Q&A with Caligula's Horse

"And yes, it is a saxophone, trust me folks!"

To say Australia's Caligula's Horse have had a fruitful few years is an understatement. Going from strength to strength, the band are not slowing down anytime soon and it seems that progression is not only in their music. Metal As Fuck sought out the band to chat about their achievements, ther latest album 'In Contact' which is currenlty going gangbusters in the charts and in their own words; a steady build up - realising big dreams. This is bassist Dave Couper for Metal As Fuck...

2015 was a huge year for you guys with your third album Bloom which reached the heights of #16 on the Australian Albums ARIA Chart and saw the band embark on an extensive first tour of Europe. Was this a shock to the band after only being together 4 years? "I don’t know if “shock” is the right word, but the surge in momentum that we experienced from the show with Protest The Hero (September 2014) through to the Shining tour (October-November 2015) was enough to make it feel like a seamless transition, at least at the time it did. I think if there was shock involved, it set in after we came back from Europe, to be honest. The guys missed their wives and girlfriends and children. There were wider family issues. There was the tribulation around us playing the Paris show just five days after the Le Bataclan shooting and Stade de Paris bombing, and thus the dichotomous sombreness and joy at having that harrowing Wednesday night be the successful night it turned out to be. Our performance on the tour was good but not at the level we expected of ourselves, and we had to get used to the variety of cultures, languages, and environments (especially the guys who’d never been overseas before). So yeah, those first three years were a steady build-up based on big dreams, and then things got hectic pretty quick!

The band has a huge reputation and has performed with the likes of Opeth, Mastodon, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and Protest The Hero among others. Is there a band that you aim to play with in the future and why? "I said in another recent interview that if there is a bucket list artist or band that we’d like to play/tour with, it would have to be Devin Townsend. Obviously there’s some stylistic differences that might make you think we’re crazy for even suggesting it, but as far as musicians/artists who have embodied complete control over their destiny in the last decade, Devin is the greatest inspiration to us. Hearing him speak about the music industry, let alone hearing him play, sing, and provide humour to all, is fascinating, and I hope we learn the lessons that a guy like him provides in abundance. Also, I’m sure it would be funny to watch our respective bald drummers nerd it out; to be fair though, I think Ryan’s [Van Poederooyen - Drummer, Devin Townsend Project] performance on “Transcendence” was the best drum performance/recording of 2016, and Josh’s “In Contact” drum work is 2017’s best, so it might be more strutting than rudiments" [Laughs] 

September has seen Caligula’s Horse release their fourth record In Contact. What can you tell us about the concept of this album? “In Contact” has an overarching theme that is told over the stories of four different characters. In short, the most apt word to describe the theme is “reach”. You’ll hear and see a lot from Jim in existing and upcoming press on the album about the fullness of the concept and its character arcs, but in “less short”, each of the four artists (a painter, a musician, a poet, and a sculptor) is telling/living a story that is their way of attempting to recapture a dream that we - all of humanity - once shared. It is a “concept album”, though not in the style of Scenes From A Memory by Dream Theater, for example: the four chapters are musically self-contained. It’s a little darker than “Bloom”, overall, but hope is ever-present as a mood across the album, even in the trying times of each character". 

What will surprise fans with this album? And what surprised the members? "Now that it’s out, I can’t hide anything, so: (a) the pace of “Will’s Song”, something quite a bit faster than anything we’ve previously released; (b) the gap between our heaviest dynamic and our lightest dynamic is considerably wider than anything that has come before, album-wise; (c) it wasn’t a surprise, but just how damned amazing is the saxophone work (courtesy of Shining’s Jorgen Munkeby) on “Graves”? – and yes, it is a saxophone, trust me folks!; and (d) that we got the thing done at all given the tight time frame we had at the start of the year.

Where has the band evolved since Bloom and where did you concentrate your efforts in the material for the new album? "After mentioning momentum earlier, it is pretty clear that 2016 was, by comparison to 2015, a bit of a write-off for us. We only really began to rebuild when Josh joined us in August last year after the extensive auditions process. Lyrically and thematically, I think there’s an element of all of us in the stories Jim writes. Musically, I know Sam was influenced by some of what Josh brought to the table with the faster stuff, the tricky breakdowns (the outro of “The Cannon’s Mouth” especially!), and a wide musicality. Other than that, we try to be different but the same recognisable band. A lot of people thought “Bloom” was comparatively “poppy”; I tend to think that the only major musical differences between then and now are some of the heavier and faster riffs, and the production values being more “wall of sound” than on “Bloom”. We have no intention of either being the next Dream Theater at one end of the complexity spectrum, nor the next Nickelback at the “radio” end of the spectrum. Things materialise, and we go at them. Also, our hair has evolved a bit, hasn't it?! Thank goodness Adrian is here to provide the locks and the looks (and the shred, and the video clips, and the massages: fuck, we did well here!).

