Original member drummer Sham Littleman – Nothing Sacred
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Roberto at Rockshots Records for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Rockshots Records for the promo pictures of the band.
NO GODS is the name of the Australian act Nothing Sacred second album, the band’s debut came out back in 1988 which means the band has been in the business for quite a while. Why it has taken the band so long to follow up their debut album was one of the questions I had in store for the band that was formed 1983. The band hasn’t been active all the way until today and why the band was on a hiatus I asked the original member drummer Sham Littleman. Nothing Sacred of today consists of two remaining original members and two new guys. Since I really liked the bands heavy metal music I decided to hook up with Littleman in order to get to know a little more about the band. The band got its biggest fanbase in Australia and Japan and I think it’s time to earn the band knowledge in the rest of the world.
Hi Sham, how are you doing today? Before we start off the interview, what’s the status regarding covid 19 in Australia at the moment?
Hey guys, we’re still in lockdown here. Been strange days and created a lot of division between pro and anti vaxxed people. All that won’t matter soon once everything opens up over the next month or two. For us it’s been a good time to get creative.
Is it correct that Nothing Sacred was one of the first acts to play thrash/speed metal in Australia?
Probably but not intentionally. Karl and myself were heavily into the Melbourne punk scene which was very different from a lot of other punk scenes. Here punk was sorta proto thrash apart from they sang about Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Karl put it perfectly, we never saw ourselves as thrash, we just liked to play things really fast, especially live.
When you guys formed the band back in 1983 which bands inspired you to play thrash/speed metal?
Back in the day we loved the NWOBHM scene. Bands like Motorhead, Raven, Tank, Priest, Maiden to name the obvious. The late 70’s and early 80’s really had an impact on all of us musically.
What did fans think of the EP DEATHWISH that came out in 1985?
The EP was received well, but in those days getting distribution was near impossible. Being no internet either meant the only people that managed to get a copy overseas were people who knew who we were through tape trading.
You got a hit with the title track of the EP. What response did you get from the media on the EP?
Absolutely none really. We had a good size following as we were a
well seasoned live band but unfortunately there was never media coverage.
In 1988 the band released the debut album LET US PREY, did you do a lot of touring during those days?
We played Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide frequently. Unfortunately Buddy left just before we started recording Let Us Prey which really slowed things down.
Why did the band quit the year after the release?
We were disappointed with how Let Us Prey came out. Unfortunately when you have to finance everything yourself and you run out of money it puts a strain on everything. Before that someone broke into our rehearsal room and stole our Marshall’s. Buddy then left, George Larin came to the rescue back in the late 80’s to help out with gigs but he was planning to move to Germany where he had been living and playing in a band called Backwater. It was a shit time indeed for us. I ended up moving to Adelaide in the late 80’s early 90”s to play with a band over there called Basket Case.
In 2012 the band awoke and did a round of 30th anniversary shows where Ross Percy and George Larin teamed up with you. You were a support act to Paul Di’Anno/Blaze Bayley on their Australian tour, how was that?
It was really cool indeed. We actually did our first comeback gig in 2010 for Ross Percy (Ion Drive) and Jon Giles’s (Blackjack) combined birthday party. That’s pretty much how Ross ended up in the band. As for Paul Di’Anno and Blaze Bayley, unfortunately we only got to do the Melbourne show. We played a good tight fast set that night and the whole show was killer. I do love me some old school Paul Di’Anno Maiden.
The info sheet says the tour was a great success despite that the band chose not to continue, why?
We didn’t really discontinue, we had trouble kicking things off
properly with the lineup which was an ongoing story in the life and times of Nothing Sacred.
What made you put the band back together in 2015?
We sorta never really split up, we just went into hibernation.
The line-up then included bass player Lean, guitarists Larin and Percy and new singer Chris Stark, for how long did that lineup stay intact and did you do many shows together?
