Yesterday (on Monday) afternoon I got the pleasure of having a chat with a guitarist from the Australian powerhouse progressive rock band Karnivool. The man behind the interview is Mark Hosking who plays guitar as well as handles other features of the band. They are set to release their 3rd album “Asymmetry” which will be released on the 19th of July. Since listening to the album before the release date, I believe it’s their greatest work yet.
We spoke about the making of the album and the challenges that comes with being in such an incredible band releasing an incredible album, the band’s touring schedule and this is how it went!
Michael:First of all mark I just want to say thank you for letting for the opportunity to interview I think your band. Karnivool is absolutely awesome both live and recorded.
Mark: No problem man good to talk to ya.
Michael: Awesome, let’s get started.
Firstly, you can tell right from the beginning of “Asymmetry” that this release is very different from your previous releases, tell me how the writing process is different from your previous releases? An was there anything out of the ordinary that you came across during Asymmetry’s making?
Mark: Umm, the writing process for us is always different [haha], whether we want it to be or not. I think its just by the way we tend to approach music. We are a band that has always said we are never going to do the same album twice. After “Sound Awake” was finished we did about a year of solid international touring, which was amazing and awesome. At things like sound checks we would start pushing together the basis of what “Asymmetry” would be. In that period your always saying to yourself how can I’d do that differently and what can I do differently, what other toys can I use so I can get some different sounds. How as a band can I do this differently? Yeah creating something new something fresh and something is important to us. Its something we will always strive to do in music I think. Once we got the first two or three songs down, at least a basis of them we built a theme or an idea of what the album should be about, and that’s where the bipolar and that’s how asymmetric nature of the album came forward in out thinking and sort of incorporated that in our music. From that point on I think we just basically we just start approaching it and saying how can we make the best album it can be, I don’t think your ever consciously saying to your self this has to be something different, this has to be something crazy, I think from that point your just saying to your self lets just make this the best album it can be. Then your just concentrating on the themes and concentrating on the music and pull it together like that..
Michael: I think you guys have definitely done very well there.
Mark: Thanks man
Michael: When I was listening to the album I could definitely notice that guys have branched out with different sounds and different techniques. Is there anything you tells about what you have done that was different?
Mark: ummm.. a lot of it was just experimentation, we did want a sound that was based a little bit more on roar obviously we
wanted to release an album that brought it back a bit from there and have it more about 5 guys standing in a room playing together rather then it being about 5 guys working hard at a computer. To give it a bit more of that real human element was important to us, umm and then as far as what makes the album what it is and differences to what we have done before. I mean every day is a different day, your in there and and your saying what toys have I got to use, and look at different guitars, different synths and a whole bunch of different stuff to make the best thing you could possibly make. I think a lot of it comes subconsciously, I don’t think your ever saying this has to be this, this has to be that. You just do. Umm, At certain points you think this the right direction and say right lets just keep pushing down a path.
Michael: Yea that’s awesome. Now obviously there is a lot of work to be done on each Karnivool song. Karnivool have
already great albums, and are very different to a lot of the other bands getting around, on a scale of 1 to 10 how challenging would you say this album was to make?
Mark: ahh, Probably about a 9 haha. I think we could of challenged our selves harder, but I think if we did challenge ourselves harder I think we may have ended up in institutions. The way we write music is very different, its very confronting its very challenging, it definitely takes us to edges where you have to say “woah, what am I actually doing here”. Personally and musically and every perspective I don’t think you can write music over 3 ½ years and try and create the best process, and not feel that, i’m sure some bands do, and i’m sure some people are capable of that. If they have got the secret then please get in contact with us, and tell us how they do it, but for us. For us its always the climb of a mountain. Which makes when you reach the peak feel all that much better.
Michael: Yeah I could understand that. Now would you say there was a lot of challenges with making this album, like with in the band I mean?
Mark: Oh you mean personally? Ahh, a little bit man, not so bad, we are all pretty good friends, we been together a long time, we all know what we are doing, ahh yea, I think there was more of those types of challenges during sound awake. These challenges were a little bit different, these challenges were a little bit more musical, time frame kind of challenges, not to say it was all smooth sailing, obviously, you cant have 5 people that are as head strong about music as what we are and have them get along 100% of the time, its all in the nature of making the best album we can. None of its narky or anything like that. Its all a part of the process.
