We were fortunate enough to catch up with the brilliant band Shaven Primates following their excellent release, ‘Child Of Dirt’. Read the full interview now!
Hi Shaven Primates, tell us about yourself?
We’re a five-piece band from Oxford that was built on ideas of self-help, life experience and observations. Our music depicts those moments in time for how they felt, and we just write things in whatever way we feel is right.
What is your songwriting process?
This last album, I was trying to kick things off again and felt like I was stuck as I was just starting therapy, so on this occasion, I wrote down all the things in life that felt most painful and significant as a list, gave them names, and then came up with sounds and feelings that matched up with those.
Once I had an idea of the music, I would start on vocals and how they would tie in rhythmically. I then had most of our demos together and decided to start looking for people to form a band with.
Tell us about your latest release, ‘Child Of Dirt’?
Back in January 2016, I had just broken the point where I realised I needed to get help. I was at my rock bottom with addiction, I was having PTSD flashbacks which were scaring my son, who was then four years old, and I was just at a point where I had realised I was swept away from life experiences that really I should have sought professional help for.
My musical hero, David Bowie, had just died, and I needed an outlet to write down this experience. This album was written to describe my problems with abuse as a child, through to sexuality when growing up and being bullied, to my near-death experience at 17 and losing my memory, and my aim was to complete the album by showing I had found help.
Although at the time of starting it, I wasn’t sure that would even be possible or that I would even get past the first song. As each one was made, I felt I grew from strength to strength, but the first one, ‘Child Of Dirt’, was the hardest as I was very nervous and self-critical.
You had a 17-year hiatus from music; what made you start making music again now?
I was absolutely stuck. When I was 17 years old, I got meningitis, and I was hospitalised. I lost my memory, losing all kinds of things from old friendships and life experiences to colour, smell, and the names of things, and even being able to stand up and walk at the start of it.
After that, I was so lost and scared, anxious about the world and finding my way back into it, so I dedicated myself to that. I was hugely into music before the hospital, writing stuff every day in my bedroom, but when I came back home to that room again, it just felt so disconnected.
So I put it to one side in the hope I might return to it. The longer that went on, the more I yearned for it, but the harder it seemed to tackle. I finally realised this was a gaping hole in my life, and I had to force it to happen.
What message do you think your music conveys to your fans?
Well, the idea of the album was to portray a child in need of help who was stuck and had no voice and how that person would grow and feel worse but then find help. There are various points that I hope someone can relate to and grasp the feeling behind it.
Who are your musical influences?
Bowie is an obvious one for me, along with Kate Bush Pink Floyd… We’ve got Dave Matthews Band with our drummer, Yes & King Crimson with our bassist, Tool, RHCP & porcupine tree with our guitarist, and Camel & David Byrne with our keyboardist. We do like to chuck whatever we can at something!
Who are your non-musical influences?
I can’t speak for the others, but myself, it’s a lot of the 80s and 90s culture, films & comedy. 2 people that stand out there are Robin Williams and Rik Mayall, and there’s a lot of political culture such as Thatcher’s working class.
What’s the best gig that you have ever played?
Our first big gig at the Bullingdon in Oxford was great – we had a big crowd, and it was the first time I’d got to show people what I’d talked about for so many months. I love all the gigs we’ve done so far, though!
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands/artists today?
The internet, live streaming, and the sheer mass of it all. It went from being localised and accessible to this great big needle in a haystack for people to be able to find artists that are unique and interesting. Also, the seeming necessity to be a specialist in social media! That is such a blockade to getting “out there”, but then the world is a big place.
What advice would you give to other bands/artists starting out?
My experience with art and music is that I would be my own worst critic, and that would stop me from basically doing anything at all. I’ve realised that my best work has just been a matter of daring to be average and just allowing stuff that’s quite good to be part of it, and then adding something else and making a decision on that.
The last album, there are a few things there that I wish I had the nerve to throw away, but then that’s done now, so I can move on.
That and never writing to please anyone other than myself – I’ve never been happy with the material that I know was just to please other people. Art is a personal expression.
What are your hopes for the next two years?
Get another album done! A new one with our full band with all their ideas and enjoy it. I love our band, our friendship, and anyone else enjoying it with us is a bonus.
FVMusicBlog March 2022