It’s no secret that Sikth are one of the blog’s favorite bands as a collective, and justifiably so. They’ve been blazing the trail for hordes of modern metal acts the world over and are still one of the genre’s most innovative and inspiring groups, as proven by their incredible reunion EP, 2015’s Opacities. Now the band is back in full swing after their lengthy hiatus, and they’re ready to finally crush the states with a supporting slot on Periphery’s tour that’s almost an hour long. If you’re debating checking this show out, you’ve heard it here first that this is a night you can’t afford to miss. I got a chance to speak with vocalist Mikee Goodman and guitarist Dan Weller before their first ever American gig last week about composing spoken word pieces, working on an upcoming full length album, reflecting back on previous releases, and much more!
So I’d like to start things off by asking about some things on Opacities, particularly some of the spoken word you did on “Tokyo Lights” as well as some other spoken word you’ve done before.
Mikee Goodman: Thank you! Well, stuff that I’ve done before, maybe not the band…
“Tokyo Lights” and “When Will the Forest Speak?” really set the vibe for me and gives the records this really creepy atmosphere. How do go about piecing together stuff like that, and is there a lot of trial and error involved?
Mikee: Well [When Will the Forest Speak?] I did in about three days, which was crazy. I was more or less piecing together a jigsaw puzzle manually. I can’t remember too much about it now, but I was picking a bunch of different words and making different characters and it was done really quickly. All of the effects were manual as well. There was nothing on that which was a plugin, even all of the crazy echoes. It was manual, just me moving. I didn’t know how to use Pro Tools at that stage. With “Tokyo Lights,” I just wrote that at 3 am when we were in the studio. We were already recording the album and I was recording another song when it just came to me. So I did a few takes to decide what should go where, piece it together, and just keep listening and listening. To do the background effects, I actually sung them in with the effects already on them. Guitar pedal effects and shit.
(Pin from Sikth opens the van door): If you could reach and grab me a Budweiser, that would be great!
The king of beers.
Mikee: You need a Bud too?
Yeah, for sure.
Mikee: Cheers. (to the band) They’re asking me questions about spoken word which is great! No one ever asks me that. It’s my favorite question ever. All right, see you guys. (van door closes) Sorry, where were we? I’ve been stuttering with my answers. What the fuck?! Okay, so in “Tokyo Lights,” I did all the effects with guitar pedals and different atmospheres. I wanted to create a mystical world, and I used a lot more of the lower voice in that one. It was my best-written spoken word, I believe. Definitely for the writing. There’s a fantasy story within, but there’s a lot of reality gone into that because I spent a long time in Tokyo.
Going off of that, were there any sort of literary references in “Tokyo Lights?” I’ve seen a few here and there before, or was this based off of personal experience?
Mikee: Nah, to be honest songs are usually written with what I see and experience, or what I see in other people. To be honest I should read more, but I just don’t. I read a few biographies and things like that, and the only actual poetry I read is mostly Leonard Cohen. Well, he’s a singer/songwriter, but Leonard Cohen’s my favorite. Jim Morrison is great as a writer.
(The van door opens again)
Dan Weller: Is it all right if I join you?
Oh yeah, for sure! So you said that track came up last minute. Is that how it’s usually been with that type of stuff? Or do you have ideas on the back burner that you want to use later?
Mikee: Oh, yeah! I’ve got so much poetry from over the years. A lot of the last album, the mini-album Opacities, a lot of that was drawn from experiences all the way back to 2004. So I’m always looking into the past as well and drawing things from that. If you’ve never been able to express your emotions about certain events or things, it’s a good way to get it out there and get right back in that place. It can be dangerous to do that; emotionally quite dangerous to do that at least. To get yourself into a traumatic situation, you know what I mean? When you experience deep emotion, a lot of them can be a bit of a dangerous place to go.
So you said a lot of the stuff on Opacities was collected from various things over a decade. Was there musical material laying around for Opacities as well, or did you come up with a bunch of new stuff after getting back together?
Dan: There were some ideas, yeah. There was one song that we wanted to be on the third album, back when we were still together. We all loved the riffs and we all listened to them in their rough demo form. Then we ditched it because the band split up, but we kept saying “well, when we get back together, at least we’ve got that.” We used that to leapfrog into this new album.
And which song was that?
Dan: Oh, it was “Under the Weeping Moon.”
