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Nevermore are back in business and back on the road supporting their latest spoonful of worms, 'Enemies of Reality'. Once again, major touring is in the works including a U.S. run with Dimmu Borgir and Children Of Bodom. Despite the fact that vocalist Warrel Dane tends to be in the spotlight, it should not go unnoticed that bassist Jim Sheppard has been by his side since the Sanctuary days. While many of their peers have either stagnated or broken up only to return in the last couple of years for much celebrated reunions, Dane and Sheppard have soldiered on tirelessly through Sanctuary and into Nevermore - pushing the boundaries of their creativity with each successive release. The Metal Update caught up with Jim Sheppard to get the take on all that is happening with these modern Seattle thrashers and to talk a bit about the role of the bass player in heavy metal.

METAL UPDATE: Talk about playing the New England Metal Hardcore Festival this past year. It was cool to see you guys standing tall - a traditional styled metal band amidst the sea of hardcore and extreme death metal. It was a great gig for you guys, from my perspective.

JIM SHEPPARD: Actually we were really happy with that performance. I know there were a lot of young hardcore kids there. Of course Headbanger's Ball was there filming it. There was a lot of younger, hardcore vibe going throughout the night. I thought we had a really good reception there. We had a good mosh pit going. At the end we had everybody get up on stage. That was pretty cool. MTV kinda portrayed our crowd as a bit of a younger audience. They did some interviews and they were talking to some hardcore young kids that were coming up, and then they asked them "what do you think of the mosh pit?" and then they cut to a shot of Nevermore's mosh pit.

MU: Is that a good thing?

JS: I think so. It still kinda feels like we sometimes don't get the respect we deserve. I don't think we really ever have. But at the same time, I think it was a really good thing. It's cool to see that kind of excitement about a metal fest. We were obviously one of the headliners, and people will see that. If they look closely enough, you can see Warrel's hair on stage when everybody was up on stage with us.

MU: Do you think that the most important aspect of the Nevermore fan base is the old school thrash fan or the younger kids?

JS: I think it is a pretty broad spectrum. Obviously, there's some old school metalheads and some newer hardcore kids. We've always been the kinda band that's been in a sort of grey area - a little too soft for the hardcore fans and a little too heavy for the power metal / melodic fans. We've always seemed to draw from every group. It's not uncommon to see Deicide shirts at our shows.


MU: Are there hardcore kids? By "hardcore" I mean short hair, clean cut, straight-edge types. Do they get into Nevermore? [I was eating lunch while we were doing the interview, and impolitely asked this question with food in my mouth, muffling the end of my sentence a bit.]

JS: (laughs) Did you just say "Neverwhore"?

MU: (laughs) Perhaps. I think maybe I did.

JS: I like that one. We always get stuff like "Neverscore" or "Neverfamous." I like that. "Neverwhore." (laughs) Anyway, I think a percentage of the hardcore kids do like us. When you listen to the modern hardcore bands, there is a lot of emphasis on the guitar tracks. And there are some really good technical players in hardcore these days.

MU: It didn't used to be like that. In the eighties, it was all about simplicity.

JS: Yeah, but things have changed. Killswitch Engage, Hatebreed, HIMSA, those are really good, young bands. They are good crossover. And I know that at least some of the new bands are into Nevermore, mainly because the guitar riffs are so technical and heavy that they like it.

MU: What if Warrel wasn't your vocalist and you had a more of a death metal style or hardcore style vocalist singing for you. How do you think the band's career path would have been different?

JS: I can't answer that question 'cause I don't see this band any other way.

MU: Let me ask it a different way. Do you think that some people like the band musically but are turned off by the vocals? Or are there people who are only into Nevermore because of Warrel's vocals?

JS: Definitely. Like I said, we're a little too heavy for the melodic metal fans, and a little too melodic for the death metal fans. It definitely is true that there are certain percentage of people who are gonna be turned off by his singing and a certain other percentage that are only into us because of his vocals.

MU: It makes you guys original.

JS: Yeah. It puts us in a spot where we can be kind of a crossover band. We get hardcore fans, and people who grew up listening to Iron Maiden.

MU: Let's talk about the Sanctuary days. How does Nevermore relate musically to Sanctuary? How would you explain to someone who hasn't heard either of them the difference between the two?

JS: Well I think it's pretty obvious that Sanctuary is a late eighties, early nineties progressive metal band - very melodic vocals. With Nevermore we kind of changed our sound a little bit - adding a guitar player that came from a death metal band.

