80s when I was really young. AC/DC is big with me because they are just the most pure rock and roll band ever. And I’m influenced by anything honest, whether it is art or music, you know when it is honest or not. I went to an art show in Vancouver where I’m from, and it was you know, all the greats. I’m not well-versed on art but ugh…whose the total….what’s his name with the mustache?
LW: Salvador Dali?
SC: Yes, Dali. His s**t squashed everyone elses’ because it was so unique and that’s the vibe I like off anything, whether it is bluegrass and country. You have Waylon Jennings then you have Brooks and Dunn, which to me is formulaic, a little common denominator stuff.
LW: Speaking of influences, Are there any surprising influences you have that aren’t from British new wave metal, late 70s metal, or bands like Slayer?
SC: For sure. The new wave of British heavy metal, and even the first wave like Scorpions….those are high up on influences. As a guitar player though I’m really influenced by a lot.
LW: You’ve had fans come on stage with items like a severed pig or deer’s head. Can you let me in on one of the craziest things you think you’ve seen on tour?
SC: The one you mentioned was the craziest thing to me. The pig head…ugh…there’ s been a couple pig head situations. But for me, the deer head was just like, someone really took to heart the fantasy-style lyrics. Because that’s all it is, it’s escapism. We don’t have a political or social agenda. Other bands do that great but we are more the escapists, like Dio. He’s a huge example of that. Very fantasy-based stuff. Like going to see RoboCop. You forget about your life for an hour because it’s just fantastical. As individuals we have those opinions, but it’s allll escapism.
LW: Speaking of influences…..When you guys opened for Iron Maiden three years ago, was that more intimidating or fascinating?
SC: That was a cornerstone. It was intimidating and overwhelming, but also like one of our hugest moments. That list of things to do in life — that was a check mark on that. We were the only opening band, too. Iron Maiden has a very ….you know. People go to see Iron Maiden. They don’t go to give a s**t about the opening band….But by the end of our set we had gained some fans I think. When we walked on they were cheering Iron Maiden so we knew we had our work cut out for us. It was a very positive experience.
LW: You guys have written about swords, cyborgs, pirates, sorcery, and so forth. Are you influenced by these topics from other genres of metal or from interests like Lord of the Rings? This may sound weird, but when I first heard your guys’ music, it made me think of ancestry, you know? I descended from Norwegian Vikings, so I was thinking about back in those times.
SC: It is from a lot of different things, but that is one for sure, ancestry. The singers handle the lyrical content, but all of us are involved in Viking mythology, and a little bit of Greek mythology on Fire of the Blades. It is a combination of mythology and philosophies. There’s a certain part of Satanism I like? You know, the celebrating of being a human being, not being ashamed of yourself and not spending your life preparing to die, because you know, a lot of organized religions are like that. So there’s that angle, and we kinda’ squash a whole bunch of different ideas together and make it our own.
But you’re right. You picked up on that. We have a lot of ancestry ideals. I’m more Irish but my family tree goes to Oslow. Justin is straight up Swedish….a lot of Viking ideals! Although we’re from Western Canada….[laughs]. I did an interview in Denmark a couple weeks before the tour. They are very Viking….the interviewers were like ‘So. Here you are in are in a real Viking place right now, why do you guys talk about that?’ And I just had to explain to them that it’s influential and mighty. It doesn’t matter where you’re from.
LW: Yea, take it as a compliment. I do!
SC: Yea right?
LW: Well speaking of being from Vancouver are there any good new bands coming out from that region?
SC: There’s some great bands. I’m more of an underground music guy. That’s where my listening tastes go. There’s a band called Fear of Tomorrow. They are really heavy punk type band. I mean real punk. I’m not talking about… [looks into the distance in consideration]…..you know they have very socially conscious lyrics. I appreciate and like what they are doing. There’s another band on a more of a doom side of things called Haggatha. They opened up for our last Vancouver show. There’s also Bison B.C. They are doing really good and they are probably going to hate me for saying it, but they have a high-on-fire Motorhead thing going, but along with a lot more of progressive thing that they are making their own.