Conan – “Our next album..is a 320 minute one note riff”
When it came to chatting to Conan there was really only ever going to be one option. Given his love for all things epic, we passed the broadsword over to our man in the States to get the lowdown on Conan – Monnos. Liverpool has long been known for a certain boyband, their loveable sense of humour and a passion for football. It’s fair to say that Conan harness little of this in their current bowel shaker, Monnos, a thirty minute doom triumph. P.Henry asks the questions to Jon Davis
Monnos grabbed me and I felt a need to listen to the entire album at once. For a massive sounding doom album, it’s refreshingly … brief AND powerful. Is that a conscious decision? To allow the listener to enjoy In one pass?
Yes, I would say so for this album certainly. We all listen to bands who draw tracks out for vast expanses of time, and we love this style of writing – it is indeed a very difficult thing to do effectively. However, for this album we were conscious of the fact that on Horseback Battle Hammer we had two songs that are over 10 minutes and so with this in mind write these songs for Monnos. If they spilled out over 10 minutes then that would have been cool, but without making a huge effort we kept them relatively concise. I think the impact of this is that the songs give you something to hang your hat on, some of them have catchy parts, riffs that make you want to bang your head, melancholy parts etc and just they came out during the writing process. I guess the fact it is just under 40 minutes helps it become the sort of album you can return to without feeling as if you are overdoing it. I remember growing up listening to bands like Nirvana, NOFX and other bands who played relatively brief songs. Now I wouldn’t class us as ‘grunge’ or ‘punk’ obviously, but these bands alongside more recent outfits like Its Casual get the message into your head without dragging things on for too long. I guess some of this rubbed off a bit. Our next album though, which is being written slowly but surely, is a 320 minute one note riff which we will release on an octagonal fold out goats head, pentagram Ouija board.
The production is bleak, but beautiful. Can you take me through the writing/recording process? Is it collaborative or does one person take the lead?
Sure, the writing process included all members. One of us would come to practice with an idea for a riff or a theme and we’d just fuck around with it for a while. Most ideas died in the rehearsal room but some stuck. Those that did stick were developed and recorded on an iPhone voice recorder and saved for a later date. We repeated this process for about 18 months until we recorded and by the time we went to Foel we had 6 tracks almost 100% finished. When we got to the studio, just like we did with the previous releases, we refined the tracks further still by using Chris Fielding as a sounding board. With his input we’d change a few bits here and there. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, we were recording the initial drum bits for Invincible Throne and after about 8 minutes we all looked at each other and said ‘this is bollocks’. We then rewrote the track from scratch. It’s definitely collaborative, right from the outset Paul and I had worked on stuck of our own and once Phil joined he became an important part of the writing process – just like David Perry and John McNulty did before him.
‘Grim Tormentor’ is my favorite song on the album. The drums are killer. Can you tell me a little about that one? Is there one track that stands out for you?
That track started out as one of the tracks we experimented most with. The psychedelic intro and the bass solo are all pretty new to us so we weren’t sure how it would go down with people. It hasn’t yet made it into our live set either…… However, much to my surprise it seems to be the favourite song for quite a few people. I reckon we’ll start rehearsing it more and start playing it live soon though – it definitely grew on us too. You’re right, the drums are just great on it. For me the track that stands out is Battle In The Swamp. This song was written at the same time as Satsumo and Krull and never did get a lot of attention. It was always ‘unfinished’, but we had tried to sort it out on several occasions to no avail. When the opportunity came to work on it properly for Monnos we just made it sound as heavy as we could, and I’m pleased that now it works great live – and it probably one of my favourite songs to play.
I know you have been together for some years now. What brought the band members together? What do you consider your biggest break so far?
Initially I was looking for a new drummer after parting company with Rich Grundy (original drummer). I put an advert online and saw an advert from Paul who was looking for something to work on. We spoke a few times and practiced quite a bit and then had to knock things on the head in Spring 2008. We reformed in early 2009 and recorded Horseback Battle Hammer later that year. The then bass player John had to leave the following year so we got David Perry in, when he announced he had to leave he recommended Phil and so we asked him down to practice. Phil had learned some of the tracks and really hit the ground running – it was a very easy decision to get him in the band.
I would say our biggest break was deciding to go from being a two piece to being a 3 piece. It instantly made us heavier and also brought the possibility of dual vocals, which I think has been one of the most interesting developments in our sound so far. We’ve also had some great relationships with the labels we have worked with, culminating with the current one at Burning World Records, with whom we have released Monnos.
I’m a diehard Robert E. Howard fan. Conan, Kull I’ve read them all. To be honest, I love music like yours – since I cranked up Monnos while reading Game Of Thrones! It brings me visions of Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer. What are your influences musically? What about literary/visually? Do you enjoy battle/prehistoric imagery?
I love Frank Frazetta artwork, and am a big fan of medieval warfare, Viking warfare, mythology, sword fighting, samurai, Krull, Excalibur, Lord of The Rings, Jason and The Argonauts, Sinbad, Beast Master and these sorts of themes. I also enjoy painting my own themes, using inspiration from these sources and making my own stories up. This aspect came right to the fore while writing the lyrics for Monnos – that feeling of actually being alive and existing within these stories really resonated with me – and I’d find this amazing sense of escape and find myself writing lyrics wherever I was, heart racing and almost having a panic attack as I almost lost my fucking mind writing down these things. It was quite an extreme response but one that I found helped to enrich the songs – to make them almost relevant – almost ‘real’, which is pretty difficult to do for a family man, with an office job.
What are your interests outside of music? What do you like to do during downtime?
Outside of music I like to spend time with my family. I have a regular office job at a small family owned business so I get along with being a regular guy – doing the school run and stuff like that. I’m very proud of my family, and am very happy that I have a comfortable home life, although I respect this isn’t the case for a lot of people. I just do regular stuff. But in amongst all this, unseen to most people, I’ll be recording riffs on my computer and jotting lyrics down. I’ll be sat at work sometimes and will slip into a trance, thinking of some new idea for a song while the printer buzzes and my emails roll in. Normal life is great and I wouldn’t wish for my life to be any different, but music is something I could never live without and for now it is my only pass time outside of my family. That said though, I am an Everton fan and enjoy reading and gaming – but these only come if I’m not doing something related to the band.
Ok. Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan vs. recent Conan? Or do you take literary Conan?
I’d say the originals and the new version both have their plusses and minuses, and are both enjoyable to watch in their own way. But for me the only way to experience the stories is through the books. It’s like this with most screen adaptations of books – the screen doesn’t animate things the same way your mind will when reading. For these reasons I’d say that reading the Conan stories will always be more enjoyable that watching them on the screen.
Crom would be pleased by Monnos. Is there anything else you would like to say about the band/album that I missed?
Thanks very much. I guess you could mention that it is getting a release in the US in July on Gravedancer Records?
Conan – Monnos is available now at an outrageously good price from Burning World Records