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Metal Special: SikTh

Britain’s forerunners of technical progressive
metal reunite to play select festivals in UK,
Germany and Nepal and guitarist Dan Weller
isn’t ruling out new material

Anurag Tagat Jun 12, 2014
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Sikth: (from left) Mikee Goodman, Dan Foord, Graham Pinney, Justin Hill, Dan Weller and James Leach

Sikth: (from left) Mikee Goodman, Dan Foord, Graham
Pinney, Justin Hill, Dan Weller and
James Leach

Six years is not a long time for bands to spend apart. A lot of bands, like prog rockers Tool, have spent more than six years together and still haven’t released an album. However, six years in the now-saturated modern progressive metal/djent scene of the world, sounds like an era altogether. UK technical progressive metal band SikTth called it a day in 2008, after vocalists Mikee Goodman and Justin Hill had already left the band in the summer of 2007. By then, they had played at UK’s Download Festival and become big in Japan for their two full-length albums – The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out Wait for Something Wild [2003] and Death of a Dead Day [2006]. They had signed off on a high, with reasonable causes for disbanding ”“ pursuing solo projects and careers in music production.

Where SikTh left off, djent bands such as TesseracT, Periphery and Animals As Leaders picked up, citing SikTth’s alternate guitar tunings, unconventional time signatures, tempo changes and dramatic vocals as a formative influence. Says guitarist Dan Weller about SikTh’s influence during their hiatus, “It felt like time sped up a bit. Not just about the bands that came up, but the platform for the music industry changed. It’s now based on Facebook and Twitter. Now, in the world of social media, so many conversations happen every day and I think it seems like a different era when we were together.” But after the worldwide proliferation of the djent scene, reaching Indian shores as well, with bands like Skyharbor and Noiseware, SikTh are now making a comeback. But they aren’t rushing into the studio yet. After announcing in December 2013 that SikTh would reunite to play at Download Festival in June and later at German prog metal festival Euroblast, the six-piece ended up in the same room only in January ”“ not for jamming, but for a photoshoot. It was only in April that members began rehearsing their old songs. Weller spoke to rolling stone India just as he was heading to his first SikTh jam in six years.

RS: What is it like to be finally back again?

Dan Weller: It feels great to be back. In fact, as we speak, I’m in the car and on my way to rehearsal with the band. I’m very excited. It’s very real. The last couple of months have been a blur, actually.

The new wave of prog metal and djent picked up around the same time that SikTh broke up. A lot of bands now cite you as an influence. What was it like watching that scene explode and not being around to ride the wave?

I don’t necessarily think of it that way. Either way, we actually considered ourselves to be a part of the old school of bands ”“ we were around and promoting ourselves before MySpace and when being on the Internet wasn’t so important [for a band].

As for the djent scene with Periphery and stuff like that ”“ it’s the thought of the music and when it comes out. It’s accelerated now. It felt like time sped up a bit. Not just about the bands that came up, but the platform for the music industry changed. Now, in the world of Twitter and Facebook, so many conversations happen every day and I think it seems like a different era when we were together.

So have other members in the band jammed already? What is it like trying to play those songs again?

Me, Loord [drummer Dan Foord] and James [Leach, bassist] are jamming for the first time this week. Mikee [Goodman, vocals] and Justin [Hill, vocals] are having their first rehearsal together as well. We still haven’t all jammed together but first it takes muscle to get back to playing guitar parts like that [laughs].

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Now that SikTh is getting back together, how do you think it will affect your project In Colour, with Dan Tompkins [from prog metallers Skyharbor] and your production work with other bands?

My work as a producer usually involves getting booked and getting into the studio with a band. That kind of stuff ”“ booking dates ”“ happens way in advance and it’s just a matter of shifting things around. I’m spending six weeks with [electro-hardcore band] Enter Shikari right now. We’ll manage.

As for In Colour, I’ve known Dan [Tompkins] for 10 years and followed him through TesseracT and now Skyharbor. We just released our single “The Mess We’re In” in March. In addition to all the bands I’m producing and even though SikTh are playing again, In Colour is my priority. Things like being able to buy a house was something you’d want to work towards. At the same time, to have that kind of recognition [for SikTh] as a band, building up from when we were 16 to now, it’s almost more enriching than money [laughs].

In a few interviews that were conducted in 2006 and 2007, there was always a mention of something along the lines of “if SikTh splits up now, we go out on a high.” What was the atmosphere in the band like after Mikee and Justin left in 2007?

