by R.S. Frost
TRUTH CORRODED will shortly be issuing their 11th release, ‘Bloodlands’ through UNIQUE LEADER RECORDS. Bassist and founding member Greg Shaw shares some insight into more than 20 years of band involvement, extensive touring and the constant uphill battle that perpetually confronts bands from smaller Australian cities.
- We originally all came together as a SEPULTURA cover band called SLAVES OF PAIN - and you can still no doubt hear that influence in our sound today.
Being from Adelaide does indeed present some significant challenges, as you are remote from the key music market and industry that will enable a band to develop further and sustain itself. It was years before we even travelled over to the east coast to play, and for many years we were actually one of the few bands to do so. However, we have since gone on to play across the world - throughout Europe, the UK, South East Asia, Japan and China on several occasions. Part of the reason for having these opportunities is that coming from Adelaide, you do have to work harder and show some solid determination to get your music out there.
Being from Australia’s southern-state capitol, how did you end up entering the world of extreme music?
- As I said, we started out as a Sepultura cover band and for me personally, that was how I learned to play. It was actually our founding member and guitarist Mark Lennard (who left the band in 2010) who taught me how to play. Our vocalist Jason (North) and I are the only original members of the band and we have had a number of members come and go over the years. That definitely has been a huge challenge for us, but over the past several years we have had a solid line up. Essentially we are a band that has been based around decades of friendship, or maybe better termed brotherhood, as both Mark and Jason have been friends since primary school and me since high school.
We all grew up in the northern suburbs of Adelaide, and if you are from there you know it is a hard area to get a break - particularly back in our day. For many of the people I grew up with heavy music was an identity that embraced resilience and non-conformity which gave us all something that we could use as a platform against the difficulties we faced at home, socially or economically. It definitely had an element of both resistance but also hope - maybe being in a band could help you rise above what you were experiencing in your own life or from the environment that surrounded you. I entered the music world at 19 and played bass in Slaves Of Pain, but thereafter it was not until I was 23 that TRUTH CORRODED was originally formed.
Having an established friendship, or brotherhood as you put it, with fellow metalheads in order to cope with social and/or domestic turbulence is a notion that echoes far and wide. I can personally attest to its potency in my formative years, as I’m sure the majority of readers can also.
Do you see these early years having played a significant role in the direction you have taken within the creative world?
- I think what has driven Jason and I is the fact that no matter what negativity we have faced - and that is a legendary amount - we have somehow been fortunate enough to push through and enjoy some incredible experiences. Together we have seen the world and met some incredible people, and through that experience had the fortune of both touring and working with some of the musicians that have shaped who we are - such as Craig Locicero of FORBIDDEN, Bret Hoffman of MALEVOLENT CREATION, Terrance Hobbs of SUFFOCATION, Mark Kloeppel of MISERY INDEX and Stephen Carpenter of DEFTONES. Each of these musicians has had some part to play in who we are as musicians and as a band. So these opportunities, or fortune, have driven us on and made us push through the negative.
Over the past 22 years, Greg has been able to build a livelihood around extreme music that runs parallel to his activities with Truth Corroded. Having spent so long in the industry, and presumably crossing paths with a fair few of his musical idols, I was curious if Greg still felt the same passion for metal as one does when starting a band, or whether the shine had worn off somewhat.
- I have been managing bands through a New York based agency called Extreme Management Group since 2016 - we look after acts such as Suffocation, KRISIUN, CATTLE DECAPITATION, Misery Index and more. This has introduced me to a different level of the industry and it has been an eye-opener, to say the least. In this role I have spoken with some people that I would never have thought would be possible, and to see how grounded they are and how much you can learn from them has been very rewarding. This has also made heavy music an even more significant part of my life, as band management is my profession now, and the experience I have gained from working as a musician, booking agent, promoter, and as a Government Assessment Advisor through Arts SA (South Australia’s arts funding body) has enabled me to work at a higher level in this industry.
