Sylosis

author NB date 01/03/11

It's pitch black. I'm locked in the back of a van parked in St Mary's, frankly the ghetto of Southampton, with a hooded man who I've never met before...

Okay, it's not as sinister as it sounds because that man is Josh Middleton, front-man of UK thrash metal outfit: Sylosis, and we're parked outside Joiners in Southampton on the first date of Metal Hammer's 2011 Razor tour. Josh is with me to discuss the story of Sylosis, their new album and the labour of love that is playing metal in today's music industry.

Josh: Let's do the interview in the van.

[...]

RF.net: Can I close the door?

Josh: Sure... oh wait, not all the way!

[The door locks shut.]

RF.net: Oops.

[...]

RF.net: Hi, thanks for doing this interview. Can you introduce yourself and your role in the band?
Josh: I'm Josh Middleton and I do vocals and guitar.

RF.net: This is the first interview we've done with you so could you describe the "story so far", from the start of Sylosis to signing with Nuclear Blast?
Josh: It'll be about ten / eleven years ago when we started, in Reading. We were like fourteen at the time, at school. We just went through loads of line-up changes at the time because we weren't doing it too seriously; it was just a bunch of kids jamming after school. We've just had the same name since then so it doesn't really count. We did a demo in 2006, which then became our first EP ["Casting Shadows", ed.] and we then did another demo in 2007, which became our second EP ["The Supreme Oppressor", ed.]. Then Nuclear Blast e-mailed us, after hearing some tracks off the second EP, and just asked to sign us. Since then we've just been touring as much as we can, after we released the first album: as much touring as we can get really.

RF.net: At what point did the band become a serious project?

Josh: Well when we signed, it was at the start of 2008, and when we released the album at the end of 2008. So, I guess, after the first album came out we did our first touring and stuff.

RF.net: But you'd decided that you wanted to be in a band full-time since the start?

Josh: Yeah, we'd always wanted to make that the goal. Being in a band you don't make money - we don't make money from the band at all – so you have to have jobs and stuff so that you can afford to go on tour and things.

RF.net: So before the most recent change, which we'll come to, when did you get the current line-up?

Josh: 2008; so, just after we finished recording the first album.

RF.net: Your first full length: "Conclusion of an Age", received a lot of positive press from the likes of Kerrang and Rock Sound. Were you pleased with the way that album turned out? Is there anything you would have done differently with the benefit of hindsight?
Josh: Oh yeah, quite a lot of things; I'm not too keen on it, personally. It was quite positive, all the reviews and reception, but people tagged us in with metalcore, which is definitely something that we're not into at all so... thank you!

[Bassist Carl Parnell releases us from the van.]

RF.net: We're free! Sorry, you were saying...

Josh: ...yeah, at the time we were happy with it, but, I guess you change after a while. I kinda came out not quite how we planned really.

RF.net: You have a new album out on March 11th: "Edge of the Earth". What has the writing process been like? Although it's technically Sylosis' fourth record, have you experienced the "difficult second album" syndrome?
Josh: Not really, no. I mean, after we did the first album it was kind of a bit worrying because we didn't have any material, but, as soon as we started writing, we were immediately more excited about the new stuff a lot more. So, we weren't too worried; it went quite smoothly.

RF.net: Your first album was fairly thrash oriented but with a lot of melody and a, dare I say, bit of metalcore in there too, especially the clean vocals.
Josh: Er yeah... some people say that. I guess people call it metalcore if you have At the Gates riffs and stuff, whereas, I always thought it was if you had hardcore and beat downs, which we never had.

RF.net: What direction is the new material going in then?

Josh: Well, we're just trying to make sure no one piles us in with metalcore and stuff, because we're not into that at all. So, it's just a lot more thrash and more mature. It's heavier in a more intense way, but we also listen to a lot of seventies prog, like Rush and stuff, and Neurosis, Cult of Luna, that kind of thing.

RF.net: So they're your main influences outside of trash?

Josh: Yeah.

RF.net: I also read that you wanted a less produced sound?
Josh: Not as over-produced. The last album just sounds too robotic; the drums are triggered and stuff. We just wanted to strip it back a bit: make it sound more live.

RF.net: And you've done both of these albums with Scott Atkins. He's done records for bands like Behemoth and Cradle of Filth. Did you choose him because of that track record?
Josh: Not really, because we did the first album with him and he hadn't done those bands before that. He'd only done... I can't think what he'd done before that... just some friends' bands CDs and stuff. So, I'd asked one of them the first time and the second time it was just because we knew he was really good and into the same kind of stuff: old eighties metal, and we knew he'd get the sound we wanted.

RF.net: Did he ever get you to do things you wouldn't otherwise have done?

Josh: Not really, to be honest, we pushed him to do stuff he wouldn't want to do. He makes quite modern sounding albums and we pushed him to make it a bit more and do stuff that he wouldn't usually do.

RF.net: You lost your vocalist in May. I suppose that hasn't affected the writing process much?
Josh: No, the whole album was recorded by then, all the music.

RF.net: Do you think it will affect future albums then?

Josh: No, I mean, he didn't write anything for the albums; I always write all the music anyway and I don't think he'd had much lyrics, at least, we hadn't heard any vocals, so it didn't make any difference.

RF.net: Who wrote the lyrics previously?

Josh: Oh, he wrote the lyrics for the first album... he might have written some for the new album, but we hadn't heard any.

RF.net: What was the reason for his departure?

Josh: We weren't getting along and he said, on the last tour that we did, that, if we didn't start making money from it, that he couldn't keep doing it. He said afterwards that that wasn't entirely true, but, we didn't want to risk it anyway so it felt better to move on with just the four of us.

