Shihad set to rock at Big Day Out

One can almost see an eyebrow go up when the term "Big Day Out veterans" is mentioned to Tom Larkin, but they have for years now been as popular at Auckland's Big Day Out as the international headline acts.

"It's an awesome festival to play. We get to see where we're at, where our growth is at and where we're sitting every year," Larkin says from his adopted home town of Melbourne.

They're not as high up on the billing for the Australian legs of the tour, but album number six, Love is the New Hate (LITNH), has been well received there.

A couple of tracks from the album went to the top of the Australian Triple J charts and although the album has been widely acclaimed and appreciated by fans, its aggression probably ensured it wouldn't be a huge seller.

"It's sold well -- not to the extent that other albums have -- but I think that's a direct reflection of the material it is. It's a really angry album and when it's not angry it's very personal," Larkin says.

"I would hesitate to say it's uninviting, but it's an album that is very much a strong point of view ... I guess if you can't relate to the kind of emotion of it, then it's a pretty terse proposition to listen to it."

The band added a touch of pop to their music after starting their career with the intense Churn and Killjoy albums, winning -- and possibly losing -- a few fans on the way.

American bands such as Faith No More and Ministry have huge status in the world of heavy rock, and members of both heaped praise on Killjoy when it was released.

Larkin says there are plenty of good memories from early BDOs when the likes of Ministry and Soundgarden headlined, and snippets of those shows have been taken.

"We have somewhere along the line managed to capture a copy of each one (BDO performance) which has been fantastic.

"It means somewhere along the line we get to see the band grow through the ages on those stages," he says.

While the BDO Auckland show is similar to the Australian ones, Larkin says there are differences, including the variation beyond the headlining acts.

"There's a different energy and a different group of bands that turn up. That's one of the wonderful things about New Zealand, they do have a recognition of a whole series of different styles of music that Australia -- for all intensive purposes -- doesn't get."

He says while there's pressure to put in big performances on the BDO tour, he has also learned to enjoy it.

"Over the years I've grown less concerned about where we're going to be or what we're going to do. I just tend to get on the train and let it happen. If you don't you go mad."

Beyond the Big Day Out Shihad has other Australasian shows lined up -- including next month's Rippon Festival in Wanaka -- but Larkin says the band is already working on another album.

The band has been individually working on bits and pieces and all going well it could be in the bag by the end of the year.

All will no doubt be keen to avoid the problems that nagged throughout the development stages of LITNH.

Despite the strength of the finished album there were some long and tiring battles, Larkin says.

They included bad mixes and the odd fallout with people helping to produce the album.

He says LITNH only really started coming together when the four of them packed a trailer full of gear and headed for the isolation of Ngamatea Station in the Central North Island.

"That place gave us the space to find ourselves. It cut all the distractions and gave us a beautiful place that was inspiring. That's really where the album was forged.

"Before that it was peppered with battles to get it where it needed to go. It was just a nightmare to get finished, but once it was done it was like, there it is ... we felt the struggle was worth it and was a huge component of the sound of that album as well."

While it's a credit to the character of the four band members that they've stuck together for so long Larkin says life away from music has been important.

"Even though we live in the same town, often it's a case of not really wanting to see too much of each other because we already do when we're together playing.

"We lead separate lives here but always get together for the music. I think it's quite healthy because you do suffer from overload from each other."

Shihad play at 6.15pm on the main stage at Ericsson Stadium in Auckland on January 20, followed by big-guns Franz Ferdinand, Iggy and the Stooges and the White Stripes.


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