British thrashers Sylosis have certainly been making a big name for themselves in the past year and half with two critically acclaimed full length album releases in 2011′s Edge Of The Earth and this October’s Monolith. They’ve established a sound that could very well enable them to be the torch-bearers of metal for this generation. With all that in mind, it was with great pleasure that Durf Diggler and myself were bestowed the opportunity to interview their guitarist/singer/frontman Josh Middleton this past Friday as they passed through Chicago on their current U.S. tour supporting Lamb Of God and In Flames.
After they played their set, we met Josh at their merch table where he escorted us to their tour van. There, we sat down with him and were accompanied by their rhythm guitarist and web developer for the very website you’re reading now, Alex Bailey, who was enjoying a cold burrito at the time. Our discussion topics ranged from their current tour to future plans, as well as influences and insights into their writing process. Enjoy.
Sigma: So to get things started here, Josh, tell us about how your guys’ current U.S. tour has been going so far. This has only been your second time in the states, right?
Josh: Yeah, this has easily been our best tour so far considering Lamb Of God is the biggest band we’ve ever played in support of. Some of the venues we’ve been to have been some of the biggest in-door shows we’ve done. We’ve had tons of fun, the bands are all really cool, and the crews are really helpful so yeah it’s been the best.
Sigma: Have the receptions been really good for you guys thus far?
Josh: Yeah, really good. It’s definitely been showing in our merch sales, which we didn’t expect to be as good as they have been, but that along with everything else has been beyond what we were expecting.
Sigma: On this tour, you’re supporting your new record, Monolith, which just came out last month. Why don’t you tell us about that record and why you guys are excited about it. What is different about it compared to your past releases?
Josh: I guess our excitement about it is evident by how quickly we turned it out. It was about a year and a half since our last album came out and for most bands that’s a quick turnaround, but we were so excited about what we were writing that we wanted to release it as soon as possible. It’s different in that it’s a bit darker and more atmospheric. It’s also more lively production-wise.
Sigma: Both Monolith and Edge Of The Earth were concept albums lyrically. What exactly is appealing to you about crafting an album in that way?
Josh: It just helps to tie everything in. It ties in the artwork, the lyrics, and all the songs into one big piece. I never liked just listening to one or two songs off an album. I really like the whole package. But for me, it just helps to give a direction when I write lyrics so I can have a rough idea of where a song can potentially go. It’s much tougher to tell that direction if you have a song ready to write lyrics for but have no kind of concept in mind.
Sigma: Monolith focuses more on mythology. Are you trying to make a personal statement with these concepts or are you running with a story that just sounds cool?
Josh: It’s a bit of both. I do like covering up anything that might be personal with conceptual stuff. That way, I don’t have to talk about personal stuff in interviews (laughs). The lyrics are always last to put in but we make sure we at least know what they’re generally going to convey so that it’ll be easier to match the them to the mood of the music.
Durf Diggler: In speaking to a lot of people about your music, one of the things I hear the most is that it’s just “metal.” There’s no real adjective added. Especially given the internet, you can sub-genre the hell out of everything. How exactly do you guys respond to that?
Josh: Oh it’s ideal. It’s the best. I’d rather that than get called metalcore or anything like that, because I hate that (laughs). You do have to give sub-genres to people to be more descriptive, though. In our case, you’d say that thrash is the main foundation of what we do, but there are all other kinds of things we like to do around it. But yeah being labeled simply as metal is ideal for us.
Sigma: Going on that notion of thrash and the Sylosis sound, I’m sure that Death and Metallica were some of the biggest influences for you guys.
Sigma: What are influences that people perhaps wouldn’t know about right away that play a big role in your sound?
Josh: Cult of Luna. We like them for their more melodic, slow epic stuff along with their doomier and cleaner parts. We also really dig Rush and Oasis too, but Death was always a really underrated band. Unless of course you’re really into your metal and know your stuff, they were never really that well known which is weird. Especially if you’re like a 15 year old kid just getting into metal. But yeah, I’d say Cult of Luna would be the lesser known influence for us.
Durf Diggler: When you mention a 15 year old kid just getting into metal – and I’m prefacing this with no offense meant – but do you like the fact that your music is fairly accessible? I guess the fact that your music is, like we discussed before, just straight thrashy metal there’s no real pretension to it and that makes it easier to get into.
Josh: Yeah man that’s the plan. We don’t want to go over people’s heads. It’s also hard to be super original these days so I’d rather come out and be as good as possible rather than as unique as possible. Saying that though, I don’t think there are any other bands that have the same exact influences as us – but if there’s a thrash band out there that’s inspired by Cult of Luna then I’d love to hear them (laughs). It’s cool though that people can see similarities to bands that we hate but at least it will get them into us. We get lumped in with loads of bands, probably less obvious ones than you’d expect, from metalcore. It’s annoying but if someone tells us that we sound like so and so and that gets them into us and more metal stuff then cool.
Sigma: We talked earlier about the quick turnaround you guys had between your last two records. Are you on a similar schedule now or do you think you’ll want to tour behind Monolith a little more before you put out more new material?
Josh: Oh yeah, we need to do at least two years of touring before we do another album or have it come out in 2014 at the earliest. We’ll always be writing, though, so it’ll make the process for the next album easier once that time comes.
Sigma: Are there any tours that are officially in the works for you guys right now? Anything you can announce?
Josh: Yeah, we’ll be having a headlining tour in England [with Devil Sold His Soul] so that’ll obviously be fun. From there we go to Australia for Soundwave Festival. That’s it, though. Even with secret stuff, that’s all we have planned for now.
Durf Diggler: With you guys being from England, how is touring over there compared to touring over here? Do you find that home-crowds are different from American crowds who are…also different (collective laugh)?
Josh: Well the crowds back home are better for us because we’re from England and they know us and we’re a headliner band over there. Touring England is awesome for us in that respect, but if it’s a bunch of people who’ve never heard us versus a bunch of Americans who’ve never heard us, it’s pretty much the same wherever you go. What’s also nice about England, and Europe as a whole, is that the cities are very compact so it’s easy to get around places as opposed to all the driving we have to do here in America. But I do love being in America. The fans here have been great.
Sigma: I always like to leave interviews off on a much lighter note so get ready for a totally random question here. The word “Sylosis” is a made-up word correct?
Sigma: When I first heard your band name it sounded like some sort of severe mental condition to me. If you were to look it up in the dictionary, what would you want the definition of “Sylosis” to be?
Josh: Umm. (Short pause, Josh looks strangely out the front windshield of the tour van) Oh wow there’s a dude dressed as a bear (collective laugh). You guys just missed him. He was a really fat guy in a fur coat. Wow, that was amazing. Umm. It would just mean….I don’t know (turns to Alex).
Alex: Party and thrash is what it would mean to me.
Josh: Yeah partying and thrash and being awesome. (collective laugh)
Sigma: Sounds good to me. Thanks so much for the interview, Josh.
Josh: Yep. Thank you.