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Interview: Conan

Interview: Conan

Wednesday 22nd June, 2016 12:30PM

Next month Liverpool-formed outfit Conan will be bringing their colossal "caveman battle doom" to these shores for two shows with their American heavy metal allies Weedeater. Having just tucked their third studio album Revengeance under their belts, the trio are coming with a power-packed set of new songs to melt the minds of showgoers (and possibly blow a cab or two). In anticipation UTR contributor Fluffy had a great chat with founding member Jon Davis about the record, amongst other things...

UTR: First off, let me just start by saying that I was listening to Horseback Battle Hammer yesterday and as soon as the first riff kicked in my computer just died, as if it was bludgeoned to death by a fell swoop of Odinís hammer. Does your music have a habit of destroying electrical equipment?

JD: No, only really our amplifiers now and again but I think its quite easy to over play the whole ďso heavy it kills everythingĒ thing. We try and steer away from that Ďcause no one would buy our records if they thought their equipment was gonna get broken. We like to knock bottles and glasses over at venues, thatís always good fun.

Fair enough! So I imagine youíve popped a fair share of speakers in your time?

Well, here and there. Nothing lately, our cabs are pretty well made so itís probably not as exciting as that too be honest. Normally our bass player will blow something among the cabs. He bought one with us last tour and it only lasted one show and it nearly went on fire, which is kinda cool.

Really? Thatís pretty hardout, haha!

It tends to be the older, shitty stuff that you buy cheap and then itís not really up for the job. Thatís what we always tend to find.

And so what is your favourite weapon in barbaric battle? What sort of axes and amps do you use?

On guitar, I used to use this aluminium made guitar by Electrical Guitar Company but Iíve recently just swapped in one of my amplifiers for an early 80s Gibson Les Paul, silver-burst, which is really cool. I really love that guitar and itís quickly taken over as my favourite guitar. For amplifiers, I pretty much exclusively use Matamp amplifiers now. They seem to be my favourite, I enjoy using them, theyíre really cool amps with a great sound and are very reliable actually. I canít see myself changing, although I do from time to time buy and sell amplifiers but I think for the time being, Im going to stick with Matamp because theyíre really good.

So, howíd you pick the name Conan for your band? Are you a big Arnold Schwarzenegger fan?

Well, no. Not really, I donít think heís a very good actor.

* Riotous laughter *

Well you gotta be honest. I always enjoyed the movies; they were cool films but they were ruined by his acting in my opinion. I think heís probably not the best. Heís better then me obviously but still, I donít think heís the greatest. The programís stories themselves are really interesting. If you read the books youíll get a lot more enjoyment out of them, I think. The books are where you can really use your imagination. But the movies themselves with Arnold Schwarzenegger, in my mind, thatís the worst thing about the whole Conan thing.

Thatís often the case aye?

Well yeah, itís true. Ironically the Jason Momoa movie, the recent one, I prefer to any of the ones with Arnie in. I always thought they were a bit more violent and stuff. The other ones in my mind are just a bit boring and dull. Theyíre kind of dated now arenít they? Thereís no getting around it. But there are lots of other movies that have influenced the music more then Conan. That whole genre of 70s, 80s science fiction and sorcery movies, that where we initially got a lot of the inspiration for the band name and the musical ideas have followed from there. Movies like Jason And the Argonauts, Sinbad the Sailor, all those old movies I used to watch on a Sunday afternoon when I was coming down.

Whatíre some of your impressions of New Zealand? Have you been here before?

Nope, weíve never been but weíre really excited. Iíve been to Australia, thatís the closest Iíve been to New Zealand. Various family friends have been but I know it looks awesome. Weíre playing a show in Wellington and I think Auckland as well. Weíre really excited to get over there.

Do you reckon youíll have much time for sightseeing? Like any of the great fjords featured in things like Lord of the Rings?

I certainly hope so. I think we may not get any time because as soon as we get there, weíll probably get off the plane and just want to sleep for a little while. Hopefully our hosts there will be able to show us round a bit, weíd love that.

So youíve done splits with Slomatics and Bongripper. Are you still pretty tight with these two bands?

Yeah, Iím really good friends with those chaps. Im really good friends with Slomatics, their new album is coming out on my record label. The lads in Slomatics come in almost every day, looking at pressings of the new album. Daveís been a part of my life since 2005 now, so we know each other very well.

Awesome! What else have you got cooking up with the ole record label?

