Shot Down Twice – Energy InjectionTuesday, 11th January 2022
Fusing together a killer blend of classic hard rock with bluesy, metal, and groove-oriented aspects is Canadian act Shot Down Twice. Releasing their second, self-titled EP, one can expect a musical stew of influences across the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s spectrum – featuring powerhouse vocals, stirring lead breaks, and catchy hooks on all fronts. We had the chance to speak to vocalist Carmen North and guitarist Jeff Wilson who were happy to fill us in on all things related to the group. You’ll learn more about how they came together, the work behind the latest EP, their live performance outlook, special video memories, and what the future holds for the group.
Dead Rhetoric: Shot Down Twice formed in 2019 – can you give us insight into the origins story behind how this lineup came to be, and did you know straight away how you wanted to approach this as far as style and substance compared to previous work with other bands?
Jeff Wilson: I was in a metal band called Sludgehammer. We had just broken up, and I decided I wanted to change genres, not too lighter but a mix of hard rock and metal. I like other types of music too. There was another metal band that was ending around here as well, we took two members from them and one member being myself and started Shot Down Twice. We wrote a bunch of songs and looked for a singer for a year. We were looking for a male singer actually – and when we couldn’t find one, we switched it up to find a female singer. We found Carmen right away, she killed the audition, and she started adding a lot to the table. And now she is here.
Carmen North: I knew the bassist from high school – he reached out to me out of the blue. We all came from different kinds of places. I really wanted to be in this kind of band – a band that wasn’t exactly metal but reminiscent of old school metal. Which I think this band is in a lot of way. It rocks like some of the earliest metal.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you have any sort of individual musical training, either vocally or on your instruments?
North: I took lessons for all types of instruments my whole life. I did extracurricular music stuff my whole life. I have played so many different instruments in so many different genres and under different contexts, I have so much experience with that. This is what I wanted to do the most.
Wilson: I played piano a little bit. But I’ve been playing guitar now for about twenty years. It’s just a lot of guitar work.
Dead Rhetoric: This self-titled EP is the group’s second outing – following up the previous EP Got Up Once. Where do you see the major differences in terms of the recording and songwriting this go around? Were there any surprises, obstacles, or challenges to push through this time around?
Wilson: We wanted to make better songs. On the first EP, those songs were written before Carmen came in. Instrumentally they were written before she came in.
North: The last songs we wrote separately. These songs we wrote together because we became so close.
Wilson: We wanted to step things up, so we wanted to write stronger songs. Faster solos, hookier choruses. We were happy with the last EP too.
North: We spent a little more money on the recording, so it sounds a little better.
Wilson: We used the same gear, and we had a lot of time to write this material as it was during COVID-19. Some of the songs were written while we were stuck in lockdown. I don’t know if the lyrics reflected that, but maybe some of the music was me losing my mind on the couch getting bored, and then writing stuff and putting songs to it.
North: My songwriting is always based on me losing my mind. It’s just different ways here and there.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you try to come across lyrically as far as the songs?
North: I’m super into lyrics. They are pretty hard to explain a lot of the time, but they are pretty aggressive. They are really emotional, and a lot of clever plays on words. There are a lot of things that I say in my lyrics that only I could really understand and really explain to people. I’m very proud of them, they are pretty angry and sometimes take people a little off guard. It’s cathartic.
Wilson: We wanted angry lyrics – not necessarily Slipknot angry. We want aggressive, emotional style lyrics. Sassy and funny and interesting.
North: I used to do punk rock and metal as well, and that was way angrier. It’s just more fun now.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s evident throughout your playing and performances that you combine influences from the classic rock, hard rock, alternative, and metal genres. What do you think are the key trademarks or distinctive elements that encompass Shot Down Twice when it comes to what you put across on your recordings?
North: For me, I’m super inspired by old 80’s names like Judas Priest and Dio. I am really going for that as a vocalist, that triumphant-ness and I love super powerful things. I like the color schemes to be very bold and rock and roll. I want what I do to embody that.
Wilson: We’ve got blues, groove metal, thrash metal – some good players like Stevie Ray Vaughn and Joe Satriani as well. And then Zakk Wylde. It’s a mix of 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s stuff as well. We both love Dio, the epic things.
North: We play off that. We want things to be very intense, we don’t relent when it comes to the guitar solos or the vocals.
Dead Rhetoric: Jeff, do you see major differences between your guitar work and Pat’s as well?
Wilson: A little bit. Enough where it’s good and that they compliment each other. I want people to know it’s a Jeff solo and when it’s a Pat solo. We are both really good-ish. (laughs). We could always be better. I like vibrato a lot, he likes sweep picking a little bit more. He is good at vibrato too, and I don’t mind doing fast stuff as well. There are nuances that are different.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the live performances of Shot Down Twice? What do you hope to get across to the audiences you perform in front of, and what have been some of the more standout moments over the years with the band on stage?
Wilson: We like to party, that’s what we want to give off for a vibe on stage. We want to get a good energy going, we want to be memorable, and we want to entertain. We’ve only played shows since August. We are on our sixth show now. We’ve had some pretty good crowds, that’s a good sign.
North: I was really excited to start playing with this band live, I just knew that the songs would be really exciting live. My last band, I had almost that element that I wanted, but with this band we have it. I was so excited, right when people hear the first craziness in our set, they know it’s that kind of band. There is so much to take in, the guitar solos, the vocals – it can be over the top.
Dead Rhetoric: How did it feel to finally secure a permanent bassist for the band – as that seemed to be the final missing link?
Wilson: We still need a full-time drummer. We have lots of friends in the music industry, so we’ve been able to find solid fill-ins. We are looking for that final piece. It felt good to get the bassist in there, we are tighter now.
