Saturday 25 August 2012

Interview with Lee Edwards from The Sleeping Shaman

The Sleeping Shaman

Today on Sludgelord I am interviewing Lee Edwards – The cool dude involved with ace website The Sleeping Shaman and who has just started his own brilliant record label – Shaman Recordings – who are about to release brilliant upcoming UK Doomsters – Black Magician's debut album – Nature Is The Devil's Church - which I reviewed earlier this month.

Well Lee has kindly agreed to do an interview with me.

Q1 – Hi Lee. Thanks for doing this. Can you provide an overview on how you got started with The Sleeping Shaman

Totally by accident, I’d started taking (bad) photos at gigs and as I was learning web design at the time, I thought why not make a website to get them online as I always learn better with real as opposed to fictional projects and so The Sleeping Shaman, at a very basic level was born. Not long after, a long-time friend, Burnsey, who also plays bass in Volition (although, at the time Volition didn’t exist) asked if he could write a few reviews and would I put them on the site, why the hell not I thought and it just kinda snowballed from there.

Q2 – Obviously this is your hobby of sorts. How does it interact with your personal life, job etc …. - It must take a lot of time to do what you do.

The simple answer is yes, it takes up a hell of a lot of time, I work on the site in some way, shape or form 7 days a week, even if that particular day the site isn’t updated, there’s always something going on in the background, answering emails (which I get a LOT of), sorting out promo’s for reviewers and just generally trying to keep on top of things as the site is now busier than it’s ever been.

Music influences my personal life as well as it isn’t just a trend or fad, it’s a way of life, so you never really switch off and as I work on the web from home, I can juggle things around to fit both client and Shaman related work into a day, although sometimes it is a struggle!

Q3 – Which bands/genre’s influence you on your music.

It’s quite an open ended question as even though the site is targeted at the heavier, doomier end of the music spectrum which obviously gets a lot of airtime, especially with the number of promos we receive, it’s not all I listen to and mood can very much dictate what gets played. If I’ve got my head up my arse for some reason or another, I’ll spin some filthy sludge like Dystopia or Grief or a bit of crust like Doom (as in the band not the genre) to blow away the cobwebs, if I’m feeling quite relaxed and just want to chill, Townes van Zandt, Bob Dylan or Neil Young will get some air play, or if for some strange reason I’m feeling quite chipper, then it’s time to dig out a bit Hawkwind, but if it’s just been one of those fucked up days where nothing seems to go right and everything goes wrong, Butthole Surfers are the band that just makes everything start to seem (kinda) normal again.

Q4 – The Sleeping Shaman has been a major champion of UK Underground music. Who have been your favourite artists you have reviewed and interviewed.

I don’t write reviews these days, it takes up too much time just running the site and fitting it in around my day to day work, plus the people I have writing for the site now are sooo much better with words than I could ever be, so all the reviews are handled by my ever faithful team of scribers, thanks guys and I really mean it, as without them, there would be no Sleeping Shaman!

Anyway, I digress, over the years we’ve featured some amazing bands so it’s difficult to narrow it down to just 1 or 2 as we’re thankful to all the bands/artists/labels who have taken time to send in promos for review or to answer our humble questions, in fact interviews is something we’ve let lapse a little over the past year or so, something I should really kick back into life.

Q5 – I have spoken to a lot of UK Bands when at gigs across the country and they all say The Sleeping Shaman has done wonders for their music. You must be proud with what you have achieved with the website. As you know I am a massive fan of your website and what you guys currently do.

Very proud and a little bit overwhelming and humbling as I never really had an overall goal or aim, it’s grown organically as we just do our thing, and weirdly, I get very little direct feedback from the readership (as opposed to those who work or are involved in the music industry), I usually hear comments via someone else, such and such said this, that or the other, although it not always positive, but you have to take the rough with the smooth don’t ya!

Q6 – You have featured some great bands over the years. Have you had positive and negative feedback from bands because of your work.

Like I mentioned in the previous question, I rarely get direct feedback, but what I have had has been more positive than negative, yeah there have been a few grumbles over the years, but the reviews are just one person’s opinion on a recording or gig and not necessarily the same as mine, I don’t constrict the reviewers, but I do insist that if they have to criticise a recording or gig, then it has to be constructive and give reasons why they think it’s this or that, comments like ‘this is shit’ just doesn’t cut it.

Q7 – Are you families and friends supportive of your work that you currently do.

My wife has been amazing, how she puts up with it I don’t know, although I think she’s sick of having to say the words ‘will you get off that bloody computer and just relax for a bit!’ It really is thanks to her why I can put as much time in to it as I do as she supports me both emotionally and financially, there’s a lot of wives out there that would put their foot down and tell me to get a proper job!

The majority of my friends are involved in music in some way, shape or form, whether there just fans, are in a band, run a label or put on gigs and are really supportive, I also have to give a special mention to Dave from Future Noise (, he’s been a rock (My mrs actually calls him my doom wife!), helping me with contacts, getting the name spread and just generally being there for help and advice when needed.

Q8 – Now you have started your own record label – Shaman Recordings. How did that come about.

Out of frustration, after I graduated last year (I was a mature student who foolishly went back to school), doors just weren’t opening for me when applying for full time work, I’d get an interview after jumping through hoops, only to fall at the final hurdle, one job I pretty much had, then the companies budget got slashed, a few weeks down the line I heard the manager who interviewed me was also looking for work, not good! It got really demoralising; I’d worked my arse off the last few years, had a healthy portfolio, work experience and a degree, but was just getting nowhere.

