A classic rock score reverberating from the speakers of a 1967 Chevy Impala isn’t unknown territory for Supernatural’s Mark Sheppard, who’s been known to raise a little hell behind a drumkit.
In fact, when watching the November Supa-Star in action during a Creation Entertainment’s Saturday Night Special, alongside Supernatural‘s musically gifted cast, you’d have to wonder why he left behind a skill he had perfected by the age of 16 to squabble with the underworld’s demonic denizens.
As a self-described “human pinball” of the late ‘70s music scene, he had some demons of his own to tackle that got in the way. Years later, however, Sheppard’s finally picked the drumsticks back up to hit the festival circuit.
It was with his drumkit, a fervent love for music and a few older pals, that, in 1977, he formed his first real band, Television Personalities. In the company of vocalist Dan Treacy, keyboardist Ed Ball and guitarist Joe Foster, their sound wasn’t studio clean, but it was enough for them to land a session with John Peel, a BBC radio DJ who had his ears on the ground, searching for the latest earworm that would infiltrate British pop music.
Sheppard told Modern Drummer: “The session was produced by Buffin, the drummer in Mott the Hoople. I remember reading an article in a magazine years later, and he couldn’t remember what band it was. But he remembered that the bass player had leapt over the drumkit to try to kill the drummer. That was Joe Foster having an argument with me!”
Sheppard’s band graduated from rehearsals in cramped attics to booking venues Islington and Palace Road. They were no Madison Square Garden, but if you wanted to make history in the British pop-punk scene, they were the ideal places to do it.
Off the back of their first album …And Don’t the Kids Just Love It, Sheppard took advantage of every opportunity coming his way. He recorded Nikki Sudden and Jowe Head’s solo albums, two members of the experimental DIY rock group Swell Maps. After being blown away by Soft Boy’s performance at a dimly-lit bar, he asked Robyn Hitchcock if he could be in their band, and six months later they were finally impressed enough with his energy to let him join.
“Robyn’s an extraordinary person”, Sheppard told Modern Drummer. “He was about 28 but seemed so much older. He had a wonderful mono player, and I played him the first TV Personalities album. He always found me very high energy.”
It wasn’t long before his dive into the music pool had turned into a giant splash, and the waters became rough for the senior musician. His career had taken the journey of road tripping across the country, being an integral addition to the first Finnish band to chart in the UK, Hanoi Rocks, and Dublin’s Light a Big Fire.
Through the latter, he was able to experience one of his greatest career highlights: opening for U2’s Joshua Tree’s tour. This was long before the time when smartphones lit up stadiums in a kaleidoscope of colours, with only strobes bouncing across the stage.
This huge career move launched Sheppard into a slew of incredible auditions, which saw big names like Guns N’ Roses and the Sex Pistols wanting a slice of him, but he had bit off more than he could chew. In a 2017 interview, Sheppard told Drummer’s Journal, “That was the final nail in the coffin. That’s what basically ended it for me. Until that point in my life, I was always the little engine that could. I pretty much quit music all together.”
From there, his focus steered towards becoming healthier, leaving the drums behind, he gave his cymbals to Hole drummer Caroline Rue. His name began floating around in a different circle. One where a similarly in-tune gallery of characters with thick accents, suave struts, and a penchant for causing trouble resided. He became the king of sci-fi and cult classics, with notable guest appearances on The X-Files, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, and the little engines which would turn into giant empires, Firefly and Supernatural.
For 15 years, Sheppard didn’t touch a drum set, despite the rhythm in his head always calling him back to it. That ended when his two worlds finally stopped running parallel and merged. By some divine intervention, Sheppard was enlisted by Rob Benedict to come join his band, Louden Swain, on stage at a Creation Entertainment Supernatural convention.
Their Saturday Night Special is a bucket list item for those in the fandom. Even Jensen Ackles joined in on the fun by lending his vocals and inner-rock god for a couple of songs. It is the place to be, and sitting behind the drum set, looking into a sea of passion and a loving community, Sheppard’s flame for the drums burnt brightly once again.
You can catch Mark Sheppard at Supanova Comic Con & Gaming Adelaide (November 2-3) and Brisbane (November 8-10).
Lead image via YouTube/Remo.