Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The hal al Shedad Self-Titled Album (1996)


Here is the album for download: The hal al Shedad Self-Titled Album

Where oh where to begin? We had done 3 singles with At A Loss Records (Sound of Swords Clashing), Lunchbox Records (split with Inkwell) and Auto Stop Records (Symbol of Sound Progress), respectively, and had enough music ready to do a full-length. On our winter 1995 tour, we played in Austin, TX with Action Patrol, and Mark Owens from Buddy System Records came out to the show and I guess liked what he saw (or was it Matt Owens?). Later on he talked with his brother (the other one) as well as Mike Simonetti from Troubleman Records in New Jersey and decided to put out a split-release LP/CD. Mike told us that except for Carbomb, it was the first band he ever released without seeing live first. We recorded the album in March of 1996 in New Jersey with Alap Momin (from Dalek) studio in his parent’s house. He had recently recorded all of the Rye singles and the split LP with Karp, and we were big fans of their sound, especially guitar and cymbal sound, so we went for it. The songs were literally tracked in his garage, with the guitar amp on one side, the drums on the other, and the bass amp in the next room. I’m pretty sure the songs were recorded on ADAT tapes, just to give you an idea of the era we are talking about here. Alap was very fond of telling us that something sounded “sick”, which we weren’t used to hearing coming from Georgia, but we liked it. People seemed to enjoy this record, I have gotten many good reviews from all over and the only complaint I ever had was the recording quality. But we are talking DIY postpunk here – sorry the production value is not what you are used to. I believe we recorded the entire album in 3 or 4 days, and then drove home overnight to play with Dahlia Seed at the Driverdome. For the most part there is only one guitar, bass, drums and vocals on the album – we played it live with no overdubs or extra instrumentation. The album didn’t come out until December of 1996 (9 months turnaround time), and by then we already had the next two singles and some of the Textures of Tomorrow album written and incorporated into our set. Ben and Phil Dwyer from Inkwell worked the night shift at Kinkos during this time, so we had inserts printed in file folders for the LP release, just as something special. I think we did two pressings of this album and the file folder insert was only included on the first. Phil Dwyer also did all the artwork, which we loved and were really proud of. He basically legitimized our band through his design. Around this same time the Promise Ring’s first album came out, and it kind of looked like ours, which was kind of a bummer, but what can you do. I also liked the idea of the Hal al Shedad identification cards, which expired on March 15, 1998 although I can't remember the signficance of that date. Perhaps it was 3 years after the first show. We actually had these laminated ID cards printed, but these are long gone now. The video stills on the front were taken by Phil Dwyer from a show at a former frat house at Emory University in Atlanta, I believe it was a Food Not Bombs benefit. I still have the original video, and about 100 still images that Phil went through to find these. One of these stills is included above. The photographs were taken by Valery Lovely, a local scene icon, photographer and sister of Lewis Lovely from Scout. We walked around downtown Atlanta and used Tim from Scout's car trying to get some good surveillance-type photos to include in this release. We almost called the album “Surveillance of Heaven”, but I never had a self-titled album for any release I played on, so I recommended that we just keep it nameless. That is about all I can think of regarding this album, send me a comment if you have any questions and I can try to answer them.

Here are some alternate pictures from that photo session:

Here is an overview of each song:

Walking Blind Dancing – Good early-style song of ours, like the early singles but starting to move in the more varied dynamics direction of our mid-period stuff. Since Ben starts with the big “IIIIIIIII”, we thought it would be good to start the album that way. I liked to play things with a shuffle rhythm, and then back to straight rhythms. This is also done well on After School.

Unification – I liked how Franklin’s first album had a long instrumental song after the first rocker, and we decided to go the same way. We were into non-conventional song sequencing as a band. Josh Lott from At the Price of the Union told me once that he saw us play this song in a house in Athens and that convinced him that this type of music was the way to go.

After School – A good start with the drum fill, shuffle/straight/shuffle structure. Ed does vocal duties, which was very rare. I think Ben wrote the lyrics but wanted Ed to sing them. I always liked Ed’s singing/yelling voice, but he barely used it in the band.

Postcard Communication – We were big fans of the song “The Everyday World of Bodies“ by Rodan, and I think this was our kind of homage to it. Ben used to always start his drives in the van by putting that song on. This is when we started getting into longer and more orchestrated songs, also with The Art of Mapmaking on the same album, but didn’t really hit our peak until Textures of Tomorrow, which has a few big ones. I think we did this in one take, just because it was so long to start over.

