Welsh rockers Dead Shed Jokers are a peculiar band. I mean that in a good way. Their 2011 release – Peyote Smile managed to successfully mix early Sabbath riffarama, a 90s Soundgarden vibe, with the desert sludge of Queens of the Stone Age. That description alone would lead you to believe that they play a pounding grunge version of stoner rock.
It’s not a wrong conclusion, stoner rock is definitely the foundation they built their sound upon. But someone in the band must have been listening to the progressive rock of bands like Porcupine Tree or The Mars Volta while writing material for their new self-titled record because they step out on a gnarled, prog rock limb a number of times throughout these eight tracks. It makes for a dynamic and powerful listening experience.
The prog rock feel is especially evident on a tracks like A Cautionary Tale or Love is Diseased which both start out shimmering and slow before ending in a rage of guitars. The piano based closing track – Exit Stage Left (Applause), even seems to channel Queen and prog-fathers Yes.
Alas, have no fear! There is no shortage of heaviness here – the record is well-produced with a enormous guitar sound. You may even remember we featured the lead single Memoirs of Mr. Bryant as Record of the Day back in February, along with its totally whacked-out video. We gushed over its Tool with Hendrix guitars and wailing vocals heaviness. Likewise the lead track off the new record, Dafydd’s Song is overcome with massive guitars, pounding drums, distorted bass and vocalist Hywel Davies’ metal-wail (which at times reminds me of a more controlled version of Raven’s John Gallagher, for all the metal-heads out there).
Made in Vietnam has the lads back in the stoner rock camp with a big nasty opening riff, and Rapture Riddles rides a disco beat into seriously heavy duty time changes. There’s quite the display of musicianship going on here leaving no doubt these guys can play and for all the names I’ve dropped and comparisons I’ve made, I’ve still got to say this is an original, if not eccentric release that should turn heads their way.
We hooked up with the Jokers to get the down low.
Hywel (Vox), Nicky (Guitar), Kris (Guitar), Sean (Drums), Chris (Bass).
People say we sound like…. a head on collision between the Doors and QOTSA with a sprinkle of Led Zep, Mars Volta and Sabbath (to name but a few) for good measure.
We are originally from…..
Aberdare and Merthyr in the South Wales valleys.
How did you become Dead Shed Jokers and what’s with the name?
We all met and still practice in this run down shed/container in the shadow of the coal tips of what was the last remaining deep mine in Wales. That’s where the shed element comes from and it’s a hub for local characters to congregate and local bands to populate. Whilst we’ve suffered no fatalities yet, spending too much time there is definitely detrimental to your health but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
What music has had an influence on your sound?
Whilst there is some commonality we also have very different tastes; Curtis Mayfield to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Kyuss to Snoop Dogg. We each bring a different vibe to the table which helps create a tasty musical brew when fused together.
Tell us about the scene in Wales…
The shed itself has a scene! Heavy Flames, Chip Pan Fire Squad, Orbits are all bands that practice there and share a common organic riff-laden sound, it’s as if it seeps out of the shed walls. Then you have the likes of Prosperina, Henry’s Funeral Shoe, Four Brothers and Lacertilia who are all crafting some compelling stuff in neighbouring areas. Rock in all its forms is alive and well in South Wales and has a strong local support.
Tell us about your live show…
We are a no frills live band that’s for sure, we just get up there and do it. We have no preconceived notions for the performance, we channel the music and we don’t always know what will happen. With the two albums under our belt we have a good range of songs now, so we like to go on a bit of a journey and take the crowd with us. Some of the best jams we’ve had have been live.
How does the city’s musical history, or landscape influence your sound?
The S. Wales valleys are a breeding ground for honest musical output. Same as any working class areas. Plug in and let the heavy shit flow out of you. Simple.
What influences the band lyrically?
The new album covers a fair bit of ground; drug addiction, the end of the world, getting drunk and forgetting what you did to the loss of some of the original line-up. There’s three songwriters in the band so there tends to be a range of stuff going on based on what’s going on in the world or what each of us are experiencing at the time. It makes for a good range of lyrical themes.
Our most memorable gig ever was….
Probably one of our earliest. We played a friends house party where they had blacked all the walls with bin bags and sprayed the walls with UV paint. Was about 30 people in a living room, it was fucking crazy…don’t remember that much really apart from our bassist getting a mic stuck in his mouth! The next day was like that handheld footage you see after a major disaster has happened…we didn’t stick around for the clean-up.
If you could pick any time to travel back to for music, where would you go and what year would it be….
The Newport Folk Festivals in the early 60s where the classic blues artists (Rev Gary Davies, Muddy Waters etc.) and Dylan and co were playing….Seattle the early 90s for the grunge explosion…Isle of Wight Festival 1970 (Hendrix, The Who, The Doors)…too many to choose from. Equally there’s some great stuff happening now, you’ve just got to find it.
Growing up, at home we listened to…..
Our parents making love in the next room to the complete works of Queen. We can’t listen to ‘Bicycle’ in the same way again…
What tunes are on heavy rotation for you...
Currently listening to Phantom Radio (Mark Lanegan), The Wytches (Annabel Dream Reader) and Queen. Queen has been a revolution on this tour, you forget how many classic songs they’ve written and how easy it is to slip the destination of your next tour date into them!
If you could open for any band right now who would that be and why?
QOTSA. Still the best band around.
If you could only bring ONE record (you can all answer if you like) in the tour van what would it be?
Neil Young (On the Beach) – Hywel
Brothers (Black Keys) – Kris
The Soft Bulletin (The Flaming Lips) – Sean
Queens of the Stone Age (S/T) – Nick
The Holy Bible (Manic Street Preachers) – Metters
When you’re not playing and have some time off, where could we find you…
Re-decorating the shed with motivational graffiti and shed facts: did you know Henry the Hoover was created in the shed. Fact.
The one thing we want you to remember while you’re listening to our music….
Is to forget everything and just listen. Then remember what it felt like.
What’s up for 2015?
Released our self-titled second album on April 13th through Pity My Brain Records and are currently touring the UK in support of it. The reactions so far have blown us away and we will be flogging the arse of it for the rest of the year, playing a few festivals (inc. Camden Rocks) and will likely tour again in the autumn. We will look to record something new by the end of the year too if possible.