“We Wanted to Create Something Fresh” – An Interview with Mikee Goodman of SikTh
The Melodic Math Metal masters’ vocalist and lyricist stopped by the Toilet to chat about the band’s new album The Future in Whose Eyes?
If you don’t know SikTh, you definitely know their influence: formed in 1999, the sextet was responsible for making some of the most innovative metal of the 2000s, perhaps ahead of their time. Unfortunately the band called it a (dead) day in 2008, and in the following years a style of metal with a sound greatly inspired by SikTh’s music started to gain prominence: it goes by many names, but you probably know it as Djent. I talked to Mikee Goodman, the band’s vocalist, about their first studio album since 2006, writing lyrics and staying healthy while on tour.
It’s been just about 11 years since the release of your previous album, Death of a Dead Day. What’s it like to be making an album today, at a time when the metal scene is all but devoid of bands playing a style that SikTh had a critical role in creating?
Well, I think there are many bands still in similar styles, but to us it has always been the same ethic to push ourselves and not think about other bands.
Even in the context of the current djent movement, SikTh has always stood out as a band with its own instantly recognizable sound. What was your musical goal when you started the band in the late 90s, if you ever had one?
We wanted to create something fresh, energetic and heavy. Back then it was all about the energy, it became more epic and progressive the longer we went on.
At that time, what types of bands did you share the stage with?
Well late 99 we met but I think our first show ever was in the White Horse, High Wycombe on the 16th of March 2000 supporting a Swedish band called Psycore. After touring with underground bands and playing shows with bands such as Vacant Stare and my personal favourite Cheese Cake Truck, we changed 3 members. With the new additions we then upped our game and I think our 2nd show [with this new lineup] was playing to a sold out London Astoria supporting Spineshank. We then toured with The Dillinger Escape Plan, Mad Capsule Markets, Mudvayne, Kittie, Machine Head, Anthrax, Killswitch Engage and many more. We even played with The Cardiacs. So they kinda put us on with many styles.
The Trees Are Dead… was (and still is) a very ambitious, forward-thinking and technically astounding album, especially considering its 2003 release date. I recall hearing or reading somewhere that the album was mixed a number of times before having Colin Richardson’s ear work its magic on the material. Was it hard to find someone who understood your music and vision well enough to give it the sound it needed?
It was very hard yeah, and that album was mixed by many different people, it became hard to visualise the end result.
A major component in the band’s sound is your diverse and unique vocal style, which can range from sorrowful to unhinged and everything in between (sometimes within mere seconds). I think the spoken word interludes add a lot to the flow of the records and allow the listener to briefly breathe and reflect. How did the idea for those types of track surface?
Thank you, I first ever started doing this just as I was experimenting, an idea came to my mind so I just started doing odd voices to a poem. That was “When Will the Forest Speak” on the first album. Then ever since a spoken word has been on every album/mini album I’ve made. But this album the band wanted backing music behind it, so Dan Weller made the backing music and I did my thing on top.
I’d like to take a moment to mention how intricate and thought-out your lyrics tend to be, which I think is a rarity in metal. What’s your approach to writing lyrics nowadays?
Thank you again, I take a long while working out concepts and thinking about what I am going to write. For a spoken word I would just write poetry and speak it in. For a complex song I have found I have to get all rhythms and melodies nailed then I will write lyrics to those melodies and sounds. It is very challenging to make great lyrics to each concept with a certain amount of syllables, but it’s a challenge I accept and try to make the best I can.
SikTh’s new album, The Future in Whose Eyes?, is out this June 2nd, and will be the band’s first album with vocalist Joe Rosser. I saw the band live last August and thought he fit in amazingly; how has performing old material and creating new music been with him?
He did very well singing the lines in, he has a very versatile voice and great sense of pitch and rhythm. So this was a quick and rewarding process.
From what I’ve been able to hear, it seems like the material is darker, more concise and more densely layered than ever before. Was there a conscious decision to not rest on your laurels and release music that continues to challenge the six of you?
I think that just happened musically in that [the other band members] wanted to really push themselves. They kept hearing things they could add and so they did. Vocally it is also more layered for me in psychedelic sections.
The lyrics for “No Wishbones” seem to be, generally speaking, about the living conditions in many African countries. Can you elaborate on the meaning behind them?
Actually it is about many countries in this world, I do not want to point and say exactly where I saw this first hand because there are so many poor places in this world.
The most recent track you’ve released, “Golden Cufflinks”, deals with music venues disappearing. It is something that seems to be happening more and more lately; do you think it’s particular to rock and metal music, or is it a symptom of the devaluation of live performances in general?
Actually it was initially inspired by the London Astoria being demolished, but I elaborate more about so many venues in the UK and worldwide closing, also I reflect on the concept of “Bland Street Bloom” in this song. It’s happening everywhere.
Moving on to lighter topics: While doing extensive touring, do you find it challenging to try to generally be as healthy as possible?
Yes I am not sure if you have heard of or seen my medical box? [I had not -Ed.] People think it’s a bit over the top but I have a full medical kit with me. I am also very much into probiotics, manuka honey and echinacea. Nowadays I cannot party every night either.
Is there anything specific you do before or after a show to warm up or cool down your voice?
I do warm ups before with my iPod, I also like to have warm drinks, liquorice and honey.
And finally, what’s your year looking like? Any major tours coming up?
I am unsure of what it’s gonna bring. I really hope we come back to USA as soon as we can.
Mikee, thanks for answering my questions and, more importantly, for creating amazing music for weird people like me to enjoy. Anything you care to add?
Hope you all enjoy the album! Spread the word!
The Future in Whose Eyes comes out this June 2nd via Millenium Night.