Enter Shikari's Rou talks David Bowie, new album & Big Narstie being 'one of the most ridiculous guys ever'

Other | Thursday 19th October 2017 | marc

After four seminal albums, Enter Shikari release their latest LP The Spark. Since the release of the first single 'Live Outside' which saw the band playing at Annie Mac's Radio 1 show as 'Hottest Record In The World', The Spark has been raved about by critics worldwide.

12 years into their booming career, Guestlist catch up with singer Rou for a chat about the band's journey so far.

So your new album is out now! What’s your state of mind at the moment?

Buzzing really, it’s quite surreal to have it finally out after working on it since early 2016, so yeah it seems to be going down really well so far.

Yeah man, I have heard a few tracks of it, sounds awesome. What changed within the band with this album to go in that direction?

A few things I guess, first of all, I became a little bit, not bored but lightly fed up with, I suppose heavier music, metal in particular. I think punk and post-punk were a big influence on this album. In terms of metal influences, there wasn’t really that much there at all. I think it just feels a bit sort of stagnant at the moment, that scene.

Yeah, I know what you are saying. Is it more a bit of a rebellion against yourself?

Yeah maybe, a few sorts of other things. I wanted to make an album that was a bit more focused. A lot of the time Enter Shikari tunes they can sound like 5 songs in one. I wanted to concentrate on lucidity and just try and improve the songwriting and focus on melody more.

The last few years I have become a lot more confident as a vocalist. As a singer, I’ve always shied away from calling myself a singer. I was always the kid that was into punk that would be more comfortable shouting perhaps. I have never really had any sort of singing tuition or anything like that. So yeah, it’s only the last few years after the death of David Bowie that have inspired me to really want to push things vocally and use melody as the real focus.

Yeah man, I totally get that. You worked with David Kosten on this album, what is he like? Bit of a nutter?

Ha-ha, what makes you say that?

I don’t know, some of the records he puts out, all the producers are out there and a bit odd. They can’t be normal to sit with a band all day! 

He’s a funny guy, we just got on with him really well as soon as we met him. He seemed to sort of get exactly where we were coming from, but also has a lot of experience in lots of other areas within music that we didn’t. He had an amazing vintage synth collection as well.

Ah sweet.

Yeah, so it was a bit of a no-brainer to go with him. We love his output, the stuff he has done with Everything Everything and Bat for Lashes was amazing. Also, his enthusiasm for what we were doing, when I was demoing a few tracks I was a bit sort of, not hesitant but I didn’t really know if they were any good. But he was just so passionate about the demos and it really rubbed off on us.

Yeah its really nice to have that sometimes, especially when the song is barely put together and someone can come along and just see where you are going with it, it’s amazing.

Yeah definitely.

Nice one. I imagine you would have smashed it with him.

Yeah, it was brilliant, we are so happy with it.

So have you always been a Big Narstie fan then?

Yeah, we met a few years ago very briefly. We have quite a few mutual friends. I think we met at a house party a few years ago and I was talking to one of our mates, can’t even remember what we were talking about, but it came up about a verse on a new track that I was making that needed another style of spoken word, some different bars on it, and he suggested Narstie. I said absolutely, that would be perfect. So yeah, got him down and it was a hilarious experience. He is one of the most ridiculous guys ever, so relentlessly funny, yeah it was a wicked experience.

Ah, nice! So the new album is out. Is it a reflection of the state of the world right now?  What’s your views on BREXIT and all that? Do you think that there is light at the end of the tunnel?

God, I don’t know, I mean at the moment it’s just frustrating because it’s the only thing that is being talked about, it’s like everything politically has been put on hold at the moment just because of BREXIT. And no-one knows what it is going to end up being STILL! I mean 'Take My Country' back is the main track on the album that sort of reflects a lot of our feelings about BREXIT. I mean not even just BREXIT but that sort of rise of nationalism we’ve seen, not just in the UK but throughout Europe, and obviously in America, Trump and stuff, so I think that song encapsulates our feelings I guess.

Yeah, It’s all just more added stress, it’s hard enough just living! So, touring? I know you had a few issues with the darker side of the industry wearing you down? What helped you get through that period?

Umm, well I mean, I guess first and foremost just having the creative outlet, having music to switch off and that sort of solitary creation is just like so good for any period of adversity. Yeah, I dunno, I had a very sort of strange 6 months basically the end of 2015 early 2016. I guess it was just through exhaustion.

I think I’m just lucky to have the boys in the band, we’ve been mates since primary school, so we are all very close, I’m lucky to have them around me, the whole sort of ethos of the band is like one big family really. So our management, everyone who works our stage, our press are just like friends that have been with us forever, so yeah just really lucky to have people around me that understood and cared.

Ah that’s nice. That’s what I get from you guys, a team, you just do it all yourself. I love that fact that there is a band like you around at the moment that are sticking the finger up to everyone else in the industry.

