Rou Reynolds, lead vocalist and keyboardist with British band Enter Shikari, chats with Kevin Cooper about his General Anxiety Disorder, his best and worst Christmas presents, their latest album The Spark and their current tour of the UK.

Enter Shikari are a British rock band formed in 1999 under the name Hybryd by bassist Chris Batten, lead vocalist and keyboardist Roughton ‘Rou’ Reynolds, and drummer Rob Rolfe. In 2003, guitarist Liam ‘Rory’ Clewlow joined the band to complete its current line up, and it adopted its current name.

In 2005, they performed to a growing fan base at Download Festival as well as a sold-out concert at the London Astoria. Their debut studio album, Take To The Skies, was released in 2007 and reached number four in the official UK Album Chart, and has since been certified gold in the UK. Their second, Common Dreads, was released in 2009 and debuted in the UK Albums Chart at number sixteen while their third, A Flash Flood Of Colour, was released in 2012 and debuted in the chart at number four. Both have since been certified silver in the UK.

The band spent a considerable amount of time supporting the latter release through the A Flash Flood Of Colour World Tour, before beginning work on a fourth studio album, The Mindsweep, which was released in 2015. Their fifth studio album The Spark was released in 2017.

Enter Shikari have their own record label, Ambush Reality. However, they have also signed distribution deals with several major labels to help with worldwide distribution. Their eclectic musical style combines influences from rock, especially punk rock and hardcore punk, with those from various electronic music genres.

Whilst busy touring the UK, Rou Reynolds took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Rou good afternoon how are you today?

I’m good thanks Kevin how are you doing?

I’m very well thank you and let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No problem, thanks for having me.

And just how is life treating you today?

Everything at this moment in time is good man. We are in the thick of it at the moment having started the tour, so as you can no doubt imagine all is pretty hectic at the moment but yes, all is going well thanks for asking.

I have to say that I have been playing The Spark for a few days now and I think that it is a fantastic piece of work.

Thank you so much, cheers for that.

Are you happy with it?

Yes I am, very much so. I personally don’t think that we have ever put out an album that at the time we were not happy with. However, looking back now there are always things that I would change but this one feels like quite a special one for us. It is very different, very progressive, very melodic, very open and passionate so yes, we are really happy with it.

You mention that looking back there are always things that you would change. Are you a meddler or once the album is finished can you leave it alone and walk away?

(Laughter) I can’t remember who said it but I recall someone saying that “a true artist never finishes his work, he merely abandons it” and for me that is most definitely the case. I think that once you have set yourself a timeline you are always going to go over it but I think that you have to walk away at some point otherwise it merely becomes this never-ending constantly changing thing. It will still be a piece of art but then there is far too much timelessness to it then. I think that especially with this album it really represents that period from 2015 to the beginning of 2017 both for me and the rest of the band as well.

I recently interviewed Vince Clarke (Erasure) and he told me that the first thing that he does whenever he is in the studio recording a new album is employ a damn good producer who is not scared of saying to him ‘leave it, it can’t get any better’.

(Laughter) really, that’s interesting. However, I feel that luckily, because we have always been an independent band we have never had a label breathing down our necks and so I feel that the only time pressures that we are ever faced with are the ones that we put on ourselves. I also think that we have become quite good at being able to walk away from things (laughter).

I have just been reading the fans reactions to the album and they have given it some rave reviews. That must please you?

Yes it does, absolutely. It would appear from the reviews that the album has gone down really well.

A lot are saying that it is in fact your best work to date. Would you go along with that?

Again, I don’t think that we would put something out if we didn’t think it was. I think that there are so many views and angles, textures, instrumentation and emotions on this record which were not on the previous album so I really do feel that we have managed to push things forward a notch.

I love The Sights; do you have a particular favourite track on the album?

Funnily enough I have to say that for me it changes all of the time. We will be playing six tracks off the album on the tour so at the moment I am just really enjoying Undercover Agents. I am really looking forward to hearing the wolf howls on that track in the big venues (laughter). I really can’t wait.

Are there any thoughts as yet on a follow-up studio album?

No, not at all at the moment it’s just heads down for this one. Since we finished this album we simply haven’t had the time to sit down, relax and think about the next one. We have been so deep in programming for the tour, we were actually joking about this the other day just how our tours have become intense events in their own right. Years ago we remembered that for us to prepare for a show we would practice the songs, turn up at the show, play the songs and then leave. Whereas now it is like we have to programme the production, the lighting has to all be in sync, we like the set to have its own narrative so there are quite a few different interludes, it is very theatrical, plus we are playing in Surround Sound so we have had all of that programming to contend with.

