Finally! Your debut album is out. Congratulations guys! I expected it in 2011, but maybe I was a little too impatient? Since your band name is longer than most answers in an average interview with a hard rock band, can you describe within 50 words what The Shovell stands for, without using the words garage, hard rock, 1960s, 1970s and quotes from Village People's 'In The Navy'.
Johnny: NO WE CAN'T !! HAHA!! Especially as the Village People are our main influence!! Seriously though the Shovell stands for playing yer balls off, writing good rock n roll music and having a fucking good time. We just want to take folk's mind's off of maybe a shit job, a moaning girlfriend or whatever for a few minutes so they can get into the music/show/lp whatever and have a fuckin' good time too!!
Louis: Shovell stands for: lifting as many riffs from obscure retrospective underground musical outfits (and bastardising 'em into our own works!), and giving the crowd (whether it be 6 of 'em or 600) as spine-crushingly a good time as is physically and emotionally possible!
Are you glad with the results and did everything turned out as you expected? (this cliché ridden question doesn't need a cliché ridden answer per se).
Johnny: Yes, personally speaking, I'm very happy with the LP... and the cover art is top notch!! It's practically impossible to say though, because your so immersed in it all and hear it sooo much, what with mixing, mastering etc. Ask me again in a year or two!!! The only thing I wasn't expecting was to have two songs left over,...or for anyone else to like it!!!!
Louis: Yes, the end result is ace. It took us ages, but you should get the second helping a whole lot quicker!
You guys are from Hastings, so why did you choose for this admiral from the 17th Century as a band name, and not some obscure navy bloke from the battle of Hastings in 1066 for instance? That Shovell dude looked like a fat fart by the way, and couldn't be as important or popular as our Dutch navy heroes as Michiel de Ruyter, Piet Hein, Witte de With or Maarten Tromp. :D
Johnny: FAT FART!!! How dare you talk about drummer Bill like that!!! Nah we chose the name because me and Louis used to drink in a boozer(pub) down the road from where I lived and in the same road is the house reputedly lived in by The Admiral's mother, complete with ace 'pub sign' hanging from the front of the building.
we saw this and in our pissed state thought 'what a great name for a band' -- shows how wrong you can be!! haha!!
Louis: You can't contend with Nelson though, eh? He's the man Shovell sailed under. Yes, as Johnny says, Shovell's mum lived here and we just happened to pass her gaff one day. We could easily have been Robert Tressell or Andy Bell if we'd had the misfortune to stray to another Hastings street!
When did you guys started to think to join your godlike bodies and Einstein-minds together to conquer the world?
Johnny: Must have been 5 years or so back. We originally formed as a covers band, then realized, with the help of Buffalo LP's and Polish beer, that the jams we were having were a million times better than our badly played cover songs, so we junked the covers and writing our own tunes.
Louis: Yep, 5 years in the making. We've always been into hard-rock and getting wasted. We're in essence a pub-rock band with a worldwide appeal. Anything's a bonus with us.
Regarding your music, it's obvious that you are born about forty years too late. Was it a logical choice to play the music you make, and did you always play this type of old school, but highly energetic (garage) hard rockin' heavy psych meets proto metal before (like in previous bands)?
Johnny: Yeh, pretty much, personally speaking. Gorilla and the Morticians were both heavy/high-energy/garage-rocknroll. With the Shovell, it just fell into place through a mutual love of that style of music. It's in the blood mate! It's not a studied thing, it's just what we listen too, what we play and what we love - lucky eh?
The three of us have all bands/genre's etc which we like more than the others obviously, but I think all our influence's make for more interesting songs and blend together great, but there's a lot of common ground and the chemistry just seems to work right, and we've all known each other for donkey's years, which helps.
We've never given a fuck for what's fashionable, be it underground fashionable or mainstream trends of shit.
Louis: Sir Lord Baltimore was on our turntables before a lot of our contempories (and SLB champions) were even thunk of! Old blokes playing high-octane pub-rock and dressing like Status Quo circa '72. Sounds like a plan!
