- Wed, 2009-06-10 14:22
Formed in St Albans, Hertfordshire in 2003 Enter Shikari initially struggled to find record label support. Instead of letting this get in the way of their prospects, they toured relentlessly up and down the UK, honing their skills as a live band and developing their sound. As a result they gathered a loyal following, became the second ever un-signed band to sell out London's Astoria and went on to release debut album Take to The Skies in March 2007, which reached number four in the UK album charts and later went on to achieve Gold status.
I Like Music caught up with drummer (and part-time DJ) Rob to chat about the second Enter Shikari album Common Dreads. We delve into the recording process behind their music, find out exactly how hard working and determined Enter Shikari were in their early days and get a few musical pointers in the realms of upfront hardcore.
"I Like Music because… it lets you escape real life.” Rob, Enter Shikari
ILM: Hello Rob! How are you?
Rob: Hello! I've just come out the gym...
ILM: Ooo. Very good. Have you been pumping the guns?
Rob: Er...something like that yeah. I need to keep fit when I'm not jumping around on stage!
ILM: We're all very excited about the second Enter Shikari album, Common Dreads. How does it differ to Take To The Skies?
Rob: The differences are massive, mainly in the ways we wrote it and recorded the album. We set ourselves two months to go into the studio and actually sit down and write. The first one was written over a couple of years whilst touring. This time we had a lot more time to experiment in the studio. With the first one we were in and out in two weeks! We didn't have time for any experiments, instrumentation, or recording techniques. We had so much more studio time with Common Dreads and so much more fun doing it down on the Isle of Wight.
ILM: You worked with producer Andy Gray, who has worked with the likes of Korn and U2. What was that experience like?
Rob: It was awesome. With Take To The Skies it was very much; set up, get your clean sound, record the track, bosh, there's an album. With Andy it was about the whole album sounding sonically individual and each song having its own personality and sound. We tried lots of different things, from a drummers perspective that included using different microphones or different drum skins.
ILM: What about the core Enter Shikari process of writing songs? Did that change for Common Dreads?
Rob: The songs have always grown quite naturally. Roughton will get a riff or a melody, either electronically or on his guitar. He will come with an idea or a rough skeleton of a song. We'll all work on it to fill in the gaps, round off the edges and get it sounding like an actual song. Then we'll play it live a few times before we go into the studio. Still, we do so much work in the studio. Once a song is down in front of you so many more ideas just pour out. So much more grows from it. The songs are changing from the very first time we put them together to the very last seconds before they get mastered.
ILM: Talking of playing live, Enter Shikari seem big fans of touring. You've played so many dates!
Rob: We've always been a live band, right from the very beginning. We didn't have the facilities to get the recording done. The only thing we did was play live. That was the only thing we could do. We tried to get a little bit of recognition from labels but realised that wasn't going to happen. We realised we would have to do it ourselves. So we got a van and just toured up and down the country. I think we've played over a thousand shows by now.
ILM: Woah! What an achievement!
Rob: It's just really grown. I love being out there. We're very active people. We like to jump around, get into it and have fun. When we see the audience having fun at our show it all feeds back to us, it puts us in such a good mood. And vice versa as well. We've always gone out to live gigs too, from a very early age. It's been in our system for years.
ILM: Out of all the shows you've played, which have been the most memorable?
Rob: The biggest for me was probably Download two years ago when we played the second stage. We were on just before Korn who were headlining. We had the biggest crowd, it was absolutley rammed. The energy was just awesome! The crowd were shouting so loud I couldn't hear my symbols. It was such a good feeling, such a buzz to feel that we'd built up so much loyalty. It wasn't really scary either. I wasn't nervous before I went on because we all knew that everyone was there. They were all backing us and behind us all the way.
ILM: You're playing Reading and Leeds this year. What do you enjoy about playing festival sets?
Rob: The weather makes a big difference! If it's nice and sunny then there's nothing better than being able to hang about all day drinking beers and watching bands, then go and play a set, come off stage, drink some more beers, watch some more bands!
ILM: Living the dream basically...
Rob: Absolutley! Plus there's no real pressure, unless you're headlining. It's different to your own gig. With a festival you just go on, do your thing for half an hour and then go and enjoy yourself.
ILM: What would be your advice to anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
Rob: Do the same as us. Practice, practice, practice and tour, tour, tour. Play as much as you can. There's no truer saying than practice makes perfect. I'm not trying to say we're perfect! It just definitely helps. You can tell the difference between a band that has played together for a long time and a band that have just got together and are trying to bosh out a couple of catchy tunes. It doesn't work like that. Never expect anything. Never assume that if you play London you'll get a good crowd and you'll get noticed. We played London a few times and it was by far the hardest place to get any kind of recognition. It was one of the last places to pick up and it took a while for us to actually get a crowd in.
ILM: But you were still the second ever un-signed band to sell out the Astoria?
Rob: Yeah, don't get me wrong, that was massive for us! But before that we had done three and a half years of solid playing. Hundreds and hundreds of little shows to the sound guy and his girlfriend. Literally, there'd be so many gigs where it was just the bands watching each other. Every gig is a learning experience. Honestly, you can't beat experience. You've just got to get out there and do it.
ILM: Turn yourself into more than just a local band?
Rob: Exactly! The thing I get annoyed about with local bands around here is that they play so much around St Albans, they never go anywhere else. Lot's of people come to watch them in St Albans but they don't try to get a following anywhere else. They never go up North, they never go to the Midlands or to Scotland. That's what we did. When we started we literally booked hundreds of gigs wherever we could. By the end of it, people were coming to us with the gigs and we could literally pick and choose the ones we wanted to do.
ILM: You must have a huge following in St Albans?
Rob: Oh yeah! Every time we come back to play it's so much fun! The home coming gigs are always really exciting! St Albans has always been good to us!
ILM: What music have you been listening to recently?
Rob: In my spare time I do a bit of DJing and I play a lot of upfront hardcore. Which isn't massive. It's quite an underground genre. I'm doing my best to get it known! I listen to a lot of Drum n Bass, a lot of house. I'm very much into the dance side of Enter Shikari. I feel sometimes that it's my little bit of input!
ILM: Do you DJ with decks?
Rob: Yeah, yeah. I use vinyl.
ILM: Do you have a big collection?
Rob: I've only been doing it for a year and a half or so! It's not massive but it's getting there!
ILM: So when you're playing a DJ set, what tune do you drop when everyone is kicking off?
Rob: Face Down Arse Up by Syndicate! That is the one track that I have to play if I'm doing a set!
ILM: Out of all the live gigs / DJ sets you've seen as an audience member, which will you never forget?
Rob: I was at the Roundhouse in Camden the other day. I saw Beardyman and he absolutley blew me away! I'd not heard of him before the show, he was SO good!