Canadian duo The Shanks have been bringing some unadulterated rock and roll vibes throughout the world for a decade now, and this September, the outfit will release their new studio album titled Prisons of Ecstasy via Here to Everywhere Records. Today, we're giving you the exclusive premiere of their music video for "Do You Fear Me?", which was directed by the duo and produced by Here to Everywhere Entertainment. Frontman Ian Starkey, who is better known by his stage name Pistolwhip von Shankenstein, took some time to talk with us about the new album and evolving as a musician over the last 10 years.
AXS: What was the inspiration behind the music video for "Do You Fear Me?"
Ian Starkey: It is a song about a deep chasm of separation. The lines "I can still reach you/Even though you're deep inside/And I can still reach you/Living on the other side" led to the "life inside the painting" motif and, from there, the early astronomer character delving into the layers of the stars in the night sky searching for understanding seemed like a natural metaphor for an artist seeking answers to the mysteries of faith. The visual imagery is based on inside vs. outside.
AXS: What's the story behind the album title Prisons of Ecstasy?
IS: It started out as a musical (I love musicals). The original storyline concept: a young creative type living in a brutal totalitarian regime (which we were going to fully design ourselves) is jailed for artistic expression and ends up going into a fully contemplative state in order to survive life on the inside (an enduring theme in the history of incarceration). Loosely autobiographical, the project was, as always, another form of therapy. The title "Prisons of Ecstasy" seemed to also mirror a very turbulent period in my life and the life of people around me: the emotions that accompanied my own crisis of faith. There have been many wonderful transformations flow out of all these events and the hope that I have carried is also part of this music. After having been down several deep dark tunnels, it felt so amazing to when I finally heard the first mixes from the record all together, I cried tears of joy that a sonic document of this emotional path actually existed. For me, for better, for worse, this is the most personal work I have ever put forward and I am really happy that it deeply involves the people around me.
AXS: What was it like recording the album in Sweden?
IS: To engage a musical hero and then also find out that he is also an awesome human being is such an experience. Nicke Andersson is a rock n roll thunderstorm; his broad diversity in the musical realm is astounding. He gave us a ton of specific pre-production feedback for arrangements, melodies and rhythms in advance, while we were doing pre-production in Canada and then insisted we play all the tracks we were going to record live on the road on our tour dates in the US Midwest leading up to the sessions. His choices and coaching in the studio are evident in his stellar mixes. Judge for yourself. The Swedes have a long history of being open to all new forms of creativity. We felt really free and safe to be ourselves in Stockholm even far away from our normal lives. This allowed us to deliver song performances at a new level.
AXS: You recently celebrated 10 years of The Shanks. How much have you evolved as musicians during this time?
IS: Quite a lot. In a band, it is not who we are as individuals but instead what we do together that makes us realize our full potential. Jody and I played together tons when we were quite young, so I think we have got that kind of hard-wired communication thing that is not always so easy to find in a musical collaboration. I think that over the years, we have learned to trust that more; to just stop thinking, relax and let it flow. We are always at our best when we play the songs we have been given fully from the heart. The EP "X" was our way of celebrating, re-recording some Shanks tracks from the first ten years. Now "Prisons of Ecstasy" heralds another new decade!
You can purchase "Do You Fear Me?" on iTunes right now.