Ah amazing, thank you, man.

You're about to embark on your biggest tour? Finishing off at Alexandra Palace 10,000 cap WOW!

Yeah an absolutely amazing venue, so beautiful, amazing architecture, it’s just one big expanse really, its difficult because often when you get up to arena-sized venues they can often feel a bit sterile, you know plastered in advertising and very sort of clean, not anything very interesting just your classic arena where you might go and watch, I don’t fucking….."something on ice"

Yeah, Alexandra Palace is like the complete opposite of that, a beautiful building full of character and the atmosphere is always amazing

I know you also mentioned that you have a close team that work with you, Do you have a hands-on approach to the live shows? 

Yeah absolutely, so we’ve had our lighting guy since, well I think he joined us during the first album, 2007, he’s worked with us since and we designed the production and the lighting and all that business with him. Which we are currently doing, actually we had a meeting yesterday about the tour and planning it. Yeah, exciting times.

Cool, I recently went to see a band at the 02 Arena (I won’t mention any names) I was really disappointed that they didn’t put on a big show; they just stood there playing. There were 22,000 people watching that wanted more, I feel there should be little more responsibility to do more!

Yeah yeah, well I think that’s what we’ve always tried to. I mean music is an amazing tool to express whatever it is you want to express, but when you get into a venue that size, your options open up endlessly, there so much of like an onslaught of the senses, not just what people are hearing, but it’s what their seeing, what their feeling.

What’s the message you would like to get across in your music?

Ooof well that’s broad… I guess the main thing for me is that music as a tool has been something that humanity has had since day one, so if you go back to tribes or any early culture or society they will have had music and would have used music to bring people together, it creates community. So for me that’s all we are trying to do with our music still, because we live in a world that's so divided now and to be able to use this one, I think its literally the one thing that’s left, cos religions on the downfall now, and the thing is religion as much as it did unite people it wasn’t indiscriminate, whereas music can unite anyone no matter who you are where you from what you believe in, it brings us all together, it reminds us that we are humans and we are vulnerable and just sounds can make us feel a certain way or makes us feel the same way. Yeah to be able to create a community is just amazing.

What ideas changed your life?

Blimey! well I guess... well I’m quite into philosophy so there a few philosophers that have had a distinct easily applicable ideas which have really helped me, one I even got a tattoo from, a Roman philosopher Cicero who said a very simple phrase “criticize by creation”. Which basically means instead of calling things out you don’t like, being a big mouth, being very negative, you take the things that you don’t like and you say the complete opposite, you say you’re going to make something as far away from that as possible, creation is how you criticize basically.

I spent a very long period as I mentioned earlier of being so fed up with this kind of metal, we were touring with a lot of metalcore bands who just didn’t inspire me at all, just seemed so boring, normal and recycled, instead of it getting me down and pissed off and melty about it, I used that Cicero quote and just tried to concentrate on what I’m doing.

Such good attitude! Don’t moan about it, change it.  So If you were prime minister what would be the first law you would change?

Oh Jesus... um I guess the most sane things to be done quickly would be to put in place something that makes countries stick to the Paris agreement, the climate change stuff, cos I think at the moment there’s no set global vision of how we are going to get carbon emissions down and try and tackle what is basically an oncoming storm. Even though it doesn’t feel immediate, you walk outside and the world is still there, with all the tipping points and if we don’t act literally in the next few years we will be fucked in 20 years, yeah I'd have to go in on that.

Yeah, it’s scary stuff makes you question whether you should have kids!

Ha-ha yeah.

Finally, to wrap it up mate, which three people would you take to a desert island?

Jeeze, erm, right well I reckon, first, someone to cheer us up, make everyone laugh, do you know the Scottish comedian Limmy?

No, I don't mate.

He’s not one of the mainstream comedy lot, he’s fucking hilarious, he’s so dark but really funny, so definitely take him. Then I guess I’d better take a lady friend... um, man, I’m so shit with celebrities ummmm oh I know, that woman from Star Wars can’t think of her name (consults his computer) let me look hang on a minute.

Oh I will start thinking of my third one, well I guess the third one maybe should have been first one, will need someone to help me survive, so I’d have to take Ray Mears! Remember Ray Mears?

Yeah, I remember him, is he still going?

Ha-ha yeah, I think so, my brothers going to see him, he’s doing a little tour of venues explaining how to survive.  Ah that’s it (found his google search) my other choice would be Natalie Portman.

Enter Shkari 2017 Arena Tour Dates below:

Nov 16 – Liverpool, Arena
Nov 17 – Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena
Nov 18 – Nottingham, Motorpoint Arena
Nov 19 – Newcastle, Metro Radio Arena
Nov 21 – Manchester, Victoria Warehouse
Nov 22 – Brighton, Centre
Nov 24 – Birmingham, Barclaycard Arena
Nov 25 – London, Alexandra Palace

Tickets are available here and you can get The Spark now!