Keeping The Beat With Sheppard

Many locals will know Dean Gordon as the drummer in original outfit “The Venus Project”, his Cover band “Frontear”, and as the affable chap working in Billy Hydes in Cairns. The rest of the world now knows Dean as the drummer in international sensation Sheppard. Sheppard have become the first Australian band to be signed to the prestigeous Decca Records (Who once had a little band called the Rolling Stones on their roster!). Last week Sheppard made an appearance on the Jimmy Fallon show and have since had to cancel their planned April Bluesfest gig for much bigger opportunities that have arisen since the Fallon show appearance. I thought it was time to catch up with Deano for a chat…

TM:- How did you initially hook up with Shepard? It seems one minute you were working in a music shop and playing in local bands and the next you were playing with a band doing well on the international stage…

DG:- Back in October 2012, I was working at Allan’s Billy Hyde which had recently gone into receivership. It was all coming to an end so I booked a one way ticket to Europe and planned to leave in January. I got a Facebook message in December from Ben Hakalitz who said there was a band looking for a new drummer and a mutual friend of Ben’s and the Sheppard siblings, Baruka Tau, was coming to Cairns to take auditions. Ben had recommended me to Baruka and asked if I wanted to try out. They were there the following weekend and I played for them on this busted up drum kit. I got a text message from Ben a few days later saying that I got the gig. I moved to Brisbane in January and played the first show with Sheppard that month. The rest is history.

TM:- A lot of us here in Cairns saw you on the Jimmy Fallon show the other night, I hear a lot of opportunities have opened up since then, so much so that you have had to cancel your Bluesfest show to accommodate them, are you able to share more about that?

DG:- We’ll be in Europe during that time of Bluesfest. Massive television opportunities opened up that forced management’s hand to cancel the show. It’s a shame. Bluesfest is an awesome festival and it would have been amazing to have shared the stage with such acts as Dispatch and Ben Howard.
It’s hard in these cases. You’re put into particular situations by management that book, organise and cancel these events and leave you to clean up the aftermath. We’ve received a lot of flack from this and there’s nothing you can do about it except apologise to the fans and hope that they understand that this type of thing is completely out of our hands. I hope that the people that have booked tickets to see us at Bluesfest discover and fall in love with another great act that justifies the expense that they paid to see us initially.

TM:- The debut album “Bombs away” has done so well. Shepard are the first Australian band to get signed to Decca Records, Can you give your NQ friends and fans any hints about the next album?

DG:- We’ll be heading back to Australia later this year to write and record the second album. There hasn’t been any time to scratch ourselves since Bombs Away was released last year so having a few free months at home will definitely be a benefit to the three songwriters. I think what you can expect from the band is a more mature and organic take on pop music. The idea behind Sheppard is to create music that withholds it’s value over time but also shows a strong progression of songwriting and musicianship as time passes. I think that is how a band stays healthy and flourishes; continual change and growth. Ten years on, you don’t want to be making the same sounding album.

TM:- How is the touring lifestyle sitting with you?

DG:- Touring isn’t as easy as it appears from the outside. Especially long tours (I’m on a 10 week tour as I’m writing this). It’s gruelling, draining and minimal time is actually spent playing on stage. However, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. I’ve been able to explore the world, meet some amazing people and play drums for a living. It’s funny because before Sheppard, I’d never toured before. The furthest I had gone was to the Kairi Hotel for a couple of nights or up to the Central in Port Douglas for a New Years Eve gig. Being on the road for an extended period of time really tests you mentally and physically. You have to stay positive, don’t stress the small stuff but also make the small stuff count.

TM:- For such a small music scene, NQ has produced more than it’s fair share of artists that have gone on to much bigger things. Do you think there is something special about the NQ music scene that has allowed artists like The Medics, The Middle East, Emma Louise, Dan Sultan etc to develop?

DG:- I’d imagine the beautiful scenery surrounding Cairns would attract people of creative personality. It’s such an amazing part of the world and allows people to hone their craft in a relaxing atmosphere, free of the hussle and bussle of big cities. A lot of older musicians have come to live in Cairns after playing and touring in bands for years. I’ve played with some of them during my time up there and they have taught me invaluable things that have got me to where I am today. You’ve got this hub of intelligence and experience that is there to be grabbed and harnessed by the new generation of players such as myself. That’s definitely a special quality that Cairns has, a massive musical family that gives and gives.

My advice to younger musicians is just to dive in and explore anything that they can get their hands on and to play with people that are better than themselves. You never stop learning so keep your ears open!

Todd Macalpine

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