Ten years of Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer

Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer are heading to the Dream Café on April 1 with guest Dawn Pemberton.



Ten years can be a life changing amount of time.

While the blues-based rock Shawn Hall and Matthew Rogers perform as Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer seems timeless, change is a constant.

When asked what has changed in the decade since they formed, Hall’s response was pretty much everything.

“Marriages, kids … speaking of kids,” Hall said during a phone interview with the Western News from Vancouver Island, letting his young son know that he can’t play until the interview was over. “All that kind of stuff, what happens in 10 years? A great deal of life.”

Both band members are now taking on the role of father.

“That changes everything. Being a rock ’n’ roller and the selfish pursuits of the dream when you’re like 30 without kids is one thing, but trying to keep that selfish pursuit in being successful in the music business with kids is an entirely different thing.”

Figuring out a balance in life is a new challenge, trying to blend the different worlds of hitting the stage at festivals and clubs and being dad at home, as well as trying to harness creativity while working nine to five has been an adjustment.

“The creative muse is a delicate one and it gets easily discouraged or squashed on by regulation and confinement. Like you need to be creative within these hours when you’re either off parental duty when someone is napping, or these are the two days when you can do that,” Hall said. “It’s kind of a train wreck sometimes. It gets easier as your kids get older. That’s been a really interesting thing to adjust to.”

It comes through in the music, though none of the songs are about parenting, not yet, Hall said, but the emotions and confessions of shortcomings are there in a more metaphorical sense.

“Like longing, conflicting and tales of these characters spinning out. It’s sort of a very fine balancing act that neither one of us can claim we’re succeeding in balancing, but we’re definitely doing the very best that we can through it,” Hall said. “It’s been fascinating.”

The band has been taking on more in the last two years touring across Canada. Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer have been working with different Canadian artists including Miss Quincy and the Showdown and Dawn Pemberton. Pemberton, the soul, funk, jazz and R&B vocalist, is joining Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer during their Dream Café performance April 1.

Mixing in new people helps with keeping the spice in the musical marriage, Hall joked.

“When marriages get older, sometimes you’ve got to open them up a little bit and invite people in,” Hall said.

With a band member count of two, Hall said it makes sense to open up to the different sounds when inviting guests to play with them, but it’s a selective process and a delicate balance — horn sections can overwhelm the rhythm section and bringing in new vocals can be an intimate process.

Rogers and Hall are always the core of the group though, those parts, rhythm, vocals and harmonica, rarely shift. That is until their fifth album, aiming to be released this fall, where Hall hinted there are some slight movements for the the two founding members.

“That’s going to change things a little bit because we’ve really opened up our community and embraced all sorts of people that we love to make this record, that might dictate how things are live, but we’re not certain yet,” Hall said.

They have been working on the new album since writing started last summer and pre-production getting underway in December 2015. They are at Mushroom Studios in Vancouver four days a week, touring and taking what little personal time they can for the next three days before heading back for another four-day stretch.

“For the last two months solid we’ve been doing that approach … I would not recommend it,” Hall laughed. “However the time that we’ve been able to spend in this great room with such a neat team has been wonderful.”

The album is taking a live, collaborative approach during the recording process; multiple percussion and vocal tracks being recorded at once without the aid of overdubbing.

Tickets are $25 available by calling the Dream Café at  250-490-9012. Show time is 8 p.m.

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