Michael: Yes, of course. Now you guys did a tour a while ago for what I’m led to believe was to play a couple of the songs on Asymmetry, how confident were you guys going out in front of the fans with the new material, would you say it helped with the preparation of asymmetry?
Mark: Do you mean how confident we’re we playing the new material back then?
Mark: Not that confident to be honest, its something we decided as a band to do. A lot of bands don’t do it, they don’t present stuff that isn’t finished. For us we really appreciate what our crowds tell us through playing these 75 or sometimes even only 65% finished
songs. For us we value what a live song can do and how it feels so doing that with music for us is something that we agreed to do, and then we will sit back and say how did that go maybe that didn’t go very well or that this worked and that worked and that effects how the song continued to transpire throughout the creation period from everything from lyrics down to structure down to everything, you can really feel what a crowd likes and doesn’t like, umm. Not to say it will always sway the dierection of the song but we do take it into advice down the path of completion.
Michael: Awesome, So how involved are you in the writing process, does Ian Kenny involve you guys in the writing of the lyrics and vise versa does he have much influence over direction of the music?
Mark: Yeah we all get involved in everything mate. In Sound Awake it was a little bit of everybody and everything, this album we did it a little bit different, I mean Kenny was away a lot of the time with his other band, so a lot of it was more musically created to begin
with and then melodies came later which we you did for half the songs on Sound Awake anyway, so there was just more of a push on that one I think. And lyrically we all definitely get involved. Kenny we sing what we call babble, which is getting the melody line over the songs and sometimes those will make sense, often they don’t, and then we will pick and choose what works and what doesn’t and we will rewrite the lyrics for the mood and the scene to suit the overall process of the album and the songs.
Michael: So obviously Ian Kenny is the front man of another massive Australian band, does that course any conflicts for the music with in the band does it bring up any challenges for you?
Mark: Not really man, I think if anything sometimes it makes us a little bit heavier, because you try and not think about it, obviously its going to be a small factor, I think sometimes we like to rebel against a lot of that haha, so sometimes we tend to write some heavy songs that he has to yell into which he doesn’t often do which he doesn’t often do with his other project. That’s about it the only other things are things like time and involvement commitment, which is basically organized by our management who organize our good timings to get us together some time throughout the year. But it is getting harder as the years go on.
Michael: Yeah I could imagine. Are there any particular songs for you on the album that really stick out, are there any personal favourites?
Mark: Yeah there is quite a few, the one that really sticks out for me at the moment, I mean I only just got a copy of the thing a couple of days ago, so I had that nice feeling of potentially not getting the album back for a couple of months and then giving it a good listen, and the one that stuck for me the most on that full listen was “Aon”, I think we really captured some emotion in that song, its something I’m quite proud of, it still moves me when I hear it, its got to be a sign of we did something right I hope, so that one is definitely a stand out one for me.
Michael: Awesome, that’s good! I know this may seem like a silly question do you ever just go home and listen to your own music and say “wow that’s or awesome, or maybe I shouldn’t have done that”?
Mark: hahaha ahh its never that’s awesome. Whenever you listen to your own music its with a very critical ear, which is just frustrating as hell even now and then I think most musicians would tell you that when you listen back to your own album all you can think about is is awwww I wish I got my own way there. Or aww I wish I did that differently or what the hell was that. Its part and parcel of being a creative unit I think mate, you cant ever let go of your critique, I think if you do your not doing the best by your own music.
Michael: hahaha, well if it makes you feel any better I think its one of the most awesome things I have heard so
far this year!
Mark: hahaha cheers for that I appreciate that!
Michael: No worries,
Michael: Can you describe to us what the inspiration of the direction of the album both musically and lyrically?
Mark: Ahh yea sure man. There was no direction when we started writing it was just a process of writing some cool bits and pieces, that was when we were touring sound awake while we are doing sound checks and in hotel rooms. Then you get a core of songs I think it was 3 or 4 songs that we did. And we started listening to them and we’re thinking this sounds quite bipolar it sounds like 2 parts, like a male and female or a “ying and yang” or up and down, or what ever like heavy and soft, so we were like where does that leave and that put us about with symmetry and Asymmetry, which is the whole left and right process of the brain weather it be the creative brain left and right , the body and soul left and right or the music thing left and right, the list could go on forever, Facing that, and theme if this music is bipolar, which to me and to us I think we thought was a negative thing in music because nothing gelled we had to think how do we turn this into a positive aspect? How do we make this our asset? Not our liability? That obviously led us to writing some different songs and taking some different paths as we do with music and keep ripping it apart until we come up with something that we like. But I think with asymmetry the magic was very strong from that point onward, and it was really showing through and it helped us to create an album that is very enzymatic from start to finish and incorporates all the things that we wanted to get in there.
