Shim Moore initially made his bones fronting post-grunge trio Sick Puppies in the late 90s. The band would achieve international success in the following decades with their second and third albums: 2007’s Dressed Up as Life and 2010’s Tri-Polar. By late 2014, however, the band’s unexpected dissolution forced him to leave what he created. But in a positive twist, that circumstance pushed him to strengthen, and ultimately solidify, his stature as a solo artist.
Four years later, Moore has returned with the comeback single, “Hallelujah.” While the song is very much representative of the hardships he had to persevere, it is also that especially of his further grounded outlook on life. I caught up with Shim to discuss the process by which this comeback took shape, the importance of his early influences, and what fans can expect on his upcoming album.
ME: When you left Sick Puppies in 2014 and went solo, the transition was rough at best. What went through your mind as this was all going down?
Shim: (Laughs), well that’s an interesting question! When everything started going down, I actually wasn’t thinking of going solo at all. I didn’t really want to do anything after we split; it kind of messed me up. I didn’t even know we were breaking up! I knew that there were problems we had to work out and stuff, but suddenly, the band’s over. It took about 12 months before I really started doing anything productive. I tried to put another band together and it didn’t work out. Eventually, I started trying to write bits and pieces of music, writing for other artists, and getting into different elements of the music business. That ended up falling short. Finally, I really didn’t have much choice except to say, “I need to release music, get back out there and play, so I can be productive.”
What dictated my starting a solo career was when trying to collaborate with other people, it just wasn’t panning out. But I didn’t have the time to wait for something to work out; I needed to make it happen. That’s why I went ahead with putting an album together. “Hallelujah,” which is the single out at the moment, was the first song I’d written for the album.
ME: With the breakup being unexpected and all, did it take time for you to regather your creativity, or had you always maintained it?
Shim: One of the saving graces for going through hard times, for me, personally, is that it really doesn’t matter what’s happening in my life; I’m always able to write songs.
ME: Oh, wow!
Shim: Yeah! I’ve been doing this a long time, man. Usually, when I was younger, there would be periods in my life where I’d break up with a girl, and write a song while I’d be depressed. When you’re on holiday, you wouldn’t come up with a song idea, since you’d be having a good time and be distracted. I mean, I’ve been doing this since I was 10 years old, so I’m able to write songs under any circumstance. And actually, writing music is actually what got me out of it.
When I used to write for Sick Puppies, there were boundaries; we were “boxed in” to a degree; there were rules, you know what I mean? Now, with my solo music, there’s this freedom. Even though it’s not what I’d planned, I can do whatever I wanted. I started writing music that was really different. A lot of it was terrible! Those other songs no one is ever going to hear, because they were awful. But, every once in a while, there’d be this moment of inspiration, or musical exploration. Even though I was going through a tough time, it would just give me something to do, man. Some of those songs are on the record, you know? So, there was no down period. The one thing that was constant was writing music to stay confident.
ME: Going back a bit, what was it that originally inspired you to pursue music professionally?
Shim: I mean, the moment I realized that I could write music, keep in mind — I didn’t know how to read music, or really what I was doing! So, I started finding out that Kurt Cobain from Nirvana, Daniel Johns from Silverchair, and Billie Joe from Green Day also couldn’t read music. And I started learning how to play their songs once I began playing guitar. Once you do that, you start learning about song structure, and then write your own songs. Then, once I started writing songs, I got completely addicted to it. It was all I wanted to do. I would write in school, or on the bus, just constantly coming up with ideas, melodies, and everything.
There wasn’t really a choice (laughs). But honestly, dude, if I had the choice, I’d be a doctor! But I’m not a doctor, or a lawyer; I’m a musician and songwriter. That’s who I am, and what I know I can do.
ME: When I was younger, I heard you mention in an interview that Silverchair was the main catalyst for that. Did it also extend to other bands in Australia, or just whatever you could take in?
Shim: I’d say the latter. There were a lot of Australian bands at the time that were influential and really good, which I’m sure a lot of [non-Australians] had never heard of. But at that point, Silverchair was the apex. Silverchair was the Nirvana of Australia. They were so big in Australia; you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about them. For me, and for [the Puppies], it was a huge deal, because they were around the same age as us. They became international stars when they were 15 years old, and we were all 13 when when we started playing music. So, we thought we could be rockstars now. I learned every Silverchair song, every lyric, and everything [Daniel Johns] did. As that happened, I started also drinking in Green Day, Rage Against The Machine, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and everything. I was just listening to anything I could get my hands on and absorbing everything I could play or write.
But Silverchair were the apex. They lived two hours north of us. We lived in Sydney and they in Newcastle, which is about an hour-and-half drive. We’d take field trips up to Newcastle and go to all the places they’d hold interviews. We’d write songs in the park they used to go to, or the steel mill that Daniel’s dad used to work at. Yeah dude, we were in it, and full-on about it. That was all that mattered.
ME: Now, tell me about your latest single, “Hallelujah.” It just recently won the HardDrive Radio Smash or Crash Award. How was that for you?
