Interview with vocalist John Knight, guitarist Ian Knight and drummer Peter Loades
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: November 8, 2015
UK progressive Power/Thrash Metal act SynaptiK, formed in 2012 in Norwich on the East Coast of England, have been slowly but determinedly making a name for themselves thanks to all the hard work the members put into the band.
SynaptiK's debut album, The Mechanisms of Consequence, was released by the small German label Red Tune Records in September 2014 and was a tour de force of musical skill and high profile material that does not pale in comparison to more established Metal acts. SynaptiK set the bar high with their debut full-length and many believe their best efforts are yet to come.
The Metal Crypt contacted the band to learn more about this entity known as SynaptiK and the result can be read in the following interview that was answered by not only one, but three of the band members (thanks!)
Luxi: How's life? Is it hard to balance work and the band these days? Undoubtedly things have been busy since the release of your debut album, The Mechanisms of Consequence, about a year ago.
John Knight: It has started to become difficult to find enough time to dedicate to the band now that SynaptiK's profile has been raised but you find a way. There are so many things that constantly need attention and luckily we now have the help of Chris who has been amazing and we really appreciate it. My girlfriend Sasha helped design the CD album layout and our friend Deb is a photographer who also helps out when she can. You assemble the best team you can from the people you know.
It's usually me that organizes everything regarding the band outside of the writing process like design work, art, merchandise, lyrics, bio, interviews, contacts, etc. and it can become exhausting, especially when all I really want to do is sing but that's the reality of the business, something a lot of people joining bands don't seem to realize. That's why any help people can give SynaptiK along the way to help spread the word is greatly appreciated.
Ian Knight: John (Knight, vocals) does the vast majority of the work and deserves a lot of the credit for getting us all where we are now.
Luxi: Looking to the past for the next question, can you tell us how it all started for SynaptiK? Did you know from day one what you wanted SynaptiK to sound like or do you find your style as things progressed?
John Knight: That's exactly it. We found our own style as things progressed. We originally formed the band to play outright Thrash, just for fun with technical parts, and the more we wrote the more we explored other options and styles, mixed them up, and SynaptiK's sound was born out of this experimentation. I believe "As I Am, As I Was" is the most "SynaptiK" sounding track on the album. We have finally found a place in which we feel comfortable and have discovered more about each other as musicians. We are always learning, trying to better ourselves. You should never stop trying to improve.
Ian Knight: I was looking to form a new band and found a great drummer in Pete. At the same time, John and Kev were also looking for a drummer. As I've played in bands with both of them over the years we agreed to join together. We were looking for a lead guitarist and I'd heard of a talented young guitar teacher so I booked a lesson with him with the ulterior motive of getting him in the band. That was Jack around 2012.
We started as a Thrash Metal band but all our influences are progressive and more technical. We couldn't limit ourselves to purely Thrash Metal. There is nothing set in stone, we just write riffs and take it from there. I believe that after writing together for a few years we have found our style and we all bring our own influences into the band.
Luxi: When listening to your debut album, The Mechanisms of Consequence, people may be tempted to associate SynaptiK with bands like Watchtower, Nevermore, Hades, Forbidden, Mekong Delta, Psychotic Waltz and so on. Do you also see the connection to those names?
John Knight: I guess so. We admire all of those bands and their music very much and to be compared or linked to them in some way is very flattering. I can see the link in that we may share the same influences and the way we embrace melody without sacrificing the heaviness or how we stick to our own sound without following trends. Some of those bands, Watchtower for example, are far more technical than SynaptiK chooses to be but we share elements and of course their vocalist (laughs).
SynaptiK have consciously held back in places with regards to how technical those sections become so that it is more about the song as a whole and is more accessible to a Metal listener without the need for several listens. Whether we have achieved this is up to the listener to decide I guess. We admire the incredible musicianship of these bands and sometimes it is good to push yourself as musicians, trying new and interesting layers and time signatures.
Luxi: I am sure people are curious to know more about the album title itself plus the album cover artwork so could you explain them a bit more detail?
John Knight: I came up with the album title one night while writing lyrics. I was still recovering from an extremely traumatic incident in my life and this was reflected in my words. Part of the turmoil I was living with was due to one stupid mistake that was made, one regrettable decision that grew into something chaotic and painful, not just for me but the loved ones around me. I realized the fallout from this act and how ridiculously explosive it had become. The consequences of that one decision exploded into something no one could have imagined. The "mechanisms of consequence" was born from that.
The album artwork is a visual interpretation of that turmoil. I drew influence from my pain while creating it, the black hole swallowing me up, guilt, confusion, regret, pain, dissolving all that was me, all consuming. The butterfly is there to symbolize cause and effect, the chaos theory; every act no matter how small can have a devastating effect further down the road.