We really do like to do everything ourselves and sometimes we will bite off way more than we can chew (laughter). However, I think that in the end it makes it so special and it is good to have everything coming from the same creative hub. It ties it all together so basically the last two months has been taken up with all of the intense programming so we haven’t even thought about the follow-up album as yet.

As you like doing everything yourselves, which one of you will I being seeing on the merch desk (laughter).

We will probably be letting people in to hear the sound check and stuff so we will be meeting people then and perhaps even a few again after the show but I don’t think that we will be organising the merch desk (laughter). That could all get very messy with us trying to organise it (laughter).

It is a totally different beast, the merch side of things isn’t it?

Yes it is, people don’t realise just how much organising the merch desk takes. Whenever we play in much smaller venues over in America and Mexico for example then we will always be at the merch desk because that is something that we have always done. We also used to do that here in the UK when we were an upcoming band. However, I think that when you are playing a venue the size of The Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham then it simply becomes impossible.

Whenever you are writing what comes first the melody or the lyrics?

With me it is pretty much always the music. I will be dah de dahing just gibberish in order to get a few melodies down. Then I will go away and focus on the lyrics whilst at the same time I will be writing lyrics by themselves; poetry I suppose. Occasionally those lyrics will fit various songs but I like the music to totally dictate the mood of the song, and therefore what the lyrics are all about. It’s not until we have got a very structured and polished demo that I will take it away, deeply listen to it, and then ask myself what does it make me feel, what do I want to speak about, and then at that point I will start working on the lyrics.

You will be bringing the tour to Nottingham on Saturday 18th November, what can we expect?

What can I say, it is such an incredible venue. It was the very first arena that we ever headlined on the tour last year so I have got lots of good memories of playing that place. (Laughter) I am always rubbish whenever I try to answer the ‘what can we expect’ questions. The classic Enter Shikari show will be a journey and it will take you through a whole gambit of emotions, different vibes and atmospheres. As I have mentioned it will all be in Surround Sound so there will be sounds whipping around people’s heads which I am sure a lot of people will find rather disconcerting in an exciting way (laughter). It really should be a very special night.

Forgive me because I am sure that you will have been asked this question a million times before but just where did the name Enter Shikari come from?

I was first made aware of the word Shikari, in fact weirdly it was one of the first words that I ever learnt. My uncle who was a fisherman had a boat which was called Shikari which means the hunter in various Indian languages. So the word has stuck with me and over the years I have used it in various ways. When I was at secondary school I wrote a play as an English language project; it was a creative writing type of thing, and there was a pivotal point in the play where one of the characters who I had named Shikari came onto the stage. So in the script notes it said Enter Shikari and I thought ‘I really like the way that looks on the paper’ and we later began to use it as the name that we call ourselves whilst making music.

Back in 2016 you announced that you were suffering from General Anxiety Disorder. How are things with you now?

I am happy to tell you that I am much better now. I had a really horrible year back in 2015 which subsequently produced a lot of the stuff that you can hear on the latest album. I find that I can walk out onto the stage in varying degrees of different mind-sets. Sometimes I will be full of confidence and ready to go, full of energy and it won’t affect me at all. I could be playing to one person or ten thousand people and I will strangely feel the same. However, sometimes I will simply not want to be there. At that moment in time I won’t feel like a front man; I will stand back a little, and I won’t be as confident up there on stage.

It is just one of the things that I have had to deal with, and I feel that yoga and meditation really helps to keep me balanced. It helps keep me in a confident positive mind-set. A lot of it is being aware of just how I am feeling plus I have got a toolbox now which contains all of the things that I can do to help myself.

And what about the rest of the boys in the band, do they help you?

For the bulk of the time that we have been a band, I didn’t really know what I had if you like. I always thought that I was a bit weird and I had no idea just how I was meant to deal with these things. It wasn’t until I was in my mid to late twenties that I discovered exactly what all of these things that were happening to me were. It was at that point that I realised that the panic attacks that I had been suffering were in fact all related to my General Anxiety Disorder. I learnt exactly how to deal with it and actually became a lot more at ease with it. I finally knew that it was something that other people had and it was not just me being weird. One of the saddest things in all of this is that people feel so isolated when they are not given the education of what these things are. Now we all know what it is I have, to be honest with you the guys have been really awesome.

