As president of Outerloop Records and with more than 10 years of experience through various roles in the ever-changing music industry, Shan Dan Horan is no stranger to its intricacies. The Flagstaff local has won numerous awards for his innovative ideas, rightfully making a name for himself as a leader in the industry.
Horan is now turning his focus to Musician Rescue, a show three years in the making with Emmy Award-winning producer Alan Sacks, to help musicians get their foot in the door. It will premiere on a popular streaming service to be confirmed and announced in 2020, with the first season featuring 10 episodes, one for each group or solo artist that was chosen from more than 20,000 submissions.
“For the vetting process, it had to be something deeper than the music,’” Horan says. “It was more about people living through experience.”
One of the bands to be featured, One Bullet Away, got its start in 2006 in Kayenta, a U.S. census-designated town within the Navajo Nation. Although the band—made up of guitarist Andrew Israel, drummer Robby Jones, guitarist D’Cota Tohdacheeny, singer JC Interpreter and bassist Sebastian Chaco—has lasted longer than many independent bands can claim, it’s been rough living in a place without an established music scene.
“There used to be a back-to-school metal fest that happened, and it was Billy Crawley of [fellow Navajo Nation band] Ethnic De Generation who gave OBA our first show—[we were] known as Breed Apart at the time,” Tohdacheeny says. “That's when the journey started.”
“The scene was very alive,” Israel adds. “At one point there were at least 300-plus at the festival, which was pretty amazing of a town of 5,000. Now, sadly, the scene has gone away, but shows do happen once in a while.”
To play a show nowadays, or even buy new gear, the members have to drive more than 150 miles to a larger town like Flagstaff. They were just the type of group Horan was looking to help with the genesis of Musician Rescue, and were the first to come on board.
He flew One Bullet Away to Las Vegas for the opportunity to record with producer and engineer Shawn McGhee, who worked with metal bands such as Disturbed and In This Moment.
“They showed up in the studio—they had no idea what it was—and we filmed the whole process,” Horan says. “They’re all wide-eyed, from Kayenta, thrown into the big city. It was amazing.”
Horan recalls sitting around a campfire with the band in Monument Valley one night, the majestic sandstone buttes standing sentinel against the starry sky as he waited to surprise them with vocalist Adam Warren of Oceano, one of their favorite bands, and the news that Warren would be recording a song with them.
“They just literally were all shaking,” Horan says. “And that’s kind of the premise of the show. It’s just a bunch of cool stuff like that, helping bands hopefully succeed because, at the end of the day, if they have a little help, you have no idea if they’ll be the next big thing.”
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“Having Adam Warren sing on our single was like a holy-shit moment, and watching him work and do his thing as one of the best deathcore singers out there was just amazing,” Israel says. “Now we’re taking things we learned along the way and using that information in our own music writing.”
One Bullet Away worked with two other programs in the past to help them get a leg up in the industry, but neither worked out and one even went so far as to try to change the band’s appearance.
“With Shan Dan it’s more, ‘You guys be you and I'll help you to better yourself as musicians,’” Jones says.
Although he has worked with big-name bands such as Suicide Silence and Attila, helping independent artists reach their potential is one of Horan’s favorite things about working in the industry.
“It just really feels good to see a band that nobody believed in get opportunities that they deserve,” he says.
Throughout the years Horan also dabbled in film work, heading the award-winning Shadow Born Group and working on a short documentary on John Mellencamp’s career for Showtime.
“Running a label, it’s primarily sending out emails and filling out Excel spreadsheets,” Horan says with a laugh. “But working in a creative field, you want to kind of kick out the door and go shoot something creative. That’s kind of what film became, an outlet for me to be creative and tell a story.”
And some stories are just begging to be told. Israel and Chaco are cousins whose great-grandfather was a Navajo Code Talker during World War II, and One Bullet Away is proud to celebrate their rich heritage through their music. One of the songs they worked on with McGhee begins with words spoken in Navajo and was recorded on a World War II-era Shure microphone used in Iwo Jima, bought by Horan at an auction and fixed up as a gift for them.
“We believe that our music we are creating is worth people from all over to hear and not just on the Navajo reservation,” Israel says. “We would like to represent our people through our music, show people that Native Americans can get out and play just as hard as other bands from outside the rez, and maybe pave a way for more Native bands to get out and show others what’s up.”
One Bullet Away will open for Phoenix thrash metal band Motive Sunday, Aug. 11, at the Green Room, 15 N. Agassiz St., along with Ethnic De Generation and GRIMM. The all-ages show begins at 5 p.m. Tickets are $8. Visit Musician Rescue on Facebook for more information about the upcoming TV show.