Interview and CD review with Hour of Shame…Last Hoorah for a great band!
I recently had the pleasure of talking to Hour of Shame’s James Shame about Hour of Shame and the reasons the band is now going to be taking a hiatus from the music scene. But this is a local icon band, they are known far and wide and have a great following…we like to refer to ourselves as HOS, LOL. So, check the great article I did with James before the last show at the Alrosa Villa.
I have to say the show at the Alrosa Villa opening for Eye Empire was nothing short of the typical amazing show that HOS put’s on. Smokey, James, B ryan and Mohawk put on a great show. Their CD, Hour of Shame, is nothing less than kickin’ music. I mean, seriously, you don’t get the caliber of local bands that we are lucky to have in Columbus, Ohio. However, maybe we can get the guys from Hour of Shame to come back and play a few reunion gigs here and there. Also, look for Smokey on Facebook, he’s got a great new band and he is still rock’n the Cbus Music Scene!
Their CD has a great mix of sounds and complex music that keeps you listening over and over. The band does a few covers here and there and they are great in concert, but the CD Is all pure HOS and it’s gorgeous! The CD is available through James Shame, hit him up on Facebook, it’s worth every penny you’ll pay, it’s a really well done CD and presentation. The photography is fitting to the moody hard driving music.
Q: Who is Hour of Shame and how did you guys come into being? James, I know you’ve had a strong hand in this and I’d love to hear your take on the history of HOS and their following, the HOS.
A: The history behind the myth... haha. HOS was really my brainchild, my baby so-to-speak, and it started with a song we don't even play out anymore, "Placate". I had been in a few projects, some of which did well or had a lot of potential, but had been writing solo material for several years. This one song, though, really captured a sound that I thought could define an entire band...a vision I guess that kind of encapsulated the mess of thoughts and emotions swirling in my head. It is to this day one of my favorite lyrical works... the arrangement is chaotic, not repetitive, raw and honest. But even the birth of "Placate" didn't spark HOS alone. I brought my cousin, Matt - er Pappy B haha to score some bass on the tune, but it really wasn't until the flurry of writing that started with "After the Fire" that the first foot steps for HOS really took hold. My family had suffered a house fire, total loss, and in the wake of that kind of grim event I found a ton of inspiration, hence the title "After the fire". With Matt continue to score bass on these countless tunes pouring out we thought "hey maybe we should have a drummer". We auditioned a few, but when Bryan came out it was kind of an instant agreement. I looked at Matt, he looked at me, and as if some sort of cosmic telepathy had occurred, I turned to Bryan and said "spot is yours if you want it". Kind of wild now... so many years later to think that HOS has taken off and moved people the way it has...we never really intended to be a band haha at least not in the sense that we are today. We just wanted to jam. Actually, our first show - fittingly enough - was at the Alrosa Villa and at the time we had no guitarist lol. We hired a cat straight out of a cover band, taught him the tunes, just to do the show... it was one of those BS battle of the bands which we knew that going in, but figured... why not? Most of the set isn't still played today, but both "Entrenched" and "Cauterize" first saw the stage at that show. I suppose it is kind of fitting that we play the last show here too...it's where we started. The Alrosa feels like a second home when playing there... I always know we are in for a good show and the staff there I hold very dear. Great people, very talented people (nod to FNB...the one and only Brian Kozicki) whose talents aren't limited to running pro sound at that board. Brian played an integral role in the artwork, arrangement, etc of our EP. But not to leave out Ron on lights either...stellar job every time, and of course Rick and Tara who are just good people, though in business and sometimes I think it is easy for musicians to get friendly and forget sometimes that at the end of the day...this is a business...but alas I digress. Needless to say we have made some of our biggest strides, and most noise, at the Alrosa Villa and that is in part due to the staff. You aren't just four musicians on stage at a show...you have a number of people...the sound guy, front of house and monitor guys at times, light guys, etc who all play a direct part in how your performance comes across to the audience. You can have the best music and performance in the world and no one would know it if these important people don't do the great work they do. So that experience, the battle and Alrosa gave us even more drive to achieve more...the hired guitarist didn't stay long haha, but we pushed forward. We had some great guys on the axe that first hard year but the following year we picked up Smokey and things really fell into place for us. Every once in a while, as a musician, you find a group of guys that have a chemistry that just clicks...and there is no other way to describe it. It doesn't happen often but when it does you just kind of feed off each other and create great music...it's as if when you are jamming together there is an invisible sheet of music writing itself that you are all following and it just comes out. You are all on the same page. It's happened to me personally twice... once was a group that never played a show, the second was HOS. It was a trying first year and many bands don't make it past that first year...I understand why. You have to find your way, battle it out, carve a name for yourself, prove yourself...pay your dues while so many other bands are trying to do the same thing. I'm glad we stuck with it and rolled with the punches because once Smoke came on board, which was originally just to help us through a rough patch while we auditioned new guitarists but had show commitments, that chemistry happened. The first true collaborative writing effort between the line up was called "Transparent" and will likely pop up at our last show...one of my personal favorites. From there we took HOS every direction our writing could possibly take us... we held nothing back and tried