MU: Was that part of the concept? I heard Warrel say on Uranium that Sanctuary basically split in two - one part of the band wanted to go heavier, and the other part wanted to go lighter. Obviously, you guys were the heavier part of that equation.

JS: It wasn't conscious. When we got Jeff Loomis in the band we were still part of Sanctuary and it was done as part of an effort to keep that band alive. The other guys were influenced by the music that was going on in Seattle at the time, grunge, etc. Warrel and I wanted to stay true to metal and to Sanctuary and keep playing heavier music. Jeff got involved and took over the songwriting and his style was a lot more aggressive, almost death metal. I think you can hear that in a lot of our songs, especially some of the newer material.

MU: How important is the bass guitar in this kind of music?

JS: I think that it's extremely important. I think that you gotta rely on the bass to carry a lot of the low end. Even if the bass isn't heard it is there, providing a heavy bottom that's important to the sound of the music.

Nevermore - Enemies of Reality Cover

MU: Do you think it's important for the bass playing to be distinct in the mix?

JS: I think that in certain spots the bass should be sort of tucked under supporting a really heavy rhythm, and I think that in other spots, where it is appropriate, I think that it should be a little more isolated.

MU: Do you play with your fingers or with a pick?

JS: A little of both. All of the really aggressive stuff is with a pick.

MU: Is that a stylistic / sonic distinction or is that because you just can't play the really fast, technical stuff with your fingers?

JS: It's a stylistic, sound choice. I was playing with my fingers for years. Then when I was doing the first Sanctuary record, I was in the studio and I wanted to sound like Junior, so I started playing with a pick.

MU: Who are the most important metal bass players who play with a pick? Ellefson? Newsted?

JS: Today?

MU: Who is the quintessential metal bass player who plays with a pick?

JS: David Ellefson from Megadeth, definitely. And the bass players who first influenced me playing with my fingers were definitely Cliff Burton and Geezer Butler. Actually, for me, it was easier to learn to play with my fingers. Learning to play with a pick was harder. Today I find that some riffs are easier with a pick, some are easier with my fingers. I've learned to do more with my thumbs than anything. I like the really muffled, smooth, low-end sound you can get if you just kind of thumb-bass it.

MU: In most Nevermore songs, do you try to match the main guitar riff, or do your lines move independent of the guitars?

JS: Sometimes that's just the best approach. If the guitar is so busy, it makes sense. I usually try to stay with a drum / bass line. Or I come up with something, a beat to a Nevermore song that is my own thing. But I think that with a lot of really fast rhythms it sounds good to be right on the guitar, actually. Sometimes it's hard to play bass as fast as the guitar, so you kinda simplify it a little bit.

MU: The instrument gets short shrift, overall.

JS: I think so. My favorite musicians are bass players.

MU: A lot of bass players are defensive about playing with a pick. Some people think that "real musicians" play with their fingers.

JS: Yeah, I agree. I get that a lot. You know what, that was defining my sound for a while, and it works for me, so I'm not gonna change it. I'm not the greatest bass player, but I'm certainly no layman.

MU: Didn't you slice your finger open once and still do the tour?

JS: (laughs) Yeah, I did the three finger bass thing for a while.

MU: Let's talk about the new album, 'Enemies Of Reality'. What's up with all of the worm metaphors?

JS: That's just the stuff that's going on in Warrel's head. His social commentary about what's going on in the world.

MU: What happened to the pigs? You know, "The pigs still preach their lies." A lot of the old songs had references to pigs. Now it's all about worms. Maybe they are the same things?

JS: Yeah, I think the worms and the pigs are pretty much the same thing. You know, 'Politics. . .' was such a political album, about the laws in America on drugs and stuff like that. But I think this album is more about modern politics. Warrel doesn't really explain the songs to me. Like other people, he wants you to listen to the music and the lyrics and decide for yourself. They may mean something different to you, and that's what music is all about.

MU: Let's talk about the video. The worms are going to be in there too right? [This interview was done before the video was shot.]

JS: Yeah, hopefully we can pull that off.

MU: What do you mean?

JS: We have the worms on the album cover. But having them on video camera is a lot different than having them in a picture, which you can enlarge, adjust, etc. - glorify it a little bit. Video is going to be more honest. So either the worms are gonna look really silly on the video and we won't include them, or it is going to look cool and we'll keep them in.

MU: The video is for the title track, right?

JS: Right.

Nevrmore - The Band!

MU: Why did you choose that one??

