Masters of all things heavy and progressive, Aussie rockers KARNIVOOL unleashed a beast of an album ‘Sound Awake’ in June of this year. Within weeks the release was certified GOLD by ARIA and has also been nominated for Triple J radio’s prestigious annual J Award. Lucky for us kiwis KARNIVOOL are kicking off an international tour from New Zealand with a gig at the Kings Arms Tavern in Auckland on 19 September 2009. NZRock caught up with bassist Jon Stockman to find out more…
Karnivool on the album going gold! How did you celebrate when you found out?
Well I’d like to say that we had a massive party of epic proportions but we were on the road and some of us were pretty crook so it didn’t pan out that way. However, it was a really amazing feeling for everyone, we were completely blown away!
‘Themata’ was released in April 2005 so it’s been a 4 year gap between KARNIVOOL albums. What was the reason the time gap?’
I guess we just needed to let the stuff incubate for a period of time, our writing process is by far one of the most unorthodox and a lot of the time it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it does take time and we are happy with the end result. Of course, we would be happier if it could happen a little faster in the future!
After listening to ‘Sound Awake’ it sounds like 4 years was well worth the wait! How proud are you guys of the monster recording that you’ve created?
Cheers! We’re very happy with the way it ended up, it was a huge investment of time and our lives in general and from the feedback we’ve received so far it seems to have been worth it, plus it’s great to have seen the light at the end of the tunnel after such a long time.
You’ve worked with Forrester Savell in the studio before, what’s he like to work with and what keeps the band going back to him?
Like I mentioned above, we have a really bizarre way of writing and getting the songs together, I think Forrester has had a lot of experience working with that dynamic and he also knows how to catalyse the entire process to a degree and ensure that we don’t diverge from the path of progress too much. Also, we think he’s got an amazing ear for sound and he’s great to work with.
Although you kept the same producer, I hear the writing / recording process for ‘Sound Awake’ was quite different compared to that for ‘Themata’. Can you go into those differences for us?
The main difference would be that the bulk of Themata was written by Drew and arranged by a few of us whereas both the writing and arranging for ‘Sound Awake’ was much more of a collaborative effort from everyone. In addition to that, a lot of Themata was written straight to a recording session before ever being played as a band, whereas we pretty much wrote most of the Sound Awake album in a jam-room environment. I think the latter difference there gave Sound Awake a much more organic feel, there was also a lot more breathing space as a result just from the natural ebb and flow of dynamics that happen when things are jammed by the whole band.
The ‘Sound Awake’ album cover artwork is really striking, who came up with the concept?
The title was conceived by Drew, it was the one chosen out of about 6.83 million options that were proposed. We took the title to a couple of graphic designers (Joe Kapiteyn and Chris Frey) and worked through a couple of proposed concepts. We originally wanted a foldout design but found that the standard book worked better with the number of artwork pictures that we had in mind. In the end, the final cover was a mixture of input from all
the band and Joe.
Equally cool is the music video for Set Fire To The Hive – I’ve never seen a singer with a bird cage on his head before! – what’s that song all about?
It’s not a cryptic song by any stretch of the imagination, it’s very much a direct kind of ‘sonic’ call to arms, challenging people to look at how much control we have over our own society as well as our own lives and to remind people that we live in a democracy, and that that kind of system of government has certain rights that we should always be entitle to.
Asides from sounding awesome as a band, KARNIVOOL’s music sounds distinctively your own. What was the trick to finding your own sound?
I don’t know, there are definitely influences to our sound but maybe it’s the fact that we have some many different influences to each other, whilst maintaining a core set of influences that perhaps brought us together in the first place. We’re still working on our sound, I don’t think any of us can fully categorise what that is yet and maybe that’s what also sets it apart a little from similar bands in our genre.
I read in other interviews that you guys were influenced by bands like NIRVANA but the prog/ambient sound in your music reminds me of bands like ISIS and MASTODON at times as well. Do you take any inspiration from those bands?
Yeah I think that sometimes influences like NIRVANA don’t pop up as obvious to anyone listening to our track, but it just paints a picture of where we may have come from, I know Drew and Kenny started playing guitar because of Nevermind. I started because of Enter Sandman! Hos is different again, plus he has a classical guitar background. It’s all different but it comes together to make the band what it is. Also there are sometimes parts of a band that
rub off on us, it might be the melody structure or it could be the rhythm section, depends on the band and the song.
You guys toured the US on the Great American Rampage Tour in 2007, how was that experience and what were the highlights of the tour?
It was a really great experience for any band, it really tested the band and how well we were able to survive on the road doing a proper tour, with a lot of shows, not many days off and a hamburger diet for most meals. There were some great shows for us, apart from getting to see places like Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. The drives were huge, I think we clocked in around 25000 miles by the end of it. I think the highlight of the tour was making the show in Torronto after our van finally died midway throught the tour, plus there was some truly great shows and it was great to be a part of it.
What is KARNIVOOL up to for the rest of 2009?
We’re pretty busy at the moment, we’re rehearsing up to start our next tour which takes us through L.A, New York and a fair chunk of the UK. However, it kicks off in New Zealand and being our first time there, we’re really looking forward to it! After that, we’ve got another Australian tour that starts midway through November, so we’re pretty busy up till the end of the year.
We’re really looking forward to you guys coming to NZ! Any parting words for your New Zealand fans?
Well it’s taken a while but we’re finally coming to NZ on the 19th of September. We’re doing one show at the King’s Arms Tavern in Newton, Auckland so please come down and help us make it a huge night, looking forward to meeting any of you that can make it!