Thanks to the miracle of the internets, I sat down in mid August and had a chat with Shaun Holton, mastermind behind impressive Adelaide prog outfit Projected Twin. Champagne, middle eastern cover bands, dodgy road managers, blown budgets, exploding Rhinos (and of course music) are just some of the topics we covered…
<SS> Hi Shaun, thanks for giving your time to SSMB! How about you tell us a bit about yourself…maybe start at the beginning. What made you decide to be a musician? Was it a definitive moment or a gradual build-up?
(Shaun) Hi! I’m Shaun Holton and I’m an independent musician from South Australia. I head a recording project called “Projected Twin” (PT) and I’ve been lucky enough to have gained some international attention online with that. I wanted to be a musician when I first saw the Michael Jackson video for ‘Black or White’. I was about 5 at the time so I can now be forgiven for my foolishness.
<SS> Haha cool. I can’t say I’ve detected any MJ influences in PT’s sound, could you tell us a bit about your influences as far as PT is concerned? Is the music that influenced you in your formative years still doing so, or are you drawing on different influences since forming PT?
(Shaun) Instrumentally I draw influences from stuff I’ve mainly been listening to over the past 10 years. I really got taken away by bands like Opeth, Katatonia, Porcupine Tree, Filter, Incubus (early incubus). As for my singing style, I think that is definitely a product of being a kid who grew up in the 90’s. I was really big into 90’s pop (mainly because I wasn’t really exposed to much else until I was in my mid teens.)
<SS> Ah cool, those bands would be described by many as being “progressive”, is that a label you’d be comfortable having your music described as?
(Shaun) Yeah. I think it crosses over into just “rock” territory through sometimes. I can put out a standard rock formula every now and then, but there are a number of 8-12 minute epics in there too.
<SS> Cool, yeah there are definitely some hard rock/heavy moments that get the blood flowing…well for me anyway haha.
You’ve released two albums as PT, Earth to World and more recently Earth vs. World, have you been happy with the way they’ve been received? I believe Earth vs. World has been pretty successful as a download and your Youtube channel views are in five figures.
Were you happy with the way the Pledge music campaign went as far as funding Earth vs. World was concerned?
(Shaun) It has definitely been an evolution over time. When I was putting the first album together, I was intent on playing majority of the instrumentation myself and It was the first time after 5 years of being ‘The singer’ in bands that I made an attempt to create something without depending on a band. So I think I wasn’t entirely sure what ‘Projected Twin’ was. The song “Shark Water” picked up the most traction online after it was featured in a few videos made by some popular video bloggers in the States. Because that song is pretty much just a 4 minute ballad and being the first point that most audiences came into contact with my music, I was typecast pretty quickly. Once the album started getting around through, Prog fans soon discovered songs like “Post Secret” and “Oh! The Drama”.
By the time I started working on the 2nd album, I was already sick of hearing myself, went out and grabbed some other musicians, wrote a bunch of stuff and then let them blow on it. So I feel that half of the first album and 90% of the 2nd album represents where I want to be and now I’m really starting to see listeners gravitating towards the stuff that I’m more attached to.
The Pledge system is AWESOME if you do it right (which I didn’t). Because of a bunch of touring I’ve done between then and now (and having three kids at home that my poor wife gets stuck with while I’m gone) finding the time to actually get through the pledge stuff post album release has really been a drawn out process that I’m kind of embarrassed I wasn’t able to complete faster. I’m so grateful that people were so keen to support an album they hadn’t even heard yet and I feel like I let them down. Got there in the end though!
<SS> Yeah, look as a muso myself I can totally relate to lost time!
Ok well your mention of other musicians brings me neatly to the Solar Soma guys… They played on Earth vs. World and also you played bass in Solar Soma I think. How did you come to be involved with them?
I think they have some kind of connection with Lauda guitars which you endorse….how did that arrangement come about? It’s great to see local bands/businesses helping each other!
(Shaun) The Solar Soma crew are just an extremely well rounded and multi-talented trio of people. Cat the singer was also the producer and engineer of both the Projected Twin albums. Chris their guitarist is the chief designer and builder of Lauda guitars and Luke their drummer is… really good at hitting stuff. Not long after I first met Cat and Chris , they invited me to their studio to see if we’d be interested in working on the first Projected Twin album together. They played me some of the earlier Solar Soma stuff and I instantly became a huge fan. Two of my albums later I joined their band as their bassist and things are awesome!
