The story of SikTh – An interview with Dan Weller (Part 2)

Part 1 of this interview was published yesterday.

In the era they found themselves in, it’s bizarre to think a band making such ridiculous music (his words, not mine!) would find any sort of success. Nevertheless, with the rock press backing them, they released their debut LP The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out Wait for Something Wild in 2003. The record saw them tour with Machine Head, Anthrax and Killswitch Engage as well as playing Download Festival in 2003. It’s their sophomore record however, Death Of A Dead Day, that the personnel in the SikTh camp have been celebrating recently by playing most of the album in full alongside some tracks off their newest record The Future In Whose Eyes?.

As such, the conversation naturally flowed to the all-important album. Dan reminisces fondly, “If you’re in your early twenties and someone flies you to America to record a metal album and you’re getting paid money, it doesn’t get much better than that. That’s the dream. It fucking ruled. We were playing metal in Florida. No-one took it for granted and it’s great that we came away with something that’s given us an element of longevity”. Not only is it their highest charting album to date (or there about), it also provided the setlist with a volume of material that would remain in their shows to this day such as “Flogging The Horses”, “Bland Street Bloom” and “Sanguine Seas Of Bigotry”.

Looking back on its place in metal and the reverence it’s held in mathcore and djent circles, Dan reveals his own thoughts. “I think, if I’m honest, it’s just a fucking good metal album and good metal, when it connects with people, stays with them. I listen to my favourite metal albums from the 90’s as if they’ve just come out. I’ve been told by so many established guitarists and bands that Death Of A Dead Day was the beginning for them, and I think “Really? Fucking hell!”. His own perception of the recording process is less glamorous though. “For us it was just a bunch of dudes arguing and trying to write these really difficult songs”.

At the time however, DOADD didn’t get its time in the sun. A mere two years after its release, the band officially split following the departure of dual vocalists Mikee and Justin. “We split up for a reason, we couldn’t stay together”. Mikee, in an interview with The Independent even cited depression and a significant lack of inspiration for his leaving. Around this time, the records from SikTh and their Swedish contemporaries Meshuggah were morphing from the weird projects they appeared as, into genre pioneers and, as happens with every genre, as soon as one good band comes along, ten identical copies follow. “I could list bands all day long that are plagiarists. It doesn’t get said enough. The djent movement, more often than not, is Meshuggah cover bands and I still feel Meshuggah are better than all of them so they should just stop doing it”.

Dan’s distaste for this lack of originality runs deep and true and is well-documented over the years. “I’ve always been of the mindset of ‘stop using that fucking word’ because I associate it with soulless, nerdy guitarists in bedrooms trying to remember their own riffs and basically removing all the Hetfield”.

Indeed, the guitar-work in djent is something he feels very strongly about. “Every riff, even if it’s a really difficult one, should be a recognisable melody that someone would want to play in a guitar shop, you know what I mean?. When I hear “dudu du dududu du” I just think “What is that? What’s the fucking point of that?”. I really don’t connect with that scene. I like tunes, even if they’re really brutal. Even in SikTh, there are melodies, it’s not just atonal nonsense”.

It’s been established time and time again that the massive influence SikTh and Meshuggah have had over djent is undeniable. Does Dan see their influence though? “On a songwriting level I don’t see the influence at all if I’m honest”. He continues, “To be called some sort of ‘genre godfathers’ is good for the ego and while we didn’t make much money, and we didn’t, and even if we didn’t get to play arenas, which we also didn’t, that’s pretty cool; to have been influential and to see bands that are way bigger than us credit us as their main influence, while I’m not getting a piece of that pie, it still makes me pretty proud”.

Having stuck to their guns throughout their career, the guitarist is of the conviction that it all worked out eventually. “We were doing something that was quite left-of-field and no-one really got, but we knew what we were doing and we knew we were making music for the future and it almost seems to have been proven. It makes us feel quite confident in our convictions when it comes to songwriting”.

