Two years after the band announced their side project, the Shikari Sound System, dubbed their “electronic alter-ego”, Enter Shikari released their first ever remix album, The Mindsweep: Hospitalised. Drawn together in collaboration with producers of cult South London record label Hospital Records, the album is just what the title suggests. “It was quite surreal”. Although the album is very much a Shikari album, the guys had full faith and trust in what the producers would bring back to them. “The main thing we had to do was make it clear that they had free reign”. Barely having any input in the production, Rou explains that “we just kept making sure that they kept it within the confines of rock. We had three or four sessions with each DJ and they’d give us the first draft and we’d give them feedback. It helped that we’re big fans of the label so we knew what we were going to get”. Familiarity of the label’s drum and bass scene meant that not only did the band get chance to work with people they’ve been fans of since way back when, but they also had a few admirers of their own. “It was really cool, some of the younger producers were actually really big fans of ours”. The mutual interest and respect whilst configuring the album, Rou says, “made it feel natural and real”.
Having always been involved in the drum ‘n’ bass scene, DJing became a form of relaxation for the band, especially Rou and Rob. “Obviously a Shikari Show is a full on experience, we’re playing all the instruments with the full production, it’s a bit of an onslaught of all the senses. The DJ set is more of a bit of fun on the side”. Rou jokes that “with DJing, you just walk into a venue with a USB stick”. We both laugh as he clarifies what many people (including me) think DJ’s actually do: “it couldn’t be more different to the tons of flight cases of equipment carried into a venue for Enter Shikari.” Ultimately, it’s a bit of ironically hi-energy downtime for the band: “It’s quite relaxing just being able to play tunes that you’re into at the moment and mixing up a nice set together in hope that everyone has a good time.
A band for over ten years, Shikari still stick to their mantra of being openly involved with their fans. Known for their after-parties, I asked Rou what motivates them to continue this tradition. “It’s just something that we’ve always done, when we started out we could hang out at the Merch table every night and speak to everyone in the venue and that was great because you felt a personal connection with everyone who was there to support you as a band. But as things grew it just wasn’t a possibility anymore because of the capacity of the places we were playing”. Rou expresses his distaste with the absurd idea of meet & greets: “rock music seems to be losing its way, it seems to be going further and further away from the punk roots if you like. When the only connection you can get with someone you look up to is by coughing up extra money just to shake their hand and get a poster or some bullshit like that. Having a DJ set where we can go down, take pictures and meet people during the set can hopefully set up a precedence where bands can follow up that route rather than having to charge”.
ULTIMATELY, IT’S A BIT OF IRONICALLY HI-ENERGY DOWNTIME FOR THE BAND
It’s no secret that Enter Shikari are very immersed in talking about issues that they feel strongly about and throughout their musical career, in particular The Mindsweep, they developed of a sense of responsibility “not necessarily to say something political but something worthwhile. We grew up in a DIY punk scene and that was kind of second nature. If your music was angry it’s actually angry for a reason, otherwise it’s dishonest”. Being messed over by their council in their earlier band years contributed to their passionate frustration. “They were trying to shut down gigs and I think there was a bit of ignorance where they thought a show of punk bands was going to be fights and drugs and whatever else and really it was the exact opposite, it was getting kids off the street and making something very positive and I think that early stage gave us a bit of distrust for authority. I guess that kind of blossomed into wider bigger topics”. Candidly, Rou admits that “throughout our career we’ve toured with some great bands, and we’ve also toured with some bands who very much have the look and the act of being angry, but they’re not really saying anything and that sort of always frustrated me, because there’s something very disingenuous about that.”
Enter Shikari couldn’t be further away from LADrock’s lyricism about alcohol, clubs and women. Talking about whether other artists should use their popularity and status as a platform for addressing problems, Rou doesn’t hold back in displaying his irritation about the lack of authenticity in the alternative scene. “They aren’t really offering the alternative, when mainstream music is so full of narcissistic lyrics or mind numbing stuff like that, it’s just repetitive soulless rubbish. If you’re part of the independent scene I think you have to make sure you offer that. I think we’re really lucky in the UK, to a certain extent the new punk is grime, its spoken word and I get a lot of inspiration from those scenes rather than the punk scenes when it comes to socially conscious lyrics”. Following up, I asked if they’d ever consider writing a song that had no political content but was simply a exercise in songwriting. “Tough question…when I’m writing music, it’s the music to a certain extent that dictates what’s going to be the emotional base of the song and the lyrics blossom from there”. He pauses for a second before adding jokingly that “it’s always quite descriptive of…something”.
With a few upcoming Sound System shows and a UK tour in February, fans should look forward to a crossover of the original Mindsweep as well as a “two or three” new remixes. I begin to understand that it’s more than just plugging in a USB stick. “It’s pretty difficult because of the nature of drum and bass being one of the produced forms of dance music, it heavily relies on the pumping nature of the compression and various production techniques and translating that to the live arena is quite difficult…that’s fine, but it just means many hours of sitting in front of a laptop”. Rou laughs, but as he says, “that’s all part of it. DJing will be minimal in its production, whereas Shikari will very much be a full scale assault!”