Former Sick Puppies frontman Shimon Moore, together with Chris Clemence (Rap Scallions) and Russell Ali, have formed a new band called Screaming at Demons. Their first single “Rock Star” will be released on October 6th, 2015. Sick Puppies rose to overnight success when Moore filmed the famous Free Hugs video in 2006, catapulting the social movement world-wide. It’s no wonder and with great expectation that “Rock Star” will be released in a similarly unconventional way. Shimon and Clemence talk with Shockwave Magazine about their new band, the charity Homeless Rock Stars and life beyond a label.
Thanks for calling Shockwave. I want to jump right in and talk about the new project that’s coming up. You have a new band called Screaming at Demons. How did the three of you come together as a band?
Shimon Moore: Chris, why don’t you take that?
Chris Clemence: Back in 2014 Shim did a couple of solo tours with Russell (Ali), and he called it Screaming at Demons, and people were like, “Oh that must be the name of the new band!” and it just kind of stuck. So, they knew they were going to do something together. I happened to meet Shim at a friend’s party in Hollywood and we kind of just hit it off right away and we started doing some writing and music together, and then he asked me to be in the band.
So the band name Screaming at Demons just stuck. What was the sentiment behind that statement, and how does it convey the collective voice for your new collaboration?
SM: Originally it was more of a happy accident. I didn’t want to do the Shimon Moore show because … it just felt lame to do. I wanted to call it something that was more than myself. I wanted it to be more of an experience. A friend of mine drew a poster for the show, and it’s a black and white picture of me looking down at this very demonic kind of thing screaming back up at me. The name came to me very quickly when I saw that. Then it came more and more to mean things going on in my life. I felt like all of these things sort of leading up to it, and the idea of wrestling with demons, and the idea that I’m not going to take this shit.
The song and video for “Rock Star” premiers October 6 as the soundtrack for a video that you, Shim, produced for Nigel Skeet’s charity Homeless Rock Stars. Can you tell us about the charity and how you got involved with it?
SM: Nigel Skeet had worked on skid row with a lot of homeless people and came to understand the homeless situation. When he moved up to Redding (California) the community said to him, “You know, you better be careful of the homeless community up here. You’d better be careful.” He really was allergic to the bullying mentality this community had. So he basically sort of dissolved the tension by inviting … he had this idea. The whole thing with Nigel is the idea to sort of grab some people up and give them hair and makeup. Then he was doing an interview about his own photo studio, and at the end of this interview he said, “Oh, and yeah, I have this idea to give homeless people hair and makeup and give them, like, a rock and roll photo shoot,” and that was it. The next day he was on the front of the paper. And they said, “Nigel Skeet, rock and roll photographer is making homeless people rock stars.” Suddenly Homeless Rock Stars was born, and Nigel hadn’t done anything yet.
It’s kind of like what’s happening with Screaming at Demons and the song. A lot of people are asking us what we’re doing, and helping it turn into something, and we haven’t even really done anything yet. We’re just doing it. Like, the act of doing it is very interesting and story-worthy in a way. That’s exactly what happened with Nigel. Suddenly he had to find a bunch of homeless people and give them hair and makeup, so he just went to the mission and found 50 homeless people and then the next thing you know the community exploded with enthusiasm and they wanted to help, and they wanted to do a gallery showing, and they wanted to cater it. Then the television stations called, and everyone became involved. Then people around the country started to hear about it and say, “When can we get our own Homeless Rock Stars event?” So Nigel funneled it into a very basic experience where he brings homeless people into a photography studio, gives them hair and makeup and a photo shoot. Then right after they’ve gotten their hair and makeup done, after restoring their humanity and reestablishing their confidence in themselves, he invites members of the community in, like the police chief and the fire chief and local business owners. Then everyone walks in and says, “Where are the homeless people?” because they don’t feel and look homeless anymore. The members of the community give them a pre-written rock and roll interview which says “What’s your favorite band? Where do you want to travel if you could? What’s your passion? What do you want to do with your life?” All of that is about the future, not about the past. By the end of this experience the local community is jumping through hoops to connect these people with their dreams. We’ve gotten a woman an audition on “The Voice.” We took a girl named Jessie Valley, who is the star of the Homeless Rock Stars video, from living in a swamp in a tent, brought her back home to her parents, rehabilitated her from meth addiction, and now she’s an apprentice to a five-star sous chef and the head caterer to the Homeless Rock Stars event nationally.
So, that’s what Nigel is really doing. He called me at the beginning of it and said, “I think I’ve found something and I thought of you.” We go way back, we’re very old friends. And so he said, “Can you write a song, like a theme song, a rock and roll theme song?” And I said, “Sure, what do you want it to say?” And he said, “I just want a song that says ‘I’m a rock star.’” So I listened to everything that he was telling me about the project, and wrote the song for the project. And then afterwards I thought, well, you know, we may as well see how far we can take it. And I’d already done the Free Hugs video a few years ago and I thought, well I’ll just — I drove up to Redding and filmed it with my little crappy camera. I still don’t have a good camera. I put it together and made a video, which is what’s sort of launching Homeless Rock Stars, but also we then solidified the band and the band name. Chris joined around this time and it all sort of came together. Now it’s the first single for the band.
I’ve read that “Rock Star” will not be available on Spotify, you will not be able to buy it in stores, and you are not going to be able to download it on iTunes.
It is only going to be available by watching the video?
