Oli Sykes has spoken to NME about Bring Me Horizon’s “unhinged” new album ‘Post Human: NeX GEn’, finally headlining Download Festival, the band’s constantly evolving sci-fi rock opera live show and political single ‘AmEN!’.
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The follow-up to 2020’s ‘Post Human: Survival Horror’ is due September 15, and was announced shortly after Bring Me The Horizon’s mammoth headline set at Download Festival on Friday night (June 10).
‘NeX GEn’ is the second chapter in Bring Me’s planned four-part ‘Post Human’ series, with the album taking influence from emo and hardcore. “Linkin Park were the first band that I got into, but when I found Glassjaw is when I became obsessed with music and knew I wanted to be a singer, so the album pays homage to that,” Sykes told NME backstage at Download.
He continued: “I wouldn’t say it’s a hyper-pop album, but I’ve definitely been inspired by that world. I admire how obnoxious, trashy and in your face that music feels, which is what I was drawn to when I got into emo, hardcore and screamo.
“It’s not that we’ve lost that in our music, but as you become a bigger band, things do get more polished. I want to go the opposite way. Let’s be unhinged, let’s stop trying to make all the edges smooth.”
The frontman went on to explain how “the hope is that this record is pure fun” with “no limits on how or what we want to express”.
“There’s no, ‘That song could be played on the radio if we don’t scream’,” he revealed. “It’s almost like we’re connecting to that time before Bring Me The Horizon had any prospects of being a big band. Back then, there was never anything but, ‘What do you want to make?’ – so we’re trying to tap back into that.”
Speaking backstage, Sykes said he was “excited” about the upcoming album being unleashed, but “it doesn’t quite exist yet”.
“I know what I want it to be,” he said, explaining how with Bring Me The Horizon, “everything is close to the wire”. “Getting a song 90 per cent finished is something we can do quickly, but that last 10 per cent is where it gets difficult,” said Sykes.
Bring Me had been sitting on a near-complete version of recent single ‘AmEN!’ since August last year, but it was only finished in late May, the week before release.
“We’re just always looking for ways to take a song to the next level. Even if it’s nostalgic, we want to do something Bring Me The Horizon hasn’t done before,” said Sykes. “As you get older, it becomes harder to think of a new storyline, but it’s important we do because if we’re going to release and song and play it live, it’s going to knock another one from the set that people want to hear.
“Every song needs to be justifiable, and they need to be fucking good. They’ve always got to bring something new to the table, which is why [making ‘NeX GEn] has been so slow.”
Things were further delayed last year when Bring Me The Horizon tried finishing one song from each of the three remaining chapters in the ‘Post Human’ series to give fans a taste of what was to come. “We just had too many ideas,” explained Sykes, who said that he’s now focusing on one record at a time.
On top of that, Sykes was busy spearheading the band’s ambitious stage show for Download Festival – featuring dancers, new visuals and an evolved narrative. This was all in the works while Bring Me The Horizon have been touring relentlessly post-pandemic. “Everyone’s got families now as well so time with them is so precious,” Sykes explained. “We’re going on a six-week tour with Fall Out Boy later this month and I’m hoping we can smash out the rest of the album there.”
Their immersive Download headline show saw Bring Me The Horizon introduce the world to The Church Of Genxsis – a concept that drives both the upcoming album and their current live show.
Fans had to solve a series of riddles across the Donington to gain access to Genxsis’ mysterious cult and their three-stage induction ceremony, with the expanded online Bring Me community working together with people on the ground to crack codes and find answers.
Certain riddles made use of the seemingly-random capital letters Bring Me have been using across recent single titles while others unlocked certain perks, such as winning Bring Me The Horizon tickets for life and access to a laptop featuring unheard demos. The plan is for Genxsis’ logo to act as a calling card to similar immersive events in the run-up to the release of ‘Post Human: NeX GEn’.
JOIN THE CHURCH OF GENXSIS TODAY
Seeking chosen ones! Join the Genxsis Riddle Trail to prove loyalty and ascend. Don't miss the Silver Medallion hunt for exclusive prizes! pic.twitter.com/Oqfnui3Yr8
— Download Festival (@DownloadFest) June 9, 2023
Sykes explained how the idea of ‘Nex GEn’ and its cult were born from AI EVE, a character created for their previous tour who “was tasked with bringing peace to humanity”.
“As all AI nightmares go, things go wrong though and her answer was to make people faceless, egoless, opinionless and desireless, which is obviously a terrible idea,” said Sykes of the concept. “The live element has become this big fucking sci-fi opera, but the name ‘NeX GEn’ was originally about how the next generation is our only hope and we’ve got to try and make sure they don’t make the same mistakes as us.