Spoken City – This was one we wrote and almost never played live. The only time I remember playing it was in Rapid City, SD when we played someone’s hallway and the conditions were so tight an loud that we had to play the end part just to blow the place out. That end part has 3 basses going at the same time, by the way.

Consolation Prize – Great middle part that had the token “Troubleman Rhythm”, i.e. da-da/da-da, da-da/da-da, da-da/da-da, da-da/da-da. We played this one quite a bit live, along with Local Seeing, Unification and That One (of course).

The Question is Moot – My only singing on a song post-Midget Farmer days. It was fun to play, and I liked the mix of having Ed sing some, Ben sing some and myself. However, Ben was really the singer, and I was just messing around. No more singing after this one.

Falling Out – Another one written pretty much for the album and almost never played live. Like a lost HAS song that I hardly recognize when I hear it again.

That One – If hal had a hit single, this would have been it. We played it at pretty much every show. It was fun to play, and was always powerful. I really miss playing it.

The Art of Mapmaking – We split it into 2 songs just because of the length and to be pretentious. I remember playing it in Philadelphia and getting a great response. We liked to play with dynamics at that point, and trying to make the quietest parts as quiet as possible, and the loudest parts as loud as possible, hopefully in the same song.

Here is the artwork and a promo poster from the album:

21 comments:

  1. radical. those photos still look great. even when they were new they looked straight outta the late 70s...haha. i think this was probably my first real professional-styled design job. getting matchprints, having things be fucked up, redoing them, paying lots of money, making people upset...the whole deal...haha. this record was concepted and designed by ben and i in the actual apt #13. which is where the name came from. if you look closely on bits of this record, i was flirting with a previous name, clone. which now sounds completely ridiculous and like a punk rock raver. haha. i also think i designed this album in coreldraw using my sweet ass hp in between games of mechwarrior. i couldnt afford my first mac yet.

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  2. In hindsight I wonder if the hal al shedad, one of the top 20 bands of the nineties, didn't suffer because they had a dumb-ass bandname. That is, however, my fault, and I've always felt guilty.

    It's a good thing they aren't still together. Their name would land them on a Dept. of Homeland security watch list or something.

    Anyway, when I was younger and dumber, Ben Lukens (h.a.S. bassist and I) were brain storming bandnames. I said something about "hal"... was there something significant about HAL (from Kubrick's 2001) opposing Hal(Shakespeare, 1 Henry IV, "I shall hereafter, my thrice gracious lord, Be more myself.."), which sounds *really* pretentious, but this was just a stupid conversation about affectless movie A.I.s vs. this idea of suddenly actualized youth (Sort of like an old Jack Kirby comic or Star Wars or whatever) plus -hey- I was young. I also had a really bad haircut. Really. Bad.

    Ben went on to name his band hal (pre- James Joyce). Which, a few weeks later, I decided was not exactly the best band name of all time (but still way better than quadiliacha).

    So, I suggested "the hal al Shedad" since I had been reading something called "The Fatomid Chrestomathy" (sp?) (which I can't find online) by Peter Lambhorn Wilson / Hakim Bey. It discussed "hal," which is another state of mind or modality that someone might enter when overcome with some sort of religious / spiritual fervor, I guess akin to Quakers' quaking, or Guy Piccotto singing Turnvover in front of a bunch of rednecks at the Masquerade back in 1991. "al" is a conjuction. "Shedad, son of Ad" was the name of an antediluvian king who attempted to build an earthly kingdom to rival the kingdom of heaven. I think I read about it in a Lovecraft or Robert Chambers story or a book about Sufism (yes, I'm a big dork). Anyway, "the hal al shedad" was supposed to mean something like "the freaked out emo state of the guy who tried to make heaven a place earth (like Belinda Carlisle) (though I think I had "The Kingdom of Heaven Must Be Taken By Storm" by the N.O.U. in mind)."

    Uh-huh.

    In the years since, I've learned that "the hal" actually means something akin to "rocking so hard you mind flips into another space," at least in Lahore and Karachi. When I asked someone who might know about "Shedad" I only received a blank stare.