There was a lot of hype around the album release. What were your anticipations on the cusp of its release? "I think the only genuine anticipation on our part was about if the album, and particularly certain tracks, would divide opinion more greatly than what was discussed about “Bloom”, or “River’s End” for that matter. It appears that way so far, but importantly there have been so many more reviews of the album from critics and fans alike than there were for “Bloom”, and the general consensus appears to be very positive but not necessarily unanimous for particular aspects of the record, which is fine with us because we make what we make for ourselves first, and hope people will like as much of it as possible". 

What are some goals you hope to kick with this new album? "Well, we made #17 on the JB Hi-Fi album chart last week, in a week totally jam-packed with big releases, so we’re pretty stoked about that. Hopefully on Monday when the ARIA Album and Australian Album charts are announced, we’ll be Top 30 overall and aiming for #6 Australian (the top five are fairly clear cut). All these numbers will be a huge improvement on “Bloom”, and set us up well for a big album cycle. Obviously we want the album to connect more deeply and widely with a worldwide audience than anything we’ve done before. It’s hard not to be cliched in an answer here, but like the overarching theme of the album, it is all about 'reach'"

Starting on the 28th of this month the band will be touring around Australia. How does it feel to be playing on your home turf in comparison to overseas gigs? "I think playing big headline shows is the main difference. We’re still building in Europe, though after the success of our London show, and the response at the support slots and festivals we played, those overseas headline shows in the future will grow quite a bit. Australia is consistent and ever-growing in its turnouts, but what I’m looking forward to is a bit of a different approach to the tour. Usually we fly the long legs (Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne) then do a second weekend drive for the NSW/ACT shows, and separate Brisbane. This time, we’re going to drive to Adelaide in a 12-seater, then fly to Perth, then back to Adelaide and drive the rest. The Melbourne show coincides with the AFL Grand Final, and with the Adelaide Crows featuring in it (and likely to win it), we realised that flying Adelaide to Melbourne was going to be phenomenally expensive for seven people. Thus we’ve brought a taste of our recent European experience to the planning for this tour, and I’m looking forward to seeing more countryside this time. There are always risks with this, but we have a strong crew on board to lighten the load and brighten the mood". 

After returning from your last stint overseas - what does the band do to relax in the short period of time between tours? "Unfortunately, relaxing has not been in our purview this last twelve months! We’ll have done four Australian tours and a European tour between November last year and October this year, released an album, done two video clips, and somehow kept our jobs, our families where applicable, and a little bit of our sanity. Sam is doing his Ph.D; Adrian is in demand to do other band’s video clips; Jim teaches vocal students here in person and abroad via Skype; Josh shut down his pizza restaurant and now works in retail; and I work for JB Hi-Fi and drive Uber to fill in the gaps. Of course, there’s video games, but three of those other four clowns play “Dark Souls 3” and “Bloodborne”, neither of which appear to be relaxing in the slightest to a middle-of-the-road Bethesda gamer like me". [Laughs]

What is in store for the band in 2018? "Between now and the idealised touring time of the European festival season in June/July 2018 (nothing planned yet, to be clear), there is a lot on our plates personally, so we’re not going to get too far ahead of ourselves at the moment. We’ll obviously keep a close eye on how sales of “In Contact” are tracking everywhere, as well as the back catalogue (now that our record label have the full distro for them) and make sure we plan thoroughly for whatever lies ahead. What we should be doing is some darned tablature/notation books for those who want to learn the mysteries of Sam’s guitar and the drums old and new (by contrast, the bass lines are easy: we’ve got younger fans doing videos of themselves on YouTube the moment a new song goes up, so I’d better get back to practising, eh?!.

TOUR DATES

07/10/2017 Australia BRISBANE, The Triffid

06/10/2017 Australia SYDNEY, The Factory Theatre

05/10/2017 Australia NEWCASTLE, The Cambridge Hotel

04/10/2017 Australia CANBERRA, The Basement

30/09/2017 Australia MELBOURNE, Max Watt’s

29/09/2017 Australia ADELAIDE, Fowler’s Live

 

28/09/2017 Australia PERTH, Jack Rabbit Slim’s

Tickets and further information can be found here