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A Conversation With Shawn Hall



Shawn Hall is well known as the Harpoonist of the award-winning duo, The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer. He’s put together a unique album with a variety of different musicians, entitled Satellite



Ken Wallis interviewed Shawn Hall for his radio show, Blues Source Canada, which airs on Blues & Roots Radio and The Hawk FM




Ken Wallis

There's a new release it's called Satellite and the Harpoonist. The Harpoonist of course is Shawn Hall and the new release is called Satellite Man. We’re joined by Shawn Hall. Thanks for coming along Shawn it's really great to talk to you.


Shawn Hall

Thanks for having me Ken, it's been a few years since we hung out. How are you doing?


Ken Wallis

I'm doing just great and I'm really enthused by this new release, and I would almost call it a new super group, because it's a whole bunch of musicians from different bands. Tell us all about it.


Shawn Hall

Sure thing. Two years ago I was doing a residency at the Centre For The Arts, and I went there after being on the road all summer and tucked myself in for a month in a room with a really nice piano and I kinda went bonkers, like I think a lot of people do. But I was up there when a lot of amazing folks go to hide out so I happened to be there when Colin Linden was there, when Fats Kaplin who plays with Jack Black was there, and it was a really neat chance meeting a gentleman by the name of Bradford Reed. He played an instrument that I've never seen before in my life. He invented an instrument like 30 years ago called the Pencilina, and he also played drums which is kind of similar to my bandmate Matt, where he's doing double duty.


The Pencilina, this is what he sounded like for the readers, he sounded like Medeski Martin & Wood in the 90s when they were like, you remember when they were like the funkiest. He sounded like that with one person which is absolutely completely insane. And he sounded like John Bonham on drums at the same time that he was playing slide base and slide guitar on this instrument that he invented. So fast forward to last year I had a gig that was in Portugal and it was called Chefs On Fire and Matt couldn't make it, and it was the first time in our career where, you know, things didn't pan out where Matt couldn’t be there, and so I called up Bradford, who lives in Brooklyn. I said hey man are you crazy? And he said yeah, and I said, do you like barbecued food and like endless wine? and he goes yeah. I said do you want to go to Portugal in three weeks and fill in for The Axe Murderer, and he goes you're f-ing nuts [Laughter]. And I call up another awesome guitarist named Eric Simons who I met at the Calgary Folk Festival the previous summer of 2019, and he was in a band called Revel In Dimes, and we went to Portugal and we played that gig and then that was what sparked the idea.


If I could put together something in three weeks and go to Portugal and land on my feet, then it's time to step out and that was the beginning of putting it together. So for this album, Bradford was the guy I called over from New York, and he came over and stayed at my place and then I rented a house for a week in Vancouver and I flew Jeffrey Hillhurst, the organ player, the Hammond player from The Deep Dark Woods, who is the most authentically unorthodox keyboard player I've ever encountered. Then I invited a conga percussionist drummer from a group called the Boom Booms from Vancouver, and we went to his rehearsal space and I got a film crew together and I did all that right before Covid happened.



Ken Wallis

I really gotta ask one question, with such a diverse group of musicians was it difficult coming up with tunes that you all could blend in together?


Shawn Hall

Well here's the thing, I knew all these guys because I played with them at different times with Matt with the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer. They didn't know each other so they trusted me, and I didn't know whether it was going to work, because I didn't know if all the egos or personalities all that stuff was going to line up, but I had a vision of a kind of chemistry and I knew that it was such an obscure arrangement instrumentation wise, to have a Hammond organ and then there's Pencilina and drums and then congas and percussion, I just thought, like I knew that they were amazing players and were road dogs. I knew that if I could just get them in one room and bring them some really good songs it would work. I just worked my butt off with a friend of mine for five years writing a bunch of songs and I didn't have a band to put these songs into because they weren't traditionally blues or anything like that, so that's what gave me the juice to get the project started.

Ken Wallis

And where does the term Satellite come from?


Shawn Hall

It comes from 12 30 a.m at a bar on Main Street. We were hanging out at a place called Uncle Abe's, after one of the sessions and this film industry legend, Natasha Dupree, she's a big music supervisor in Vancouver, and it was her brother's bar that we were in, and she said well you need a name for the band, and I said well it's not going to be the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer. So we kind of were talking about a lot of different ideas and we figured that Satellite worked since it's kind of a satellite project, we thought the idea where communication gets echoed from a planet into space, and back onto the planet, that it might be fitting for the project.


Ken Wallis

You mentioned this was all filmed. Is that going to be coming out on DVD or be available online at some point?


Shawn Hall

Well it's all videos we ended up with. This year continues to surprise all of us in all the directions it's going, and for better or worse we took the video, we took the film from those couple of days and we just ended up doing singles for each song. Originally we went into the studio to film us so that we could gig and we can get gigs and we can do festivals and to play. We didn't go in there to record a record and to make videos and all that stuff, we just wanted to get proof that here's four of us in a room together, here's a bunch of songs let's go out and hit the road this is going to be amazing and this is going to be like a lot of fun and that was the idea. But now we're at a point where I can't even get Bradford from New York. I can't even get him into Canada to do any gigs.


Ken Wallis

And again, the release is called Satellite and the Harpoonist, where can people buy a copy of this album?


Shawn Hall

People can go to Bandcamp, they can go to iTunes. We’ve got CD's, which may be the last time that I'll probably or anyone will be manufacturing CD's because they don't make CD players in cars anymore. We're getting Vinyl pressed which should be really cool, that'll be a good treat.


Ken Wallis

Well I really appreciate your time Shawn and it's quite an enjoyable release and I’ve enjoyed chatting with you.


Shawn Hall

Thanks Ken



Facebook: www.facebook.com/satelliteandtheharpoonist

Bandcamp: satelliteandtheharpoonist.bandcamp.com

Apple Music: music.apple.com/us/album/satellite-man-ep





 

 

 

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