When one chapter ends, a new one begins. It is up to each of us to forge ahead and make our own story. After his departure from Sick Puppies in late 2013, many wondered where the band’s former frontman, Shimon Moore, would surface next. Wonder no more as the multifaceted artist unveiled the next chapter in his unique career — Screaming at Demons. A creative powerhouse, the band features Moore on vocals, Chris Clemence (Rap Scallions) on bass and virtuoso Russell Ali on guitar. The band has been writing and recording new material over the past several months and have their sights set on world domination. In addition to creating beautiful music together, the band members are spreading the word on the tremendous Homeless Rock Stars movement, the brainchild of legendary rock photographer Nigel Skeet, who started photographing the homeless in his hometown of Redding, Washington. The photos soon went viral and the movement was born. Skeet realized he needed an anthem for the project, so he turned longtime friend Shimon Moore, who penned the song “Rock Star.” Moore also shot a video for the song, reminiscent of the “Free Hugs” video for Sick Puppies, which helped spring the band to superstardom early on. The song and video for “Rockstar” are set for release on October 6, 2015. To obtain the track fans need to watch the Homeless Rock Stars video and text “Rockstar” to the number that appears at the end. By donating to the Homeless Rock Stars charity, fans will have the song sent to their phone. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Shimon Moore and Chris Clemence to discuss the formation of Screaming at Demons, the players involved and what they bring to the table, their work with Nigel Skeet’s Homeless Rock Stars movement and what we can expect from this band on the rise.
I wanted to start by focusing on your friendship. How did you two initially cross paths?
Moore: Oh the romance of it all! [laughs]
Clemence: To be honest, I really couldn’t stand him. I walked in on him clogging my toilet and he has been in the band ever since.
Moore: Absolutely. No one does it like I do, man! [laughs]
Clemence: No! We actually met at a party in Hollywood at my friend Jay Baumgardner’s house, who is a record producer. Shim and I started talking over a couple of beers, which led us to talking about music. It wasn’t long after that when we got together to jam and everything took off from there.
How does Russell Ali fit into the overall picture of Screaming at Demons?
Moore: I have known Russell for over a decade. He was the first guy who took me out in Los Angeles when I got here many, many years ago. We hung out at a gig, we talked and got a drink. At some point in the evening, he said, “We are going to do something one day. I can feel it. I haven’t even heard you sing but I have a feeling we are going to do something one day,” Now it is one day! We bumped into each other at Guitar Center after we had lost contact for awhile. He said, “Come down to the studio!” We wrote some songs and they turned out great. Those songs turned into the first Screaming at Demons tracks. We started hanging out when Sick Puppies was still together. Once the band dissolved, it just made sense that we would start to focus on it a little more.
After Shim’s departure from Sick Puppies, I thought he might focus on a solo release.
Moore: Well, I wasn’t really focusing on solo work per se. What I had done was a few solo shows because I just wanted to get out there and let people know I wasn’t done and dusted after the whole shit storm happened with the band. I also wanted to get out and play. Russell came out and accompanied me. This was last year and we played a couple of new songs that we had written. Basically, I called the show “Screaming at Demons.” Everyone latched on to that and the fans were like, “Oh, that is the new project. That is the band. When do we get to hear the band?” I would have much rather have done a band because, honestly, that is what I do. Russell and I kept writing songs and then I met Chris. Now Chris has joined the band. It really happened organically. What you can expect from Screaming at Demons is everything you have heard before but a lot better. We are bringing a lot more to the table now. Russell is a phenomenal guitar player. Chris is a great bass player. We are all very powerful writers and we are taking all the experience we have gained through the years to form this little supergroup, as I like to call it! I think it’s fuckin’ super, so that’s what I call it! [laughs] Fifty percent of it is that the music is fantastic and the positivity of the music. The other 50% of it is that we are coming at the way of marketing ourselves, selling the music and the band in a very different way than we have before. We are doing it independently. We have an amazing platform with the Homeless Rock Stars movement, which is something I got involved with because it is such a great cause and now it has turned into something that is really helping to promote the band. We are sort of reverse engineering the standard way to make a band happen.
What do you feel each other bring to the table as artists for a project like Screaming At Demons?