JS: It just seems to be a focus track. We seem to be getting the best response from it in Europe and because it kinda starts the journey of this record. I think if you listen to "Enemies of Reality" it kind of connects the band to Nevermore, but by the time you get to the end of the record it seems like we've morphed, like we've taken another step.

MU: How are important are videos to the current metal scene in America?

JS: I think videos are extremely important right now in America.

MU: Hasn't that just happened in the last year?

JS: Definitely, and I think it is making a big difference. Tours like the one with In Flames and the one coming up with Dimmu Borgir, it seems like the attendance has really jumped. The underground metal scene is starting to grow.

MU: And if someone sees you on TV, it feels more like a bigger band, doesn't it?

JS: Yeah. It gives you a little validity. We've tried to get our Nevermore stuff on MTV for years. With Sanctuary, of course, we had a little success with that. That kinda music was built off of stuff like Headbanger's Ball, but now Headbanger's Ball is back. We've been submitting stuff to MTV for years, and this is the first time in my career of at least fifteen years where MTV's actually pursuing us for a video. The record company actually asked us for one.

MU: I recently saw the "Believe In Nothing" video played on Uranium.

JS: Yeah. We were kinda persuaded by our record company to do that one. We thought it would be bigger in Europe. But it didn't turn anybody on at Extreme Rock on M2. But you know what? If it was us we would have picked a different song.

MU: How important is it to a Nevermore record to have that ballad?

JS: I think it's pretty important. I don't know why, but it has always been kind of a trademark of ours. And when the ballad is done right, I really enjoy playing them. But I have to admit, the faster music keeps me more attentive.

MU: So with this album, which one is the ballad? "Tomorrow Turned Into Yesterday" or "Who Decides"?

JS: "Tomorrow Turned Into Yesterday" - I think we perfected that Nevermore ballad, too, with this one.

MU: Let's talk touring. What are the plans for this record?

JS: We're going to be touring in Europe through mid October with Arch Enemy. In the U.S., starting in November, we tour with Dimmu Borgir and Children Of Bodom. I think that's a really cool tour. There's obviously a cool thing going on now with Scandinavian metal. It's doing really well in the U.S. We have two examples of that with Dimmu Borgir and Children Of Bodom. It will be Children Of Bodom's first time over, and they have a new release. Nevermore has a new release. Dimmu has a new release.

MU: That tour is gonna draw all corners of the current underground scene.

JS: This is one of the tours I've been most excited about that we've ever done in America.

MU: What position on the bill will Nevermore have?

JS: It will be Children Of Bodom opening, then we support, then Dimmu Borgir.

MU: So what's your take on the current metal scene right now? What bands are you listening to? What mags are you reading, etc.?

JS: I think the new music scene is really exciting. I can compare it now to like ten years ago with Sanctuary, when underground metal was coming up. But now there's a number of good European and Scandinavian bands coming up. It's really inspiring. I love bands like Dimmu Borgir, Soilwork, In Flames, Immortal. Some of my favorite magazines? Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles, Rock Hard, Hammer.

MU: How does this album rank in the Nevermore catalogue?

JS: I like that we are able to take things in a new direction that keeps people guessing where we are going to go with the next one. That's kind of what we wanted to do. To me, it feels like it goes back a little bit and borrows from 'Politics. . .' and takes little bit from 'Dead Heart. . .'. To me it is exciting to see Nevermore taking on a bit of a new form. I think that this record is basically a stepping stone to what our sound will be on our next record.

MU: How long will Nevermore continue as a band?

JS: Forever.

MU: There's no end in sight, right?

JS: No, not for me. I work part time at a local jazz club here. It's dinner and wine and all sorts of old famous jazz artists play here. I've seen guys that are seventy-something that are still in great shape and still are excited about touring. So I guess I have something to look forward to. I just don't look forward to the seventy-year-old groupies. (laughs) But seriously, I think you can kind of equate what we're doing to jazz. It is somewhat similar. Jazz might have been a little bit more popular when it first started, but I think that real technical metal will keep a fan base for a long time.

MU: Perhaps the only reason we don't have metal bands that old is because it hasn't been around as a genre long enough.

JS: Well, I don't know. Look at Ozzy. (laughs) He's still playing to a big audience. He's not doing the dinner / wine shows.


Nevermore interview with Warrel Dane

review of Nevermore 'Enemies Of Reality'

review of Nevermore 'Dead Heart In A Dead World'

review of Nevermore 'The Politics Of Ecstasy'





Interview: Eric German [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
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