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  3. I also have never heard anything about Shedad - it just sounded cool. We totally would have been detained by the Department of Homeland Security if we were still around today. Ed would have experienced his greatest fear in life - going to jail. I don't think the name was bad at all, it was unique but not too egg-headed, and had some cool arabic imagery associated with it, which gave it an exotic element, even though we were kids from Georgia. Come to think of it I don't think I have ever been in a band with a really great band name. Hal al Shedad worked fine for me.

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  4. i never had a problem with the band name. i remember the initial name being hal and then them adding the al shedad and me and my big pants just kinda shrugged and said..."uhhh, ok".

    the only "funny" thing i remember happening was back in the day i was wearing my shedad shirt with the horse stamp on it and i was either in a gas station or some kind of electronics store, and the employee looked at the shirt and kinda chuckled and said "do you know what your shirt means?" and i said that it's a band. he laughed a little more and just kinda walked away. i remember thinking that was funny, and also made me a little hesitant to ever wear the shirt again.

    a similar thing happened when i lived in florida and the whole vw fahrvegnugen (sp?) thing came out. we used to hang and skate with a couple of german foreign exchange students. they used to laugh at us silly americans and our vw ads. they would say that it didnt mean "love to drive" or whatever like the commercials said, that it actually meant "love to ride" as in "love to ride a man." but they could have just been fucking with us. they kept calling gas "petrol". i always thought that was cool for some odd reason and continue to try and train myself to call it petrol to this day.

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  5. I remember a band called "hal" that was around a few years ago, but no "al Shedad" at the end of it. The extra bit made it unique, but not so obtuse - remember "The Perpetual Sciamechie Theorem"? That blue hal al Shedad shirt is a rare one. I think only 25 or so were made in total. One funny thing about that shirt was when Mathis Hunter and I visited my friend Josh in San Diego, and we see a guy at Lou's Records coming up to us with that shirt on, and I couldn't believe it. A few seconds later I noticed it was Gray Kiser, but it really blew my mind for a second.

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  6. Hey. I don't really follow these comments, so sorry if this is a delayed reaction. I just did a search for "hal al Shedad" because I was digitizing these old tapes of hal al shedad, inkwell, wheeljack, et al., that a certain Mr. Ahuja sent me.

    Anyway, when I was living in NYC in the late 90s -early 2ks I met a someone from Pakistan and we became pretty good friends. As an aside, if you think you have it hard being a teenager who likes punk in the American South you have no idea how much you are going to get fucked with and ball busted being into Led Zep, Death Angel, and Pearl Jam in Northern Pakistan growing up at the same time.

    I never brought up the "hal" thing. It came up on its own. My friend was saying that besides Led Zep and such he was only really been into local music.

    He just told me that sometimes they would go down to the center of town and watch the old school musicians throw down. He said that when they got into it, when they were really jamming hard, they did something he didn't know how to describe in English, but they called it "the hal."

    I told him this whole story about the h.a.S. band name. He was like "Shedad? never heard of him."

    He used to come to Amverts shows. He would make fun of my singing really bad. I played him Circus Lupus Solid Brass, told him I was kind of trying to sound like that, maybe it was a cultural thing.

    Nah, he said. That guy is pretty good. You just suck.

    Story of my life.

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  7. damn! this brings back some nice memories!!! i really liked hal al shedad (and still am) even if i had to wait until the rising of the digital era to finally get my ears over said self titled album (back in the days, i went to a change ofice, traded some french francs for some green cash, conceilled it well and send it over to buddy system which NEVER send me my album copy... bummer!) anyway, thanks for sharing all these great songs, infos and memories!

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  8. Sorry you never got your copy, but if I see some cheap used copies around here I'll buy one and send it to you. Those Buddy System guys are usually pretty together, so I wonder what happened. Also, the closest we ever got to playing France (I assume that is where you are from), was Gent, Belgium, but we did drive through your lovely country and buy tons of beer to bring over the channel to the UK.

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  9. This stuff is great.

