When Goodgod Small Club announced the complete lineup for its Vivid LIVE event, Tin Pan Alley, one act in particular got the nation’s rock fans talking. Royal Headache frontman Shogun will make his solo debut on the night. His rich, soulful vocals were a key ingredient in Royal Headache’s ascension to international significance and his solo work promises to harness his heartfelt leanings.
“Everyone’s used to hearing me screaming over a loud rock’n’roll band,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to showing people that that’s not always me. I love playing stuff that’s a little more tender. These are the songs that I write on my own about things a bit closer to my heart.”
The intimate performance will see Shogun take the stage strumming an acoustic guitar, with a pianist/organ player accompanying him. It’s advertised that the set’s been sculpted specifically for Vivid. However, while Goodgod might have provided the springboard for Shogun’s solo launch, the material has been fermenting for years.
“I write songs all the time,” he says. “I’ve got several piles of old songs and I’m just trying to choose the ones that’d be the most appropriate. It’s kind of cool that after procrastinating about it for ten years I’m doing my first solo gig in this big room, in front of all these people, in this prestigious venue.”
It’s been almost three years since the release of Royal Headache’s highly celebrated self-titled LP. The activation of Shogun’s solo venture underlines a burning question concerning the band’s future. And the answer’s likely to elicit both joy and despondency.
“It’ll be a while longer but there’s definitely going to be a second album,” he reveals. “The instrumentals have sat there for a year or more and I’ve just got up off my arse and started tracking the vocals. It’s sounding pretty good, I reckon.
“I actually quit Royal Headache in about August last year. But we agreed that we’d finish the album. Royal Headache was never meant to evolve – I think that’s why I left. I’m getting older and the kinds of things I want to express are different.
“I’ve walked around the stage half-naked, drunk as fuck, hundreds of times,” he adds. “I’m not in a huge rush to do that again. I’m over 30 now – it’s almost a little too much. But I really do want to see this second album come into fruition because I think it’s some of the better stuff that we did.”
With its debut full-length, the bare-knuckled Sydney four-piece drummed up a large following at home and abroad. The record displays singular songwriting prowess, but developing a broad, fervent fan base was completely unexpected.
“It was really moving and it was also terrifying,” Shogun admits. “I was not really in the headspace to deal with it, but I don’t know if anyone ever truly is. I feel really ambivalent about the whole thing. It’s not something I could ever regret [but] I felt like it was undeserved a lot of the time.”
This is just one of many instances during our chat where Shogun makes unfounded recourse to self-deprecation. Nevertheless, he acknowledges an intrinsic music-making compulsion, which assures he’s not giving up the ghost.
“I just get songs in my head and melody lines that don’t leave me alone. I find it one of the only truly calming things I have, where I feel complete, in a way. I haven’t really put any structured effort into anything else in my whole life. I still work in a call centre. Music is just kind of it to me – it’s more of an addiction than an art.”
Goodgod Tin Pan Alley is being held at the Joan Sutherland Theatre as part of the Vivid LIVE Festival. Tickets are available here for the show featuring Shogun alongside Penny Penny, Bart Willoughby, Montero and Donny Benet on Friday May 30.