Back in the early 2000’s, SikTh were emerging as one of the most promising bands in UK metal. Their debut EP’s, Let The Transmitting Begin and How May I Help You? (both in 2002), opened many people in the UK up to a more technical and progressive kind of metal; djent and mathcore. The conflicting dual vocals of Mikee Goodman and Justin Hill, along with the high-gain, manipulated rhythms of the backing, gave the band a chaotic and deeply cathartic quality that not many band’s were managing to carry off as convincingly around that time.
The first few years of the decade also saw the Watford based band hit the road relentlessly, which helped cement them as one of the most exciting live acts of the early 2000’s. Their debut album, The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out Wait for Something Wild arrived in 2003, but after the release of their sophomore album in 2006, Death of a Dead Day, the band went on a hiatus.
But it was at Download 2014 that the long break came to an end, as the band took to the Red Bull stage once again. And it’s here, in Donnington, 3 years on from their return, that Vulture Hound‘s Katia caught up with guitarist and founding member Dan Weller to talk about the band’s lasting influence and the role Download played in their reformation…
I’ve just watched a few videos of you demonstrating your guitar skills for different guitar webzines and I thought that it must be really rewarding for you, being able to showcase your skills in that way. Is that the case?
Yes, it is to an extent! If you do lots of cool things when you’re in a band, you take things for granted. It’s only when you reflect on them that you think: “oh well, that’s pretty cool!”. It’s hard to say really – life is about living in the moment. I’m doing something and I enjoy it and it’s done and I move on to the next thing. That’s how my mind works. Even playing main stage today, it’s just a great thing at the moment. Then it’s over and I move on, that is how I approach SikTh and my life.
You’ve been part of SikTh from the very beginning. Can you tell us a little bit more about the formation of the band?
Me and the other guitar player went to school together and we formed the band with Mikee (Goodman) who we saw with his other band. Then we got 3 new members in the band in 2001 and that is when it properly became SikTh. The earlier recording from SikTh are from 2001. There are demos before that but SikTh began in 2001 officially. We tried to build the band first.
About the line up that we have today on stage: one of the singers (Justin Hill) left a few years ago and he was replaced by Joe (Rosser). The guy that came out during the last song today was our original singer. We had an idea to have him, because we are all still friends and it is a big achievement for the band to play on the main stage. So we thought it would be nice to have him involved and thankfully he was really happy about that.
You guys clearly seem to have influenced many bands…
Yeah, it seems to be the case. When you read articles about subgenres of metal like progressive metal and djent, we do get mentioned quite often as being influential. For some reason, SikTh gets quoted in a lot of articles about djent, along with Meshuggah. So because of that we get a lot of kudos for being influential in the scene. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know but I’ll take it, it’s fine. I guess our music was quite forward thinking and then we disappeared. We left a mark and then just went.
SikTh had a rather long hiatus before reforming. What did you do during that time?
We just went and lived life, we didn’t speak to each other.
Yes, not at all, nothing! It was in fact here, in this field 4 years ago, that we said we should probably reform and do some shows. That’s when we came back and we headlined the Red Bull stage on Saturday night 2014. That was the beginning of the come back. We did the headline tours and had a couple of records since then.
So maybe, if you hadn’t met at Download, then the reunion would not have happened!
Maybe, and I’m glad we did it, we’ve had lot of fun. We toured the world, we’ve seen some places since we’ve been back and I’m pleased about that. We’ve made more fans and more music, which is great. We’ve spent 5 weeks in the States, we’ve even been to Japan a couple of times and we’ve toured in Europe for 7 weeks with Trivium. At the moment we are playing the odd festival here and there. We’ve got a small headline tour in the UK coming up. We’re realistic about SikTh, you know, our music connects with our fans and there is space for it to grow. It’s a very acquired taste, a very different music, it’s not the kind of thing that you can hear on the radio. We’ve just got to let our albums do their thing, we let them come out, with people making them hear it to their friends and that generates fans. Just let the music talk!
All the members of SikTh have got so many other musical projects other than this band. The creativity really seems to be flowing!
Yes, everyone is doing music in some way, shape or form, producing, video directing, teaching, playing in other bands. We all do different things. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to stay and earn a living from the music industry, so SikTh becomes fun for me rather than it being my main thing. I do it for fun now. I still take it as seriously as I ever did but I’m not thinking about Sikth every day like I was at the beginning.
Because you were so excited, it was your first big project musically…
Yes, exactly. That’s all there was. SikTh was everything to me then and now it’s given me everything. It’s given me connections and publishing deals but I get some other kicks from other stuff I do. It’s one of many things now.
So would you say that you’ve got SikTh as a colour in the palette of your life and it’s a strong shade, but nowadays you’ve got many other colours to play with?
Yeah, I’m making other people’s records now!
Oh yes, and you have also worked for the BBC!
Yes, I’ve written a lot of children’s TV music, CBBC stuff, not so much lately but a bunch in the past. That’s not really my main job. I just did it for fun but I produce records, that’s what I do for a living. I often co-write the albums that I produce, I develop artists and write for them too. You know, if you’ve got creative juices, you’ve got to let them out, do as many things as you can.
What made you want to be a musician? Can you pinpoint to a particular event that made you want to learn to play the guitar?
When I heard Metallica. I fell in love with riffs, I became obsessed with them. Every time I heard one, I’d just go “ Oh my God!”. I’d get a kick from it. Then my uncle who has a studio in his house, had a little guitar and a bought me a Metallica tab book for the black album and I taught myself how to play. From that moment I never wanted to do anything else. I was never really interested in drums or anything. I just love guitars. I don’t know why. I’m not one of those guitarists who polish their guitars, I just love playing them.
Do you have a favourite guitar player?
Yes, Dimebag! He’s the ultimate guitarist. He could do everything! And James Hetfield of course! Then there’s Nuno Bettencourt, who’s just in another league of his own too! These guys inspire me big time.
The band’s latest album, The Future In Whose Eyes? is out now via Millennium Night/Snapper Music.