Over this time The Sleeping Shaman just kept growing and growing until I found myself at a crossroad and had to make a decision where I was going to take things and as I had a little bit of savings put away for a rainy day, I bit the bullet, cashed it in, set up as a freelance web developer and as an off shoot, I put some of the money into setting up a label and so Shaman Recordings was born. The next hurdle was finding the right band to kick things into action and after talking with Liam of Black Magician at the start of the year, everything just felt ‘right’ and here we are today.

Q9 – I must congratulate you on getting Black Magician as your first release. That record is amazing. How did you get involved with them. Was it an easy decision to make them your first signing.

Thanks Steve, glad you enjoyed it! As for getting involved with Black Magician, I’ve known Liam (vocals) for a few years so I was already intrigued to see his new band. The first time I saw them was supporting Premonition 13 in Liverpool and they immediately struck a chord with me, it’s was only their 2nd gig so it was a little rough around the edges, but they already had that ‘something’ that sparked my interest. Roll on a few weeks and I saw them at The Alma, it’s was quite amazing how they’d come on as a band over such a short period of time and that’s when we got talking about working on a release together as like I said previously, it just felt ‘right’.

Q10 – How did you hook up with Burning World Records. Was this from your work on The Sleeping Shaman.

Yeah, I’ve got to know Jurgen over the last couple of years from running The Sleeping Shaman, he also gave me some advice when I was setting Shaman Recs up so when I got the mastered Black Magician recording back, I sent it to a select few for their honest opinion, Jurgen being one of them, he loved it, asked if we were doing a CD and if we weren’t, Burning World would be interested, as straight forward as that really, no bribes, black magik or voodoo, just the shared love of all things heavy!

Q11 – What do you think of the current state of British Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal. There are some amazing bands starting to make their mark such as Undersmile, Conan, Mother Corona, Wizard's Beard and Black Magician of course. My own view it's got some great bands but not enough places to put on these type of shows. Unless your lead singer wears his mother's make up and sings about having an argument with his sad girlfriend.

It’s on a crest of a wave at the moment, the bubble will burst at some point, but at the moment, it’s healthier than it’s ever been, and like you mentioned, there’s some great bands in the UK doing the rounds and I would add to that list Serpent Venom, Volition (hurry up with the new album guys!), Bastard Of The Skies, Lazarus Blackstar, Sigiriya, Meadows, Pombagira, Rise To Thunder, Grifter and Slomatics and that’s just off the top of my head, although bizarrely, the once healthy Manchester scene is going through a bit of a drought with Doom bands at the moment.

I’m not sure if it’s a venue issue, although the past 12- 18 months has seen a few close so that won’t help, I think it’s simply down to money, or lack of it and whether a promoter can take the financial risk as let’s face it, everything is going up in price and don’t get me started on how much a litre of petrol is these days!

Q12 – What is your fave bands of all time. And upcoming bands appearing at the moment.

That’s a toughie and as cliché as it sounds, Sabbath have got to be up there, the first six albums are a blue print for what we listen to today, it’s just a real shame what’s happening with them now, it’s like a bleeding pantomime and one I got very tired of very quickly!

As for up and coming bands, we mentioned some UK based bands earlier, but overseas bands, the new Samothrace album ‘Reverence to Stone’ has been getting a lot of airplay of late, an absolute storming album, the new Serpentine Path recording should also be mentioned, that album is just nasty and it’s great to see Tim Bagshaw back to doing what he does best. I also discovered a band called Salems Pot recently via the Soggy Bog (, terrible name but a band well worth checking out and possibly one to watch.

Q13 – Do you feel your fighting a losing battle at times in promoting the scene. I have admitted in the past I do at times but there is always a band that comes along and restores my faith in doing Sludgelord.

Not really I have to say, yeah sometimes I do get a bit disillusioned with things, gigs aren’t as well supported as you feel they could or should be, or if we’re booking a tour and struggle to fill all the dates, it can get a bit disheartening, but then there’s only so much people can afford to do, you just have to keep soldiering on because the highs more than make up for the lows.

Q14 – What is your stance on bands and websites giving music away for free. Some people are for it and some people are against it. We at Sludgelord only publish the free legal stuff which bands provide us with.

I’ve never really given it much thought to be honest, with sites like Band Camp and Sound Cloud, it’s really easy now to get your music out to the public but with it, it does mean we’re exposed to a colossal amount, sometimes too much, it also means that people can pick and choose what they spend their hard earned on, so if you’re a band just starting out, giving a demo away for free might be the best option as you never know who’s hands it might end up in.

Q15 – So any exciting future releases you have in store for us. Can you tell us anything at this time.

I’m just working on putting things in place for CHANT002 which I’m really excited about but I’m afraid I can’t say any more than that, all will be revealed soon though so keep your eyes peeled for an announcement over the coming weeks.

Well Lee thanks for answering these questions. And keep up the excellent work on both your record label and at The Sleeping Shaman. We wish you all the best from ourselves at The Sludgelord.

Thanks Steve and Sludgelord for asking to interview me and I’d also like to take this opportunity to say a massive thanks to all those that have helped, contributed, read and supported The Sleeping Shaman in some way or another as without you, there would be no website and probably no Shaman Recordings, we salute you!