It was quite tense, because Mikee had lost his love for it and Justin was on his own. I was inspired by producing because I saw myself having a career in the field. At that point, we had a record deal, we could have made another album, but we felt it wouldn’t have the heart and soul that it needed. I had a problem with that and so did the other guys in the band, to just carry on like that and make shit albums. We didn’t want to do that. We were still selling out tour shows and all that so we thought we’d go out on a high. We were set to get back together only when our lives worked out, which is why we’re doing it this year.

It’s not been long enough to call it a proper breakup. I hadn’t seen Pin [guitarist Graham Pinney] for six years up until now. We’ve been away with our own lives. We have lot of memories to share, which is great.

You mentioned in an old interview that as SikTh, you play “extreme music.” What was the idea behind making music like that ”“ unconventional guitar tunings, two vocalists and dramatized vocals?

It was to be one of a kind. Most of our favorite bands were American. There was a huge scene in the UK, but at that point in the metal scene, there wasn’t anyone really screaming very well.

Pinney and I went to school together and we saw this UK scene and understood what was missing. There was a lot of death metal and a lot of shit death metal, but one thing I realized it was missing was musicianship. It was about looking cool and bands having the right hair. So we went back and thought about it as, “Let’s craft songs that sound right and are very difficult to play but not just noise.” There are a lot of fantastic bands ”“ very extreme, intense and in-your-face and have brutal elements. We ended up having all that ”“ including a melodic theme and structure that breaks away from verse-chorus patterns. They were supposed to be listenable and for people to get into them. We made music that lasts and became timeless. I’m proud of that.

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About the two vocalists thing ”“ Mikee got a chance to do it. It didn’t always work, but we spent a lot of time on it and that’s what has made it unique.

So you’re playing Download and Euroblast, and also a show in Nepal in October. Are there any more gigs to be confirmed? Surely, you got calls from India

Yes, lots of offers, definitely. We want to get back to Japan, because we have lots of fans there. We’d obviously love to come to India as well, because I have friends in India. Australia, South America and I’d like a UK tour at some point. There’s stuff that’s being discussed at the moment but I’m not allowed to say, for some reason. There are other things ”“ but we’re not going to go ahead and make an album and go on touring the rest of the year. We’ll just do some select shows ”“ play to people who haven’t seen us before or lived too far. I think the music we made in the past is still chemistry to people. We’ll start again, and get in a room together and that dynamic will create new music. We’ll start breaking out the riffs and see where that takes us.

How did the gig in Nepal, at the Silence Festival, come about?

I actually met the promoters [of Silence Festival] at an In Colour show, with Dan Tompkins. They were there in London and told me about their festival. I put them through to our agent and they contacted him and they contacted Mikee. We were initially a bit”¦ unsure. Because you know, it seemed like a strange gig [laughs]. But I’ve been sent links to the previous bands that played there ”“ [Dutch prog metal band] Textures and stuff ”“ and it’s really cool. It’s cool to go to a different part of the world and they’re trying to start a scene out there and spread the music and if we can help, that’s great.

You’ve been following a lot of the bands that are as experimental as SikTh and even produced records with some of them. Which bands would you like to tour with?

There have been talks of [Canadian experimental metal band] Protest The Hero, because they’ve been in the same zone as us. We’d love to tour with them. There are lot of crazy other bands we’d like to tour with ”“ [French groove/ death metal band] Gojira, for example. I played a show with Gojira ages ago in France, which was great. [American prog metallers] Periphery ”“ I’m sure we’d love to play with them and then there’s obviously our friends in Skyharbor. I’m sure we’ll get to do it at some point.

You had mentioned in a pre-2008 interview that you were writing for a third SikTh album. Is a new album in the works or is the band focusing on gigs at the moment?

I guess there’s a certain sound that comes from six of us being together in a room, I don’t know what it sounds like, but it often comes together. We still have the same quality control ”“ we like the same bands, we dislike the same bands, we don’t want to stop. We still have the ability to write music which is strong, but I don’t know what it would sound like. We’d still make it heavy, because that’s what SikTh is. If I wanted to do pop, I have In Colour. It [SikTh] is about creating riffs that take ages to work out, ages to play”¦ structural matters, basically. We’d probably take a year to work on it if we want to make sure it’s very special. What I don’t want us to do is to sit on it now and say, ”˜That was a disappointment. Why did we do that?’

This article appeared in the June 2014 issue of ROLLING STONE India

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