Josh Hamler, rhythm guitarist for Shaman’s Harvest, was kind enough to sit down and chat abou the band’s new album, Rebelator, which will be released on March 11, 2022. The album is fantastic. He also chats about going back out on the road with Theory of a Deadman, touring with Nickelback, the pros and cons of being a rock star and so much more. Hope you enjoy it..
(All band photos by Adrienne Beacco
Welcome To Let’s Rock!
Hey! It’s good to be here.
How are you doing?
Doing great, man. Just another frigid day here in mid-Missouri.
Join the club. It’s about -25 celsius here.
Yeah, I should know my audience. I should know better than to complain about temperatures. (laughs)
Yeah, it’s a little rough here. This is crazy. I don’t know if you saw my First Reaction of your new album. I posted it yesterday.
Yeah, I did.
I apologize so much. I’d never heard of you guys until Friday of last week.
Well, yeah. We’ve always been considered the little engine that could in the rock and roll world. We’re always just in the shadow of everything else, for the past 20 years it seems, so par for the course, but glad you’re on board now.
It blew me away, dude. Where has your music been all my life?
Our first record, we only printed 1000, or 3000 CDs back in 1999 and we’ve never repressed them, so there’s only 3000 of them. And I’m pretty sure, on any given weekend, you can find one at a garage sale here in Jefferson City for like 25 cents. So, just FYI.
Come on now. Well, I’m on board. Fantastic album. Congratulations. It’s amazing.
Thank you, man! Thank you.
A lot of time and a lot of work was put into this, wasn’t it?
It was. Both strategically, and then it was just forced upon us with 2020 and then trying to get back to it in 2021. We’re just really thrilled that the record we thought was coming out 2 years ago is finally coming out March 11 of this year, and we get to go back out on tour and see the country and see the world. Who can argue with that?
Has it been in the can for that long?
Yeah, yeah. We finished tracking…all the tracks were done December of ’19. We had intentions of coming out in June-July of ’20, and everyone knows what happened there. And then it was just trying to get everything restarted after that, so it wasn’t just flip the switch and go. It was like, ok, now we have to reorganize everything. It just took a minute. And especially to be able to do everything right. Luckily, we’ve got the good people at Mascot Label Group to really bend over backwards and go the extra mile for us. So, we kind of took some advice from them on how we’ll release the whole thing, and everything has just been going great. (laughs)
So, this interview is quite early, then?
Yeah, it’s almost 3 months early.
But, you’re going out on tour next month, and I checked setlist.fm and you guys haven’t played a gig since 2019.
No, we haven’t. Whenever we record a record, we like to dive all in on the record and not have to have 1000 irons in the fire. So, that’s what we did. Initially, once we got off the road in 2018, in October of 2018, we almost took an entire year off to just do the demos for the new record…something we’d never really done before. But, on top of everything else, we were exhausted. We had toured 6 years straight, 300 days a year. I don’t care who you are, that’s exhausting. Yeah, it’s rock n’ roll, but it’s a daily grind. We needed a little break to become creative again.
And it worked.
Yeah, hopefully. It was a really good process, and what’s cool is, this is like, 2 years ago, basically, and it’s just coming out now, and we already have the next something to put out there as soon as we get to it. It has been some time. It’s like riding a bike, though. We still know how to do it. We got together a couple weeks ago and jammed. It was pretty sweet. (laughs)
That sounds so bizarre for a rock band. ‘ We got together a couple of weeks ago and jammed.’
Yeah. We’re not all in Central Missouri anymore. I’m the only one here in our hometown still. Nathan’s outside of Nashville. Derrick’s down in Cape Girardeau and Adam is up in Burlington, Iowa. We’re all about 5 hours from each other. It’s not easy, and on top of everything else, we all have families, we all have our home lives. And that was another big adjustment, getting off the road in 2018 and taking some time off. We got to be part of our household lives again, which was kind of a blessing. (laughs)
You’re going out on tour on February 15. So how long before that will you get together and polish everything up?
We’ve actually gotten together a few times of the last 2 months, spend 4 or 5 days here and 4 or 5 days there, just depending on schedules. Bt, we’re gonna spend the first week and a half of February just going through= it and doing the final pre-pro(duction), and having all the crew, and having all the bells and whistles with us and setting it up and jamming the show and preparing for it. Theory of a Deadman have always been great to us whenever we toured with them in the past. We couldn’t think of a more fitting way of re-introducing ourselves, and this new record to the world, you know, starting out with our friends.
Are you worried about what it’s gonna be like during a pandemic. You’ve never had a show during this. Are you worried about how everything is gonna run?