But what I most enjoy about the industry and band lifestyle are the friendships and experiences - I have stories for days *laughs* - and having the chance to travel alongside your best friends and catch up with other friends in other states or countries is an amazing fortune and opportunity. Travel and having an avenue to express my views through an art form is very rewarding and the best of what the industry and lifestyle offer. It is also a huge part of the motivation, and the chance to work with so many people in shaping your creative legacy and taking that to the stage across the world is incredibly enjoyable.
But with any creative pursuit, there are the negatives, there is tension, stress, burden - but if you can meet those challenges and push through then there is reward.
Aside from Truth Corroded, you have been involved in a few other projects if I am not mistaken.
- Truth Corroded has always been my main band - I not only play bass but also have managed (now co-manage) the band, write the lyrics and shape the content/subject matter that is identified with the band. I have recently joined a band called THE WVLF which features present and former members of LO!, HARLOTT and LYNCHMADA, and some time ago was in a grind band called WASTED GODS that featured ex-Truth Corroded guitarist and drummer Mark and Liam, as well as Jason Vsalis from iconic Melbourne thrash band THE WOLVES.
Excluding the obvious, being Sepultura, are there any other artists that have had a major influence on your musical output or general attitude towards life?
- The bands that influenced me and by extension, for the most part, the founding band members were from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Bands such as TESTAMENT, KREATOR, DEATH ANGEL, METALLICA, VIO-LENCE, EXHORDER, FORBIDDEN, DARK ANGEL, SLAYER, and then later Sepultura, ENTOMBED, OBITUARY, Malevolent Creation, DEVASTATION, and PESTILENCE are just some of the acts that inspired us to pick up instruments. Later bands such as BURNT BY THE SUN, Misery Index, DECAPITATED, NEUROSIS, and CULT OF LUNA had an influence on our sound.
Many of the bands from this early influential era had a strong social and political commentary that opened the door to a growing interest in the subjects they challenged and communicated. Later in life, I went on to study politics at University (and then went on to manage metal bands for a living *laughs*) and I do credit some of these bands as, in part, the inspiration for my interest in politics and social issues. But they were reflective of a time and place in which I grew up, and the anger they expressed was the anger and fear I was experiencing.
The music we create and the music from that era shaped my identity. I, for the most part, do not listen to as much heavy music as I used to and listen to a vast range of music outside the genre, but when I do sink into heavy music I still get that burn that has driven me since my teenage years.
I’m hoping you will consider sharing some of your “stories for days” with us, as I’m sure there have been many positive, and potentially negative, experiences along the way.
- Supporting Sepultura twice in Australia, touring across Europe and Asia with Suffocation, touring Europe with Malevolent Creation and Krisiun, supporting BEHEMOTH in China, performing at Midifest in Shanghai to a crowd of 20,000 while facing typhoon level conditions, sharing these experiences with great friends and sources of inspiration, some who have sadly passed away since.
Losing friends and bandmates, being identified as suspected terrorists in London (scary at the time but a great story since) and facing the above-mentioned hurdles which are too many to count.
Did I just hear that right? Did you say, suspected terrorists? I’m going to have to insist you elaborate.
- *laughs* sure, it’s a bit crazy. When we toured Europe with Malevolent Creation, Krisiun and VITAL REMAINS in 2012 we performed in London. We had a day off and did the tourist rounds and went down to Buckingham Palace. When we got there it seemed there was an event involving large crowds, high security and ceremony, we took it in thinking it was maybe normal, but as we made our way towards Westminster a Police van pulled up in front of us and a dozen Police officers jumped out and took each of us aside for questioning. After we had our identities checked and they stopped questioning us they let us know that we were being watched on CCTV and matched the profile of an Italian anarchist group that was on a terrorist watch list. Admittedly, we were seriously hungover and very scruffy looking so I could see why we looked suss. At the time the Occupy movement was in full swing - while we were there St Pauls was targeted - and as such, security was heightened.
A few months later I returned to the UK on holiday with my fiancé. When I arrived at Gatwick I was held up by immigration and they kept me back to undergo questioning on why I had returned to the UK and what my reasons and purposes were. It appeared I had been flagged as I was questioned by two separate officials. I have been back and toured since and all good, but a crazy situation and experience.