anything that flowed out. We've written crunchy grunge reminiscent grooves, ballads, acoustics, even a small little bluegrass tune haha some of which died relatively quickly and some stuck around, but we never wanted to really be pigeon holed by genre...we wanted to create music within confines without boundaries... Of course I have read a HOS review which chose to make me eat those words...the EP doesn't really show that diversity and with the exception of long time fans who have seen some of those others sides of HOS then you might not truly grasp the talent this band has for diversity... in the end the set you see is what we want to play at that show...not what we play for every show, or all the time, or what we write or play in practice. I would say the writing direction and inspiration really evolved once that line up was in place. We matured, blossomed, as a band. I think we realized at that point that we had something special, that it could be great, but at the end of the day all of us just wanted to make great music. Everything else was a distant secondary. We had some turnover on bass, haha - whole other story or stories, but I hold each of our bassists very dear to my hear. Matt our original, Mohawk who came in after the EP had been recorded, Phelps - the fill in who became as much of a part of the band as the three of us, and of course Steve. We have been blessed in that regard to have had such talented musicians involved along our ride. The fans?? The HOs? What can I say about the fans? Just amazing. You know the nickname was really the result of a drunken stupor. We did a show, I can't even remember which one, but all night we had people stopping us saying "hey weren't you in that band that played second? MAN you guys were awesome! What's your name?" and it really made me think... we GOTTA figure out an easy way for our drunken brethren to remember that second band that didn't suck haha. So on stage at a sold out Alrosa Bobaflex show it came out. Just on a whim. I told the crowd, "here is an easy way for you to remember our name when your sober... take the first letter of each word from our name H-O-S...now I want you all to say with me WE LOVE HOs" haha and they did... like 800 people shouting back that they love HOs, but then again...who doesn't right? You can't argue with that! Then at the Bobaflex after show party people just started stopping me saying "hey it's the HOs" or "I love HOs". So mission accomplished and it stuck. At that time it was something unique, a different yet fun spin on our band name, and something no one else was doing so it didn't seem like a gimmick. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but again I digress. Needless to say the schtick started to feel gimmicky to me a few months after so I stopped the routine. What you see on stage isn't rehearsed, it isn't choreographed. It's raw and real, spontaneous. Do we sometimes have recurring themes? Sure... we have SOME kind of memory left haha and we were at that show as well. But the fans adopted it. I think deep down there is a part in all of us that likes to call people HOs, proclaim our love for HOs, or admit to being HOs under the pretense and guise of a band name haha. But what can I say about the HOs? These fine group of people who have supported us, helped us make noise and call attention to the music, who share in the emotion and feeling we bring to the stage... they are why we stuck at it the last few years. As a musician I think you really only have two goals, one is to make great music, and two is for another human being to connect with that music...well I guess getting rich, famous, drugs sex and rock n' roll all factor in too, but mostly it's the first two. To me the people who love us, come to the shows, buy the merch, ask for the autographs, spread our name around and tell friends, or the family/friends who have incorporated the chorus line to "entrenched" as their personal chant/mantra haha...they are all like extended family. We love the fans and years ago when we first started just jamming around I don't think any of us thought so many people would believe in it the way that they have... it really means everything to us. That's why we decided to another show. SO many people asked us to do another one, they missed that one, don't leave...so we said... well what's one more at this point? It's not like any of us hate each other.
Q: Are there any great stories behind the naming of the band?
A: Ummm... there are... It has to do with a bar in Kent Ohio at 1 a.m., a female bartender, a story about Alice in Wonderland, and a painting that symbolizes singularly both the moment of birth and death while portraying the lifetime of emotional turmoil in between.
Q: Do you have any one point that really sticks out in your performing career as a shining moment?
A: There's been lots of shining moments and some not so shiny haha. I think for me some of the highlights really involve the fans. The chants, the shouts, the personal stories about how one song really mattered or spoke to someone. Like I said earlier, it really for me boils down to another human being connecting to a song and that is the shining moment, that is the pay off. As far as not so shiny? haha I can think of a few. A fantastic show at the Alrosa Battle for rock on the range last year when we cover one of the most technically difficult Tool cover songs "The Pot" to try and showboat. It's a very bass driven song, but that night we played the song sans bass due to a technical difficulty that will forever remain a mystery. It was as if the universe said "ahhh show off eh? well.... we'll see about that" but we pulled it off, I think so all in all it turned out. Of course I will likely NEVER forget the night we showcased for Capitol records and our drummer had diarrhea. and I mean the kind of you don't wait, have to go NOW diarrhea. Here we are in the middle of set, slamming the place, and without warning I back up and back into the drummer. He leans into my ear and says "dude I'm gonna shit myself" and he ran off stage to the bathroom. So Smoke and I tried to entertain the crowd and make light of the fact... honestly I don't think any of the crowd would have known if I hadn't called him out on it haha... but I'm in this to have fun, so why sweat it and pretend it wasn't happening. Man's gotta go! I'm sure there are far more not-so-shiny moments that I can recall over the years.
