INTERVIEW: Shattered Skies
For those who missed the introductory post on one of the most promising new wave of melodic metal bands, Shattered Skies are a melodic groove/djent metal band from Ireland, formed in late 2010 and have since released 2 EPs on Bandcamp, showcasing a style removed from the Meshuggah ripoffs. They’ve gone from strength to strength, and have now taken the time out of a busy schedule to answer a few questions here about their origins and musical style, finding vocalist Sean and what the future holds for them as a band.
Many thanks to you guys for taking the time out to answer these questions, I imagine you’re fairly busy with the gig dates you have on. For starters, could you quickly outline where Shattered Skies came from and how it ended up in its current formation?
Ian: No problem! Well Shattered Skies basically came together after the disbandment of a previous band (Distributor) that myself (guitars/keyboards), Ross (drums) and James (bass) were in for a few years. That band slowly dissolved in late 2010 and we basically decided to move forward with new music and find a new singer. Sean (vocals)’s girlfriend is a friend of Ross’ and so Sean expressed interest in auditioning, so he came up and recorded an audition of “This Is What We Built” in January 2011, and we knew he was the right guy for the job! The band has basically been around for about a year now.
Sean, how did you come into all of this, given your non-metallic background? Does it feel slightly unnerving due to this? And, more intriguingly, are the screams on Reanimation EP and live yours?!
Sean: As Ian mentioned I met Ross through my girlfriend and we became good friends. He played ‘This Is What We Built’ (which they had just recorded as their old band Distributor) to me at a friend’s party. I couldn’t get enough of it! I fell in love with their sound. From then on I went to every gig they played, I was a fan. I got a text off Ross randomly one day saying that Distributor was no more but a new project had started up with the remaining members (Ian, Ross and JD) called ‘Shattered Skies’. He said they were holding auditions for a singer and thought of me first…I obviously said yes.
So as Ian said previously I auditioned ‘This Is What We Built’ by recording it with Ross. A few weeks later Ian and Ross turned up to one of my covers gigs, which Ross was doing sound for. When the gig ended I got off stage and went straight over to Ian. (This was the first time I met Ian properly, the only other time I had spoken to Ian before this was at a house party when my girlfriend told me he was a really good guitarist and asked him to play “Time Is Running Out” by Muse, while I sang it. At that point I didn’t even know he was the guitarist for Distributor/Shattered Skies). I shook his hand and asked what he thought of the gig and more importantly the audition? His reply was ‘Welcome to Shattered Skies’.
At first I was indeed nervous but at the same time very excited. I was really only used to singing covers and hadn’t had a chance to find my own voice, until now. Also working with a totally different audience I was anxious to see how they would react to me and my style of singing. I was pleasantly surprised and was pretty much welcomed with open arms. The feedback from our EP ‘Reanimation’ was immense, the comments on my voice and the EP in general were extremely positive and we were blown away by the reviews! I am very excited to see what the future has to hold for us.
Finally, the screams/growls are indeed mine and Ian’s. Ian tends to do the lower growls whereas I do the higher screams which we both do live and on the recording.
I heard you got to play Euroblast festival, how was the experience?
Ian: Best weekend of our lives basically! We played to a completely full Underground in Koln, Germany with people moshing and headbanging at 4pm! It was our first experience of having people sing our lyrics back to us, Sean was able to stop singing ‘Beneath the Waves’ at one point! It was amazing. We also met a HUGE amount of our idols and so many incredible musicians and people. It was a magical experience for sure.
What inspires you lyrically? Were there contributions from Sean or were they already written prior to him joining?
Ian: I write all the lyrics at the moment, Sean is quite new to this kind of music so he needs some time to learn and get used to it before coming up with complete creative ideas himself, but he’s always got good ideas of embellishment and harmonies etc. on the melodies, and he continues to improve on that!
Lyrically I’m inspired by a lot of things, I like to focus mainly on relationships and social things to do with how people interact and feel. For example ‘As The Sea Divides’ is about a relationship ending against the wishes of those involved, or ‘Attrition’ which is about the emotions and feelings people might go through after committing a murder! I’m not much for writing fiction or about politics etc. because I’m not strong on that, so I just try to deal with things everyone goes through. Maybe not murder so much, but you know what I mean!
You released two awesome covers of Europe’s “The Final Countdown” and Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody” for free. Who or what possessed you to ‘reanimate’ these oldschool tracks (and incidentally make them more awesome)?
Ian: Well ‘The Djentlemen’s Club’ facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Djentlemen) asked us to do a Christmas song for their ‘Djent Goes Xmas’ compilation so we thought that Slade song would suit our style! ‘The Final Countdown’ was our manager’s idea for something to put out on New Year’s Eve. It turned out great, people love it! We’ll probably bring it out live on occasion now!
Shattered Skies’ music has a lot of trance and keyboard elements, how do you get these to work in the live atmosphere?
Ian: Backing tracks. Ross has a click track in his ears when we play and we send all the synths (and some backing vocals that I can’t sing & play) to the PA and we just keep time with Ross. It’s simple but really effective, because we’d need about 4 synth players to pull it all off on stage! We try to pull off as much of the music as possible between the 4 of us at the gig though.
You’ve mentioned before that you’ve been a fan of groove and djent since day one, what was your reaction when the term “djent” started being used?
Ian: I stay out of this argument because people seem so angry about it! It is a silly word but it’s a handy way for people to find bands that have certain elements they like such as groovy riffing, techy playing and polymeter etc. It may not have been the original intent of the word djent which is just supposed to be a muted power chord, but I really couldn’t be bothered getting annoyed at it, it is what it is! The only thing I would say is bands shouldn’t rely too hard on being ‘djent’ to get people’s attention, it’s just a small element for writing songs, not a full musical approach in and of itself.
Previously you stated that the writing process is going to be more collaborative, so do Shattered Skies as a band have a direction in mind for future material? What other plans do you have?
Ian: Well Ross has a huge amount of music he’s been writing, and James also has a great song in the works, so there’ll be a lot of variety in the songwriting credits on our debut album for sure! Plans for now basically involve looking for tours and looking for label, and continuing to write & record all this music for our debut album. We have merchandise out now and some cool opportunities coming our way, so we’re definitely busy!
Finally, I just want to congratulate you on such a fantastic début into the scene, along with the Pianomation EP, and wish you all the best for all endeavors either in recording or onstage! Any last comments?
Ian: Thanks so much! Hopefully people dig Pianomation, we think it’s pretty cool! We just want to thank everyone who’s joined our fanbase and supported us. This first year has been incredible, so we hope 2012 will be great too! And thanks a lot for the interview!
Thanks very much Ian and Sean, and catch Shattered Skies on Facebook!