Luxi: Now that we've mentioned Watchtower's name, you had Alan Tecchio (Watchtower, Hades, Heathen's Rage, etc.) as a guest vocalist on this album. He sang "Your Cold Dead Trace" and there are actually two different versions, with the Alan Tecchio version being a CD bonus track. What's the original story behind getting him to contribute to this particular song with his high-standard vocal performance?
John Knight: Alan and I have been friends for many years now since we first met on Watchtower's "Control & Resistance" tour with Coroner. I have always admired his voice, his range and his outlook which he conveys in his words. He has been a strong influence on my vocal style. He is a very open and supportive person and has given me advice throughout my career. When we were thinking of going into the studio to record the debut album I thought about asking Alan to provide guest vocals to a track. We made a demo and I sent words and a rough melody line and Alan made it his own. We recorded the track properly and Alan sent over his recordings from America and it worked amazingly. We were all thrilled to have him on the album, an honor.
Alan later provided snippets of video for us to layer into our single for the track "Your Cold Dead Trace", so he's in the video also. Alan was initially just going to record the chorus and middle sections of the song with myself providing harmonies, and this is what became the single, but Alan also sent over a version with him singing the whole song and just my backing vocals and we loved it so much it just had to be added to the album. We decided to have it as a CD-only bonus track.
Luxi: Do you believe there's a good chance you might use his services again in the future? I mean, he isn't taking anything away from John vocally, as both guys are absolutely equally gifted vocalists...
John Knight: Thank you so much, that's very cool of you to say. Regarding Alan singing on future recordings, never say never. I would never have a problem with that. Alan is a very busy and sought-after vocalist. He is currently singing for Level Fields and has been working with Mike (LePond – Symphony X) on the Silent Assassins album (check it out if you haven't already). He is very busy, but you never know.
Luxi: How much do your past experiences in such bands as Fifth Season, The Thinking Principle and Inner Sanctum have to do with the current sound of SynaptiK, which is highly progressive, technical and clearly represents the kind of style that cannot be taken for granted?
John Knight: I believe it has everything to do with how we sound now. We are constantly trying to better ourselves as musicians, learning as we go, picking things up from our peers, soaking up the experiences, the successes as well as the failures. It's all a learning curve and I believe that SynaptiK is a collection of all the best elements of our previous bands. Ian, Kev and I have all been in bands together over the years and experienced some big changes, successes like performing with Exodus (Inner Sanctum) and being asked by Steve Harris personally to open up for Iron Maiden (Fifth Season). Performing at Download festival and recently at Bloodstock Festival, Titanfest and Mammothfest have all molded us into better musicians. And we are still learning. Onwards...
Luxi: How much new material have you written since the debut album and how would you say it compares to the stuff on that record? Have you taken an even more complex and progressive approach with some of these new songs without sacrificing any of SynaptiK's other crucial elements?
John Knight: The new material definitely shows a maturity in writing. We have learned a lot from each other and gotten to know the feel and writing style of the musicians we hadn't worked with previously (drummer Pete Loades and guitarist Jack Murton). We embraced the progressive tag that reviewers have been labeling us with and let ourselves create anything we felt, unhindered by a rigid template or restricted style. The new material has some very mellow progressive parts but also some of the fastest most brutal riffs we have written. It's these diverse styles mixed together that gives SynaptiK "our sound."
We've never been shy where melody is concerned or afraid to let it rip with some Speed Metal either. It's the best feeling ever to be able to write exactly what you feel.
Pete Loades: So far we are about five songs into the new stuff and it's going well so far. I think since we recorded Mechanisms, our songwriting ability has improved and playing live has really sharpened up our performances, which is great. It's always hard to get the second album to sound as good, if not better, than the first but I think we have achieved this. The new material is still in the same vein as Mechanisms but with more prog/complex bits and it seems to be flowing better and dare I say it's "catchier" with more hooks (laughs).
Luxi: What keeps you motivated to keep the band going and to write stuff of this high caliber?
Ian Knight: The songs themselves keep me motivated. As we start writing songs the ideas come together and the songs develop. I personally can't wait to hear the finished song and play it live. If you aren't passionate about your songs and don't get excitement from playing them, then there's something wrong.
