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Mikey Demus - Skindred

Guitarist, singer, song writer
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Skindred

Skindred are band celebrating their 20th year of making music that drags elements from about 30 disparate genres into one crazy Ragga Metal hotpot. Mikey Demus is the band's guitarist and songwriter so requires top equipment for a huge variety of tasks, but finds Aston can cope with them all…

Skindred
Dumbstruck by Woodstock

I grew up surrounded by music; rock 'n' roll and punk rock were the soundtrack to my youth. Then the 90s hit and I found my own thing. I saw the Woodstock film and I was dumbstruck – from then on I just knew I had to get guitars in my life. When I was about 11 my dad bought me a shitty acoustic guitar. He said: ‘If you can make it sound good on that, we’ll talk about getting an electric’, and so it just went from there. I played in a load of crappy bands in my teens and later joined the band that I’m in today, Skindred. Still love it and still alive and kicking.

Back in the day when it came to writing, it was very much a 'get in the room and see what happens' approach. These days I do a lot more homework away from the other guys before we make noise together. With writing I program drums and loops, I record bass and guitars, I track vocals and write melodies and lyrics and so on. I approach songs from the ground up, and try to paint a finished picture. That’s not to say that's how it will end up, but I find the less imagination you need to appreciate a demo or song idea, the better the final product will be. I use Pro Tools in my home studio to record and arrange songs, mainly using Maschine for drums or beats. I record guitars and bass with a Kemper amp and use countless pedals to get weird sounds and ideas. Everything goes through my Universal Audio Apollo Interface.

Of course, on stage I’m the guitar player, and I’m still a big fan of that big tube amp sound and the look of a bunch of 4x12’s kicking out the jams. There’s a lot of noise on stage – we like to play loud as that's where the energy starts.

Bridging the gap

There’s something tangible about plugging in a microphone and feeling compromised – the difference between doing it in a proper studio (with the use of serious gear) and doing it DIY style at home always felt light years apart. Any time I tracked vocals (even for demos), mics I’ve used in the past were always missing that 'je ne sais quois'. The first time I used the Aston Origin I was bowled over – all of a sudden I felt like that gap had been bridged. Then when I got to use the Spirit I was blown away all over again! When I first plugged it in and got the gains right, it was an eyebrow-raising moment. Before then everything sounded kinda muddy and pretty uninspiring. Switching to Aston was like turning a bright light on in an old dark cave. For me the Spirit stands toe to toe with anything I’ve used in the studio. The top end is sensational and, with a decent interface, you basically have a studio quality vocal chain at your fingertips.

So I swear by my Aston Spirit for vocals and I also use a Halo and that has changed my life. When I moved into my new place I was up against it with writing for the new record. I had no acoustic treatment and barely any decent space to work in. Bringing in the Halo was like summoning a perfect space to track vocals – it killed all the nastiness of the room I was working in. I was blown away again! I’ve used It ever since and will continue to do so – it's the best reflection filter I’ve ever used, without a shadow of a doubt.

Big Tings

As a guitar player I’ve come to know that certain brands do the goods in terms of tone, vibe and reliability. As a vocalist and songwriter I’m blown away at how instantly inspiring and incredible the Aston range of products perform. If I could steer any new or experienced musician towards a line of staggeringly good microphones and accessories, it would be Aston without a shadow of a doubt.

I swear their gear has been a major proponent in our most recent Skindred record, and it has 100% inspired me to get behind the mic. I would actually get to the point when I was reluctantly getting through tracking guitars to moving on to do vocals, which felt totally exciting and inspiring! I can’t say enough good things about the Spirit and Halo, honestly they’ve boosted my songwriting up into another gear.

We used the Starlights on guitar cabs and as drum overheads live. We’ve used the Spirit to track vocals and acoustic guitars, and we used the Origin on drums in the studio. I tracked all the backing vocals on our album Big Tings at my home studio using the Spirit and Halo, and actually tracked a load of other vocals for the songs That’s My Jam and Last Chance remotely using the same setup. I recorded the backing vocals for That’s My Jam with my wife and my sister in a pub before its opening hours, using that very gear. The mic stands up 100% to anything, and the Halo basically turns any space or room into a portable studio.

In this day and age it's hard to find great, affordable gear that’s made in the UK. I’m still trying to work out how Aston is making microphones this killer without charging an arm and a leg.

Out-takes

Q. If you weren’t working in music what would you be doing?
A. “Trying to work in music.”

Q. What would your fantasy mic be?
A. “To be honest the Spirit isn’t far off. I have a glistening large diaphragm condenser mic that smokes anything else I can get my hands on, and I can still pay my mortgage? What's the catch? If you guys brought out a powered tube mic, I might just soil myself.”

Q. What are the 4 words you’d chose to describe Aston, or your experience with the brand?
A. “Better than anything else.”

Q. What's the first song that made you cry?
A. “What A Difference A Day Makes, sung by Dinah Washington. Still the same answer I gave a decade ago and probably the same answer I’ll give in ten years. There’s something about the backing vocals that reminds me of all those heart-breaking scenes in vintage Disney films. Theres a purity and innocence that just cuts me in half. It's one of those few songs that musters melancholy and pure joy in the same breath, and it’s done and dusted in less than three minutes. If only I could just figure out how to do that…”

Q. Who are your favourite artists?
A. “It's constantly changing but my go-to favourites are Hendrix, Led Zep, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Queens Of The Stone Age, Pantera, Queen and Abba.”

Credits

Aston gear has been used with the following artists...

Skindred

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