Tagged as the greatest of all Kiwi rock bands, there’s certainly no band more successful, or more resilient, than Wellington’s finest hard rockers. For more than a quarter century the group has kept at it, with exactly the same lineup, pumping out nine albums and the most Top 40 singles of any NZ group.
Inspired by American speed metal acts like Metallica, Shihad developed their own sound incorporating some of that genre’s machine-gun riffing, but also an industrial, apocalyptic edge most apparent on their first and latest albums (Churn, 1993, and FVEY, 2014), both produced by Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman. To this, they add a more mainstream anthemic rock flavour that has endeared them to generations of punters at their legendary gigs.
Formed in 1988, the lineup coalesced around Jon Toogood (vocals, guitar), Phil Knight (guitar), Karl Kippenberger (bass) and Tom Larkin (drums), and relentless touring saw them build a sizable audience both in NZ and Australia. By the mid-nineties, Shihad were touring through Europe and America, and in 1998, they moved their base to Melbourne. Just a year later, they recorded the seminal album The General Electric, containing killer songs like “My Mind’s Sedate” and a sound that Toogood described as “a jet engine you like listening to.”
The group’s only misstep was America, where plans for world domination were scuppered by the fallout from the September 11 Twin Towers attacks. American management convinced the group to change their name to Pacifier and that, together with a slicker sound, was enough to elicit booing from the cheap seats back home in NZ. Ultimately, Shihad returned home, reinstated their rightful moniker, and turned out a blazing return to form in Love Is The New Hate in 2004.
With multiple music accolades and a Legacy Award from the NZ Music Awards in 2010, as well as a revealing documentary, Beautiful Machine (2012), Shihad’s position as the all-prevailing kings of Kiwi rock doesn’t look to be in any doubt.
Karl Kippenberger (bass) • Phil Knight (guitar) • Tom Larkin (drums) • Jon Toogood (guitar & vocals)