Interview by Tracy Moyle – The Music Maven
A bellow of excitement rippled through the hearts of progressive metal fans around the world last week when Brisbane’s very much adored Caligula’s Horse released their fifth studio album ‘Rise Radiant’. These modern day minstrel’s of metal have brought us eight tracks, meticulously crafted and pieced together by each of these talented musicians. The album was again fully produced by the bands lead guitarist and production wizard, Sam Vallen, bringing out each songs purest intentions track by track. ‘Rise Radiant’ is an album that embraces and applies the true intricacies of progressive metal without over complicating the musical experience.
This week our Music Maven, Tracey Moyle caught up with drummer Josh Griffin to find out more about the characteristics of the songs, talk about the abundance of talent within the band, those two special bonus tracks and so much more.
Congratulations on the release of Rise Radiant. How’s everything with the band?
“Yeah wonderful actually it’s been a pretty crazy few days now following the release. It’s been a ride.”
It’s a great album I absolutely love it.
“Thank you, thank you very much.”
I was lucky enough to get to preview and review the album, you may have seen the write up?
“Yeah, I’m one of those guys, and I think we all are in the band, we read all the reviews. And it’s not an ego thing, we genuinely love to see people’s reactions to it.”
The album for me drew out a whole plethora of emotions from the first listen. That’s something that, as a band, you guys seem to do so well, the beautiful story that you tell with lyrics and of course, Jim vocals, they have such a truly empathetic resonance. Do you feel that? Is it something that comes naturally to him?
“Like anything, when we’re perform, be it live or making the album itself, your emotionally connecting with everything you do and that’s how we all feel. There’s the technical aspect that you have to have your concentration in and then you’ve got muscle memory going on, as well as paying attention to your part.
But there’s also such an emotional connection to every aspect of the music for us. And Jim still continually surprises me every single time. One of my favourite moments on the album is in Oceanrise, there’s this one vocal moment that he does towards the end of the song. It’s guitar and him the only two things. It’s raw and it’s powerful and it’s emotional. I was talking to Sam about it and he described it as, because he loves it too, it’s like right at that moment Jim’s in front of you basically yelling and your face. It’s such a powerful moment, I think anytime that you find yourself going through the motions, even when you’re connecting with everything you’re doing, I think that those moments are so frequent and you just remember that.
Yeah, it comes naturally to him, with his voice. And even just his stage banter for example, he’s such a naturally funny quick-witted guy and he’s so charming as well. You know, even when we’re wiping out faces down or getting ready to do the next song, he’ll throw something out there and we’ll all sort of stop for a moment and look at him and lose it, just absolutely lose it, ‘cause he still surprises us.”
It’s not just the vocals and lyrics that’s magical, you seem to be able to showcase each artist within the band but still have it all come together perfectly. Musically with your song writing process are you given a creative freedom or is there someone who is a, master conductor I guess, who tends to see it all and bring it together?
“I think it’s a bit of both. I think Sam is definitely that role, The Master, he is the overseer of everything. The creative nucleus and the core of this band has always been Jim and Sam. When it comes to our parts you know, the song’s written, Sam wants to hear certain things, but for me from the drumming perspective, if he doesn’t like something I’m doing and he’s like ‘yeah I’m not a fan it’s getting in the way of something else’. But otherwise it’s – make it yours make it cool make it interesting. And I got to do that with ‘In Contact’ because I joined the band in 2016 and not even a year later we had the album ready to go. So I didn’t have a lot of time to put a lot of myself into that until it was real crunch time. This time around with ‘Rise Radiant’ you not only had time to make your part your own, we also had the opportunity for writing contribution this time. So the canvas just got a little bit bigger.”
Especially in The Tempest I find that it’s like you’re showcasing your own musical skills and your own individual parts, but even though you’re doing that it still manages to fit together perfectly like some crazy puzzle that’s just meant to be. In The Tempest especially, it really stands out.
“Absolutely. It’s funny, talking The Tempest, within the band we all kind of felt that song. It is one of the best representations of what we do and it is that puzzle.
I had another interview where they were focusing more on the technical intricacies of progressive music and it was definitely interesting, and we do have that.
The most important thing for us is that, we love the technical aspect but it can never get in the way of the song. And that’s something that Sam works very hard to cultivate is that these things are layered, they’re textured and they’re technical and they’re complex but it’s cohesive, so it comes across so that it’s digestible. The more crazy aspects of progressive metal, like the Dream Theater mode, is we have the standard structure like verse, chorus, bridge etc, then when you get to the instrumental section and you get to the end, we have a more standard structure and it’s such a clear definition that we like to incorporate it into one package. I mean I love seeing people mosh for example, I love seeing the crowd go nuts and moving and feel something and we get to get our little technical prowess into the songs without sacrificing the beat, the groove and the feel of the song. It’s so awesome to hear it when you say that’s the vibe you get. It means that it’s working it means that people are getting that. They’re not getting overwhelmed with the technicality of it or too much detail.”