Michael: That’s awesome. The producer of the album Nick Didda who has previously worked with Rage Against The Machine and Mastadon,both of which are fantastic bands who have put out some great records, how was your experience working with him? It was great man really good, really challenging but umm, obviously not all smooth sailing, it was the first time we used a producer who wasn’t Forrester Syvell, who we used on the last albums, even in the early days on the EP’s, so umm, working with Nick was the obvious choice in the end, we wanted to work at 3o1 Studio’s in Byron bay, mainly because we wanted to use the drum room, well its not really a room it’s a hall way, and when you have a room made for drum sound so drums are actually quite important to us, I think
we are all drummers at heat in this band, so um that was a priority for where we wanted to record and nick had just moved from L.A. to set up residency at this studio, we had talked to him before and he was on our short list, so it became an obvious choice to use him, and yea it didn’t come with out a set of challenges, we have a very particular way of writing and recording and nick also has a way of writing and recording, ours is fairly abstract and id almost say stupid haha, and his is very professional and correct so there was obviously a meeting of worlds, so yeah once again it didn’t come with out a set of challenges. We think the final product is good and is rewarding from the perspective of what we were trying to achieve.
Mcihael: Yeah nice, would you like to enlighten us to some of your achievements since being in Karnviool, whether it be people you have met or any tours you have been on.
Mark: Uhh highlights man, I think the whole trip has been a highlight I think, its just been a lot of fun, it’s a strange band, you know it is challenging, it does attack you on many levels, you half the time your sorta pulling your hair out, and the other half is touring or you know finishing writing or having a wonderful moment in the writing process where you say you can see why this is all working, and just having fun together, and still have that time together after all that time that we have been together. Its definitely musically and personally a rewarding thing that we are doing together. There are many highlights I mean that last trip we did out to India was ridiculous. I think we went there intending to play to about 300 at a university gig, but we ended up playing to 5000 in an auditorium,and they were all singing along, so its moments like that, that you sorta pinch yourself, and that happened at quite a few places around the world, it was just “a pinch your self moment” like that where you say people are obviously getting into this and people are appreciating what we are doing, and its rewarding to us from that aspect for many reasons.
Michael: That’s great to hear. Are you yourself working with any other acts at the moment, or looking at doing anything else besides karnivool in years to come?
Aww man, we are always doing bits and pieces, I’m originally from Melbourne and I have a lot of friends back there, I’m always playing and writing for different projects, most of its under the cover sorta stuff, I’m sure there will be soon enough, there is a few things on the go but nothing to name or report just yet, I’m sure something will happen down the track. We’re the kind of band that has always said you just cant do Karnivool you have to do other musical projects to get the best out of your self I think it makes you better people when you do come back to the band if you have had the chance to explore other avenues as well.
Michael: Yeah definitely. So whats next for Karnivool? Support for the album or any headlining events?
Mark: well its album tour in a couple of weeks, which will be fantastic, We are going out with a band called Northlane.
Michael: Awesome band.
Mark: Very very cool bunch of kids they are, great guys I think it will be a good fun run. Then we are back over to Europe doing some club shows which is great because its coming off the back of a festival we did at the start of the year. That will bring us close to
Christmas, so we will have a bit of time off over Christmas, maybe some festival runs and see how that goes. Then we will be in the states at some point in time next year, then onto India and Asia. Just basically tour man. Tour as much as what we can off this album, and push it as much as we can over 2014. Then some point in time we will realize we have to write another album and kick into that. Haha, we might even take a bit of a breather and concentrate on getting our lives set right.
Michael: A well deserved breather too at some point I’m sure.
Mark: Cheers man.
Michael : Thanks for taking the call and congratulations on the new album and good luck with it.
Mark: Awesome man thanks for having a chat with us
Michael: Thanks very much.
So there you have it guys Mark Hosking talking about Asymmetry, Great artists with a fantastic album, as you can see I really enjoyed talking to him.
You can read the review for the new album here: https://thesonicsensory.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/karnivool-asymmetry/
Buy/Pre-order ‘Asymmetry’ from here: http://karnivool.com.au/music