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Legendary Kiwi rockers Shihad are half way through an Australian tour in which they are celebrating 20 years since the release of their 1996 break through album; the Self Titled opus that became affectionately known as The Fish Album (in reference to the album cover image). In April this year, they re-mastered and re-issued the album, both digitally and on vinyl. Guitarist Phil Knight took some time out from the tour to ponder our Q&A.

What inspired the band to want to remaster some of your albums?
We always wanted them all to come out on vinyl eventually. There was a vinyl version of Killjoy in the nineties, but it wasn’t mastered very well. Tony at Deluxe mastering in Melbourne has done an amazing job of mastering The Fish Album, Blue Light Disco EP, Killjoy, Churn, and FVEY for vinyl. He’s a genius. And his re-masters for the digital copies are awesome too. I don’t remember The Fish Album sounding that good back in the 90s. Digital mastering technology had come so far since then also.

It’s an interesting vibe when a rock band starts out, it’s about the energy and enthusiasm of being in a new band. The more you play, the better a musician you become. Do you think you’re a better band musically now than 20 years ago?
Yes I do think I’m a better and tighter player than I was back then. It just comes with time, practice and intent. I had a problem with drinking and playing back then also. Stopping that was a big positive shift in my performing.

What gear are you taking out on the road this tour?

1979 Gibson Les Paul Standard black.
2010 Fender Jazzmaster US sunburst.
1991 Gibson S.G Studio red
1995 Gibson S.G Standard black
2011 Gibson S.G Standard black

Orange AC30 heads, moded with Axiom pre and power transformers.

Pedaltrain board
Gigrig 8 loop switcher
MXR Phase 100 phasor
Boss DD3 Delay
Boss DD20 Delay
Boss TU 2 tuner
2 x Fulltone OCD distortion pedals.
Digitech WH-2 Whammy pedal
Molten Lava Whammy midi patch changer pedal.

Which of your pedals is the main feature of your sound?
I’ve used delays, phasers, choruses and distortion pedals my whole career, but ironically, I think the most important thing I started using to get a great tone was a passive bypass loop pedal. Getting all my pedals, and especially the digital ones, out of my single path when I wasn’t using them, made such a big difference to my sound. Like plugging straight into my amp. I have a Gigrig 8 now, and it uses relays for a nice clean passive single path.

But having said that, the pedals that are a big part of my sound are my Whammy pedal (mostly the detune chorus patch), my Boss DD20 delay, and my Fulltone OCD. The OCD is the best, most tone un-disturbing overdrive/distortion pedal I’ve ever come across. And it’s perfect for me, because I do have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Has your gear changed much since the Fish album?
Yes, a lot. My main touring rig back then was my red 1991 SG and a Gretsch Malcom Young signature guitar. I had an Ibanez Fat Cat distortion pedal and my Boss DD3. Me and Jon were both using Mesa Boogie MK1 heads and Mesa Rectifier quads.

How much experimentation and combos of amps and guitars did you go through before arriving at the tone you are happy with?
I started with a, cheap red Strat copy, then a pink Kramer, then two Ibanez 540 Radius’s with Floyd Roses. Then a Washburn A10, then my 1991 Gibson SG studio, then the Gretsch Malcom Young signature model guitar. I’ve pretty much settled on my Les Paul and Jazzmaster for the last few years now. As for amps, we went from JCM900s to Mesa Boogie MK1s to Mesa Triple Rectifiers, and then settled on the Orange AD30 heads. You have to change out the stock transformers to Mercury Magnetic/Axiom transformers though. Then those heads really come to life. Still using the big Mesa Rectifier quads.

Who were your guitar heroes in your teen years?
I started with Jimi Hendrix, then I heard Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen. I think a lot of my playing and writing was influenced by George Lynch from Dokken too. Also Angus and Malcom Young, The Edge, and Metallica were major influences. Around the Fish Album I was really into Nick McCabe form The Verve’s guitar playing, as well as Noel Gallagher.

What are some gigs that stand out to you over the years as being really memorable?
Playing Homebush Stadium Sydney on the Big Day Out tour, a few months after The General Electric had come out and gotten popular was an amazing moment. That’s when I felt we’d really cracked Australia. And supporting AC/DC at Western Springs in Auckland in front on 62,000 people was pretty awesome too.

I imagine you’ve seen some pokey bands rooms over the years. What has been the worst, least comfortable band room you’ve ever come across?
I block out the bad times.

Is there a particular song on this tour that you’re enjoying playing more than others?
La La Land’s really doing it for me at the moment.

What happens with the band after this tour?
Home to change nappies and take my boy to Kindergarten. And some more weird “What’s Phil Worried About Today” videos for my FB page. We’ve just started writing some more very heavy music. We jammed out and recorded 21 instrumental ideas the week before we left for tour. Got to go to sound check now!

Cheers, Phil Knight

Remaining Australian tour dates:

Fri 1 July     The Triffid    Brisbane  QLD
With special guests Grenadiers 7-9 Stratton St, Newstead
Doors 7.30pm

Sat 2 July   Pigsty In July  Hunter Valley NSW

Fri 15 July   The Factory    Sydney NSW
With special guests Grenadiers 105 Victoria Road, Marrickville
Doors 7.30pm

Sat 16 July   The Croxton  Melbourne   VIC
With special guests Grenadiers Thornbury, 607 High St, Melbourne VIC 3071
Doors 7.30pm

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