The Way I Work:
Rou Reynolds

The Enter Shikari frontman (second right) on mindfulness and political activism

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It depends at what point in the touring cycle I’m in as to how much I enjoy it. Back in November when we were touring I’d be saying I still enjoy it but I’d be slightly slurring my words with exhaustion. Now we’re raring to go. You need at least a month or two at home, living a normal life, with my partner and my cat Freya, in our little house in north London – not sleeping in a moving vehicle.

We have our wild moments but I’m probably the most boring one. I’m the one reading books back stage while everyone’s partying after the show. I’m usually too knackered to go out – I try and use the show as the partying bit really.

I practice mindfulness and yoga. I know – so rock ’n’ roll! I find it all kind of reinforces each thing I do – each thing I do outside of the band helps aid the band. The band is such an intense, surreal, strange lifestyle. When you’re on stage – and the bigger shows are so full of adrenaline – to come off is such a different atmosphere and emotion, so I find that mindfulness just helps bring you back down nicely to enter the realm of reality again.

It helps me on tour – I have occasional problems with anxiety or insomnia and it really helps with that and helps keep the shows as full throttle as they should be rather than losing sleep and it all going downhill as a result. So it’s about balance.

Often the media and people I meet at shows say I’m a completely different person and there’s such a transformation on stage, but I’ve actually realised that it’s not. If you put someone on a stage and give them incredibly passionate music that’s naturally how I act.

On this tour we’ll be playing the original tracks from The Mindsweep and slipping the remixes from The Mindsweep: Hospitalised [drum and bass remixes by Hospital Records] in at some point. It’s quite exciting because obviously drum and bass is quite hard to replicate live properly – to keep that intensity. We are all such fans of the label and a lot of the artists that were involved, so it was cool.

Mindsweep is a name that we gave to situations that occur – one example would be, if we’re talking about climate change, the Tories have just scrapped subsidies for solar power – which you can’t really argue for. There’s no sane, scientific reason behind that decision – we need as much renewable energy as possible. So mindsweeping is where they’re trying to, at best, disparage some sort of new direction or philosophy and, at worst, they’re just outright blocking it. Just sweeping one’s mind of hope and possibilities.

There’s a lot of frustration throughout the whole album and each song comes at it from a different angle but the number one priority has always been to make positive music that’s full of hope and to try and fortify people’s strength and resilience. Even though we’re tackling big subjects it’s still very positive and about unity and how we can make a difference.

There is a certain element of preaching to the choir but it becomes quite important when we tour everywhere from Japan to Indonesia and New Zealand. In all these places there’s different struggles and one of the best things is when you go to these far-off places, places you never think you’d visit in your lifetime, and you have people saying our music has strengthened or emboldened them to keep fighting. It’s almost like providing a soundtrack to, or fuel for, activism.

The number one priority has always been to make positive music that’s full of hope

Activism has always been something that’s been really important to us as a band. When I’m home I can often be found in central London marching or at protests. We’ve done a lot of work with charities, the most with Action Aid. I released a solo record with them two years ago and that was fun. I just gave them the tracks and they released them. We’ve worked with CND, Friends of the Earth, and I have a side-project that’s an ethical fashion label. Each design has a specific cause that profits go towards.

If I hadn’t gone into music I have no idea what I would have done. I love all things science but I don’t know whether I have the intellect to have a job in it. I’m really interested in the neuroscience of music. I guess it comes from my control-freak nature. Just knowing that music is magical, can make us feel all these different emotions on the spot and is so powerful – that’s not enough for me. I want to know why, down to the neurons in your brain. The main reason is it kind of hacks the main brain circuits that are usually only used for things that are pivotal for our survival, so the neurochemicals when you’re eating or having sex. The same things that cocaine triggers – dopamine, basically – music somehow hacks those, even though it has no evolutionary reasoning. It’s incredible – there’s lots of theories. I could go on.

To some extent I feel like we don’t have control. In this country we’re very lucky and even our poor have more opportunities than in other countries, but still I think the amount of inequality in this country is totally ridiculous. On a local level the government has taken control – it makes a lot more sense for decisions to be made by local authorities.

The Conservatives have privatised so much, which, like austerity, is very much driven by an ideology more than having any sort of sense. I did a podcast recently with a couple of young economists and they were explaining not just how damaging austerity is but just how wrong it is and how it’s not actually making anything better. The rhetoric we’re hearing about tightening our belts and all being in this together – it’s scary because the more I’ve learnt about it the more I’ve realised how many politicians don’t have a clue about our economy, our banking system and about how austerity is making things worse.

I have an urge to be involved. One of the reasons people are not interested and apathetic is because there’s not very much you can be involved with apart from the vote every few years. I’m lucky – as a musician I have time. In a way it’s very clever [that working classes don’t have time for activism].

I love to discuss stuff online – that’s one reason I feel lucky to have had the band. Growing up none of my mates were particularly political. I felt I couldn’t discuss these things – that it was boring, and some of it was. But being able to discuss with people the larger things in life is great. Often politics is thought of as old men bickering about budgets and a lot of it is but when it starts getting philosophical, you can get people to be imaginative. It’s interesting to be able to discuss with people without it being argumentative, so I try to remain calm. If people disagree with you that’s cool. It would be boring if they didn’t.

The Mindsweep and The Mindsweep Remixed are out now

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Rou Reynolds

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