Luxi: SynaptiK has also been praised as one of the most impressive and talented new British Metal bands in a long time. How does that type of comment make you feel? It must be pretty darn flattering knowing that you are doing something right with your stuff... ;o)
John Knight: Hearing comments like those is incredibly kind and we are flattered. We are just five men who enjoy creating music. It is a bonus that it has started to resonate with other music lovers around world. It is encouraging and it does remind us that there is an audience out there for the style of music we create, music that isn't just following a trend. On the flip side it can also be incredibly frustrating when we receive these fantastic reviews yet still find it a struggle to get on festivals or move another step up the ladder and get heard. Hopefully in time this will change and with more reviews more people in positions to offer us opportunities to play will make themselves known.
Ian Knight: It's really great to hear that all the hard work as paid off and people appreciate what we have accomplished.
Luxi: Have you come across any similar sounding acts out of the UK lately that have the same kind of inner drive to do something different, put more weight on their songwriting and not throw some half-assed shit out there?
John Knight: There is an incredible amount of talented UK bands in the Underground scene, phenomenal musicians too. I can't say I have seen many who are similar to our style, if any. They may be out there but I haven't seen them yet (laughs). Sadly, most bands feel they must follow trends and although they are both great people and musicians who have gained a fair amount of success it all becomes a little too generic and uninteresting (at least to me it does) and they all start to sound the same.
One cool band we played with who I really liked and are doing their own thing is Spires. They have a cool Cynic-Psychotic Waltz feel to them and are very proggy. I enjoy them a lot.
Luxi: How self-critical do you consider yourself as a member of SynaptiK? Is it always easy to be on the same page with your band mates when it comes down to making a decision about this or that musical idea and/or vision?
John Knight: We are all incredibly self-critical. It makes the writing process a little slower but the quality hopefully higher. As I said before there is always room for improvement and bettering ourselves as people and musicians.
Ian Knight: Each member brings something different to the band. If we all thought the same it would bring nothing new to our sound.
Luxi: One of the strongest elements in SynaptiK is definitely John's diverse use of his vocal capacity which also has the impressive tendency to color the band's sound in many ways. Does his voice inspire you to write more thought-provoking and challenging stuff that not only pleases you in the band but hopefully the fans of SynaptiK?
Ian Knight: Of course we try and work things around John's vocals; this is an important part of the SynaptiK sound. John is there all the way through the writing process and the song structure is very dependent on John's input. On the one hand we aren't making it difficult for him to sing the songs but also he likes a challenge to bring out the best he has. One of the main aims is to achieve a strong chorus to show John's vocal strength.
Luxi: How do you share the songwriting process? Who is responsible for what?
Pete Loades: It starts off with ideas being bounced around. Riffs, drum patterns, vocal melodies. We all then get together and start making a structure for the song and we record it. Then we pull it apart, work out the musical intricacies, re-record it and so on until we are all happy with it. The theme and vocals get sorted last and that's generally down to John to put the melodies and emotional depth in to finish the song off.
John Knight: About 99% of the lyrics are written by me. A couple of the songs on the album were written by my brother Ian and one by both of us.
With regards to the music, that is a combined effort. Riffs are brought to rehearsal either as standalone riffs or two to three sections together. Ian and Jack have such a different style that when they are mixed together alongside Kev's bass-lines and Pete's drums it really works. We embrace those differences in style to make the songs more dynamic. We usually work through a "skeleton" version of the song, decide what is a verse, what is a chorus and get the first version down then start streamlining, tweaking, adjusting and so on. The middle sections are usually where we have the most fun and anything goes. Jack brings his solo ideas and we create the riffs using the keys he has chosen.
Luxi: Is SynaptiK a democracy when it comes to important decisions?
John Knight: Luckily, we all seem to be on the same page with regards to what we want to play. There are some slight disagreements regarding certain riffs or arrangements but we recognize democracy within the band and if the majority likes a certain thing then it stays. We all try to compromise so everyone is happy with the end result. It is how all bands should be or else they will implode.
A lot of the decisions I make due to me being the person in contact with others who need a quick decision. I feel the rest of the guys trust that any decision will be for the betterment of the band as a whole, but I usually get their go ahead first, especially with regards to financial matters.
Ian Knight: All-important decisions are talked through at rehearsal or through emails and a million texts (laughs).
Luxi: If we talk about SynaptiK's visibility on the worldwide map of Heavy Metal how well would you say Metal-orientated people know SynaptiK on the East Coast of England and how about elsewhere in the UK?
John Knight: I believe SynaptiK are very well known within the East Coast of England now. We have played many gigs in this area and won the Metal to the Masses Bloodstock competition East Anglia heats which got us to Bloodstock Festival helped raise our profile. Now we are spreading the word as far as we can, playing around the UK, Titan Fest earlier this year and MammothFest very soon. It's building and there are many, many bands out there all fighting for recognition, but after being on Metal Hammer cover disc, Terrorizer and few other magazines and receiving some amazing reviews from around the world for the album, the SynaptiK name is spreading. We hope to build on this, play further afield and hopefully Europe next year to promote the band further and gain record label interest.
