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Solsikk Interview

Solsikk Interview
Performed in May 2011 via Skype

My first impression of Solsikk’s self-titled debut album was one of muscle and rippling energy with attitude to spare. The track names -- “Relish In Nervous Delights,” “Your Blistering Tongue,” “Razored Cell” and “Bloodlust” -- already speak volumes about what these London Groove Metal newcomers have in store for you. But, honestly, the deal-sealer for me was the ballad “Cut A Little Deeper,” where Vykki Turner’s vocal power and versatility and Chris Webb’s fine guitar work are on full display. Simply lovely.


Sonic Cathedral’s Robin Stryker caught up with Vykki and Chris for a freewheeling discussion of everything from musical influences to tarantulas and daisies. Our arachnophobic friends might want to stop reading when they get to the part about David Hasselhoff …

Robin:  Hello, Vykki and Chris, and welcome to Sonic Cathedral! Congratulations on Solsikk’s new self-titled release on May 2. How’s the response been so far?

Chris:  So far, it’s been awesome, like quite overwhelming. Solsikk got really good reviews, and every review we’ve had so far has been really, really good actually. We had no idea what people would say about it, because obviously we’re not what I would call a “standard” female-fronted metal band. You normally have these sort of classical influences and things like that, and we don’t have anything like that. So I was kind of a little bit worried, like people might not like it…


Vykki:  I wasn’t. I wasn’t worried AT ALL.

Chris:  (laughs) Confidence! But no, it’s been awesome so far. It’s been really, really good! Over here, it has actually sold out straight away, the copies that are in the shops.

Vykki:  That’s because the shops have only had TWO copies. (all laugh)

Robin:  Fantastic news that the reception has been so warm! Do you find yourself sneaking up on the reviews when they come in, because you never quite know what it’s going to be?

Chris:  I don’t like reading reviews sometimes. Obviously, I don’t mind if someone says it’s good. (laughs) But then you get some reviews that will just literally TEAR it to absolute pieces, and it’s quite disheartening when that happens. You don’t really want to see someone unfairly rip you to pieces, with all of your hard work. So I’m always a little cautious when reading reviews. I haven’t found a bad one yet, but I’ve probably just jinxed myself and am going to get hit with bad reviews now.

Vykki:  I always take on board constructive criticism. But, as Chris says, if someone is just slating it for the sake of slating it, it can get disheartening. So I tend not to read reviews unless they get forwarded to me, as being good or pointing out a constructive criticism that I could take on board.

Robin:  Speaking of constructive criticisms, one of the comments I had seen a couple of about Solsikk’s 2009 EP, Volatile Territory, was that the vocals had a lot of production. It does seem like you made changes when you recorded the songs for Solsikk.

Vykki:  Yeah, originally when me and Chris first started Solsikk, I had been previously singing quite a lot of soul. I hadn’t done any sort of rock and metal since back in college, which is quite a while ago now, and I sort of moved away from those vocal techniques. So to try and get my voice to do that kind of raspy, growl stuff, I found quite a challenge, which is why we put quite a lot of production on the vocals to try and blend into genres that were already out there. Basically, a lot of the stuff would have distortion or megaphone on the vocals to try to give it that rawness because my voice didn’t have that raw, raspy edge. Since then, I’ve really sort of connected with my growling side, and managed to really learn those techniques and to getting that back again a bit.

When we first started the band, I was very conscious of trying to fit into a scene that was already out there. And now, to be honest, I don’t give a you-know-what. (Chris laughs) Because I am me, I am not Angela Gossow, I am not Cristina Scabbia, I am not any of these operatic singers. I sing how I sing, so I’ve decided now not to try to fit into a genre. I’ve decided to do what I do and what Chris does and the rest of the band. And that is Solsikk essentially.

Robin:  I’m glad that you shared about previously singing soul, because I was going to ask what your background is. I hear melisma -- a single syllable over multiple notes -- that is much more common in soul and R&B singing than it is in metal.

Vykki:  My vocal history started right back at the age of 7 and 8, doing choir and things through school. It progressed right up into pop and stage productions, with musical theater. As you grow up from being a teenager, you get exposure to all sorts of different genres. I mean, my sister was very into the 80s pop scene. You know, Madonna and Duran Duran and all that. My brother was listening to Iron Maiden, Skid Row, Whitesnake, all sorts of people like that. Then my mom and dad, they were Queen … (laughs) I’m just trying to think. My dad likes Janis Joplin and people like that, while my mom was very … what do you call it? … sort of like love rock songs.

Chris:  Power ballads.