RF.net: The first album wasn't a concept album, but it had a theme running throughout. Does the new album have a similar theme?
Josh: Yeah, it's a whole concept album about a guy living in isolation for a lifetime. A lot of the songs have double meanings: personal experiences and real life stuff, but they also tie in with the story.

RF.net: So the cover art is related to that?

Josh: That's the guy living in isolation, at the furthest point on the earth, when people used to think the earth was flat.

RF.net: This is the first date on the current tour. Am I right in saying this is your first major headline tour? How do you feel about that?
Josh: Not really, we headlined the Jägermeister tour last November, but yeah it's cool, this is probably the sixth headline tour we've done; we always did them, but we just get more coverage these days. But, yeah it's cool, and it's a diverse line-up as well.

RF.net: Do you have any plans for immediately after the tour?

Josh: Not really, just a few one-off festivals.

RF.net: Any summer festivals this year?

Josh: As many as we can, but we haven't got any lined up yet.

RF.net: How has the loss of your vocalist changed the way you do things live? I guess it's quite a change for you?
Josh: Yeah it's pretty hard for me. Obviously it's just one less person, I guess, but aside from the obvious, it took me quite a while to get used to doing vocals at the same time as guitar. I was never really the sort of person who wanted to be a front-man as a kid: posing in front of the mirror or anything like that. I just like music and I wanted to do the vocals. So, because I've never wanted to be the centre of attention, I've never really thought about being a front-man and talking to the crowd and stuff so I'm easing into it as I go.

RF.net: So what do you think is the key to putting on a good live show?
Josh: Erm... playing as tight as you can, or, at least, playing whatever your recording is. Some bands have completely edited albums that sound immaculate, but live they're sloppy. So, we like to play as tight as we can and also try and make it a bit more atmospheric; like, we've got - maybe not tonight - but we've got a lot of interludes and samples that we use, and we've got an awesome new backdrop of the album cover.

RF.net: Are there any bands whose stage show you'd like to emulate?

Josh: Not really. I can't think of any.

RF.net: Writing and recording and touring both involve you guys spending a lot of time together. Do either of those put any stress on the band?
Josh: Neither does really. Me and Carl, the bassist have been mates longer than any of my other mates and then Rob [Callard] and [Alex] Bailey, the drummer and guitarist, both grew up as best mates. The four of us... there's no tension; it's just fine really. We never squabble.

RF.net: Do you get a chance to do anything else when you are on tour?
Josh: Yeah, wherever we can but most of the time there's either not enough time, we aren't near anything or we can't afford to do anything cool.

RF.net: We'll I haven't found anything of interest to see in Southampton, and I've been here for four years.

RF.net: What about when you're not on tour?
Josh: I record bands, when I can, at a studio. The other guys test XBOX games and Bailey's at uni.

RF.net: You've got a song on this month's Metal Hammer CD and recently had a track played on a prime-time Radio 1 slot. Is that a big deal for you?
Josh: Yeah it's cool. We've always had play on Radio 1 since the first EP, and that's really cool, but this one was 7pm on a Monday when it's normally at midnight, so that probably helped a bit. And Metal Hammer is always cool to us.

RF.net: It seems to me that metal and heavy music are getting more popular at the moment in the UK, but, that metalcore is the genre of the day, with bands like Bring Me the Horizon seeing a surprising level of popularity in the last few years and a lot of metalcore from the US is popular right now. What do you think about the direction metal is taking in this country?
Josh: Yeah, I'd say so. It's kind of always been the way that UK bands don't get as much attention but it's slowly changing. I think Bring Me the Horizon and Architects are helping, helping other countries look at the UK more. I think the metal scene is better than it has been for years and years, and even if kids start off liking metalcore I think they'll go off and find their own things. It's the same with Guitar Hero; we did a tour with Dragonforce and there were twelve year old kids in Guitar Hero tee shirts, so that's probably the way they get introduced to heavy music. Anything's cool I guess.

RF.net: You were talking about not making much money. Do you have any strong views on music piracy?
Josh: I don't really mind it, everyone does it now so you can't really stop it, but me personally, I always like owning a CD; I never download music. It does make it harder to make a living off it because kids think that, if you're signed or if you're in a magazine or anything, that you've made money, but we lose money when we go on tour. We have to work other jobs. So it's annoying but that's the way it's going. Kids are going to more shows than they used to and buying merch probably helps just as much. You can't really do anything about it so I wouldn't complain.

RF.net: It seems that younger people are only interested in having the MP3s now and have no interest in owning the CD.

Josh: Yeah that definitely seems to be happening.

RF.net: Do you think there's anything the labels could do to improve things?

Josh: I don't know really. I think it's just so easy for kids to download and, like, if they didn't grow up with it... I will miss it if people don't buy CDs and have something physical in their hand.

RF.net: Okay, here are some quick-fire questions. Karate moshing: ye or nay?
Josh: I don't mind to be honest. It's annoying when you're in the pit and you wanna watch a band but at our shows I don't mind; it's cool.

RF.net: What do you think is the best UK festival?
Josh: Sonisphere has been awesome... really good.

RF.net: Favourite album of 2010?
Josh: Probably The Sword "Warp Riders" or... barely anything came out that I liked... maybe the Karnivool album.

RF.net: Are there any releases that you're particularly looking forward to this year?
Josh: The new Gojira album is going to come out, and maybe Opeth, Meshuggah, Mastodon... or maybe not Mastodon, they'll probably release next year.

RF.net: Do you have any tips for our readers, any local up-and-comers that our readers should check out?
Josh: Chapters, they're really good. They're from London. They're sort of progressive metal and they're quite cool, probably one of my favourite UK bands, but it's hard for them to get a break with the music they play.

RF.net: Thanks for doing this interview. Do you have any final words for the readers?
Josh: Thanks! Thanks for being supportive.

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