North: And he’s really good. He fit in so well so quickly.
Wilson: It will be good to write the next record. The writing will have a change in the dynamic with a full lineup.
Dead Rhetoric: What is the heavy music scene like in your part of Hamilton, Ontario as far as clubs, venues, promoters, bands, and the fan support? Do you believe you gain fair acceptance locally or have had more luck venturing out of town for killer shows?
Wilson: We like Hamilton shows. We’ve done Toronto and Oshawa as well. It’s coming more alive, for sure. There are lots of places to play, in Toronto as well. People are still unsure because of the vaccine.
North: I think everyone has been really nice. I haven’t had many negative experiences in many years.
Dead Rhetoric: Now Carmen, you designed the cover art for this record – and you do some illustrations and cartoon work. How much fun is it for you to contribute in this way for the band – and how did you come up with the concept this time?
North: I was so excited. I’ve always drawn cartoons and I have always had people say that I should design cover art. I’ve done show posters and things like that, but this time I did the cover. My solo album I designed but I didn’t actually draw because when it comes to graphics on the template, it’s hard if you aren’t that computer-minded I guess. This time, I just drew this quick angry lizard pointing a baseball bat. I sent it to my friend Matthew Voros, he is in a band called The House of Haunt. He’s really awesome, and he computerized it, put a background on it. We added a logo, and I’m so happy I got to do this. I like that we have my cartoon style linked with the album, that’s how I picture my writing too.
Wilson: We also have new merch art based off this cover art, it’s up on our Facebook and Instagram pages. Pretty colorful looking t-shirts.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest obstacles or challenges that Shot Down Twice is currently facing to climbing the ladder in terms of gaining a stronger following and foothold in the international scene?
Wilson: Let me get my list going (laughs). Financial is hard – you have to put out money in order to make money. There are so many bands fighting for the same space – you have to balance that and try to stand out. Your other work with this work – maybe a physical toll from the shows, making sure you stretch out and warm up. That’s off the top of my head.
North: Having all the band members and coordinating a bunch of people is harder in any setting.
Wilson: Getting all the band members together. Keeping a cohesive lineup together. Keeping everybody happy. Making sure everyone feels good, you want to have a productive environment.
North: It’s hard to find a formula for success, it’s so complicated. Especially when it comes to social media, you have people saying so many different things. It’s hard to find the right formula. I like playing live, it’s a really good, organic way to gain a following.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe your outlook on your social media platforms and the connections you are making with your fanbase? I find it was quite entertaining to see you inject your sense of humor and personalities within your latest video for “Undermine Overthrow” for instance…
Wilson: We’ve done some live streams on Facebook where we are able to inject our personalities into things a little bit. The fans that we have that we don’t know – we know the people that live around us, but then there are people that we have no idea who they are. Since we can’t come to play to them, it’s best to give them a face – and that’s where we can interact and get a sense of who we are.
North: When it comes to social media, I like being positive. I’m not opinionated, and it can put you in hot water. We like to spread positivity about ourselves and other bands. We are like that in real life anywhere.
Wilson: We planned that video out. It was fun, it was easy. We wanted to have fun when we shot the video so that it would come through. There were a lot of different cameras on the set. The only bad thing was the drive to shoot the video was about an hour and a half away. It was a great place to do it in Oshawa.
North: I laughed my ass off the whole time. It was a very small room, and we were a little concerned about how we were going to get things done at first. We managed to move everything around, feng shui it.
Wilson: We wanted to get it done in time, on a budget. It was a little nerve-wracking.
North: When I watched the video, I realized that it’s based on all of our personalities. We are playing who we would be as a cartoon character, basically. To an extent – Pat isn’t that much of a nerd. Johnny isn’t a bodyguard. I was definitely playing myself, just an exaggerated version but it was authentic.
Dead Rhetoric: What have you changed your mind the most about over the last three to five years when it comes to your personal outlook on life – and why have you made those changes?
North: I’ve become more open to different kinds of music. I see the beauty in different kinds of genres, and it’s more of an ongoing thing for me. When it comes to that when I was younger, I had to have it insanely goth or metal music or it sucks. That was a big one. I value niceness and goodness more and more. Being a nice person who cares for others. I look for that in people more and more. Who I trust and look up to has changed and morphed to who is kind and talented.
Wilson: I have more patience for things nowadays as I get older. I like to see things from other people’s perspective as well. Just try to be a good human being. Sometimes you fail, but you at least try.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider three of the most important albums that shaped your music tastes- and what is the best concert memory you have purely as a fan attending a show, and what made that so special to you?
North: The first album that comes to mind is Marilyn Manson – Portrait of an American Family. It really shaped me growing up. The next one would be Herzeleid by Rammstein. Third one, would be Heaven and Hell by Black Sabbath. I’ve seen Marilyn Manson and Rammstein live. I love concerts and worshipped rock stars when I was a little kid, I would just go insane.
Wilson: I’m terrible with these questions. There is Pantera, Slipknot, Black Label Society, Ozzy. That’s just off the top of my head. A lot of concerts were good. I saw Down live, I fist-bumped Phil, that was pretty cool. My first concert I went to was Rob Zombie, back in 2001. I was ten or eleven. It was an arena, a metal show, interesting and seeing him come out on stage was very memorable.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for Shot Down Twice over the next twelve months to support the new EP?
Wilson: I have written a new song, Carmen is going to finish writing it soon. We will do a three song EP next time. We are building for a summer tour – we have shows booked for February. We are accelerating things in six-month cycles. More songs, more music, more shows.
North: I really want to do a full-length album in the future. I have my heart set on that.