This interview is exceptional, not only because it is with a close friend and a contributor to FemMetal, but also because it features a prodigious young woman who excels not only in music performance but also in music journalism and photography. The young and talented guitarist and bass player, Shannon Wilk, had plenty to share about her recent musical escapades. It was wonderful to converse and get to know Shannon in our own unique geeky style.
Hello Shannon! How are you doing today?
I’m doing great, how are you!?
I’m great as well! It has been more than four years since you first emailed me! A lot has changed with you since then. How do you feel when you look back at the progress you’ve made in the last 3-4 years?
Oh man. It’s wild to look back and see how much growth I’ve had. I’ve worked so hard and really the past year I’ve seen it pay off most. Within the past year I’ve checked off many bucket list experiences from playing on the Monsters of Rock Cruise to playing at The Whisky A Go-Go to interviewing Lzzy Hale and Nita Strauss to getting invited on tour to photographing KISS to launching my photo studio. It’s beyond amazing to see the progress and hopefully the upward trajectory continues as long as I keep working for it.
What a journey! You’ve performed with great iconic musicians and on legendary stages. What do you consider to be your most significant moment as a musician so far? – emphasis on “so far”
The entire past month has been the most significant in my career. On April 12th, I played at the legendary Whisky A Go-Go in Los Angeles. Every one of my favorite bands has graced that stage and on 4/12 it was my turn. Honestly, even just sitting in the green rooms there was surreal. That place just has so much history from Janis Joplin to The Doors to Motley Crue to Guns N’ Roses to KISS to Def Leppard to Blondie and Led Zeppelin and Soundgarden, you name it. It was just a complete honor to play there, and the show was amazing.
About a week after getting home from California, I left for the Monsters of Rock Cruise. I was going on as a photographer, but little did I know I would also end up playing not once but twice. I played Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith with Graham Whitford, son of Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford, and Chad Stewart of Faster Pussycat. Shoutout to Izzy Presley for all the work he puts into organizing that jam. I also got invited to play the Rare Hare Jam organized by one of the industry’s most underrated musicians, Tyson Leslie. I found out just mere hours before the show via a text from Tyson saying “hey do you have your bass and do you know Kiss Me Deadly by Lita Ford?” I said yes and yes. Reality was I had never learned how to play Kiss Me Deadly but hell I had a couple hours, I could pull it off. I got another text, “great, plan to play it tonight. You’ll be playing with Will Hunt (Evanescence), Will Doughty (Poison), Chez Kane, and Brent Woods (Sebastian Bach).” No pressure.
Needless to say it was one of the best experiences I’ve had. I got to the theater and saw that I would be playing the song right after David Ellefson of Megadeth. Again, no pressure. It ended up going so well and it was such a full-circle moment for me.
Woah! That must feel great!
You’re also recording original music. What will it sound like?
Yes! I was invited to play bass on an original song spotlighting rising rock musicians in New England. It was written by Joe Labbadia, the vocalist for a local original rock band called Wild America. The song is amazing, the second they sent me the demo I was like ‘hell yes, this is going to be awesome’. It’s about experiences with depression and addiction people are facing all around us. It’s a totally rock n’ roll song with acoustic parts and a catchy chorus – a recipe for any great rock song.
Let’s play a game! I will set a scenario in an alternate universe with new rules and see how you’d react to the different situations. Ready?
Hell yeah, let’s do it!
In a universe where you are a necromancer, which late musician would you ask for advice?
There are so many, but I’ll try to keep it brief. I’d have to first go with Sandy West of The Runaways just because I’d love to talk to her about her time with the band, I think much of her story has gone untold. Secondly I’d say Cliff Burton because my god he was such a talented bassist and was gone way too soon. If I could, in this hypothetical world, I’d love to take a bass lesson with him or something because I could definitely learn a lot. Just for fun, I’m going to throw in Freddie Mercury, Alexi Laiho, Randy Rhoads, and Johnny Thunders as well.