Uh, yeah. I’m optimistic. You’ve gotta be optimistic, otherwise (laughs) it’ll wear you down. But Nate, our singer, he has immune deficiency, so it does worry me a bit. If there’s an illness, he’ll get it first before anybody, and have it 3 or 4 times before anyone else will get it. The most important thing for us is for all of us to maintain our health. As long as we can maintain our health, we can go out and tour and our fans can get to see us. There aren’t going to be the same opportunities as tours past. We’re not doing VIP meet and greets. There’s gonna be a lot less off-stage interactions between us and our fans. And that’s always been something we’ve always prided ourselves on, is meeting our fans, going out in the crowd, taking pictures. Not charging people to take a picture in the crowd. You know, just being a part of the night and making a memory. So not doing that this time around is gonna be something different for us. I don’t know what we’re gonna do. I guess we’re gonna hang out on the bus all the time, you know?
Yeah, and also, you won’t get to hang out with Theory…
You’ve gotta keep your distance from your friends as well, right?
Yeah. Those guys love to golf. I love to golf. Are we gonna be able to go golfing? I won’t know until the tour starts. I’m bringing my clubs though.
There’s gotta be somewhere that’s not as cold as where you’re at right now.
Right. Luckily, we have 7 days in Florida, so who’s gonna complain about that in February?
I’ll tell you, I wish I could go down there right now, man. I’m sick of it already and it’s only January.
Let’s talk about this new album. The thing that blew me away, and again I’m new to Shaman’s Harvest, but is, you’re just so eclectic. You go from heavy metal in the first couple of tracks to super blues in some of the tracks with acoustic slide guitar. You’re all over the place? Where does this come from. How do you go from one to the other so quickly and easily?
Yeah, it is kind of strange, I will admit.
Ah, wait a second. I didn’t say it was strange. I should have said it’s awesome.
Right. We’ve been doing this a long time and there’s always been little characteristics of our sound that people will say, ‘oh they sound like this band,’ or ‘they sound like that band.’ Really, we can be influenced by any and all, you know. Music’s music. What we kind of set out to do was degenrefy music. It’s basically good music, or it’s not. Two kinds of music and it doesn’t matter what genre wanna label it. It’s either good or it’s isn’t. So, let’s degenrefy it, and call it what it is…it’s just music, you know. All the labels on it, just kind of drive us crazy. We’re kind of like a sonic, jambalaya of influence. All of us have our own little characteristics of what we bring to the table. And when we write, I know something that’s going to pique Nate’s interest, so I’ll kind of write something in that vain. And then he’ll hop in and be all on board or he” think opf something tht he knows I’m gonna be into, so he’ll write something in that vain. Then we just mix it up.
Derrick’s a phenomenal guitar player. Every solo he plays is really dumbed down. I mean he just shred and do all the technical things you want him to do all day long. But that kind of stuff just goes back to the song is the song. It doesn’t have to have all the frills. It’s either a good song or it isn’t a good song. It’s the same kind of principle. Less is more approach, and I guess we get that from more of the blues-based music, but we’re still metal fans, too. And we just kind of take it all in and stir it up and spit it out.
That’s one thing I noticed about the album, and I even mentioned it in the review. I can tell at some points that Derrick can shred, but it’s all about the tune. It doesn’t have to be all John 5 all the time. I love John 5 and I love Steve Vai and all those guys, but it wouldn’t fit in your songs.
Right. That’s kind of our goal. It’s a less is more kind of approach, and we really wanna focus on each individual song. Each individual song will have it’s own life and characteristics and whatnot. Sometimes it’s real Southern, gritty and sometimes it’s tight, crunchy, in your face. Sometimes it’s a soft ballad melody or sometimes it’s a guttural scream that makes it happen. You know, we’ve driven our management and our record label crazy because we can’t say what genre we are. For whatever reason, if they put us in active rock, and I get it, we have some active rock songs, but we’re pretty much about degenrefying music.
That’s awesome. One song that really stood out to me was Bird Dog. It’s a fantastic tune. It’s just got such an eerie vibe to it. Can you tell me the story behind that one?
We were in the early days of pre-production. We had just tracked one song, one demo and were just kind of stuck. Everyone was throwing all these ideas out, but it was just kind of like there was too mant ideas been thrown out at the same time, so no one could ever get focused on anything. I was sitting ovder in the corner and I just started playing that drony guitar (sings guitar line) and just started playing that as commotion’s going around. All of a sudden, Nate’s like, ‘Shhh, Josh, keep playing that. I think we can do something with this.’ And eventually, it evolved into Bird Dog. But it was all just based off that dark, primal, euch feel of the opioid crisis in America. That’s kind of what it was all based on. All these communities that once thrived, all because of this drug that was given to them by their doctor, destroyed the whole community. Kind of odd.
