Exclusive interview – hellfest.fr: SHVPES [Griffin Dickinson (vocals)]
“I’ve never been at Hellfest but everyone at home says how awesome that festival is. That’s the top of Everest for the year for us! It’s gonna be huge”
Griffin Dickinson – Le Cabaret Sauvage, Paris – March 22, 2017
I recently read that Shvpes could be described as the missing link between Rage Against The Machine and Bullet For My Valentine. Would you agree with that statement?
Not quite. I think we’ve got quite a lot more to offer than just between the Rage Against The Machine stuff and Bullet For My Valentine. But I can see why someone has come up to that conclusion. I think it’s probably because I know more from behind the scenes with what we’ve released, you know? There’s a lot more influences and links to bands than it’s currently available for the public. I can see why someone has come up to that but I would not agree.
Your debut album Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair was released a couple of weeks ago. Are you satisfied with that first shot? Looking back at it, would you have done some things differently?
We’re going to do things differently in the future but I wouldn’t do things differently for that album. I mean, I’m very proud with what we created and I think it’s a solid debut album. And I know where I wanna take the next album. Basically we’re not going to do the same album again, we’ll make something different.
What’s the story behind the album title?
I went to a play with my mum just before we started writing the album and the main actor went like “the endless cycles of pain, joy, ecstasy and despair”. I was like “This is really fucking cool!”. I liked that, it’s quite rhythmic: pain, joy, ecstasy, despair. I just spent the next 45 mins just trying to remember it because you can’t get your phone out at the theatre. Then I noted it down and figured out my own meaning to it. Around the time of writing the album, I was going into a lot of ups and downs. We just got a record deal: “everything’s amazing!”. Then someone in my family got really ill: “this is fucking terrible!”. And then we got booked and played Download UK and then I got relationship issues… Just ups and downs, really. That’s what Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair represents to me: some kind of emotional circle of life. Things can be great, things can be shit, then great again… You have to accept that you live in an absolute chaos and you don’t know what’s around the corner.
Such a title was always present during the creative process?
It wasn’t actually the original title for the album. It was originally just a song. It wasn’t clear whether it was gonna be the album title but it became clear it should be the album title.
And out of Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair, which one represents you the most?
I think probably Pain with this album…
Well, right now, I’m having a great time so I’d say Joy! (laughter)
Another question about the album. Are you still raising its flag at the moment? Or your mood and mind are switched to the next steps?
We – me and Ryan (Hamilton – guitar) – have started writing a couple of songs and stuffs for the next album so… It’s difficult to kind of look at an album as a whole when you’ve got only two songs because it could still go any direction. The 2 songs that we’ve got, I’m so-so into them. It’s the best thing we’ve ever done. So yeah, I’m kind of switched to the new stuff. I’ve listened to our album so many time as I’ve had it for a year now. Usually, I’m done with an album within two months. So a year of listening to my own voice… (laughter) I want to go to the next one, yeah.
If you had to pick one quality of your dad and get it for yourself, which one would you pick?
To have the same son (smiles).
Being a musician and a singer was obvious from the early beginning?
No, not at all. Until 2 years ago when I was asked to join the band, I was working for Red Bull and kind of going corporate world…. So I thought “Yeah, fuck it, let’s do it!”. I’ve always played guitar and tried to start bands but it never really happened so I just kept writing music like a personal hobby as opposed to a professional career. Then this just took off and I went for it full power, you know?
That long tour with Trivium (5 weeks) is about to end. How was that experience?
Yeah, there are 3 more shows including this one. It’s gone unbelievably well. The Trivium fans have been so accommodating to us and everything. We’ve got little rap bits and stuff so I didn’t imagine we were gonna go do as well as we have to a very metal/metalcore crowd. It’s been fantastic. We played Milan – we definitely have to go back there, Spain – which was insane for us, Sweden – the whole Scandinavia was great, etc. Hopefully we can come back and fuck shit up at Hellfest! (laughter)
Such a tour is more about having fun or a learning process?
