Ahead of the release of their upcoming brilliant album Blood Eagle (A review of which is here) I was able to conduct the following interview with the Stoner/Doom Metal band:
So your new album is absolutely incredible. It manages to be even heavier than the mighty debut Monnos. What did you do differently when recording this album compared to the debut?
Thanks! We tried to make this album feel differently to Monnos. We didn’t want to just release the same stuff again, there seemed little point in repeating ourselves. Monnos was heavy in its own way, and we wanted to heavy in a slightly different way this time around. The recording and writing process for Blood Eagle was slightly different to Monnos in that it was more often than not Paul and I doing the writing with Phil joining in every now and again to catch up with us. It was slightly different doing it this way but I think this helped us to recreate more of a Horseback Battle Hammer vibe on it. The tracks seem to be more direct, more ‘metal’ and more aggressive too. I think this is because Paul and I were in the frame of mind that we wanted to play songs that will sound heavy live, tracks that we would be able to introduce into our live set and would work alongside stuff like Satsumo and Grim Tormentor.
With your sound seeming to take the heavy stoner doom style of Sleep and Electric Wizard, and making it all even heavier, were these your main influences, and what other bands would you say influenced your sound?
They are influences for sure, no doubt about that, and in terms of guitar tone I borrow a lot of their ideas. But the songs themselves, and the delivery of them, is a lot more direct. We listen to bands like Hexx, Iron Maiden, Fu Manchu, Sepultura, Helmet, Slomatics, High on Fire Rainbow and bands that have pretty well structured songs. We wanted to mix the brutality and simplicity of our earlier stuff with a little bit more finesse, a little bit more use of dynamics etc and I think it worked great. With Blood Eagle we have heavy songs that do not outstay their welcome and hit very hard, basically everything we wanted from the album.
And your sound is so heavy that it almost reaches drone metal territory. Were bands like Sunn O))) and Khanate bands you listen to, or is this droning sound just a consequence of the heaviness of the music?
Definitely, the guitar tone of Sunn and the heavy low end of Khanate are very strong influences for us. James Plotkin (ex Khanate of course) mastered the album and he did a great job, introducing brutal unrelenting heaviness to what Chris has recorded at the studio. I think the fact we have stuck to these two guys as our ‘sound team’ even though the tracks are a little more finessed than our recent writings, has brought the heaviness to the fore even more.
With Blood Eagle being even heavier again than the debut Monnos, how much heavier, if at all, can metal actually get?
I think that metal can be heavy in different ways. I think we can get heavier too. I don’t know how yet, but I’ll bet when we start writing next we’ll think of something. Our aim, always, is to write that that sound both heavy AND interesting. To do this we concentrate on our equipment a lot while also as focussing on the song structures themselves. I think it will be a great year for heavy music this year, so we can look forward to that.
You’re playing the new Temples Festival this year opening for the mighty Neurosis and Hellfest with Godflesh and Electric Wizard. How does it feel to be a part of such incredible lineups?
Both of these festivals have incredible lineups, and it’s a huge honour and a huge milestone for us to be considered worthy of playing there. When we were asked to perform there we were pretty shocked to be honest. We like playing any shows we can, bit and small, so to be asked to share the stage with bands such as these it is a huge honour. There are some amazing bands coming out of the UK underground and we hope that it isn’t too long before some others can join us. The likes of Neurosis and Godflesh and Electric Wizard are all very well established bands and we are really proud to be able to join them as it isn’t something we ever expected to achieve.
Is your upcoming headlining UK tour in March, as well as getting on these festivals, a sign of how big the band is becoming? You’re starting to become a household name within the Stoner Doom scene.
I don’t know to be honest. We have seen a steady incremental rise in the shows we have been invited to since we started out after Horseback Battle Hammer was released. We have slowly become busier, and have been asked more prestigious shows as time goes by. I think that this is possibly recognition for the way that we have put in a lot of effort into our touring. For us, touring is bliss. There is nothing better than loading the van up, sticking some cool tracks on the stereo and working our way through a tour. We think we are really lucky to be able to tour so much and I guess it reaps its rewards as you gain people’s respect. There is a difference between bands that hit the scene and play at all the big shows straight away, something not quite right and most underground bands will view this with some suspicion but you look at bands like ourselves and any of the other hard working bands in our peer group and you see the bands which are the true lifeblood of the UK metal scene, I guess it’s only fitting that we get to sit at the captain’s table every now and again.
And finally what does the future have in store for Conan?
We have this UK tour in March, and then we go to Europe in April (and play Roadburn) and May. In June we have Hellfest and July we are talking about Poland and Lithuania. In September we are looking at going to Australia and in October we are looking at some shows in Europe again. November / December we may go to Greece and Japan too – so it’s going to be a busy year…. But we really can’t wait to get out there and tour again, it’s been a few months now since we worked on Blood Eagle and it’s about time we started playing this stuff live. Bring it on.
Many thanks to Andy Turner at Napalm Records for setting up the interview.
Catch Conan on their UK tour in March, and make sure to pick up “Blood Eagle, released March 3rd.