with Jon Davis at Sanctuary, Basingstoke
22nd March 2014
Interview by Ashlinn Nash
Conan; a three piece from the North West of England, they are a pioneering member of the growing in popularity doom scene of the UK. With their infectious dark tones, blistering beats, harsh vocals and thundering bass lines; that are rich in reverb heavy feedback that could melt iron from a statue.
The band have been consistently touring, writing and recording albums, with hard work and determination, it’s no wonder they are sought after. As part of their UK tour with Bast, we caught up front man for a chat Jon Davis in the bands van, parked outside for tonight’s gig in Basingstoke’s intimate venue; Sanctuary.
M-R: Firstly thank you for your time today, how are you?
J.D: I’m a bit tired, but I’m good thanks. I’ve got a bit of a cold, there are seven of us in this van while we’re on this tour. We’re touring with Bast, there’s still another show, so we’ll see if we can another one out of us before we conk out.
M-R: We’ll inject you with lucozade or something like that then
J.D: Yeah! Something like that just before we go on!
M-R: How has the tour been going so far?
J.D: it’s been going great this is out tenth show; we’ve sold out a few of the shows which is cool, it’s a nice thing to be able to say. They’re small venues it’s not like we’ve sold out like Iron maiden would, but we’ve sold out the small to medium sized venues, when in the past we would have only filled out fifty percent obviously now where we’ve been around the block a couple of times we’ve put out the name a bit more. You can promote it a little bit better as a result the shows have attracted more people to them and been a lot more fun you know, and from the performance point of view they’ve been fun as well.
M-R: On this tour you’ve had a vast collection of bands playing with you, how did this come about?
J.D: That has been fine, to be fair we’ve not really chosen any of the bands actually, we’re not a level where we can pick and choose whose on the shows you know but very luckily we’ve been able to play with some bands who we consider to be just as good as us. I don’t want to start naming the names because we’ll be here all day!
Bast have been our main support on ever gig so far and they’re a really, really good band from London, we’re friends with most of the bands who have played with us and there are only a handful of bands on this tour that we’ve not met before so getting to share a stage with them is easy. They’ve been really nice people, we even let them use our equipment if we trust them and we’ve not had any problems none what so ever.
M-R: Where have you enjoyed playing so far and where are you looking forward to playing?
J.D: Well on this tour, I’m looking forward to going home because I’m really tired. I run a recording studio with Chris Fielding who is our producer and he’s also our bass player now.
The best show I would say [pauses] it is hard to say as all the shows have been great! Some of them have been less great then others. [pauses] yeah I won’t mention which one was the worst one, but some of the best ones would probably be ; London , Glasgow because they have been nice big venues and you know really big crowds. Glasgow was on a Monday night and I didn’t expect it to be anywhere near as busy as it was and it was like a hundred and twenty-thirty people, which is a nice number for us.
For the London gig last night we sold two hundred and thirty tickets and they’d booked the venue thinking it was a three hundred capacity venue and when we got there; I don’t know whether it was the booking agent or our promoter…I don’t know, but they’d booked the venue and said hold on we’re in this downstairs room to which the capacity is one hundred and fifty, but if we move the stage and get rid of the first half of it then we could make it a two hundred capacity venue and then squeeze in the extra people , in the end we just went with that option and then cut the guest list a bit.
Nottingham was cool, that was the first show of the tour that was in a practise place called Stuck on a name studios. We played with a friend’s band called Bismuth Tanya the bassist is really good. We’ve had some really good shows it’s our first tour with Chris, so our focus has been partly on how things have gone with him, rather than how each show has compared to each other. I mean; me and Paul are comfortable with these songs and with Chris being relatively new to the band we were anxious to make sure he was comfortable with them as well, from the first show, from that first minute.
We’ve been practising together since the end of November now and it’s been great as Chris has settled in fine and as a result all the shows have gone really well.
M-R: Have been debuting any new songs on the tour so far?
J.D: We are doing the whole new album, and we’ll throw in one or two of our established songs, I mean this is our album release tour if you like, you know and to promote it and show people we didn’t just write these songs in the studio like some bands might….we can play these live, and we think they sound great live.
They’ve gone really well you know, the songs have been received really well. You can tell some people in the crowd might now have the new album yet, because they might not quite get what we’re doing, but seeing certain people react to certain songs and they seem to be anticipating certain riffs and parts of the song and that’s been really cool.
Hopefully we’ll keep touring the new tracks, we’ve been playing certain ones since 2010 and we felt like we really needed to freshen the set up. So we’re putting this album on in its entirely as it works really well as a live set as it’s forty-forty five minutes long and then put a couple of our older ones on the end and it nicely rounds off the hour long set.
M-R: For any new fans out there, can we have a quick history lesson, where did you form and how did the name come to be?