In a universe where humans can choose either to be able to teleport from one place to another or travel back and forth in time, which superpower would you pick?
As much as I would love to travel back to the ‘70s and ‘80s to experience the peak of hard rock and heavy metal in the mainstream, it would be more helpful to teleport. The 6-hour flight to Los Angeles reduced to seconds and the cost of travel would be eliminated. I’d definitely have to choose to teleport just for the convenience and financial benefit haha.
In a universe where humans only see in greyscale, what would your favourite colour be?
Ummm that’s a brilliant answer [laugh] In a universe where money does not exist, but instead, people pay for things by making other people laugh, how rich would you be considered?
Oh I’d be very rich. I tend to have no filter so I just say dumb shit constantly and people find it hilarious I guess haha.
In a universe where the senses of taste and hearing are mixed together, what food would you imagine your music would taste like?
For Alice Loves Alien, I feel like our tunes would taste like a good pasta dish of some kind. For my own originals and co-writes I’ve done, I’d say they’re more in the realm of a spicy chicken dish. I don’t really have an explanation, those are just the first things that come to mind.
In a universe where a sitcom-style theme song plays whenever you wake up announcing the start of your day, what would your song be?
I Am The Fire by Halestorm. That song is such a powerful rock anthem. It’s so inspiring and really just conveys my attitude toward my life.
Thank you for playing, Shannon! I hope you enjoyed this!
Besides being a musician, you’re also a photographer and music journalist. You’ve done so many interviews with great people. Which interview so far is your favourite?
Oh man that’s so hard, there have been so many great ones. I’d have to say Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. I’ve loved Halestorm since I was very young and once I started doing interviews, my goal was to one day interview Lzzy. Last year, with the release of their album Back From The Dead, I had the opportunity to interview her on Zoom and she was so kind and genuine. She is one of my biggest inspirations.
Same question about your photography. What photoshoot or concert do you feel was your best so far?
For a one-off gig I’d have to say KISS. There are no words to describe what it was like to photograph such a legendary band. I mean KISS is probably the biggest rock band of all time. But besides that, I have to go with the Monsters of Rock Cruise. The lineup is always amazing, they always have killer female artists and the photo/video team on there is really the best community out there.
Everyone that’s part of the crew is so insanely supportive and uplifting, it’s a beautiful thing. I’m very grateful to be part of the media team. I’ve been going on the Monsters of Rock Cruise since I was 11 years old, so I’ve really grown up going on them and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the connections I’ve made through the event, so I am forever grateful. As for a non-concert shoot, I’d go with photographing behind-the-scenes at Vixen’s music video on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. Part of it was shot at The Rainbow Bar & Grill, which if you know anything about rock history, you know how legendary that place is, so it was pretty insane to actually be there and experience it with one of the bands that was there in its prime.
Those ladies have supported me from day 1, when I was a 12 year old kid with a dream of working in the music industry, so it was very full circle and I’m so grateful I was invited to be part of it.
I know that due to your young age, you’ve faced a lot of ageism and sexism. What advice would you give young people who have a dream to excel at doing something to love and face discrimination?
Do not let them get under your skin. It’s very very easy to fall victim to imposter syndrome due to all of the bullshit people put in your head; every doubt, every snarky comment. It’s very important to surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed, people who can uplift you and push you to continue bettering yourself. That’s been a game-changer for me.
Perfect! Thank you for giving us this interview, Shannon. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you so much for your time and all your work uplifting women in the heavy metal scene! I’d also like to give a big thanks to my bass teacher and mentor Brandon Cook for all he’s done for me, I wouldn’t be where I am without him. As for you all reading this, be sure to keep up with me online for all my upcoming shows and projects, I love connecting with you all.
Being a feminist has been normalized as an irregularity through our patriarchal society, so I'd rather be called a "decent human" than a "feminist man". I breathe Metal and Rock and have a screwed-up sense of humour.