SikTh: The Transmitting Begins Again
Forefathers of modern prog metal SikTh, from the UK, on touring comforts, writing new music and coming to India for BIG69 Festival
When a band is back together after seven years, things could go either way, but luckily for UK prog metallers SikTh, who regrouped this year, it felt like they had never been apart. Vocalist Mike Goodman quit the band in 2007 and subsequently, the rest of his band members called it quits. Says Goodman, “It was great to get those songs out again. It’s a very uplifting thing to scream such angry vocals. I remember I played football the night I did that – just a friendly thing with people, and I remember playing really well, because I never felt so uplifted.” This year, SikTh’s Download Festival performance got the loudest buzz. In the span of six months, everyone from the UK to Germany to Japan and Nepal got a taste of the new, re-energized, SikTh. They’re now heading to India, to headline at two-day metal festival BIG69, in Mumbai this month. Says Goodman, “I’m excited – I don’t think anyone in the band has been to India, so it’s obviously very different and exciting for us. We went to Kathmandu [the band played at Silence Festival in Nepal in October 2014] and we didn’t know what to expect, and we don’t know what to expect from India either.”
The modern prog metal scene was ready to explode when SikTh called it quits in 2008 after vocalists Goodman and Justin Hill left the band the previous year. The band is now finding its way back and Goodman is optmistic about their future. He says, “We’re older now, the headline tours are a lot nicer to do. We’re a bigger band than we used to be, so it’s a little bit more comfortable.” Guitarist Dan Weller had said in an earlier interview, “It felt like time sped up a bit. Not just about the bands that came up, but the platform for the music industry changed. I think it seems like a different era when we were together.” Goodman adds that while their two albums – Death of a Dead Day and The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out Wait for Something Wild – may have set the precedent for the djent or modern prog metal scene, it’s already become saturated in less than a decade. Says Goodman, “In the djent scene or the metalcore scene, a lot of bands sound very similar. There’s a lack of experimentation. It seems like there’s a lack of inspiration in trying to look for who you are, within your music and to express yourself. Rather, fitting in a scene seems to be more of a goal, which is not great.”
In his interview with ROLLING STONE India, Goodman talks about their India debut at BIG69, being on the road for their 13-city UK tour, side projects and possibility of a new album.
RS: You guys are just back from the first UK tour in about seven years. What was that like?
Mikee Goodman: It was fun, man. I’m kind of glad it’s over, to be honest, but it was cool. It was a good way to end it [in London]. I didn’t really sleep for two months, so it was hard [laughs].
Was the last show in London one of your best? That’s certainly what I read on your Facebook page online.
It was very special. When you are away from something for so long, you start to believe that it won’t happen again. Even if people start talking about it, you just don’t think you can have such feelings again. I think because of how epic it was and how many people were there. The entire bottom floor just jumped and rocked out in a positive way through the whole thing. I just felt a lot of positivism in the room.
I also saw those tweets about you playing FIFA Football with [guitarist] Dan Weller.
I beat him man [laughs]. Actually, I scored my dream goal [playing against him] and I have to put it up soon. It’s great. Those two people – Dan Weller and me – I make music videos, when I’m not on tour. I usually work nonstop. Dan Weller is a real hard worker too, he’s a music producer. Both of us together are so hardworking… I actually seem to have forgotten a DVD for Dan Weller, which he asked me to take. It was live audio tracks from a SikTh gig and I forgot about it.
It [touring] was a really positive thing for both of us, because we didn’t have to think of anything else apart from being in a band and being on the road. It was really different for everyone. It was really cool to just be on your own and not think and just play computer games [laughs].
What is it like getting back with these guys in the band, in particular?
Some people’s personalities have changed, some people are similar to how they were. You just get used to being around the guys everyday but you work out different ways of how to spend your day. When you’re on tour, you’re on a van every day or tour bus or whatever. We were in a van and then in hotels – because we prefer that to being on a tour bus and sleeping in the same quarters and all that. It’s a bit much, man. It was kinda funky. It was different for me, because I went on my own to Japan and then also Kathmandu [for shows]. I kinda did things slightly different than others. Me and Dan distracted ourselves by playing FIFA, we were like ‘right, I’m going to beat you at FIFA’. That was our thing. I was eating a lot of Japanese food, and I’m looking forward to Indian food.
Back in 2007 when you left, did you feel you needed a cooling period, away from everything related to SikTh?
Well, it wasn’t a cooling off period, I just needed to get out of the band. I didn’t want to be in the band any more. I felt I just wanted to live a different existence.
And you did that, with stuff like [metal band] Outpatients and Primal Rock Rebellion, a studio-only side project with Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith.
