Big news from my little journalistic site projects: I’ve quit Alternative Wire some weeks ago and started writing for Strife Magazine. I feel like I’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into my work at AltWire.net and got some awesome experiences which resulted in some cool interviews and articles in return, so it wasn’t an easy decision to quit. Still, I needed the change and I’m super stoked to having joined Strife Magazine. The owner of Strife, Glenn, is from Amsterdam and started the online magazine only 8 months ago. During that time, he managed to build up quite the following on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Check out the website HERE.
My first interview on Strife Magazine was pretty special for me, because it was another one with the lead singer of my favourite band Enter Shikari, Rou Reynolds (you can read my first interview with him here). On one hand that made writing the interview questions very easy because I know the band by heart, but on the other hand I was pressuring myself quite a bit. My absolute nightmare is writing an interview with questions like “Soo, your band name sounds so wicked. What does it mean?” (*YAWN*) or any other question the band is asked numerous times throughout their career. Also, in case you don’t know Enter Shikari, they are super smart and voice their opinions on social-political issues quite often. So an interview with them can be one of the best in your writing “career”! I ended up spending over a week just watching every interview with them on YouTube, before I felt confident enough to write up a bunch of questions and send them to their publicist. I’m quite satisfied with the result, but judge yourself. You can read an excerpt below:
Imagine you are on a beautiful remote island for a nice, relaxing vacation and while you’re lying in the warm sunlight, drifting in and out of sleep, sipping on some cool coconut water, someone suddenly pours ice cold water over your half naked body. That’s pretty much how it feels to listen to Enter Shikari’s music in this mindless soup of irrelevant mainstream garbage – while it hurts at first, you will soon enjoy the rush of adrenaline. Or to quote the band itself: “You stop, think, begin to revive.” When other bands try to circumnavigate the huge iceberg of having an opinion – and to actually stand by it – Enter Shikari just hit the ice full force and break it to pieces. On their recent album The Mindsweep they vent about a variety of topics: climate change, the privatisation of the NHS, religious small-mindedness, social division, the British class system, and capitalism, but instead of losing their popularity, their album was praised by critics and celebrated by fans. The band proves again and again that music can, no, should have a social value. That it should engage and not numb the mind. That it is refreshing to push boundaries.
Since the release of The Mindsweep, Enter Shikari has played a massive amount of 148 shows worldwide and still plays each show with an energy that is hard to match. The band is currently touring North America – right in the middle of a heated election battle between Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Reason enough for us to catch up with the band. Lyricist and singer Rou Reynolds shares his thoughts on speaking up as an artist, endorsing politicians, keeping up the energy during the tour, meditation, and what Enter Shikari fans can expect for the rest of the year.
Strife Magazine [Melissa Wilke]: You are currently touring the states for the 22nd time! How has America treated you so far?
Rou Reynolds: Christ that is a lot isn’t it! And just shows that word of mouth can still get you fairly far these days, even amongst the tumult of strident internet garbage. This tour’s been fantastic. The shows have been wild, the weather’s been lovely. Can’t complain.
SM: You’ve been touring relentlessly for over a decade now which must be quite taxing. What do you do to stay healthy? With your aggressive vocals how do you keep your voice in shape? Do you have any funky warm up techniques or remedies for a sore throat?
RR: Other than trying to eat healthily, (sticking as best to a plant based diet as possible) I have a few tools in my arsenal that keep me sane. Mindfulness meditation and yoga certainly help keep one’s mental health in check whilst away. Reading a book, i.e. doing ‘normal’ stuff that takes you out of the bubble of mayhem that is being in a touring band.
Vocally I really don’t do much though if I’m honest, I don’t really warm up for instance. I abstain from drinking alcohol excessively though ‘cos that does the ol’ vocal cords no good, just a snifter every now and then is all. If I have a problem with my voice I just do vocal rest – that’s the only thing that actually works you see – shutting the hell up for 12 hours or so.
SM: You are an avid supporter of “mindfulness meditation” and even made a podcast about it with a short exercise for beginners (I actually tried it out of curiosity and for research, and got rid of a week long headache after only ten fucking minutes of this! Thanks, mate!). Does it help you during touring cycles and maybe even affect your songwriting somehow?
RR: Ha! Glad it was of some assistance, thanks for checking it out! Mindfulness has so many benefits, it still shocks me why it isn’t on our school’s curriculum. It helps deal with stress, anxiety, depression, it can help with focus, anger management, emotional problems, loss, self esteem, the list goes on. And it’s all backed by vast scientific research too. It helps me on tour as it can be a bit of a roller coaster. Playing in front of thousands of people one minute, alone in a hotel room missing home the next. It helps balance and calm the mind I suppose. I use it on and off tour as a workout for the brain really, like going to the gym for your mind. I doubt it affects my song writing. I certainly don’t need increased focus for that, I often wake with an idea and surface from an intense writing session at 5pm realising I haven’t even eaten. But I suppose song writing in a way is a form of meditation anyway. You are very much in the moment, and focused on one thing.
SM: It’s no big secret that you’re intently following the US elections. I feel that for us Europeans, US elections are often such a nervewrecking spectacle because we can’t understand why some candidates with their archaic world views (like Donald Trump or Ted Cruz) are still in the run for presidency. Sometimes, it’s almost like watching a car crash in slow motion. Has touring the US given you a new perspective on this matter e.g. by talking to the locals and/or really experiencing America yourself?
RR: Well at first we meet and mingle with people at our shows, that doesn’t bring any new angles really, just solidarity, enthusiasm and people thanking us for emboldening their activism etc. But it’s when you begin travelling between the shows that you begin to see the vast swathes and towns and buttfuck nowhereswhere people truly live in this narrow-minded, undereducated world where Trump appears to have some hold. Unfortunately his playground style of politics, his bullying, his incredibly limited use of language, his unswerving devotion to ego, it entertains these people. I think experiencing these insular and culturally impoverished areas at least helps you understand how Trump has got so much momentum.
SM: Some people have organised a “Bernie Sanders for President Block Party” aka “Berniechella” in Coachella because they wanted to fuse music with politics and provide a space for concert-goers to get involved. Would you play at such an event or would it make you uncomfortable to endorse a politician so blatantly?
RR: I’ve no problem with using my voice to promote good ideas. In our archaic political system ideas come in the form of a human face, that’s fine. If this human turns out not to implement the ideas or at worst U-turns for no good reason, then similarly I’ll use my voice to denounce too. Some artists appear afraid to speak up whatsoever, refusing to have a voice on big matters, perhaps they think they’ll lose popularity? But that’s the nature of capitalism, it’s saturated by the ego (Trump, you could say exemplifies capitalism). Capitalism forces us to think in that dog eat dog manner, to constantly put ourselves first and to withhold unconventional or radical thinking in favour of conformity, as that’s safer and it keeps one’s nest un-rustled.
Read the rest HERE!