Enter Shikari: “No label wanted to release our music.”

Lead guitarist Rory Clewlow explains to why the band refuse to tone down their notoriously intense sound

Photo Credit: Tom Martin

Photo Credit: Tom Martin

Since bursting on the scene with their 2007 effort, Take to The Skies, Enter Shikari have steadily forged a solid career based on strong critical acclaim and visceral, high octane live shows. The Mindsweep, their latest album, threatens to truly throw the gauntlet into the mainstream and affirm their title as a true national treasure.

 The Crowd went mental for you last summer at Reading and Leeds. Do you prefer festivals or your own shows?

It depends. We get this question a lot. It completely depends on the day or how the audience is.  Being hung-over or not is a big factor as well. It doesn’t really matter if you’re playing a tiny venue or a massive festival, if you’re in Japan or England or London. A good gig really just comes down to whether the stars align. Having said that, I would have to say that Reading is a little bit special. Every time we play there it just feels so right. I’ve never have had a bad show there; always been my favourite show of the year.

You guys come from St. Albans, home to legendary ‘toilet’ venue the Horn. Do you enjoy those local gigs?

The only venue we really play anymore in Hertfordshire is the Hatfield Forum. It’s such a good venue, probably one of the best venues in the UK. Anytime we play local we will play there. We haven’t played the Horn in 7 years probably, but that place is good too.

You had a huge production when you played Reading & Leeds in the summer. Do you have anything special or different planned for the new tour?

I don’t really know how much I can say, but we’re thinking of having the cover of The Mindsweep recreated in lights. It’s just a concept at the moment, so we don’t really know how were going to do it. We’re just wanting a different look, rather than just going for the whole ‘flooding the stage with flashing lights and dry ice until they can’t see us’ style.

You recorded your last album in Thailand and The Mindsweep has been recording at the legendary Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire. Do you think location can have a significant influence on the sound of the finished product?

95% of the writing is done before we get into the studio so I don’t feel it makes much difference. We’re always writing, even if its just electronic bits or for fun. Generally it’s done at home or we’ll just expand on little ideas done on the road. We do the electronic and drum parts on a laptop and leave the guitar parts till later.

 How have you tended to write for this album?

We have got a massive library on a hard drive of tons of little ideas, really weird synths. We will just expand on these little ideas. We always look through the hard drive and see if anything sparks our curiosity or imagination and then develop that. One song on The Mindsweep has a main riff, which was written by Rou (Reynolds, lead singer) about 11 years ago before I joined the band. It just came out of nowhere. I remember it was a riff that Rou showed me in one of the first rehearsals I went to. We were just reminiscing – “That was good wasn’t it, still sounds good too, lets make something out of it then”.

You have your own independent record label. Was this an active choice to support the independent scene and stay away from the mainstream labels?

We didn’t start an independent label because the independent scene or the DIY scene was something we particularly wanted to support. Its not like we didn’t want to support it, but we set up our own label out of necessity, because no label wanted to release our music at the time.

 Do you think then that this approach you have ended up taking has brought you closer to the fans?

Essentially it’s cutting out the middleman. We did have a small flirtation with a major label when we were doing our second album. We licensed common dreads to Warner Brothers. It wasn’t a record deal as such, but it was a little taster of what it would be like and it sucked so hard. There was so much bureaucracy involved and it was them kind of sticking their fingers in our hearts. I’m really happy with how the album came out but it just seemed a bit watered down. We gave them our second album, and they hadn’t had any say in it till we gave it to them and they turned round and said “We need more singles!” Can you get anymore clichéd major label.

They tried to turn a couple of songs into something that they weren’t and we just felt a lot of guilt, because any time we wanted to do anything we had to check with them. We do feel closer to our fans in the way that if we want to do something then we can just do it. We will just put it out there if it’s a good idea. If you cut out the middleman then you don’t have to ask for permission. We’re not like a normal band musically, or as people. We haven’t gone down the usual route and that’s the way it works like with Mothership for example (The Bands first single released almost exclusively online back in 2006).  We just can’t be sent down the major label machine. We have to do things our own way and its worked really well for us.

What can we expect from The Mindsweep?

‘Last Garrison’ is the only song we’ve put out so far, but it doesn’t really represent the album in full. Like with our previous albums, every song is different.

How do you go about deciding which songs go on the album?

The way we decide which songs go on the album is mainly down to whether we like it or not. Then we consider if the song has a certain energy or genre or certain aspect in it that isn’t present in any of the other songs. We’re basically looking to make the overall album as diverse as possible. We don’t really make any conscious decisions during the song writing process about what we want the album to sound like. We just sit down, start writing, see what we like and then we end up with around 30 songs and pick the ones we like, and the ones that will make the most diverse album on a whole.

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