An intimate interview with Tom Shear (Assemblage 23)
Stumbling through the darkness and into the light
The new album ‘Mourn‘ by Assemblage 23 (read full review here) is about to be released on 11th September and I had the chance to ask Tom Shear a few questions regarding his album and his work as a musician. In this interview, Tom Shear shared with us a few very intimate details about some of the darker moments in his life and about how his latest album became a part of his way out of this struggle. Thank you so much Tom Shear for answering our questions and sharing these very personal details with us!
1. I had the chance to review your new album ‚Mourn’ and I really loved every single track. What about you, are you satisfied with the final result?
Thanks so much. It’s actually the happiest I’ve been with an album in a very long time. Of course if I listen to it now I still hear things that bug me that I wish I could change, but you’ll drive yourself insane if you don’t just accept your work as being done at a certain point. But the album came out pretty much exactly as I had hoped.
2. How long have you been working on the album?
Musically, I think one of the songs I had started as early as 2016 when we were on the “Endure” tour, but the real meat of the writing and production happened over maybe a year and a half.
3. The lyrics are quite intimate and personal and I couldn’t help but wonder if current events might have influenced you. Would you like to tell us a bit more about what exactly inspired you in the writing process?
Yeah, there are certainly tracks like “Welcome, Apocalypse” and “Factory” that are kind of inspired by current events. It’s hard to write material like that because if you marry it too obviously to the time that inspired it, it can be a bit dated as time goes on. So I’ve always approached songs like that with a certain amount of vagueness so they could apply to any time, really. History is a big circle anyhow, so it’s bound to be relevant again in another context.
The bulk of the material, though, came out of a pretty dark period in my life that started around the time I returned from the “Endure” tour. My depression just kicked the hell out of me. It got bad enough that even getting out of bed on some days seemed impossible. I did a lot of reflection and I realized that if I was ever going to get better, I had to make some changes in my life. So the overall arc of the album is sort of the theme of overcoming darkness through change.
4. What are your personal favorite tracks on this album and why?
That’s always such a tough question to answer. I like them all for one reason or the other. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have gotten released. But I think the song I that came out the most like I was hearing it in my head was “Confession”. “Bloom” was another where the atmosphere turned out exactly as I had hoped.
5. Even though the current situation might not allow musicians to play concerts at the moment, are you planning a tour or any festival gigs for next year?
We do have some gigs scheduled for next year, but as of right now, they’re just rescheduled dates that had to be cancelled this year due to the pandemic – some of them twice. Whether or not they happen remains to be seen, but I’m trying to be positive about it. I really do miss seeing my bandmates and playing shows. It’s really strange to be releasing an album without touring right away. As far as touring goes, I’m not planning anything until it has for sure become viable and safe to do so. Booking a tour is a lot of work, and it doesn’t make sense to go through that entire process if you don’t even know if the venue will still be open by the time the show comes around, or even if live shows can happen at all. It sucks, but I’d rather we all concentrate on staying safe right now. Shows can come later.
6. As far as I know, you have been working alone on the production of this album. Is there a specific band or artist you can imagine to collaborate with in the future, for example to record a song or a whole album?
Yeah, I’ve always worked solo on the Assemblage 23 stuff. I think it’s just such a personal project to me that I feel protective and a bit too close to it to turn the reins over to someone else. I would’ve loved to work with late 80’s/early 90’s era Flood. I think he was at the peak of his game then. I’m not so wild about what he’s been doing lately, but it’s made him very successful, so who can begrudge him that? Giorgio Moroder would be pretty cool. I think it would be quite cool to work with Trevor Horn… his production style in the 80’s was very influential to me. So many of his records sounded so huge.
7. Do you have a personal creative hotspot or place that inspires you and helps you find ideas for new songs?
Anywhere but the studio, weirdly enough. That’s not to say that I don’t get a lot of good ideas in the studio as well, but if I ever get stuck on a song or I’m lacking in ideas, I’ll go for a walk or a drive and it usually works itself out. Maybe there’s some sort of subconscious pressure in the studio, I don’t know. But getting outside of that environment always seems to spark things for me.
8. Do you have some kind words to Electrozombies for our testimonials section ‘People who spread love’?
Our little scene only still exists through the hard work and passion of zines and websites like Electrozombies!
9. Any last words to the audience?
Stay safe, stay healthy, and be kind to each other.