J.D: OK, Well the name came about in 2006 we were playing the same kind of stuff we are playing now, I mean we weren’t quite as polished as we are now, and we were just a two-piece it was me and my friend Rich on drums and we were just messing about really and we then sat at my parents house on the computer and I wanted to change the name from the stop-gap names we had at the time. I wondered if the name “Conan” was available so I checked it and it was and since then Rich and I parted ways and then I met Paul in 2007, and then we recorded “Horseback battle hammer” in 2009 and we then recorded a split with stomatics shortly after that, then we did “Monnos” a lot of people think that, that is our first album, I mean we think that “Horseback battle hammer” is our first album. People who write review must not have heard it which is fair enough.
We then did a live album from Roadburn, which was our April 2012 performance that they put out on vinyl. Then we did a split with Bongripper and a few tours and then we had this album written around summer 2013 and recorded it in the October/November last year and here we are.
We’re got this tour and some more on the way so we try and keep busy.
M-R: The latest release “Blood Eagle” just came out how was the recording process for this?
J.D: It was fine, it was without incident the only difference being, is that we recorded it in our own studio. My wife and I bought quite a large house in the country side it’s near Chester, and it’s only five minutes away from the motorway so it’s a really good location. It came with quite a lot of land and a few extra buildings we moved in, in February 2013 and in May 2013 we decided to convert one of the coach houses into a recording studio. I mean it is the size of a regular two storey dethatched house so we remodelled the outside and including a new entrance and now it’s developed internally to be a fully running commercial studio.
So we booked in some time for ourselves in late October and process really was the tracking of drums first. With me playing along through a guide which isn’t committed to tape it’s so that Paul can play off my guitar playing. So the drums are recorded in that way, when the drums are finished we made them sound good, then we do the same with the guitars over the drums and then we’ll tweek them to sound the best. Same with the bass and vocals after that, it’s the same process we’ve followed with everything, I mean that’s how Chris works. He’s our bassist now as I say, but he’s been our producer since 2009 he’s done everything we’ve ever recorded, he works at the studio he’s like the resident producer there so we book in some time there like any other band would.
Then we went in and recorded it we didn’t have any problems and it went fine. It’s sound-proofed and totally isolated from the outside world, so when you’re in there you could be in any studio in any part of the world but then you step outside and into the courtyard and in ten steps you’re in my kitchen and that’s a really nice thing to be able to do, we use it as our practise room as well, so I don’t have to budget for like an hour worth of travel anymore. I just have to go put me shoes on Having the studio there has made it a hell of lot easier. We were going to record with Chris wherever he was, we were actual set up to record with him in London, but things didn’t work out for him so he’s moved up to near Chester.
M-R: How does it compare musically with the bands other releases?
J.D: I’d say it’s a lot heavier, people say we occupy this doom genre and I always cringe when I’m telling people that when they say what music do you play “oh it’s old school doom” and they’re like well what the fuck does that mean? I mean I don’t know to be honest, it’s just heavy music, Heavy Metal we just say that when people ask, I mean I list what bands I like and then they can put two and two together.
I mean you think of traditional doom bands, That was WitchSorrow walking past there they’re like a traditional doom band and I mean we’re a slightly different style as we play more metal parts. Than what people might call doom parts, but we’ve got slow bits as well which you could say gives us that doom sound, which we love, it’s not a genre we don’t enjoy as a lot of my favourite bands are occupy that genre.
The album is longer than what we’ve written before, like the older ones are thirty minutes long and now we’re on forty plus and it’s a lot more aggressive and a lot more in your face, with charging mid-paced riffs it is an amalgamation of all the songs we already had I mean we’ve boiled them down a little bit and written an album which is comprised of more bits that we enjoy. We’ve seen the crowds reacting to different bits of the songs for each release and seen them enjoy songs more than others and through the writing process we’ve gone for more bits that we think would be better live and more exciting to listen to.
I mean you’ve already got an album full of slow songs like “Monnos”, why would be write another album just the same? I mean without having a major thought process around, we’ve naturally put something down which is different. I think it’s better in a lot of ways but then again that depends on who you are really, we’re really proud of it, we love the tracks I mean playing them live is really enjoyable and that’s a major thing for us and we’re doing a lot of touring and you don’t want to go to Europe and being away from your family and kids and playing songs you don’t like. So playing these tracks is really enjoyable.
M-R: For the rest of 2014, what are your plans?
J.D: We’ve got the European tour in April for nearly four weeks, In May we’re playing another European tour for eight-nine days. We’ve got the old bassist back for that as Chris is going in to the studio to record a band, and he can’t make it so we’ve got a temporary bass player. We’re playing Hell Fest in June, In July we may be going to Poland. In august I’m having a holiday, in September we’re going to Australia for ten days and in October we’re going on a short tour for like ten days maybe think we’re going to Spain and Portugal and in November/December we’re probably going to Greece and Japan so that will be cool we’ve had offers in both countries so we’re just going to go play them, nothings agreed with those ones yet, but yeah that’s our plans I’m sure there will be another couple of shows here and there that we don’t plan for right now. We might get offered something we can’t refuse but we’ll have to wait and see.
Many thanks for talking to us today.
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