Mikee: It was written in a place called Falmouth and its working title was “Falmouth,” I think. Falmouth is a seaside town, and it’s always the best place to visit in England in my opinion.
Dan: It’s full of hippies. Surfers and hippies. That’s why he loves it!
Mikee: I do love it there, but I’m not a surfer. And I’m not, well…call me what you want, but I don’t juggle. If you call me a juggling hippie, I won’t be happy!
So you had “Under the Weeping Moon,” but was everything else new? Was there anything in particular you wanted to accomplish with it? Or were you just looking to get back out there?
Dan: Well with “Under the Weeping Moon” we had the verse and chorus and the super heavy riff at the end. I think the primary thing was to make sure that the quality was back up high where we had set it for ourselves. Sometimes when bands go away and then come back, it seems a bit half-assed. And in some ways, we wanted to make it more like the first album, even though it ended up being more like Death of a Dead Day at the end.
Mikee: It had a lot more groove though, didn’t it? It was mainly groovy, like in “Philistine Philosophies” and some others.
Dan: Yeah, definitely. I think the idea for the next album based on what we learned from Opacities is to try and be a bit more I guess what we would call “proggy.” Like the first song on the first album, that’s kind of our way of being proggy in the way we noodle around. There’s nothing like that on Opacities, and we want the next album to have more elements like that.
Mikee: Like the “Wait For Something Wild” mid-section? I love that sort of stuff.
Dan: And it opens you up to a lot of different lyrical approaches; spoken word and stuff like that.
Mikee: We’re a lot more capable now. Personally, I’m a lot more capable singing-wise. I mean, if you look at the first album now, I’d probably re-sing more or less the whole thing if I had a chance. Especially that song I just talked about, “When Will the Forest Speak?” Well, maybe not all of it, but the more melodic singing parts, definitely. You just develop. I think with the last track on Opacities, me and Dan really worked and went to town on that, which was “Days Are Dreamed,” by the way. That’s quite a progressive one though, isn’t it? I really like that.
That one seems like, to me, the most experimental song on the new album. Some songs like “Philistine Philosophies” remind me of Death of a Dead Day, but that one sounded like nothing I’ve ever heard you guys do.
Dan: We kind of were making it up as we went along. We had this vision, and Mikee was almost conducting me, describing the sort of cinematic stuff he had in his head, and I was trying to bring it out musically. And that was quite fun; using e-bows, chopping up guitar loops and all sorts of things. I think we can do more of that stuff…
Mikee: I’d like to do more. I like working with yourself.
Dan: It’s such a touching moment right now!
Mikee: Well, I like that you can…well…musically I can sing a riff. When I describe things to Dan, he understands when talking about atmospheres and things like that. I think it’s good to be able to talk and not just have a bunch of muso-type discussions.
Yeah, and I think that’s good as a singer to talk with the rest of the band like that.
Mikee: Yeah! And like I said, I’m a singer, man. I like to talk about vibes, and that’s the way my lyrical approach goes as well. Going back to that really quickly, lyrically I often visualize when I’m singing and writing.
Dan: I think it’s because the lyrics are quite descriptive. They actually, well, like in “Wait For Something Wild,” speaking of frozen lakes and all these sort of descriptive images.
Mikee: It was all in my head as I was writing it.
Dan: In a way with the first album, we’d came out lyrics and riffs completely independently, but he had a way of creating a more sort of cinematic thing and that helped develop the style of his vocals over our riffs. Now when it comes to writing new stuff, the riffs become a bit more three-dimensional with the way you can imagine Mikee’s more visual stuff on top of them. It makes them go from a riff in Pro Tools to imagine it being a much more cinematic and rather proggy sort of metal song, which is inspiring for me.
Mikee: It’d be great if one day we could have a whole set where we could get someone to do visuals in the background. That’d be amazing if it was strong enough. But it’d have to be quite a lot! (laughs) We’d need to be in a bigger van.
Dan: And bigger wallets.
Mikee: Big van first, then just get me strobes. Fuckin’ hell, man!
One step at a time, man! You briefly mentioned when you were talking about the next record or something like that. I mean, Opacities hasn’t even been out for a year, but is that already something that’s at least in your head?
Dan: Yeah, we’re going to do a full-length album, and we’re planning on recording it by the end of this year. We’ve got the basics of about seven or eight new tunes. They’re very basic and they’re pretty much instrumental. Mikee’s got a few parts, but really we’re running a bit behind. But that’s just what we do. So after his tour, and actually during this tour we’re actually going to be writing somehow in here.
