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Richie Wicks (Shadowkeep)

Interview with Richie Wicks from Shadowkeep
by Grigoris Chronis at 21 November 2008, 8:46 AM

We had to wait six whole years for a new SHADOWKEEP album. Finally, one of the finest British Heavy Metal acts in the last decade releases a brand new album and - to our ears - you should expect tons of smiles to the hearing of The Hourglass Effect. Newcomer (or not so?) singer Richie Wicks puts us in the picture.

Richie, Hello from Metal-Temple magazine! At last, a new SHADOWKEEP album! So, first question would be nothing different: what eventually happened and we had to wait for six whole years for The Hourglass Effect to be released? There were rumors; there were statements/posts…

It's really quite scary how quickly 6 years can jet by! In a nutshell, I was still with TYGERS OF PAN TANG in 2004, hadn't really signed up with SHADOWKEEP until 2005, six months at least for me to write the concept and lyrics for the record and come up with the artwork design, the music of which was in an advanced writing stage by Chris and Nikki, recording in 2006, a year or so of negotiating a new record deal and rehearsing and all of a sudden it's 2008, the album's almost out and we've already done some warm-up shows for the proper album support tour for 2009! An amazing course of events that have taken us the dreaded 6 years everyone seems to be quoting at us - all we have to do now is get that process down to about 2 years for the next album and a bit of continuity.

Did the band feel so 'let down', even considering breaking up at some time all these years?

I can categorically say that at no point did splitting up SHADOWKEEP ever enter our heads. We have been so focused on getting the product and lineup right that ending our journey would have been a laughable consideration. We believe so much in our new record that ending our efforts now before we've even brought the music to the people would be terribly selfish of ourselves. No, I'm afraid you'll have to put up with us for a bit longer yet!

At last, this is now good news we're talking about, since The Hourglass Effect will be out in the next days. Opening question: under what circumstances did you decide to collaborate with Melissa Records? They seem to have done a fine job with their previous catalogue, too, but they have not been around for many years though. Are you confident things will roll out as desired?

We are as confident as any band who have been able to negotiate every part of their contract that matters can be. Melissa Records have been instrumental in the final release of the record, they are a diligent bunch of individuals that get to know the material and support you every step of the way. They haven't tried once to step in the way artistically, or tried to block any of our content or creativity, it's quite a breath of fresh air to be involved in such a growing label, I'm sure together we'll go from strength to strength. And they're Dutch too, and the Dutch fuckin' rule when it comes to Metal people!

Do you support the opinion that it's better to be a 'leader' band in a small label than a 'follower' one in big label?

I think there are advantages to both scenarios to be honest, at the end of the day it's the label that gets the music distributed to all the outlets and keeps it available to the fans for as long as possible who do the best job, right? They aren't responsible if it's a bad album. It's not always the big label that keeps the album in the shops, nor do they always sign the best bands. Our genre of Metal would be in serious trouble if it wasn't for the smaller labels, they keep us hungry, they keep us focused, and above all they keep us out there!

Apart from the new album and new label, there's also a new addition in the lineup. You have joined the camp and - from what we hear - you fit like a glove. How did you come to cooperate with SHADOWKEEP in the first place?

Well, if I may answer that question I was collaborating with Chris and Nikki before even the first 6-track EP surfaced in 1999, in a project we were going to call Sire! Dark Tower had a working title of Go For The Throat, I still have the original lyric sheet I wrote. But like a lot of things in life timing wasn't right, and we weren't right for each other at the time so I went off and did ANGEL WITCH and the TYGERS whilst Chris and Nikki carried on with what would become SHADOWKEEP going on to record the first two fantastic records and seeing the world on tour. Even so, I think it was in 2003 that I almost quit the TYGERS for the KEEP and even had a couple of rehearsals when Roger left. Still the timing was wrong, but we eventually got our act together, literally!

Not to forget, are there any more lineup changes?

We've managed to get our ongoing drummer nightmare sorted with the addition of Omar Hayes this year. We also have a permanent keyboard player for the first time ever called Scott (he's so new I haven't even found out what his surname is yet, but we call him Scooter on tour). That's it now, we have a brilliant lineup of fantastic individuals and so far nobody's been murdered (laughs).

On to The Hourglass Effect: it took you so many years to release this third album. Third albums is said to be the most crucial ones in a band's career. Do you share this opinion, do you feel the same for The Hourglass Effect?

No I don't, isn't it normally the difficult SECOND album that they say makes or breaks a band. In a way the 6-year absence might have helped us as we have resurfaced meaner, heavier with a sound that rivals any other Power Metal band out there in today's market. The Hourglass Effect is a mighty record that represents the band in 2008, we'll have a hard job to top it with our NEXT album so maybe in our case it's the difficult FOURTH album. As long as everyone digs T.H.E. that's all that matters.