Moore: We are very lucky, man. Russell is a phenomenal, virtuoso guitar player and piano player. He is also a producer. We produce all the music ourselves. To me, he is bringing something that Sick Puppies never had. I am a rhythm guitar player but I am not a virtuoso by any means. I am a meat and potatoes kind of guitar player. At the same time, I have been singing for a very long time, so I am bringing all of my experience with lyrics and singing. Chris, I forget, you are fully trained. Right?
Clemence: Yeah. I was at the School for Jazz back in the day but I have been with several rock bands over the years. I have been playing bass for a long time, along with writing songs. Each of us has our own different style but cohesively it works very well together.
As you mentioned, you both have been in different bands in the past. For Screaming at Demons, was there a conscious effort to separate this material from your previous projects?
Moore: It is more of an organic thing. We bring different parts to different things. I might think of a melody that Chris doesn’t think of, while Chris is bringing bass lines and riffs that I would have never played. At the same time, Russell is doing top line stuff. We have written several songs together. Actually, we were in the studio the other day listening to what we had done. We said, “Let’s just follow what feels really good.” We are lucky because we can sing song after song after song and whichever ones feel right, those are the ones we will pursue. We know what we want the band to sound like, what feels good when you hear it and gets you inspired. If it works in the studio, it is going to work live and work for the band. We like to keep it organic for the most part and, so far, it is working really well. All the songs we have set for release are fucking killer!
Tell us a little about your plans for releasing new music for Screaming at Demons. Are you planning on an album release at this point or focusing on a more singles driven approach?
Moore: Well, we talk about that a lot. We are kind of going a different route. People are asking for a record a lot online but, at the same time, you are absolutely right, people are releasing singles more and more nowadays. For us, the Homeless Rock Stars single, “Rockstar,” is one we are promoting ourselves. I directed the video and Chris is lining all sorts of amazing promotional opportunities. Russell is in the studio finishing the next couple of songs. We are all focusing on the stuff in front of us at the moment instead of worrying about making a whole record. Fans really buy songs to buy songs. They purchase a song at a time. A lot of people fall into that model and I think that is what we will be doing, releasing a song at a time for the moment. We have an album worth of material ready to go but, at the moment, we are focusing more on getting the stuff that is completely finished out there.
Clemence: Right. The interesting thing is that we are doing this in a way that has never really been done before by a band. You won’t be able to get the single, “Rockstar,” on iTunes, Spotify or anything like that. The only way you will be able to get it is by watching the Homeless Rockstars video and you will be able to text “Rockstar” to a number that appears at the end of the video. By donating to the Homeless Rock Stars charity, you will have the song sent immediately to your phone.
Let’s talk about the Homeless Rock Stars movement for a moment. I know it is the brainchild of world renowned rock photographer Nigel Skeet. Tell us a bit about the project, how you got involved and what excites you about it?
Moore: It started off with Nigel starting to take pictures of the homeless people in the community up in Redding, simply because he had a slow day and had hair and makeup available and ready. He called them in and said, “Why don’t you guys get your hair and makeup done and we will take some pictures.” Nigel is a really grassroots rock and roll photographer. He is the guy who gets in the pit and gets the shots at a rock show. He had no fear and no pre-conceived ideas. After the shots became public, the community exploded with enthusiasm. Suddenly the story ended up on the front page of the papers, television news came and wanted to do an interview, The Huffington Post does a piece on it and more and more people find out about it. The story made its way all around the country and becomes this thing called Homeless Rockstars. He has created a series of events where he gives you hair and makeup, a rockstar photography shoot and a rockstar interview. The interviews are conducted by members of the community, such as the local police chief, the local fire chief, the mayor, local business owners and so on, people who know these homeless people on the streets. The difference is that they come into the Homeless Rock Stars event, which is almost like a photo studio with a bit of catering, and look around after the hair and makeup has been done and say, “Where are the homeless people?” Now, that barrier is completely removed and they are able to bridge that gap. The members of the community who are conducting the interviews with the homeless people find the last piece of the puzzle. The community is filling in the gap by saying, “This person is ready to get on with their life. I want to give them a hand up. I want to introduce them to this person I know and find a job opportunity or whatever else they might need.” Through this process we have gotten a person an audition on NBC’s “The Voice.” Jessie Valley, who is the main star of the “Rockstar” video, is one of the first people who benefited from the program. She basically went from living in a tent in a swamp, basically, to meeting the Homeless Rock Stars crew and they got her back home to Washington. They got her a job catering the Homeless Rockstars’ events and introduced her to a five-star French sous chef, who she is now the full-time apprentice for. Homeless Rock Stars is individually changing lives and making an impact on the community.
