SikTh rules a community of weird headbangers who crave oddity.
Complex rhythms, heavy riffs and off the wall vocals; the band cut it’s own path through the hirsuite undergrowth of UK metal. Mikee Goodman, the heavier (and hairer) half of the twin vocal attack central to the SikTh’s sound, is a busy man.
SikTh went on indefinite hiatus around 2007 (reforming in 2014) and in that time Goodman kept recording, culminating in the recording and release of some phenomenal music with Outside the Coma.
Influencing a large number of current bands, it’s time both SikTh and Goodman were recognised for their contribution to music in the UK.
Talking to Trebuchet, Goodman discusses his approach to vocals and his musical history leading up to Outside the Coma. Affable and erudite, you get a sense of a music veteran whose relationship to the industry is defined by an amiable frustration; antagonistic, but so it is when you’re pursuing quality outside of easily marketable genres.
“When I left SikTh I wanted to do something completely different.
I was already doing a thing called Sad Season, which was a dark experimental project which would work one time out of ten and the other nine would be pretty bad. Some of the gigs would be horrendously bad.
We once had a gig where we were almost beaten up because we offended the people. It was a surfer/rugby place in deepest Cornwall and my bandmate Tom went to the toilet. It was really small in there and these three dudes were pissing, so he said in a very camp voice ‘Ohh it’s very cosy here’, just joking around. They got really offended and soon enough more and more them started getting angry. They ended up throwing shit at us. I had to end up doing my metal intimidation eyes, just staring out at people, but Tom wasn’t really aware of that at all.
So we had a few bad gigs but we also had some really magical gigs where it all worked. We developed a big band around it and that was good. But the problem was that it was kinda me and Tommy’s band and the other members were all in different bands, so while we were sort of a collective, we weren’t really a band in the sense that we had some solidarity within us. Plus because I never knew whether it was going to be great or not it kinda fizzled.
Then I met this guy who told me that he really wanted to be a band with me. A guy called Rich Fownes. He was emailing me while he was in Nine Inch Nails. He had to leave NIN, I don’t know what happened, but he was out, and said ‘Let’s make something happen’.
So I was making music with him in band called The Painted Smiles that didn’t really work out. It was really good at the start but we ended up finding that we had quite different personalities. It’s quite hard to be in a band with two people who are quite strong-minded. So I tried to carrying it on with other people with the same songs (which Rich was fine with) but it just felt like everything was a bit stale.
Also, I wasn’t feeling very good in my personal life. I had a feeling that everything was a bit stale. Everything was. So I just thought ‘Where in world do I want to be?’ and I remember back in 2004 I had really good times in Japan.
So I went to Tokyo a month later.
I was just wandering around thinking I wanted to be in a Japanese band and in particular I wanted to write with a female vocalist. Using my contacts there I lined up four vocalists for auditions, etc.
I was at an international festival at that time (in Tokyo) called Screamout festival. The same day there was another festival which was just Japanese bands, and being in Japan just over a week at that stage I was wondering which aftershow I should attend.
You meet a lot of people at these aftershow things so I wondered, you know, which one would be the best party. As it was I went to the Japanese one and there I met Yuri and got to know her. It was a magical night and started a whole new uplifting and positive experience for me.
This was 2012 and up to that point when I arrived in Japan things were very overwhelming and totally different from 2004, when I had been there with SikTh. We were signed to a big label then and there were people waiting everywhere and all that. In 2012 I was straight away sleeping on my friend’s floor and it was a different world. I was like ‘this sucks’ but around the time of meeting Yuri things took a very upward movement.
I had already arranged to write some music with Hayato Imanishi (Cyclamen). I had guested on his stuff just after SikTh, so that was coming together. Anyway, two days after meeting Yuri I was on a date with this really cool lady and then Yuri turns up at the bar that we were at because we were on a double date. It was around 3am and they just started drinking with us. It was really quite odd. We were drinking till 7am and then I was up and at Hayato’s house at 11am and then we were recording that day.
It was crazy, we must have been so hungover, it was quite heavy. We recorded ‘New Light’, which was about finding new light and all about that, it’s on the new record. It has quite depressive verse lyrics but then quite a positive uplifting chorus. That was the first thing we ever did. Hayato had written a load of ideas and then it was just the one we did on the day. Yuri did most of the singing that day, to be honest.
