It’s a long list of bands that have played host at one point or another to guitarist Darryl Shepard. Having cut his teeth in outfits like Slaughter Shack and Slapshot, Shepard served as guitarist in Milligram and Roadsaw in the late ’90s and early ’00s, eventually emerging with his own (mostly) instrumental outfit, Hackman, releasing two albums on Small Stone. Already working in his own drone project, Blackwolfgoat – the second Blackwolfgoat album, Dronolith, was released on CD through The Maple Forum – he joined Black Pyramid on vocals and guitar after their second album and 2013′s Adversarial (review here) resulted on Hydro-Phonic, a record that took Black Pyramid on a tour of Europe that included a stop at Hellfest in France, where the above photo was taken by Nicolas Dessables. When further lineup issues cropped up with Black Pyramid drummer Clay Neely relocating, Shepard and bassist Dave Gein formed The Scimitar, whose debut LP is due in 2014.
A third Blackwolfgoat is also set for release next year (in-studio here), and The Scimitar are scheduled to play The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in May and will reportedly have other sporadic shows supporting the album.
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Darryl Shepard
How did you come to do what you do?
I started playing music at a young age. In fourth grade I joined the school band, just as something to do. I originally wanted to play the saxophone, mainly because it looked cool, but they ran out of those so I picked the trumpet instead. Before that, we used to play the recorder in music class in school, and I always liked music class, so I guess that’s really why I joined the school band. I stayed with it right up until I graduated high school. When I was 14 or 15 I decided I wanted to play drums, but I didn’t have anywhere to put a drumset, so again I went with my second choice, the guitar. I just was drawn to music at an early age. Even though my parents weren’t musical my Dad was always playing music around the house, stuff like Earth, Wind and Fire, and he used to watch the TV show Soul Train all the time, and I loved that. And the Monkees, I watched that show religiously as a little kid. Once I graduated high school I put the trumpet down and focused only on the guitar, for the sole reason that I thought girls liked guitar players more than trumpet players. Not even kidding at all. I don’t think I knew who Chet Baker was at that point. So yeah, it’s all because of the Monkees and Earth, Wind and Fire, I guess.
Describe your first musical memory.
I think the very first musical memory I have involves the Monkees. I remember there was a birthday party at our house for me when I was probably five or six, and I distinctly remember dancing around and singing along to “No Time” by the Monkees off of Headquarters. I loved that song. And I remember all the other kids clapping and yelling when I finished my little act. That’s probably the first time that I did any type of “performing” in public, that I can remember. I couldn’t play an instrument at that point but I gave it my all. I was definitely hooked at that point.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
It would have to be playing with Black Pyramid at Hellfest in 2013. There have been other great shows, Milligram opening for Kyuss Lives! is one, but playing Hellfest was just a great time. We had an amazing slot and a long set, and the crowd was really into it. Soundchecking while Sleep were hanging out and talking to those guys and just feeling like we were part of this really awesome thing was a great feeling. There was a show earlier on that tour where it just sounded like complete crap onstage and I wasn’t happy at all about it, but all I had to do was think about playing Hellfest a couple of days later and it got me through that show. It just felt really good to feel like what we were doing was being appreciated by people who were fans of the music and who really cared about it. For me, it really does make a huge difference to have people enjoy what you’re creating, to GET IT, and Hellfest was a perfect example of that on a large scale.
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
I would say just recently, my belief in myself and that I would play music no matter what, that’s been tested. I’ve always believed that no matter my station in life or no matter what my circumstances were, I would always, without a doubt, play music. And recently that’s been tested, because I’m older now, and I have health issues to stay on top of, and I can’t go sinking money into musical endeavors with no financial payback like I used to be able to. I just can’t. I need a steady job, mainly for the health insurance. I can’t survive without insurance, due to my heart problems. I’ll always need to go back to the hospital and have procedures done and have the battery in my defibrillator changed for the rest of my life, things like that. That all costs a lot of money, and I wouldn’t be able to afford any of that without the insurance I get through my job. So I’ve really questioned if I can go on playing music in bands and how much longer this can continue without interfering with my “normal” life outside of music. It’s not even that I don’t want to play music anymore, it’s that I have a regular life and a way of living that I need to maintain, and I cannot have music interfere with that. I used to be very idealistic about that, thinking that music would always be the thing that I would do no matter what, but lately I’ve been questioning that a lot and trying to figure out how to make it all work.
