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Our Time

Militarie Gun

With an absolute desire to not repeat what has gone before him, Ian Shelton of the band Militarie Gun has created a space to experiment and become a truer version of himself. Focused on both social and personal challenges, Shelton is provoking conversations and change.


I am really interested in hearing about your influences growing up. Have you always loved music, or did it develop later in life? I think I’ve always gravitated towards music, especially whatever my family loved. I remember liking Garth Brooks and Elton John when I was really young. I was listening to cassettes in the car and then eventually, the new metal and pop punk era arrived, and that's where I started identifying with music myself. I remember hearing Linkin Park where he's yelling shut up in the song and it blew my mind that he was just screaming. The aggression instantly clicked with me and that's when I found stuff like Slipknot, Korn, Sum 41 and Blink-182.

What made you gravitate towards a heavier sound? Not sure what is termed as heavy, but I think Slipknot is as aggressive of a band that I listened to, but I don't know. I just was in a place where life was getting more challenging and dark with puberty and everything. The anger of punk music started to be the thing that spoke to me most and even then I was thinking about things like Alkaline Trio, and how kind of controversial and weird their lyrics were and how I liked the taboo-ness of that.

So you were more attracted to the edge of the sound? Yeah I guess. I remember having this moral dilemma, thinking Slipknot was satanic music and if it was, could I be a Christian and a Satanist. You know when you're just young, everything feels super binary. I didn't understand that it wasn’t actually satanic. But it's also like, you don't have to agree with everything that an artist does.

It’s true. Were you discovering this all yourself? Were you an outlier or was it introduced to by friends? Actually, it was music videos. I remember in fifth or sixth grade, I saw the “Wait and Bleed” video by Slipknot in the morning and I remember going to school that entire day and just thinking about it. “What was this cool song with these scary guys in it?” I went to my friend's house after school and we got on Limewire instantly looking for this song. I've always been just very hungry as far as that type of stuff goes. I get instant obsessions, and into things very fast, but then I get over them very fast. That's why I have a surface level knowledge of a thousand things.

Have you ever been to their shows? I saw Blink-182 two days before 9/11.

Oh man. You weren’t in New York were you? No, no, I'm a West Coaster. I was in the Bay Area and I remember wearing my Blink-182 ”Take Off Your Pants And Jacket” t-shirt as I watched The Towers burning. I didn’t know what was happening, I just thought it was a building on fire. 

I didn't know the importance of it until everyone at school was talking about it. Exactly. I wasn't affected by it at first, but then your parents explained to you what the fuck happened. mediumIt is crazy to think about some of the things that have happened in our lifetime. Yeah, I feel fortunate to have the path I have been given. Throughout my music career, I was like, I'm going to tour for a couple more years, and then I'm gonna go to college. I enrolled in community college and then a tour would come up and I would just go on tour and not ever finish the enrollment. I really struggle to do things that aren't like my most immediate passion. I'm very privileged in that sense, but I kept saying I was gonna do something else and then I moved to Los Angeles not to quit music, but to go into what I thought was gonna be my next phase of my life and have a career in directing. 

Oh really? You wanted to be a film director? Yeah, I started directing a lot of music videos pretty quickly, and my goal was to be involved with film, but then literally Militarie Gun happened and now I'm stuck here, it's been amazing.

I know you were in a few bands, how did you end up creating Militarie Gun? I was in a band called Regional Justice Center and it was the first band that I took to a national level on my own. I also filled in for a lot of bands as a drummer.

So a touring drummer? Yup. If I have advice to anyone who's really young and wants to be in a band, I would say learn drums because everyone needs a drummer. If you don't suck as a person and you're good at drums, you will be able to travel the world and you'll play in a band at some point. If you're really good, you'll play in a successful band. 

Why are drummers so hard to get? Because nobody wants to do it. It's the hardest job in the band. It's the least romantic instrument, and you're obscured. Nobody else is behind something.

So true! [laughs] I mean you're at the back of the stage, and it made sense to me for a long time. I was very loud, I put myself out there a lot, when I was in high school. I was ready to be in the spotlight at the time, but then eventually punk music kind of censored my artistic sense and I retreated for a long time playing into other people's bands. Just being a drummer and not putting myself out there artistically. Eventually, I had to shake it off, and Regional Justice Center was my stepping stone.

What type of feedback were you getting to have you in such a negative headspace?  I definitely was very cut down by people. I've never had a hometown scene and I am a little too eclectic I guess? I think the social dynamic of the time was super negative like message board culture and the Internet is just a very unkind place. You then add pretentious punk people into the mix who you think are so cool.

smallI feel with Militarie Gun you may be utilising the same things fired against you, and creating something unique. I specifically wanted to make the lyrics bite harder in a political or emotional sense because I didn't want it to be a retread or whatever, so it's like finding the additional amount of personality. I feel like specifically the people I came up with really lacked in that. It was so much more just copy and pasting old punk sounds, and then putting your logo over it. I remember there's an era where everyone was doing a shirt of another band’s logo, and replacing their name with yours.

