The PV Q&A: Bring Me the Horizon's Oliver Sykes on Raised By Raptors, Living With a Tattoo Artist, and Drop Dead Clothing

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BY Tom Lanham

Wraithlike, heavily-inked Englishman Oliver Sykes certainly has his tattooed hands full just fronting his punk-metal quintet Bring Me the Horizon—the band will be headlining the annual Vans Warped Tour this summer, backing its Wagnerian, heavily-melodic new fourth album “Sempiternal,” and great Gothic-grim visions like “Shadow Moses,” “Hospital For Souls,” “The House of Wolves,” and “Go to Hell, For Heaven’s Sake.”

And Sykes is still snarling in fine feral fashion, but he’s doing more traditional singing as well, as on the quasi-ballad “Sleepwalking.” But the kid also oversees his own virtual empire, which includes the popular Drop Dead clothing line and now an actual “Turok, Son of Stone”-primitive graphic novel called Raised by Raptors, which he created with artist Ben Ashton-Bell, using Kickstarter as a fundraising platform. And no, he chuckles—he doesn’t run his businesses from some skyscrapered London office. Thanks to a team of confidante/associates, he can actually keep it all humming while blasting through the States on Warped. He checked in with PureVolume for a quick profit/loss report.

PureVolume: You’re gradually becoming the Illustrated Man. Any new tattoos?
Oliver Sykes: I got my back done quite recently, my entire back. It’s a nine-tailed fox.
In some sort of tribute to Sonic the Hedgehog and his vulpine buddy Tails?
Nah. It’s got way too many more tails than Tails! But it actually comes from different mythologies—Chinese and Japanese mythologies. And it kind of means you’re lucky. The fox is a symbol of luck.
You once said that getting your palms tattooed was the most painful thing you ever experienced. How painful was the back?
It wasn’t too bad. But it was long. It was long. It was done in a nine-hour session, while I was on the road in Australia.
You have to be running out of inkable flesh right about now.
Ha! Yeah, I’m definitely getting there.
Are you still dating the tattoo artist Hannah Snowden?
Yeah, yeah! I’m with her right now, actually. We’re at a theme park in Copenhagen. And living with a tattoo artist can really come in handy.

How excited were you to get your first box of your graphic novel, Raised by Raptors, issue number one?
It was awesome. I never even got that first box, actually—I just got a sample copy. But when that sample came, I took it on home and read it immediately. And it was so cool to finally see it in the, uhh, flesh. So to speak. I guess doing comics was something I always wanted to do, but I never really thought about actually doing it. But Ben Ashton-Bell, the designer of it, he was really inro the idea, and that’s how it started, how it all kicked off. So we actually saw it through, and it’s really been a lot of fun.
And you financed it through a Kickstarter campaign? How many living room concerts did you have to promise to reach publication price?
Well, we didn’t do anything that serious. It was just basically signed stuff and posters and stuff like that—nothing too outrageous, no living room shows or anything like that.
So what’s the storyline of your young protagonist K’Abel?
Basically, the story revolves around K’Abel, who’s a six-year-old girl, and it’s set in a fictional South America. And when the story kicks off, she’s right in the thick of it—her dad just died and one of her best friends is about to be executed, so it’s basically just a whole big mess. So she ends up essentially by herself: That’s where the story starts. And as it progresses, she’ll work out the mysteries. She’s been traumatized by things that have happened to her in the past, and she slowly pieces stuff together, and this all happens after being raised by a new family. So she’ll see a lot of similarities in the way they are and her own life, and it’ll bring it all back to her, all the mysteries and secrets.
And she’s wearing a dinosaur skull?
That’s the surprise, really. But that kind of aspect isn’t the important part. I mean, obviously there are dinosaurs in there, but they’re not the focus. It’s more about character development and stuff that she’s facing in real life—things that a normal contemporary person can apply to their life, as well.
So it falls somewhere between The Mammoth Hunters and Edgar Rice Burroughs?
Yeah. Actually, it does, quite a bit!

Were you a comic book geek as a kid?
Yeah, I was. I’ve been into comic books since I was five years old. I mean, I don’t many that I’ve kept from when I was a kid. I used to collect tons of comics when I was younger, but it’s all graphic novels now, so I have a lot of graphic novel collections rather than single issues. And Y: The Last Man [by Brain K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra] has got to be my favorite graphic novel of all time. It’s just amazing.
It must be great to visualize a character in your mind, and then have Ben bring it to life on the page.
It’s cool, man. Ben gets me, totally. Even though we might be on the other side of the world, he gets exactly what I mean when I say it. So there’s a great consistency to our vision. And it works out really well, because he always just blows me away with what he can create.
How’s your Drop Dead clothing line doing?
Drop Dead is going great. I’m lucky in the fact that I don’t have to worry too much about the business aspect of it. I have a team of people looking out for it, so I can concentrate more on the band.

There seem to be lots of zany animals in the new line.
Yeah. It’s usually animals and dinosaurs. It’s not really any one theme, exactly—it’s just whatever I think is cool, whatever I happen to come up with.
Have there ever been any designs that were just too wild for you to plaster onto a T-shirt? Something that actually offended your sensibilities?
Yeah! Sometimes that happens. Sometimes certain ideas are just too crazy, and sometimes a certain one just doesn’t work. So that definitely happens occasionally.
Any other irons in the fire? Other projects you’re currently plotting?
That’s it at the moment, to be honest. That’s about all I’ve had time for lately!

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