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Monday, February 7, 2011

exclusive: here comes the shanks

Here's my latest article with Cadence Magazine. An exclusive interview with the brainchild of rock group, The Shanks, Ian Donald Starkey



The SHANKS is the brainchild of songwriter, vocalist, and bassist, Pistolwhip von Shankenstein, AKA Ian Donald Starkey. The word brainchild says it all, conjuring up images of a crazy scientist who lives in a dark basement, wears a white jacket, and makes different concoctions to scare little children away from his home. However, when Starkey picked up the phone on that Monday afternoon, he didn’t sound like a crazy scientist wearing a white jacket at all. With his deep, rugged, manly voice, I knew he must be the Rock’n’Roller I was looking for . . . but it was his big teddy-bear softness that caught me off-guard.

As I introduced myself, I knew this interview was going to be interesting.

After our brief introductions Starkey started talking about how he was in another band before the SHANKS but his partner had died due to “Rock’n’Roll-type” causes. In 2005, he joined up with various drummers to form the SHANKS, but none of them worked out — until McNenly came along. Now they have found that “SHANKS” sound.

“I think one thing that’s common to all the material,” Starkey said, “is that I’m a really big fan of big melodies.” He continued, “I try to bring melody out wherever possible.” Of course, some tracks won’t get played on commercial radio, but they still get some airplay, mostly on the college level,” Starkey explained. “There are some songs that hit the airwaves more,” he said, especially from their latest album The Dark Richard Show.

The Dark Richard Show, which will be officially released on February 11th – the same day as the SHANKS’ Toronto date at the classic Lee’s Palace — was inspired by Starkey’s fascination with certain Shakespearean characters. “Richard III is [a character] that I’ve always been interested in,” he revealed. “And the Dark Richard Show is just a name about living life like dark Richard, I guess. He’s a nasty guy.”

The recorded sound of the band is much like that of them playing live. “Each song, each concert has its own theme,” Starkey explained. “We try to mess around with the theatrical elements of Rock’n’Roll for sure.” He continued, “I think our live show sets us apart. I feel that people get something from our concerts that maybe doesn’t always come across [in a recording].” Starkey related, “Sound recording is one thing, but there’s another dimension to a live show that can’t be put on a record. And I think that is something that has been an advantage for us.”

The live show has brought SHANKS notoriety for being anything but an “album band”: good on record, but can’t perform.

Starkey admitted, “Anybody can make the finest record in the world. Sounds amazing, great songs and everything, but if there’s no way to tour with it, and no way to put on a concert with it, it’s a lot harder . . . at least in Rock’n’Roll.” He added, “There are other genres of music that maybe work a lot better, but for Rock, the concert is really important.”

February 11th will be very important for the band, as it will be the first time they’re playing Lee’s Palace on a weekend. “The promotion for the show has been going really well. We’re actually the after-party for Social Media Week, and we’ve already sold a whole bunch of tickets for it,” Starkey said. “It’s going to be a good one. We’ve really stepped up the program with the lighting and stuff like that for the show, so I think it’s going to be pretty exciting live rock.”

What’s next?

Starkey enthusiastically shared, “There are two recording projects: a brand new full-length that is sort of in the early stages of having dubs put over it, so I think we’re getting that record out in May and then there’s another recording project that I’ve been horsing around with that’s a bunch of old Sunday school-type songs done in rock version. It’s called ‘Saturday Nights, Sunday Mornings’.”

As the interview closed, he promised me admittance to the show on February 11th at Lee’s Palace. I realized that this hard-rocker, whom I thought would have a crazy attitude and be a hard person to interview, turned out to be a really cool guy who just loves to play around with melodies. There is a difference between his on-stage theatrical side, as he would say, and Ian, the music lover and father.

If you would like to check out the SHANKS, you can go to their webpage, or check them out on MySpace or Facebook. Better yet, check them out live and find out what I have learned: everything about them is an experience worth talking or writing about.