Interview: John Knight of SynaptiK

SynaptiK hail from the Norwich area and play progressive metal in the vein of Watchtower, Nevermore, Queensryche and Dream Theater. In my opinion, they have elements of every single genre in metal which could lead to a band’s music being messy and uncoordinated. Not so with Synaptik who embrace each others influences in the studio and make it enhance their songs and I wholeheartedly agree with their own assessment. With their facebook page stating that they like artists such as Nevermore, Athiest, Forbidden and Porcupine Tree, that should give you a fair idea of how they have no boundaries and just want to play metal for the sake of keeping the metal scene alive.

They have released two albums to date, shared stages with the big guns at Bloodstock, Mammothfest and Download, SynaptiK are a band that you should already be aware of. With their last album Justify and Reason being released in Spring of 2017 and reviewed at Moshville Times, now felt like the right time to contact the band to see how they are progressing with their third album. John very kindly accepted the request for an interview and I think you will find this to be a very enjoyable read. Give SynaptiK a listen and I thank John and Rachael from Enso Music Management for the opportunity.

First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for our readers at Moshville Times. Let’s start off with an easy one first and tell our readers how things with SynaptiK began? 

SynaptiK formed in 2012 from the ashes of such bands as Fifth Season, Inner Sanctum (UK), and Twisted Autumn Darkness, the primary concern of SynaptiK has been musical intensity, no restrictions, never being afraid of melody mixed with the heaviest of riffs. Ian (Guitars), Kev (Bass) and John (Vocals) have worked together in bands over the years and we all found ourselves looking for bands at the same time, it was great timing. Pete worked at the local rehearsal studios and we had wanted to work with him for sometime. Everything fell into place and we set about writing our first album. Aaron Beeken joined the band as lead guitar about a year ago now. 

You released a second album last year entitled Justify and Reason. How would you say you have progressed from your debut album The Mechanisms of Consequence?

We embraced the progressive tag that we had been given in reviews and we never wanted to put ourselves in any area rather than simply metal. We didn’t wish to be restricted by expectations of specific genres, but the progressive metal tag kind of sums up that ideology anyway, so after a while we warmed to it. Due to that, the progressive element came out more in the writing, the first album had a strong thrash feel in places, technical elements, with death metal also. So the new album had much stronger songs, better dynamics and the production was head and shoulders above the debut and much closer to what we initially wanted (hence why we remixed the debut and released).

You released Justify and Reason through The Snakes on Fire Records. How did they contact you and how has the relationship been with the label so far?

Jim is a top bloke and a passionate musician in his own right, he saw our potential. He loved our live power, energy and that fact we did exactly what we wanted to do and not be led by any trends or latest fads. We have a mutual respect and he has been very supportive. We also released the album as a double album through American label Divebomb Records which had the remixed/remastered debut album included. Digital worldwide sales were through Italian label Heart of Steel Records. Divebomb is a great label and we share the rosta with some bands we have admired greatly. Watchtower, Deathrow, Anancrusis etc.

As Justify and Reason was released in March last year, how are things going in terms of new songs? How would you compare the new compositions to that of this album?

New songs are being written right now, we have about five in different levels of progress and we have the facility to record our own songs now so we get better quality versions to work with, but it’s too early to really say as they aren’t in their final form yet. The songs grow and change through many versions until complete. Aaron has joined the band since the last album and his addition has brought with him his own influences, his style works perfectly with our own and it’s already very complimentary to SynaptiK in style. 

When listening to SynaptiK, you get a multitude of different influences with every song. There is the obvious progressive metal tag but I also hear elements of thrash, power metal and even melodic death metal. Is it fair to say there is some… “negotiating” in the studio when the songs are being constructed?

The collective influences all mixed together is what makes SynaptiK stand out and I believe it makes the songs so much more interesting and we don’t really sound like any one band. The writing is much easier now, the songs evolve and I’m writing melody lines and lyrics to a few that I’ll demo in next few weeks.

My brother Ian (Guitar) is the one who writes the more melodic death metal style riffs. His tastes are very varied to listen to but playing he favours the extreme metal, black metal and technical death metal like Atheist, Pestilence etc. Aaron (lead guitar) has a more neo-classical metal influence, progressive, sort of vibe I guess. Kev (bass) is a very versatile musician that brings the more modern progressive feel. He really messes with our heads at times with his odd time signatures and suggestions! The same goes with Pete. If we let him off the leash it would be crazy timings galore, so we reign him in a bit also!

When all mixed together it creates our sound, the trick is to link them well and not just throw them together. It’s about having a song for us where we do consciously hold back a lot when it comes to technical parts. We do occasionally have these sections, but not to the detriment of the song. They have to have purpose or it’s just mindless noodling. So far it all works well and compromises are graciously made to benefit the end result. I believe having melodic vocals over this kind of music makes us stand out also. I think it works so well, the contrast, the emotion. I think it makes us quite unique when mixed with the various styles of music.