SM: No. Well, yes. The way that you can get the song directly is, you’re going to watch the video, and at the end of the video there’s going to be a short set of instructions basically telling you to text “rockstar” to a number. And when you text “rockstar” to this phone number we’ll send you a text back so that you can send a gift to Homeless Rock Stars. Then when you send a gift to Homeless Rock Stars, after they receive the donation you get the song emailed directly to you.
Is this the kind of thing we can expect from Screaming at Demons? Are you going to turn this industry on its proverbial head and unleash some new promotional madness?
CC: Well, I really think that the whole way this band has gone about everything is kind of against the grain, and that’s what makes it so exciting and why I think everyone wants to talk about it. We’re not doing a typical release where you record a record and then you tour on a release and you hope it sells. We’re releasing it in a revolutionary way, and we’re involved in a revolutionary project with this charity, and we’re changing peoples’ lives and helping them along with the music. So I think it’s kind of the way we’re starting out, and we’re probably going to keep it rolling that way.
I have admit Shim, I watched an 11-part interview you did with your dad and …
SM: You watched all that?
All 11 parts of it, actually. It was interesting! You referred to labels as the worst type of bank in the world, and you said that not having a label was a blessing. I was wondering if you would like to elaborate on that a little bit in terms of what Screaming at Demons is doing, and what kinds of things you are looking forward to accomplishing.
SM: It’s a double-edged sword. Everything is a balance. Everyone talks about Radiohead. Every time this conversation comes up they all say, “Oh Radiohead, they were amazing. They released a record and made it available for a donation and you could pay nothing or ten dollars or whatever you want.” Radiohead specifically said “We couldn’t have done this if it wasn’t for 15 years of help from the label to build our brand.” That’s exactly true. Now, I couldn’t do what I’m doing with Screaming at Demons if — well, to an extent. I couldn’t do it quite as well if I didn’t have the notoriety of everything that happened with Sick Puppies. So I’m not saying record labels are the devil. I’m just saying that you need to understand exactly what they are. And what they are is effectively an amazing promotional company with big bunch of money that they can use to help you. But you must be aware that you’re paying all of this back with a huge amount of interest. That is why they’re the worst bank in the world because that’s basically what they are. If you were to borrow money off the bank, and look up on Facebook and LinkedIn the best promotions director for pop radio and pay him 100,000 dollars, if your song becomes a hit you’re in a better position than if you signed to a label. Now that’s the balance that I’m talking about. Labels can have their place and they do have their place, and they’re fine. The thing that I find important to us and our project is making sure that people who are making music and people who are coming into this business understand that the myth of the record label isn’t really true, and that the curtain is being drawn back to show the wizard. The fact is, they hold a place. You don’t need them to make a living from making music, and it’s more evident every day as new technology comes out and more and more people are making themselves aware of what’s available. You know I couldn’t do this with the band if I didn’t have a Homeless Rock Stars video. But I would have kept looking for something else to help promote the music. This just happens to be, you know, a beautiful coincident that I get to share with Nigel who is a friend of mine, and it’s a great cause. If this opportunity hadn’t come, I probably would have looked for some other opportunity to promote my music and continue to do what I’ve been talking about. That’s the main thing that I think is important, that people are aware of what a record label is, instead of a record label turning you into a star and making your dreams come true because it’s just not true.
Are we going to see a lot of these new ways of getting Screaming At Demons out to the general public for consumption?
Shim: Yeah, I would say so. Yes. We’re definitely looking at the next thing already. We’re working on the next set of music that we’re going to be making, and how to place it, and how to do all that. It’s not a matter of saying we’re not – I hate to say never. I try to never say never. But I think that we’re living and dying by the sword at the moment that we’re talking about because we’re not calling record labels. We’re calling people who we know who work with other companies or people who are film producers, television producers, people who own media outlets, and you know, trying to find a way to place our music in the world, and doing it ourselves. That’s one of the things that Chris really specializes in. He’s always been amazing at knowing people and connecting things which is why he’s an invaluable member of the band. So the three of us combined were able to create all of our content and sell it without the help of a major label at the moment. But, you know, like I say, I never say never. And also we’re very fortunate all three of us are coming from this experience, and the Sick Puppies fan base that I have is very unique and a blessing to have. So it’s definitely a unique position for us to be in which is taking advantage of all the opportunities that we currently have.
CC: It’s kind of the perfect storm.
SM: It really is.
Everything is happening very organically, without plans but with great experience and a lot of enthusiasm, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys have coming for us in the next year. I know you have some songs that you have laid down, but I’ve read no plans yet for an EP or an LP. How about any live shows in the next year?
SM: Chris? Go for it.
CC: Yeah, I mean, we’re definitely planning to tour in 2016, but right now we’ve got our hands full with the launch of this video for Homeless Rock Stars. Next, first and foremost, we do have some follow-up singles after “Rock Star” that you guys will be hearing about very soon, which may lead up to an EP. But in terms of live shows we might perform at some Homeless Rock Stars events, but touring will definitely be next year, not this year.
So to learn more about Homeless Rock Stars?
And you are at Screamingatdemons.com?
We will be watching for the drop of this video, and I’m going to encourage everyone to check out those links so that we can follow you and all of the things that you have coming in the next year.
CC: Awesome. Thanks for having us.
SM: Thank you so much. Thank you for your time.
Thank you both so much. That was awesome and I appreciate it. Good luck with the launch, guys!
Click on any of the above links to follow Screaming at Demons, and to learn more about Homeless Rock Stars.