You have spent a lot of time overseas and, by extension, have spent a lot of time with people from various cultural and geographical backgrounds. I always find it interesting hearing people’s views of their home country after time spent away from it, in a physical and psychological sense.
- That’s a difficult question in the age we live in. Intolerance, the growth of the right, fear baiting and the election of individuals who are not fit for office, or any form of positive leadership, is a fact of Australia as much as the US, UK or Europe. It is an age in which I think we will yet see a further decline before needed change. The notion of Australia being 'the lucky country' is true in some respects but it increasingly resembles an ugliness that is spreading, but with that said, I believe there is a resistance to that ugliness that still stands strong.
One thing that I have found through touring and speaking with friends in other countries is the fact that it is same-same-but-different; whether that is people facing a glass ceiling based on culture, ethnicity, gender, or outright prejudice. So comparatively, I think we can be better, I think I have seen better.
Maintaining this focus on change, have you been aware of any major shifts within the industry you work in, or within the touring circuits you’ve traversed over the years?
- Definitely. Good and bad. I think people embracing a more diverse range of heavy music genres at a large event, whether major or local, is awesome. It is less segregated in some respects. Trends have fallen off to some extent, but the “core” type acts still appear to hold onto placing what is considered fashionable ahead of looking outside a tightly bound square, but even that is changing.
In Australia, Melbourne still leads the way in that it has the market, the audience and the turnover of amazing acts, whether they are leading the way or capturing the past to repurpose the sound, the bands do it with a level of professionalism and class that stands apart. But that does not discount other states at all - Brisbane and Tasmania, in particular, continue to produce both leaders and innovators, and to me, PSYCROPTIC continue to hold the crown. XENOBIOTIC from Western Australia are label mates and have just released an absolutely crushing album as well.
Adelaide has its points in time when the scene will thrive, and then go into a recession, but likewise some acts will emerge that will drop jaws and manage an impact both domestically and overseas - see DYSSIDIA, CHRIST DISMEMBERED and SHATTER BRAIN as examples. Our singer Jason runs two of the most enjoyable festival events in Australia, held here in Adelaide, that have featured some of the world’s best heavy music acts, and the numbers for these events speak for themselves. Believe it or not, Adelaide can be cool *laughs*.
Further to this, I have never seen a time where so many Australian acts have been overseas touring and standing alongside what has long been a market dominated by the US and Europe, so it is great to be a part of that movement and recognition.
So for the most part change has been positive. It would always be great to see bigger numbers at shows, but in some parts of the country that is definitely going strong, and when you place those numbers against the more localised and profiled markets in the US and parts of Europe it is impressive by comparison.
After two decades of touring with your best friends, as well as managing some of the people who inspired you to do so in the first place, a new album about to be released and a handful of tours and festival appearances lined up, what does the future hold for Truth Corroded, and yourself, since it doesn’t look like there are any plans of throwing in the towel anytime soon?
- I think there is definitely a horizon looming - I’ve been doing this for a while -and the later stages have seen the band do less than more, and that makes it more enjoyable. But I have said to myself it’s time to call it a day numerous times, only to start thinking about another album, more touring and the need for further adventures *laughs*. But yeah, there is a horizon now more than in the past, and I am fine with that. I think my role in the industry will be ongoing, and Truth Corroded has some busy times ahead with a new album soon to be released so I will be around for some time yet.
I am engaged, own a house, have an awesome dog, have a cool but occasionally challenging job that lets me work abroad and set my own hours, and could not be happier, so on a personal level, I look forward to what the future holds.
Thank you for your time and insight into your work. I now invite you to offer any closing sentiments you may have.
- Truth Corroded will be heading over to Europe to tour alongside Misery Index, WORM ROT and THE LIONS DAUGHTER in March/April - fingers crossed we don't get detained - and will next be performing in Australia for our home town launch at the annual Heavy SA Fest. We have a few shows and additional tours in the works for both here and abroad, so stay tuned for details.
Pre-orders for our new album are available now through UNIQUE LEADER RECORDS. A video clip will also be released shortly and let’s just say it may get us in trouble – we might actually get detained in Australia *laughs* – but it is a message that needs to be put out there and does not hold back on its political commentary so keep your eyes open. Cheers for the support!