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Oliver Sykes speaks to us about the past, the present, and the future.

Upon arriving in Sheffield after a caffeine-fuelled start to a Monday morning, we made our way through the industrial South Yorkshire city, taking in the sights of Oliver Sykes’s hometown. A landmark from Sheffield’s industrial past – the former Samuel Osborn Insignia Works on Rutland Road – has been transformed into the enormous Drop Dead headquarters; the hub of Oli’s popular clothing line, and a second home to each member of Bring Me The Horizon. While the warehouse below stocks and distributes clothing orders, the upper floors are alive with studio space. We made our way to the top floor of the Drop Dead warehouse, finding a large dusty wooden loft with streams of natural light pouring in from the huge semicircle window, creating the perfect space and atmosphere for a chilled and laid-back shoot with Bring Me The Horizon’s frontman, Oliver Sykes.

From way back in 2004 when the band formed, Bring Me The Horizon’s success is a tale of perseverance, improvement and evolution. From the controversial deathcore sound of their first album, Count Your Blessings (2006), BMTH have spent the course of their last five records evolving their sound to now incorporate influences from classical, electronica and pop. It is clear that every step the band has taken has been underpinned by a desire for natural progression. With their new record, amo, set to release in January 2019, the possibilities of what to expect from this new album are endless. We pulled Oli aside from the Monday morning warehouse shoot to take him on a drive around his hometown, Sheffield, in an electric blue Range Rover; the perfect location for a chat about where it all began, and what to expect from the future. “I’m really excited for the new album in January. It has been the hardest album we have ever written; we started back last October/November and we still haven’t finished it. I’m really happy with it and it’s completely different to what we have done before. Our albums are always different to the ones before; with our last album, we just wanted to make a big, mainstream, accessible rock album. With this new album, it’s a lot more experimental and we’ve been able to explore things that we’ve always wanted to do. It feels really different. Some songs sound like dance songs, some sound like full-on pop songs, and some sound a bit more like a hip-hop song or whatever. The album is still very influenced by rock but I think we felt a bit more confident to just explore.”

Oliver wears Rollneck by John Smedley; Jacket by DB Berdan; Trousers, Socks & Shoes by KTZ

Since their last album, That’s The Spirit (2015), the band has taken a bit of a break from the fast-paced, rock-and-roll lifestyle of the past fifteen years. “We’ve taken a bit of a break and to be honest we’ve just been being normal. After the last album and tour did so well we thought it was a good time to just chill out for a while and not rush back into it. We just gave ourselves a little bit more time off. We all enjoy being normal, like walking our dogs and seeing our families. The things that most people think are boring are the things that we love. My idea of a holiday is just sitting and doing absolutely nothing.”

“We’ve been in America over summer recording our album. We do like to go away because a lot of the time we spend writing is just in my house, or in the warehouse. We will literally be in the same place for two or three months, just writing. So, it’s nice to get out. We produce everything ourselves as well, so we usually have a bit more money left to just go somewhere nice, as we don’t have to spend all our budget on the producer.”

Whilst driving around the city-centre of Sheffield we passed by streets filled with pubs and clubs, experiencing the hustle and bustle that a student-filled town has to offer. Besides living in Australia between the ages of five and eight, Sheffield has always been Oli’s stomping ground. The edgy, industrial city is famous for its ripe music scene, producing several well-known bands and musicians. With a playground as arty as this, it’s of no surprise that Oli grew up wanting to work within a creative industry. “The music scene here is good I think; there has always been a lot going on. Big artists and bands have always come out of Sheffield as well. We had Tramlines festival a couple of weeks ago which is like a free festival, where bands take over all the venues and there is basically just bands playing everywhere. It’s definitely a very musical city.”

“Our first gig was actually in Rotherham which is where a lot of the guys from the band are from. Rotherham is like 30 minutes outside of Sheffield. We played a little pub called The Charters Arms, on a night where there were about four bands playing, and I think we were the first band on. It was really cool though, it felt like a big crowd at the time even though there were probably only about 50 people there.”

Oliver wears Top by DB Berdan: Jacket by Joshua Kane: Waistcost by Joshua Kane: Claws- Ekria

Yet selling 2 Million albums globally to date and playing sell-out shows in over 40 countries is not the only achievement that Oli holds. After the shoot was wrapped up the vegan musician led us down to the ground floor of the Drop Dead warehouse, where one portion of the site has been tastefully converted into a bar and restaurant, which also doubles-up as a gaming arcade. Named “Church”, the relaxed and quirky bar serves food from local vegan purveyors Make No Bones, and provides a space for local vegan enthusiasts as well as a place for Bring Me The Horizon to hang out between rehearsals.

Walking through the warehouse it is hard to miss the shelves piled high with Drop Dead clothing stock. The clothing label was founded in 2005 by Oliver Sykes himself and, just like his band, Drop Dead has grown and grown to become hugely successful within its own right. “I’m just always thinking of stuff, and then I’ll just take it a bit too far, or someone else will just take it a bit too far for me. I’m just one of those people that are quite easily inspired by anyone or anything. I can watch a movie and be like “I wish I was an actor”, or one day I won’t want any tattoos and then I’ll see someone with cool tattoos and I’ll suddenly want all the tattoos. I’m a bit of a sponge. A lot of the time it’s just a case of me wanting to share what I like with people and stuff. Also because I’ve been around the world, I might see something and think it’s amazing and want to bring that idea back home. I get inspired by what I see abroad and by how other people do things. It never seems like it’s coming from a business point of view. With the restaurant, it was partly because I just wanted a place to hang out, because I don’t go out much myself, so I wanted to make something that would get me out the house.”