Vykki:  Yes, power ballads! Obviously, there were influences from school. As a teenager, we would go onto more pop like Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and people like that. So I’ve been exposed to a lot of different things, and then I just sort of really found a liking with soul and Motown as I progressed through the transition from school to college. I took a lot of inspiration from Otis Redding, Michael Jackson, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, all the people like that really. From that transition from college to what we do now, it was mainly R&B, pop R&B, soul, obviously with the metal and rock influences like Faith No More, Skunk Anansie, Iron Maiden and people like that whom my brother used to listen to through college. I mean, even ska like No Doubt -- the pop ska scene back in that 90s period -- so I’ve had a lot of input.

I think now, I just sing and try to write what makes me feel happy and what makes me essentially FEEL anything. I think, to be a vocalist, you can learn all the technique in the world. But unless you feel what you’re doing, you can’t convey that to the audience. I suppose that’s probably the same with musicians in playing instruments. Chris has got a lot of feeling with his guitar playing. You can have all the technique, but if you can’t play with feeling, how can you expect the audience to reciprocate that feeling you’re trying to play? You’re just trying to connect, you’re making a connection.

Chris:  Wow, you go! No, really.


Robin:  Chris, what was your path to becoming the lion-haired guitarist for Solsikk?

Vykki:  (Chris laughs) That hair is my doing.

Chris:  I used to have long hair when I was about 16. But with it being so curly, a lot of people threatened to cut it off in college, and I got to a point where I had to cut it off. But I’m glad it’s back.

I started off in a band called Biomechanical, which was a progressive -- I suppose soundtrack metal -- band, really. I played with them for about seven years, and we released three albums. So the thing with that band was, it was mainly the singer’s songwriting. He had control over everything with the band. We had some input, but not as much as we would like. We put the flesh and bones to the music, since obviously it was our playing, but it was a very controlled environment. So towards the end of it, I was getting a bit frustrated as a musician because I wasn’t doing any songwriting. Any riffs I came up with, he wasn’t really interested in. It was the same with all the musicians, really. He would only take tiny little bits. Basically, I wanted to start another band, as a side-project originally.

I’ve known Vykki since we were at school, and she approached me. She was doing a project at the time, and she asked: “Can you play some acoustic guitar on it?” And I was like, “Absolutely!” Afterwards, I was playing her some of the stuff I recorded, and she just went: “Well, I could sing over that.” And she started putting her style over it, and I was just like: “Hang on a minute, this is actually quite cool!”, because Vykki was sort of singing very softly over this metal riff. And I was like, “This is really cool”, and Vykki thought the same. We jammed some tracks out, and we were like, “This is a band. We’ve got to do this!”

I was still in Biomechanical, and played it to the drummer, who is Matt C. And he said, “This stuff is awesome! I’d love to play over this.” So, I was like, “Well, the job is yours, if you want it.” Obviously, Matt and I have been playing together for years, so it was brilliant to do so, because we were already linked … already connected on a musical level. So I started putting the band together. We needed a bass player, and we searched the Internet, as everyone does nowadays for musicians. We looked around locally, then we were on this pro musician site and found this guy [Mark Mulcaster] advertising: “I want to be in a female-fronted metal band.” He was a five-string bassist, and listed his influences from Maiden to Mudvayne, and loads of other things like Pantera. And I was like, “Whoa, this guy sounds awesome!” We auditioned him, and it was perfect. He matched absolutely awesome. And then, sadly, at that point, Biomechanical completely imploded on its head, exploded and went bye-byes. That was actually kind of a good thing, because it meant that Solsikk could then have a chance to really start getting going.

We then jammed some tracks and started writing everything. The first thing that came out was the EP [Volatile Territory] that we released, and then from there, we started writing all the other tracks for the album, combining all our influences really. It started off that Vykki and I would come up with the basic song, but then Matt and Mark would put their influences in as well, which are all so different. Matt is into proper rock, like Deep Purple and things like that, but he’s also into his technical and black metal. (He literally plays everything.) Then we have Mark, who is into Maiden, Mudvayne and things. And all those influences poured into one, it then bred what is Solsikk now. So, that’s kind of how it all happened, really, and how I became where I am. And the good thing is that I can grow my hair again. (laughs) That’s really what it comes down to, it’s the HAIR, so I can look like a lion again.


Robin:  If you’re gonna headbang, you need the hair, honestly.

Chris:  That’s why I hated it. Because my hair is so curly, when it was short, I couldn’t do anything with it. Someone once came up to me and went, “You look like you should be a banker or something, you should work in the stock market.” That’s not good. So Vykki was like, “Dude, grow your hair again!” I was like, “No worries.” (laughs)

Vykki:  It’s actually different now, though, to what it was in college. In college, it was …

Chris:  I looked like a sheep.

