I was lucky to meet the leading duo of Sonic Boom Six, Peter ‘Barney Boom’ Barnes and Laila ‘Laila K’ Khan for an interview on behalf of CRITICAL WAVE. The interview took place backstage before their show on 18th November 2012, at the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth.
It’s the worst journalistic question ever, so I’ll ask it with a twist. When were you last asked about your band name?
Laila K: We always get asked.
Barney Boom: It’s been a while but it does happen, especially people who don’t know anything about us.
LK: It’s not the worst question in the world. It’s quite an unusual name and it doesn’t say it on the first page of our website ‘we are called Sonic Boom Six ‘cos of this’. So it’s not too much of a bad question.
Speaking of which, why is your album self-titled?
LK: We’re rebooting the franchise. We kind of had a couple of years where we wanted to figure out whether we wanted to carry on. How we were going to do it and stuff. And we just kind of wanted to put a stamp on this album as a sort of ‘new beginning’ kind of thing.
As you consider it a new start, does that mean a change in your sound?
BB: There is a bit of a change because we rely more on synths and backing tracks and there’s a lot more electronica in there than there was before. It’s very natural as a development but certainly we think that the new record can open up to different types of listener, whereas all our old stuff was very specifically written with the audience already in mind. With the new record we just tried to open it up and just have a record that in theory could appeal to anyone. Everything’s very subjective. Some people might think we’ve changed massively but for us it feels like a natural step.
Is that sound something that has fallen into place or was there something in particular that you were trying to create?
BB: We were struggling to get it. When we started we were a punk band playing in a garage and we were emulating the sound of ragga and drum-and-bass and music like that. Grime and stuff by using instruments. But as we got older and got better and got more immersed in technology, we’ve learned to utilize a lot of different production techniques. So we kind of grew into it but it was really when we wrote the song ‘Virus’ that we went ‘OK, that’s how we should sound’. It’s got enough of the old ska-punk element of ours, but then it also has more of a dance sound to it. Once we had written that song we thought that that’s what the rest of the album should sound like.
LK: We kind of wanted to clone the sound that we already had but make it more consistent throughout the whole album and not just song by song. So ‘Virus’ was kind of the blueprint for that.
With such a scramble of sounds is it difficult to perform it?
LK: It used to be.
BB: There’s more going on now in terms of backing tracks and playing to a click. That’s a big step to take and once you take that step then in a weird way it becomes easier because you know where you are. You know that your job is to fill in the blanks. It’s a different set of challenges but certainly we sound a lot better life than we ever have. We had to put in a lot of work to get to the point now where if we add another song to the set now, we can easily just do it, whereas in the past when we were using an actual physical sampler, if we wanted to change the set it would have been a complete nightmare. But now we’re doing it all on laptop and sequencers and stuff. So it’s definitely something that we’ve taken one step at a time to get there, but at the point we’re at now, it’s actually really easy.
On the subject of touring, is there anywhere that stands out as a favourite place to perform?
LK: (very quickly) Bristol.
That was very sudden! Why are you so sure?
LK: Because on this tour, Bristol for me has been the best show. It was the right mixture of people. The right mixture of old fans and new fans that had never seen us before. Just the vibe for me, from beginning to end was just really, really good. It was sold out. A few of the gigs have sold out on this tour but that one really stands out. The people were so into different kinds of music. It was just the best one for me so far.
It sounds like tonight has a lot to live up to.
LK: Well, Portsmouth has always been amazing.
BB: Yeah, it has.
LK: You want a lively crowd that are well up for it, with a mixture of new fans and people who have been into you for a while. Portsmouth has always ticked all of the boxes for us.
You have been to so many places, with a tangle of a tour around Europe. In fact, just about all corners of the world. Has anywhere in particular surprised you by how well you were received?
BB: The first time we went to Croatia was pretty cool.
LK: And Serbia as well.
BB: Serbia was great as well. Over there you don’t get very many British bands coming over. I know that Serbia has adopted The Prodigy as their official band because they went over there twice or three times or something! Certainly the first time we went to Croatia we were blown away by how well people knew the songs.
LK: And they ‘got’ the whole thing too. It wasn’t just people wanting to get drunk and dance. You got people there wanting to talk about the lyrics. How the lyrics mean ‘this’ to them, living in Serbia, even though they were written by someone who lives in the UK. It was just surprising, but really good.
Are there any places that haven’t performed, but really want to?
Both simultaneously: Australia.
LK: We’ve been to Japan, but it was such a whirlwind visit. I would like to go back to Japan and do proper gigs rather than a couple of showcases. They were good, but it would be nice for it to be part of a tour.
What are the biggest hardships of touring?
LK: It used to be that we were touring a lot, and some of it felt like we were just touring for the sake of it. But now, the hardships are much worse. Getting up to go to work! This, you kind of appreciate it because it feels like you’re touring with a reason and an aim for why you’re touring and not just touring because you’re in a band and that’s what bands do. Hardships… I don’t know. It used to be hangovers. Constipation. Constipation really is a hardship.
BB: Losing your voice.
LK: Yeah, as a singer it’s stressful because you go to bed stressed, thinking you’re gonna lose your voice. And then you wake up stressed, thinking you’re gonna lose your voice! It’s very, very hard to 100% relax on stage without thinking ‘oh, I’m recording the next day’ or ‘I have a gig the next day’. The best gigs I have are when I know that I’ve got a day off the next day, so I can put my all into it.
As you tour, do you have an ultimate goal, or are you just riding it?
LK: No, we’ve been riding it for years now.Our goal is to get our music out there to as many people possible. We’ve kind of done the whole DIY thing. We’ve been part of the scene. Now it’s about people ‘getting’ Sonic Boom Six and loving what we do as much as we do.
If your music was a food, what would it taste like?
LK: (very quickly) Curry!
Again, that was really quick!
BB: Hot curry.
LK: Yeah, curry. Madras or above! Our band’s daily life revolves around food. What are we going to eat when we get to the venue? What are we going to eat when we get to the hotel? We had a roast today. It was the most disappointing roast. We were depressed for like… two hours afterwards, because it was so rubbish. We had been looking forward to that since last Sunday! So, yeah. It all revolves around food. And if you don’t like curry, you can’t be in our club!
Perhaps that should be a mainstay of my interviews, because interviewers always seem to have one. I think it’s Zane Lowe who asked lots of guests what there favourite cheesecake is. Have you had any daft questions like that?
BB: Not about cheesecake…
LK: There are some odd questions sometimes where you’re just like… ‘huh?’. We’ve had some cheeky ones.
Anyway, I shall leave you with a blank canvas, so if there is anything you would like to plug or preach to our readers…
BB: Please go to our website. There’s lots of news and updates and everything. It’s www.sonicboomsix.co.uk.
LK: And if you join the mailing list we’ll keep you up to date with offers on the merchandise, tour dates and any competitions that we have. That’s your place for all things ‘Boom’.
All things ‘Boom’?
LK: All things ‘Boom’. Ha ha!
Thank you very much for your time.
LK: Thank you!