We were together for a couple of years with that lineup. We didn’t play many small gigs, mainly just festivals. That was probably more my fault. The local metal scene in Melbourne had really deteriorated and most of the venues were tiny shit holes. I didn’t want to do that and would have preferred not to play at all if they were the only options. I put on a festival with Greta Tate early 2017 called Metal For Melbourne. Metal for Melbourne were gigs Greta used to put on in the 80’s and were incredible. We had 2 stages, great P.A and light show. Tons of cool bands from the 80’s and a couple from the 90’s got back together to play at it. It was an amazing day and night. The venue’s full capacity was over 800 and we sold out of tickets maybe a month prior to the show. That was the last gig Nothing Sacred did with that lineup.
The band did a few shows on festivals in Australia as well as a mini tour in Japan, did the band play older songs or did you try on any new material as well?
Mainly old material but in saying that half the set were tracks we never recorded so people didn’t know them. Final Crime and Oracle on the new album were written around the late 80’s. We did play a version of 1st World Problems at Metal For Melbourne 2017 with Starks lyrics and melody.
Members have come and gone throughout the years, has it been hard to maintain a solid line up and if so why?
We’ve always found it hard to find members to dedicate themselves. We ended up having to remove and replace members which was a
real shame. I loved Ross as a person and a guitarist, and the same with Stark as a singer. You can only sit around so long waiting for someone before you just have to let them go. We started recording an album with other new tracks in 2016 and it all fell apart due to waiting and waiting and waiting for people to come do their parts and it just never happens. All the drum tracks were finished in 2016. Oracle and Final Crime drum tracks were taken from those unfinished album sessions and we wrote 8 new ones to complete No Gods.
Today it’s only you, Lean and also Larin that’s the only remaining original members. When did the new singer James Davies and guitarist Stu Bedford join forces with the band?
I’ve been playing with Karl now on and off for nearly 40 years. How crazy is that? I don’t think there would be a Nothing Sacred if one of us left. Our playing styles fit together like a comfortable old worn shoe.
So Stu we’ve known as a friend from the late 80’s early 90’s. Karl and myself bumped into him at the Scott Ian spoken word whenever that was. We probably hadn’t seen him for 10 – 15 years. He’s been a godsend and is a great player. There’s no excuses from him like he’s too busy to rehearse, write or record. He’s always first out of the gate to say yes to everything. He was exactly what we needed in a guitarist and a band member.
The two compilation CD’s DEATHWISH/LET US PREY (2012) and LET US PREY (2014) came pretty close, why did you choose to release two compilations so close?
No real reason apart from labels wanted to re-release them. We also released Deathwish as a 12-inch Picture Disc. A couple of months prior to releasing No Gods we released a 3 disc Deathwish Boxset through Dies Irae Records. Disc 1 is the Deathwish ep plus 4 outtakes taken from the same session. Even though they’re the outtakes, with a new mix they sound way heavier than the originals and how I wish the original 4 track EP had sounded. Disc 2 is unreleased demos, rehearsals and other projects Karl and myself did during the same period. Disc 3 is a live DVD shot in Osaka Japan 2015 with the Ross, Stark lineup.
How would you like to describe what kind of music Nothing Sacred plays today?
We’ve never really tried to play any style in particular. We’ve never thought of ourselves as thrash, speedmetal, power metal or any other metal label people have thrown at us. We’ve just played whatever style comes out of our writing sessions. When we get labelled we find we just disappoint people because we don’t stick to the formula they want to label us as. We’ve always been that way. Deathwith was then, Let us Prey was a different then and now No Gods is another different then again. We’ve nearly finished recording all the music for our next release and I’ll guarantee you it’s gonna be very different once again. We’re definitely not reinventing the wheel but that’s not what we’re trying to do.
Where does the band name come from and who came up with it?
The name Nothing Sacred came from a friend of ours Phil Crouch. We were called Heresy and then Vengeance before Nothing Sacred. The reason we didn’t stick with either of those names is because they were shit, hahahaha.
Is the band big in Australia and do you have a huge solid fanbase?
We have a good fan base here in Australia, but here we’re all friends.
The comeback album NO GODS
When did the band begin to work on material for the new album?
