How to be a successful rock band with Cypher 16

We quiz metal titans Cypher 16 on what it takes to make it in the world of rock in 2018…


As rock bands go, few are as loud, as innovative or as exciting as London’s Cypher 16.

Made up of ICMP alumni, including head honcho Jack Doolan (guitar), Will Cass (guitar), Carl Dawkins (bass) and Jerry Sadowski (drums), the group has made some impact on the global stage, touring across the world and releasing a string of Eps and singles, matching inventiveness with serious musical muscle, best heard on their debut LP, ‘The Great Surveyor’.  

Ahead of their biggest headline slot to date at London’s O2 Academy, alongside fellow ICMP affiliated act, Defences, we caught up with Jack to learn more and how they’ve found their audience…

How did Cypher 16 first get together? 

The idea of what would eventually become Cypher16 was something I started when I was still at school. I 'recruited' musicians who I played in covers bands with at the time to help record and play the band's earliest shows, and went from there. I had no experience about being in a band, or about the music industry, so it was all trial and error (and still is!). You learn from experience.

How did the band find its audience? 

We took the view that if the UK didn't immediately take to us, then we would shop our music abroad, which is what ended up happening. Our first ever 'real' tour was in the US, followed by out in India. When we came back to do shows in the UK after that people would treat the band differently, because we had the experience of going out and touring in these exotic, far-flung places.

How important was ICMP in helping you start out in the industry? 

For me, ICMP was a useful place for finding musicians and for learning about the workings of the music industry. I explicitly remember the music business classes (with Ken Foreman), which I really enjoyed. I am not one for sitting around, so I would go to the class in the day-time, then go and start practically applying what had been taught that evening. Ken actually contacted me after I had left the ICMP saying that I was the only student who had ever done that, which I found surprising.

To survive in the music industry takes more than being a good musician - you have to understand the business.”

How important has social media been in building a following and finding a fan base? 

Social media has been important for us in both aspects. We've actually been booked for international shows through social media, often from quite random communications with people living in places that we'd simply never have been able to contact or find out about without it. It also allows us to stay in touch with our fans all over the world after those tours or shows happen. As I mentioned before we've made an effort to go out and see the world, touring in seventeen countries so far. Without social media it would be impossible to keep fans up to date when they can't physically come and see us play in London. Our only struggle with it so far is in China, where most of the websites are blocked. I've been told that we do exist on Weibo (the Chinese version of Facebook), but I haven't quite got around to learning Mandarin/Cantonese yet, so I have to ask for help from friends!

How important is your ability to cut it live as a band been to your success? 

Streaming and piracy have taken away the means for most musicians to earn enough money to live on, and therefore to be able to make music as a career. Music is now seen as a free commodity, with no morality attached to downloading it for free, and I'm not sure a lot of people realise how damaging that is to the future of music. Saying that, I think that the one form that will always survive is the live sector, because that isn't something you can replace, and it's where we have always done well.

Playing live helps you make real and personal connections with people through shows, and then solidify that into a long-term relationship by meeting and interacting with them after you've finished playing.”  

The question is not whether the live sector will exist in the future, it's whether bands will be able to afford to keep playing live if there is no other form of income coming in to support them. Making records, promoting them and then going on tour to present them is not cheap!

Have you any tips for new bands hitting the road for the first time?

Go out and enjoy it, but be prepared for it to be hard work. You're playing for 30-60 minutes a night, and for the rest of the time you're essentially travelling or waiting around, and it takes a toll. Eat as healthily as you can and take space from each other often. It's a brutal lifestyle that suits some people, but not many!

What does the future have in store for the band? 

This week we play Manchester, London and Birmingham. London is the band's biggest headline show to date at the O2 Academy Islington, so we'd appreciate people coming along if they are interested!

After that we're due out in Europe where we haven't been for a while, as well as back in the studio starting work on the second album. We're actually still discussing whether to even make a second album right now, or just release tracks as and when we feel like it. From an artistic point of view it would be a shame not to be able to present a larger piece of work, but the way people listen to music is changing rapidly, and if concentrating on promoting one track at a time is more beneficial, then that's what will have to happen.

What's the best piece of advice you've received when it comes to your music and career? 

Don't expect things to happen immediately, and never expect anyone to do anything for you. In the rock world you are hoping to have a 20-30 year career, so moving forward and upwards slowly but surely is the way to look at it.

What are the big 'don't's' for new bands? Are there any common mistakes new acts make when it comes to getting ahead? 

I'm not a huge fan of bands publishing 'demos' online, ‘just so you can hear our new stuff before we go in to record it properly'. If you believe in it, spend the money and time and make a really good product from the outset. Don't give people half because it'll impact how people see you. Your band is a product, so present it at its best.

What are your top tips for emerging artists?

If you have a product that you truly believe in, then keep going. Keep improving all the time, seek out and take advantage of opportunities and keep pushing.

Visit for more information.  


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by Jim Ottewill
February 12, 2018
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