Vykki:  … He looked a little bit like David Hasselhoff, but with longer hair. (laughs)

Chris:  Thanks for that. You had to get the Hoff in there, the Hoff just had to be in there. (Vykki keeps laughing)

Robin:  I have nowhere to go, after that. I’m completely flummoxed. (all laugh)

Chris:  That’s an achievement!

Robin:  Vykki, I’ve read that your lyrics are mostly autobiographical. Does it make the people in your life nervous that they might show up in one of your songs?

Vykki:  Well, most of the people, that a lot of the songs are about, aren’t actually in my life any more, which is a good thing. So I couldn’t really give two hoots as to whether it makes them nervous or not. No, other than that, people who are in my life, who may have been around through those periods of time, I don’t think it makes them nervous. It might make them a little bit sad maybe because it reminds them of that time of my life. But I think ultimately they look at the person I was then and what I went through and the person I am now, and I would like to say that they are proud.

Chris:  You hope.

Vykki:  I hope! (laughs) I HOPE they’re proud.

Chris:  You haven’t ever had anyone come up to you and go (nervous voice): “Uh Vykki, is this song about me?”

Vykki:  No, I haven’t had anyone ask me if that song is about them. I don’t think they’d dare. Because I’d be like, “No, but the NEXT song is going to be.” (laughs) I mean, all the songs at the moment, so far, yeah they have been autobiographical about my life in the past. But I’m such a different person now that I honestly can’t say what the songs are going to be like in the future, because I’ve always been drawn to writing on the darker end, the more macabre side of issues in my life. Now that I’m blissfully happy, I’m a little bit like, “hmmmmm, how do I write a song about daisies in metal?” So yeah, it’s going to be interesting to see where my inspiration and mojo progresses from this point.

Chris:  Just sing about clowns. You know they scare the shit out of you.

Vykki:  Yeah, that’s true, I’m not a fan of clowns. I could write about clowns.

Robin:  Clowns are terrifying and awful.

Vykki:  They ARE! Terrifying.


Robin:  Speaking of terrifying things, in some of your photo shoots, there is a huge tarantula. Is that your pet or an extra brought in for the shoot?

Vykki:  She was my pet. Unfortunately, she passed away, not long now. She was 15 years old. I’d raised her from a spiderling, and wanted to have a photo shoot with her because I was aware that she was getting on a bit. I’d always wanted to have a photo shoot done with her, and luckily, I managed to get it in with a friend of mine, she’s a photographer and said she’d do it with me. And yeah, I managed to get it in before she passed away. It was her next molt after that shoot that she unfortunately got stuck in and ended up passing away, which was not a nice time. I was absolutely devastated!

Chris:  I would like to add that she was not a normal spider. She actually would crouch on your hand and give you a cuddle.

Vykki:  She was a BEAUTIFUL spider. When I would hold her on my hand … I know all you tarantula-loving people out there are going to think that I’m weird … but she would sit on my hand and sort of rest her whole carapace and her abdomen down on my hand, and then wrap her legs around the outside of my hand like she was giving me a cuddle. (Chris laughs) It was really, really lovely. Yeah, but unfortunately she’s passed on now. I had her cremated, and I have her in a little pot thing. I’ve now got another tarantula. I subsequently rescued another tarantula from the RSPCA over here, that’s the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It had been found in a warehouse abandoned, and they rang me up and asked if I would bring home another because they were having trouble. So yes, I have her now, a new tarantula. I haven’t handled her as yet because I don’t know if she is a bit traumatized still. She seems to be settling in okay.

Chris:  (laughs) You do realize that you just made every arachnophobic person fall off their chair, freaking out?

Vykki:  She is eating, which is a good sign …

Chris:  You’ve just made them freak out again.

Vykki:  She’s spinning a web …

Chris:  Freaking them out even more. Keep going.

Vykki:  She’s making herself comfortable. So no, she’s good, the new one. She’s quite happy.


Robin:  You have a house full of animals, right?

Vykki:  Yeah, I do, unfortunately. Well, it’s not really my house. It is my parents’ house because I moved back with my parents about six years ago to help with the cost of things. I’ve got three cats. They’re not all mine. Well one of them is definitely mine, he’s my baby. But they’re all rescued. I’ve got a red ringneck parakeet (again, he’s rescued), and obviously my new tarantula. We’ve just moved, so my tarantula will be coming with me. But the cats will be staying with my mom and dad because there is a garden there, and it’s not fair on them to keep them caught up in an apartment when they’ve got a garden.

