By Mark Johnson on 31st July, 2016 at Y Not Festival, Derbyshire, UK
SikTh released their iconic debut album The Trees are Dead and Dried Out, Wait for Something Wild in 2003 to an audience that wasn’t quite ready for what it heard. Combining mesmerisingly complex and technical musicianship with a double whammy of vocal powerhouses, SikTh helped contribute to the birth of a tech-metal uprising in the UK alternative scene. The band’s second album Death of a Dead Day was equally impressive, turning up the heaviness while maintaining the complex arrangements, but it wasn’t enough to hold the six-piece together and in 2007, SikTh pressed pause on the band.
In 2014, the band reunited to play a show at the UK’s Download Festival and having rekindled the creative flame, soon announced a reunion, followed by the released of new EP Opacities – the band’s first piece of new music since 2006. Prior to the band’s headlining slot at Y Not Festival, we caught up with vocalist Mikee Goodman, bass player James Leach and drummer Dan Fjoord to discuss the circumstances leading up to the reunion and the future of the band.
ThePunkSite: What’s the vibe like in SikTh camp at the moment?
Mikee: It’s very exciting to be heading off to America soon and we were pleased how well received Opacities was. A lot more people have taken an interest in us and we have a lot more fans now. We want to do what we never did before and spread around America. Before, when we weren’t a touring band, a lot of people might’ve bypassed us, so we want to spread the word again now and make a proper full album.
James: We’re obviously all a bit older now so I think we understand each other better which makes things easier.
ThePunkSite: When you played those first reunion shows back in 2014, was the intention always to make another go of it?
Mikee: No. The way the band is, we had to take baby steps with everything. We had to just do a gig and then after that we wanted to do a UK tour. Then we wanted to see how we get on because if you commit to doing a full run like this now, it puts too much pressure on you and, for some people, it doesn’t work out. Justin has just left because it’s no longer what he wants to do. But then after those little steps we wondered how it would be to write some new music.
James: We did Opacities as an EP rather than jumping straight into an album because we didn’t want to mess anyone around with big statements and commit to a lot of stuff, it was easier to do little things at a time and see how they felt and then we started to get to the point where we felt we could do this as a full time band.
Mikee: Some people in the band want to do it always, but some of us do different things. Dan Weller is a music producer, James is in a lot of other bands and does a lot of other things, I do video directing, but number one is our music. Working on music is the thing that really excites me over everything else.
ThePunkSite: Why was now the right time to do this again? Was there anything in particular that sparked the desire to play those first shows?
James: At Download Festival in 2013, the year before we did it as our first time back and me, Dan Fjoord, Dan Weller and Mikee were there and it was the first time that the four of us had been back in the same place at the same time. Being at a metal festival watching lots of bands it was quite inspiring and we thought it would be cool if we could at least just play Download one more time.
Mikee: There was a cooling off period for six years and that’s a long while to mature as a person. Once you’re out of a touring band where you’re consistently playing, things are different in the world and you start to appreciate things more. I remember looking out at Download [at the reunion show] and I’ve never been so appreciative of an audience because I’d started to think in my head that I’d never get to see that again.
ThePunkSite: Justin recently left the band to focus on being a music producer. With every member of SikTh having other things going on, how were the rest of you able to juggle priorities to make this work?
Mikee: We all have lots of other things we do but with Justin he didn’t firstly consider himself a musician and the rest of the band did. He considers himself a producer and he’s a lot happier like that. He didn’t want to make us unhappy by not being able to do gigs and we didn’t want to make him unhappy by putting him under too much pressure. He said he thought it would be better for the band if he left and he didn’t want to do it anymore.
James: Everyone has other things that they do but the other five of us were willing to split that time but for Justin he wanted to focus 100% of his time on the production. There are a lot of great musicians who love making music but they just don’t want to tour and Justin wasn’t up for doing those longer tours, which is fair play.
Mikee: For something like this upcoming American tour, it’s a massive commitment.
ThePunkSite: Was Joe Rosser always the natural replacement for Justin?
Mikee: No he wasn’t. Justin said we should go with Joe and we tried a few other people, but Joe understands technical music and he can do lots of variations of styles, he’s young and he’s up for touring.
