by Bret Miller
I'd barely heard anything about Damnation this last year when I got the chance to see them play at the Key Club opening for The Misfits. They totally blew me away with their energy, Shaun's stage antics and Tod's riff-heavy guitar style. In the following months I listened to their Unholy Sounds of album a few times and had the pleasure of speaking to singer and lyricist Shaun Kama. We talked about his former band Living End, Damnation's alter ego Blood Junkies and about the joys of a fast, short song.
Please introduce yourself.
Shaun Kama: Hi I'm Shaun, the singer for Damnation and the Blood Junkies.
I haven't heard of Blood Junkies.
It's a side project of Damnation, the four guys from Damnation plus a keyboard player and percussionist. It's me playing an acoustic guitar and singing, kind of like Johnny Cash meets New Model Army and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds all in one band. We do Blood Junkies to mix things up.
No spitting blood in this band?
No. (Laughs) It's the antithesis of Damnation in that its not as much about the theatrics of the show as it is the performance of the songs. Itís a different approach, itís certainly about the songwriting in both bands, but (Blood Junkies) gives me a chance to stand there and sing and play which is kind of nice.
Where have you played?
We just did a date at the Troubadour, which was pretty cool with The Original Sinners, Exene's new band. That was a good date. We've got more stuff in the months to come. We just got done recording the Blood Junkies LP, I imagine it should be out by the end of February at the very latest.
The Blood Junkies album is self-released as well?
Yes, for the time being, it is self-produced and basically self-released. We're going to print up a bunch of them. I imagine we'll get an independent pretty quick to put out Blood Junkies stuff as well. I've always written a lot of songs not necessarily that don't fit in any of the specific genres of music I'm doing music for at the time, so its nice to be able to use some of those songs. Some of them have been sitting around for years and some were created last week. I've also got another band called Company of Wolves that I just started with a drummer friend. But Damnation is something that we've been really focusing on and working on quite a bit. The release is February 1st and we've been building up to this date. My main focus is to really get people into this album (The Unholy Sounds Of Damnation), get it into their hands.
How many albums have you put out with Damnation?
There's three LPs, a few EPs and a few 7-inches and a picture disc. (Our first album), makes it four (LPs) with a different line-up, its just Robert (Shawn, drums) and I with a different guitar player and different bass player. Right after the Living End broke up we immediately got this thing with Last Resort and we put this album together. That's actually out there floating around as Damnation but is just called Damnation, it was on Last Resort Records.
How long has it been since Damnation began?
Six years in October. The Living End broke up and we pretty much started this right away, Robert, the drummer and the bass player (Al G) took a little break to do a few things on his own, and about a year later he joined. The rest is history. We finally met Tod, our guitarist, who is from Vegas, I met him through tattooing him and his friends. The line-up has been solid ever since.
You've got that lived in sound, you all sound well practiced, like you've been doing it a while.
That's really nice to hear, thanks. We've been trying to add another guitar player since but its really difficult because we have been playing together for so long and thereís a little bit of telepathy with these guys. I know that I can come to them with the bones of a song...I donít dictate every aspect of the songwriting, you know what I mean? I just kind of say Hey man, go for it. Professional is not quite the right word, just weíre on our gig and we all know it. (Laughs) We can rely on each other to be on our gig.
Do your write the lyrics while playing guitar or piano?
I do a little bit of piano, I play guitar all the time and a little bit of bass. I primarily write on acoustic guitar. I spend a lot of time writing just because I really can. Iím super-inspired to do it. I write songs quite a bit, so weíve got plenty of material, enough for three projects that are completely different.
I listened to your CD and thought it was funny that I just heard 11 songs in under 20 minutes.
We wanted to be different in the sense that be want to hit you hard, fast, then split and leave a really lasting impression. I still believe in bursts of good songs as opposed to opuses.
When I first saw you play live I was just getting into your music and after ten minutes I thought Ďthat was like five songs I just heard.í
You were standing there checking it out and youíre like ďHoly Shit, they passed through that much material in such a short timeĒ? People have real short attention spans and we like to go off really hard. With Damnation weíre laying out every show like itís the last one weíll ever do. Weíre trying to give you everything up there. Iím glad you were intrigued. The write-up on the show was really cool, Iím glad you had fun. (See the September/October 2002 issue for concert review--HD editor.)
We went to the Key Club, got there early, saw Damnation and then said to each other Ďletís go have dinner.í
Did you guys go to that Johnnyís place down the street?
The pizza place.
That place is great, they have good New York style pie there.
We were just sitting there going ĎOh man.....Iím wiped out!í
(Laughs) Youíre wiped out in 35 minutes. Thereís a lot of times when weíre hitting it harder than the audience. The audience canít even keep up with the bandís intensity because its so fucking insane a lot of times.
The lengths of your songs seems to work really well when you have a half-hour to play.
Absolutely, youíre right. You feel like youíve really fulfilled it, youíve really given it your all because youíve played 15 songs in 30 minutes. So there you go.
Youíve got that song about a priest?
Fuel Injected Priest. That really gets the audience singing along, doesnít it?
Youíve got songs about hot rods, women and drugs.
And drugs, exactly. Thereís some marijuana reference once in a while. Thatís not necessarily bad.
That about covers the whole rockíníroll thing, you know?
It covers the genre, you think so?
Yes, especially in a half-hour.
You have to get it all in. Itís the commercial generation where you have one minute to get your point across and if its not really good and super happening its all over for you.
At this point we continued on with the conversation talking about Shaun's tattoo business. After the interview I found that my recorder batteries had died right at the end of what you've read. Anyway, he wanted to thank The Greedy Brothers for doing a great job on the production of The Unholy Sounds of, and wanted everyone to go to the official Damnation site at www.damnation66613.com and get on the street team for free swag and concert tix. You can also see Shaun's tattoos at www.Halloweentattoos.com.
Be sure to see Damnation at the Troubadour on 3/1 with 3 Bad Jacks, Slanderin' and Blue Collar Special. The Blood Junkies should be playing around L.A. sometime soon.
I just saw Blue Collar and met vocalist Rafe and the band rocked out the Glass House with The Fabulous Disaster and The Briefs so get to the Troub early.