Nigel called me because I have known him for 10 years. He said, “I need a song. I don’t have any money but could you write a theme song for Homeless Rock Stars. The song would simply say, I’m a rockstar.” I wrote the song and it gradually dawned on us that this would be a great first single for the band. I drove up to Redding and shot the video, which will be much like the “Free Hugs” video from a few years ago. It is amazing. Once Chris came on board, he is a very smart and business minded kind of guy, he has helped us open a lot of doors to get the Homeless Rock Stars even more publicity.
What have you taken away from the experience of lending your support to the Homeless Rock Star movement?
Moore: It definitely changes the way you look at homeless people, for one thing, but it also changes the way you look. Once you actually have the experience, seeing the video is one part of the experience, but if you are actually in the room at a Homeless Rock Stars event, it lets you see people in a different way. It reminds you that everyone has a story. The story begins at the moment you are born. You forget about that and you get bottled up in our lives through technology, social media and all the other things that are keeping us insulated. This experience really breaks people out of that bubble and inspires people to help one another.
Clemence: Everyone is a rockstar in their own right, no matter what walk of life they come from. This reminds everyone of that and helps them achieve their greatest potential.
Very well said. Screaming At Demons is a new project. How does starting a band in this new era different from what you have done in the past as musicians and businessmen?
Clemence: The entire game has changed. It is an exciting time because, back in the day, there was a certain way to go about it and everyone followed the model. Right now, the way we are doing it is by making it organically as we go, using all the tools and platforms at our disposal, to put it out in the biggest way possible. Shim is a genius marketer and found a way to combine a really great cause with music to make something revolutionary, as he did with “Free Hugs.” The concept of being able to help people through our music is extraordinary. You donate to this charity, you feel great about it, you are positively affecting someone’s life and you are also getting a pretty awesome rock song as part of it and that is doing it in a new way and one that I haven’t seen any other bands do just yet.
What is in store for Screaming at Demons over the next several months?
Moore: The Homeless Rock Stars thing is the only thing in the near future. At the moment, we have an EP that is being mixed and prepared for release along with “Rockstar.” When “Rockstar” is available, there will be a download available for a donation. The audience will then be able to click on a link that will take you to our site where you can download the rest of the music directly. In the near future, Chris and I both believe, there will be a lot of promotion and a lot of opportunities with the Homeless Rock Stars project, all the way through until Christmas. At the same time, we are a rock band and that is really what we do. I think we are entering into very interesting territory. I know every time I speak to fans or kids in bands, they all ask, “How do I do it? How do I make it considering all I hear is that people steal music and labels fuck artists. I don’t know what to do.” When you do what Chris and I do, which is try to figure out a way to make money off our content 24/7, you get educated and pass that on. Now, Chris, Russell and myself are in this position where we are actually going to do it. We are independent. We have all of the amazing opportunities at our feet and we are focusing on capitalizing them. Macklemore is the perfect example of an independent artist becoming as big as an artist can get. He was the number one artist in the world. Times are changing. I think it is really inspiring and exciting to be a band in control of your content, striking an emotional cord, knowing what you are doing and changing how you distribute your music and reach your fans. It is really a matter of changing what you do. The pipeline and label distribution of everything is beyond dying. It’s dead and it’s a new world. We are going to be the best we can be. We are going to play the best music, the biggest shows and become the biggest movement we can. The thing that is equally exciting is having control and ownership of what you are doing and represent the artists instead of being another tragic tale of how the artist got fucked over, if you know what I mean.
It is awesome to see you guys turning the game on its head and supporting a tremendously great cause at the same time. Where are the best places for people to learn more on everything you have going on?
Clemence: People can check us out on our website, www.homelessrockstars.com www.homelessrockstars.com. You can also like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/screamingatdemons. To find out more about the Homeless Rock Stars movement, you can go to www.homelessrockstars.com. Once the video for “Rockstar” comes out, please donate to this amazing cause. You are changing people’s lives and hopefully you will really love the song as well!
Awesome! Thanks for much for letting us spread the word on your work! Talk to you again soon!
Clemence: Awesome! Thank you so much, Jason!
Moore: Yeah, thank you! Thank you for your time, man!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.