The Shamen

The Shamen

Profile:
Founded in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1985 by Colin Angus, Derek McKenzie, & Keith McKenzie with the band name Alone Again Or. The group changed its name to The Shamen in late 1985 or early 1986. Early Alone Again Or and The Shamen material was primarily psychedelic indie rock. The group's first album under the name The Shamen was 1987's "Drop".

By 1987, Colin was inspired by M/A/R/R/S and similar new groups that used sampling and beats. As he delved into exploring new technology and dance sounds, the new direction caused the Shamen lineup to shift: Derek McKenzie, unimpressed with the changes, left the fold to return to school in 1987. Colin added energetic new bass player Will Sin (a.k.a. Will Sinnott) in October 1987 and he himself moved to concentrate on vocals and guitar. At this point, the pieces were in place for the group to become what they would eventually be remembered for: one of the early pioneers of what became known as "indie-dance", inspiring a glut of late-'80s pop bands like EMF and Jesus Jones and also paving the way for more influential groups like Saint Etienne.

The Shamen single "Jesus Loves Amerika" (1988) was both a politically-charged release and an advancement of their sonic aesthetic, showcasing the group's adventurous new electronic-rock hybrid sound with the newly-added Will Sin. After 1989's "In Gorbachev We Trust" album, the group relocated to London. They fell in with Paul Oakenfold, Orbital, Mixmaster Morris, Evil Eddie Richards, and the Synergy tour. Soon they released the drastic sea change that was their mini-album "Phorward", which embraced electronic completely and was the final stepping stone into the group's most successful and influential era.

With the release of 1990's wide-eyed "En-Tact", with its all-embracing, psychedelic utopian worldview embodied by its accompanying singles ("Pro>gen", "Hyperreal", "Omega Amigo", "Make It Mine", "Possible Worlds"), the group became an internationally charting electronic act. Mr. C (raps, vocals) and Plavka Lonich (vocals) were added to increase the group's vocal presence (Plavka, who provided the enthusiastic lead vocal on single "Hyperreal", only stayed in the lineup until 1991). Tragically, Will Sin drowned on May 23, 1991, immediately after the filming of a Shamen promotional video in Tenerife for the song "Move Any Mountain" (the popularized title of "Pro>Gen"). His untimely death lent the otherwise hugely optimistic and ebullient song a subcurrent of strangely contrasting sadness and mortality.

After a necessary break to deal with the death of friend and bandmate Will, The Shamen reconvened and released the album "Boss Drum", a massive hit with multiple singles. It charted worldwide, going platinum in the UK. After the success of this era, the group's popularity waned: underground dance and electronic circles felt the success Colin et al had achieved made them a pop act, and therefore to be perceived as less substantial. Two albums were released in the mid 1990s, 1995's "Axis Mutatis" and 1996's "Hempton Manor". The group continued on until 1998, when their final album, "UV", was released.

The Shamen had fifteen hits in the British singles chart, five of which made the top ten. Standout hits included "Ebeneezer Goode" (which went to number one despite — and likely because of — its transparent drug content: "E's are good - Ebeneezer Goode") and the widescreen rave sounds of "Pro>gen" (later renamed "Move Any Mountain" after its infectious chorus) (which went to number four).
Sites:
Aliases:
Members:
Variations:
Viewing All | The Shamen

The Shamen Discography

Albums

The Shamen Drop (Album) Moksha Recordings US 1987 Sell This Version
The Shamen Strange Day Dreams (Album) Materiali Sonori Italy 1988 Sell This Version
The Shamen Phorward (Album, MiniAlbum) Moksha Recordings Germany 1989 Sell This Version
The Shamen In Gorbachev We Trust (Album) Demon Records, Demon Records UK & Ireland 1989 Sell This Version
The Shamen En-Tact (Album) One Little Indian Europe 1990 Sell This Version
TPLP22L The Shamen En-Tek(LP, W/Lbl) One Little Indian TPLP22L 1990 Sell This Version
The Shamen Boss Drum (Album) One Little Indian Scandinavia 1992 Sell This Version
The Shamen Different Drum (Album) One Little Indian Germany 1993 Sell This Version
The Shamen On Air - The BBC Sessions (Album) Band Of Joy UK 1993 Sell This Version
The Shamen Axis Mutatis / Arbor Bona Arbor Mala (Album) One Little Indian Europe 1995 Sell This Version
The Shamen Hempton Manor (Album) One Little Indian UK 1996 Sell This Version
Shamen* Remix Collection (Stars On 25) (Comp) One Little Indian Germany 1996 Sell This Version
The Shamen UV (Album) Moksha Recordings UK 1998 Sell This Version

