Lead Singer Syndrome with Shane Told | By Jameson Ketchum
“I Feel Very Appreciative If People Want to Talk to Me”
Shane Told’s Lead Singer Syndrome dismantles the mystery behind your favorite front men and women. Just 18 episodes in, Told has already tackled huge names and ultra-sensitive topics with the grace and comfort ability of a seasoned broadcaster. It also doesn’t hurt that Told’s band, Silverstein, has well over a decade of connections and stories from which to draw. We grabbed a few minutes with the front man/podcaster while on a stop in Portland. Told can talk, and its apparent from his enthusiasm that LSS is just getting warmed up.
What was the original inspiration for Lead Singer Syndrome?
I’ve always loved podcasts; I thought it was a cool format because love talk radio. For some reason when I would go in my car I would listen to sports talk radio. I listen to more talk radio than music, which surprises people. Originally there were more music ones then it felt like they just dropped off the face of the planet then comedy kind of revived them and now they’re back. I never thought about doing a podcast but I had the name lead singer syndrome a year ago so I registered the domain not really sure what I wanted to do with it. Originally I thought it’d be a cool YouTube channel to sit down with lead singers to interview in person. As time went on, logistically I would have had to get someone to shoot it, edit it etc. I’m really good at editing audio and I wanted to get Josh from my band to do it because hes really good at video. Then I hit up Mike Mowery, who does Jabberjaw and he asked if I had ever thought about doing a podcast. The biggest different between a YouTube channel and a podcast was that I didn’t have to be in the same room. With scheduling and stuff, I could do a once a week podcast over the phone whereas a YouTube channel would probably be impossible to do once a week. Mike got me in touch with Nick (Bunda) when they were in talks to start Jabberjaw and they had 100 Words or Less, my friend’s podcast, so I was like “oh shit I’m a brand new guy and I’m already teaming up with the same “label” as one of my favorite podcasts. It was almost like getting signed to Victory, like “I’m on a label with all my favorite bands!”
How is switching to the other side of interviewing? Did you do anything to prepare? Have you just been winging it thus far? We asked Stephen Christian the same thing and he had a great response.
Fake it ‘til you make it, man. I don’t know much about interviewing bands, I’ve never read anything about it. For me, I go in with a game plan, some of the points I want to cover then a few real tough questions I think the people listening want to know. Whether I ask those or not depends on how it goes. Part of it is trying to steer the interview in a certain direction. Its’ funny you bring up Stephen because I had this plan with him and every question I asked expecting a “yes”, he said no and vice versa. He totally flipped it on its end and it ended up being so compelling in the end. With podcasting especially, you can run with things and you have more time. It’s not like when you do a 15 minute interview you have less time to steer it and make people feel comfortable. I’m still learning and finding my way. I think I get a little better every time. I think of all the times I’ve done an interview and I think about what a bad interview is and try not to do that.
What are some of those bad interviews?
A bad interview is when people ask shit that’s in every interview.
What’s your band name mean?
Band name is bad.
If you can Google it, don’t ask it.
It seems like sometimes interviewers don’t know what to ask so they look at other interviews we did. That’s cool but don’t ask the same question. It’s like they like an answer I gave so they want me to give it again. You’re trying to explore something new so don’t do that. What I didn’t know that I know now is that in the journal or press world is how many people just want there to be a headline. People are trying to get you to say something they can quote. A couple of my podcasts that got picked up by like Alt Press would say “Underoath Singer Says…”, I just never knew that was important. I guess to get your shit out there it’s good to have but in terms of just having a quality and compelling interview, I don’t think you need that as much.
It’s a fine line.
I was talking to Jenna of Tonight Alive and one of the headlines I read about her was “Tonight Alive Finds Inspiration from Bring Me the Horizon’s New Album”. I click on it and that’s the entire article. She said that was so disappointing because they talked for like 20 minutes and they pull one sentence. As a journalist, which I think I can call myself now, I wouldn’t be able to do that. I would feel like i wasted someone’s time. I feel very appreciative if people want to talk to me.
