Q&Art with Russell Pirkle

This week I interviewed the eighties hair metal cover band Hair Nation, who also perform original music as Angelstorm. Angelstorm is working on a new album, Certified Insane, to be released later this year. The guys in Hair Nation also own and operate a recording studio here in Ruston and are available for recording projects with local bands and businesses.

 This interview has been edited for length.

This is Q&Art. I’m Russell Pirkle, and today I’m interviewing the band Hair Nation. I have with me here John Shadowinds, Nathan Keesler, and Kevin Poland.

Could you guys tell me about Hair Nation?

JS – Kevin and I come out of a recording contract in 2004, music videos, number one hits and all that kind of good stuff. And kind of tired of that kind of lifestyle so we started the eighties tribute Hair Nation, which we enjoy very much. We’re now in the studio recording a new album that we’re going to be releasing, original album. But we will continue doing the eighties tribute. It seems that everybody enjoys the music from the eighties and there’s not very many bands out there to play it. So that’s basically what we do. That’s where our heritage is from. Our prime was in the eighties.

What band were you in before?

JS – Angelstorm. Now, I’ve played with Liason, which was a Metal Plate Records recording artist band. Then Angelstorm from 1986 to now. That’s what we just got done with in 2004 with Satfire Records. And we’re going to release a new album under Angelstorm, here probably Christmas time, just independently. We’re not looking to sign any more record labels.

So you’re releasing it as Angelstorm.

JS – Yes. We’re going to release it independently. I have all the credentials and the licensings to release it myself, or ourselves.

And when was the last album that Angelstorm released?

JS _ 2004. It was Rise from the Ash. It’s still in stores from what I understand. It’s all over Europe. We bought in Europe and Germany. We’ve got lots of fans over there that say that they purchased the album and really like it.

How has your music changed over time?

JS – It really hasn’t. We are pretty much the same as we were back in the eighties. I know we had some struggle during the nineties because music changed so much. I remember an instance, I wasn’t with these guys yet, but I was with a label called Pachyderm records in 1989, and we had a two year contract. We went back in ’93 to renew the contract. Well, Nirvana had come out, and that’s what they were wanting. And they said ‘well, cut your hair and play grunge and stuff’, and we wouldn’t do it so we walked.

Yeah, it seems like so much of grunge was sort of a reaction against the glam rock and hair metal.

JS – Yeah, it was, and from my experience in it, the record labels just kind of overdid it. And because of that, it’s the reason why the record labels are so bad now. There’s no good contracts out there anymore. I don’t want to disgrace anybody, but it seems that you don’t have to be as talented to be successful in music today. Which, what works good for Paul may not work good for Mary, but we are true musicians. I’m in with music theory and very educated. I have degrees in music and what have you. We are very direct in our writing. We use proper cords. We do the five part harmonies. We haven’t changed since the eighties. We still write the same style, and I’ve been endorsed with B.C. Rich guitars ever since 1986, and haven’t changed. I graduated from high school in 1985, and I looked just like this. Of course, you know I’ve got a few more wrinkles now.

Why do you think eighties metal has had such a renaissance, or why do you think it’s still so popular today?

JS – Because it kind of picked up, in my opinion, (and y’all can cut in anytime you want), where the seventies left off. It just polished the music from the seventies.

KP – Right at 1980. Haha.

JS – Yeah, it was more, I know for me as a young artist, when you put a band together and went out on stage, you had to give your audience something to remember.

KP – That’s right. Something more.

JS – You couldn’t be just another band, you know. If you go out and you see these guys are wearing tight leather pants and glittery shirts, and hair up to here, you remember that. And you go in a music store, and ‘hey I’ve seen these guys in the club. I’m going to be this record.’ It’s all about marketing. It’s a marketing tool, the image is just as important as the music.

Yeah and it seems also the whole aspect of live performance and authentic playing is very important too. Whereas maybe it’s not so much today.

JS – Well, it’s not. But it’s still important. I know my way of thinking, I cannot stand to go see a band that looks like they just got off work.

KP – And just stand there. All they’re doing is just standing straight up playing their instruments, singing. You just gotta get up on that stage and move around, and have the audience just following you.