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  10. James, saw you guys in Darlington and Glasgow (UK). James you may or may not remember I sourced you a Yummy Fur CD. You sent me a cool VHS recording of Nation of U, HAS and various other things unfortunately it wasn't comaptiable with EU VHS systems (DOH) so still remains unwatched
    Anyway have S/t album on vinyl and Textures on CD (thanx James). Still one of my all time favourite bands have managed to convert loads of mates into them.
    I too had blue HAS shirt (bought at Glasgow 13th note show), accidently spilled paint on it - damn.
    Hope you are well James

    Martin James McCleary

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  11. Hey Martin - thanks for writing! It's good to hear from you again, and thanks for sending me those Yummy Fur CDs way back when. I have transferred most of those videos you are talking about to DVD, so email me at jejoyce77@hotmail.com and I can send you some. I hope you are doing well, and did you ever get the singles collection we put out? I believe Stickfigure Records might still have a few of them, but I'll probably post it on this site pretty soon anyhow. Cheers.

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  12. Will do Mr Joyce, that would be great. My email is Kaput at present so will email you tomorrow. It is greatly appreciated, just made up to get in contact after all this time. No reformation on cards?
    Didn't get singles collection after Vicque (Revelation Europe, God you know who she is after all "...bullets" came out on simba) moved away underground stuff was difficult to get in this outpost of Northern England.
    Thanks for the response though James, hope you are well. I myself sang in band for a few years to moderate critical aclaim. Got married though and now have a two (almost three) year old little girl so couldn't commit anymore (to the band). They are still on go though, check em out on www.myspace.com/wonmississippi
    Speak soon

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  13. hey! leo from italy here! i remember i bought that LP "shortly" aftre it came out, at the indipendent record shop in my hometown (udine, north-east of the country)... loved it since the very first time i listened to it! and i really dug the folder thing a lot! aaand i remember thinking, considering yr age on the cards, "damn these guys are so young, how can they be so good at playing and so original at writing songs??" :)

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  14. Hi Leo - thanks for the kind words! We were all pretty young back then, but it was even more amazing to me that Ben and Ed were just high school kids when these songs were written. I was 19 at the time - practically an old man! Sorry we never toured Italy, I would have really enjoyed that.

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  15. Thanks for the download! Great memories. I remember one epic, jammed Home Park party that flipped some switch in my head and I was hooked.

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  16. This is great stuff! I loved this album when it came out. And I do remember how odd that the Promise Ring album artwork looked so similar, yet sounded worlds apart. You guys were a big part of my music library in college at Edinboro, PA. Kudos!

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  17. I remember driving to Georgia from South Carolina to see you guys play with Rainer Maria. I got to the show and was really bummed to hear that you guys cancelled that night. I ended up having to watch a really awful band called the Juliana Theory. I remember they had the triple axe attack and the singer played acoustic guitar and wore that horrible Garth Brooks headset mic. The only time I got to see you guys play was on the Bi-Focal Media VHS that my band mates and I would watch over and over repeatedly. It sucks that I never got to see you guys live, but sucks even more that you guys never got to properly record the end songs on your singles collection. I really enjoyed the direction of those songs. You guys were great, and I still play the records yearly.

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  18. Hey there Anonymous - Sorry to cancel on that show you attended, maybe we cancelled because we didn't want to see Juliana Theory either! Actually, we only bailed on very few shows, but I remember one on Thanksgiving Day, or maybe Black Friday in Athens, and we knew nobody was going to be at the show in Athens, so we decided to just hang out with our friends in Rainer Maria for the night instead of driving up and back to play to nobody. Sorry if that was the show you attended.

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  19. Hey. Just came across this while hopefully searching for reunion tour info.Not sure if you still check here, but hands down one of my top 3 favorite bands of all time. Saw you guys in my friends basement in Cincinnati (1996-7?) and I still have the images and sounds burned into my mind. You're on my constant playlist and just wanted to say thanks for all the great music. Sometimes i think my heart beats your tunes.
    Mark

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  20. Hey Mark - thanks for the compliment! I remember a basement that the bass player from Railhed owned, that at least Car vs. Driver played in but I can't remember if Hal played in there as well. Was that the same place? We did do that one-off show back in 2010 I believe for Gavin from Stickfigure's medical issues, but I don't think we'll be playing again anytime soon. Ben has been living in Austin for several years and currently is not in any bands. Ed records a lot at his studio in Atlanta called The Living Room, and plays in a cool band called Eel Pie. I play with my friends in a band called Noot d' Noot, but we don't do too much touring - just some festivals here and there as the band is an 8-piece and difficult to coordinate everyone's personal lives for out of town ventures. I'm glad you enjoyed what we did, and thanks again!

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