Robin:  I hope that your tarantula soon becomes properly domesticated and wraps its giant, terrifying legs around your hand for a cuddle.

Vykki:  They’re not terrifying at all. They are really, really sweet creatures. The breed that I’ve got … well the one I had and the one I’ve got now … are one of the most recommended spiders for starter arachnid keepers. They’re a Chilean rose (a Grammostola rosea), which is one of the most placid types of tarantulas that you can get. Brilliant for first-time tarantula keepers. So they are really gentle and quite docile. They’re not aggressive in any way. But of course, you can get horrendously aggressive tarantulas. Normally, the really beautiful, pretty-colored ones …

Chris:  That will eat you after about 10 seconds.

Vykki:  I like to interact with my animals and have some kind of relationship there. I don’t think I’d be able to have any kind of …

Chris:  Well, you could run! You could run for your life. (laughs)

Vykki:  Nooooo, I couldn’t have any kind of living being that was violent or aggressive in any way, because I wouldn’t be able to interact with it. I would feel that it was constantly on edge and not relaxed in my environment, and I wouldn’t like that. I’m a big, Big, BIG animal lover. I regard animals higher than most humans.

Chris:  (laughs) Me included!

Robin:  (laughs) Well, Vykki has got her animals, and I understand that you, Chris, collect skulls?

Chris:  Wow yes, I don’t know how that got out. (laughs) I happen to have a skull collection. It’s sort of at two properties at the moment. When I was learning guitar, I suddenly developed this fascination for fake skulls. Obviously, none of them are real, but just like Nemesis Now and Alchemy Gothic and things like that. So I have loads of skulls that are all sort of different looking things. I’ve got the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on my wall, I’ve a huge Grim Reaper in my studio that holds a big globe, and things like that. So yes, I do have a lot of skulls. I think I did do a count once, and I had something in the region of nearly 40 (I think) skull-looking things. It is a bit sad really …

Vykki:  I think you’ve got more than that, surely.

Chris:  I might have. Yeah, it’s like my lampshade in my room -- I could send you a picture -- it’s literally five skulls with spines and ribcages making a lampshade.

Vykki:  That’s in the music room.

Chris:  I do have a weird obsession with fake skulls. I don’t like real ones, though. (I have to add that.) I’m not into digging up graves or anything crazy like that. If it looks too real, I’m not interested. It has to be metal and comical and looking mean and putting a funny grin or something -- a guitar in its hands or in its teeth or holding a rose in its mouth. Anything like that. (laughs) I’ll just keep digging myself into a bigger hole here.


Robin:  With Chris’s skulls and Vykki’s fashion sense, might we be seeing some interesting Solsikk merch in the future?

Chris:  That’s a good idea, actually! I hadn’t thought about that, but we could do that -- a sick design. Our t-shirt that we already had done, which is only available over here at the moment, was done by a guy called Gustavo. And, funnily enough, he incorporated some really cool designs with a bit of a skull thing in it as well. So I was happy.

Vykki:  It was a ribcage, wasn’t it?

Chris:  Yes.

Vykki:  Yeah, a big shout-out to Gustavo Sazes, the designer. He’s fantastic, and a really nice guy as well!

Chris:  Yeah, he did our website, and he did the album artwork as well, even though the photos were done by a photographer we know, called Marie GC. He sort of then took all the pictures and edited them to make them into this dark thing, which is the album cover. So that was cool. Yes, I do hope we can see some skull stuff incorporated. (laughs)

Robin:  Is it correct that Marie GC also did the video for your first single off the album, “Viridescere”? (Watch it here.)

Vykki:  She filmed it, and she is fantastic! She is also the photographer who did my shoot with my tarantula. I just REALLY click with her on a creative level. She knows exactly what I’m talking about without me even having to draw up a storyboard. She is completely on my wavelength, and she is a really, really fab girl.

Chris:  It was directed pretty much by our bassist Mark. He’s a genius with video, and Vykki as well. So Vykki put loads of artistic direction in. But Marie did all the filming and everything, and it came out good actually. I was happy with that!

Vykki:  Very happy with it! It’s all good.

Robin:  I will tell you that I was expecting a different ending with the … errmmm … rope. (Chris laughs) My dirty mind was heading in an auto-erotic asphyxiation direction, rather than an innocent swing.

Chris:  That’s awesome! Excellent.

Vykki:  That rope was bloody uncomfortable. (Chris laughs) I had duck poo up me for ages!

Chris:  Do you want to explain the duck poo?

Robin:  (laughs) Yes please!

