Artists | Issues | CD Reviews | Interviews | Concert Reviews | DVD/Video Reviews | Book Reviews | Who We Are | Staff | Home
Progressive Rock Interviews

Lochness Monster

Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Justin Shaner and Rene Rivera from Lochness Monster from 2017


Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – sort of a "highlight reel?"

Justin Shaner: I started playing drums around six years old and started playing guitar when I was 12.  I was self-taught on both instruments and learned from trying to play what I listened to at the time.  I was in a punk band called "Purge" in high school and sang and played guitar, we played originals and did some Screeching Weasel covers and played house parties and in the high school Coffee House Club after school.  My freshman year of college I joined another punk band called "Giving Chase" and played drums for them. I got to play many shows with them because the singer would set up shows every week and set up tours across the U.S. each summer. We recorded an LP called “Still Waiting" and an EP with a cover of “Chesterfield King” by Jawbreaker on it.  I then started an Indie Rock band called "North Star Drive" with some college friends when I was a junior in college. I played guitar, and we recorded a self-titled EP. The band lasted for about a year. We played shows on campus at Penn State University and did a short tour down the east coast.  I then took about a ten-year break from music, got married, had some kids and now I’m back playing music again as the guitarist/songwriter for Lochness Monster. In 2016 we recorded our debut album Fables and have been playing shows across Florida for a little over a year now.

Rene Rivera: Well short story is I started playing when I was 14 and took a little hiatus.  Then went to grad school and got the bug ever since and haven’t stopped.  I spent seven years playing and music directing a popular cover band here in SOFLO called "Burnt Biscuit," and then went up to Richmond, Virginia and got hooked up with a killer grunge band named "Josie McQueen."  Came back to Florida and was honored to be asked to be the drummer for Lochness Monster.

MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Rene Rivera: Well I’m not a rock-star just yet, and I’m currently a middle school teacher teaching history.  I gotta tell you. I love it, so that being said I feel like I’m in my sweet spot.

Justin Shaner: I’d probably still be doing what I’m doing work-wise but itching to play music.

MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?
Rene Rivera: I defer to Justin…

Justin Shaner: I came up with a list of names before the band was fully formed.  The only one that stuck with me was "Lochness Monster."  I also found out if I spelled it with two words I could trademark the name.

MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Justin Shaner: Jeremy Enigk, Sunny Day Real Estate, Hum, Nirvana, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Circa Survive, Tool, Radiohead, Deftones, A Perfect Circle, The Cure, Thrice, Interpol, Jimmy Eat World, Weezer, Sigur Ros, Failure, Jawbreaker, Braid, Elton John, Smashing Pumpkins, the list goes on…

Rene Rivera: Man there are so many. I’m really an old jazz head.  I love all the classic standards and wish/aspire to learn how to play it well. So with that being said, I’m a huge Buddy Rich fan.  I love Kats like Jojo Mayer who has taken his jazz roots and evolved into a drum and bass group called "Nerve. " At heart I’m a rock player so I love guys like Foo Fighters, Rush, Zeppelin. I mean I can seriously go on and on.

MSJ: What's the best thing that's ever been said about your music?
Justin Shaner: My Dad told me he listens to our music every day in his car before going to work.  I asked my kids what their favorite song was on Fables, and they said, "all of them because you’re in the band, Daddy."

Rene Rivera: I mean we’ve gotten some great press and reviews on the album, so at the point of not sounding cheesy, it’s all been great feedback.  

MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Justin Shaner: Learning more about music theory, I’d also like to learn how to sing eventually.  I see myself continuing with creating music as long as I can. I’m really enjoying what we’re doing with Lochness Monster.

Rene Rivera: Well we are focused on working on a new album.  It’s still in the embryonic phases, but we’re working some new stuff out.  We’re also beginning discussions with a label and hoping that they get us to the next level.

MSJ: I know many artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
Justin Shaner:  Musically the dynamics change from soft to heavy quite a bit but not always. Sometimes it’s more straight-forward rock and sometimes more ambient and progressive. It’s lyrically very visual but musically very emotional.  Our music doesn’t follow any rules, and the lyrics can be either abstract or story like and can be inspired by many different things, not only personal experiences.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play in the future?
Justin Shaner:  Anyone on my influences list would be amazing. Someday I hope to play a show with one of them! We’ve played with several cool local bands that we’d love to keep doing shows with, as well.

Rene Rivera:  We’d love to tour with King Complex and jam some more with The Bitter Blue-Jays.  I’d also love to get on a bill with my home boys of Josie McQueen.  That would be a fun time.

MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading or streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Justin Shaner: I think streaming really can help new artists get their music out to people that may not have had the chance to hear it otherwise.  I don’t think illegal downloading really helps anyone because the artist makes nothing from it and doesn’t know how many listeners they are losing to illegal downloads either.  I’m sure it’s more difficult for full time musicians that are used to making more of their income on album sales, but I guess they can replace lost album sales with extra income from touring more.

