Chris Batten of Enter Shikari on the Path from Selling CDs (at Woolworths) to Making Them (for Themselves)

December 5, 2014

Tell us about your tour vehicle.

Well it’s been a while now since we had our old touring van in which we used to tour the UK relentlessly. We used to own an old post office van in which we built beds into and ripped seats out to make room for equipment. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t the cleanliest van in the world, by the time we were done with it there was mold growing on the seats it was that old and sweat-ridden.

We broke down many times in it but the most memorable was when the brakes failed and we crashed into a car in front of us. Luckily, we were going about 10mph, so no one was injured. Unluckily, the police were behind us and before we crashed one of us had been messing around shooting other vehicles with a water pistol. The police, rightly so, gave us a pretty hard time, ended up impounding the van as they didn’t believe the brakes had failed. We had to remove essential equipment and get a taxi to the venue to play the show. We ended up blowing up that van in a music video.

These days we tour in a more comfortable tour bus as we’re getting old and frail and our backs hurt.

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

It can be pretty hard eating healthily on the road, depends where we’re touring more than anything. The States can be pretty hard as all there is in between cities is big truck stops. Pretty hard to find a piece of fruit there. I guess it all comes down to looking hard enough for healthier alternatives. A lot of the time it gets overlooked though. I think our diet consisted mainly of chicken and kebab shops the first few years.

How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

To be honest I have no idea. Bass wise we go through at least 2 sets a show. Used to go a lot more shows without changing in the early days as strings were very expensive. Bass strings would put you out about £20 a pop back then. Now days we’re lucky enough to have an endorsement meaning we get strings delivered to us every tour.

Where do you rehearse?

We’ve had a few different rehearsal spaces now. I guess the most memorable for us we called “the low”. It was a little ‘bungalow’ rehearsal room we built at the bottom of my parent’s garden. We wrote and demo’d our second album in there. It was a real fun time, with a lot of fun memories. We actually documented a lot of it and put it up on our youtube channel. They’re worth a watch, the episodes are all entitled “in the low…”

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

First song we wrote was called “sorry you’re not a winner”:

Scratch card glory or waist low pleasure?
Black eyes nose bleeds don’t look back now
My white abode do you remember?
My white abode do you remember?
But it’s such a thrill to find out…

Describe your first gig.

Our first gig was in our local youth club, there was a grand total of 25 kids in a room that could fit 400. There were probably about 100 other underage kids outside drinking cider who wouldn’t pay the fiver admission to come into the show. 2 small speakers on stands, and a couple of lamps as stage lights.

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

After we finished secondary school, our drummer Rob and I got jobs at Woolworths. I used to work in the music and dvd section and rob worked on the front tills. We took this job as the hours were flexible and allowed us to finish early and drive to gigs after work, or whenever we needed.

How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?

Well without going into too much detail… we are now lucky enough to be able to focus on our music full time, and dedicate ourselves to writing music and touring. In this day and age with cds not selling so well we have to tour a lot in order to be able to continue doing what we love.

All we really hope for in 5/10 years is to be able to continue writing music that hopefully people will still find exciting and innovating. That’s our aim.

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

Well I think when most people start in music they think that you need to do is sign a record deal and everything will then turn to gold. Truth is, it’s not that simple. First off, signing a deal isn’t something that’s just going to happen (unless you’re one of these new buzz bands played 2 gigs in London and being hyped up by every trendy magazine out there, but those stories rarely succeed for more than one album). It’s really all about writing music for the right reasons, trying to be creative in ways that other people haven’t, and working extremely hard hitting the road, playing shows and trying to build up a fan base. These days labels want to see bands who are doing things by themselves, pulling fans for the right reasons. Most labels, well the independent ones certainly, don’t really have the resources to develop bands or artists in the way they used to as the industry of selling cd’s has dried up so much. Hit the road and do things for yourself is the way we did it, and the only advice I can give.

Enter Shikari’s story so far is one of resistance and righteousness, a sense of unbridled purpose that’s made every album a shock to the system, each new fix a brutal beautiful snapshot of them as artists and us as people. Never just content with being timeless, having the colossal cojones to be timely, Enter Shikari have taken their punk roots and kaleidoscopic musical consciousness to the planet from their small-scale St.Albans-based roots where they formed in the early noughties. They’ve achieved this through three albums that have broken barriers and busted heads wherever they’ve been heard.

The band, comprised of drummer Rob Rolfe, bassist Chris Batten, frontman Rou Reynolds and guitarist Rory Clewlow, will release The Mindsweep, their fourth full-length album, in January 2015.

Find Enter Shikari online and on the road.