The day Jonny Toogood, main man behind legendary Kiwi-Aussie hard rock act Shihad rings us, it’s his 41st birthday and he’s feeling reflective. “It’s actually my birthday today!” he announces. “It’s insane, I really don’t think that much differently than I did when I was 18. How does it happen? I actually thought turning 40 was sweet! 41 seems not so special,” he laughs. On this auspicious occasion Toogood comments on the band’s recent release, a brand new single Right Outta Nowhere. The raunchy, de-tuned shuffle is something a little unexpected from them and the different vibe to the song came from the very different approach to recording they employed this time around.

“It’s all tuned down to A, which is ridiculously low,” he explains. “We actually had a Melbourne boy record us at York Street Studios, where we recorded our first three records in Auckland. We recorded it old school, in that he made us play everything live. We just did take after take after take, just like you did in the old days. We’ve never done that, we’re always like ‘Do the drums, do the bass, do the guitars, and get it absolutely spot on,’ but this time it was like ‘Here’s the track, go! Boom, nail it. Don’t fuck up!’ It was really exciting.


“I think I was trying to do something like [early eighties UK post-punk band] The Fall,” he continues, regarding the new song, “But it turned out more like Black Sabbath or Queens of the Stoneage. But I really like it, it’s a really fun, colourful hippy rock song. But it still kicks out the jams, it’s still rockin’.”


They’ve also put out a compilation album called The Meanest Hits. “In New Zealand, we say everything’s ‘mean’, you know!” he informs us. They will tour the country in support of the single and compilation in September, and Jon cannot wait.


“We’ll be doing a longer set than usual, we’ll be representing every record we’ve ever done, including our first EP (which was released way back in 1990). It’s really fun re-learning that as a 40-year-old guy. It’s like ‘Wow! I really needed to get laid!’” he chuckles. “It’s a real mental, physical exercise, learning something like 52 riffs. The only way to do that is to be super tight, otherwise it sucks. So we’ll rehearse and rehearse and nail it.”


It caps off what has been a very busy period for Jon, the band and the other members, which is exactly the way he likes it. “Yeah, we’ve [done] lots of things,” he agrees, “and aside from all that [drummer Tom Larkin] has been recording Australian bands and managing Australian bands, and I’m off doing this thing called The Adults, which is me and a whole bunch of other Kiwi musicians. We just played with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra the other day, and it was mean. My parents used to take me to see that as a kid, you know. Just the sound that an orchestra can put out, it’s huge. It was pretty amazing listening to an orchestra playing music that we’d written. It’s like ‘I’m standing onstage with this,’ and the next day I’m flying over and playing to people at Splendour In the Grass with Shihad, doing the ‘explodey’ rock thing. So yeah, I’ve been really busy. It’s good, I like that.”


It only seems like yesterday that Shihad released their last studio album Ignite, when really it’s coming up to two years. Jon agrees that the time has flown, especially now that he’s over 40 and thinks it’s time for them to start thinking about getting something new out there. And they have some rather unusual plans for that as well.


“Time flies, it’s like what we were talking about earlier,” he says. “It’s all relative to your age, it flies past, it seems like yesterday we were writing that record. It’s insane. The idea is to write a new record, write new stuff with the guys. And then Jaz Coleman, the guy from Killing Joke who produced our first album, wants to make another record with us, but he wants to go to Cairo in Egypt and do it. Apparently that’s where the end of the world is happening, so we should go there. That sounds crazy enough to just do it.”


In the meantime, head along to catch Shihad on this coming tour, as this is what you’ll experience: “We will be out to make those shows totally electrifying, bombastic and big.”


That’s par for the course for Shihad as we all know, but our mouths are watering already anyway.




Shihad play the Hi-Fi on Thursday September 6. Tickets from thehifi.com.au.