It’s The Thursday after the Saturday before. Huh? Well, let’s add some context. This was an interview scheduled for the previous Sunday at Steelhouse, but the weather, typically Welsh for July, put paid to that. Shane Greenhall, from Those Damn Crows, was present all-day Sunday and spent the day watching bands and chatting with fans.
Shane Greenhall – Those Damn Crows
Words: Paul Hutchings
He must have posed for a million selfies, each given with a smile, time for a word with everyone who wanted to speak to him. He’s a true boy of the Valleys, and we love him and his band in South Wales even more because of his humble and approachable manner.
It’s great to catch up with him for MetalTalk. And a bit more comfortable via Zoom despite some technical difficulties. For Those Damn Crows, it has been a hectic year, which has seen the band achieve a top three album, sell out the Swansea Arena, and tour the UK with The Goo Goo Dolls and European arenas with The Hollywood Vampires. Shane is relaxed, easy to talk to, and happy to answer all the questions he’s no doubt been asked a million times.
We start with a reflection on the Steelhouse Festival and the band’s triumphant special guest slot on Saturday night, where they pushed Airbourne all the way for band of the day.
I start by picking a bone with Shane. In 2021 when the Crows played, I wrote in my review for another site that they would be headlining by 2023. So, what went wrong?
Shane laughs before reflecting on the weekend. “It’s amazing,” he said. “You’ve been to previous years. It is a special place for the Welsh. But not just the Welsh. So many people come from the UK now to be at the top of that mountain, travel up that treacherous road to get up that mountain. And it’s incredible, but for some reason, we feel this obligation to really perform, to put on our best show possible up there, and the crowd are there to sort of help us through it. And it’s an incredible feeling.”
The Steelhouse lineup has developed into a truly international experience. This year we had bands from Iceland, America, Australia, and Belgium. For Wales, it’s a huge event. There’s a sense of pride in being Welsh and at the event. “I was on the side of the stage pretty much all Friday night and Saturday watching bands,” Shane says, “and I was thinking the same.
“You know it’s an International Festival. Some killer acts all around the world, and it’s in our back garden. You are right. There is a sense of pride where Steelhouse has gone and attracted these bands from around the world. Big hitters, like Airbourne and Black Stone Cherry this year, and massive bands in previous years. To be a part of this is sensational, and I think Mikey (Evans) and Max (Rhead), Steelhouse promoters, said it when I was up there. We’re the only band that’s literally played every stage, every step on that poster, and the next one now is the headline slot. They’re behind us too, so it is an incredible feeling when you must pinch yourself.”
I mention to Shane that this was my wife’s first Steelhouse since 2017, but she was reflecting on the first time we saw Those Damn Crows, which was at Hard Rock Hell in Pwllheli back in on the smallest stage, with about 100 people watching. Since then, I’ve seen the band slowly grow, from The Patriot in Crumlin to supporting Monster Magnet at the Forum in London, Skindred and Monster Truck in Cardiff as well as that massive Swansea show in February. It’s been a hell of a journey and a huge amount of hard graft. This doesn’t come easily. Does Shane get up in the morning and ever think, how have I got here?
“In a word, no, because as you quite rightly said, it’s been nine years,” he reflects. “People will come to the shows, and you’ve been to a few by the sounds of it, which is incredible. Thank you so much. But people see shows, and it’s a space for an hour, an hour and a half if it’s a headline show. And then it’s the next show. But for us, it’s always on to the next thing, whether it be recording and practising or getting in the studio.
“The countless sort of things with The Crowcast [the band’s excellent podcast, which they started during the pandemic], or there was always something, so you never really have time to sit back and reflect.
“However, saying that, I tell you what’s made me kind of take note was touring with The Goo Goo Dolls recently and straight to The Hollywood Vampires. Then to go and to do Steelhouse. And that being like the sort of final show before we had a break before our headline tour in September and October, there was a real sense of what home felt like and how much I missed home.
“It’s one thing to tour in the UK, but you’re still in the UK, but when you go to Europe, and you start playing with the big boys, so to speak, you realise that these tours can go on for months and months and months. I was up the mountain, and after the show, it wasn’t until Sunday when I was having photos in the field. We’re having a great time, having a few drinks, and suddenly you realise Holy crap! What we’ve done all this year. There is a sense of achievement and a little moment to sort of reflect and appreciate how lucky we are. As you said, we really do work hard, and that has been across the nine years of being together.”
I agree. You can’t get to this stage of your career by being lucky. To me, luck is like winning the lottery or something. You can’t get to where the Crows are without putting the graft in. We talk about the schedule that Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons have been following through the summer. They are literally every weekend flying across to Europe to play a festival, and they’re coming back, doing their day jobs during the week and then back out again.
We agree that it’s so important that people realise that this isn’t just something that you turn up and do your thing for an hour. For the Crows, this is now their life, their living, and when you consider what is involved, it’s difficult for many people to understand.
“I agree with you,” Shane says. “The whole running and the day-to-day things. And it’s not just us. It’s our crew. It’s the organisations. With The Hollywood Vampires, they cancelled a few shows. That tour cost us so much money, but we must do it for the exposure, the pleasure, and the privilege to be sharing the stage with such rock legends. You know when they pull shows, you’re like, okay, that’s all our crew. Now we’ve got to put up everyone in a hotel, all the transport, the flights. People just think there are five lads on stage performing for an hour, but there’s so much more.”
This may sound like sour grapes, but rest assured, Shane and the Crows are grateful for everything. They have worked incredibly hard to get to this stage, and I mention that when someone as legendary as Dave Mustaine from Megadeth says that a night off for his band costs more than $100,000, it grounds your thoughts.
