By Sebastian Mackay
I got 25 minutes with Jon Toogood during a lightning storm in Melbourne. During that 25 minutes Jon covered everything from existential life questions to working as part of a theatre to the food that he'd eat every day until the day he died ("I reckon you'd get sick of it by dinner" he said, only half mockingly) and just how readily available thermals are.
It was one of those conversations and where you can't help but listen. For 25 years he's been making music as the frontman of Shihad and even through countless interviews, he's still excited, genuinely, very excited. He was near giddy telling me all about the lightning storm and just how "booooring" he thinks fog is.
This a collection of the best shit he said in that 25 minutes right up until we warned there was only a minute left in our call (he doubled down and talked even faster!).
Get into it.
This is Jon Toogood on....superpowers, food, music and why Shihad (She-had, mum, not Shy-had) haven't and won't fade into oblivion.
NB: I've kept this as close to the way Jon talks as possible
Everyone needs to have a superpower, so what's yours?
I think the power of flight, obviously, it seems to be a bit of ah, quite a general one. Just because seriously, like living in Melbourne, the traffic sucks! So... and ecologically it's good, it makes sense, you're not using any fuel, apart from, I suppose, magical fuel, you're not burning fossil fuel and you can just go where ever you want and obviously on a cold day you have to put your thermals on, your thermal superpower uniform on, but that's okay, thermals are readily available. Pop down to one of your out doorsie type stores, pop on your thermals and go for a quick fly, y'know, it'll be the one for me.
Teleportation would save you the trouble of buying thermals and you wouldn't get wet when it rains...
Right! Exactly, exactly. Super human strength would be great but flight, especially if you can travel the world fast, you can get your playstation jollies in real life plus you can get to where you want to go fast. Yeah. And you wouldn't have any traffic jams on the way there.
So while you're flying across the world and you could eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Ooh oooh that's a real tough one, let me just quickly think, let me just quickly think, ah, ah, I'd probably run with the Nasi Lemak from down the road from Madam Kwong's Kitchen because you can have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it's just like rice and peanuts and I think dried anchovies wrapped in a banana leaf and it's just so yummy and tasty! You could have it lunch, breakfast and dinner, that'd be good... I'd probably get sick of it though, after a while, but that's what comes to mind at the moment.
I suppose it would be novel for a while?
Aww, I reckon you'd get sick of it by dinner [laughs, almost rapturously] but, but if I had to choose then that's what I'm choosing for this interview!
You guys have been around longer than most marriages, why haven't you had to split your stuff and fight over the kids?
I think the fact that we've never really hemmed ourselves into a corner and we've always given ourselves space to recreate who we are. We've always managed to just be outside of what's cool and do what we do and luckily early on we were exposed to some really good live acts so we wanted to do that changing mental thing that's like taking you to another place in time while your body's being bombarded by the sound and you felt...I'd hazard a guess at having a religious experience and once we saw that we wanted to be part of that magic and there's always something that you see or here each year where you think 'it'd be cool if we could do something like that'.
Songwriting is very personal, do you get used to people reading your journal, Jon?
Never, never, ever, ever and it takes [conviction] every time we go to write a record or I sit down to write what I'm feeling inside I go, 'aw I have to do this again...' It's a painful experience having to look yourself in the mirror and go 'what do you actually think, man? What do you actually feel? What are you going to do about it?' There's days where I wish I was completely doing a job where I just checked in at nine and checked out at five and I didn't have to think about it but I wake up in the middle of the night, still now, like I did when I was younger, with an idea and I have to get up and I have to write it down.
It's frightening when you actually do do it, it's so cathartic it's like you've purged yourself and you've got ridden of a disease of the heart, like you're cleaning yourself, like you're cleaning your insides every time you actually manage to articulate something that you're feeling or something that was worrying you or something you were feeling or something that was gnawing at your conscious or troubling your sense of morality and going, 'hey, this isn't right' when you get it out and articulate it it's like I feel lighter, I feel lighter, so when we finished this record I felt clean, I felt like lighter because I got to say all of the shit that was worrying me.
What would the world look like if we were all artists?
I think the world would be a complete fucking mess! [Cracks up laughing, like a snigger] because you wouldn't be able to get to where you were going unless you had super powers and you were able to fly. There wouldn't be people teaching your kids, there wouldn't be nurses looking after sick people and society would break down. In saying that, I think the role of art is still just as important as a nurses job or a policeman's job or a teachers, I've just realised that more and more as I've got older, fame is a complete illusion. The job I do is no more important than the job of the bus driver who got me to the show or the guy that put gas into my car. It's all the same, it's all the same, it's about what do you do with that job and how much passion do you put into it. What you do with your life. Everyone can make a change in other people's lives, you don't have to be the lead singer in a rock band, you don't have to be an actress or the prime minister of New Zealand, you can all affect change, it depends on how you look at it.