Since you must inspired by the ca. 1968-1974 era with British bands like Dust, Black Cat Bones, Tractor, Iron Claw, Raw Material, T.2, Pink Fairies, Gun, Bakerloo, Leaf Hound, High Tide and countless others (like Budgie!), are there any bands in particular you love? Or is it just that time era that grabs you, and you like to recreate?
Johnny: All the above and more for sure! Sabbath, Budgie obviously, with the Shovell we were trying to inject a bit more hi-energy rock to the soup, so bands like Buffalo, Sir Lord Baltimore, Dust and Bang are more of a predominant influence, but all the other stuff just comes out when you play. All them years sticking model aeroplanes kits together and listening to Sabbath and Deep Purple weren't wasted on me mate!!! Haha!
Louis: Early Scorpions, Quo, Il Balletto Di Bronzo (1st LP, and other assorted Italian prog, RDM etc), Yesterday and Today, Blues Creation, German Oak… the list just keeps on growing!
Speaking about old school, for this album you recorded 'Beanstew' from the Australian band Buffalo. I think their album 'Volcanic Rock' (1973) is the ultimate Australian hard rock album, even better than 'Highway To Hell', 'Back In Black' or 'Rose Tattoo'. Still, you choose a song from their even more obscure debut album 'Dead Forever…' (1972). Why this song in particular?
Johnny: we were asked to do a Buffalo cover for a tribute LP that never materialized. Rather than do a run-of the-mill safe cover, we took an OK song and souped it up Shovell style - much better that the original I reckon!!! Controversial mate - can't knock the AC/DC boys!! First Rose Tattoo LP's gotta be a contender for top spot too!!
Louis: Basically, “Skirt lifter” had already been chosen by another band. We got the obscure 1st LP track and turned it into something that sounds like Spirit vs Edgar Broughton Band!
Are there also any bands from the 21ste century you like to be associated with?
Johnny: Yeah - AC/DC and Rose Tattoo!! If we make it to the 21st Century, I'll let ya know!
Louis: Black Sabbath, Quo, anyone who'll allow us to tour with 'em.
Am I right that your soon to be immensely large discography started with a contribution on 'Shindig! Presents: It's Happening! - Volume One' with the song 'Mark of the Beast', back in 2009? How did you end up on that sampler?
Johnny: Yes correct - we've known the Shindig guys forever, and they kindly asked us to add a bit of ROCK to their forthcoming sampler. Different version to the LP too sports fans!!
Louis: It made sense to include us on the comp, otherwise we'd have sent our roadies round to smash up their offices!
You also released a vinyl-only single 'Return to Zero' b/w 'Day After Day', back in January 2011. Idiots are willing to pay up to €100,- for this little piece of vinyl. Why not re-releasing this vinyl and stop promoting this kind of “sold-out by pre-order instantly and extremely limited for the elite vinyl freaks only” and give the normal human beings also a change? Even vinyl freaks hate this tendency the last couple of years.
Johnny: We press up 1,000,000 copies of each, sell 15 and keep the rest under our beds to sell on eBay when the 21st century arrives!!
Louis: Great plan. Record collectors will pay allsorts of amounts for allsorts of shite!
Do you use in any way biographical elements of this navy hero in your lyrics? Song titles like 'Devil's Island', 'Red Admiral Black Sunrise', 'Killer Kane' suggest a “well doh!”. Nevertheless, is it?
Johnny: Yes, I guess there are certain 'nautical' themes in some of the lyric, especially Red Admiral, Black Sunrise, although it's not really a re-occurring theme. We write whatever fits the songs and riffs best, inspiration comes from all sorts of weird and wonderful places!! I find it hard to explain or talk about lyrics, mainly because I don't know what I'm writing about until 10 years later!! But you can make anything mean anything if you try hard enough!!
Louis: I went to the Scilly Isles and left a Shovell badge on the spot where he met his maker. I tried writing a song about it, but had a cream tea and a couple of pints instead!
On the other hand, the song title 'iDeath' sounds like a homage/attack to Steve Jobs and his little company. Is it?
Johnny: Who the fuck is Steve Jobs??? I'll have to Google him to find out now! The song lyrics have nothing to do with the title - I stole it from a Richard Brautigan book!!
Louis: Steve Jobs? No, is Brautigan.
And 'The Last Run' is inspired by a 1970s documentary about the British Hell's Angels. Can you tell a little about this?
