Jon Toogood is a songwriter and musician.
Jon is the lead singer and guitarist in a band named Shihad. Formed in Wellington, New Zealand, the band are well-known among Australians following the success of their breakthrough album, The General Electric, in 1999. Jon and his bandmates have been based in Melbourne since around that time, and have released a string of great albums. The most recent was FVEY, released in 2014, a hard rock record with a political agenda, which we discuss in some detail in this episode.
I first met Jon Toogood in 2011, when I interviewed him for a Mess+Noise ‘Storytellers’ feature about two of my favourite Shihad songs, ‘Home Again’ and ‘Deb’s Night Out’. I also interviewed him about drug use for my book Talking Smack in 2013, when Shihad were touring Australia while supporting Black Sabbath.
He’s an energetic conversationalist and mad music fan above all else, which should become apparent pretty quickly. Our conversation touches on the concept of justice, which featured prominently in Jon’s writing for FVEY; how his marriage to a Sudanese woman changed his perspective and led to him undertaking charity work; his early interest in reading horror novels, which led to writing his first song for Shihad; the fine line between confidence and arrogance in musicians, and how he has learned to deal with negative reviews of his music.
This interview took place in Brisbane in early June, when Shihad was performing three shows in south-east Queensland. I’d seen the band perform a couple of nights earlier, at the Hamilton Hotel, where they were in incredible form. They’re simply one of the best live rock bands I’ve ever seen, and I decided long ago to never pass up an opportunity to see them live. Jon and I spoke on a Sunday afternoon in an inner-city hotel room that he was sharing with guitarist Phil Knight; you’ll hear Phil arrive partway through the recording and try to quietly creep past with a box of freshly bought Fruit Loops.
Jon Toogood is a songwriter and musician who has been at the helm of Shihad since 1988. A New Zealand rock institution that has consistently delivered churning riffs and soaring melodies over nine studio albums and eight EPs, Shihad have a reputation as a ferocious live act that's been hard-earned after more than 1,500 shows. Their two decade-plus career was recognised at the 2010 New Zealand Music Awards, where they were ushered into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame; they were also recently awarded with 'Most Singles in the NZ Charts by a NZ Artist' (25) and 'Most #1 Albums by a NZ Artist' (5) by Recorded Music NZ. Jon also fronts The Adults, an extra-curricular project starring some of his favourite New Zealand artists, including Julia Deans (Fur Patrol), Shayne Carter (Dimmer, Straitjacket Fits) and Ladi 6. Jon took up guitar aged seven, but back then soccer and cricket were his still first love. A talented batsman, he captained the Wellington Representative cricket team, but at 15 he traded his bat and cricket whites for a guitar and black jeans and never looked back. Jon’s career highlights include playing in front of 60,000-strong crowds and Shihad's gold albums, but says nothing beats the rush of knowing when he’s written a song that works.
Show notes and links to Jon's music discussed in this episode: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-7-jon-toogood/
Jon Toogood on Twitter: @JonToogood
Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU