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Meet openly-gay led rock band Hemisphere

Meet openly-gay led rock band Hemisphere

Hemisphere is a local band that has really paved the way for other members of the LGBTQ community in the rock scene. Since its inception in the 1980s, Hempishere has been led by openly gay members Rob Shinno and Don Bowman. 

Their unique musical style draws on rock, pop, jazz, fusion, and metal for inspiration and the band looks forward to their upcoming performance on Saturday, Oct. 2 at Humphrey's Back Stage.

Along with band members Shinno (guitar, vocoder) and Bowman (vocals, sax), other members include Mike McQuilken (drums), Nathan Brown (bass), and Max Zape (keys).

Learn more about Hemisphere in our interview with Shinno below.

How did Hemipshere come about?

In the 80’s, we were really pop-rock focused, driven by Mike McQuilken and me (Rob Shinno).  In later decades, driven by Don Bowman and Rob Shinno we were more of a contemporary jazz and fusion band. I guess we took our early experiences and put them in a time blender with our jazz heyday and voila, our new album American Dreams was born! It all felt very natural. 

How would you describe your style?

The current band direction draws on rock, pop, jazz, fusion, and metal for inspiration and our history of performing at prestigious events such as the Newport Beach Jazz Festival. Tracks from the new album American Dreams were nominated Best World Music Album at the San Diego Music Awards, have scored over 400,000 YouTube views and streams since the October 2020 release date. The album includes guest players such as Grammy winning drummer and percussionist Tommy Aros (Fattburger), singers Rebecca Jade (2020 SDMA Artist of the Year) and Leonard Patton, trumpeter Derek Cannon, and a guitar solo from Patrick Yandall. Local jazz star Peter Sprague served as engineer and mixer, and the album was mastered by Bernie Grundman (Steely Dan, Michael Jackson, Prince). A video is streaming online for the album track “America,” shot during the pandemic lockdown using social distance precautions, and an American Dreams collector’s CD edition is available with a 16 page pamphlet of liner notes, images, and lyrics. The band recently booked three nights at the 2022 South By Southwest music festival. Their album release party happens in San Diego at Humphreys BackstageLive on October 2, for a bill that includes the Grant Clarkston Trio.

How have you been received in the music world as an LGBT led band?

It’s been a journey… my solo album ‘River of Life’ was well received locally with a nomination as ‘Best New Artist’ by the San Diego Music Awards in 1994, however in spite of being listed as one of the Hot 100 and Gavin Chart Bound that year, it was clear that in parts of the US, radio was not going to touch playing the album.  The first Hemisphere album ‘Blue Planet Dreams in 1996, and Destinations in 2000 were also locally well received, but in the Contemporary Jazz market, it was still an uphill struggle (remember that in 2000 Vermont became the first state to pass a law granting the full benefits of marriage to same-sex couples), so many markets were still closed to us.  Fast forward to the 2020 release of ‘American Dreams’ and we had 55+ radio stations pick up the album, 400+K streams on Spotify and YouTube, and we actively promote a message of Unity, Diversity and Equality in our music and videos (including producing a Pride performance video of ‘These are the Days’), so times have changed for the better!  We had dozens of positive reviews from Rock, Jazz, Pop and Prog-Rock magazines and blogs, so diversity seems to be good for the message as well as our musical direction.

What inspires your work?

We are songwriters who enjoy Rock, Pop, Jazz, Fusion and Metal and these many styles are reflected in the band’s writing style.  We are inspired to write mash-ups that blend influences from multiple genres to create unique compositions for Hemisphere

Hemisphere wants to take the listener on a journey where each song has a back story, which we talk about before each song in our live shows.

Tell us about your upcoming Oct. 2 show

Hemisphere has a history of often incorporating multimedia and visual effects into our live shows, and we are taking this to the next level for the Humphrey’s BackstageLive show!  It’s been a year since the album release, and a previous sold-out album launch show at the Lot in La Jolla had to be cancelled in October of 2020, so there is a lot of pent up energy flowing leading up to Oct 2nd.  We will be performing the entire American Dreams album and digging into the Hemisphere catalog, so expect some surprises!  We have a full ten piece band (listed below) for the show and we plan to blow the roof off the place. This is our only San Diego appearance before we head to Austin TX for the South-by-Southwest (SXSW) music festival where we are headlining for three nights with Tinderbox Music. 

Don Bowman - Vocals/EWI/Sax

Rob Shinno - Guitars/Vocoder/Vocals

Mike McQuilken - Drums

Max Zape - Keys

Grant Clarkson - Bass

Paul Perez - Percussion

Chris Klich - Sax

Paul Seaforth - Trumpet

Leonard Patton - Vocals

Janet Hammer - Vocals

Final thoughts

Hemisphere is proud to be back as an openly LGBTQ+ band, representing our message of Unity, Diversity and Equality. Look for our new album ‘Unity’ due out in 2022, with live shows in San Diego thru the spring and summer of 2022!

Show details

Date: Saturday, Oct. 2

Time: Doors open at 7:30 pm

Tickets: $12 at the door

Location: Humphrey's Back Stage Live, 2241 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego, CA 92106

Learn more about Hemisphere

Check out Hemisphere's website here. Find them on YouTube here. Catch them on Facebook here.