Johnny: Yeah, that's right. We'd only just written this song when we went into the studio, and had no lyrics written yet. A mate of mine sent me a link to this documentary, and it was a great, UN-intentionally funny, tragic BBC film about the first officially chartered UK chapter of the hell's Angels.
Just seemed like a good subject and more importantly fitted the vibe of the song. Worked well, we should write more songs like that - or just watch more 70's biker documentaries!!
Louis: Yes, we worked up the lyrics when we were recording the track. “Big fat f*cking doll's house”!
How did you got in contact with Groundhogs' main man Tony McPhee and get him crazy enough playing guitar on 'Scratchin and Sniffin'? I think that man must be (damn close to) seventy by now, isn't it?
Johnny: Dave Anderson ex Hawkwind, Amon Duul and many others, owns and lives at Foel Studio's. He's currently playing bass in the Groundhogs, and we went to see them play at a mini-festival while we were down there at the studio. Being a massive Groundhogs fan since the age of about 12, Tony McPhee, to me is one of my heroes up there with Iommi and Blackmore as well as being one of the most truly unique guitarists and songwriters ever. No one sounds like the Groundhogs on those 4 LP's Thank Christ, Who Will Save the World, Hogwash and Split - they are FUCKING IMMENSE!!!
So naturally the chance of having one of your all time heroes playing on your own LP is like a dream come true! We asked him and he said yes and the rest as they say is history!! Top bloke.
Louis: I cheekily asked Dave if Tony would come down, and he only agreed. I felt a bit dizzy sitting 2 metres away from TS as he played on our album. Was a life-affirming day that one.
What happened to stage songs like 'Cursed Earth', 'Lady Snowblood' and 'Robot Clossus'? You really pissed me off that you didn't record especially 'Lady Snowblood' for this album. You bunch of assholes, that song fucking rule! I warn you, you better make at least a second album including that song, otherwise I will write in this interview that you love Justin Bieber and dance all weekends in gay bars wearing old outfits of Ginger Spice.
Johnny: We'd sue you for libel, but sadly it's all true. Don't forget the Village People daisy-chain parties too!! hahaha!! Nah, we recorded those songs but due to time limitation's, running orders etc they got left off. Don't worry though mate, they will crop up somewhere, they is too good to waste!
Louis: Yeah, possibly a limited edition single. 50 copies only, yours for £300 each?
People who buy the gatefold album instead the (download of the) cd, will get an extra single. Which songs can they find on that one?
Johnny: November, featuring Jay on Hammond organ, and Cursed Earth again with the Reverend TS McPhee on guitar. Again killer sleeve too, thanks Andy!!
Louis: Yes, best chassa-shop sleeve in the land!
What's with that ugly red bird head on the covers? Did you guys steal that one from Budgie?
Johnny: UGLY?? How dare you!! That's the poor guy's real head. We've got his photo on the first single cover too! We wanted to make a real cover, with a bit of thought rather than some kind of computer-ised bullshit. I think it looks fuckin' awesome!!
Louis: Yes, Buzzard-Face escaped from a travelling side show 20 years ago and has been living in my attic room ever since. He's tied up in the corner and I like to kick him occasionally when I walk past. It stops him from sh*ting everywhere as well.
I saw you guys play at Roadburn and although the guitars were way too fucking loud in the mix and you guys didn't play nearly as tight as a digital metronome, I had a blast! You can also see you guys are having fun on stage, especially Bill, with his amusing behaviour. Was this is your first gig in Holland?
Johnny: The Roadburn gig is/was our only Dutch gig so far, and it was a blast, really enjoyed it. We were not as tight as we could have been, but we played late and had been drinking and taking speed for two days and nights! We always have fun when we play, otherwise whats the point. I don't want to see a band on stage looking nervous or miserable, if you don't enjoy it, then you shouldn't do it!!
Louis: I remember our Dutch gig being a tremendous good time, very hot, and a very energetic crowd. The green beans, rice and salmon was also nice.
Last, but obviously most important question: when will you return to Holland?
Johnny: At 7 Euros for a bag of speed?? As soon as we can mate!!
Louis: Send us the money for flights and we're there mate.