Watching bands in Japan and seeing some of the electronic bands, I started thinking that we needed to have an electronic element in the band. We needed to make beats and have some of those subby frequencies. We needed to do something really different to help us stand out even more. So I reached out to Kieren Pepper (ex-drummer of The Prodigy) and as soon as I got back to the UK we recorded more music before going back to Japan (in July. We were first there in February and March) and recording even more.
Yuri came back over in December and we made two music videos. One of them is called ‘Throw Rocks’ which you will have seen. It’s quite dark. From there we carried on and got it mixed.
Is she still based in Japan?
That’s been a real problem because we would have been signed to a major label if she was in the UK. It’s been a massive stumbling block. I’m talking management, labels, loads of different things. It’s not the music which has been tough.
All the labels believe in the music. They all say ‘this is awesome’. They see Yuri and they see she’s amazing in the music videos and everything, and live they are like ‘wow’. It’s just the Japan thing they can’t see past.
They see it as a massive cost. They see it as something they’ll have to do to get her over to the UK. Labels like to have the freedom to get on gigs that just come up: ‘There you go, go play that’. But I say to them, ‘Look on the other side of it, would you sign an American band?’
Another side of it that people don’t seem to see is that I make good quality music videos that would normally cost a lot of money and I’m not charging. I haven’t charged my band for that. I would if we had the money! But it’s not like that.
You take four weeks out of your life and it canes you. I’ve had to pull favours from people and get friends to come help me out. We went to Tokyo to shoot the last one. That was done on loads of favours. I film and edit myself and that’s why we’re able to do it.
To me it’s a bit crazy because so many labels are signing bands that are doing things that have already been. There have been so many 80s rock bands and there are so many bands that are generic: screamo, emo, metalcore, so many bands that are doing things that have been done before. It’s so tiring. It’s horseshit. I don’t want to hear the same things from these bands that are doing the same thing, from these scared labels who want to invest £3000 in a band to get £4000 back. The label’s 25% just doesn’t make any sense to me.
Sometimes it seem’s like the industry, including some bands, lack ambition. Years ago the bands that did really well were the ones that did something totally different. If you look back through history at the big bands, they all came through doing something new. The really big ones have their own sound. I don’t hear that these days. It seems more focussed on what you look like and the rest of it. From that angle it’s hard for me to understand why don’t people take a punt on Yuri because she looks amazing. We are experimental, we are different, but it’s catchy.
As it is we all chip in for her flights. We all pay 100 quid each every six months so it isn’t that bad. Then you give the label another music video and they save money. People don’t see it like I do.
What’s the vision of Outside The Coma?
The last video ‘Flavour of the Weak’ was exactly about all this. The lack of experimentation. People wanting instant gratification.
There’s a few people who call the shots and they decide what happens. If you break through and you can do it from a roots level that’s really good, but you need a lot of money these days. You don’t just go and make your album and go (to the public) ‘there you go’. It has to kind of take off in some way. I personally thought that the ‘Flavour of the Weak’ video was going to go viral. I thought it was going to rock it, and it still might.
I rejected three small deals because I thought, it’ll do alright, it’ll get picked up. But it didn’t and I’m left going ‘Oh well, apparently I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing’ (laughs). So you either need a lot of backing and have the support of the band, or you go with a small amount of money and go from there with a small percentage. Either way it’s going to cost you a lot of money.
I know a lot of bands that are signed to so-called labels and they end up spending loads of their own money.
The album is called the Battle of Being. Musically it goes all over the place from Speed Metal to Drum and Bass to Funk. It’s like the battle of everyday human existence in society. It’s an open metaphor, there’s lots of different vocal ideas. The lyrics are varied: love songs, paranoid songs, lots of different things.
‘Throw Rocks’ is about people who want to destroy others. You don’t always have to go with the crowd, you can stand by people.
The album is about lots of different things and social commentary about what’s happening right now. I went there quite a lot with this album, compared to Sad Season which is more metaphoric and poetic.
With SikTh it’s always very different shit. Sometimes I’m able to get a great line in but it’s hard because it’s so quickfire. You have to make things go with rhythms and the sounds. I’m really proud of some of the things I’ve written in SikTh, the later stuff, especially the second album. I really like that, despite the fact it’s really dark.
Are you going to go on tour to support the album?
