Download Festival Interview: Sylosis

Following January’s incandescent ‘Dormant Heart’, Sylosis had a lot to offer the Download Festival audience this year. Years of line-up changes and catastrophes may have taken their emotional toll, but their musical output has gone from strength to strength. Doing the European festival rounds, the Reading quartet never seem to tire of the carnage left in the wake of their festival set.

Ahead of their Maverick stage performance, drummer Ali Richardson stopped to chat with Already Heard about how he’s settling in, what’s next for Sylosis and what brought him onto the stage in the first place.

Already Heard: How’re you doing today, Ali? Excited to be at the home of rock and metal?
Ali Richardson: I’m fucking jamming, I’m ready for a weekend of chaos! It’s where it all started for me, I mostly grew up listening to Pantera and stuff, but I came here in 2006 and coming back here playing this late on a Friday is cool as fuck.

AH: So ‘Dormant Heart’ hit the scene like a sledgehammer, how’s it feel seeing that fan response and how well people took it?
Ali: It’s quite overwhelming, I’m obviously the new guy in the mix here so I wasn’t part of the writing process, but I was a big fan of the album, so it’s amazing to see the support. I’m pretty sure it entered the charts at number 38! It’s pretty fucking crazy so that was amazing to see! It got me really excited about festival season and just doing gigs and coming back to the UK especially, so Download’s always been a big one, I’ve been looking forward to this for months!

AH: Being the new guy must come with a lot of complications, walking in on everyone else’s work. How’s it all gone down with you?
Ali: I’ve been friends with the guys for about 10 years, I’ve always been a fan of their music, they sent me a copy of the new album before I joined the band and I was like, “this is great, this is what I want to be playing”. I totally agree with what’s there for me to play, it’s good fun, it’s quite challenging but I always like to push myself, I look for that challenge in drumming so just grab it with both hands. I look forward to moving onwards as well and putting my own stamp on the sound.

AH: So bearing in mind we know your live shows blow the roof off venues, sadly enough for the organisers, there’s a roof on the Maverick stage!
Ali: Yeah, we’ll take the roof off that one as well!

AH: So after the band’s first set here in 2009 and then in 2012, how much do you think the band’s performances have changed over the years?
Ali: I think their music’s changed significantly, definitely in Dormant Heart was more progressive, darker sound and that’s what really appealed to me about the album and about joining them. These songs in a live scenario, they’re very much suited to a live environment and this is the first time they’ll be played at Download, so just looking forward to see how the Download crowd responds!

AH: Any surprises in store?
Ali: We’ve got a medley coming up actually! A song from Monolith and a song from Edge Of The Earth, cut them in half and stuck them together.

AH: That’ll go down well with the hardcore fans then!
Ali: I hope so! We’ll see how it goes.

AH: So looking ahead, what’s next for you guys?
Ali: Well we’ve got Hellfest and Graspop next weekend, so pretty amazing line-ups, looking forward to going back to Europe, it feels more like a holiday when you’re over there.

AH: Have you got tired of the touristy side of things yet?
Ali: Tired of it? Never! It’s a new experience every time and you’re always somewhere different, you might be in the same country but it’s always a different venue. After that, we’ve got With Full Force in Germany. I love playing in Germany, that’s like playing home from home, massive metal fans, I’m really looking forward to that one, that’s a big festival as well! After that, it’s quiet for a few months then hopefully a UK headline tour or something in the UK towards the end of the year, but nothing’s set in stone.

AH: So we know a setlist is never going to please everyone, what’s one song you know will never make a setlist but you wish it would?
Ali: My favourite song to play with the guys is ‘Altered States Of Consciousness’ and that’s like a 6 minute song so most of the time we have to cut it out which is quite annoying, but I’d always have that in there if I had the choice. It’s a good song for me, I don’t care about anyone else!

Photo by Carrie-Anne Pollard. View more photos here.

AH: If you could bring back one artist to perform with, who would you bring back?
Ali: Dimebag Darrell. Straight away! Well actually, I’ve been listening to a lot of Jeff Buckley recently as well, but yeah, Dimebag. I need to see Pantera live so get Dimebag back, or just go back in time and make sure it never even happened, maybe get Pantera back together.

AH: It’s not right without him, is it?
Ali: Definitely not, there’s a void in my life.

AH: So if there’s one venue you haven’t played yet, where would you most want to play?
Ali: Madison Square Gardens, just because that’s at the top of the bucket list! Nah, I’ll go with Wembley because it’s closer to home, but Madison Square Gardens has got that ring to it.

AH: Who was your most crucial musical influence growing up?
Ali: As a drummer, for me it was Vinnie Paul and Chris Adler of Lamb Of God, there’s a few other guys, but ever since I started picking up my sticks. There’s a few more recent additions like Mario Duplantier from Gojira, there’s a lot of drummers with a lot of groove and a lot of feel to them, that’s what’s important to me. We’re all playing heavy music but it still needs to be groovy at the end of the day, you still want people to be shaking their hips to the music! If I see people standing still, I don’t think I’m groovy enough and I need to change it up.

AH: Especially Vinnie Paul, he has personality pouring out of his ears!
Ali: He has! He has the groove!

AH: What was the first album you ever bought?
Ali: I think it was Sum 41’s ‘All Killer, No Filler’. That’s when I was fucking young though, I was 12 or something then. First metal album was Pantera’s ‘Vulgar Display Of Power’, so I made up for myself! We’ve all been there, Sum 41 was fine back in the day, I enjoyed that, it was a good album. I was young, it’s alright.

AH: If you could take one band on tour with you, supporting you not headlining over you, who would it be?
Ali: The moment you started that question, I was going to shout Pantera again! I wouldn’t feel right playing above Pantera, but if we’re on tour together, get them on tour with us.

AH: Imagine that backstage, too!
Ali: Yeah, I’m pretty sure they could teach me a thing or two about drinking, that’s something I pride myself in!

AH: What’s your view on the Gene Simmons debate that rock, and by extension metal, is dead?
Ali: Bullshit! It’s definitely not dead, look at this festival every year. It’s bigger than all the festivals we go to over the year, in Europe and the States and around the world for metalheads. I think the industry’s hard, it’s hard for bands to make a living, but the music scene in itself is not dead. There’s more heavy bands out there now than there ever has been before. It’s definitely alive and well and it’s growing.

AH: Where do you see yourself musically in 5-10 years’ time?
Ali: I have no idea, and I like to keep it that way. Make small, achievable goals, get them and then just throw one thing onto the next, keep going and keep doing work. I’m not in this to be famous or to make money or anything, I’m just in this to enjoy it. If you end up making a living out of that, then that’s a bonus. It’s not right if you’re not enjoying it.

‘Dormant Heart’ by Sylosis is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.

Sylosis links: Website|Facebook|Twitter

View more of Already Heard’s coverage of Download Festival 2015 here.

Words by Ali Cooper (@AliZombie_)


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