We started working on the material for the new album with the Ross and Stark lineup. As things were taking so long with those guys we had to change the lineup so we could get things moving. Once James and Stu joined the band, everything came together quickly. All the melodies and lyrics for the 8 new tracks were written by James.
Who writes the music and lyrics and what are the lyrics about on NO GODS?
We all write the music apart from James, there is no main song writer. I think that shows in the tracks. I think it’s better that way and adds a bit more dimension. James seems to write about what’s going on in his life at the time. Cult is about the delusional feel good of religions in general. Virus, that one’s a bit of a no brainer.
Final Crime (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)
The old songs “Final Crime” and “Oracle” have been refreshed and put on the album, how come you chose those two songs to record?
We were going to originally pick Final Crime and Nemesis as the 2 older tracks for the album. We laid down the music to those 2 plus Oracle as a 3rd option. Once finished Oracle seemed to have more energy than Nemesis so we replaced one with the other. Final Crime was a no-brainer. It was a track itching to get out and we’re happy it eventually got properly released.
Did the pandemic put any obstacles in the band’s way when it came to writing the material or recording the album?
The pandemic was the thing that got the album over the finish line. Once in lockdown, it gave us the time needed to concentrate on getting all these tracks finished. Between lockdowns here gave us time to write and rehearse more new material for our next release. We have a ton of new ideas floating around. We’ve also made a joint Google Drive folder to throw new ideas in while in lockdown. We have a heap of new material.
Four months ago the video to “Final Crime” was released and it got about 80 000 hits so far, what did the old hardcore fans of the band think of the re-release?
I think that track has been the best received track off the album. It was a great track to start the album with and a good first single. We always play Final Crime 2nd in the set so the sound guy has a track, usually “No Rest” to get our sound together before we play it.
Last year “First World Problems” with “Oracle” on the B-side came out in a limited red vinyl edition, what did the fans think of the release?
The single was a great thing for us to do. Every time we would start a project something or someone would get in the way of us finishing it. It was getting to the point of feeling cursed. It was never Karl, George or myself that caused this. Doing a single was a goal that was easily obtainable. We did it really fast, It was released in no time and the pre-sales covered all the production and manufacturing costs. To us that made it a success and a good stepping stone to getting the album well on its way.
Stoner (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)
Have Bedford and Davies contributed to the songwriting process?
Unfortunately Stu missed out a fair bit when it came to writing for the No Gods album. Only because most of the tracks were written before he joined. He did put his own twist on the tracks though. In saying that he has played a major part in writing the new tracks for our next release. As for James he wrote all the lyrics apart from the 2 older tracks which were written by Mick Burnham.
What are the shortest songs “Killing You” (3,34) and “Ice” (3,31) about?
Killing You is about disruption in life and Ice is pretty much about trashing yourself really hard.
Were there any thoughts behind putting the older songs first and last on the album?
We did the track order pretty much the same way we put together a setlist. We just laid all the tracks out and worked out where each sat the best.
Which other bands would you say Nothing Sacred lies close to music-wise?
We get asked that one a lot and it is such a hard one to answer. I really don’t think we sound like anyone else. I think there are a lot of different influences in there but at the end of the day we drag all those in to sound like us. When the album first came out we were getting pigeon holed as a thrash band. Then people were getting all pissy cos we weren’t very thrashy. We do have thrashy elements but we do definitely not thrash. We’re too old and don’t have the expendable energy to be a thrash band.
How come you named the album NO GODS and who came up with the name?
Karl pulled the name off the back of a t-shirt I was wearing at the Churches of Steel festival we played at in Adelaide, just before Covid lockdown occurred. None of us are a fan of organized religion either which may have played a part in the name. Everyone to their own.
Who did the cover art work for the album?
I did the album cover. I worked as a 3D animator for a number of years before recently becoming a youth worker.
Do you think the older fans are going to like NO GODS?
