Karnivool are one of Australia’s finest prog rock exports. Hailing from Perth, the band has reached incredible heights, representing Australia by touring all over the world, playing at some of the world’s biggest music festivals. Guitarist Mark Hosking took some time to chat to killyourstereo.com about the group’s new album ‘Asymmetry,’ and the upcoming ‘Polymorphism’ tour with fellow local acts Dead Letter Circus and sleepmakeswaves.
Hey Mark, how are you this afternoon?
I’m great man, just in…well, I want to say sunny Perth, but it’s not too sunny. More slightly overcast, but not too bad.
Thanks for taking the time out to chat to killyourstereo today. You guys released your latest album ‘Asymmetry’ in July this year. How have you found the reception so far for the album?
Amazing. Absolutely amazing. We’ve seen some very thoughtful responses, and some very mature responses. There’s been a lot of people saying, “I didn’t quite get it at first, but I’ve given it a good listen and I’m really into it,” which is great, it’s what we really love to hear. People are putting some real time into listening and getting the most out of it.
We knew it was going to be a challenging album. We went in with having an idea of making an album that would be challenging, and an appreciation of it. The touring we’ve done off it around the world is great. It’s just awesome to see so many people all over the place that really get what we’re doing. It’s mind boggling really, especially for us.
How did you guys challenge yourself in the writing and recording process for this album?
Basically, we went in saying, “let’s not doing anything we’ve done, or anything we’re really good at. Let’s really challenge ourselves,” and that mentality took us into airs we hadn’t really gone into, and it takes our writing to new places. That’s our first rule of writing. Then obviously there’s the important stuff that we always do like making sure we get all of the emotion in there, and being able to walk away from it saying “this really means a lot to me.” Sometimes that comes across really easily, but other times it’s not that easy, and that’s why it takes so long for us to write albums (laughs).
But you know, nothing extreme. We never really went to any extremes with trying to experiment, just tried a lot of different things. Different instrumentation, different writing process, different tools, surrounding ourselves with different people. We tried to have a good balance of challenging and familiar, and I think that’s an important balance to have in an album.
The word ‘asymmetry’ is defined as “an absence, or violation of symmetry.” How would you say that is characteristic of the album?
I think it’s a great representation of the album. Initially, that was just a jam we had floating around. We really had no intention of it being the title at the time, but during the writing process we thought, you know, lots of these songs seem quite bipolar. They’re aggresive in parts, and soft in parts, and it really felt like the only thing that was tying them together was this lack of symmetry, or the inability to find a balance.
The hardest thing for us was trying to make that sound good. At the start of the writing we were like “this really isn’t coming together” and then when we would get to a point where it would work and we’d be like “how did we make that happen?” That was the first sort of prognosis for us in representing it as an asymmetric function. Especially in music, and the ‘symmetry’ you find in music all the times. The little bit of light in the dark or the dark in the light. All these different things culminate in a picture that for us, was asymmetric. It’s a grandiose word that for me, represents something quite simplistic. Hopefully, despite all the complexities in our music there is a very simple basis to it that can be represented quite well.
What do you think makes ‘Asymmetry’ stand out among your other releases?
I think it’s a good representation of where we’re at as individuals. And I think thats all we’re ever going to try and do with an album. I don’t think we’ve ever tried to push too hard or be too intense, it’s more just what we create. I don’t think we could ever have written an album differently to be honest.
As much as we have these grandiose blueprints for albums, more than half the time, we just throw them out the window and just run with what’s working, and what feels good and what feels right. Feeling is very important to us in our music, in the audible and inaudible. I think in the end, it’s just the album we wrote at this time. I think it comes across as a challenging album, because in many ways, it was challenging for us. We were going through certain phases in our lives and musically, and it was harder to get together, and things like that made this album what it is. It’s simply a reflection of where we were when we wrote it, and we were really happy with how it turned out.
You guys worked with Nick DiDia as producer on the record. What do you feel he added to the process?
He added a lot. Not much of anything new for us. As much as I like to think were open to new things, I think we’re often quite set in our ways, so it’s always a challenge working with someone new, but Nick was a great choice to work with, especially because of his back catalogue. You know, the Peter Gabriel stuff, and the Mastodon stuff he did.
It was perfect timing for us, because he had just moved from LA to Byron, and we’ve always wanted to use that Byron studio, cause it’s a really great studio. So in the end, it was just great timing and a fantastic experience to work with him. I think a lot of the times we frustrated the hell out of him, but there would’ve been a lot of it that was enjoyed. The progressive elements, the writing, the experimentation with lots of new toys that he brought in, which was amazing.
