Homegrown blues: Chatting with The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer
B.C.’s The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer are playing 16 Canadian festivals this summer.
Darcy Wintonyk, CTV British Columbia
Published Wednesday, April 3, 2013 11:19AM PDT
Shawn “The Harpoonist” Hall and Matthew “The Axe Murderer” Rogers kick out what’s been described by critics as raw and primal blues, limiting their sound to whatever they can play between them, using only their mouths, feet and hands.
The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer are currently touring their harmonica, guitar and foot percussion-laden third album, stopping at Vancouver’s Biltmore Cabaret on Saturday, April 6 with Ben Rogers.
The performance unofficially kicks off a very busy summer for the duo. Hall and Rogers are set to play 16 major Canadian festivals this summer.
Hot off winning Blues Artists of the Year at the SiriusXM Indies, CTV British Columbia chatted with the B.C. band about their newfound success, past lives, and just how they plan to keep body, mind and soul together on a grueling tour schedule.
What were your day jobs before becoming full-time musicians?
Hall: My day job was as a microwave truck operator for City TV for 11 years. This included the 6 o’clock and 11 [o’clock] news, as well as the worst shift ever in TV…Breakfast Television. I think I got up at 4:30 am for that one, or stayed up, as was often the case.
Rogers: Worked as a gas station attendant in high school, Music World, and at the UBC music library.
Where did you come up with the name for the band?
Hall: It's a line from a Kris Kristofferson song ‘Me and Bobby McGee,’ where he says "Took my harpoon out of my dirty red bandana and was blowin' sad while Bobby sang the blues." So harpoon being slang for harmonica got Matty thinking, ‘they often call the guitar an axe’ so why not have us be The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, a blues duo that kills it, musically speaking. Well, I’m not sure if we kill, but we try damn hard.
How did you get started?
Hall: I was doing a jingle for a Jamaican Pizza joint on Commercial Drive back in 2002, and I needed a guitarist to pull off the job. It ended up running on The Beat 94.5 but was sadly the end of my jingle career and the beginning of my friendship with Matt. Years later after many side projects we decided to venture out alone in the winter of 2006-07. We were both very much interested in seeing how much sound the two of us could produce as a simple country folk blues duo. Over the years we've gotten louder and more electrified to meet the demand of our ever growing louder and larger audiences.
You’ve been described as having a “decades-deep blues style.” Describe your sound.
Hall: Blues for people who are sick and tired of the same old blues: honest, sweaty, direct and primal rhythm and soul.
Who would be included in your dream jam session?
Hall: Any session musician from Aretha Franklins Atlantic years, you know the muscle shoals guys. Earnest Ranglin (Jamaican guitarist pioneer), and Chester Thompson (former Hammond B3 player for Santana, & Tower of Power).
What’s been the biggest highlight so far in your musical career?
Hall: Being able to go down to SXSW (South by Southwest) and represent Western Canada alongside The Sheepdogs, Imaginary Cities amongst others.
You’re playing 16 festivals this summer. Do you feel tired thinking about it?
Hall: Yes, not exactly sure how to approach this one mentally. It will be the biggest summer of our lives, and that's a huge thing to normalize.