Iíve got two or three new CD releases coming out soon. Tides of Sulfur, another band called Warcrab and another band that I wont announce yet.

Ahh, top secret?

Iíll keep Ďem under wraps for a little while. Iíve got vinyl and CD release coming out soon but I like to not put out too much at once. This year Iíve got a handful of releases, the latest Slomatics album thatís due out the 1st of September and thatís proving to be really popular.

Busy busy aye?

No rest for the wicked. I record at the studio as well and I tour manage bands. Ill probably end up dying of a heart attack. Live fast, die young.

Thatís the one. Tell us about your latest album, Revengeance. Did you do some mixing and mastering on that yourself?

No, I didnít, I donít have any skills in that respect but Chris Fielding is a bona fide producer who works with a lot of awesome bands. Heís our producer and has been since day one. So heís put this album together production-wise. Itís really good that Chris is in the band as well because he knows the exact sound that he wants and he knows how it feels to play these songs live so that can translate itself into techniques in the studio. This album sounds a lot moreÖ sonically itís a lot wider. It sounds bigger and thatís exactly what we were going for.

Youíve played a score of awesome festivals including Roadburn and Psycho. Whatís been your favourite show that youíve ever played?

Well, yí know, youíve named some big festivals there, but probably the favourite show Iíve ever played was Stuck On A Name Studios in Nottingham playing to about a hundred people in a sweaty room and it was unbearably hot. It was electrical, man. You could really feel the vibes off everyone, theyíre coming to see a band that plays what theyíre into in a small intimate setting like that. We had a great time and people loved it, crowd surfing and stuff. It was like a little party atmosphere. On our last tour in Europe, we had a similar experience in Paris where we had the day off on a Friday because we had to cancel the show unfortunately and with 24 hours notice we arranged another show and it sold out. So the place was absolutely rammed and people were crowd surfing and there was really low ceilings so there was footprints along the ceilings. Probably another one that sticks in the memory was when we played The Black Goat in Melbourne, Australia. That was another one that was a pretty small venue but that was lots of fun as well. The faster we book a show; itís a totally different vibe. Unless youíre playing to your people, it can seem a little bit sterile but those smaller shows in the little venues we tend to have more fun playingÖespecially when people are jumping up and down and getting excited.

So, thereís lots of heavy/slow/psychedelic music coming out of Europe and the world at the moment. What are your picks for some of the bands keeping the style fresh?

I reckon Slomatics are doing a good job of that, YOB are always a standard there. We tend to see ourselves as being slightly further beyond that, we donít just play slow, heavy music. We have a lot of songs which are faster and more mid-paced so we see ourselves as sort of straddling both camps. We are a heavy metal band, really. A lot of the time weíll inject slower parts into our songs to create a bit of dynamic.

In regards to the slower stuff, do you think thereís a danger of it becoming sort of trendy and ďdone to deathĒ in similar ways that Nu-metal and Metalcore did in the past decades?

I donít think theyíll ever become trendy but I think what youíll have is the music itself will probably get less interesting as time goes on. People start trying to re-invent the wheel after a while and I think itíll get a bit old. Youíve got bands that are coming out now that sound a lot like bands that are already popular. Thereís one or two bands that sound just like Electric Wizard, thereís one of two bands that sound just like Clutch or Eyehategod. Itís kind of annoying that bands like that get exposure really because their taking fees out of the industry that could be used to pay for shows for bands that are more original. That kind of frustrates me and thereíll come a point when thereíll be loads of bands that are playing really boring music and itíll be then really that people will start to lose interest in this kind of music because itíll get boring. I just hope that doesnít happen soon.

So what are some of your musical influences then?

Well, Slomatics are an influence on Conan, big time. Black Cobra, High On Fire, somehow Weezer; The way that we feed off the drum beats is a bit like what Weezer do, I think. Nirvana, Iíd like to credit them really. Some of the music that I write on guitar seem to be like heavier Nirvana riffs.

One last closing question: if you were ever offered the musical guest spot on The Conan OíBrien Show would you do it, in some sort of barbarian-Inception kind of deal?

Hahaha, well people have mentioned that before. Yeah, weíd do it for definite. Hopefully weíd be paid off right too, itís quite expensive to get on that show. Weíd be flattered if that could happen but I donít think it will.

Maybe one day aye? Ill cross my fingers for you.

Yeah it would be cool if it did.

Conan are coming to these shores with Weedeater for two shows across Wellington and Auckland in July, head over here for more details and to buy tickets.


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