Gothic true crime band SKYND write hard-hitting songs about what brings human beings to the very edge of humanity. Known for their electronic sound and unflinching visuals, the band have written about everything from the Jonestown mass suicide to cannibal Armin Miewes. In an interview with MetalTalk’s Gabriella Bosticco, vocalist Skynd talks mental health and the ethics of her chosen genre.
One of the most distinctive parts of SKYND’s sound is their use of vocal distortion. “I love to work with vocal effects like pitching my vocals because it helps me to tell a story better. With the high-pitched vocals, it’s more childlike, innocent. Kind of ironic a little bit. You can give so much character with changing the voices.”
There’s a lot of speculation among fans as to how much of this is achieved electronically. “Obviously, the recordings, they’re all edited, but in the beginning, with Richard Ramirez, for example, for the chorus, that’s my real voice. Obviously, it’s recorded, and it’s edited, but it’s my real voice, but for the live shows, I play with the natural voice, me actually changing the voice and also with the pitched vocal effects. I like to play with it because it helps me to tell the story in my way and how I hear it or how I visualise it in my head.”
Speaking of their live performances, SKYND will be supporting Ice Nine Kills on their Wurst Vacation Tour starting in April 2023. “The obvious thing you can expect is that what I sing about is true and what they sing about is fiction. As always, I won’t be entertaining or talking during the live show. It’s just me telling the story and leaving the stage. That’s that.”
When asked what drew her to true crime over fictional cases, Skynd says, “I think we have to start in my childhood because it began really, really, really early, when I was 3-4 years old, when I was really, really young. My imaginary friend appeared for the first time. He introduced himself as Skynd, and he was always the same age as me. He’s still here. I can still see him, and he was the one actually planting the seeds (that) the world isn’t just good, it’s also bad. And he started telling me stories about it. It started off with smaller things, but then it got into true crime. All those stories, it sparked something in me. I started getting drawn to those horrible stories. He also whispered into my ears, and because he was always there and telling me about it, I had to find a way to get it off my chest.
“Really early on, I started listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall. The Wall is inspired by true events as well, so there were artists that did that before, and I was like, ‘why don’t I just write music’ and my imaginary friend Skynd, he was always like, ‘you should do that. You should write music about it and get your emotions to it. That’s how you can process it.’ He will never leave my side. He will never disappear, so I have to find a way to cope with that, even if he’s like my friend. Sometimes it’s hard because you get confronted by it all the time. But it’s a relief, and it’s also therapy to just write about it. That’s how it started, but it took a lot of courage to actually do so because, in the beginning, I didn’t really know how people were going to react to what I do, and I expected a big backlash and that happily never happened the way I expected it, and I started to gain this confidence in it. And now I feel like it has been the best decision for me to write about true crime.
“I like to see Skynd – as myself – as someone who, in the future, is able to give back as well. What I want to do, and what is really important nowadays, is to open up a conversation about mental health because true crime is connected to mental health. It’s what makes us human, our mental health and what happened as a child can affect the way you live your life as an adult. So to me, it’s really important to talk about it. Maybe to have a foundation one day to help people who are victims of abuse or people who need help. I feel like that’s something I want to do in the future because I feel it’s so important to talk about it and not turn a blind eye on those people.
“Even though Ted Bundy is a ‘monster’, he is still a human being. Aileen Wuornos, for example, I love to take her as an example. She lashed out when she was 31. That’s not a serial killer from the books because it’s just not. She never acted out as a child, but she got abused as a very young child onto her adult years, many times. And, all those things, it’s a human being, in the end.
“I feel like it’s really important to talk about it, and I feel like it’s a good change to see when you open up TikTok, for example. I mean, it’s obvious whatever you’re searching for will appear, but I see a lot of people talking about narcissism, about ADHD. To me, it’s therapy to see people, especially women or girls, teenage girls, talking about their ADHD because I wasn’t diagnosed for a very long time, and I suffered from this, and to know that there are others out there sharing their story, I think that’s a great change to see in such a dark world we’re living in.
