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10th October 2017

skunk anansie

The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) were thrilled to welcome legendary guitarist Mikey Demus to Metropolis Studios for an exclusive masterclass in September. Hosted by Ace, the Academy's Head of Creative Industry Development and guitarist in Skunk Anansie, Mikey spoke to the students about his career, with plenty of advice and, of course, found time for some amazing solo performances.

Before joining Skindred, Mikey was first inspired to pursue music when he saw Woodstock on the TV aged just 12. After inspiration had struck, Mikey began to really practise the guitar - playing along to Nirvana, Skunk Anansie and Reef to name just a few. Revealing that his Dad had been a guitarist since before he could remember, Mikey shared with the students how even though he's right-handed, he plays a left-handed guitar because that's what his Dad had.

At 18, Mikey was playing in a band with his sister. A girl in a band they often gigged with was dating Skindred's bassist and, through that connection, Mikey successfully auditioned to join the band. When discussing the inner-workings of the award-winning group, Mikey explained how Skindred love performing at festivals and that they select the ones they would like to do before working out their tour schedule around those dates. Sharing that they like to give fans of all ages the opportunity to see a show, Mikey explained that they play a lot of gigs outside of the big cities.

Questions were welcomed throughout the class and the students asked Mikey about his writing process. Saying that ideas often come to him when he's not with his guitar, Mikey told the class that he hums them into an app on his phone, jokingly adding "so many of my ideas have a drone of a tour bus in the background!"

When discussing gear, Mikey said that he was trying to scale down his live rig as it actually costs a lot to transport all the gear. After chatting to fellow guitarist Ace about the "romanticism for having loads of pedals", Mikey spoke about how he uses Ableton Live when performing on stage - sending MIDI to the gear so he doesn't have to worry about 'tap dancing' whilst playing.

The class then moved on to a discussion about gear and recording sessions. Bringing five or six guitars to a studio session, Mikey said when they find something that works they stick with it and often only use two guitars on an entire record to keep the sound consistent. Sharing that they have used the same producer for the past three albums, he told the students that the band spend one or two weeks in pre-production so that they know exactly what to do when it comes to laying down the tracks in the studio.

Wrapping up with a final performance of 'Warning' from the 'Union Black' album, the students left feeling very inspired to advance their own music careers. Mikey clearly enjoyed the class too, saying:

"I think what's great about ACM is that the staff are part of the industry themselves they're doing it, they're out there, playing, touring, recording - you're tapping into first hand experience from people who are involved and I think that's such a massive asset for anyone coming along to ACM."

Also, the ACM kicked off their annual Guildford Freshers Week with an exclusive drum masterclass from Skunk Anansie and former Feeder drummer Mark Richardson.

When he's not in the studio or touring the world with Skunk Anansie, Mark runs a charity, Music Support, and works at ACM as a Wellbeing Advisor. In this masterclass students gained a unique insight to Mark's career, his drumming tips and life in a successful band. Mark said:

"What I enjoy most is the fact I come from a little town on the north-east coast of England called Whitby and I've had a twenty-five year career and really, if I were to sum it up - it would be that it really doesn't matter who you are or where you come from. 50% is about playing and being a great player and 50% is about who you are as a person and how easy you are to get on with - how are you when the pressure is on and when things get difficult, that's the sort of thing I really like to tell people - that it's really possible to have a career in the music industry no matter who you are or where you're from."

The masterclass was presented by Mark's fellow band-mate Ace. Giving a short introduction to his career as a drummer, Mark revealed that he first started his career in music when he joined Little Angels. After a split in 1993, Mark spent some time in a band called B.l.o.w. before meeting Ace and by luck Skin shortly after at the Kerrang Awards. This chance meeting lead to an audition and ultimately Mark joining Skunk Anansie. After a seven year tour, Skunk Anansie parted ways before reforming in 2009. In the break Mark took the opportunity to join Feeder.

Mark went on to speak about the importance of ear protection as a musician, checking all the students had earplugs before giving his first performance of the class, 'I Will Break You', by Skunk Anansie from the 'Black Traffic' album. The students were captivated Mark's hard-hitting performance with one student asking how Mark achieved his kick drum technique without the use of a double drum bass pedal. Mark explained that he doesn't like to use a double bass drum pedal but he can achieve a similar sound by using the kick and floor tom.