Was it always going to be a career in music for you?

(Laughter) well if you take into consideration all of my wishful thinking then yes, I would have to say so. I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t involved with music. I have both played and recorded music together with writing songs since I was eleven years old. Often I will think that I am very lucky to be in this position where I can still do that. I think that even if I wasn’t in a band then I would most probably have attempted to get myself into the production world, being a producer or a production engineer.

You have won many awards over the years so I have to ask, which one has given you the greatest pleasure.

To be honest with you I have a weird kind of conflicted view whenever it comes to awards. Philosophically speaking I think that awards are very silly (laughter). I don’t feel that the awards are to be taken seriously but at the same time, especially when they are voted for by the fans, which means a lot to all of those people, they support us and want to see us win these accolades so I have to say that it is difficult. I think that anything that we have won we have been very lucky to win. We have in fact won a few Best Live Band awards which I think is really important for us simply because we are very much about live music together with the connection between us and out audiences. So for us to be respected and appreciated by the fans is simply amazing.

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

Whatever I say is most definitely about to be pipped to the post by whatever happens on this next tour. I would probably have to say that the last UK arena tour that we did, which was also our very first UK arena tour, the Nottingham show being the first concert on that tour is etched into my memory now and really is very special.

Now testing your memory, and be careful because this is where it can get embarrassing, what was the first record that you bought.

I know exactly what it was, I would have been ten years old and I can remember that we were going on holiday to Cornwall. We stopped off at a service station and I bought the first Spice Girls album on tape (laughter). That’s going back a bit but I still remember it well (laughter). I am pleased to say that I don’t have it anymore.

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

I was very lucky to have a thriving local music scene and there were often quite a few of the big punk bands playing locally so I would see a lot of that. But I suppose that the first proper gig that I went to would have been Oasis at Finsbury Park in London. That really did have an impact upon me.

I was also at the Finsbury Park gig and I have to ask you if you got slightly wet (laughter).

(Laughter) yes I did because it hammered it down all day.

I remember that the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were absolutely brilliant that day.

Oh mate, they were absolutely brilliant. We loved them as well. I can remember seeing them and I remember Liam (Gallagher) wearing a big white parka zipped right up to the top and thinking ‘man that’s cool’ (laughter). I can also remember what we later came to refer to as ‘getting Grolsched’ when people would just throw their pints up in the air. One came down right on my shoulder and I just thought ‘oh for fucks sake’. However, at that point I didn’t care because I was already soaked (laughter).

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

Wow that’s a good question. I know that this will sound a little self-promoting but I have to say that the last track on the album which is called An Ode To Lost Jigsaw Pieces really did get to me and I always found it difficult to sing without blubbering. However, we finally used the tapes where I was close to blubbering anyway (laughter). Since recording that track I don’t think that I have cried at a piece of music or a song. There have however been things that have made me well up.

What is the best Christmas gift that you have ever received?

That would have to have been something off my mum when I was younger. I can remember back when I was very young and I still believed in Santa Claus my parents were really playing down the fact that I would be able to get this bike that I wanted. They made some excuse about Santa not having access to this particular bike, and the fact that the elves were not able to build enough of these bikes for all of the children who wanted one. But when I woke up I had that very bike and I can still to this day remember that feeling and let me tell you, it was pretty amazing.

Now being very careful not to offend anyone, what was the worst Christmas gift that you have ever received?

(Laughter) that’s easy it’s those fucking silly socks. I am never going to wear them as even though I am not the most conservative person when I am dressing, I don’t mind being a little flamboyant, but for some reason I always like to wear black socks. I like to pull everything together with a crisp plain black sock. However, I always get given those shitty, funny, awful bombastic socks. Whenever I get given a pair I just think ‘oh for fucks sake, I will never wear these’ (laughter).

And just what would be your ideal Christmas?

Well let me tell you that I have never gone away or anything like that for Christmas because I think that my mum would kill me (laughter). Christmas for me is very family orientated and I have only ever known the classic, everyone around the table, kind of Christmas. We do the food, the booze and the presents and to be honest with you that is all that I want. The whole gang around the table with good food, good music, good booze, that’s me, I’m sorted (laughter).

On that note Rou let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been fantastic. You take care and I will see you here in Nottingham.

Thank you Kevin, it’s been good. You take care and I hope to see you in Nottingham. Bye for now.