Singles & EPs

OBG 003 T, OBG 003 (T) The Shamen They May Be Right...But They're Certainly Wrong E.P.(12", EP) One Big Guitar, One Big Guitar OBG 003 T, OBG 003 (T) UK 1985 Sell This Version
The Shamen Young Till Yesterday / World Theatre Moksha Recordings UK 1986 Sell This Version
WRY 002, SKIT-1 The Shamen Wayward Wednesday In May Affair(Flexi, 7", S/Sided) Skipping Kitten, Skipping Kitten WRY 002, SKIT-1 UK 1986 Sell This Version
The Shamen Christopher Mayhew Says (Single) Moksha Recordings UK 1987 Sell This Version
The Shamen Something About You Moksha Recordings UK 1987 Sell This Version
The Shamen Knature Of A Girl Moksha Recordings UK 1987 Sell This Version
Shamen* vs Bam Bam Shamen* vs Bam Bam - Transcendental (Single) Desire Records UK 1988 Sell This Version
The Shamen Jesus Loves Amerika (Single) Ediesta Records UK 1988 Sell This Version
The Shamen What's Going Down? Communion Label US 1988 Sell This Version
D 1063 P The Shamen In Gorbachev We Trust(7", Promo, W/Lbl) Demon Records D 1063 P UK 1988 Sell This Version
The Shamen Omega Amigo (Single) One Little Indian UK 1989 Sell This Version
The Shamen You Me & Everything (Evil Edit) (Single) Moksha Recordings UK 1989 Sell This Version

Reviews Show All 9 Reviews

Add Review

chischis

chischis

June 26, 2009
edited over 4 years ago
The Shamen, hounded as they were at the time by the UK press for the infamous Ebeneezer Goode with THAT chorus and along with the general rave culture backlash, never stood a chance at surviving. Between the anti-drugs campaigns, illegal rave crackdowns, they were seen to be exemplars of a dying fad. Techno, rave, house. Gone, bring on the boy bands, girl bands, and manufactured hip-hop, R&B and all that shit.

But despite this, they deserve to go down in history as something far, far more than just a relic of a bygone age. Some comparisons with some electronic bands that are often "more recognised":

Kraftwerk were hugely influential, but not comparable. They stuck firmly to their stately, gothic electro-pop and rarely deviated. Very little diversity, and only the merest hints of "dance" genres.

The Orb may have been diverse, but only within their distinctly ambient sphere, despite bringing in elements of reggae, dub, techno, house and only much later on, pop. With mixed results.

The Prodigy were hardcore through and through. They explored many aspects of the genre, but rarely sought to bring a pop side to it, until their dodgy newer singles in the noughties.

The Beloved, perhaps, but too short-lived. New Order? New Wave, rock and pop, but they were never really "techno". Bjork? Well there might be something there, but she is one individual.

The Shamen were possibly the most diverse electronic dance BAND to that point, and perhaps still are. Combining many modern electronic genres - done before by others sometimes, certainly - and married them consistently to pop. What is Prince Of Popocatapetl if not ambient pop? It only has two vocal lines, but it is still a pop hook in what is otherwise an ambient song. I Do switches between big-beat and techno as Colin and Victoria sing about Shamanising, to yet more glorious pop hooks. Human NRG is a pop song set to a breaksy/big-beat (in 1990!) type rhythm. Transamazonia and Destination Eschaton are their takes on trance, set to pop vocal hooks. Obviously their main strides were in techno and rave, but they really were diverse.

They have numerous outstanding instrumental achievements as well, as far back as the experimental techno (for the time) piece Evil Is Eden, its lilting, shuffled rhythm predating Schaffel by a decade! Steve Hillage lent support on two beautiful ambient gliss pieces, Scientas and Agua Azul, but crucially they were not pure ambient, they had very memorable little hooks, flute and guitar on Scientas, and Agua Azul awash with a billion synths.

And Hempton Manor? How did Colin Angus and Richard West manage to compose such utterly beautiful, truly unique and unmatched melodic techno, house, trance, drum & bass, breaks and ambient all on the same album? There were other groups in the 90s that would dare to be as diverse (FSOL come to mind), but this much? And nowadays? Nope, it is all niches and subgenres, all the way.

I think it is also worth mentioning the massive "culture" of remixes that came about around these guys. Every single is worth picking up, because many producers brought their own talents to Shamen songs and created some superb alternate versions. Including names such as Richie Hawtin, Moby, LTJ Bukem, Frank De Wulf, even Graham Massey! I do not believe any band had been so remixed before, on such a huge scale.

The Shamen should be bigger than they are. They should have more influence, greater recognition, for their work merging techno, house, electronica and pop in the 90s. They had a distinct identity - all their music was Shamen Music - but they did not pigeonhole themselves to one genre. They were pop, but they were many modern dance genres as well, and whenever they WANTED to be.

And that takes talent. So, no wonder dance music sucks now, eh?
Crijevo

Crijevo

June 22, 2007
edited over 9 years ago
In terms of commercial success, it's fair enough to say The Shamen released two fine techno-albums of their time - 'En-Tact' and 'Boss Drum'. Sadly, in favour of Mr. C's irritating raps, this thing basically repeats itself from that (turning) point on. However, many aren't aware of the group's early strengths based on socio-political issues and hard psychedelic fusion of rock and electronics (with samples all over).