The djent movement certainly wasn’t without its perks for the band. As their hiatus in 2008 fell just in line with the way the internet and social media was starting to shape the industry, Dan suggests this alignment made the band appear somewhat “legendary”. With many articles addressing djent name-dropping SikTh and Meshuggah, it gave the bands a significant stature. “I’m not gonna lie, that’s one of the reasons we got back together. It was a good thing to capitalise on. People were talking about SikTh and djent all over the world, it made sense to come back. We were all missing it too”.

So, in late 2013, it was announced that the band were to reform for a reunion set at Download 2014. From there, the crowdfunded Opacities EP was released in 2015 and they toured the UK several times, once as support to Slipknot and Suicidal Tendencies. Their resurgence in popularity and successful reunion was no easy trip though. “To do SikTh costs us money. It costs us time. It means we can’t earn money. We do it for the love of it. I’d earn way more money in Sainsbury’s than in SikTh, truth be told. You have to come back if you want to do it, it has to be something you enjoy”.

Another fork in the road came in 2016 as original vocalist Justin Hill exited the group to be replaced by Joe Rosser, who Dan holds in high regard. “He’s brilliant onstage and he’s actually improved our live shows. That’s no disrespect to Justin, Joe’s just young and crazy. Him and Mikee bounce off of each other really well too”.

This brings us to the modern day, in which SikTh are playing Death Of A Dead Day nearly in full, alongside their 2017 release; The Future In Whose Eyes?. “Every night the reaction has been really intense and we’re getting to play the songs we don’t usually do that people have wanted to hear for ages. I know how that feels with my favourite bands myself. It’s the same for us, hearing the songs out loud. I’m used to hearing them coming out of a speaker”.

With the return to the album that’s fast approaching its 12th birthday, Dan elaborates; “I’m not playing them with a revival mentality, I’m playing them as if they’ve just been created and I’m hearing them for what they are more clearly. It’s not regressing back into that period, it’s really the opposite”.

Present day SikTh are no less bizarre-a-beast and as left-of-centre as they were in their inception and solidification at the beginning of the century. This is just a trait that follows them and is largely down to the formidable frontmanship of Mikee Goodman and you simply can’t talk about SikTh without addressing the Mikee in the room.

When asked to what extent SikTh is Goodman’s brainchild, Dan offers “It is very much his brainchild when it comes to vocals. In terms of the lyrics and the subject matter, that’s all him. He gives the songs a cinematic quality when it comes to the lyrics.”.  This doesn’t necessarily translate to music creation however. “The music is very much nothing to do with him but if he thinks something suits the lyrics, we’ll try and adapt it for him. It’s different to most other bands because it’s normal to focus on the vocal lines very early on. Not SikTh. SikTh are two different pieces of music, there’s instruments and there’s vocals. Really, we write pieces of music that then get passed over”.

With the past and present covered, the dialogue drifts to where the band are yet to go. So, what is the future in SikTh’s eyes? (see what I did there). “There are other countries that want this stuff as well so we may end up doing this in America at some point. We’ll probably play our first album in full eventually I would think. It’s a fun challenge and that album’s got a lot of fun songs”.

Before signing off and joining his bandmates before the show, Dan ponders any regrets or changes he would make to DOADD-era SikTh. “I wish we had been a little more savvy in capitalising in the boom of the internet. We’ve always been like ‘I’m not doing a fucking playthrough on YouTube! That’s shit, why would I want to do that?’ I don’t want people to be able to know how to play our riffs! We’ve always had this aloof stubbornness which hasn’t benefitted us really. This genre is built up of fans who wanna see that shit and we’ve never given them that shit. You can’t find Dan Foord doing playthroughs online”. As pressure from the forces that be mounted, the band eventually yielded to their audience. “Eventually you realise that you have to adapt to the way the world is and in this genre, most of the fans are musicians themselves and they love that shit”.

After criticising other bands for going over the top with social media and selling themselves, Dan ends candidly in a way that couldn’t be further from his self-proclaimed “aloof stubbornness”. “Ultimately the internet doesn’t write your riffs, and your riffs and your music is what will be around in 50 years – you know what I mean?”.

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