Shihad – Looking Forward, Looking Back

Jonnny Toogood isn’t one for reflections. A day after celebrating his 41st birthday, the Shihad frontman is sitting down at a mate’s house in Prahran, filling me in on the life and times of New Zealand’s most loved rock band in the last few months.

It’s involved the release of a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the band’s failed attempt to crack the American market, a greatest hits CD and receiving a special gong at the New Zealand Music Awards.

So has he sat back and reminisced about the good old days? Hell no.

“I constantly have been all about looking ahead, then all of a sudden you get a lifetime achievement award, a documentary about our band and a greatest hits collection,” he said.

“It’s all this looking back and ‘look what we’ve done’ and I’ve never really spent time doing that.

“I’ve always been like – ‘what’s the next album going to sound like?’ What can I apply my brain in next to keep me engaged and interested in the art form which I’m involved in?”

Recently, he’s been dabbling in a side project, working with NZ orchestras and mentoring young children with their musical endeavours.

But what has really been keeping Toogood’s mind occupied is Shihad’s tenth album, the ambitious vision behind it, and the people they plan to work with.

“The plan is to go to Cairo with Jaz Coleman from Killing Joke, who produced our first album, and make a heavy, apocalyptic type record there, and then go record it in Spain,” he said.

“He came to us and said ‘it’s time you guys made a heavy record, and let’s do it in Egypt’.”

“We were like, ‘umm, I don’t think the Muslim brotherhood really like heavy metal – they’re fighting with the army mate’. He was like, ‘Perfect, let’s do it’.”

But before that experiment, Togood and his Shihad comrades will be taking fans for a walk down memory lane as they tour their greatest hits compilation – The Meanest Hits – in venues across the country.

Toogood has promised that tracks from every single release the band has done will be included in the set, along with a series of other antics and surprises.

“We’re pretty amped bro, it’s going to be a show that’s similar to the one we did in New Zealand; it was kind of like doing a stage show,” he said.

“In New Zealand we were on stage for almost 2.5 hours, but I don’t think we can do that over here.

“We start from the first EP – which was total speed metal – and then rip through every album in order; there’s a real storyline with it.”

And, if their plans for their next album weren’t convincing enough, Toogood said there is no chance of the band calling it a day soon, despite being together for over two decades.

“As long as the guys are interested, I’m down with it,” he said.

“We definitely make a good noise together; it’s a sound that only four certain people can make.”

“I know that this band on a good night can be absolutely killer – once you’ve had a taste… you never want things to go backwards, you’re always trying to do things better.”

To keep that fire burning, he has one of the biggest rock gods in the world to draw on for inspiration.

“Whenever I wonder if my body can’t handle it, I think… Angus Young can run around for three hours at his age, harden the fuck up.”

The Meanest Hits is out now. Shihad perform in Melbourne on September 6, Sydney on September 7, Brisbane on September 8, Adelaide on September 27, Perth on September 28, Wave Rock on September 29 and Fremantle on September 30. For all the details click here.

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