“Oh god, now you’re making me really nervous!” laughs Sleeping With Sirens guitarist/singer Nick Martin, calling from “the middle of nowhere, Iowa.”
MusicRadar have just listed some of the legendary 60s/70s performances that made London’s Roundhouse venue the creative hub it’s renowned for today, marking the final show on the band's European run next year.
And while it’s perfectly understandable for the axeman to feel somewhat apprehensive, the truth of the matter is that his band don’t have anything to fear in the slightest. It’s their biggest UK tour to date, but it’s one they’ve earned through crafting the biggest pop-rock songs of their generation and delivering them night after night on stage without question.
“Any time we’re able to play places with a rich history for rock ’n’ roll or punk music, I geek out,” he admits. “Completely. Growing up listening to these bands, there was never a moment as a kid where I thought my band would be playing the same stages. It blows my mind.”
You can hardly blame him for saying so. The West Michigan-based heatseekers have reached a stage in their career where they can headline stages graced by the very architects of guitar-based music.
It doesn’t take long to get the feeling these shows are shaping up to be the best we’ve seen from Sleeping With Sirens yet. Which is exactly why the six-stringer is meticulously reconfiguring his tour rig right now, constantly tweaking away to design the sounds he hears in his head…
“I’ve been playing a lot of Ernie Ball guitars recently,” he continues. “There’s a brand new one they’re putting out that I don’t think I’m even allowed to talk about yet! It’s a reissue of a guitar they made 20 or 30 years ago, and it’s become my go-to for almost every single song! The versatility is amazing; they’ve really stepped up their guitars.
“As for cabs, I’m still rocking the Orange cabs, just because I love the way they sound. But as far as heads, I’m still testing out loads… at this stage, I have no idea what I’ll be using!
“I grew up playing 5150s in metal bands. Then I gravitated to the Peavey 6505. I also have a couple of Black Cats that I really like. There’s another company called Wizard – it’s owned by one of the main guitar techs for AC/DC. I’ve been using one of their boutique heads for a little while. So who knows!”
Watch this space. In the meantime, the guitarist fills us in on the 10 albums that shaped his life, so without further ado...
Sleeping With Sirens tour the UK and Europe in February/March 2016 – see the band's website for full dates and tickets.
1. Metallica - ...And Justice For All (1988)
“This one was like the seminal heavy metal record that changed my life. It was actually my cousin that got me into Metallica – I remember hearing this and thinking, ‘Who the hell are these guitar players?’
“James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett completely changed my life as far as understanding what guitar playing should be. I mean, the way James sang and played guitar… plus he could play lead as well, because he was so phenomenal all round.
“Hetfield set the bar for all of that… If you can sing and play guitar like him, fair play to you!”
2. The Beatles - The White Album (1968)
“My dad was born in Liverpool, so he was naturally a massive Beatles fan. I remember them always being on in the background while I was growing up, and in many ways, this is the album that made me who I am right now.
“Still to this day, my favourite song ever written is Blackbird. It never gets old to my ears – just simple, beautiful and acoustic.
“Any time we soundcheck on tour, Blackbird is one of the first things I go for. It doesn’t get much better than the White album for me.”
3. Green Day - Dookie (1994)
“Green Day were the first ‘new’ American punk band I started listening to, around the fifth grade. It was so cool to me because it sounded so polished! The recording itself was so clean. I grew up on old stuff like The Clash and The Misfits, and those recordings were all sloppy and dirty… which made them feel very punk!
“This album was kinda the same in feel, but it sounded good because the musicianship was really tight. And it was produced by Rob Cavallo, so this album made me a fan of his, as well.
“I appreciate really good songwriting and big choruses, and Green Day have always had that edge to their music. It’s incredibly clean and incredibly fun!”
4. Queen - A Night At The Opera (1975)
“To me, Freddie Mercury is the greatest frontman that ever lived. Even to this day, I don’t there has been or ever will be anybody quite as brilliant as him. I mean, I have the artwork for this album tattooed onto my chest! That’s how seminal it is to me.
