For every band it’s the second album that proves if a group has potential to make waves. Luckily for a quartet from Los Angeles, going under the name The Shadow Principle, the previous statement is confirmed. After years of working on a follow-up to their debut album Golden State (2012), this July brought a record that is by all standards a very strong contender for one of the best releases of the year. Titled Oblivion, this new album is a release that shows an ambitious group which hints that better is yet to come.
Dave Tomkins (bass, vocals), Reza Moosavi (guitar), and Nohl Takahashi (vocals) answered our questions.
Hey folks. How are you doing?
ALL: Very well. Thanks for asking.
You released Oblivion recently. How do you feel about the release?
DAVE: We feel very good about it, overall. When you work this hard on something for this long, it becomes nearly impossible to view its quality in an objective way. But so far, the feedback we’ve received has been extremely positive, which of course we’re all very happy about.
How much of a challenge was to work on the album?
REZA: This album was a really satisfying and enjoyable experience for us. We had over a year of pre-production preparedness and had just brought in a new vocalist, Nohl, who added an entirely new and exciting dynamic. Since this was the third album that Dave and I recorded together (and our second with Kurt), we had our game plan and method down.
NOHL: The only challenge for me was to be present 100% with the heart when making this record.
DAVE: My experience making this album differed from that of my bandmates considerably. While I’m happy with the results, I found the process of making this album—from writing, to arranging, to recording—incredibly difficult. But then, I’m a perfectionist, and I’m really sensitive to how music makes me feel. If a song doesn’t feel fresh, unique, exciting, or if it doesn’t really attract me lyrically, harmonically, and/or melodically, I’m just not satisfied. And I’ll keep working at it and working at it until it finally feels “right.” We had so many versions of the songs on this album! We must have had at least twenty different versions of “Starless Skies,” and tried at least that many different approaches to “Stand Down” and “Minutiae.” Becoming accustomed to working as a four piece also presented some challenges. That said, the two days we spent recording backing tracks at Kingsize were super easy and loads of fun. Everything else though … man, it was tough. BUT, you’d never know it from listening to the record!
What other artists similar to your genre that are coming from Los Angeles are you friends with?
REZA: Los Angeles is a really mixed bag of different bands right now. There are not really any bands like us specifically, and we enjoy that distinction. We are a traditional rock band in certain ways, but our approach is unique—and we definitely bring that in a live context.
What is your opinion about the current alternative scene?
NOHL: It’s still in the process of evolution. Evolving to what, we have no idea.
Can you tell me something about your influences?
REZA: Thankfully, our influences differ so dramatically from person to person that we end up with a very unique blend when we collaborate. Dave is very much the astute progressive musician, whereas Kurt came from a metal drumming background but always had a love of progressive rock, especially Rush. Noel is more of an alternative rock and punk rock aficionado. My personal influences are the classic guitar greats, but infused with a lot of the 80’s post-punk and metal music. Together I think we have distilled some of the best of those influences into what we think really can capture an audience.
NOHL: Anything rock with a sense of soul to it I’m a fan of.
DAVE: I’m a big fan of Pete Townshend’s songwriting, and more recently of Steven Wilson’s. I love Beck’s acoustic-based stuff, too. And the guys in Interpol craft some pretty awesome songs. When it comes to bass, I’m all about the hall-of-famers: Chris Squire, John Entwhistle, Tony Levin, Geddy Lee, Jaco, of course, Alphonso Johnson, and Stanley Clarke. It doesn’t get better than those guys.
What are you listening to these days?
REZA: I’m listening to everything from experimental artists like Burial to really deep synth music like Cliff Martinez and Vangelis. I tend to listen to modern rock music as a way to gauge production techniques and guitar recording. My real inspirations are not usually from guitar based music at all.
DAVE: Lately I’ve been enjoying Steven Wilson’s Hand. Cannot. Erase record, and I like a lot of the songs on Refused’s latest album Freedom—especially “Servants of Death” and “Elektra.” And I love Bowie’s Blackstar, but I can’t listen to it all the way through without getting incredibly bummed that he’s no longer with us. I also think Beck’s Morning Phase, TV on the Radio’s Seeds, and Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool are all brilliant.
What are your 5 favorite records of all the time?
DAVE: I find questions like this incredibly hard to answer because my musical tastes are always evolving. I suppose the five albums that have influenced me most over the last 3-4 years are:
1. David Bowie, Scary Monsters
2. King Crimson, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic
3. Roxy Music, For Your Pleasure
4. Magazine, Secondhand Daylight
5. Peter Gabriel, Melty Face
REZA: This changes often …
1. Hendrix, Electric Ladyland
2. Metallica, Master of Puppets
3. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
4. Vangelis, Blade Runner Soundtrack
5. Weezer, The Blue Album
- Radiohead, OK Computer
- Nirvana, Nevermind
- Silverchair, Diorama
- Jeff Buckley, any album
- Fugazi, Repeater
Can you tell me a little bit more about the gear you use to record Oblivion?
REZA: Oblivion was tracked at Kingsize Soundlabs in Los Angeles on a Vintage Neve 16 track board onto Protools with an Apogee interface. The Neve preamps into the Apogee really set the sonic soundstage for this album. For guitars, I used primarily Friedman and Wizard Amplifiers with Gibson Les Paul guitars. Dave uses Ampeg amps and Fender 5 string American Deluxe Jazz basses. Kurt’s on a Tama kit that he knows how to tune incredibly well.
NOHL: Excellent microphones and basic effects.
Besides the release of the album, are there any other plans for the future?
NOHL: We are planning to make a video for the song “The Passenger.”
DAVE: Yes, and hopefully one for “Phantom Satellite” as well. We’ll also play live constantly, introducing our music to as many people as possible. People reading this can help the and immensely by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and by checking out the new record! You’ll find it on iTunes, Amazon, and Bandcamp. Also, if you dig us, tell your friends. Share a link to our stuff on social media. I can’t overstate the importance of those little gestures in this day and age. We’d love to keep making music for you—help us do so by spreading the word!