“I don’t want to sound too grotesque, but what I want is to educate people and make them think about it because it is important to not forget what happened. Why is history always repeating itself? Because there’s no change if we won’t remember what happened. Human beings are really good at not remembering. And that’s sad to see, and I feel like it’s important, through art, to get a conversation going, to open up a discussion.
“Even if you don’t like my music, whatever. You think about it. In that moment, it won’t leave you cold if you know I wrote a song about Elisa Lam. When you first listen to that song, it’s so easy to criticise it and be like, ‘oh, she wrote this song about the victim,’ but you won’t forget. Otherwise, you will. It’s my way of telling you, ‘please don’t,’ because it’s still an unsolved case. We still have no idea what happened to her. Or cults. Jim Jones. Fucking happens so many times all over the world. People get brainwashed day by day, and maybe I can help you to wake up from being brainwashed. I don’t know. For maybe taking that topic of cults, for you to read about it, and maybe you’re in a cult yourself, and then you’re like, ‘oh, what the fuck?'”
Realising how passionately she is speaking, Skynd gives a self-conscious laugh. “Maybe if you’re in a cult, you won’t listen to my music, but you get the point. I don’t want to sound like I know it all, not at all. It’s just the feeling I want to get out, and with Skynd, my imaginary friend, by my side, I need to do this, and I want people to think.
“It’s crazy to see that when you’re playing live, and you see people dancing to, like Michelle Carter. Sometimes I’m just standing there, and I’m just looking at them, and I’m like, ‘do you know what I’m singing about? Because you’re just dancing to it.’ No offence, do whatever you want to do, but don’t forget.” Again, Skynd takes a second of self-reflection. “It’s maybe grotesque to say that because I sing about it.”
Despite this, she is clear on what she wants to achieve with her music. “Also, to get this education of human psyche and psychology. You can also learn a lot about yourself by investigating those cases, and if my music helps you to investigate a case and maybe learn something about yourself or whatever, why not?”
With so much talk in the media about the ethics of how we discuss real trauma, I wondered whether there were any cases too horrific for Skynd to discuss. “It’s really important to not turn a blind eye on any case because I feel any case could be a great song or is important to write about, but obviously, it also comes down to emotions and to where to draw the line. I want to stay really respectful to all the cases, and with the lyrics and whatever and some cases, it makes it really hard to not get too emotionally involved. Like with Chris Watts, for example. I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to really write about it, but it was like I had to, so I had to find a way to make it happen, but some cases are maybe too brutal yet to fully understand. It also depends on creativity; if it sparks something, if I can hear something, if I can visualise it. And some cases just don’t.
“Some cases need to grow on me. There’s one case, for example, Anders Breivik.” Breivik is a Norweigan far-right domestic terrorist known for setting off a fatal van bomb and then a mass shooting at a summer camp.
“This is a heavy one. This one has kids involved, and it’s super political as well. It’s terror. It’s so much in one place, and to cover a case like this or to translate it into music, there are so many emotions involved, especially with kids. It makes it so hard. Some cases, I just put aside. And maybe if I feel like now I’m ready to do it, then I start writing about it, but otherwise, I just try to put it aside.”
As of yet, SKYND have released all of their music in the form of singles and numbered ‘Chapter’ EPs. When asked if there was an album on the horizon, there was a very clear answer. “No. There’s a simple explanation to it because every single song or every single track I make are true crime cases. And I feel like every single case deserves the spotlight. And if I come up with an album of 12 songs, or 10, there might be maybe two singles, and they get the spotlight, and I have to decide which ones. I’m not going to do that, even if it’s not the normal way to go. People just expect that, but they just don’t see the point behind it because I’m not going to throw out 12 cases. I wanna stay really respectful to all of them.
“What I could imagine is if I have like The Wall of Pink Floyd, then you have one topic, and you write about it. But that has to be some bigger event than just one person if I could imagine that, but as I’m doing it right now with the chapters, it’s a book I’m writing, so I’m not seeing changing that.”