Enter Shikari show at Edinburgh Edge Festival
This article is from 2009.
With a fanbase stretching from teenagers to pensioners, hardcore dance punk outfit Enter Shikari seem to have it made. Henry Northmore speaks to a band who simply don’t want to be misunderstood
For readers of a certain age, Enter Shikari might be a baffling proposition. Coming on like sonic napalm, their mix of hardcore metal and hard, fast trance beats firebomb the senses with speed and intensity. ‘To the greengrocer I’d say, we are just an alternative rock band that’s heavily influenced by dance music,’ explains affable bassist Chris Batten. ‘That’s the fundamental thing. If you want to go further I guess our dance genres would be trance, drum & bass and dub and on the rock side of things more towards hardcore punk.’
It’s a potent brew, with Rou Reynolds’ screamed vocals over heavy electronic beats overlaid with trash guitars from Liam Clewlow and the percussive attack of drummer Rob Rolfe. Taking the formula which The Prodigy perfected in the heady 90s and running with it, Enter Shikari have created even darker and more extreme sounds. ‘We started off as an alternative rock band and then Rou started getting an interest in synths and electronics and we just started merging it,’ according to Batten. ‘Then we started clubbing more and getting into the dance scene and it just came out of us. It was a very natural thing, which is strange because you wouldn’t think it would be.’
Theirs is a real grassroots story, which starts out in their native St Albans in Hertfordshire with word of mouth spreading out from their intense live shows. Crowds grew until they were selling out the 2000-capacity London Astoria, one of only five unsigned bands who have ever managed the feat (the others being The Darkness, Arctic Monkeys, The Blackout and You Me at Six). They are masters of high intensity euphoric gigs, a seething riot of trashing bodies and light sticks, part rave, part heavy metal mosh pit. ‘It’s pretty much just mayhem really,’ laughs Batten. ‘I think we’ve got quite a live reputation now. We go out and give everything we’ve got and the crowd do the rest for us.’
Despite the blistering live reviews and growing fanbase they still struggled to get signed. ‘We’d recorded our album, and knew there was a market out there for us because we were playing live shows and selling out venues with no major promotions and no agents. We knew we were ready and that there was a demand for it; we’ve never been ones to sit back and wait for things to happen.’ So they struck out on their own setting up their label Ambush Reality.
The gamble paid off with Enter Shikari’s 2004 debut Take to the Skies reaching number four in the album charts. Packed with bristling hardcore punk meeting techno nuggets such as ‘Anything Could Happen in the Next Half Hour …’, ‘No Sssweat’ and ‘OK Time for Plan B’, the album struck a cord with the youth of Britain, uniting the dance and metal tribes, giving the people a music they could love and which their parents wouldn’t fully comprehend. ‘Maybe people over a certain age wouldn’t have understood the first album,’ says Batten. ‘Still, I don’t like to generalise because we see so many different people at our shows. We’ve got one guy called Clive who turns up to probably about 50% of our UK gigs and he’s 65 years old.’
Now back with their second album Common Dreads, it’s another exothermic fusion of guitars and beats. ‘The main difference this time is that we worked with a dance producer which we thought was the only thing lacking from our first record. Take to the Skies was recorded with a straightforward rock engineer and he didn’t really know what we were looking for in the dance side of things, and so to incorporate that with Andy Gray, who is really quite big in the dance world, was great.’
Gray is perhaps best known as the co-writer of the Big Brother theme alongside Paul Oakenfold, but has also produced and remixed the likes of Korn, U2 and Tori Amos so already had previous when it came to melding two worlds together. It ups the electronics but never takes a foot off the accelerator, injecting more variety, depth and maturity. ‘It’s a lot more diverse and should appeal to a larger audience,’ adds Batten. Perhaps Enter Shikari shouldn’t work but somehow they do. Expect them to blow their competitors out of the water at this year’s Edge Festival.
Enter Shikari, The Picture House, Lothian Road, 0844 499 9990, 27 Aug, 7.30pm, £16.