The Lauda guitar thing was easy. Chris builds INSANE guitars, they were hanging around in the studio and every time we A&B’d them to stuff like my PRS or anything else, they came out victorious. It was love at first strum.
<SS> Yeah great, I’ve come to know most of those guys through SSMB too which is awesome.
Frank Zappa considered every album/song he ever composed to be a part of one gigantic artwork. Is this something you can relate to? Will we see a third instalment in the Earth/World series or do you think you’ll go off on a different tangent?
I believe you’ve got a new single coming out soon….can you tell us a bit about that?
(Shaun) I’m going to go on a different tangent for a little while. I’m going to put out a bunch of self produced/recorded material over the next few years. Being an indie musician it takes me roughly a year or two to make back the investment (the pledge drive made up for about 30% of the funds for album # 2) There is definitely a 3rd (and final) part to the Earth/World series. I’m waiting to become a better writer/musician before I attempt that. New influences help too.
<SS> Right, so you still need to make up quite a bit of the funding on your own?
(Shaun) I went about 60% over budget hahaha
<SS> Hahaha Easy to do!
Ok so your hometown is Radelaide, how’s the local scene there at the moment? Do you play live with PT or SS very often? I imagine it would be difficult with a growing family etc.
And your second home is Dubai! Can you tell us how you came to be there? How do you find the cultural differences between Dubai and Adelaide? Haha
(Shaun) Adelaide has SO much going on. I haven’t played live here for a good couple of years so I really don’t know much about the scene. Solar Soma will be gigging around here soon so It will be fun to get involved again.
Dubai has been pretty good to me for the past 5 years, I think my last stint there was definitely my LAST stint though.
Dubai is a job for sure. I play in cover bands over there. It was great fun when I was 21. I’m creeping up on 30 now and my life has changed a lot.
Shift in my time management.
<SS> Yeah 5 years is a long time to be playing covers in the middle east! That’s great though, not too many people can say they’ve done that!
On the subject of playing live, have you supported or toured with any international acts in Australia or met any of your musical heroes? Do you have any really memorable gigs or gig horror stories?
(Shaun) Probably the biggest and most memorable act I’ve had a chance to get on the bill with is Mammal. We put on a big show in Adelaide with my old band ‘Double Handed’ (yes… fun name haha). I was stoked. Ezekiel Ox is a bit of a hero of mine. I’ll always remember talking to him about the cover for the first Mammal EP. He said “We had this awesome artist working on the cover, we had a song called ‘New Breed Judas’ and he’d done this amazing piece with daemons and a guy being crucified” and I was like ‘Pretty sure we just want some like… exploding Rhinos!’ His energy was amazing.
Nightmares would have been the first half of the Projected Twin U.S. tour. I had to fire the tour manager IN the van on the way to Seattle, Cancelled the whole tour and then plan a new one in two days and get back on the road. It worked out to be an awesome tour and experience, but I was ready to quit life that day.
<SS> Wow, yeah, the highs & lows of professional musicianship!
Well that about winds it up, thanks heaps for sharing your time with SSMB, I’d like in closing to ask you as an emerging artist how you feel about giving your music away for free as opposed to treating it as a commodity from day one.
Do you think it’s exposure first and the rest will look after itself kinda thing or do you think it’s important to treat it as a business from the very start?
And finally, what’s next for Shaun Holton? Musically or otherwise?
(Shaun) I think it entirely depends on your situation. People are doing; people with big albums with big dollars and people recording in their bedrooms. From Radiohead to ‘Fruityloops user #26098″ so I guess WHY you give it away is more important. Radiohead know they are going to make more money from royalties and touring than album sales, so they’re ok there. I put my first album out for free for the 1st 12 months because I just wanted people to hear it. It worked, now because of that, I know that even though I’m not buying a large house. I can make an album in a modest studio that I pay by the hour and know that I will make that money back, because I took a gamble and invested in my audience as a way to get them to invest in me.
Next? More music!
<SS> Great….more music is always a good thing! Thanks again, I predict next time we speak it will be over Cristal Champagne and fois gras h’orderves on the balcony of the Ritz Carlton!
(Shaun) Haha! Or the local sip’n’save in Southern Adelaide!
<SS> Hahah! ‘Til we meet again!
Earth vs World and a bunch more PT music/info available here