Karnivool: Still Awake
10-Dec-2012 Words: Brendan Crabb
Latest release: Sound Awake (Cymatic/Sony)
Band site: www.facebook.com/karnivool
Fans of Perth prog-hard rockers Karnivool are positively salivating at the prospect of the band’s third album, the follow-up to 2009’s gold-selling Sound Awake. The positive news for said folks is that it’s not too far away, as guitarist Drew Goddard revealed to Loud in this chat. The axeman also discussed vocalist Ian Kenny’s increasing commitments to radio rock sensations Birds of Tokyo, the creative process, touring plans and more.
Q: What’s the latest on the next album’s progress – have you begun recording yet?
A: Not quite yet mate; in about three or four weeks we start. We’re kinda trying to get these songs knocked off in the last few weeks. There’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re getting there. I guess we’ve got a week of ‘pre-production’, which we’ve never… just a week to fiddle with arrangements and really plan out a lot of the bits and pieces. So we’ve basically got a week of ‘pre-production’ beforehand starting from early January over at Byron Bay, (Studios) 301 is where we’re recording, with Nick DiDia. That’s going through until about mid-February and then yeah, the mixing stage happens after that. And then that’s number three in the bag.
Q: Good to hear. How is it shaping up compared to the first two records?
A: It’s still pretty hard to say, I won’t really have any real proper perspective until it’s done, or any real, proper perspective until probably six months afterwards when we start playing the songs. But I think it’s a good step forward, the next stage in the evolution of the band. We want to make sure that we keep pushing forward and just every record’s a solid step for the band, and we’re exploring new sound and new ground. This time, this record, there’s a lot of refining to do. The last record was the first one we did with the current lineup we have, and it’s still very much a learning curve for everyone involved. It’s still heavy; it’s still dark, it’s probably pushing more in that direction. We’re just trying to find some good balances between the light and the dark, the experimental, and the complex and simple. There’s just a whole bunch of balances I think we’re refining. Yeah, but I’m quite stoked with how it’s sounding so far. Even though we’re three weeks away from recording it, it’s still very much not done and I don’t think I quite understand what it is yet.
Q: As you hinted at there, you’re very much a band of contrasts.
A: Yeah, we like that sort of stuff; the masculine and the feminine, the light and the dark. A lot of it’s not conscious; it comes through subconsciously. And there’s little things that you can do, whether there’s a section that just sounds like it’s a bit too… We like to play around with textures and colours and shapes and that sort of stuff. Like if it’s a bit too light sometimes it’s just a matter of taking out one note, or just flattening one note, or maybe it’s in the lyric, you know? Just minor adjustments, by just changing it slightly, you can really make (a difference) if you are conscious of how to affect that stuff and change it. So it’s quite easy to sort of do. But as far as like the full product, and looking at it from afar and seeing the forest as opposed to all the leaves, all the little, minor details. We tend to get lost in the real minor details (laughs), you can get stuck on one little thing and just get lost in it. Then later on you’ve got a bit of perspective and you go, ‘I can’t believe we spent a fucking week on that’ (laughs). In the whole picture it didn’t really matter. So you’ve got to try and look at the overall picture; zoom out, see the whole forest and check on how it’s going. If we zoom back in on the lost tree, or the one leaf, or in some cases the bunch of shit on the leaf, the bacteria on the leaf, that’s not the best thing to do.
Q: Some bands have set that albums aren’t so much completed as abandoned – that sounds like a sentiment Karnivool can relate to.
A: Absolutely. I totally agree with that; that’s something I’ve been saying for a while. But yeah, the thing is it’s never really finished, it just comes a point where it’s, ‘that’s gonna have to do’. Otherwise you’ll just keep going and going and going. There are no rules; you have to make your own rules, make your own boundaries. As a band, we like to think we don’t like boundaries and we like to push it into new areas, but sometimes boundaries can be handy (laughs). You have to sit down and go, ‘alright’, otherwise you lose… It starts having an adverse effect. Like, ‘well, that sounded better before we started fucking with it’.
Q: Have you got a tentative release date for the new album?
A: July we’re looking like, man. It’ll be done by March, but yeah, we’ll probably release it around July, the middle of the year. But I dare say we’ll be doing a tour before then; we’ll be heading around the country before the release.
Q: You road-tested some new material earlier in the year – are you going to do some more of that during these upcoming shows?
A: Yeah, we’ll be doing a couple, probably not too much. I mean, every day, every hour at the moment counts as far as getting prepped for this record, so we don’t want to spend too much time on a song that’s gonna take a lot of time to get ready. But there’s a couple of new ones we’ve played. There’s about five of them we’ve already played live, in some form; they might have changed since then. But I dare say we’ll be doing a couple.