Shim: Ah, man, it was awesome! I’m telling you, man, that was a big deal. It’s funny because we got in the vote, and then we were at like 93 percent. I didn’t know, until we looked into it, that the girl we were up against was actually the drummer from Skillet — her solo project. So, she’s got Skillet fans—big numbers—behind her. Suddenly, she comes in on Wednesday and kicks our ass! She’s just under 10 percent, kicking ass and taking names, so we had to crawl our way back over the course of the weekend, and just vote, and vote, and vote. Eventually, we won at like four percent.
It was a big deal, because me, as Shim, former singer of Sick Puppies, this is a solo project. I don’t have some big fan base behind me to have the same impact that she can. I have a Sick Puppies fan base, but I don’t have access to it since I’m no longer a member of the band. Since she is still a member of Skillet, she can call Skillet and say, “Hey, tell them to vote for me. “ And you’ve got how many millions of fans of Skillet? They’re crazy huge!
So, when we’d done that, I was like, “Okay, with my fans, my team, and the whole project that’s going on, this is actually competitive. We actually have a shot.”
ME: The music video definitely complements the song. Can you tell me a bit about how that came together as well?
Shim: Yeah, man! When I decided “Hallelujah” was going to be the single, and what kind of video to make, I knew it had to be something that was fresh and different, because it wasn’t Sick Puppies; it’s Shim, and it’s got to be able to stand out. I was basically looking at YouTube videos, and stumbled upon Sock Puppet Parodies. They do puppet videos of Rage Against the Machine, Metallica, Slipknot and all those bands. I reached out to them through Facebook, asking them if they would like to do a [live-action] video for a new artist, and they said yes. So, I gave them the idea of how I wanted my video to look, and they agreed, and said, “Yeah, we can do all of that stuff!” They have a set, cameras, and everything; they’re a fully fledged production company, and we just put this together.
The truth is that making a video with sock puppets is kind of weird and strange. If you went to a major record label, you can understand that they might say, “No, we’re not doing that; that sounds stupid.” But since it was just me and Sock Puppet Parodies, no one else was involved. We could do whatever the hell we wanted. So, we made this really silly, funny, crazy video, that turned out to be great! But it wouldn’t have happened if we were signed to a major label; you would have had all these restrictions.
ME: I like the sock puppet idea. It’s probably the only time in the world where someone beats a puppet version of themselves with a guitar solo!
Shim: That’s it, man! It’s definitely unique. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out, but I knew it was going to be something different no matter how it turned out.
ME: In a way, it’s also about redefining yourself as a person. You defeat the past version of yourself—Li’l Shim—and emerge a new man.
Shim: That’s actually exactly the vibe we were going for. It talks about coming out of the Sick Puppies breakup, or any difficult time, and basically saying I’m not dead. You take enough time away to look inside the big world—he’s dead, he’s done, he’s washed up. And I just decided I’m going to have a bit of fun, take the piss, and just let them know. The song kind of tells the story itself. It’s a big sounding song, with a big chorus, and a big guitar solo, it’s a kick in the teeth. It’s a deep way of saying I’m not dead, nor was I ever really gone.
ME: Where would you say “Hallelujah” fits in relation to the album’s context?
Shim: “Hallelujah” will be somewhere in the middle of the record. The record is actually not much different than how the Puppies records have turned out. The Puppies’ sound has a lot of diversity, with some songs that are hard and heavy, while others are soft and simple. I’d contributed a lot as to how the Puppies’ records sounded and were presented, and much of that mentality is in my solo record. I’ve heard people say that “Hallelujah” and some other songs off the record are a lot harder than anything the Puppies have ever done. But there are also songs that are softer than the Puppies—for example, one of the songs is a piano ballad—and everything in between. One thing that I’m really happy with is so far, everyone who I showed the solo record to has said that it’s my best work to date. I really feel that way; I definitely had a lot to prove. I’m not going to be shy about it. This is a new endeavor, and a new chapter. If it goes well, great. If it doesn’t, it’s all in my thoughts.
There’s a lot to prove; you can sense that in the sound of the record, the lyrics, the songs, and the whole thing. It’s a big sounding record, and there are definitely elements in the sound that are bigger than anything the Puppies have ever done.
ME: How was production handled to give the album its sound?
Shim: It was mostly me, man. There are a few songs on the record where different people were brought on and I’d record in their studio, but it was mostly done in my bedroom, by myself.
When people ask me what the record sounds like, I’ll just say it sounds like Shim. It doesn’t sound exactly like Sick Puppies, but a lot of the same spirit from the Puppies records is on this one. If you like Sick Puppies, you’ll like this album. I guarantee it. It’s an evolution, and there’s a lot of movement in a few different directions. It’s more alternative, musical, and with classic songwriting. It’s definitely the best record of my career so far.
ME: Lastly, anything you’d like to say to your fans?
Shim: Yeah! The main thing I keep telling everyone is we’re in the process of having shows. You can listen to the music, but the shows are where it’s at. Every show comes with a money back guarantee. If you don’t feel better on the way out than you did on the way in, you can go to the box office and get your money back. No other show in rock ‘n’ roll has that guarantee. So, no one has an excuse not to come to my show. It’s the best show in rock n’ roll — period. It’s got great energy, a badass band, it’s legit!
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