The Shamen's 'phase one' counts one hell of a subversive collection; albums 'Drop' (1986), 'Strange Day Dreams' (1988), 'In Gorbachev We Trust' plus remixed effort called 'Phorward' (both 1989)... When it comes to religion and its questioning in terms of propaganda destroying much of its spiritual dignity, The Shamen (besides Depeche Mode's 'Blasphemous Rumours') recorded one of the most dangerous pop-songs ever - 'Jesus Loves Amerika' has a killer refrain, it spits out to the ears of hypocrits and with all of its anthemic power.

One side of this early phase of the band is as interestingly poppy on acid rock while the other side remains confusingly EBM-ish in its fundamental recognition. Brilliant early years these were...
blim

blim

March 17, 2006
edited over 10 years ago
Ah, the Shamen. Made a bold move for a guitar-based band by (slowly) casting off their 60s-influenced psychedelic pop in favour of a more clubland feel, years before Primal Scream et al jumped aboard the bandwagon. Then tragedy struck when Will Sinnott drowned, and their music began to lose its depth as they chased the pop dream. For a while this seemed to work, but the mainstream audience is fickle and when they no longer had the hits, they'd already alienated their more undergound fans and disintegrated rapidly. I suspect that if Sinnott hadn't died, although they would still have had the hits (they were filming the video for "Progen 91" when he died), the Shamen might have kept a better balance between making truly psychedelic and tribal music (as was their stated aim) and simply talking about it while they churned out 3-minute pop songs. Anyone listening to Sinnott's tracks on En-Tact ("Lightspan" and "Evil is Even") can't fail to notice that they're among the best tracks the band ever did.
BomberOne

BomberOne

July 28, 2005
edited over 11 years ago
Before becoming a successful - and then cheesy - and then forgetable - rave band, The Shamen were a indie electronic act with political points of views. Forget about the politics (how naive and misinformed we were then!), but what they did on the musical side was rather interesting, in fact much more than the rest of their career, IMO.
Of course, "Move any Moutain" truly fitted the spirit of 1990, but their previous semi-hit "Trancendental" (a collaboration with acid House pionneer Bam Bam) was better, in fact, and an EP like "Phorward" was really innovative.

With En-tact, things got a bit too cheesy, but some track were still interesting. But with their Boss Drum Lp, The Shamen became really a hit-machine, with fee strikes of creativity ; a kind of KLF without the cynical humor. Lots of production tricks, dull lyrics and top of the pop attitude, it was sad to see them sinking when other acts like Orbital, departing from similar 1990 roots, managed to remain innovative for a whole decade. Not to mentions groundbreaking people like Lfo or AFX, for example.

In fact you can draw a parallel with some others industrial and pre-techno acts that got taken by the techno turmoil, like Greater Than One for instance. But while Lee Newman (RIP) and Michael Wells, at least, remained creative and fun, The Shamen seemed to got "corrupted", and lost it on the way. Maybe it has to do with the death of their first leaded, replaced by Mr C, around that same time ? Maybe it was the ecstasy-goa-gaïa-consciousness bullshit ?
Maybe it was simply bad luck.
Anyway, their remain the records : Phorward Ep and En-tact are still quite soulful and enjoyable, and, in a way still hold the "naive" spirit of the era.
Ashley_Pomeroy

Ashley_Pomeroy

July 28, 2005
edited over 11 years ago
Unfortunately for The Shamen, their early history as a credible indie-rave band and their apparently sincere belief in the transformative power of dance music was utterly obliterated by their short reign as Britain's most infamous chart rave band. After the success of 'Move any Mountain' and 'LSI', both of which were used a lot on television football, the group had a four-week stay at number one with 'Ebeneezer Goode', which became a tabloid sensation when it was pointed out to journalists that the chorus - 'eezer goode, eezer goode, he's Ebeneezer Goode' - was about ecstacy, the popular rave drug. From that point onwards the group were synonymous with naffness, and along with all the other dances acts of the period they faded away to nothing, with a little comeback in 1995 with 'Destination Eschaton'.

Just goes to show that if you're on a sinking ship in the freezing waters of the Atlantic, you're going to drown even if you barge your way to the front of the lifeboat. Might as well go down with dignity. Mr C's vocal delivery was very different to that of the late Will Sinott; the latter was low-key and sincere, whereas Mr C was brash and cock-er-nee. Nothing wrong with that, but it didn't seem right for a band which emphasised the contemplative, spiritual side of dance music. He is now a successful DJ, which is nice to know.

'Boss Drum' remains a decent summary of the state of popular dance music in Britain in 1992, and 'Phorever People' is a lovely ballad. 'En-Tact' sounds quite spartan, but it has a nice remix of 'Hear Me' by Orbital, which has a similar vocal effect to their later 'Halcyon'.
LiNX

LiNX

December 8, 2003
I first heard The Shamen back in 2000 when they had already "disappeared into cyberspace" two years ago they completely changed my mind about music. Since that I'm a fan for life!. They played lots of quality electronic stuff in lots of different styles and if you are looking for something REAL good, take a look at their discography.
Recommended 100%!!!

Videos (121) Edit