Los Angeles-based rockers The Shadow Principle bring a successful mix of alternative, progressive and punk rock on their second full-length outing “Oblivion.” Over the course of ten songs the band delivers a stunning performance filled with both melodic and energetic Rock sound, just as it should be.
Singer Nohl Takahashi and bassist Dave Tomkins were recently interviewed by Progarchy, and they told us about their beginnings, new album, playing live, and some more.
What made you go for the name The Shadow Principle?
DAVE: We lifted the phrase from Joseph Campbell, who in Hero with a Thousand Faces describes the shadow principle as the “magical costume,” representing the shape of the soul, worn by Siberian shaman seeking out the “lost or abducted souls of the sick.” I suppose for us the shadow principle represents ideas and impulses that first emerge internally—in the imagination—that take shape externally in the form of sound.
As for what made us go with it, honestly, we were hard pressed for a name at the time, and finding something we could all agree on was—and remains—a tall order. But when this particular name came along, we all sort of looked at each other and thought, yeah, that works for us.
When did you start making music? Were you involved with any other projects or bands before forming The Shadow Principle?
DAVE: Reza Moosavi and I knew one another and had jammed together on a number of occasions over the years. In 2009, we found a drummer and decided to put a band together. That band, a sort-of progressive metal act called Murder at the Well, released one album in 2010. Shortly after the album’s release, we parted ways with the drummer. When Kurt Berens came into the fold, and the band’s writing began moving away from the whole metal thing and toward more of a post-punk meets hard rock vibe, we just thought it best to start over with a new identity. So, in 2011, the Shadow Principle was born, and in 2012 we released our first record, “Golden State.”
NOHL: I’ve been in the band Daijobu since high school, and was in One Hour Left for a one-time recording with Josh Freese.
You have just released your new album “Oblivion.” What can you tell us about its sound?
DAVE: Well, we have a new singer, Nohl Takahashi, who brings a bigger set of pipes to the table, that’s for sure. After singing on Golden State (as well as the Murder at the Well record), I really felt that our live shows would improve dramatically if someone else—a proper front person—handled the vocals. I enjoyed singing on those records, and frankly I still think that the Bowie-vibe my voice brought to the music set us apart a little. But I’m a bassist first and foremost, and not only did I want to concentrate more on what I do best, I wanted the sonic scope—not to mention the appeal of the band—to broaden. For all of these reasons, Reza and Kurt were keen on the idea of adding a front person as well, so we looked and looked, and then we found Nohl. And I’m so glad that happened. The guy is a great singer, with a huge voice. To my ears, all the instruments featured in our music are now equally powerful. There’s no weak link. And live, there’s no doubt we’re playing better. Reza, Kurt, and I were a tight band before, but now it’s just ridiculous.
Another thing people familiar with our last album might notice is the additional time we took to sculpt the guitar and bass sounds. Whereas on the last record, Reza was playing a 7-string Ibanez, now he’s all about the Les Paul, which I love. And though I’m still playing a 5-string Fender Jazz, I took a bit of the twang out of my sound, and added more low-mid, as well as a bit of chorus and wah here and there. The result, I think, is that this record has more of a classic sound, a 70s sound, with a lot more balls than we had last time around.
Finally, I think that the songs on this record are more tightly constructed. Every transition, every new section, every part you hear has been carefully considered and labored over. We really aimed to make the whole thing as tight and cohesive as possible.
NOHL: It is absolutely pure and genuine analog rock with heart and soul, and offers pure driving commitment to the ears.
What is your favorite piece on the “Oblivion”?
DAVE: My personal favorites are “Phantom Satellite,” “Starless Skies,” “When the Sun Appears,” and “Headstrong.” But, as with most things, were you to ask every member of that band that question, you would likely receive four very different answers!
NOHL: Passenger, Dead Walking, and Headstrong.
Are you satisfied with where “Oblivion” landed?
DAVE: Musically? Yes, for the most part. We achieved much of what we set out to achieve. It’s a more cohesive record than “Golden State,” I think, with stronger songs and better performances. Of course, one always hears things one would now do differently. But the four of us feel strongly that we made a very good rock record that blends some unique styles (from prog to punk) and could appeal to a great many people – given that people have an opportunity to hear it! That’s really the challenge at this point. We don’t know yet where this album has landed in terms of building our fan base. Fingers are crossed we’ve reached a turning point. We’ll see.
NOHL: “Oblivion” is still spreading its wings in garnering a foundation and it has yet to find a global home, but we feel it’s indeed coming.
Are members of The Shadow Principle as energetic as “Oblivion”?
DAVE: I’m not sure about that. Everyone’s pretty relaxed, really. Especially Kurt, ironically, given that he’s Mr. Energy behind the drum kit. Nohl is probably the most kinetic. I suppose Reza and I are somewhere in the middle.
It seems The Shadow Principle enjoys performing live. What are the plans of the band when it comes to concerts in the coming period?
DAVE: We’re keen to perform wherever and whenever we can. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates to our show schedule!
NOHL: We love the unpredictable conditions and the pureness of performing rock music. We go with the flow.
What does a Shadow Principle show look like? What can audience expect from your gigs?
DAVE: It’s a pretty raw affair, really, given that we haven’t much budget for a stage show. I suppose audiences are likely to see Nohl and I moving around a lot! On the whole, though, I think that people who watch us perform see a lot of passion, dedication, and focus. We’re a very tight unit, and we set very high standards for ourselves in terms of proficiency. Plus, we play very high-energy sets to keep people engaged.
NOHL: Real people playing real rock music. No gimmicks, no props, no distractions, just pure and honest rock delivery performances.
Where do you see The Shadow Principle in 10 years from now?
DAVE: Who knows? We’re much more focused on the present, I think. We want people to hear this new record now (and hopefully buy it). We want to play fantastic shows now. We want to turn people on to our band now. We have a lot to offer anyone who’s willing to listen, and really, it’s the participation and support of those people that will determine where we are as a band in 10 years. We’re all about right now—and right now, the goal is to grow the band as much as possible.
People reading this can help 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!
NOHL: On Mars performing in an underground base with Martian groupies waiting at the exits.