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
I feel that it leads to places that you’ve wanted to go to but haven’t yet arrived at. When I graduated high school I was thinking about going to Berklee School of Music. I had to go in for an interview, and the person I had to see asked me what I wanted from my guitar playing. I told him I wanted to be able to play whatever I thought of playing right as I was thinking it, that it would just be automatic. I’m not talking about notes per se, but whole ideas, I wanted to think of something musically and then just be able to execute it. He didn’t seem too impressed by that, by the way. And I didn’t go to Berklee, mainly because they wanted me to go as a trumpet major and I only cared about guitar at that point, and there are a 10 million guitar players at Berklee but only a handful of trumpet players, at least back then that’s how it was. All shredders. But I feel that after all these years of playing, after all the experiences I’ve had, I basically do that now in Blackwolfgoat. It’s all been a progression from the time I learned to play the main riff of “Smoke on the Water” on one string to now. I’ve played in hardcore bands, metal bands, total free-form improv noise bands, solo acoustic shows, cover bands, all of this stuff, and picked up something at every stop along the way, and it’s all in there now. And it’s been a progression, for sure. There’s still stuff I want to play that I haven’t quite gotten the hold of yet, but I’m looking forward to getting there.
How do you define success?
Man, that is a question with a lot of answers. For me, success is a few things. Sitting on my couch and coming up with a really cool riff that I dig is total success. There’s actually a feeling I get when I come up with something I really dig where I don’t even care if anyone else hears it, I’m not even thinking about that. I’m just completely into the moment and the sound of it RIGHT THEN, and if I get off on that then it’s a success. Self-satisfaction is the greatest success of all. Of course, getting music out there for people to hear and accomplishing that the way you want in and of itself is success. I’ve had recording sessions where something sounded so fucking awesome or so cool that again, it didn’t even matter if anyone outside the studio heard it, I was hearing it right there and then, and I get that same feeling of self-satisfaction. I’d call that success.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
Probably the attacks on 9/11 in New York. I was in New York then and it was just a horrifying and shocking thing. The main thing I wish I had never seen was all the people going back to work just days after the attacks, and they were going to work in clouds of soot and smoke, and people were wearing masks to cover their mouths and just trudging back to work in all this destruction. It was a heavy thing to see. People just going about their lives and trying to work to make a living, make their rent, being attacked and then going back to work while the dust was still in the air. No rest at all, just back to the grind.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
As far as something musical? I’m still trying to record that perfect album that’s eight songs in 40 minutes. And every song is cool and the whole thing is solid and stands as a whole and also as as individual pieces. A classic album in the sense of what bands used to do in the ’70. I don’t care about a 30-song album in 20 minutes, or a two-song, hour-long album. I really want to create my own version of a classic rock album that fits into traditional musical values, things like 40-minute albums. That, to me, is musical perfection. Again, that’s something that I’m working towards, making progress. Very few bands write classic albums like I’ve described. It can be done, some bands have done it, but yeah, I just want to create a perfect heavy rock album at some point. My own version of Zeppelin IV or Master of Reality.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
At some point I’m going to publish my book, Black Thanksgiving, and I’m really looking forward to that. Even if it’s self-published or if someone else helps publish it, it’s gonna come out at some point. And I’m looking forward to having some time, some free time away from music and everything that entails, all the things that go into being in a band, having that time to really organize and get the stories together in a coherent manner that flows and putting it altogether officially. These stories have nothing to do with music directly or playing in a band, they’re not “band on tour” stories or like a musical diary or whatever, they’re stand alone stories that have nothing to do with music, which is what I set out to do. Believe it or not, there is life outside of music. I have an entirely different life outside of the band and outside the realm of music. And I dig that, a lot.
The Scimitar, “Babylon (Rough Mix)”
Tags: Black Pyramid, Blackwolfgoat, Darryl Shepard, Malden, Massachusetts, The Obelisk Questionnaire, The Scimitar