Rene Rivera: Man! That’s tough. I think that streaming and piracy gets your stuff out there, and let’s face it…(I’m about to show my age here…but) back in the day if I got a cassette tape from a friend, I’d get a blank tape and record it.  Even with CDs how many times have we all borrowed a CD and ripped it into our computers? So in essence piracy has always been around.  That being said I think that streaming opens a door to new fans, but once that fan has been established, people should pay for the work.  It takes a lot to put out quality work and the artist should be compensated for their skill and talent.

MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online?
Justin Shaner:  Another great way to market us without us having to do it ourselves!  Unless the live show sucked then it would probably have a bit of a negative effect.

Rene Rivera: I’m down with snagging a video of your favorite tune at a show, but if you’re there watching the whole thing through your iPhone, you’ve missed the point of the whole thing.  So to answer your question, I loved watching footage of Adele telling people to stop recording her because they were missing the show, and I think the artist should make it known that their live performance is not for a bootlegged experience but one that shapes a mood, a moment, and an experience.

MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Justin Shaner:  Nickelback.  They just seem to follow a rock star formula too much for me. So I’d have to try and fix that.
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Justin Shaner: The Edge and Stephan Carpenter on guitars, Robert Smith on vocals, Kim Deal on bass, and Dave Grohl on drums - because they are some of my favorites and also because I think it may work really well together.

Rene Rivera:  Lochness Monster baby, with everyone in it!

MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
Justin Shaner: I’d call it "Reunion Festival" and have bands from each genre of music there that have broken up and agree to get back together each year for the festival.  There would be different stages for each genre so the audience can pick their favorite stages and watch most of the bands they like from that particular stage -  something like that!

Rene Rivera: Man, there are so many great bands but I would defer to the Foo Fighters headlining and I’d totally want Royal Blood there just killing it with Lochness Monster on the bill, as well.

MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Justin Shaner:  Jeremy Enigk – Ghosts, Circa Survive – The Amulet, Thrice – To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, Racquet Club – Self-Titled

Rene Rivera:  I just got Sam Smith’s new album The Thrill Of It All, and it’s amazing.

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Justin Shaner: In Search of Small Gods by Jim Harrison - I was never into poetry until I started reading some Jim Harrison - deep stuff.

Rene Rivera:  I’m working through a couple.  Right now I’m reading The Lord of The Ring, Writings of Plato, and the autobiography of a great drummer called Sex, Drums, and Rock ’n’ Roll.

MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Justin Shaner: The last one I went to was Thrice, Circa Survive, and Balance and Composure at the Fillmore Miami Beach.

Rene Rivera: The last show I saw was Mute Math in Richmond before their original drummer Darren Ling left.  I just got tickets for the Foo show in April. I can’t wait for that.

MSJ: Do you remember the first concert you attended?
Justin Shaner: My Mom took me to a New Kids on The Block and Tiffany concert at Darien Lake when I was around six years old!

Rene Rivera: It was a Dave Matthew’s show.  It was amazing.

MSJ: Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?
Justin Shaner:  My new Orange CR120 Amp Head.  It is built to sound like an Orange Rockerverb but is Solid State, and you don’t have to worry about the tubes blowing out. It’s also a pretty sweet price, I love it for practicing, and it’s loud enough for small venues.

Rene Rivera: Right now if I had the funds I’d pick up a new Gretsch Catalina Rock Crimson Red kit with a 24” kick.  Thing looks nasty.

MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Justin Shaner:  Hmm, well sometimes my kids want me to put on Justin Bieber, and I don’t admit it but I’ll confess now, some of his songs got a nice groove going on - especially on his latest album.

Rene Rivera: Oh man, if you saw my iPhone you’d be like “What the hell man?”  There are so many pop artists out there that I dig.  Right now I’m all about Dua Lipa’s track “New Rules."

MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Rene Rivera: Totally missed a gig because there was confusion about the date.  We were able to get another show but that was kinda nuts.

Justin Shaner: I played an entire Lochness Monster show with a pick stuck in the guitar strings and wondered why my guitar sounded off the whole show. I couldn’t seem to tune it correctly the whole show. After the show was over I was putting my guitar in its case and noticed I had a pick in the strings.

MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Justin Shaner: Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, and Chris Rock because they are all hilarious to me, and it’d be a fun dinner I bet.

Rene Rivera:  Man…I’d love to sit with Hendrix, Alexander the Great, and Jesus Christ. I’d love to pick their minds.

MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Justin Shaner: lobster and steak - that’s it.

Rene Rivera:  Oh man, I think we’d all be down for some sick NYC pizza. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Justin Shaner: We’re doing a music video campaign with Partnership for Drug Free Kids. To find out more info or to donate for this cause here is the link:

Rene Rivera: Yeah! If you haven’t checked out our album Fables you can go to our website and get a taste, and we’d love to have you follow us on Facebook and Twitter if you're down. 

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 1 at
More Interviews
Metal/Prog Metal
Progressive Rock

   Creative Commons License
   This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

    © 2024 Music Street Journal                                                                           Site design and programming by Studio Fyra, Inc./