Featured in Blunt issue #135
They argued with thermometers and opened minds with A Flash Flood Of Colour, and now Enter Shikari are using their brand of electronicore to introduce listeners to a whole new set of issues. BLUNT questions the state of affairs with a very jet-lagged Rou Reynolds.
For more than a decade, Enter Shikari have been subverting typical genre notions, spouting political rhetoric, and steering head on into the uncomfortable issues that matter. On their fourth platter – the 12-track The Mindsweep, which alludes to the idea that those in power sweep away and discredit new ideas – frontman Rou Reynolds and the gang are as fierce and engaging as they’ve ever been as they break into new sonic territory; no easy feat for a band already as expansive and progressive as the St Albans four-piece. On a tour stop in Tokyo, Reynolds fights off sleep to guide us through life in the 21st century.
In 2015 we’re inundated with pop music as a form of escapism and distraction, but you guys are using music to enlighten us all to the fact that things aren’t as sugary as the Top 40 would have us believe.
Yeah, absolutely. I think we’ve always felt that there’s a bit of an embarrassment in music and if you think of music as an art form, we try and sort of question what art should be used for – especially in this day and age when there’s so much wrong with the world. There’s not many outlets that actually promote various solutions or alternative systems of thought. Music, and art in general, is one of the last bastions of truth really, without trying to aggrandise it too much. I think we’ve always felt a certain amount of responsibility, especially coming from a sort of hardcore punk background. The type of music we play just lends itself very well to speaking about issues that you actually do want to scream your head off about.
Your lyrics often call out a lot of the people in charge for their actions – have you encountered any criticism from these people directly or have they acknowledged your music and the message you have?
Actually funnily enough, it’s not a criticism, but we had quite a famous politician here in the UK tweet us about a month ago expressing his best wishes for our new album and saying how much of a big fan he was [laughs]. He’s called John Prescott; he was a Labor politician under Tony Blair’s government. That was quite bewildering; it was quite a shock to see that. Generally the only criticism we get – well, they’re not our major demographic in terms of music, but we certainly get our fair share of criticism from right-wing media and broadsheet papers. You know, when they – for some reason – decide to review our album, they usually sort of dismiss it as like – I love the phrase that gets used so much – “Sixth Form Politics” or “University Politics” which straightway, that statement is derogatory without any thought and it completely dismisses anything that you’re talking about. It just labels you as something, as if that’s a comeback or opening dialogue. We haven’t really, at least not to my knowledge, had any politicians hating us.
Have you always had an interest in current affairs and politics?
I definitely haven’t always; I’m not sure whether I would be if I wasn’t in this position. It’s difficult to say because I think one of the first things that sort of made us start wanting to think about the wider, bigger subjects was just having so many run-ins with our local council as a band. They were basically closing down youth clubs, which was preventing and demeaning any sort of youth culture without any cause or justification as well, which is incredibly frustrating. That gave us a complete disrespect for authority straightaway, and that just broadened and broadened the more we learnt about the world. The band, because of the amount of responsibility we feel, it’s a reason to knuckle down and speak about these things. I’ve never really decided what I’d be doing or whether I’d be very interested if I didn’t have the band.
How would you suggest we play it in Australia where we’ve got a Prime Minister who refuses to acknowledge the effects of something as serious as climate change?
Yeah, I mean, I guess you have to question the motivation. One of things we’ve really tried to do with this band is really promote causality – you know, what caused this and what caused that. Basically, reignite your inner-little kid when you sort of questioned everything and try and find the root cause. And the root cause, as with many things – and I think especially with climate change denial – is usually making some sort of profit or there’s some sort of monetary motivation in not believing in climate change. It’s very frustrating and in terms of combating it, it’s difficult and there’s always varying degrees of how beneficial or how worthwhile it is to protest. I think it’s just building a community around positivity rather than just sitting at home thinking, “What a shithead, this guy is going to lead us into hellfire. This is going to be some shit world for my grandchildren”. If you can at least be around people who are positive and are creating the solutions, then you can at least feel like you’re on the right side of history. The concept of The Mindsweep is basically the sweeping away of new ideas by those in power, because it obviously threatens their power, and that’s exactly what happens with climate change as well. More and more people are going to be forced out of apathy because when we live fairly comfortable lives, it’s very easy to be self-absorbed. I don’t mean that in a demeaning way, but sometimes you can be innocently ignorant of those things, just like we were and just like I still am of many issues, I’m sure. It definitely seems to be the way things are going. More and more people literally just can’t sit quietly anymore.
When we last interviewed you for A Flash Flood Of Colour, you were saying that you’d “thrown every musical inspiration that you’ve ever had into that record” – would you call The Mindsweep an extension of that?
Absolutely. The more you go on, the more confidence you build to delve into even more influences and more sounds. I’ve always had a diverse range of favourite singers, and I’ve always wanted to keep branching out. I think because of the different degrees and dichotomy of different emotions that we try and put forward and provoke on the album, you need a nice, colourful palette to fit that and to make that work. With spoken word you can articulate a point in as much detail and with a lot more venom – in some situations, even more venom – than shouting. It’s strange; I mean, you could say one sentence in the varying different ways you can use your voice and it can almost change its meaning, or it can at least change the dynamic, the feel, the vibe of it. I guess it’s just really tapping into that and using that to your advantage as a composer.