Vykki:  Chris actually acquired the rope from a boat, and it had been covered in duck poo. So he’d spent the actual day trying to release the duck poo from the rope before I sat swinging on it, which subsequently didn’t work. And I ended up covered in duck poo after the shoot.

Robin:  Tired and smelling nice …

Chris:  Yes, absolutely! (laughs)

Vykki:  You can’t see that in the actual video. (I hope.)

Robin:  With everybody in the band now being so happy -- Mark just got married and Matt just got married …

Vykki:  Yeah, Mark is very, very happy.

Chris:  Matt has gotten married as well, our drummer.

Vykki:  Yes, Matt’s gotten married as well.

Robin:  Everyone’s doing it. :hint hint:

Vykki:  Yes, TELL ME ABOUT IT. (laughs) Yes, I’m with you there on the hinting. Yes Chris, “hint hint!” We’re cool. I mean, we’ve just bought a flat. We’re very happy, we’re very settled down.

Chris:  Not TOO settled down. We’re still rock-and-roll, thanks.

Vykki:  No, we’re still rock-and-roll (Chris laughs), but we’re very busy people. It will come when it’s ready to come. You know.


Robin:  And then you’ll be singing about daisies.

Vykki:  Yes, most probably. We’ll be singing about married life in a metal way. (laughs)

Chris:  How do you sing about married life in a metal way?

Vykki:  I don’t know. Do some fuckin’ work, you lazy C-U-N-T. (laughs)

Robin:  What is the rest of 2011 looking like for Solsikk?

Chris:  Crikey, basically we just want to get gigging as many places as possible, and promote the album really, and spread the word, as it were. ‘Cuz obviously, we’re not a huge band or anything like that, so we just want more and more people to find out about us. There will be songwriting. Obviously, we’re not like: “Okay, here’s album number one. Let’s just sit down and sit on that for a while.” We’ve already started experimenting with some new music and keeping it in the Solsikk thing. So we’re jamming to new tracks.

Vykki:  I think now we’ve sort of REALLY gotten comfortable with who we are. I think the second album will be … from a vocal point of view, there will be a lot less production and vocal effects on the mixes. It’s going to be more me, rather than me trying to fit into a genre.

Chris:  So, hopefully, lots of gigging, touring. You know, if we could go abroad, that would be absolutely awesome!

Vykki:  Maybe not this year. I don’t think this year, but definitely next year, I want to get going. I want to get ‘round the world. I want to come to the STATES!

Chris:  Oh yes, we’d love to come to the States. That would be AMAZING!

Vykki:  I love the States. I was just saying to Chris: “Everything is so cool in the States.” I was looking for -- I know this is not band-related at all -- but I was looking for a right-angled doorstop here, and they don’t sell them here anywhere. And yet, in America, you’ve got EVERYTHING, and it’s brilliant! In Canada and America, everything that you could ever want is over there, and over here, is crap. We don’t have anything, it’s rubbish.

Robin:  Except we don’t have Solsikk.

Vykki:  Except Solsikk, but we want to come over there!

Chris:  Canada, America, South America …

Vykki:  Australia.

Chris:  Everywhere. World domination!

Vykki:  Yeah definitely. I want to come over there so bad.

Chris:  That would be awesome. I miss Denny’s, I love Denny’s breakfasts. I haven’t had that for years now. (laughs)

Robin:  Really?!? Of all the things that you could miss, it’s Denny’s?

Chris:  I haven’t had much. I’ve only had the pleasure of going to Chicago and Texas. When I was in Texas, I was just taken to where I had to eat, so we went to Denny’s for breakfast every morning.

Vykki:  And I want to go to Hooters, dammit. (Chris laughs) I’m desperate to come to Hooters!

Robin:  There’s one right down the street.

Vykki:  Damn you! (laughs) I want to be there NOW, I want to go to Hooters. I want to go to the Playboy Mansion, as well, but ...


Robin:  Well guys, we have reached the end of our time together, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Do you have any parting words of wisdom for your friends and fans at Sonic Cathedral?

Chris:  Thank you very much for the interview obviously.

Vykki:  Yes, thank you very much.

Chris:  Please do check out our webpages. (Solsikk.com will take you to MySpace.) And check out our video.

Vykki:  Our video is on YouTube -- it’s “Viridescere” which is Latin for “to become green.”

Chris:  So basically, please check us out, and we’ll hopefully try and come over there. Thank you for paying any interest to us whatsoever. We really appreciate it!

Vykki:  We really, really appreciate it.

Robin:  Thank you so much, Vykki and Chris. All our best to you and your mates at Solsikk! And a big thank you to Carrie Sharp at Femme Metal Records for sending us an advanced copy of your album.

Check the band out:

Solsikk YouTube