Luxi: Is it easy to find gigs in Norwich for a band like Synaptik? Norwich is a compact city so some people might expect the music scene over there to be of similarly limited dimensions.
Pete Loades: We are all based in Norwich and that's where we rehearse. The local Metal scene is good, it's venues to play at that causes some problems. So many have gone over the years, but there are a lot of local bands about and the Norwich band circle is quite tightly knit. Mostly the Metal bands play at places like the B2 (The Brickmakers), The Owl Sanctuary, The Waterfront and The Aquarium. Bands generally cross paths and because of that the metal crowd is always going to be there. You do get the odd gig (especially if on a week day night) where numbers are low, but on the whole it's a very good metal scene.
John Knight: It can be difficult to get the "right" gig, definitely. Our music mixes genres of metal so we can usually play with a variety of Metal bands, Death, Tech, Prog, Power. It's rare that we get to play with a band that sounds similar to us, but I take that as a positive. Whether people like us or not, they will certainly remember that they've seen us as we stand out. Live is definitely where SynaptiK shines and the songs have been remarked upon as sounding even better live (something we are hoping to capture on the next recording). Norwich has a thriving Metal scene with some quality bands. Sadly, there is a shortage of decent venues, but this isn't just Norwich. There is a shortage of venues that will book original bands all across the UK. Venues are just booking "tribute" bands which is tragic and makes it difficult to find gigs, especially ones that at least cover your costs of getting to the venue in the first place.
It can be frustrating. Norwich has many Metal fans but sadly a lot of them are very selective about what gigs they go to. If a bigger band plays Norwich then it can easily fill an 800 capacity venue, but they don't seem to support the smaller venues or other bands quite as much. The Metal fans are out there but sadly suffer a little from apathy. Support local music and local venues people! Luckily there is a dedicated crowd that shows support and if they "all" showed up they wouldn't all get in (laughs).
Luxi: You will play at Mammothfest in Brighton in the beginning of October, which is a 3-day fest and undoubtedly a good stepping stone for new bands to show their skills on stage. Have you planned something special for that event as far as your stage performance is concerned?
Ian Knight: Each gig is the same in that we give 100%, be it for a few people or a full house. We aim to give the best performance we can and kick some arse!
John Knight: To many at this festival it will be the first time they have seen us live. Since performing at Bloodstock festival our live shows have gained in confidence, we are more visual and 100% dedicated to bringing as much of our passion to the performance. We can't wait...!
Luxi: You also shot a video for the song "A Man Dies" off the album, which you will use to promote the band for the festival. Would you tell about it?
John Knight: The track "A Man Dies" is the second single from the SynaptiK debut album. It's one of our favorites and a crowd favorite live. It highlights SynaptiK's use of melody very well. The video is a lyric-video with a difference. It looks fantastic if I say so myself and Andy Pilkington from www.verymetal.co.uk did an amazing job. It will be released sometime after Mammothfest.
Luxi: What else is in store for SynaptiK gigging wise this year (or next year)? Is the festival season of 2016 one of your goals for SynaptiK?
John Knight: We have only booked a handful of gigs for the remainder of the year as we really want to knuckle down and write new material. A recording studio is already booked for next year and yes we definitely hope to secure some slots on festivals in Europe for 2016. Fingers crossed this will happen.
So if any promoter, fan or venue would like to see SynaptiK perform then please get in contact.
Ian Knight: We have a few gigs around the country coming up. We have played a few festivals this year and would love to play some of the bigger ones next year.
Luxi: Is there something else that you'd like to reveal about Synaptik that I did not cover with my questions?
John Knight: Yes, next year will see SynaptiK release the follow up to our critically acclaimed debut album, we are looking for suitable labels to work with to achieve a higher presence in the Metal scene. We need help so keep spreading the SynaptiK word.
Luxi: That was all I had in mind. Thanks very much for your time and talking to The Metal Crypt. All the best with the band. And those famous last words are yours of course!
John Knight: The band is nothing without its loyal followers and we would like to thank every single one of you for believing in the songs we create. It sounds a cliché but without people who like, buy and spread the word about SynaptiK, we are nothing.
Thank you for all your support, kind words and faith in us thus far, we won't let you down. Next year will see SynaptiK strive to rise ever higher and bring you some music that we are extremely proud of.
Please continue to spread the word and get your friends to like the Facebook page, share share share (laughs).
Metal is alive, it will never die and we will bring it on as long we can \m/
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