THE SHADOW PRINCIPLE: Speaking the Truth

The Shadow Principle

The Shadow Principle, an alternative, progressive and punk rock quartet from Los Angeles, returned this year with their sophomore full-length release Oblivion, which sees the band pushing the creative envelope started with 2012′s debut Golden State. Singer Nohl Takahashi and bassist and singer Dave Tomkins talked with Prog Sphere about the new record, influences, technology, and future plans.

Define the mission of The Shadow Principle.

DAVE: I think we’re using music as a vehicle though which to grow, learn, and connect. We’ve all become better players and writers as a result of being in this band. And I think we’ve become more reflective and broadminded humans as well. We’re keen to connect with fans interested in taking that journey with us, and in making some unique and memorable music along the way.

NOHL: To produce and provide raw and organic, anthemic rock ‘n’ roll to all ages of perspective. To be the voice of truth within the world of illusion.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your new album Oblivion and the themes it captures.

DAVE: After completing our first record, Golden State, which was a concept album, I grew interested in writing some stand-alone songs untethered to an overarching theme. Initially, I brought in “When the Sun Appears,” two mini-epics called “Byzantium” and “Rivers,” and a quirky song in 6/4 called “So Dark.” The band developed innumerable arrangements of each song, and along the way noted the opportunities this new material presented for a bigger vocal presence within the band than I could provide — one that would undoubtedly have a positive impact on live presentations of our established material as well. And so began the long search for a new lead vocalist that culminated in the discovery of my friend Nohl here in the Summer of 2015.

With Nohl fully integrated into the band, writing on what would become Oblivion continued throughout 2015 and into 2016. During this period, “So Dark” became “Starless Skies,” “Rivers” became “Stand Down,” our guitarist Reza brought in “Headstrong” and “Dead Walking,” and I added “Phantom Satellite,” “Brutal Muse,” and “The Passenger,” with Nohl adding additional lyrics to each. All ten songs endured a vigorous arrangement process whereby Nohl and I worked out vocal harmonies, and all four musicians in the band had the opportunity to create unique parts and to experiment with a variety of sounds and approaches, culminating in the full band arrangements one hears on the finished record.

NOHL: Thematically speaking, by “Oblivion” we mean an interpretive death of sorts for a conscious rebirth. The songs lyrically are designed for people waiting to reach a new level of cognition.

The Shadow Principle - Oblivion

What is the message you are trying to give with Oblivion?

DAVE: I, for one, never had a specific message in mind. I just wrote what I felt on any given day. But along the way, looking at the lyrics Nohl and I had written both apart and together, certain themes began to emerge. Alienation, isolation, a sense of being either at odds with or set apart from broader cultural phenomena. The passing of time. Loss — and how to deal with it. All that stuff is in there. It really seems to be an album, lyrically anyway, about various forms of existential angst.

NOHL: A sense of the overall acceptance of creation, while at the same time not denying the sense of destruction. It is a record that speaks the truth of paradigm in process.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

DAVE: Reza and I record demos for every musical idea we bring to the table, and the band records all its rehearsals. Typically, we spend the days in between rehearsals listening to and critiquing the material we worked on last time.

NOHL: We used classics like pen, paper, napkins and iPads, and we rehearse for four straight hours each time we meet.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully designed?

DAVE: Is it ever! Rest assured that every note on this record — every transition, every word, every nuance — has been reviewed, labored over, retooled, and subjected to vigorous debate. It’s an exhausting process, let me tell you.

NOHL: Everyone in this band has given 110% of their ultimate being in the performances of each song. The dynamics are independent to each creative soul on each song on this record. We recommend listening to each song and understanding what we are talking about.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

DAVE: Well, when it comes to recording, Bill O’Reilly’s infamous meltdown comes to mind: “Fuck it, we’ll do it live!” This band goes into the studio incredibly prepared, and typically knocks out all the instrumental tracks very quickly. This time, we did it in two days. Everyone played superbly. Vocals, of course, took a bit more time, but the voice is a more delicate instrument.

NOHL: We hit a wall of cognitive commitment to the process of making the music, and we then decided to commit to making the record. We all agreed it was time to push Dave’s songs to a new sonic medium, and also incorporate my creative interpretations.

How long Oblivion was in the making?

DAVE: About two years, all told.

NOHL: Over half the songs had been written prior to my entry, however, it was really brought to fruition and brought to the table only months ago. This record took less than a month to record. The main vocals were recorded within a 17-hour span, to note.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

DAVE: Oh, a variety of things, really. Refused’s latest album Freedom — especially “Servants of Death” and “Elektra” — was on my mind a lot. But then so was Steven Wilson’s Hand. Cannot. Erase, which is of course a very different kind of record. I also found myself returning again and again to five albums that have come to mean a lot to me in recent years: David Bowie - Scary Monsters, King Crimson - Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure, Magazine - Secondhand Daylight, and Peter Gabriel - Melty Face.

NOHL: No band or artist, just pure frequency and interpretations thereof.

What is your view on technology in music?

DAVE: Technology has, in one way or another, always played a role in the creation of of music. If it helps you get an idea across, why not use it?

NOHL: I feel technology and music is the new binary code to a complete cognitive control process of a creative release. When you can take away auto-tune tech and give back the lost art of soulful performances, then I’ll give two shits about technology.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

DAVE: Doesn’t music always serve a purpose beyond music? Isn’t that simply what music does? Music is about connection — transferal from artist to listener, fan to fan, and friend to friend. It’s a fundamentally social art form.

NOHL: Our music should be put into every satellite that is destined to reach new frontiers of life out in the cosmos.

What are your plans for the future?

DAVE: To play as often as possible form whomever we can reach. And to put everything we’ve got into promoting this record. Which reminds me, if you’re reading this and you like our band, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so that we can keep you updated on our activities. And do check out the new record! You’ll find it on iTunes, Amazon, and Bandcamp. And 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: For me lyrically, making an impact on music. I just can’t help but feel everyone’s been brainwashed into thinking it should sound good, as opposed to what’s being said. It’s time to garner a handshake between the right and left brain within music today.

Oblivion by The Shadow Principle is available now. Get it on Bandcamp.

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