Damn, well good luck!
Dan: We’ve got a Pro Tools rig in here.
Mikee: Oh, fuck me! How the hell are we gonna…
Dan: It’s going to be intense, but we can just plug the HDMI right there (points at TV) and the speakers are around us. It’s going to be one of the most antisocial vans of all time! Everyone wants a movie, but we’ve got Pro Tools going.
Mikee: To be honest, I think I’d be more happy just to hear more new stuff and spend more time with it. I want to put the pressure on because I feel a lot of extreme pressure by the end.
Dan: Yeah, the thing with this kind of music, as you probably know, is that if you’re a singer and there’s a deadline, you can’t just come up with a top line over a piano chord. You’ve got to wait for the music to be pretty much there so you know what the fuck’s going on.
Mikee: We’ve got a lot of good lines so far, I think. But you’re right, you can’t do a complete vocal structure until it’s all there, because with the way the band is, they’re always developing new stuff. That’s just the way it is, man.
Dan: It’s a weird band to be in, the weirdest I’ve worked with. It’s just madness that takes ages because we’re all hyper perfectionists.
Mikee: Yeah! Like, I worked with Adrian Smith from Iron Maiden, and he gave me some stuff where I could think of ten different vocal lines and it was very quick. Coming out of this band, when we had our little break, you go into another band and it just feels so much easier. Even though there was extreme pressure at the end of Opacities, I did really enjoy writing it.
So what’s it exactly like to face that sort of pressure in the studio?
Mikee: Well, that’s why I’m always hungry for riffs and shit. Because if I get my stuff in there more, maybe they can develop the riff around what I’m doing a little bit. It’s here and there, but mostly they write rather complete riffs.
Dan: On the writing front I always want to get the vocals going because that’s ultimately it. Granted, guitar geeks just listen to the guitars, but generally a band like Sikth people are going to listen to the vocals first. I’ve never subscribed as a producer to sticking the vocals in the last five minutes. Having said that, the sorts of riffs and parts that we write, it’s almost like we have to be quite regimented in the way that we work. Sometimes making space for the vocals is almost too much to think about. Just come up with the shit first and pass it on, you know? We’re in a rush to do it as quick as possible, but we’re not the kind of band that will throw down just any old shit riff.
Mikee: Oh, I love it when I’ve got a bit of space vocally. But then it’s almost like finding gold dust sometimes, fuckin’ hell! Especially on the first album, like…
Dan: Well there’s a song on that album called “Such The Fool” that we don’t really play.
Mikee: I only don’t like it because of the lyrics. I only don’t do it because of them, but the song is one of my favorite songs as a piece. The lyrics were meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but I was fuckin’ 21 and at the moment I’m absolutely embarrassed of that song. Same with “Hold My Finger,” man.
Dan: There were a few times on that album where we’d have these pretty shoddy riffs and then hear his vocals and be like “Fuck! We’ve got to up the game on these.”
Mikee: It would be great to do that, because I like when I’ve got a really simple riff so I can just go places!
Dan: We may have to do some songs like that on this album.
Mikee: I’d love to be able to do that because then you would get the best out of me, definitely.
Dan: I’ll just start doing some chugging later on. And by the way, I think that “Such the Fool” was actually a song from my old band called Lifeline, which is one of the worst band names of all time. And the riffs were bollocks; they were terrible! Really bad riffs. But the vibe and the beat was there to inspire him. The chorus was always good.
Mikee: It was just a great build.
I always feel weird asking bands things like this, but I really do feel like you guys have influenced a shitload of stuff that came out after the fact, like the band that’s headlining tonight! I mean, that’s how I got into Periphery’s first album to begin with, because I thought it sounded like Meshuggah and Sikth put together. Do you feel any sort of pressure with things like that around? You’ve already shown with Opacities that the quality’s still there, and it might even be my favorite record of yours to be honest.
Mikee: Oh, well thank you! It’s my favorite, too.
