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Shark Island was an American hard rock band from Los Angeles that played during the 1980s.


Shark Island was started in 1979 by singer Richard Black, whose name then was Rick Czerny, and lead guitarist Spencer Sercombe, under the name of 'Sharks'. Czerny and Sercombe met in high school and played music together. Sercombe, played and worked for B.C. Rich guitars. The band practiced out of a small home in a commercial area in Arcadia on Santa Clara Street. The walls of the studio were lined with empty Mickey's Big Mouth bottles (the official Shark beer) and the inspiration behind the bands original logo.[2] The band also recruited drummer Dave Bishop and bass guitarist Jim Volpicelli.

The original band of Czerny, Sercombe, Volpicelli and Bishop released an independent album called Altar Ego in 1982. This album was produced by Jerry Tolman, and featured organist Muke Finnegan. Both had done work with Stephen Stills. Executive producer was Jeff Willmitt. It was recorded at That Studio in North Hollywood.

As well as Altar Ego, Sharks released three singles. The first was a unique "triple fin" shaped 45, that when inserted into the jacket, cut through the ocean image on the cover. Side A was "Kid Sister", and side B was "Your Car or Mine". Both were recored at Mystic Studios in Hollywood. "Hey" was a live single recorded on May 10, 1981, at The Ice House in Pasadena, Shark's home town, and on the flip side was Mark Bolan's "Bang a Gong (Get It On)". Executive producer was Jeff Willmitt for both 45's. The artwork of "Hey" featured a black 45 rpm sleeve with LIVE SHARKS across the top in bold red letters with three USDA stamps saying, "Guaranteed Live" on the top of the stamp and "Packed in Its Own Juice" on the bottom of the stamp. In the middle of the stamp it said "u.s.d.a. SHARK MEAT choice" looking like an actual stamp from the U.S.D.A. The other single was "I'm Electric" which featured a drum machine rather than Bishop playing the drums. On the backside of that single is "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and a Judas Priest song, "Heading Out to the Highway". No artwork was created for this second single and it was given out to the fans when Sharks headlined.

During these years, the band became of the most popular bands from the L.A. rock scene. American Heroes/Mondo Cane was an act that either opened for Sharks or had Sharks opening for them. There were numerous occasions when both bands played in the same venues such as The Whiskey, The Icehouse, The Roxy or The Troubadour. It was at that time that Lanny Cordola,American Heroes/Mondo Cane's guitarist and songwriter, began noticing the unique and riveting stage persona of Shark's vocalist, Richard Black. Lanny entertained the idea of Black being the frontman for American Heroes/Mondo Cane but both bands continued to perform separately. Richard Black's signature stage moves and dancing were influential to Axl Rose's stage moves which gave him the stage presence and persona to front Guns N' Roses.[3]

Dave Bishop was the drummer of Sharks during the height of their popularity in Hollywood. Bishop used various shapes of cowbell-like instruments in his drumming. His drum kit had a shark's jaws permanently fastened to the outer drum head of his bass drum facing the crowd.

Jim Volcipelli was Shark's bass guitarist. One of Volcipelli's bass guitars was custom-designed and had an air-brushed shark's head and teeth painted at the end near the volume/tone knobs. Much like Michael Anthony of Van Halen, Volcipelli's vocals were strong and melodic bringing a very different sound to Hollywood's rock scene. Many bands, at that time, only had the vocals of the lead singer as opposed to having background vocals too.

In the tradition of Van Halen, M?tley Cr?e and other Los Angeles bands, Shark Island was the house band at the world-famous Gazzari's on Sunset Strip. Bill Gazzari even helped produce their first single, a cover of the Frank Sinatra song "New York, New York".[3]

In 1985, they changed their name to Shark Island and released another independent album, S'cool Buss, the next year. This line-up now included Richard Black on lead vocals, Spencer "Burner" Sercombe on guitar/vocals, Walt Woodward III on drums/vocals, Tom Rucci on bass/vocals/keyboards and Michael Guy on guitar/bass. Rick Derringer produced this album and there were 1,200 copies made (200 in a red cover and 1,000 in a turquoise color). "Palace of Pleasure" was the unofficial single of this album and ex-Shark bass guitarist, Jim Volpicelli and ex-drummer, Dave Bishop helped to write four of its 9 songs.

Sharks Island were able to get a record development deal. They were signed by A&M Records to a development deal for one year with no promise of being picked up for a record contract. During this time, the line-up continued to shift with drummer Walt Woodward III leaving to join The Scream and on-and-off guitarist K.K. Martin parting ways due to "artistic differences".

Bass guitarist Chris Heilmann and drummer Greg Ellis joined in 1989 to record and release the band's only official album, at that time, entitled, Law of the Order. The single of that album, "Paris Calling" had an elaborate music video. Sharks/Shark Island had been known in Los Angeles nightclubs for having a raw, rough and hard-edged sound while being melodic and having memorable songs as well. Much like Van Halen's first album, it was believed that Shark Island's first album would be something very close to what they were live. Randy Nicklaus was the producer for Shark Island on that album on Epic Records and it is speculated that he was not familiar enough with Sharks/Shark Island's high-energy and bombastic live performances, therefore not being able to fully capture Shark Island as they truly performed live.[3]

With the disappointing sales of the album, the band vanished from the scene with most of its members joining other projects. In 1989, Shark Island's songs, "Dangerous" and "Father Time" were both featured in the movie Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and were released on the soundtrack album as well.[4]

After the Break-up

  • Spencer Sercombe played in the band Riverdogs with Vivian Campbell (now with Def Leppard). They recorded a self-titled album in the mid-1990s. Afterwards, he played in Bill Ward's band (ex-Black Sabbath) and recorded an album in 1997 called When the Bough Breaks. He played in a ZZ Top tribute band called "Fandango".
  • Chris Heilmann has previously been in Torm? and went on to play guitar with Chromosapien with Doni Castello from Burning Tree vocals, Dan Rothchild bass, formerly of Tonic, Craig McCloskey Guitar, and LA session drummer Dan Potruch

In 2006, Shark Island released Gathering Of The Faithful, produced by Spencer Sercombe with additional production from German Villacorta and Richard Black. This line-up featured Richard Black on vocals, Spencer Sercombe on guitars, piano, synthesizer and vocals, Christian Heilmann on bass and new drummer, Glen Sobel.

Former members

  • Richard Black - Lead vocals
  • Spencer "Burner" Sercombe - Lead guitar, backing vocals
  • Jim Volpicelli - Bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Dave Bishop - Drums
  • Walt Woodward III - Drums
  • Tom Rucci - Bass guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
  • Michael Guy - Guitar, bass guitar
  • Chris Heilmann - Bass guitar
  • Robert Pace (RP) - Drums


As Sharks

  • Altar Ego (1982)

As Shark Island

  • S'cool Buss (1987)[5]
  • Bastille Day - Alive At The Whiskey (1989)[5]
  • Law of the Order (1988)[1]
  • Gathering of the Faithful (2006)[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Shark Island Discography". All Music Guide. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  2. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (2006). The encyclopedia of popular music: Indexes, Volume 10. Oxford University Press. p. 382. ISBN 978-0-19-531373-4. 
  3. ^ a b c Davis, Stephen (2009). Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns N' Roses. Penguin. p. 121. ISBN 978-1-59240-500-8. 
  4. ^ "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure Original Soundtrack". All Music Guide. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  5. ^ a b "Shark Island Artist Page". Music Might. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 

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