So it is eerie. Not just the sound, but the whole message of it.
More than that, we don’t necessarily like to define our songs. We really like the definition of any of our songs to be what you decide or whatever the listener decides what it is. Where it grabs you, is what to means to you and what it means to me is what it means to me, and we’re both right. We kind of write in a vague way to try to get that interaction between the music and the listener. I think that, from the reaction we got, just my individual opinion of it, really does that. It just captures the mood. It sets a scene in your brain, so while you’re listening to it, it paints the damn picture. I love music that does that. You can hear it and you can jam to it, but can you see the color that it’s putting off, you know. Bird Dog has that dark, dark color to it.
The funny thing is, I very rarely listen to lyrics. I’m more of an all-about-the-music guy, so when I was saying it was eerie, I was just thinking about the instrumentation. But now that you mention, I’m gonna have to go back and listen to the words. I listen to the melodies but not the words, so I never knew what it was about.
Yeah, it was a really fun one to track. We love to be in the studio and just grab some things to make a couple things and make some sound with them. We have a bunch of little eerie, things that you wouldn’t even know you’re hearing, little clicks or pops or hoots and has and all the little bells and whistles we put into it, just to give it that real authentic feel. It was fun.
And speaking of all the bells and whistles, the guitar sound on this is really heavy.
(Note to reader: It’s about to get gear nerded out. Apologies to all the non musicians out there.)
What are you using? but before that, I wanted to ask you…You’re dropped down pretty far, aren’t you?
Actually, Bird Dog is in standard tuning, standard dropped D. The majority of the songs on the new record are in standard tuning.
Yeah. A lot of them we tried to record in B and it’s hell on your guitars. We found out that it transposes really good to standard tuning. Now, we’ve layered some guitars in there. There’s like a third guitar part in there sometimes. It sometimes adds a dark tone to everything. But, yeah, for the most part everything was in standard. Toe The Line, we recorded in drop A, so that one’s a low one.
What kind of guitars are you using on this?
I used my PRS Mccarty, and I have a Tele, and, what is that one? Another PRS single-cut that I got. Those are my main axes. Then I used a Dean ML on some of it. On Bird Dog of all songs. And then amp-wise, I ran through a Fender Twin Reverb. Also ran through a 5150 (Note: obligatory EVH reference) and also ran through a …I’m trying to remember. I mean it was three years ago. I should have written it all down.
That surprises me. You’re using a Dean on Bird Dog. (Good timing for Geddy the Rock Dog to jump up on me)
Yeah. It just had a weird characteristic to it that none of my other guitars had. It just fit musically, not necessarily visually. It’s kind of like whats that guitar doing in that song? That’s what I’m using live too. It just has a particular sound that makes that song come alive.
You can’t picture a Dean doing that kind of sound. (The guitar geek section of the interview is now finished)
So, I have to ask this. A while back, you toured with Nickelback.
I’ve asked a few band members from other bands this question. Why do they get such a bad rap?
You know, I don’t know. They were a blessing to be on the road with. Every night, I saw 25,000 people, of all walks of life, men and women, crying and singing every single word to 27 songs. It was just unbelievable, and the hospitality and the mentorship that they supply is just amazing. They’re great guys.
I can’t understand the hate. I’m sure you’ve seen stuff on the internet…
Oh yeah! Everybody knows, but I guess it’s like if you win the lottery, some people are gonna say, ‘ah, son of a bitch won the lottery.’
Jealousy. That’s ultimately what it is. You know, when you’ve written 37 number 1 hit songs, what do you even care what anyone thinks?
Do they care? Do they say anything about it?
No, they didn’t make a big deal of it in any way. We never talked about it. They were just always nice people and we treated them with respect and they treated us with respect.
Awesome. Have you been up to Canada?
It was amazing. We got to play in every single hockey arena across Canada.
So that was a Canadian tour?
Yeah, that was awesome.
So, you’ve played Ottawa?
I don’t think we played Ottawa. We didn’t play em all, but we played a lot of them.
Well, we have to get you back here at some point.
Yeah, we’d love that.
I wanna finish this off with kind of a weird thing I do sometimes. When I first started this site, I was living in Korea and my daughter was about 9 years old and she always wanted to ask rock stars some questions. So, she wrote about 10 questions and I throw them out sometimes. They’re a little different than normal, but we’ll give it a shot. Here’s a good one. What do you do when you make a mistake on stage?
Nathan always makes fun of me because I smile. If I make a mistake, I’ll just kind of grin and he’ll turn and look at me and see that I grinned and he’s like, ‘oh he knows that he screwed up.’ (laughs) I just crack a smile just try to keep playing. I think that’s the difference between professional and non-professional musicians. You gotta be able to fake it on the fly sometimes.
