Homelessness isn’t an easily distinguishable characteristic like height or skin tone, but it is a reality that more than 3.5 million people currently face. With one in seven at risk, homelessness comes in various shapes and styles, an idea famed rock photographer, Nigel Skeet, kept in mind as he took to the streets, camera in hand.
The concept was to photograph people who had been forced to choose between housing and other basic necessities. To document them the way he’d documented rock stars on stage. The initial intention was to capture perhaps five or six individuals, but what began as clicks from his camera shutter soon transformed into a national movement. After dozens of makeovers, hundreds of photographs, and hours of interviews the project has managed to touch an immeasurable amount of people, sharing stories of loss and strength and survival. Nigel has dubbed the movement Homeless Rock Stars, “because everyone deserves to be a rock star.” However, makeup and photo shoots won’t do it alone. Living those arena-sized dreams needs the energy of banging drums and wailing guitars. And that’s where Screaming At Demons comes into play.
Consisting of Shimon Moore (Sick Puppies’ former front man), Chris Clemence (RapScallion’s bassist) and Russell Ali, Screaming At Demons is a new beginning for three musicians with years of industry experience. Although they’ve been preparing for their debut EP and upcoming tour, this rock band teamed up with Nigel Skeet to give sound to an issue that needs to be addressed.
In this interview with Music Existence, Shimon and Chris discuss their roles in the Homeless Rock Stars project, what the project strives to achieve, and what fans can do to help.
ME: Nowadays, musicians are really utilizing their social media platforms to spread awareness of issues through “hash tag activism” – something you’ve done with the Homeless Rock Stars movement. Being that this project is the brainchild of photographer Nigel Skeet, how did Screaming At Demons get involved?
SHIMON: I got involved with the project when Nigel told me about Homeless Rock Stars. We’ve known each other for about 10 years and go back quite a ways, so we trust each other. He called me and basically asked if I’d write a song for the project because he felt like it was missing that “rock star” element. He told me what the vibe was for the project and what it was trying to achieve, and I wrote a song based off this conversation. After that, we shot a video for it, and that’s really how we got involved.
ME: Homelessness always seems to be an issue that is brushed aside by the general population and people tend to view the homeless with either resentment or pity. Being that the band resides in a state with a rather large homeless population, what does the project do for the homeless community and how do you hope it will impact those individuals who have never experienced homelessness?
SHIMON: I don’t know how it will affect anyone who has never experienced homelessness. Those types of questions are more Nigel’s domain. But in general, the Homeless Rock Stars movement is just to help people on an individual level. It’s to help them get to where they want to be in their lives, and realize their dreams, and the possibilities of getting a job. It’s going a lot deeper, and that’s why it’s becoming so effective.
CHRIS: And it’s really about instilling the confidence in them to fully realize themselves. Nigel brings it out the confidence in them, he makes them feel like a rock star. He does a photo shoot and an interview, but also simultaneously, he’s finding out who they really are as people, what their story is, and helps them get to where they want to be. It’s really up to them; it’s not a hand out, it’s a launching pad, and at the end of the day, it’s allowing them to realize the power they have within themselves.
ME: Shimon, you’ve worked with the homeless community in Sydney, Australia before moving to California. How have your personal experiences shaped your part in this moment?
SHIMON: I think it gives me a slightly unique perspective that other people may not have. I’m able to walk in from the ground up whereas others might need to get to know the situation or the vibe that you need to have. Really, it’s quite as simple as if you’re walking into a rehearsal room or a café or anywhere where you’re going to meet up with friends. You walk into a Homeless Rock Stars event and everyone is on the same page. That’s really what it is: everyone is one the same level.
ME: The music video for your debut single, “Rock Star,” dropped October 6. You’ve teased fans with a few sneak peeks, but can you tell us about Jessie Valley and her roll in the video?
SHIMON: Jessie Valley is rock star number one. She was one of the first Rock Stars that came in for makeup and a photo shoot. She had a meth addiction; she was living in a tent in a national park; her parents didn’t know where she was; and she didn’t know how to get home. She’d basically been taken away from her family by an abusive boyfriend and addiction. Jessie went through the Homeless Rocks Stars process, and Nigel found out she had a culinary degree. They got her a job, got her home to Washington to see her parents, and now she’s the head caterer to the Homeless Rock Stars events nationally. She’s their first story of someone coming full circle, going back to realizing their dream and getting fully fledged back into society. Jessie’s story is the story of Homeless Rock Stars, so her story is the main story of the video.
ME: This is a single that you’ve stated will not be released on purchasing websites like ITunes. So, what can fans do if they want to purchase the single or help in any way?
CHRIS: We’re planning to release it differently. We’re showing the video, but at the end we’re going to be giving instructions to text Rockstar (all one word) to 91999. When you text it to that number, you’ll get taken to a page where you can donate to Homeless Rock Stars, and the moment you do that, we’ll directly email the song to you. You can also donate directly at www.homelessrockstars.com in cause you’re like my Mom and don’t have an iPhone.
For more information on Homeless Rock Stars or ways to get involved, visit:
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