We would have loved to have done that. But since SikTh reformed it’s kinda been harder. I thought it would have been easier but it hasn’t been. We had a really great vibe going and we sold out our first two shows on our tour and we would love to go out tour again. We’re looking out for a tour and hopefully the Japanese label will be able to sort something.
Do you have a manager?
This is the thing I said no to everyone and now I’m left on my own confused. I’m a musician and I make videos. But I’ve really loved making the latest music for SikTh as well. Getting into a poetic way or mindset. Once you’re in that space it’s hard to suddenly click out and start thinking like a manager. So it really needs a manager.
Everything needs to feel right. I’m hopeful for it, but I want to avoid the black hole that a lot of modern music goes into where you digitally release the music to nowhere, where no one hears it, and no one gives a shit and it’s gone. I don’t wish to be depressive, but it happens.
Do you think Outside The Coma could support SikTh?
I don’t think so as it’s pretty hardcore on the voice. When I do a SikTh show, it’s an hour long and I have to do so many changes of voice so quickly that it’s really hard. I like to be on top form if I can.
How do you keep your voice in good condition? Throat lozenges?
A lot of those throat lozenges are liquorice based. Me and Justin had someone teach us how to breathe properly when we were singing in the early days and he was saying we should just use pure liquorice, so I’ve used that ever since really. It’s on the rider every day. Or Throat Coat which is a special drink. Use those things and you’re laughing.
One time, when Justin was struggling with his voice on our last show in London at Koko this dude from one of the support bands had got Justin a drink while he was doing ‘Peepshow’. I had come back to get my drink which I had put there. It already had the tea-bag in and I was off to get the kettles. And you know, backstage at Koko there are so many winding little rooms and stairs, by the time I had I got back it was gone! So I was livid: ‘WTF where has it gone?!’. It freaks you out as you’ve got four minutes to get back onstage and you have to keep yourself hyped. So I didn’t have any, and when I tried to get back onstage I got lost. By the time I got back I was half a song late.
Did the guys give you a couple of looks when you got back onstage?
Well they are kind of used to it. I remember back in the day it was real trip (I used to smoke a lot in those days) and I was saying to this guy ‘Why the fuck are they playing ‘Bland Street Bloom’ before we’re going onstage, that is so fucking stupid’ and it was us! So I had to run onstage. It used to be that they’d play and then I’d walk onstage later, but I missed the cue that time.
When I’m going onstage I have to psyche myself up into somewhere. When I’m at the top of my game I channel somewhere else. I do paces and jumps, I talk to myself and have words and it’s not like in normal life where we can have a little chat. I’m totally full-on and expressive in a full-on outwardly mode, putting your aggression out there.
The thing with aggressive music is that when you put all your energy into it and out of your system it’s a very positive thing and you can be a lot more relaxed in your normal life. I’ve heard that some people are actors but I’m not an actor, I just get myself hyped up.
When I say I have words with myself I talk about emotional things. It’s more of an emotional state that brings you back to a time when something upset you or angered you, or even a feeling. But you have to remember that all the music you’ve made and all the expressions or however intimate a feeling you’ve created in the studio, you’ve transcended that. You have to completely have yourself in that place, so to me that’s what it’s about. It’s not about ‘Oh hi, I’m a regular guy’ and a lot of bands these days love that, they love being so ‘I’m just a normal guy so I’m going to smile in all my photo shoots’. I don’t do that. For me it’s all about being full-on and full-on expression.
It must be hard on the soul to do that on tour when you go up and down to such extremes every day?
Not at all. I mean the amount you get out, you get it out. You get your anger out. People do it in different ways, some people scream into a forest or punch a bag or exercise. It’s a form of extreme relaxation. The hardest one ever was during a show in Liverpool when I was asleep on the tour bus and the manager woke me up at 9pm for a 9.30 show. It was near impossible to get into the right place to do a great show. But usually, if you’re professional, you can get yourself into that right place.
It’s quite a good thing to express everyday because then you’re quite relaxed. With Outside the Coma it’s slightly more relaxed. The show in Camden was tough, I had the flu and we didn’t have a proper place to get ready. Unlike the Download (SikTh) show, which was a properly amazing show. It was actually so emotional at that show. I was so psyched up, my friend told me my eyes were fully opened up throughout the whole show.
I felt like crying through the second or third songs because of what I’d missed. You’re there with all the other bands and the audience. To have that feeling of being there again. None of the other projects really ever got a chance,so I almost never thought that I’d see this sort of thing again. It was a real trip.