Are you worried many fans may have forgotten you? These are tough times, with tons of bands around, overloaded promotion for everything, endless information…

Again no, because there isn't much evidence that we have been forgotten when you look at the volume of messages we've been receiving and the reviews we've had so far. You're right though, there is a glut of bands out there all vying for position in the fan's CD collections, it's up to us to be good enough to be in there somewhere.

Are you looking forward to re-release your two previous albums at some time in the near future, so as to fully bring SHADOWKEEP's name back on the Metal map?

Not sure what the deal is there, I personally haven't heard anything of a re-release of the first two albums and I'm not sure of the legalities of that either but if the fans want them then we should be able to provide them, no question.

Who was in charge of the music/lyrics this time? Did you use the same patterns as in A Chaos Theory? Even if six years later, what 'key' points would you pinpoint for each album in comparison? I can e.g. see an even more impressive work in the guitars themes (both rhythm and leads), plus it seems you follow relevant paths in The Hourglass Effect, with this Prog glimpse you always had (I think).

Well I was in charge of the lyric and melody writing whereas Chris and Nikki came up with all the music except for the last song on the piano where I wrote the music as well. Not sure what you mean by patterns and key points, I guess Chris'll fill you in a lot more clearly on the finer points of writing the guitar parts of this record than I ever could, he's a virtuoso whose approach to his instrument is unlike anything I've ever experienced. All I can say is that it was a pleasure and a nightmare to have the opportunity to write a concept to his and Nikki's unique brand of Metal. Definitely the most challenging job I've ever had.

Even a mainly (British) band, how did you come up with a more American technical Heavy/Power Metal sound, anyway? Do you thing The Hourglass Effect (or any SHADOWKEEP album, in general) does feature elements that shout you're a British band?

Well we don't go out with a preconceived idea of what we think we should sound like. If we sound American in any way it's probably because Stony is American! I hope people do have problems pigeonholing us though because it'll mean we've created a unique sound that no one else has and that's what's most important to us. There is an image of an incinerated Houses Of Commons on the back of the CD cover, that's no political statement, it's just a nod to where we're from, the Britishest part of the album.

Since we only have the promo copy for the time being, in what way does the album's title relate to (any or all of) the songs? Is it my idea or you're pointing out a Sci-Fi/globe concept in The Hourglass Effect?

Yes, the overall concept of the record is a global catastrophy involving every single living organism. But each song also has it's own undercurrent so hopefully people will be able to relate to the contents of each 'chapter' and see something of themselves in there.

I would not keep out from asking for How Many Times Have We Tried To Save The World's existence. It's the last one in the tracklist, but I think it's my favorite one.

That's very kind of you and very good to hear as it's the only song on the album I wrote alone. I was actually chancing my arm when I wrote it and recorded it during my final vocal session. I wasn't sure how well it would go down with the rest of the guys but they soon got into it. I needed to have that song there to express the final emotion of how we've let ourselves down so badly in how we've treated our planet, and it's kinda unfinished. Maybe we'll revisit it one day with a full blown orchestra and band version seeing as it's creating a bit of a stir.

What do you think you've learned (as a band but also as humans) all these years that SHADOWKEEP's been around? In the midst of good and bad times, is creating music still the driving force for you?

Absolutely, music first, everything else second. Naturally we love to bring the material to the stage too. I think we've learned that you really can mature as a person and as a musician if you have a constant to refer to. For us now that constant is SHADOWKEEP and we will just keep improving and creating until we just can't do it any more, which will hopefully not be for some years yet!

Do you listen to what fans have to say, in general? Loyalty is one thing (a good thing) in Metal music, but isn't it kinda stressful to always have to explain something to demanding people for e.g. some style alteration or the sound or whatever?

We always listen to what our fans say, if they stopped asking anything of us we'd cease to exist so as long as they are with us we will be there for them. There is nothing stressful about explaining our movements to our fans, it means they are listening to us and if we can evoke a question from them with our music then we will do our very best to answer it, that's what we are there for, we welcome that responsibility with open arms.

Many things changed for SHADOWKEEP the last years but the producer stays the same, haha! THRESHOLD's Karl Groom has done a terrific job again! Are you old friends with Karl? Guess this will be a long-term collaboration, right?

Oh man, Karl is our rock and we owe him a lot for his patience and ability to get the very best out of us. He's been there for SHADOWKEEP from day one and I can't imagine working with anyone else now.

Richie, thanks a lot for your spare time. I guess you're in the making of your Live Dates plan sooner or later. So, we're just waiting to see SHADOWKEEP onstage as soon as possible!

Well, we just played Mario's Metal Mania II in Tilburg so if you missed it that's a real shame. WE WILL BE BACK! Look out for us in 2009, it's going to be a vintage year for us and we want all our fans to be a BIG part of it. Thanks for this chat, been a pleasure…


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