How often is the band able to get together and rehearse in the studio? Where do you get together and record?

Not as often as I’d like if honest. About every two weeks. It’s difficult with work and Aaron lives a 2 hour drive from us, Kev hour and a half, Ian and I an hours drive from Norwich (our meeting point), but we each have recording facilitites at home, so we share and learn, adjust songs that way.

How are the songs constructed in the studio? Are there the main songwriters of songs that take care of everything or is SynaptiK a band where all members contribute to the songs?

We prefer that members not come with a whole finished song because then it doesn’t feel SynaptiK. Each member comes with riffs, sometimes two or three linked. The guitarists meet up and the song is constructed to the first version of the song. It can change drastically in structure over the weeks until I am ready to add vocals. We have no real set way we want the song to be say a fast song, or slow. It just evolves into what it needs to be. I really enjoy this process the most, seeing the riffs turn into something special. It’s why each song sounds so different yet still SynaptiK.   

SynaptiK have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with some of the biggest names in metal, appearing at festivals such as Bloodstock and Mammothfest. How were these experiences for you?

As musicians we have worked very hard over the years, it’s a tough business, but we’ve had some breaks and some failures too but we stride on. It’s in our blood. The moments like these make it worth while.

Download Festival was an amazing experience, sharing the same stage as Arch Enemy and Slayer was mind blowing. Hanging out with Opeth, Dimebag, Linkin Park, and many more of my heroes was a weekend of memories I’ll never forget. Being asked to support Iron Maiden as a guest of Steve Harris, well what can you say. Legends.

Bloodstock. That was great as we won the Battle of the Bands battle for Bloodstock and Simon Hall put us through to play. That was so cool and we really enjoyed that day. We would love to return for the Sophie Stage one day, our live set has improved and our songs are also stronger so we are ready.

Mammothfest we have played twice now and both were a blast. The second time being the best as a better venue and sound, although it was a nightmare getting there! We just got there within seconds of playing, arrived and then straight on stage. Melting hot but a great weekend of metal. I hope for some more great gigs in the future.

How hard has it been to juggle the touring side of things with the everyday jobs? Do you have plans to go on bigger tours and further afield in 2018?

It is very difficult indeed. Kev owns a Pub and that takes a lot of his free time, we all work so it’s difficult to free up for long times. We would like to play more short stint shows and I especially would like to play abroad more. Europe especially as they are more open minded to our style of music in places like Germany etc. We recently played Malta at Shellshock Metal Fest and that was ace. We had a great time and went down really well.

Hailing from the east of England, Norwich to be exact, is there an underground scene with a plethora of bands worthy of peoples attention?

There are some great bands in Norwich. Soulborn, Hedra, Shrapnel to name a few. It has a couple of good venues but it can struggle to get people in to see bands the same as any place. Venues close and tribute bands dominate those that are there. So tough for original bands trying to make a mark.

In Glasgow, where I am from, there are so many venues and gigs on all the time for the gig goer of any metal genre to attend. Is it easy to go and see a local band play at venues in Norwich or is it tough for a metal band in Norwich to play?

Then you are very lucky and you should enjoy it and appreciate it lots. We have a few smaller venues and the bigger ones for touring bands like Machine Head, Testament, Megadeth can play. It’s a good city but I think I’m relocating to Glasgow now!

How hard is it for a progressive metal band like SynaptiK to survive in the current climate where bands have to tour non-stop and sell merchandise in order to bring money back into the band?

It’s tough for sure. I’ll be honest, it can be hard to survive for a band, especially if wanting to go to the next level. I see so many bands fold, you just have to tough it out. Do what you can. We have had our album Torrented since day of release, bigger bands can take that blow but smaller bands it can really hit hard. Luckily our online sales have still been good and we have our album in HMV stores so we gain income from that. We would still like to be out playing some venues that we haven’t played so can show how we bring it live and also sell some shirts etc. So if any promoters wish to book us, let us know.

I thank you for your time in answering these questions. A fun question to end this interview. If you were a DJ and were allowed to bring 5 CDs to the party, what would they be?

Well… only 5? Within the metal genre I am guessing… These could change if asked again.

  • Watchtower – Control & Resistance
  • Nevermore – The Politics of Ecstasy
  • Psychotic Waltz – A Social Grace
  • Dio – Holy Diver
  • Porcupine Tree – Deadwing

Any last message for our readers here at Moshville Times?

Thanks for listening to us run on. If you enjoy your music original, heavy with a good mix of styles, melody and heavy as a black hole riffage then check us out. We have been said to have similarities with bands such as Nevermore, Watchtower, Dream Theater, Mekong Delta, Threshold, etc. so if into music that has no restrictions, says “fuck you” to trends then we are the band for you. Join us.

Justify and Reason is out now

SynaptiK: official | facebook

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