People loved a Nirvana smiley face. It was really popular right? I remember I was 18 years old and people probably thought I was such a pretentious little dick head, but I was like, what is this? You just have stolen something from someone else and put your name on it. What happens in 10 years when the next generation of people want to make rip off shirts? They're not gonna have anything to rip off. [laughs] 

So Militarie Gun came at the time you were finally ready. I just finally had the time to say all the things that I've been. Regional Justice Center was kind of a formatted project. It was not so nuanced, and Militarie Gun is kind of a space to expand a thought and do something a little more conversational.

How does it feel to have more control over your project, and is there a manifesto you have built for the band? I mean as long as whatever we're doing is fuelling my desire to listen to it, then it hits the mark for me. Bobby [Krlic] and I recently worked on a song the other day and I only was able to lay down a chorus, but I've listened to my little voice memo a thousand times already. I want to imagine the rest of the song and it just honestly really fuelled me. I think it is egotistical, it's what people do with children. You just want to see yourself, outside of yourself.

So how do you like to write? I write a cross-section of three or four songs that do similar tricks. I go through a little honeymoon period with the song and then it might be replaced by a new song, and then you don't listen to that original one anymore. 

Do you find it easy to know when a song is done? I can only listen to it when it's complete, so writing the first melody to the completed song is usually a few hours. That is as far as vocals go, instrumentals are probably way quicker than that. 

That is impressive, some people take years. [laughs] I think perfectionism doesn't have its place in writing. It is not where perfectionism happens. I think writing is intuition. I just follow the intuition until it takes me wherever I need to go. When it comes time to commit to the final, if there's something that's been nagging at me, then I change it. But otherwise, it’s done.

Do you write with a goal, like an album? It's like everything is a kind of a process of curation. Usually I'm operating off of a really aspirational or large overview and that slowly gets chopped down. You know, because of the realities of the world. It's a strange process but yeah, it really just comes down to making too many things and then cutting them down to the piece that makes most sense. mediumDo you like to collaborate? Collaborating is one of my favourite things, like last night I went and made two songs with Show Me The Body. One in the Militarie Gun character and then one in the Regional Justice Center character. It's two completely different approaches, and I did both within two hours and then left. I mean, I don't even know if these Show Me The Body songs will ever see the light of day, but it was a very fun way to do it.

Seems like you find collaborating easy? Yeah, I love it! I think rock musicians specifically for some reason have this idea that you can only make music with the four people you are in the band withI've always found that really boring and I like the idea of trying out someone else's skin. I do get really nervous creating in front of other people because specifically the way that I do vocals is nothing until it is magically completed. The fear is always what makes it that much better. I think it’s a really good feeling.

I feel like you are on tour forever, so I’m wondering how you enjoy playing live, and the whole experience. Having seen you live, your voice must take a beating. I've been getting in a better spot with that. I was having voice troubles at one point, but I honestly just got a vocal processor that adds a little bit of distortion so that I could sing a little bit less hard on this upcoming tour. It's really when sickness comes into the can't really do anything about. If you get a cough on tour that's destroys your vocal chords, it makes it really difficult to do the job properly.

How have the shows been so far? They have been incredible. I mean every night was rowdy and fun. I have been playing some of these album songs for the first time to people, which has been cool. The part I enjoy most is that hitting a mark of feeling like we're getting better at something. I know they're songs that I sing better now because we did them every day for seven weeks.

Do you miss being home? I mean I'm very excited, though I do miss being home. I signed myself up for all these things, and it feels good moving forward with the band.

Anything else you are excited about? The thing I'm excited for right now, which is so stupid to say, but it has been like I downloaded so many movies and television shows and audiobooks to go through. I'm also excited for this European tour as we don't have to drive. I hope it reinstates some of my attention span, especially being in Europe with less cell phone service. Honestly one of the greatest parts of a European tour is that nobody in the States is awake when we are.

I see that. [laughs] Waking up here on a US tour means I'm waking up and just getting my bearings. I've been emailed and texted. I gotta catch up to the world around me, and so it's almost a little bit of suspended reality because you start the day and nobody at home is awake. 

It is my favourite thing about going back home to Australia, a full day ahead. Yeah, it's nice to have a few moments, because I mean when you're on tour, not only are you having to deal with the people around you, but then you have to deal with everyone at home, as well as business. It's a kind of a nice change of pace. It’s one of my selfish reasons for enjoying it. My reasons for enjoying a European tour is so fucking lame.

How many people will be touring? It's gonna be seven of us. That’s the smallest I will ever tour with, as I hope it's only gonna grow. The Militarie Gun tour, and specifically the way that I have prioritised touring, is I refer to it as everyone being on tour by themselves. On tour I retreat into a very interior lifestyle. It's very solitary on purpose, because I prefer that. On most days I go off by myself instead of doing a group activity, even having dinner by myself. I just am kind of anti-social, so it's a little bit different from maybe other bands.

When I was in a band, we did a UK tour and when I didn't want anyone to speak to me, I put my jacket on my head. So it was like me having my own room in the van. [laughs] Yeah. I mean that's the only way, you got to find those moments. [smiles]


Interview by Ilirjana Alushaj Photography by Maggie Shannon Styling by talent