If I talk to someone who isn’t a talker or they don’t give me anything, that’s not necessarily worse than someone who talks a lot. Just because someone wasn’t a drug addict doesn’t necessarily mean that the interview was worthless. Some people will say that’s the point but I think that’s part of the reason Silverstein never got on covers of magazines and stuff because I was never like addicted to drugs or controversial, I don’t have any tattoos. Just because you used to be a drug addict doesn’t make your music better. It’s a game and some people play it well and it helps their career. The game of press, we just never played it that well and me as a podcaster I’m probably not going to play it well. I think every interview I’ve done is interesting and compelling. Even if you don’t know the band I think people still find it interesting and I think that’s a success.
Agreed. The sign of a good show is that it almost shouldn’t matter who the guest is.
As much as the guest is the focus on the episodes, also I am the host and it is Lead Singer Syndrome with Shane Told. After the third episode people started to ask when I would interview myself or have someone interview me and it doesn’t really work that way. At the same time, I’m kind of always interviewing myself. I was telling Jenna a ghost story about a haunted venue which is something I’d be telling if someone was interviewing me. Instead of one episode on me it’s going to be a little bit about me over ten episodes. People have even said to me “You’ve been there for me. On Monday morning, you’re there for me”. Hearing people say that is really interesting. It’s weird but I kind of get it.
Because it is peer to peer interviews, do you aim to get a little more personal and push boundaries?
It’s very casual. The whole thing about when I started having this ideas was me thinking back to conversations I had with people like Pierre from Simple Plan because we used to talk for hours when we were on tour together and the conversations we had, if someone could be a fly on the wall, how rad that would be. That was kind of the whole point of the podcast, to have a natural conversation that people were eavesdropping on. Whether I push boundaries or not, I’m not intending to, but I’d rather have it feel like we were just sitting backstage talking. Every single one of I’ve done, I asked about tour and they say “You know how it is”, and they know they can’t bullshit me. I think people become more honest and comfortable.
I want to talk about popular episodes. I can only guess it was the Underoath series?
They were good, having them back to back as a “miniseries” was cool because basically everyone who listened to one, listened to the other. The debut episode with Caleb Shomo from Beartooth is still the number one most listened to. I think there was a reason we rolled that out first. Adam Lazzara and Jason from letlive. and Jake Luhrs of course. It doesn’t necessarily translate to popular band equals popular podcast. There are a lot of different factors but I don’t know what they all are. I think sometimes it depends on the time of year. Putting out a podcast the week of Christmas when no one is working probably diminishes the numbers. The one I just did with Will Pugh from Cartel is so rad, everyone should listen to it to hear about the behind the scenes MTV shit that they pulled on that band, its crazy interesting.
That’s the perfect example of the perk of being you with this podcast. No one else could get that.
Talk about an exclusive! We dig so much deeper into the conversation about the entertainment industry and what they choose to show and what they choose to hide from people. It went on back then in 2007 and almost ten years later it’s probably even worse. That one to me, based on what it says, should be the most listened to one by far.
Has there been anyone who has surprised you?
I think the episode with Jake from August Burns Red. Obviously, he’s a Christian dude, talks about it a lot and is very open with his fans. Talking about his upbringing, how he didn’t grow up that way, how he struggled in school and he talked about some of the abuse he experienced, that stuff was very surprising to me. I knew him so well but I didn’t know that. We talked a lot off the record to about stuff that was really interesting. This is a real ass dude.
You often make a joke about getting a rock star one day that is the old cliché of doing drugs, women everywhere etc. Is that dead? Or are people too afraid to talk about it?