James: He’s been in Aliases with Pin for over a year now and if he was a bad egg then Pin would’ve sussed that out by now, but the fact is he’s a good dude.
ThePunkSite: When Opacities was released, I was struck by how natural a flow it seemed from Death of a Dead Day, despite the seven year gap in between. Did you deliberately try and ease that flow or did that happen naturally once you all got together to write again?
Dan: It was a pretty natural continuation and there were a few ideas that we used on the record that we’d written before the band split up. I feel it was a record for our fans.
Mikee: I loved Opacities because it really grooved. Philistine Philosophies in particular is a really cool, groovy song and I loved doing the last song Days Are Dreamed, I like the hypnotic sounding style. I’m really proud of that EP.
James: We like a lot of prog bands like King Crimson, so it was fun to mix in some experimental themes with the technical side.
Mikee: It has lot of things on there, lots of people draw different things from each song. To be honest with you [Days Are Dreamed] for me personally gets really emotional on the vocal side. If you can make something work emotionally in music and get that vibe across then that’s what we want to do.
ThePunkSite: So we can expect more of that style on future music?
Mikee: We’re writing at the moment and for the new stuff, we want to progress it from there and go a lot more experimental.
Dan: Personally what would be great to do on this next record is to take the best bits from the first two records but also bring some new stuff to the table. The first two records were stylistically different: the second is a lot more technical and the first is more aggressive with more drawn-out sections and it would be great to combine those things in a better way than we’ve already done.
James: The first EPs and album were the first era of the band’s sound. I’d put Opacities in with Death of a Day although it definitely trod some new ground; it’s not an addendum to the album but it’s closest to that sound. With the new material we’ll be entering the third stage of our sound.
Mikee: We all strive to new heights. Everyone’s grown to be better musicians than we used to be and we’re capable of a lot more than we’ve done before, so we hope we’re able to make what we imagine we can make.
ThePunkSite: I attended one of the reunion shows in 2014 and those songs that were recorded back in the early 2000s still sound fresh and relevant. It seems that your sound hasn’t aged at all over the years and even now, Opacities still sounds at the top of its game. Does it surprise you that there’s been little innovation in your genre while you’ve been absent?
Mikee: Yeah I am quite surprised. When I went to Techfest I didn’t know anything about the new bands but when I’d listened to bands all day then heard us, we do still sound fresh.
James: When we first started the band we hoped the sound would have longevity because we weren’t pandering to whatever the trend was at the time, we just did our own thing.
Mikee: If you’re a follower you’ll just go into the mist, no-one gives a shit, even if you’re given a load of hype, you’re lucky to last five years. In my opinion a lot of the bands nowadays have a lack of imagination.
James: I don’t know, there were a lot of bands like that back in the day as well!
Dan: I think a lot of extreme music has always had an impact on mainstream music in a way. When you’re looking for something more inspiring you go to the underground scenes but personally I’m not hearing much extreme stuff coming out anymore, it’s almost as though it’s got as extreme as it can get.
Mikee: There are good bands out there but there’s not enough funding to help them develop. Often these days the record labels only invest in safety – they look at what’s popular and keep signing more of the same, it doesn’t encourage any risks.
James: Labels used to invest in the potential of bands and think that maybe they’d take two or three albums to reach their potential. Now though if you’re not selling enough of your first album, you’re done. Plus there’s a huge retro scene nowadays. Even outside of music, this decade it’s all been about the novelty value of looking at something that’s old and vintage.
ThePunkSite: Finally, to get us excited for the next phase of SikTh, what stage in the writing process are at you at?
Dan: We’ve got maybe eight structures together but there’s still lots of work to be done and tons of other ideas.
James: We’ve got those skeleton structures and they need to be fleshed out. Our stuff always takes a long time to come together!
Dan: It’s always hard writing a SikTh record!
Mikee: I’m writing poetry all the time and I’ve written some vocals and I think we’ll be able to give a better description in a few months. But we do want to be more experimental and just go more extreme in every way. We’re hoping to have something released soon, but definitely next year.