Having supported The Hollywood Vampires across Europe recently, I was keen to discover how Those Damn Crows were received and how the tour went in general. “We were completely blown away with the reception we had,” Shane explains. “Every show, Germany in particular, they were just into it from the word go. When we put the introduction on and we came on stage, everyone was behind us straight away. There were a couple of places, like Austria, where they were a little bit slow, but my God, by the end of our 30-40 minutes set, they were right with us, and we picked up the fan base.
“It’s funny because we got really close with a lot of the Vampires crew because we’d see them every day. Obviously, there were other bands. We didn’t do all the dates with The Vampires. We did about eight with them. Then there were other bands for the UK legs and other shows.
“When we had a bit of a break and went back out, even the crew were like, and this is no disrespect to any of the other bands, the crew were just singing our praises. When we went on stage, we would build the crowd up. So, it felt like it wasn’t just about The Hollywood Vampires, the whole experience of the night, people were walking away going what an amazing evening of rock as opposed to just going to see The Vampires.”
Shane doesn’t come across as arrogant when he says this. This is the sign of a band that has proved good to work with, and it is reciprocated. “We pat ourselves on the back a little,” he says, “because if the crews are saying ‘you’re making the tour a better place to be’, then we’re doing something right. So, every show we were part of, we felt like we were doing our part to sort of warm the crowd up for The Hollywood Vampires.”
“The crew acknowledged this and just said what a great job we’re doing. And now, we’ve made great friendships. Joe Perry’s guitar tech and I are close now, man. A proper bond, you know, and it’s wonderful.”
It’s those lasting relationships and contacts which you cannot put a price on and makes it worth the cost, the blood, sweat, and tears. As we discuss the evolution of The Crows, I ask Shane if he felt that the tour with The Hollywood Vampires had come at the right time for the band. Were they at the right place in terms of being comfortable to go out and say, we are Those Damn Crows. We can match. We can put on the show. We’re not worried about it.
“That’s a great question and one I’d probably have to agree with,” answers Shane. “I’d probably say, yeah. Ideally, we’d love to have all done it two-three years ago, but maybe we weren’t ready then. I don’t know. It’s a tricky one. It came to the table, and we said yes straight away. We didn’t care about how much it was going to cost. It was an incredible sort of exposure for a band that hasn’t done too much in Europe recently.
“It was almost like leapfrogging a couple of stages. We could have probably played clubs with a few hundred people, but by doing this and playing some incredible festivals, incredible stadiums, arenas, that leapfrogged us so we’re not starting from scratch when we go to Europe now and in September, October. Timing is everything in this industry, and it couldn’t have come at a better time to be, to be quite honest.”
As well as the European Tour, Those Damn Crows head out on their first Academy-sized tour as headliners. “We played a couple of academies before, Manchester and stuff, but these venues have grown quite a bit. We go to, I think it’s Holland first, and then dates in Germany. And then we’re back doing Oxford, Bournemouth, Bristol Academy, Glasgow, Leeds, Wolverhampton, London Kentish Town and then finishing off in Paris.
“So yeah, man, it’s the venues have grown a little longer, bigger, and we are spreading our wings, so to speak. Excuse the pun!”
With Inhale/Exhale definitively one of the albums of 2023, I wondered if Shane is already looking past it and towards album number four. “Well, it’s funny you should say that,” he says, “because with Point Of No Return, our second album, obviously, the world stopped with Covid. We couldn’t do shows, and then it was a case of right. You need to do another album by the time Covid ended. We weren’t ready because we hadn’t gigged it.
“By the time we do the September/October tour, I’ll feel like we’ve been out, we’ve gigged this album, and possibly we are ready to start a new one. The truth is, Paul, I’m always writing. I’ve got a huge number of songs ready in the library to go to show the boys, and we can all get together and jam and make them into Those Damn Crows songs.
“There’s this stuff already there, but we’ll probably start thinking about it as soon as this tour is done in October and November. Probably get into demo mode, and then get them to some sort of level where we can jump into a studio ASAP.”
It’s certainly a sign of an active musician. Everyone I speak to rarely stops working. Shane agrees. “Yeah, I think it’s a case of, if you are a musician, there’s no sort of moment where you start and stop. It’s a continuous thing. And what I’ve realised, especially on the road, is that you’re observing new places, new people, and I was on my phone constantly singing into it and jotting down ideas. That was just based on where we were and the environment we were in. Whether being on a tour bus or travelling the country in Germany, Austria, or whatever.
“So those ideas are always sparking something off, and I’m forever on my phone just mumbling ideas. It always happens. But it’s something that you can’t really turn off.”
I think I can speak on behalf of the whole Crow Family when I say that we wouldn’t want Shane to stop. As we finish, I describe a moment on Saturday night when the band were finishing their set with See You Again. I explained to my wife the meaning behind the song, which she wasn’t aware of.
It’s a prime example of a moment or experience providing that meaning for a song. “You’re right,” Shane says. “I had written that four years ago, but I had no meaning behind that. I had nothing to say other than the tagline. See you again. Then I thought it was going to be talking about my dad and stuff. But Covid happened, and I knew what the song was about then because that time was taken away from us. When were we going to see the fans again?
“So, it’s crazy, but I think music is literally a mirror image of where you are, what you are doing at that time, and I think the best songs are the simple songs. But where you have a message, you’re singing about something you know.”
Those Damn Crows tour the UK in October and headline Planet Rock’s Winter’s End in February.