Dan: Your vocals are the best on that. I think we could up the game with the music, but most of its great. I think his vocals are the most cohesive that they’ve been. I think I can speak for all of us in that we formed a band with a vision to do something that would last and influenced we really did. We didn’t just want to be a throwaway metal band, so we spent a lot longer writing all of our songs than our mate’s bands because we believed in them. The future of the band was really important to us; leaving something, however small it is in the scale of the pond of music, some kind of legacy. Otherwise it’s five minutes of fame, and what’s the fuckin’ point of that? The fact that people now cite the band as an influence doesn’t give you any pressure. It makes you be humble, actually. You feel really proud of yourself for sticking to your guns and doing something with the future in mind. For this tour, we’re not feeling any pressure personally. I feel less stressed because now we’re not being judged by everyone and they actually know our shit. And if they’ve already been into our music, they finally can get to see it live.
Trust me, I’m fucking stoked to see you! I never thought it would happen, honestly.
Mikee: I’m personally just excited to be in America and able to play here at last. For Dan and myself, and the whole band really, it’s always been a dream.
Is this really your first American gig tonight?
Mikee: First American show, yeah!
Dan: Going back to what you said earlier, yeah, the reason we never made it here is because we ran over our time doing the first two records!
Mikee: We’ve never done, so the only pressure I feel is hoping that the air conditioning doesn’t dry out my voice or something like that. But then if you have air conditioning you just sweat everywhere.
Dan: You’ll lose a lot of weight, but you’ll stink.
So do you have any expectations for this tour, or is there anything you’ve been looking forward to?
Mikee: Well now I expect it to be hot since you told me that earlier!
Dan: Well, with a band like Sikth, we just did a tour in the UK with Slipknot, and that was perfect for us. They’re heavy, but they’re also a bit 90s in places and it’s not rigidly nerdy. That worked great because you’d have all the kids pogoing. However, with this kind of tour and the “djent” scene that Sikth is supposedly part of the early days of, in theory we’re playing to the right sort of people.
Mikee: Are they not pogoing in this scene?
You might get some in “Philistine Philosophies” when the groove gets going.
Mikee: I like me a good pogo.
If you start it during the first verse, they will definitely do it!
Mikee: We’ve got to get that going. I love to pogo, man. I like to pogo a lot more than moshing, man. We used to do walls of death and all that, but I discovered that when you do a wall of death it’s a bit too macho for our band and it destroys the gig. When they do that and it’s done, everyone’s fucked, you know? It looks good for a minute and that’s it. There’s no friendly vibes, and I like to see people smiling and shit. It’s great to see that kind of emotion rather than just being all like “Urrr! I’m a fuckin’ hard cunt!”
Dan: That’s not what Sikth’s about, really. We just want people to have a great time and we want our proper fans who know all the riffs and lyrics to enjoy finally seeing it. We don’t know what will go down.
Mikee: Moshing, but friendly moshing!
That’s what I plan on doing tonight! I have to ask one last nerdy question before I wrap this up: are you playing “As the Earth Spins Round” tonight?
Mikee: Fuckin’ hell, man! I wanted to play that.
Dan: It’s one of my favorites.
It’s probably my personal favorite. I could listen to that end riff for like an hour!
Dan: Well you kind of have to on the album, I think! (laughs)
Mikee: I would love to play that. One day, maybe.
Dan: We did play it live on the Death of a Dead Day tour once…or am I imagining that?
Mikee: You’re imagining it, man! We played “Another Sinking Ship” and we played “When The Moment’s Gone” but we never did that one.
Dan: Yeah ok. We’ve never done “Summer Rain” and we’ve never done “As the Earth Spins Round.” Some of it’s extremely difficult to play, which is why we probably didn’t do it. Wait, didn’t we play this?
Mikee: You probably did it in the mirror.
Make sure to catch Sikth on one of the remaining dates of Periphery’s Sonic Unrest tour, also featuring CHON and Toothgrinder
8/11 Phoenix, AZ @ The Pres Room
8/12 San Diego, CA @ House of Blues
8/13 Los Angeles, CA @ Regent
8/14 San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore
8/16 Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theater
8/17 Seattle, WA @ Showbox
8/19 Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex
8/20 Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
8/22 Minneapolis, MN @ Varsity Theater
8/24 Milwaukee, WI @ Turner Hall Ballroom
8/25 Grand Rapids, MN @ Intersection
8/26 Detroit, MI @ St. Andrew’s Hall
8/27 Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Small’s Theatre
8/28 Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of the Living Arts
8/30 Boston, MA @ Paradise
8/31 New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
9/01 Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Sound Stage