JS – I know live, mentally, every human being on earth loves music, listen with their eyes. You go to a concert, you take in a lot. You probably take in more with your eyes than you do your ears. That’s very important.

Do you do anything special to get into that sort of mode of being performers and the high energy?

KP – As in before we go on stage?

Sure.

NK – Lots of coffee. Haha.

JS – Yeah, it just comes natural for me.

KP – Yeah, it’s natural.

JS – Once I strap on the guitar and see the people out there that came to see us, it’s like that. *snaps*

KP – I’ve never had a case of stage fright before in my life. Even being in little plays in elementary school when I was growing up. I mean, I was up there with a microphone in my hand. Haha. I’ve always played for the people and to the people.

JS – And it’s adrenaline too.

KP – Yes.

JS – You get up there, you got a thousand kids pumping, it just kind of takes over and it’s just natural.

KP – What else gets you in the heart is when you’re up there singing your songs for these people, and then you see them singing them back to you. It’s just awesome.

Could you tell me a little bit about your role as a producer?

JS – Yeah, I have a good ear for music, and as a music lover myself, I can kind of relate to what pleases the public. A good melody in a song. I have people come to me all the time, and that’s what I strive for, a good melody in a song. Because psychologically, in every human being, a good melody pleases your mind. It’s kind of psychological. I’m not a psychologist, but I understand human behavior as far as music is concerned, and that’s what you kind of strive for as a producer. You want to get a good melody that will please a listener. That always brings them back for more.

KP – And a good hook.

JS – Yeah.

And y’all have a recording studio here in Ruston, is that right?

JS – We do. I have about three quarters of a million dollars worth of a recording studio. And we record some of the locals. We’re in recording an album now, and we’re almost done with it. And I think everybody’s going to love it. It’s a concept album, and it’s going to be released under Angelstorm. And we’re going to get it in stores here pretty soon.

How did you come to join Hair Nation, Nate?

NK – John found me in a convenience store one day. *All laugh* I was up there buying a coke and some cigarettes, and a voice behind me goes ‘hey man, do you play base?’ And I didn’t really think he was talking to me at first, but the lady behind the counter just sort of gestured toward him. I turned around, and there he is. And he asked me to come up to the studio, and I did. He liked my performance.

KP – Now he’s our family.

JS – Yeah he’s a natural. He was destined to play with Hair Nation from day one.

KP – That’s right.

JS – I mean, he was a perfect fit.

KP – He’s got hair. *all laugh*

What bands would you compare Hair Nation’s sound to?

JS – Well, as Hair Nation we play a variety of different bands. I know, personally, when Kevin and I were with Angelstorm, we found a lot of reviews and a lot of magazine and tv interviews, and they always compared us to Iron Maiden. We’ve even been compared to having radio anthems like Bon Jovi. And there was a couple others that I don’t recollect at the moment. Do you remember some other bands that they compared us to?

KP – Well people over in Shreveport have just made a collage of different bands and said ‘here’s Hair Nation.’

JS – Yeah. But Iron Maiden and Bon Jovi were the main two comparisons. Which was a big honor for me ’cause I love those guys anyway. Haha.

Besides Iron Maiden, who are some of you guys’ other favorite performers?

KP – Mine? I went against the norm during the eighties. A lot of people were doing the Guns N’ Roses and Poison and those kind of bands. I was going with the European style bands. Iron Maiden, Helloween, King Diamond and Diamondhead. Of course, the good old standards back in the early eighties, Metallica. I’ve always been a Metallica fan. And yours?

JS – Yeah me, it’s always been Wasp and Kiss.

KP – Yeah of course Kiss!

JS – Kiss was, I guess, probably ninety percent of every musician out there has been influenced by Kiss.

KP – Right, I mean it’s like a major circus without the clowns.

JS – Oddly enough, Wasp being one of my favorites, in 2002 I flew out to California and auditioned for Wasp and got to hang out with them for the day. That was really nice. And not to long ago, George Lynch of Dachen came to Ruston and came and played on stage with us. That was last October, which was a big honor.

KP – He came into town to do a guitar clinic, and we were there and had all the sound equipment we were running for him, and next thing you know, he’s up on the stage with us after he’s through and we’re jamming on some old Docken songs.