I hope so, it’s definitely still us. Some people have taken issue that it sounds different to Deathwish but so it should. Let Us Prey sounded different to Deathwish and so did the next album we recorded, “Nemesis”. Why would you want us to release the same thing over and over again. Especially 30 something years later, how shit would that be? We’ve all grown as people and musicians and write accordingly to where we are at this point in our lives. Music has changed and grown, and so have we.
Have you read any reviews of the album yet and do you and the band care about what critics and media writes about your work?
Yeah, I’ve been reading heaps of reviews and they’re so varied I’m happy. Some pick on us for either being too different from where we were in the ’80s or not thrash enough. Then others say the album is like going on a trip back through the 80’s. They all seem to have different favorite tracks which to me is a win. We weren’t trying to write this album for anyone but ourselves. We hope people like it but don’t take offense if they don’t. Not everyone has the same taste as us.
NO GODS is the first album the band released in 30 years, how does it feel? When you entered the studio did you feel any pressure on delivering something extraordinary?
It was great to get this album out. Soon as we finished we started writing for the next release. Trying to release something extraordinary places a lot of pressure and disappointment if people don’t like it. We really thought about how we were going to approach this album and meaningly used tracks that didn’t all fit under the one banner. The last track is a slow stoner type track we ended up calling Stoner. We knew there would be a certain demographic that would take issue with the diversity of the album. In saying that we believe they all sit well together which is all that really matters to us. You can’t please everyone I suppose.
Studio and production
Where was the album recorded and who produced it?
The album was recorded at my studio and I produced it. George and Karl recorded their parts remotely and everything else was recorded here. That takes a lot of pressure off when you can take your time. That’s how I got my drum tracks so tight. I did about 10 takes for every song. I ended up averaging one drum track a day. I find it harder recording everyone separately. When you play together you all move together. It’s way more work getting everything to sit properly when recorded separately. It can also make tracks sound a bit sterile when trying to sit on a click track. You can lose a lot of the organic energy when recording this way.
Did you gather the entire band in the studio to record at the same time or did each member record each part separately?
The plan was to record everything together but then Covid and lockdown hit. We just had to improvise otherwise the dreaded Nothing Sacred curse of the wheels falling off would have occurred, and that would have been the end of it once again. We just decided to push forward and do what we had to do to get this out before we all die of the ravages of old age.
How long did it take to record the album from the start to the beginning?
3 to 4 good months of recording and mixing till the album was ready for mastering.
Who mixed and mastered NO GODS?
I mixed the album and Ashane Silva mastered it.
How did the cooperation with Cleopatra Records that released LET US PREY work out?
Jeremy, who owned Cleopatra Records, ended up becoming a friend of mine. Everything we did with Cleopatra was done on a friendship level.
The compilation DEATHWISH/LET US PREY was released by Blue Freya and the LET US PREY compilation was released by Arkeyn Steel Records, why did you shift labels?
There was no shift, Blue Freya was Karl’s label. We weren’t really fussed with our old material being released on other labels. If anything we took it as a compliment that they were interested. The Deathwish Boxset on Dies Irae Records I mentioned earlier looks amazing. It has a slipcase, a poster, a sticker and heaps of unreleased cool stuff. Ader Junior from Dies Irae and myself worked on that release for a year or two while I collected all the material for it. We were so happy to get it out and appreciate that someone like
Ader wanted to do it with us.
When did you land a deal with Rockshots Records and are you happy with the work the current label has put into the band and album so far?
Absolutely happy with Rockshots. I met Roberto through another band on his label I’ve been working with called “Greystone Canyon”. Darren from Greystone sent our album to Roberto, and Roberto offered to release it through Rockshots for us if we were interested. We were stoked for Rockshots to take us under their wing.
Do you see any difficulties with the fact that RR is based in Italy and the band in Australia?
No not at all, everything nowadays is done remotely.
Is RR releasing NO GODS worldwide?
Rockshots has released the album for us throughout Europe, America, Russia and Japan. We also have Dies Irae Records looking after Latin America and Rue Morgue Records looking after Australia.
NO GODS is currently released on CD but are there any plans to release it on vinyl?
