Daniel L. Mitchell
Shellac, if you live in a cave and have never heard of them, is one of the world’s premiere rock bands. Their music is one part Slint, one part Big Black, and eight parts AC/DC. The extremely famous Steve Albini plays guitar and sings for Shellac; his trademark Travis Bean aluminum guitar has been making abrasive and screechy sounds for over two decades, in Big Black, Rapeman, and now Shellac. Albini’s simple presence in the band (he recorded the early Pixies, The Breeder’s Pod and Nirvana’s In Utero, among other championed releases) gives Shellac a bit of notoriety as a band that will rock… and rock they do.
Away from Albini, though, the band’s backbone is really made up of two lesser-known gentlemen, bassist Bob Weston and drummer Todd Trainer. Mr. Weston has been in several notable bands, such as Volcano Suns, and there is a website devoted to Bob, the teen idol. Mr. Trainer has played in many a band as well, including Riflesport, Breaking Circus, and his own project, Brick Layer Cake.
Todd Trainer is the least-known, yet most impacting member of Shellac, for without his tremendous drumming, the band would lack its unbridled power and ferocity of delivery. On the same token, Trainer makes Shellac’s live performance incredible. He is, hands down, the most animated drummer I have ever seen. It would be possible to watch only him, behind his kit, for the entire show without growing bored; he’s absolutely entrancing!
Say you meet a new friend, one clueless, as to the ways of music; how do you describe Shellac’s music to them, or do you even bother?
I would be happy to tell them we play rock music.
How would you describe Shellac to the young adolescent with black rimmed glasses, a fan of Saves the Day, Get up Kids, and/ or New Found Glory?
Although I am familiar with the names of these bands, I must admit to never having heard their music, so I would describe our music as hard rock music.
What’s going on with Shellac these days? Anything new, record-wise, in the works?
We are working on new material, at our leisurely pace.
Shellac has an unusual touring schedule; can you explain the rather unorthodox choice of cities, shows, etc. (Evansville, Indiana, for example)?
For us as a band, there is nothing unusual about our touring schedule or our choice of cities. We have performed in hundreds of cities all over the world.
While on tour with Shellac, who does the majority of the driving? What is your van activity of choice? Are there any fun games you guys would like to reccommend to young touring bands?
Mr. Bob Weston does the majority of the driving, but we have all spent time driving. I have driven in many countries, and a personal favorite would have to be the Autobahn. We have an extremely old van, in which the cassette player no longer works, So we play this game where we listen to demos people give us on compact disc on our cassette player.
I’m assuming that you’ve seen video of yourself drumming… any thoughts?
I have seen video of myself drumming. I expected to look much more spectacular than I actually looked.
Your drumming style is unique, in that you are obviously possessing talent, yet you see no reason to show off; is this a conscious decision?
In my opinion, very few people are talented, and I am not one of them. I have played the drum kit, on and off, for twenty five years now and consider myself to be an OK drummer. However, I do fancy myself to be quite the show off.
Can you give me an idea of what it was like when you first got together with Steve and Bob for your first few practices as Shellac? Did you guys have an idea in your heads of what you wanted things to sound like?
We had all been in bands prior to Shellac, and had all developed unique sounds and styles. So when we first played together, we sounded like us. It was not a calculated decision.
People who enjoy Shellac’s music are typically not just fans, but rabid fans. Your fans are willing to drive many miles to see you guys play — a friend and I once drove eight hours to see you guys when Terraform came out, and I’m sure there are many others out there who have driven as far or further. Don’t you see your odd choices of venue and city as a pain in the ass to your fans?
If a fan drives eight hours to see us play, I am truly flattered and sincerely hope they enjoy the drive and the show. However, they will get no sympathy from me. We have traveled around the world in twenty different countries; I once traveled from Minneapolis to Chicago to join Steve, Bob, and Corey Rusk, our sound person. At the time then we flew from Chicago to Detroit to Tokyo to Sydney to Auckland, simply to play a show in New Zealand, and it took thirty-eight hours. I travel eight hundred miles to rehearse. The worst part of traveling is the traveling itself.
Getting back to Todd Trainer, the man. What type of day job do you have and do you like it? What are your hobbies?
I worked in the hair care industry for twenty years, and it had its ups and downs. I am currently looking for work. My hobbies are music, attending concerts, listening to records, and playing drums and guitar. I enjoy brownies, golfing, and traveling.
Does Shellac’s band members’ day jobs kind of interfere with touring plans, or are you able to schedule around your day jobs?
Work obviously takes up a great deal of one’s time, and we have all been up to our necks in work for most of the band’s history. We all allow ourselves absolute freedom within the band to do whatever, and we schedule our activity around our lives, not vice-versa.
Brick Layer Cake is much different than Shellac’s music; how would you describe Brick Layer Cake to aforementioned bespectacled emo-nerd? What’s new with the band?
I would describe Brick Layer Cake as rock music with icing on top. I am working on new material and playing shows, here and there.
What’s been your most cherished memory as a musician?
That’s an excellent question, and I have countless cherished memories. I have stage towels from Ace Frehley and Elvis Costello. I have guitar picks from Steve Jones and Pete Townsend, among many others. I have been in bands with some of my favorite musicians of all time. I have been joined on stage by Polly Jean Harvey, who sang and played guitar during Brick Layer Cake shows. I have opened for some of my all time favorite bands. I could go on and on.
If you had to push one Shellac record to a prospective fan, what would it be? And will the band ever put out a 7″s and b-sides LP?
I would recommend our first singles, as they are inexpensive and excellent. I proposed the idea of a Shellac compilation CD to Bob and Steve, to make vinyl releases available to those without turntables, and to prevent us from further bootleg releases; however, they were not excited about it.
Shellac, P.O. Box 442, Evanston, IL 60204 • Southern Records/Shellac: http://www.southern.com/southern/band/SHLAC/