I find it very hard not to be in a band, you know? I wanted to do different styles of music, so many different things and express myself in a different way, and also see how it is working with other musicians. And when you’re in a fulltime band, it’s really hard to do that, unless you’ve got a special arrangement in some way. It’s hard to be experimental in so many different ways. If some guy had to do it, I wanted to be that guy.
I think it’s probably good that we stopped, gathered our thoughts, relaxed and went on to experiment. After a while, you grow a bit older and think, maybe we can make this work. ‘We can do this, do that’ and we can try figure out a way to be happy and be on the road together. That’s what we tried to do.
With Outpatients, we’re changing. Our band is now going to be called Outside the Coma. We’re renaming it, and we have a new CD coming up in the spring. We’re working on it right now and it’s sounding nice.
Primal Rock Rebellion is basically me and Adrian Smith in a studio. We hit it off many years ago, we had friends of his family and became very close. I know his family well and then he asked me to come around because his son was a fan of SikTh. So he asked me to play his son’s birthday party. We don’t really play a lot of birthday parties, but when Adrian Smith asks you, we said ‘Yes, we’ll come around your house and do that’. We played there and then he asked me to come and jam with him, and write with him, maybe. He said he liked my vibe, he said ‘You sound different. It’s so rare to have a different voice’ and it came out really good. It was over a six-year period that we wrote that album. We got to do something we don’t usually do. It takes so long over one thing and go over and over it, that was nice for us.
Does SikTh still play all the songs that you used to play before, or are some really tough to rehearse now?
All the songs we played before, we play now. I think all the musicians [in SikTh] had it tough, but I think because the drummer [Dan Foord] and the bassist [James Leach] were still in other bands and often practise SikTh songs – because they do clinics and workshops and stuff – so I think it was probably harder on the guitarists, because they hadn’t played the songs in so long.
It’s not that hard for me and Justin [Hill]. We rehearsed together before, about four times together in our home studio and had our own ProTools sessions of it as well. We were better than ever, so it was cool.
No one’s ever done the kind of dramatized, unpredictable vocals that you and Justin put together for albums.
Well, I wrote those parts and I divide it up with a color code on the computer and send it to Justin. I think ‘Okay, I do this bit and he [Justin] does that bit’. We chop it up and he learns it and we get together and sing it. What you hear is just the way I write vocals.
I just do what the music tells me to do. I don’t try to be like anyone else. I just think about what I want to do and not what’s been done before, try to create something new. Originality is very important to me. If it sounds like someone else or if I think someone else has done this before, I would change it.
Dan Weller mentioned in an earlier interview that SikTh was mostly inspired by American metal bands. What kind of stuff influenced your style of vocals?
When I was growing up, I was listening to stuff like KoRn. I really appreciate Jonathan Davis as an expressive vocalist. I’m very different from him, but he’s very expressive. I’m talking about metal vocals – I like System of a Down, Pantera, [New York hardcore] Vision of Disorder.
I also listen to the Doors, Neil Young, Velvet Underground – a lot of different kinds of music. I think between the Sixties and Nineties, it was so important for bands to be original. There was so much new music coming out and so many new bands that were in the same genre, like grunge. But even those bands like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden – they all have their own original sound as well. That’s what’s missing from bands nowadays. It’s so easy to record now, so it may bypass the whole finding yourself as a person. It’s a fast track, but it’s not always the best way.
Is there any new SikTh material in the works?
That would depend on the musicians, because if they write it, then I would write a new song. I’ve said this for years, actually. Until then, I’m going to do Outside the Coma, writing – I’m not going to wait around. If people want to hear my new stuff, that’s cool. But if they keep saying ‘We want to hear some new SikTh’, I’ll say, ‘Give me some new music and I’ll do it.’ Until then, I will do my other stuff.
I hope there’ll be new SikTh stuff, but if there isn’t… I think there will be. Even if there are three tracks, rather than an album, I would rather have three tracks than none. I don’t know how many tracks we’ll do or when we’ll record, because Dan Weller is so busy. Justin is also a producer, he’s booked up a lot.
What is your setlist for the India show going to be like?
I think we’re going to play our UK headline set mainly and then kinda see what happens. I think this is going to be the only SikTh show within a six-month period, you know. I don’t think we’ll play until the summer festivals again. It’ll be nice, we’ll put all we’ve got into this one.
I also heard that in India, we have some bands who have covered our songs.
That’s true. That’s one way that SikTh’s music spread in India in the first place. There’s a hardcore band called Scribe who used to play “Pussyfoot.”
Oh shit. Are they a big band in India now?
Yeah, they are.
Sounds good, man. There was another one. Who were on the cover of rolling stone in India. Polar Reverse? Reverrse Polarity! That’s crazy for us. India is the only country we’ve known for anyone to do a cover of our songs, that’s pretty funky.
This article appeared in the January 2015 issue of Rolling Stone India. For the full interview pick up the latest issue.