Whatever the opinion on it, true crime has always been somewhat of a morbid curiosity of ours. The surge of television programs, both dramatisations and factual reporting, surrounding the likes of Richard Rameriez, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Dennis Nilsen. Serial killers aside, the pull cases such as that of Elisa Lam whose body was found in a water tank atop the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles or Michelle Carter who had been convicted of manslaughter after urging her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, to end his life through a series of text messages is astronomical. It isn’t solely TV which unmasks our penchant for the depraved. Music exposes us as well. There are multiple songs about Ted Bundy and GHOST’s Respite On The Spitalfields famously surrounds Jack The Ripper’s reign of terror. Yet those are housed inconspicuously within albums, left to fall to the wayside. In the case of SKYND, the enigmatic industrial rock outfit, each track they produce stands alone, allowing victims to have the respect they deserve.
Sitting across from us with flaming orange hair and eyes as black as our soul is the frontwoman herself. A quiet and enigmatic soul until we turn attention to the nature of the project’s material. “There wasn’t a reason I was drawn to this,” she starts. “When I was around three or four years old, my imaginary friend appeared and he told me all those horrible stories.” Adopting the name of this dark passenger, SKYND goes on to tell us she turned to music to make sense of what she was being told. “This is part of our life,” she states. “There isn’t just good, there’s also bad in this world.”
“The most interesting case for me changes over time,” our company states. “All these cases have something about them which draws the attention, as they should.” She plumbs with the story of the Heaven’s Gate cult for the moment. Founded in 1974 by Bonnie Nettles and Marshall Applewhite, the UFO religious group’s central ideology was that of being able to transform themselves into immortal extra-terrestrial beings by rejecting their human form. The idea was to ascend to “The Evolutionary Level Above Human”. After Nettles’ death in 1985, the group’s hypothesis became that the corporeal form was naught more than a vessel. In order to reach transcendence, the 39 members of the cult, including Applewhite, committed mass suicide in March 1997 in their compound located in Santa Fe, California. Yet it is SKYND who tells us the most chilling fact about the case, “They all had brand new Nike sneakers on. Their slogan Just Do It? That’s no coincidence.”
The first case SKYND was told about was that of Gary Heidnik. The last man executed in the state of Pennsylvania in July 1999 had kidnapped, tortured, and raped six women. Two of which were killed while held prisoner in Heidnik’s basement. Some of the case is depicted in the corresponding song’s music video. Enlisting fellow true crime enthusiast Jonathan Davis (KORN) for the single, its video is disturbing to say the least but also a product or great artistic vision. “It all starts with investigating the cases themselves,” SKYND tells us when we ask about the inspiration behind the visual experience. “Sometimes I’ll see colours or have a feeling of how I want to portray it – Columbine for example, I knew that had to be in black and white.”
Investigation for SKYND is a lot more than playing armchair detective. Throughout our conversation, our company has referred to a notebook she has sitting beside her. The band’s website is full of case files from previous material to look into. But are there any cases which won’t be looked into? Don’t expect any material on Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer. A fan of the recent Netflix drama about Dahmer and its creator, Ryan Murphy, SKYND feels she cannot add anything to a case which has received coverage so many times.
It’s one thing to investigate a case such as Albert Fish as a hobby. It’s an altogether different beast to translate that into music while keeping it respectful. Against the bed of spine-chilling vocals and ominous instrumentals sits that sentiment. There’ve been many recoiling at the thought of exposing the darker side of society and with that comes an air of misunderstanding. Especially when it comes to SKYND’s direct approach. “Without sounding too grotesque, I just want to educate people,” the vocalist ponders. “Not just about the cases but there’s so much knowledge you can learn about yourself in the process.”
That feeling extends to SKYND’s live shows and imminent UK shows in May. They may play in rooms plastered with caution tape and feature screens playing true crime broadcasts but glorification of a gimmick isn’t at the forefront. “When you stand there dancing to Michelle Carter… Do you actually know what you’re dancing to? This isn’t just a song, this is a message that you can’t turn a blind eye to this information,” she says then takes a deep breath as if to calm herself.
A pressing notion for many followers of SKYND would be if there is a full-length album to come. The answer is simply no. “Every single song deserves the spotlight,” she explains. “If I come up with a 12 song album, there are maybe three singles and the rest of the cases become meaningless to me.”
As our time draws to a close, we ask SKYND if she has a message for those who perhaps why away from the music, or their own interest in true crime and it’s her answer we will leave you with; “It’s okay to have an interest in this, it’s normal. There are a lot of people like you. This music isn’t for everyone – it isn’t for the faint of heart and that’s okay too.”
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