I don’t know you’re whole touring history, but outside of the US, what’s the coolest country you’ve played in?
We’ve only played North America, and Canada was awful cool. It was 2017 and we had never been outside of the States before, honestly. So we get to Canada, and the first show’s in Toronto, then Montreal. Later on it was the central to the West cities and whatnot. I was like, Damn, this country is cool. They’ve got a lot of things America doesn’t have. Why doesn’t America do anything like this?’ It’s just something simple, like in the restaurants, the server carrying a little thing and you can just pay right there. It’s amazing. So we get back to the States and I’m like, God, we don’t have any of the tings they have up in Canada.
Well, we’re pretty advanced.
So, let’s change that question a bit then. What country would you like to play?
We’ve been trying a long time to get across the pond to England and to Europe. We’ve had a couple opportunities that just fell through right at the last minute: One being COVID related, one not being COVID related. We seem to be growing a fan base in Europe, the UK, in South America, Brazil. And in Australia, if you look at all of our streaming numbers and all that stuff, I’m thinking that sooner than later, we’re actually gonna be able to get out and not just be stuck in North America, not that it’s bad or anything, but we wanna get out and take the show on the road and get across the pond.
Alright two more, that are related. First, what’s the best ting about being a rock star?
Hmmm, well, anytime you can pay your bills doing something you love, that’s winning.
OK. What’s the worst thing about being a rock star?
She stumped you.
(laughs) You know, living life on the road isn’t always easy, especially when you’ve got a family at home. that you’ve got to feed. For me, being on the road, the most difficult part is just being away from my house.
Yeah, I can imagine, especially if you’re doing what you said before, 300 shows a year.
Yeah. I’ve got three sons and been married quite a while. It’s a big responsibility on its own.
That’s a long time to be away from family.
Well, I’m not gonna keep you too long. Congratulations again! Rebelator is fantastic.
Thank you, man. Thank you.
I hope this is the one that gets you across the pond and down to Australia and over to Japan. Japan would be fun.
Yeah, I’d love to do that too. And Ottawa. Let’s get back up to Canada.
As soon as this thing clears up, man. Let’s do it. I’ve gotta see this band now. I’m so happy that Steve passed along your album and said let’s do this.
Yeah, I love Steve.
Oh, he’s fantastic. So, again congratulations. Best of luck on the tour, two weeks from now, and it runs for about a month?
Yeah, it’ll be a nice way to ease into it and knock the dust off.
And what happens after that? Are you doing a headlining tour?
Yeah, we’re gonna a co-headlining tour with one of our label mates. That’s all being figured out right now. I think we’ll come home for a week or two and then go back on the road, doing this co-headlining thing for a month and a half until festival season hits in May and June. Rockfest in Wisconsin, just announced today. We’re part of that on the Sunday lineup with Shinedown. So, a bunch of festivals are gonna be popping up, there are announcements to be made and we’re just gonna focus on staying healthy, keeping the show on the road all year long and supporting the new record. It was a gruelling process to make this record, but I wholeheartedly believe that what we created was well worth (what) we put into it.
Totally agree. If you come up to Ottawa, please play Lilith.
Oh, yeah. It’s in the setlist, man.
Good. That’s my favourite song on the album. That one blew me away.
Right on. We hope that’s maybe a radio single coming up in a month or so.
Yeah, it’s a great song. Thanks so much for this. Congratulations. Best of luckand hopefully we will see you up in Ottawa or Montreal or Toronto at some point.
All right, man. Sounds good.
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(With Theory of a Deadman)
2/15 Huntsville, AL Mars Music Hall
2/17 Brandon, MS City Hall Live
2/18 New Orleans, LA House of Blues
2/19 Little Rock, AR The Hall
2/21 San Antonio, TX Tobin Center
2/22 Houston, TX White Oak Music Hall
2/23 Dallas, TX The Factory Deep Ellum
2/25 Oklahoma City, OK Criterion
2/26 Miami, OK Buffalo Run Casino
2/28 Mobile, AL Soul Kitchen
3/01 Atlanta, GA Buckhead Theatre
3/02 Tampa, FL Hard Rock Event Center
3/05 Ft. Myers, FL The Ranch
3/06 Orlando, FL Hard Rock
3/08 Chattanooga, TN The Signal
3/09 Charlotte, NC Fillmore
3/11 Raleigh, NC The Ritz
3/12 Myrtle Beach, SC House of Blues
3/13 Charleston, SC Charleston Music Hall
5/19 Jacksonville, FL Welcome To Rockville
Note: All appearances other than Welcome To Rockville supporting Theory Of A Deadman