Q: Who are the musicians and music that inspires you the most? For that matter, what just plain inspires you make music?
A: Oh well for me personally I think I fell in love with music from the day I was born, but what drove me to make music... what inspired me to become a musician was hands down Alice In Chains and Tool...and probably NIN- Trent Reznor. There was something about those bands in particular. The brooding melodies and harmonies of Layne and Jerry, the driven anger (and do-it-yourself style) of Trent, and Maynard? Lyrical poet but his vocals are delivered in such a beautiful and unique way. So many of these guys get caught up in "the show" thinking that passion and emotion can only be conveyed by jumping off the tables, stripping naked, and pounding their chests but you know Maynard gets on stage and often stays in the shadows. It's about the music and I always got that. The emotion and passion is conveyed in the voice, in the delivery... not how much you jump around. If you can sing a song that can bring a tear to someones eye because they empathize with the pain the writer felt? THAT's passion. I was completely sold. Back then? I thought "these are pie in the sky" type of musicians... I CAN'T follow in their footsteps, and I'm not going to suggest that I have even come close but I have at least covered each of them well...so that's close enough haha. I know Smoke was really influenced by the like of AIC also but he also lends from the greats such as Zepplin, Slash, but not Hendrix... (ahem). Bryan followed A7X and the Rev like a religion so I think he would probably list the Rev and Neil Pert and Danny Carey in that list. What inspires me to make music in general? Everything. Really... haha... mostly I am inspired when something doesn't set right with me. Most often if I am pissed off, I write about it. So we have a lot of angry songs because I get pissed off a lot... haha, but not always. In a way, at least lyrically, I kind of try to let the song write itself. I learned long ago not to force it or mold it...don't shave against the grain, instead let it just flow on its own. For me, like I said previously, it's almost like the lyrics and melody just drop out of nowhere on an invisible sheet of music... kind of feels like cheating, but most of the time the lyrics hit on the spot or after a couple of listens, maybe some tweaking if words don't fit just right. "Entrenched" the lyrics were written in a car ride of about 30 mins. I recorded them when I got home. With "Transparent" Smoke handed me the first soft verse and chorus on a cd. I popped it in on my way home and called him before I was even at the end of his street. I said "ok I have the lyrics done for that part...now lets write the rest of it". "Cauterize" also hit me in the car on the way home for work... guitar riff and lyrics kind of all at once. It's as if someone turns on a radio inside my head and tunes it to a song no one has ever heard before. I literally hear all the instrumentation just play out. "18X" was stuck in my head for two weeks after hitting me in the shower the day after a show, then I finally said "hey guys I think this is gonna be a good one, it's been stuck in my head for 3 weeks and I've never heard it before". So literally it comes anytime about anything.
Q: Without drive bands never make it in this business. It’s the ones that are truly driven and inspired to make it work that really have the dedication, I’ve seen it over and over. You guys have worked really hard to get to the point where you have a great following, why are you choosing to take a break from the musical scene?
A: Well, we've been at it for several years now. We've done really well and made a name. To a degree it feels like we are bowing out with unfinished business... we never actually recorded the full length album, we had so much more we could have done. A radio single with the producer from Taproot being one that was tabled. But, I think it really is time for break. Time for us to bow out. Smokey is really getting involved in his side project that he has been working on, I will likely end up doing some solo writing - perhaps more acoustic based that never really fit in with HOS- and Bryan has always been one of the busiest men I know so I'm sure he is going to focus on flying planes and such haha. It really just boils down to the fact that we don't want to burn out, hate it or each other, and when Smoke mentioned doing this other project and pursuing it we all kind of said "you know? it's time..." I don't see this band going on without the key integral members. It's that chemistry and collaborative effort that made HOS what it is.
Q: Okay…Steph’s silly question time, I gotta as cuz inquiring minds wanna know, right? What bands are on your mp3 player or iPod right now? Who are some of the groups that make it into your regular rotation on your player?
A: A7X, Children of Bodom, Alice in Chains, Tool, White Zombie, NIN, Guns N Roses, Meshuggah, Mastadon, Van Morrison, Likspitl, The COAST, The doors, Jewel, Three days grace, Korn, ummm... a ton more that I can't recall
Q: I know a lot of times music and lyrics are from inspiration, pain, love…intensity. Are there any songs that really hit a cord with you? I’d love to know what songs you guys consider to be your favs that you’ve performed.