I’d like to say it’s all being a learning process but I’ve had so much fun that I don’t really know what I’ve learned and what I haven’t…. I’ve learned a lot of Brazilian jujitsu funnily enough. I’ve been fighting Matt (Heafy – Trivium) as he’s got his trainer with him, a martial art fighter. So I’ve been fighting him. Getting drunk and fighting André, who’s the martial art guy. So I’ve learned a lot of jujitsu! And I learned a lot about my voice actually.
This is quite a long tour, though. Any low points at some stage?
No, no. I could easily do this for another 6 weeks. I’m having the time of my life and I think all the boys are the same. There hasn’t been any low points.
As you said, the tour is doing very well. But weren’t you a bit worried in the first place. Your music isn’t really similar to Trivium’s. Plus Trivium fans might be a bit older than yours…
We’ve played shows to like 3 people before so we’re not scared of any show now. After you’ve kind of done all the shit shows where no one turns up and everything, you know you can put a good show no matter what is happening with the crowd. Whatever happens we can put on a good show, no matter if there are 3 people or 30,000.
Your touring schedule is rather filed at the moment. Now is the time for the band? The priority is not to record a second album as touring is what needs to be done at the moment?
When we recorded the debut album, we said that we weren’t gonna stop writing because a lot of bands fuck up album number 2. We didn’t want to do that. If you keep writing, you’re gonna keep on top of it. One of the reason band fuck up album number 2 is because they got complaisant. They go away for a bit and they forget how to write music. This won’t happen with us. And I think it’s time we get back in and start writing as soon as this tour is done. We’re going to lock ourselves away in a house in the middle of nowhere, without Internet and start writing. So I think that now is the time to start writing.
You mainly tour as a support band nowadays. Will you try – before the second album is out – to do some kind of a headlining tour, even if that implies being back to smaller venues.
Yeah, totally. When we released the first album, we did like a headlining tour in the UK, like 17 shows. I’d love to go back around the UK now. We’ve built with Trivium and we’re gonna continue to build with festivals throughout the summer towards the end of the year, you know? I’d love to, yeah.
Let’s put music aside for one question. As a young Brit, what does the Brexit mean to you?
Argh! What a hard question! (laughter) I mean it pisses me off. I don’t really know what’s happening at the moment. Being in a band isn’t gonna make things easier. It’s gonna make everyone divided. And I don’t have a problem with foreign people in my fucking country, it’s absolutely fine. I love travelling around in Europe freely. It sucks but that’s democracy so I’ve just got to bite my lip and just get on with it.
Hellfest now. What does the festival represent for you?
Hellfest represents… Between that and Rock Am Ring and Download UK, I suppose… It’s like the 3 heavyweight festivals, really. I suppose you’ve got Graspop in there too. I’ve never been but everyone at home says how awesome that festival is. That’s the one festival this summer where everybody in the band is like “Holy shit, we’re on the mains stage, we’re 2nd on! What the fuck? Northlane is playing before us! How has that happened?”. We’re so excited. That’s the top of Everest for the year for us! It’s gonna be huge. It’s incredible: we’re playing with Prophets Of Rage and Linkin Park. This is mental. Absolutely mental!
As a festival-goer: which concerts wouldn’t you miss?
Probably the Shvpes one! (laughter) I reckon… Tell you what? I always love seeing While She Sleeps. I’ve never seen The Devil Wears Prada so definitely The Devil Wears Prada and While She Sleeps. And probably Prophets Of Rage: I love what they do individually but as a collective, I don’t know yet what to think about it. So I’ll probably stick around Prophets Of Rage.
To conclude, please, finish that sentence for me: “I have never told that story before and I probably shouldn’t but…”
Oh, fuck! I know the exact one that came to mind but I won’t say that! (laughter). I once slept in an Australian prison cell…. That’s probably the tamest kind of… That’s probably the one I would want printed out of the 2 options that came to mind, yeah. (smiles)
Many thanks to Roger (Replica).