Maybe, there has been some talk of it. We would love to get it out on vinyl.
Are the band fans of the vinyl format?
Absolutely, that’s why we first released the First World Problems 7 inch on red vinyl.
Who owns the legal rights to LET US PREY today?
Any plans on doing another re-release of the debut album?
There’s talk of it
Has the band got a bandcamp site where it’s possible to purchase the EP DEATHWISH on vinyl and the single “First World Problems” on vinyl. Are there many fans that have taken the opportunity to buy a piece of history?
Yeah we do have a Bandcamp site and thanks for reminding me, we do need to update it.
Are you going to put up more items to purchase on that site?
Absolutely, we have the Deathwish Boxset, singles, Picture discs, a limited collector’s edition of the No God’s CD and a few new t-shirt designs to put up on Bandcamp.
Does the band currently work with any management?
No, we’ve never had management though we’re not opposed to the idea. For some reason we’ve always done everything ourselves.
Past present and future
How come the band doesn’t have a proper website?
It doesn’t seem relevant nowadays with the likes of Facebook and Instagram. Though this comment may be ignorant on our behalf.
Are you active on Facebook and Instagram?
Yeah we have both though our Instagram page doesn’t have many followers. We’re not really sure how to rectify that. If you go to nothingsacred.com.au you’ll find links to Facebook, Instagram and Bandcamp. The skull on there is interactive so don’t forget to hold your mouse button down on it and drag. It’s very exciting stuff
indeed, I made it myself.
Do you think the number of followers on your facebook is going to increase with the release of NO GODS?
I hope so, we have a few thousand followers but we can always do with more. If anyone wants to help us with our social media you know where to find us.
Virus (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)
Any plans on heading out on tour or playing some shows next year?
Our plan is to go back overseas next year if possible. Karl is especially hanging to go back to Japan.
Would you like to head over to Europe and tour? Have you been to Europe and performed before?
We would absolutely love to play Europe if given half the chance.
The band wrote an album during the 80’s that wasn’t released, what can you tell us about that album? Is there anything from it that you will record again today?
Sure, we recorded an album called Nemesis which had Final Crime and Oracle on it but unfortunately, we split up before it was finished. It also had the tracks Nemesis, Cold Rage which we still play live nowadays. Those 4 tracks are on the Live in Osaka DVD that comes in the Deathwish Boxset.
Is the band currently working on any material for the next upcoming album?
Absolutely, the next release is going to be an EP for which we’ve already finished recording all the music for. We just need to get to vocals once the lockdown is over. As of now, it’ll be titled “New World Order” which is also the title of the first single
Are you happy with what Nothing Sacred has achieved so far? Is there anything you’ve regretted doing or not doing with the band?
Loads of regrets but unfortunately they were all out of our control. As we were always self financed there was a lot we had to sacrifice. We missed out on touring overseas through the 80’s due to distance and lack of finance. We released things we weren’t happy with due to lack of finance and or any label support. We are really happy that we got this album out as it felt at times it was never going to happen. We stuck it out and we got there in the end. Since that one is out now, we’ve found our groove and are working on the next release. This next release has a major twist to it that we’re not going to make public until it’s ready to put out. We’re very excited about it though.
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard the music of Nothing Sacred so far?
Nothing Sacred is a band with a long history and was a big part of the start of the Australian Heavy Metal scene. We’ve never tried to sound like anyone else or play any particular style, we’ve always just done our own thing.
If giving our No Gods album a listen, play it to the end before deciding if you like it or not.
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy NO GODS?
1 There is a long history that went into the album.
2 We did everything ourselves apart from mastering.
3 It’s something we’re very proud of and put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into. Hopefully, that shows.
Well, that was all for me and metal-rules.com this time around, thanks for taking the time making the interview. I wish you and the band all the best in the future. Do you have any final words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?
There’s never been another music scene like our metal scene. No matter where you are in the world there’s a familiarity within the
crowds that makes you always feel at home. We really are one big family. Thanks for reading this all the way to the end.