Discussing the world of studio recording, Ace asked what he does differently in a studio setting opposed to a live environment. Mark shared that he plays much quieter in the studio so avoids excess noise on the microphones - saying that sometimes he actually replaces the cymbals with electronic pads when recording to ensure a controlled sound for the producer.

When talking about getting work in the music industry, Mark told students that they don't need loads of chops to get work and that the key to being a good drummer is performing what the song needs - which isn't necessarily every fill you know. He reminded students that Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' is one of the most famous songs in the world and has a very simple drumbeat.

As the session drew to a close Ace and Mark spoke about the different roles involved in a DIY band. Signed to their own label, Skunk Anansie have embraced the changes in the music industry and coordinate everything from their own press agent to recording sessions. Mark shared that his role within the band was to produce all the video content before showing students some of his videography work for the band.

The session ended with a final performance before some final questions from the thoroughly inspired students.

If you want to learn from industry experts that live and breathe the industry every single day, book onto an ACM open day now at



Wacken Winter Nights 2018 takes place between February 23rd and 25th 2018 and the great news is that you can now experience a full-on, top class German Metal Festival easily and affordably.

It only takes an hour to fly to Hamburg from London and we've had longer journeys than that within the capital and they were certainly more expensive than the £33 air ticket that just appeared in our 'flights to Wacken Winter Nights' search.


Wacken Winter Nights is organised by the same team who are responsible for the world's greatest Metal festival, Wacken-Open-Air and the 2018 bill includes Skyclad, Orphaned Land, Elvenking, Finntroll, Grave Digger, Aeverium, Comes Vagantes, Coppelius, Corvus Corax, Die Pressgëng, Elvellon, Heimataerde, Hell-O-Matic, Ignis Fatuu, Ingrimm, Irdorath, Johnny Deathshadow, Krayenzeit, Letzte Instanz, Mr Hurley und die Pulveraffen, Pampatut, Pat Razket, Schandmaul, Sündenrausch, The Aberlour's, The Moon And The Nightspirit, Torfrock, Visions Of Atlantis, Vroudenspil, Wind Rose and more.

Besides this rich billing of superb Metal bands, there is so much more to see in the festival area including the medieval market and also the walking acts and jugglers you will meet at the theme worlds, including Robert Blake, three-time World Cup winner of street magic.

Wacken Winter Nights is something not to be missed and you can check out the amazing ticket and accommodation prices right here.

We just priced up the whole four day trip with hotels, flights, shuttles and festival tickets for less than £300 and we don't think you will get a better value festival than that, anywhere.


MetalTalk recently sat down with Wacken founder and owner Thomas Jensen and that interview will be online next week and it's a fascinating insight into how Wacken originated from nothing to become the world's premiere Heavy Metal event.


Wacken 2018 takes place from 2nd to 4th August 20218 and as with Wacken Winter Nights, if you have never experienced all it has to offer, then you owe it to yourself to remedy that.

Already announced for Wacken 2018 are Judas Priest, Nightwish, Running Wild (exclusive), Arch Enemy, Dirkschneider, Doro (Special Anniversary Show), In Extremo, Sepultura, Amorphis, Amaranthe, Firewind, W.A.R., Belphegor, Mantar, Knorkator, Deserted Fear, Watain, Night Demon, Epica, Knorkator, Belphegor, Firewind, Deserted Fear and many more and we'll have more Wacken 2018 announcements during December.

As well as being the greatest Heavy Metal festival in the world, it is without a doubt the Mecca of Metal and the one thing that every single person who loves our music should have on their bucket list.

For 2018, MetalTalk have joined forces with Wacken-Open-Air to help you get to Wacken easily and inexpensively and you can peruse the ticket and travel options right here.

If you are interested in going to Wacken 2018 and have questions, please fill out the form below and we will contact you with answers to all your enquiries. You are under no obligation whatsoever by filling this form out. We won't add you to any mailing lists or send you loads of spam - all we will do is help you get to Wacken as easily and inexpensively as possible.



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