He continued: “It’s also about what I can teach them and what I have learned from growing up in the public eye. I’m not a celebrity but I know what it means to be a polarising figure that people either love or hate. Ten years ago, that wasn’t a universally shared feeling but [with social media] everyone can understand that. There’s almost this blood-thirsty desire to rip someone down online.”
Sykes said he’s still trying to work out how to handle the “two different timelines” of ‘NeX GEn’ and the new meanings of the project constantly “evolving as it goes along”.
‘AmEN!’ for example started with Sykes talking about why he’d been pulling away from posting online, but it evolved into a track about “cancel culture, justice porn and this very volatile society we’ve made,” featuring rapper Lil Uzi Vert and Glassjaw’s Daryl Palumbo.
“It starts online but it’s seeping into the real world,” he said of the divisive culture that inspired the song. “Everything’s black or white and you’re either a soy boy or a bigot. There’s no room for conversation. Even our Prime Ministers and our Presidents are so quick to say whatever it is to appease their followers”.
Pointing to the various anti-trans laws and discussions spreading through America and the UK, he added: “Even if you don’t completely understand something, you still have to love and respect everyone.
“There’s a lot of dark shit on ‘Post Human: ‘NeX GEn’,” he continued. “If ‘Survival Horror’ was about an apocalyptic event, the second record explores what’s next,”.
Sykes said that the record imagines a world with humanity forced to live in “rehab centres” where they share their stories about what they did to the planet.
“That’s an analogy for me being in rehab, struggling with addiction and unpacking all that stuff,” said Sykes, who relapsed over lockdown after previously overcoming a ketamine addiction ahead of Bring Me’s fourth album ‘Sempiternal’.
“I’m trying to make every song about me and a wider issue at the same time,” he continued. “I don’t want to give too much away but the first song for the album is finished and it’s almost like an AA meeting, where we’re all sharing our stories about our guilt and trying to work through it together.”
He went on to say that the record will have “some ups and downs, alongside some revelations and epiphanies – but it’s also looking at “what went wrong, how bad it got and how bad it could get if you don’t fix it.”
“I’m trying to keep it like ‘LosT’ where there’s some humour and some levity, even though I am talking about dark stuff. I really want to make people feel like it’s OK to say whatever they’re feeling, no matter how embarrassing shit is,” Sykes continued, pointing to the track’s opening line “Watching Evangelion with a big fat slug of ketamine.”
“I didn’t want people to know I’d been using again [over the pandemic] but then I figured why not? I’d tell my friends and I think the people that listen to our band need to be inspired to talk about what they’re going through. I just think people don’t talk enough anymore, and that’s so important in just feeling OK,” he admitted.
The original plan for ‘Post Human’ was for the project to be released across four EPs. Despite ‘NeX GEN’ being described as an ‘album; Sykes promised that “you’ll still be getting four records. They just won’t all be this year, and there’s a freedom to each one.”
He continued: “The most important thing is that it’s our art at the end of the day, and that’s what I’m trying to remember. It’s not about streams, it’s not about money. If you just focus on a record being a piece of art, you usually can’t go wrong.”
Sykes added: “With ‘Sempiternal’, all I wanted to do was make a record that would make my band forgive me for what I’d put them through. I never thought we were going to make a record that was going to change the world or was going to be big, but anytime I’ve gone wrong, it’s when I have been thinking like that. We’re just trying to take it back to making the music and not worrying about what happens next.”
“People have spoken about us headlining the festival for a few years now but we’ve never been so sure. Now we’re here, it’s weird and I’m nervous but I also feel very confident in being a headline band,” he explained.
“We’re also humbled by the fact that it seems to be incredibly difficult for a rock band that came out after 2000 to headline these things, but somehow we’ve climbed that mountain and got to the top. We want to prove ourselves, we want to blow everyone else out the water and we want to make sure people walk away going, ‘Fucking hell, they are a headline band’, like we did last year at Reading & Leeds. We just want to show people a good time.”
“There’s just something about headlining Download that feels like a stamp of approval from the rock and metal community. The fact we’re going to have 80,000 people celebrating our band is fucked,” continued Sykes. “There were a couple of years where it felt like I was trying to get my band out [of that world] and where rock felt a little dead. Now, I’m so proud to be a part of this.”
This weekend saw Bring Me The Horizon announce that ‘Post Human: NeX GEn’ will arrive on September 15, ahead of a massive UK and Ireland arena tour for 2024.
Pre-sale tickets for the tour will begin on Wednesday, June 14 at 10am BST, with a general sale following on Friday, June 16, also at 10am. Find your tickets here.
Bring Me The Horizon will play:
9 – Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena
10 – Bournemouth, BIC
12 – Birmingham, Utilita Arena
13 – Manchester, AO Arena
14 – Glasgow, OVO Arena
16 – Newcastle, Utilita Arena
17 – Liverpool, M&S Bank Arena
19 – Sheffield, FlyDSA Arena
20 – London, The O2
23 – Dublin, 3Arena