Artist Look Behind the Label: Shy Kennedy (Horehound/o Heiðrún, Blackseed Records, Descendants of Crom)

Metal correspondent Steve met up with Shy Kennedy, singer/musician from Horehound and o Heiðrún, founder of Blackseed Records, show promoter, and all around Pittsburgh metal ambassador.

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Photo by Jeremy Schindorff

Q: Most people probably know you as the singer for Horehound. How did you get into doom metal and what bands were you in before Horehound?

A: Actually I feel like most people know me as a music supporter because I’ve been going to shows much longer than I have been in Horehound. People are only learning of Horehound now, but I am recognized outside of Pittsburgh now because of the band. It’s neat!

I am naturally drawn to darker, bleak things and that runs into most of my musical preferences. I’m an old school metal head for the most part but even outside of the heavier music, I am moved by the music that is full of emotions and messages that address what needs to be fixed in this world. I didn’t choose doom metal, it chose me. It’s not something I am into, it is something I am. It’s true.

When I really learned of Black Sabbath at a young age, I looked to find what music they inspired and there was a ton. I still listened to a lot more extreme styles of metal because that was part of who I was, too, but the older I grow the more heavy, bluesey rock and roll I look forward to. It just fits. I’m a moody person and this expression of music balances me. Some ask why I would listen to something that seems so depressing, but the lyrics and music actually have a lot of positive messages and it’s a good way to let go of frustrations and anxiety.

You, along with Horehound, are helping lead the doom metal charge in Pittsburgh. The band has been together a little over two years now and has had a few lineup changes. Tell us how the band originated, where you’re at now, and where can we see Horehound next?

The band came about through two dudes (Brendan Parrish and Mike Altopiedi) who were in a band previously, wanting to start something new. A series of Craigslists ads got us all together and from there we made alterations to the line-up for reasons of creating stronger music when we were faced with a member having to go. We even decided not to replace positions at one point, going from a 5-piece to a 4 member group. We have over a year behind our first album and we’ve been writing and playing out a good bit. We’re about to record for a split 7” with Enhailer from Ohio. We just signed the first record with Hellmistress Records to be released on vinyl with a special bonus (cover song), and we’ll be recording our next record in fall.

With the line-up we currently have, I see Horehound growing very strong. We’re clicking well as a group and the music that is coming your way on these upcoming releases is really an emergence of who we really are. We have definitely found ourselves, meaning, we really discovered our sound. It’s getting a lot heavier. We still have delicate moments in our compositions but the follow up contrasts to those delicate moments are a lot more brutal. We’ll be playing more festivals and starting to get on the road when we can. It’s very exciting and we’re getting tremendous feedback.

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You currently have irons in lots of fires; between writing and performing with Horehound, and your side project o Heiðrún, you are also running Blackseed Records. What made you start up a label and what can we expect from the label in the near future?

I work best when I work a lot. Everything I do with music seems to motivate me to do more, so it’s a snowball effect. I started the label almost 5 years ago and it was all DIY noise. I handmade cassettes and mini disc packaging, hand-dubbed cassettes, actually burned discs on my own. It was a great exploration for me and I worked with some very interesting artists from all over the world. But it was small, tiny, very limited in that – the music is obscure. I like that kind of thing. Now that I work with bands more, I started moving the label in that direction. This is all recent and I am not cutting out the noise part. It’s just going to incorporate both.

Blackseed will grow into more than a hobby of mine and it’s already begun with releasing bands such as Horehound, Enhailer, Holy Rivals, Fist Fight in the Parking Lot, Del Rios and Molasses Barge just in the past year. Now they are pretty humble releases in packaging, but the bands are so good. Collaborating with these artists is rewarding on a level I can’t describe. It just feels very good to be a part of what they do somehow.

Your solo side project o Heiðrún is playing Club Cafe August 18th with Dälek and Brown Angel. What was the inspiration for it, and how would you describe the sound?

o Heiðrún has been on the back burner. I recorded material, and that was that. I did some haphazard shows here and there that weren’t very well planned on my end. I am going to change that, because I like the project and I want it to be more than what it is. I was thinking on that for some time and I got a message from John Roman of Brown Angel out of the blue that encouraged me to hit up Opus One to see if I could get the spot to open the show. My first thought was, that’s cool he thought of me but I am not prepared, but it was followed by my instinctual, no- do it, just get prepared now. Dälek’s people listened to the material and asked me on.

Now I am ramping up to get the project in order. I am combining all of the songs I have to date and self-releasing on disc and after the show I look forward to recording new material. The sound is disturbing. Plain and simple. I don’t write. I just record whatever comes out of me. It’s all vocal: some clean, some distorted. It’s chaotic, harsh, and messy. I don’t edit. I don’t really mix other than panning. I had the tracks for the split 12” record I did with Zaimph but only so the needle wouldn’t skip clear off the vinyl. It’s that rough.

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Last, and by no means least: you book shows for your band, for bands on your label, and for out-of-town bands that come through Pittsburgh on tour–all in the name of doom–but on September 30th at Cattivo, you are putting on the biggest show you’ve booked yet. It’s definitely one of the coolest things to happen involving metal in Pittsburgh in forever. Tell us all about Descendants of Crom.

Yes! I am so excited about this. Descendants of Crom is a music event that I decided to put together. This first year it will be one day, 12 hours (2pm – 2am), 2 stages, 17 bands at Cattivo in the Lawerenceville area of Pittsburgh. There are 4 local bands including the headliner, Penance, which is reuniting with the Alpha-Omega line-up for the first time in about a decade. Other bands are coming from Canada, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and more by way of touring through.

I can not stress on how diverse this is in heavy underground music. There will be a little of everything from rock, metal, sludge, and of course doom. DOC is collaborating with Black Forge Coffee and Full Pint Brewing as well as some other record labels and businesses to make this a true music community celebration. It’s a lot of work but, “If you build it… they will come.” That is what I am hoping, at least. There is a website, a Facebook site, an event page and tickets are availble online and will be available at Black Forge Coffee House and Dave’s Music Mine. Walk-ins will be also welcome, of course! There will be a ton of band merchandise and art to purchase, a lot of great networking, and of course the music will be stellar. I promise.

The line-up will be: CANTMonolith WielderOl’ Time MoonshineArcharusHorseburnerWasted TheoryFoghoundEYELady BeastBrimstone CovenThe Midnight Ghost TrainSolaceKarma to BurnEarthrideValkyrieStinking LizavetaPenance.

Make sure you don’t miss the dual CD release show of Blackseed bands Molasses Barge & Fist Fight in the Parking Lot TONIGHT, Friday July 28th, at Brillobox.

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