If I get Michael Star from Steel Panther on the show, he’ll give it to me. I’m not sure where their line is because I’m sure they’re not the straightest laced dudes but there’s a show and there’s a reality. That’s part of the fun of the band. There are guys say Ronnie Radke. He’s gone to prison, he’s been a drug addict, there has been allegations against him in sexual situations. There’s a guy who would have stories but I don’t know if he would divulge them. Someone like fat Mike from NOFX, he’d tell me stories. I have an episode coming with the guy from Finger Eleven and he tells me a funny story about Scott Stapp so there are things that will come out. I’m sure someone will give me what I want in that respect. The whole LSS moniker of the show is sarcastic. The whole stereotypical thing of a lead singer sleeping with girls left, right and center, that whole thing was always a bit of a fallacy because most lead singers were songwriters who did play guitar and do records. There’s not many dumb lead singers. The lead singer syndrome thing is by far the exception to the rule.
Do you still have to go through the “proper channels” when chasing down interviews? Because you are just buddies with most of these people, is there ever pushback or restrictions on what you can or can’t talk about?
I’ve never had anyone say “You can’t talk about this”. We’ve had three episodes where people have said things then later have said “Can you cut that out?” All of those were people were my friends which comes before trying to get a headline. I felt like that was a good sign because I was making them feel comfortable enough on the record. That is always going to be the best most candid way to get a good interview out of people. For scheduling it makes sense but sometimes managers don’t get back to you because it’s a weekend or whatever. It’s like “Just give me their number and I’ll text them” because a lot of times we’re on the same level it ends up that way. We become friends sometimes because of the podcast. I try to avoid some of the red tape but sometimes even those people feel like if they don’t use their manager then they’re not getting their money’s worth maybe (laughs). I guess it bothers me sometimes. I got a guy coming up who’s a big name in the scene and they kept telling me he won’t do it. Finally, I went through the proper channels and kept hitting snags and finally it just got forwarded to his personal email and he was like “Yeah, let’s do it, when?” There’s shit he wants to do and people are making the decisions for him and it’s just gross.
It happens all the time.
It happens all the time! If anyone is reading this and they want to be on my show, hit me up. I haven’t done it yet but Tommy from Between the Buried and Me wants to be on the show, he gets in touch and like “Let’s set it up”. When it’s that kind of thing, we’re old friends, that’s the best way to do it.
How has LSS changed your interaction with Silverstein fans? Do they approach you to talk about LSS now? It’s a great promotional tool.
It works both ways. I have people at Silverstein shows saying they love the podcast and I have people from the podcast saying they love the band. A few people have emailed me about the podcast saying they’ve never heard of Silverstein and they end up coming out to a show. I think the back and forth synergy is really good. Members of my band will listen to my podcast. Billy is a huge Strike Anywhere fan and he’s gonna listen to that podcast. It was never the intention to grow Silverstein through the podcast but if it happens, it happens.
I know that has been happening with Emery and Bad Christian.
Toby and I talked about that on our episode. You could argue that Bad Christian is bigger than Emery now but they talk about Emery where they’re almost this legendary band, not to say they’re not a great band with some great records. But now they’re bigger than ever. Now they go on tour and do shows and podcasts. I never thought that would happen but now I’m talking to you.
Plus you’re able to keep your schedule up while on the road.
The most difficult part for me is writing the description of the episode. You talk for an hour and you spend about two hours editing it but just writing those couple sentences and trying to sum up an hour of talking in a couple sentences is really tough.
Who are some of your dream guests?
Paul McCartney. Ozzy! Morrissey! I’d say those are pushing unobtainable. I don’t think Soctt Stapp is out of the question. People are always asking and emailing me suggestions and it’s always dudes in the scene which is fine but that’s the only restriction, you have to be a lead singer, I don’t care about the genre. Garth Brooks? Sure. Nas wants to talk to me about the N word record? Okay. Drake? Come on. Like I said, I have the guy from Finger Eleven coming on soon so I hope to branch out a little bit. I hope that all opens up some more channels and gets more fans going. I want to interview bands I like. One of the biggest influences as a musician and especially as a lyricist, is Trent Reznor. The most underrated part about Nine Inch Nails is the lyrics and he changed the way I think about writing lyrics and I don’t think he does many interviews about that. He’s my number one.
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