A: Well I'm sure every guy in this band will tell you a different answer to that question. For me, each of these songs lyrically hold a special meaning. When I write lyrics I refer to the process as "skinning myself" because you really are opening yourself and experiences up to the world. Most of the struggles and pain in the lyrics are my own. The guys joke that we never write happy songs...and well if I'm happy I'm probably not going to stop what I'm doing, that is making me happy, to write a fucking song about it! But many are very close to my heart and written from deep personal experience. "Breathe" as an example was written...a while ago... when I first met my wife.
Q: What have become your favorite tunes to cover when you do cover a song? I heard you guys do Closer once at the Alrosa Villa and it was great. The entire bar and smoking area cleared out and went straight to the stage, fast!
A: I think "Closer" was a great rendition, more of a remake than a cover, but I think our favorite has been Tool "Aenima". It's just a fun song that the crowd really responds well to, but we've had a lot of fun with Godsmack "Whatever" and AIC "It ain't like that".
Q: Tell us a little bit about your gorgeous CD, pretty impressive stuff, I’ll be reviewing that for ULM as well, so the fans are going to get a nice dose of HOS!
A: Well the EP which was intended to have a full length follow up in 2011, that didn't happen haha funding fell through, was really intended to be an introduction. An EP to capture the scope of the start of the band. More mainstream in direction than our later material but also spanning from the softer sides of "Breathe" to the later crunch and anger of "Cauterize". It was 5 tunes we picked to best represent HOS at that point and also what the fans were really getting behind. The EP was produced by Ohio's own Joe Viers who did a fantastic job bringing our vision to audio reality. The only real stipulation we had going in was we didn't want a lot of "production" on the recording. We really wanted the EP to capture, as best we could, a real representation of the HOS LIVE experience, though with some studio polish. This of course lead to a minor disagreement on the use of auto tune haha... which finally ended with me saying "if that thing can hit the note, so can I so let me back in the booth for a retake". We couldn't ask for a better quality product though. The layout and package design was done by Brian Kozicki from the Alrosa who also did a fantastic job. One interesting thing is that all of the artwork is actual photography. There are no hand drawn illustrations. Which was a concept I really liked. Now it seems most releases are full of fantastic and elaborate illustrations, which I love, but we wanted to do something really different. You'll notice liner notes that give a lot of credit to NASA, haha, because the images are from the Hubble. They depict basically the birth and death of a star much like our sun. Kind of fitting, I thought, given the nature of our name.
Q: Speaking of dates…how’s the line-up for 2012? Any chance we can talk you guys into sticking around and doing more dates for us? You have some of the most devoted fans in the city and it’s going to be sad to HOS take a hiatus.
A: As of this moment there is nothing on the books, in the works, or even discussed for 2012. Like I said, Smoke will pursuing his new project for possible show dates later this year and I will likely be doing some solo acoustic writing though I don't know if that will make it stage in 2012...or at all. I'm kind of a hermit really. I don't have a crystal ball so I can't say what the future will hold...obviously if we land a record deal in two days then it's on! haha But otherwise I don't foresee any shows for HOS in 2012. Don't get me wrong... we are all friends, no hostility, and we would all like to see the HOS album get recorded and give the fans another go round so maybe one day that will happen. Maybe not. I will say at this moment I am not opposed to seeing HOS do shows in the future, but it has to make sense for all of us again..and currently, like I said, no such plans are in place. The saddest part about breaking away is disappointing the fans, which we absolutely do not want to do, but... it just makes sense for us right now and who knows what will happen in the future.
Q: I can’t wait for the next show. You guys are going to be playing the Alrosa Villa, Columbus’ own famous rock n’ roll venue, how are you feeling heading into this show with Eye Empire?
A: We feel great about it. Eye Empire is a great band on their way to the top and we are very pleased to be a part of this show. We are of course at home at the Alrosa, with our peeps and fans, opening for a national act of such a high caliber as Eye Empire which is always a good time, so we are looking forward to putting on a killer performance for all the HOs. Of course we are very pleased that Mary Coffmon and Columbus Events Group wanted us on this event and I can't say enough good things about Mary and her support. So we are doubly happy to be kicking ass for her. It makes it like a perfect storm.
Q: And last but by no means least… What do you want fans to remember about you the most about Hour of Shame?
A: I hope mostly they remember the name...and they we went on second...and didn't suck. haha.
Q: Any special mentions or things you’d like your fans to know about? How to purchase your merch still or any possible upcoming dates you might surprise us with?
A: Nice try but no surprise dates haha. The merch will be available for purchase at a discount at the show this Saturday and if you missed out then you can always hit us up online via email on facebook for the coming months until the boxes run out.
By: Stephanie McGrath from Ultimate Local Music