“My mum is to thank for it all. I went to Barnsley College after school to study media; I wanted to be a film director or something like that. It just wasn’t really what I was expecting it to be. I thought College would be a bit more hands-on, but it was more just like sitting on a computer. We just sat around and watched arthouse movies. So I dropped out about half-way through, and that was when the band was just starting. So I thought I would get a job and then start really trying with the band. I think my mum saw what I was doing, and said that if I wanted to make some sort-of small business to make some money whilst I was in the band then she would help me. But I think she had more of a modest idea, like printing onto pillows or something I could sell down at the local market *laughs*. But I was like “I wanna start a clothing company!” But she had already agreed to lend me the money, so she lent me £500 and she sent me to this little local business school near our house. It was in the Myspace days, so without really knowing it I really took advantage of that because the platform was just so ready for music and clothes; people were really enjoying all that. Same with the band; we started up at a really good time when people were stoked that they could discover music themselves. But yeah, the clothing company juts took-off. I remember putting it out there and in the first night I had like 20 orders and I was just crying like “mum you’ve gotta see this!”

“I used to draw little zombies on the T-shirts. One of the first T-shirts was a zombie wearing a plaid shirt and it said ‘the raddest zombies wear cowboy shirts.’ Looking back I don’t know why on earth I thought that would sell. But on a very small scale it did really well and, it went from just me in my bedroom taking orders down to the post-office, to the point where the post-office would not let me in anymore because I would come in with like 3 hours of post *laughs*.”

oliver wears Neck Scarf by Joshua Kane; Shirt by Boss; Jacket by Joshua Kane;Trousers by Joshua Kane; Shoes by KTZ

“A lot of the time I’ll design an item to a certain point, and then I’ll give it to one of our designers and be like “OK make this better.” It’s difficult in fashion now, because the separation between high and low-end has become so big. Drop Dead used to be more for the people who bought it, but as my influence has changed it has taken a different path. It’s hard because I think fashion is really struggling. The hype of the high-end brands is so big now and I think a lot of people just want all these clothes that they can’t afford, or they can’t get hold of. We have come to that point now in 2018 where we have done everything and we have recycled every era – the 90s, 80s, 70s – and now no one knows what to do. You gotta just stay true to yourself and believe in what you do.”

Drop Dead Clothing has been a part of some pretty interesting and unique collaborations over the years. From Game of Thrones to The Simpsons, Sonic The Hedgehog to Jurassic Park, Oliver Sykes has always wanted to be involved in many exciting partnerships. “At first our brand was always a bit of a parody and we’d just take influence from random stuff, but as it got bigger we started getting in more and more trouble for it. We did a Felix the Cat print with his brains out and the company came to us and wanted money from us to use the cat. So as the brand got bigger and we realised we still wanted to use all this stuff we thought that maybe we could try partner with these brands. We did one with Gremlins and one with The Simpsons. It was just really fun for us because I was obsessed with these things, like Sonic the Hedgehog and Jurassic Park. The collaborations have just become quite a big part of Drop Dead.”

With the Drop Dead headquarters based in Sheffield, home to Oli Sykes and the rest of Bring Me The Horizon, it is fair to say that every creative endeavour that Oli has embarked on has been British born-and-bred. We wanted to get inside Oli’s head, and find out what it really means to him to be British. “Obviously England is quite a patriotic place, but I like the fact that we still speak up about things that are shit. We’re like “this is shit, everything is shit”, we don’t just sit back and pretend that everything is good when it’s not. I like that about Britain. It’s definitely a characteristic that other people notice. As Brits, we don’t like to talk about ourselves a lot, and that’s something that I like because personally, I don’t like to talk about myself a lot either, so it suits my personality. I do like when people can smile at each other though don’t get me wrong, but I can’t do small-talk.”

“I’m not that British in many ways though. I don’t like football, although, I did get dragged into the World Cup. My wife is Brazilian so I wanted England to go head-to-head with Brazil; I thought that would be cool to see, but that never happened.” Despite the natural progression and clear desire for improvement, it has not always been plain sailing for Bring Me The Horizon. A few years back, Oli opened up about the problems he had been facing during the lead up to the release of the bands 4th album, Sempiternal (2013). “At one point I just got badly addicted to stuff and got myself into a bit of a mess. I ended up going to rehab and all that. So after I got out I just thought I needed to throw myself back into it and stop thinking about the drugs. At the time we had all started growing apart as a band and I think it was because of me. It’s the same with most bands; like when you’ve been together for 5/6 years people start getting a bit cagey and people start losing interest and doing their own thing. I think we were just getting to that point and then we had the meltdown, so when we came back to it we were all motivated and just wanted to write an album. So we worked really hard and pushed ourselves to the next point. I’m kind of thankful for it in a way because without it happening I think we would have all just carried on drifting apart and doing our own thing.”

As Sempiternal marked the darkest part of Oli’s personal life, it also marked the beginning of a brand new, exciting chapter. Since then, the band has continued to grow and evolve, holding onto old fans as well as enticing a brand new group of listeners. With their 6th album, amo, set to release in January 2019, we’ve still got so much more to look forward to. “I’m excited about the new album and touring, and just doing it all again. We’re touring the UK and Europe in November, and then America in January or February next year.”

“It’s always getting better. We’re really lucky that our band has always had like a natural growth. We weren’t an overnight success story so we’ve always felt ourselves growing and getting better. For us, we started out very underground and very heavy, and it’s just slowly grown over the years. We started in a pub; our parents would drop us off. Then it changed to a van, then it was a tour bus, then it was flying to America. So, we’ve always had something new to look forward to. So, yes, it’s always getting better.”

 

Photographer Niklas Haze

Styling Jordan Kelsey

Make Up Artist & Hair Stylis Zahra Ramees

Production Lilian | Photo Assistants Sara & Jai

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