Interview: Skyryder

Skyryder is undoubtedly a traditional metal band that everybody who goes for soaring twin guitars will appreciate. Honestly, I got to know them due to a positive review my colleague Aidan had written in April 2020. I’m therefore glad to present to you today an interview with Skyryder’s drummer Andrew Macknight who talked to me about a lot of different topics. Enjoy reading!

Hi, how are you doing?

Andrew Macknight: Not too bad, all things considered. Really missing live music and shows but I’ve been able to keep fairly busy with many fine beverages and equally fine music and reading. 

Did this damned pandemic destroy a lot of your plans with Skyryder?

Oh yeah, I think we’re in the majority there though. Last year was going to be mainly writing the first album and hopefully playing some shows in Europe but it just wasn’t to be. We’ve managed to do little bits and pieces when we’ve been able to meet the last year or so but nowhere near as much as we’d have liked. We’re hoping to rectify that as soon as we can but we’ll have to see how we can work around the new border and travel changes due to Brexit. No doubt we will though. 

What was the last record you listened to before answering my questions?

Modern Mirror by Drab Majesty. I’m a big fan of The Cure so I’ve been on a real streak of bands with that sort of sound recently. 

Are you a fervent vinyl collector?

I am! We all are. It’s probably one of the few things that’s kept us relatively sane throughout this last year or so. I think it comes with the territory. I can’t think of many musicians I know personally who aren’t really into vinyl.

I suppose there are still some readers who don’t know you yet. Please tell us a bit about the history of Skyryder

So Skyryder was originally a project that Adam worked on when he was playing bass in Seven Sisters. There was a very brief line-up of the band in London in around 2016. He had Michalis Moatsos from Endless Recovery on drums and the two of them worked on some rough demos for what would become the first EP, Vol. 1. I met Adam when he came back up north. I wasn’t currently in any other bands which is a rarity for drummers in this neck of the woods. For a couple of months in mid 2017 it was just me and him jamming through some stuff. Adam knew Millsy, our former vocalist, from when he was living in London so Adam brought him on board too. There was a really bizarre story that the three of us had all been at the same King Diamond show before we all knew each other.  We found Luke through an ad for a bass player and he was already looking to work on something with Jonny who he’d seen playing with his other band Trendkill at Bloodstock that year and so the complete line-up was born. We practiced in Luke’s house in a practice room he’d put together for around six months or so whilst also playing our first few shows and in that time we created Vol. 1 which we released in early 2018. We were approached by High Roller Records about a year later asking if we’d be interested in releasing the next one through them, which obviously we jumped at. They kindly re-released Vol. 1 on Vinyl and CDs and released Vol. 2 last year which had been a wild ride so far. Sadly Millsy departed from the band just before the release of Vol. 2, leaving just the four of us, but onwards we march. 

Could you point out some bands that inspired you? 

Oh god, Where to start? To paraphrase Freddie Mercury, we’re a bunch of musical prostitutes, really.  We’re all into so much different stuff between the four of us but I think collectively we draw from bands like Helloween, Yngwie Malmsteen, Dark Forest, Praying Mantis and Cloven Hoof, maybe some bits of early Blind Guardian if you really squint. I think those are probably the most defining ones. You could throw in Priest and Maiden too, but who isn’t influenced by them? We always like to tread a fine line between power and heavy metal but we try to integrate as much as possible where we can get away with it.

My colleague Aidan reviewed your latest EP for another platform in April (8/10). How was the feedback on Vol. 2 so far?

Yeah, thanks for reviewing it for us. It’s been really good so far. It’s made a few «Best of 2020» lists so it’s nice to see that people have really enjoyed it. The idea was originally floated to put it together with Vol. 1 and release it as a full-length but we weren’t so keen on the idea, in all honesty. We feel like it stands better on its own and that it marks a really awesome and eventful time in our lives as a result. It was definitely better received than the first EP which is what we were aiming for. 

Personally, anything you can picture accompanying a Michael Moorcock book is epic in my eyes.

Andrew about «epicness».

Do you have a favourite song on Vol. 2?

Probably «Dead City». It’s probably the one we enjoy playing most. It’s the most downtempo song on the EP so it provides room for a lot of goofing around during practice. It became a firm favourite in the handful of shows that we played it at. It’s also probably the most proggy number we’ve done so far. It’s nice to show that we’re well-rounded and not just foot-to-the-floor speed metal.

Do you often read reviews about your music?

Yeah, we read and share them all. We love seeing what people make of our stuff, especially seeing the far corners of the world that our music reaches. It’s crazy that a bunch of guys from out in the sticks in Northern England can get our names as far as we have.

On our blog, we mainly focus on metal with epic elements. How would you define «epicness» regarding music?

Personally, anything you can picture accompanying a Michael Moorcock book is epic in my eyes. The one thing a lot of bands I’d consider to be epic metal bands are really good at generating a really intense atmosphere with their songwriting. That’s the true high water mark of music.

Do you generally like epic metal? If so: Do you have a favourite band?

I absolutely love Smoulder. I was obsessed from the demo. It was great to see a band do something totally different with the doom sound. I can’t not say Manilla Road either. I’ll always try and sneak a Crystal Logic track or two on when bands are changing over at shows. 

My aforementioned colleague Aidan often writes about a «New NWOBHM». Do you perceive such a movement, too? If so: What’s your opinion about it?

I’ve heard the idea floated before too. There’s some great and influential bands here, no doubt about it so it would be nice to think that could happen, yeah. I think we’re lucky nowadays to really good quality bands from all over the planet nowadays so unlike in the early 80s there’s not just that one epicentre. 

Bandcamp, however (if you can class that as social media) is an absolute lifeline. Probably the best thing to happen to music in decades.

Andrew about social media.

Which albums released in 2020 did you appreciate the most? 

It was a really good year for releases last year. It would be hard to list most of them but the ones that really stood out for us were Conundrum by Hällas, Dark Forest’s Oak Ash and Thorn, Wytch Hazel’s III: Pentecost and High Spirits’ Hard To Stop. They’re all bands that we really love and never get tired of. There were some great non-metal releases too. Monument by Molchat Doma gets frequent spins too.

Do you have a favourite festival? Where would you like to play in the future?

We’ve been to places like Bloodstock over the years but the festivals like Live Evil, Brofest and Muskelrock are the ones that really shine for us. The smaller, intimate DIY festivals have a real character to them and give smaller bands like ourselves the time of day that a lot of much bigger festivals wouldn’t bother to give. We’d love to play any of those sorts of festivals again, especially in Europe or North America. 

Last question: What do you generally think of social media platforms?

They’re somewhat of a necessary evil for bands nowadays. I don’t think many bands would have the reach or the audience that they have if they didn’t use social media properly. In all honesty though, social media really works if you do it right. There’s no way we’d have drawn as much attention as we did if we didn’t utilise it properly. Bandcamp, however (if you can class that as social media) is an absolute lifeline. Probably the best thing to happen to music in decades.

Andrew, many thanks for this really nice interview. Stay safe!

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