“Every rock band is trying to write their own Seven Nation Army riff... It’s nice when you write something powerful that even a beginner could learn”: Simplicity is the key to a good guitar anthem – just ask Skindred’s Mikey Demus

Mikey Demus
(Image credit: Jim Dyson/Redferns)

This year, Welsh reggae metallers Skindred have toured with Kiss and played at both Download and Glastonbury. They’ve also completed their eighth studio album Smile – and guitarist Mikey Demus has plenty to smile about…

Which of the new songs are you most proud of?

“I really love Gimme That Boom. It’s a rudimentary idea that came quickly and turned into a banging song. I’d say my favourite Skindred tracks like Big Tings, That’s My Jam and this one all have simple riffs. 

“Anyone could play them without it being a massive stretch. Basically every rock band is trying to write their own Seven Nation Army riff that you can sing. That’s the dream, anyway! It’s nice when you write something powerful that even a beginner could learn.”

It’s interesting that you work with a lot of British brands like Manson Guitars, Orange and Rotosound.

“I’m happy to be repping these British brands. Talking to people and getting gear in the UK is easier because that’s where we are. I always thought Orange amps didn’t have enough gain, but when I discovered the Rockerverb, I thought, ‘Wow, they finally made an amp that works for my sound!’ It’s the best thing since sliced bread. 

“Then I became friends with Manson, and before I knew it I had my own signature model. We’re actually designing a new one right now. And, funnily enough, the first set of strings I ever bought were made by Rotosound!”

One of the first unusual-sounding pedals I bought was the Line 6 FM4 – that purple filter modeller that made all sorts of weird noises. It was a big corner-turner for me

You use a lot of experimental sounds in Skindred. What are the main effects you’ve relied on over the years?

“One of the first unusual-sounding pedals I bought was the Line 6 FM4 – that purple filter modeller that made all sorts of weird noises. It was a big corner-turner for me in making my guitar sound squawky and otherworldly. I’d feed it into the DM4 delay to create these dubby repeats. 

“Another favourite is the Electro-Harmonix Micro Synth, which is more gnarly sounding than the POG. I’m a big fan of a rackmount valve distortion unit called the Thermionic Culture Vulture. 

“Those things get wild when you run guitars through them – like when The Beatles used to plug their instruments straight into the desk for this direct sound that hits you in the face.”

You also have your own pedal company, Redbeard Effects. How did that come about?

“I launched Redbeard with Adrian Thorpe from Thorpy Effects in 2019. I had no idea where to start and it was Adrian who suggested doing something together… How do you say no to that? The best pedal designer in the country wanted to go into business with me! 

“I didn’t understand the engineering too much. I’m not completely ignorant, either. I’ve been soldering my whole life and my dad was an electronics engineer, so I’ve always been tinkering, but I didn’t know how to get an idea from my mind onto a circuit board that’s inside a pedal and then into a shop. 

“We currently have four products: our Angry Rhubarb Paradynamic Overdrive best-seller, the higher-gain Red Mist, the Honey Badger Octave Fuzz and the new Hairy Squid, which is a multi-mode analogue fuzz!” 

  • Smile is out now via Earache.

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Amit Sharma

Amit has been writing for titles like Total GuitarMusicRadar and Guitar World for over a decade and counts Richie Kotzen, Guthrie Govan and Jeff Beck among his primary influences as a guitar player. He's worked for magazines like Kerrang!Metal HammerClassic RockProgRecord CollectorPlanet RockRhythm and Bass Player, as well as newspapers like Metro and The Independent, interviewing everyone from Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy to Slash and Jimmy Page, and once even traded solos with a member of Slayer on a track released internationally. As a session guitarist, he's played alongside members of Judas Priest and Uriah Heep in London ensemble Metalworks, as well as handled lead guitars for legends like Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols, The Faces) and Stu Hamm (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, G3).