“I love how no song sounds the same. Obviously, Bohemian Rhapsody was on it, but there are some dark songs like Death On Two Legs or sad songs like Love Of My Life. Brian May is one of those guitar players you can recognise instantly, even when he’s playing on other people’s songs. He trademarked his own signature sound.
“I’ve watched Live At Wembley ’86 so many times, and when they play the songs from this album specifically… the crowd interaction is mind-blowing. Freddie could do anything and they would just cheer him on. Everyone was in the palm of his hands, no matter how big the crowds were!”
5. Pantera - Far Beyond Driven (1994)
“I would say Far Beyond Driven is one of the heaviest, most intense records ever made. I remember I was really into Metallica at a certain time, then I heard Pantera and thought, ‘Woah! These guys are really pissed off!’
“And being a teenager hearing that record, I could relate to it even more. Their songs were just so nasty, gritty and violent. Especially with a singer like Philip Anselmo, he’s so fucking pissed off on this record!
“I still get goosebumps to this day listening to it because it’s so aggressive. And Dimebag was similar to Brian May in having his own signature sound. All that crazy stuff with his whammy bar, making these weird squeals and sounds… he trademarked that shit!”
6. The Clash - The Clash (1977)
“With my dad growing up in Liverpool, there was one day when he sat me down to introduce me to some punk rock. I must have been about seven years old! So I heard The Clash’s debut, songs like White Riot and Career Opportunities… and could hear there was such a mad feel to it. They were against the system and talking about what was happening in England at the time.
“That record really got me into the UK punk scene, then I got into the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Cockney Rejects and The Addicts. I felt like a lot of bands were really influenced by The Clash – it actually felt like everyone was emulating them at one point.”
7. Fleetwood Mac - Rumours (1976)
“You know what? I’ve always been a huge Stevie Nicks fan. She has this sultry, dark vocal tone to her voice. When you hear songs like Dreams and Go Your Own Way, they still sound so catchy to this day. Rumours is the definition of a timeless album you can count on. You can put it on again and again, it’s good every time!
“I loved all of that stuff growing up, and then I kinda drifted away from it for a while. But I’m back on it now, and listening to more Fleetwood Mac than ever, ha ha!”
8. Bob Dylan - Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
“So, I have a Bob Dylan tattoo! He’s another artist my dad got me into quite early on, and this was the first folk record I ever heard. Later in life, I watched the Martin Scorsese documentary No Direction Home and that opened up this whole other world of Bob Dylan to me.
“I realised how much he’d been through, being completely blacklisted by the record industry for going from folk music to rock music… whatever he was doing, no-one else was doing it.
“He could have kept on writing the records everyone wanted, but chose not to stagnate as a musician. He kept on pushing. And I have so much respect for that.”
9. Alkaline Trio - Goddamnit (1998)
“This another record I just loved back in high school. It felt like the first time I’d heard really dark, demented love lyrics over a pop-punk kinda style of music. And because of that, I always thought Matt Skiba was a brilliant writer. He has this lower baritone voice that could also go up pretty high, too.
“And the music had this dark punk vibe to it… it was really different. This list came to me so fast, but I knew instantly this had to be on here – it’s one of my favourite records ever made!”
10. Michael Jackson - Thriller (1982)
“This is quite a left-field one… but my final choice is Michael Jackson’s Thriller! I grew up in the 80s and well, he was the biggest artist of the time. There was nobody even close to his level in any way possible.
“He was one of the most brilliant entertainers ever. He had a really cool musical background, too: growing up within Motown, then getting into The Beatles, especially Paul McCartney.
“I used to listen to him all the time and I noticed a lot of those songs had metal guitars and solos on them. Then he’d follow them up with an R&B song. Some people have attempted that, but no-one will ever have the sheer value he had towards music. He could touch on so many different genres and affect all these people around the world, even if they didn’t understand the language.”