Q: You mentioned that the album will be done by March, which is when the new Birds of Tokyo album is due I believe.
A: Yeah, that’s right.
Q: Is it becoming increasingly difficult for Karnivool, and of course for Kenny to work around their schedule and find a balance?
A: Yeah, it is tricky. But it’s one that we just have to kind of think well in advance about; keep communication open and just be open with each other. There’s always going to be some clashes. Things could get tricky if certain things… Like if we get offered something at the same time as Birds do, and it comes to a point where Kenny has to choose, and that can get a bit funny sometimes. But yeah, as I said we just have to be open and talk, communicate, because there’s a lot to plan. But next year is going to be busy, for Kenny especially. He’s probably not going to be spending much time at home (laughs).
Q: Is it purely coincidental that the two bands will release new albums within several months of each other?
A: It could be incompetence and bad planning; it may be good planning, I don’t know (laughs). I don’t know quite what to think about that. We’ve never released a record within the same year; or within six months anyway. So it’ll be interesting to see how it happens. We’ll see how we go I guess.
Q: Fair enough then. Karnivool has a loyal, passionate following eagerly awaiting the next album. How aware are you of the level of anticipation among the fan base?
A: Oh yeah, I think we’re very much aware of how loyal and excited our fan base is, and we’re very appreciative of that. The only real anticipation, nervousness and pressure that we feel is from ourselves within the band. What other people are going to think about us doesn’t really come into the equation. It’s just we know if we’re happy with it and we’re happy with all the songs and the balances I was talking about before are good; and the imbalances (laughs), where they’re needed. We’re pretty sure that other people will be happy as well and our fan base should be into it. But there is some anticipation; it’s great that I guess we have the ability to take four years for a record and people are still hanging on and waiting for it. It’s a good feeling to know that people are tuned in, in that way.
Q: Indeed. Shifting topics, on the live front, the first time I saw the band live was as the opening act for Soulfly about ten years ago. You played with a number of international metal bands around that time too. What are your recollections of performing in front of those kinds of crowds?
A: (Pauses) Well yeah, that was one of the first tours we did actually; that was the first sort of big support we had. I just remember it being like fucking terrifying. We were all fairly young; I think I’d maybe just turned 18 at that stage, 19 maybe. But yeah, it was just, we used to think we were a metal band basically, and I think we were far from. So yeah, we played with Soulfly, Sepultura, Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad; we got thrown all these supports with these really brutally heavy metal bands. So it was good, I just remember getting a bit of a thicker skin afterwards, ‘cause a lot of people didn’t take to it very well, especially in Perth. There was just the same group of guys that would always come up to every metal show without fail. They were at the front of the line to get in so they could get in and get right up to the stage, and just yell abuse and spit on us. It was pretty full-on (laughs).
I remember by the last time I was just so over it, I’m like, ‘here we go’. And then our bass player lost it; the most placid dude in the world, just went up for a running fly kick into this guy’s head (laughs). We just spent the rest of the gig yelling abuse back at him. It was amazing; we’ve got it on video too (laughs). It was an experience though, a big learning curve, especially on the business side of things as well. There’s a lot of sharks in the music industry and we had to look after ourselves, and we were very much more wary of that afterwards. But it was a great bill man, I just remember watching those bands. Hatebreed as well were on that tour and it was the first time I’d seen a circle pit (laughs). We’ve come a long way since then I think and we understand things a lot better than we did then. We were just kids, you know?
Q: Do the band listen to much metal these days?
A: I do and it still gives me the same feeling, but there’s not much new metal I like to be honest, I’m very picky when it comes to it. It’s got to stoke that fire in my belly and it’s pretty hard for that to happen. But there’s some bands that still really do it for me. Not even just necessarily metal; a band like Converge, who are probably considered more of a hardcore band. They’re like the heaviest band in the world I reckon; it’s just so cathartic. Same with a band like Neurosis, Cult of Luna and Isis, a couple of bands who get thrown into that post-metal genre. But yeah, I still love metal and I’ll always love it. It does something to me that no other type of music can do, and everyone who likes metal understands that. It’s a precious feeling I think; that feeling that it invigorates my soul, but I have to dig deep to try and find bands that do it for me.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: Hopefully I’ve got many years before that can happen, so hopefully I’ll have a while to think of my last words (laughs). In the meantime, I’m just gonna quote someone else’s dying words, their famous last words that I just thought were fucking brilliant. ‘These curtains are terrible; one of us has got to go’ (laughs). Besides that, just play big riffs and be good to each other.
Brendan is Loud's contributing editor. He also writes for The Music.com.au
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