Obviously it came with it’s own challenges and problems, but I think it worked quite well, and he brought that outside perspective that we often need as a band, that says “let’s do it, let’s keep moving,” or “we’re spending too much time here, let’s move along” and that kick in the arse I think was an important thing that we needed. Being external would’ve made that much easier for him as well.
You guys will be hitting Australia on the back of Asymmetry for the second time in January for the Polymorphism tour with Dead Letter Circus. How are you feeling about that?
Excited. Very excited. It’s a bit of a dream come true tour. It’s three great Australian bands. Well, two great Australain bands and us (laughs). We’re touring around good aussie venues to good aussie crowds. I think there are a lot of tours going around that don’t represent enough good Australian talent, and so we’re excited to do that. It’s going to be very proggy, so come ready for that. We’re going to have a lot of fun and have a really great time.
You guys and Dead Letter Circus toured together years ago. Do you want to share some of your best memories from that tour?
It’s a bit of a blur to me to be honest. I was trying to remember that tour, but I only really remember a few of the shows. For us, it was more of a feeling from it, and we’re getting to know those guys all over again now, but it feels like they’re old family members or something. It’s going to be a really fresh, fun tour, and it’s with a bunch of guys we love and respect.
But, Dead Letter Circus are an amazing band, and I’m so excited that Australia has such talent to share with the world. Good memories with them, but blurred memories. I’m looking forward to refreshing them!
You’re bringing another Australian band, sleepmakeswaves out on the tour as well. How did the relationship with those guys come about?
They actually played with us on our last Aussie run. They’re an amazing instrumental band, and they’re doing some great things overseas as well, particularly in Europe and a few other countries. It’s a really good chance to be touring with a couple of similar bands to us.
Usually that’s not how we do things. We go for bands that are quite different and try and challenge our audience a bit, and keep things different and eclectic. This tour, is a bit of a step away from our rulebook in bringing together three similar sounding bands, and making it a bit more ‘user-friendly.’ We all have similar vibes and energy, and it’s gonna make it a really fun tour.
How does playing club shows in Australia compare to playing some of the biggest festivals in the world like Sonisphere or Download?
They’re two very different beasts, honestly. It’s something of a ‘grass is greener’ scenario. When you’re playing the festivals, all you want to do is get back into the club shows so you can feel a connection with people. You lose that a bit with the festivals, but at the same time, you gain this amazing, grandiose spectacle. That’s the nature of festivals. You lose a bit of sound quality and all of that, but it becomes it’s own great thing, whereas club shows are very intimate. You fell as if you’re playing to someone, whereas with a festival you’re palying to a mass.
We’ve had some amazing experiences, and I generally wouldn’t give up either, but generally, when you’re doing one, you want to be doing the other. (laughs)
What can people expect from your upcoming tour that we wouldn’t have seen on previous tours?
You’ll hear some material from ‘Asymmetry.’ We’re going to play some songs that we’ve never played live before to Australian audiences, which is exciting. We’re packaging the tour as a real power rock show as well. We’re also pushing the fun element a lot. We’re going to be playing with some great bands at great venues to great people, full of friends. The Australian audiences generally get us a lot more, and it’s very exciting. It’s going to be a great run I think.
Your vocalist Ian Kenny is also the frontman of Birds of Tokyo. With Karnivool and Birds of Tokyo being two of the bigger bands in Australia at the moment, do you feel as if there’s any tension between the two acts, with both obviously having very demanding schedules?
We work pretty well around it. The only tension is scheduling really, we’re all great friends, Perth buddies. The scheduling is more of a tension for our management to be honest. We just get the email saying ‘this is what you’re doing,’ so really, it’s someone else’s problem (laughs). But yeah, it’s great seeing such great success coming out of Perth and coming out of Australia. It seems to work out somehow, somehow, magically.
All right, I might just give a few quick questions to finish up if that’s all right with you? What’s your favourite Australian album to be released this year?
That’s a very good question. …Probably sleepmakeswaves latest release. Or maybe that was last year. That’s the one that’s in my mind at the moment. That one’s a cracker!
Who’s been your favourite band to have toured with throughout your career?
There’s been a few great bands. The one that sticks out the most is a band called Skindred. We made some pretty good mates in that band doing some US touring, and then went on to do some shows in Europe with them. Amazing guys, and their live show is incredible.
If you could have a conversation with yourself back in 2003 when you joined Karnivool, what advice would you give to yourself?
Try and write albums quicker. I know it wouldn’t work, but I’d still say it. (laughs)
Any final words before we finish up?
Thank you for supporting us and ‘Asymmetry.’ We’re super excited to get out and see you guys again in January! Come out to a show and say hey.