JS – Yeah that was pretty cool.

KP – Oh man, we was walking about five feet off the ground after that.

What songs do you perform the most, and what are some of your favorite songs to play?

JS – Probably one of my favorite songs to perform with Hair Nation would be “You Got Another Thing Coming” by Judas Priest. And one of my other favorites is “Love is On the Way” by Saigon Kick. That’d probably be two of my favorites.

KP – Let’s see. “Here I go Again” by Whitesnake. Oh my gosh, it’s hard to say because we’ve got so many.

JS – I know *All laugh*

NK – “Love Gun” by Kiss.

KP – Of course, that came out in the seventies, but it’s still a real good standard for us. But to me, I just love performing them all. Like I said, we’ve got so many of the eighties hair metal songs under our belts, it’s really hard to choose from one of them.

JS – Basically, the songs we perform are the ones we’ve chosen that really influenced us during the eighties. Anthems, you know.

KP – Exactly.

JS – And everytime we play, no matter what song we play, whether it be the first song or the tenth song, the crowd always responds the same. I mean, they’re just ‘oh I remember that song! Yay!”

KP – I’ve had several people come up to me after a set, and they’ll say ‘When you played that one song there, it just reminded me of what I was doing and who I was with back in the day.’

JS – Yeah. And that’s really rewarding as a band.

KP – Yeah, I mean it just brings back good memories for different people.

JS – And our original stuff does the same thing. I was always told, when you write a song that makes a person smile, you’re really good. If you write a song that changes emotion, you’re a master. And we have changed a lot of emotions.

KP – Yes, we have. If you write a song that will bring a tear to one person’s eye, you’re doing really, really good.

What is it that you love about eighties metal? What do you think makes the eighties hair band metal so great?

NK – It’s got a ton of energy to it.

JS – It’s got tons of energy. The music from the eighties, and of course the seventies but moreso in the eighties, the musicians of the eighties followed music theory, you know, and if you went to college for music theory and you got that education, you would be a perfect candidate for an eighties musician. Now, I know there’s a lot of shortcuts being made now, which I’m not knocking any band out there. I’m glad they’re making it and stuff. But there’s just not music theory in it anymore. And that’s what made the eighties so important. It was just all music theory. That’s a big impact on me.

KP – 98% of all the music from the eighties was very theatrical. It was like non-stop anthems from A to Z.

JS – Yeah, that’s absolutely right. You go to a concert in the eighties, not only did you hear good music, but you got a good theatrical show. It was all theatrics. Pyrotechnics. The action. A lot of bands, like Alice Cooper, would actually act out the song. Actually have characters come out and act out the song on stage. As well as the musicianship, like I said. It was all based on theory, which that’s the kind of musicians we are. We stick to the books, the theory.

What influence do you feel eighties music has had on music since? How do you think it’s changed?

JS – Well . . . Me personally, I think musicians have become lazy. They’re taking a lot of shortcuts. Shucks, how do you answer that without offending anybody. Haha. Well, let’s do it this way. Everything from the seventies and the eighties is still here. Look at Ford and Chevrolet, ok. They’re doing replicas of the old mustang, Chevrolet’s doing replicas of the old Camaros. Dodge is doing replicas. Everybody wants the old school, just can’t get enough of it.

KP – It’s going around in a big circle. Everything’s coming around.

JS – Yeah.

To what do you owe your success? What advice would you have for musicians today?

JS – Stay true to the musicianship. Stick to theory.

KP – The comradery of your bandmates.

JS – Forget about the money. Don’t think about money. Don’t think about being rich and famous. Be true to your music, be true to your fans.

KP – Play with your heart.

JS – Your fans are the ones that sign your check. They’re the ones that come to the shows and sign your check. Be true to your fans, the music. That’s about all the advice I can give. Create an image, have an image. When you walk into a grocery store, you want people to look at you, say ‘hey, that guy’s a musician.’ It’s got to be obvious, in my way of thinking. Haha. But that’d be the advice I give. Just stay true to the music and to the fans.

I think that’s about all the time we have. Thank you so much for being here.

JS – It’s been a pleasure.

KP – It’s been a total pleasure.

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