That’s definitely not the case. With ’Rise Radiant’, it’s something different compared to the previous albums, for example in the review I did of the album, I described Valkyrie as a worthy battle cry for the fallen gods, where as Salt was like a musical kaleidoscope and Autumn was simply so reflective and beautiful. Just those three songs stand out as being so very different to each other. In comparison, this time it feels like, I guess, each song has it’s own story rather than previously feeling the whole adventure? Does that make sense?
Read the ‘Rise Radiant’ album review HERE
“Yeah. Absolutely. Even with ‘In Contact’ it was a concept album with a big sprawling narrative and even though it tells very intimate and personal stories there’s a thread. Whereas with this one, there’s thematic connections, lyrically especially, but they’re all self-contained stories adventures and musical journeys.
I think when you do that you have a broad spectrum of what you can play with, you know, we can do something like Salt. I remember hearing the demo for that the first time and saying to Sam, honestly I thought he was mad. I thought he had lost his mind because there’s just so much going on, it so crazy, it’s dramatic, it’s emotional. Then when we were talking about song order and things like that and Jim and Sam had written Resonate and it was like ‘whoa!’ We’ve just gone from something dramatic like Salt and then we take a breath with something as atmospheric as Resonate. I mean, I love having the broad spectrum of stuff to play, you know, like with Autumn. I remember conversations with Sam, we’d never done a real ballad before. There’s the softer elements of some songs, but this was a full out and out ballad. We were a little bit nervous about it but the song speaks for itself it’s gorgeous, it has this beautiful crescendo to it. And then – Valkyrie. Well, we like riffs. We love the riffs and you know, it’s nice to take a break from that concept album and I love working in that format, it’s so much fun, but to just tell individual stories, is something that we truly relish.”
I saw you guys at The Zoo last year and you played both ‘The Tide, the Thief and Rivers End’ and ‘Bloom’ in full. That was a big thing playing two albums in full, but what really stood out to me was the crowd. They just hung off every word and every note the whole night. It was amazing.
“I’ll never forget that one because you’re asking your fans to be there for two hours of pretty intense music and everyone was there for the ride. It was an amazing night. It was exhausting, ‘cause that was some crazy arse music to play from top to bottom but it was so much fun.”
You’ve added two covers to the album on Spotify, which weren’t there when I did the review. You’ve got Peter Gabriel Don’t Give Up and Message to My Girl by Split Enz. How were these songs chosen?
So usually what we’ve done with the bonus tracks previously, was that we would do a acoustic reinterpretation of a previous song. And we looked at ‘In Contact’ and we couldn’t find a way to do an acoustic version of something that wasn’t meaningful, that didn’t have its own purpose. So we were kind of like, ‘alright, let’s move on from that idea for now and think about covers’. We were in Mexico last year on the South American tour that we did and I can’t remember who it was, one of us was singing the chorus to Message To My Girl and we all just went ‘oh wow that song’, losing our minds over it and we just kept singing it all day. Then, I’m pretty sure it was Sam said ‘we could do that as the song’. There was no hesitation, we all said yeah absolutely, let’s go and do a Split Enz song because Neil Finn’s the greatest. So that started there and we actually had a different song picked for the second one and we were all passionate about it and really enjoying the idea and we realised the song was making a little bit too much of a statement. So we chose not to go in that direction. Then Jim actually came to the table with Don’t Give Up. We’re all huge Genesis fans and we love Peter Gabriel and it also felt that, at the time we picked it, Australia was going through the bush fire tragedy and it just felt like it had such a poignant message just at that time alone. So we thought we could do a really meaningful representation of that song that’s not just a carbon copy cover and have it feel creatively satisfying for us. It’s funny how that works out, considering not long after that the world gets struck with a pandemic, and we’re all locked in our houses. It’s funny how that took a turn, the meaning of Don’t Give Up, it’s more poignant than ever isn’t it?”
Yes it’s absolutely is. The album again has been entirely produced by Sam. It must be amazing having such a talented producer within the band? You don’t have to search for someone outside, just to try and ‘fit in’ with the music. You’ve got someone there who knows exactly what you want.
“Absolutely. It means that you get to stay true to your vision, and that’s something Sam already has a passion for – producing, and he’s so extremely talented at it. And speaking of the puzzle element of song writing, he loves putting it together, pulling that amazing drum sound, getting those toned guitar and bass times just right, so it’s just a natural organic process for him now and that to have that sort of complete creative control over your art in that way, it is really important to all of us. But it also does save us a bit of money. (laughs) We’re fortunate you know, we may need to go to a studio to do the drums and things like that, but you know, Sam doesn’t rip himself off. If you want to get a decent producer for the sort of stuff you want to do, you end up spending a lot of money. So who better to do it than somebody who writes the songs and just understands that creative direction?”
And you’ve also got your guitarist Adrian (Goleby) and bass player Dale (Prinsse) who do the music production for the videos.
“Yes. Phenomenal talent. It’s such a multifaceted band really, everyone’s got their own extra skill set aside from their musical instruments.”
You’ve released three songs from ‘Rise Radiant’ already The Tempest, Slow Violence and Valkyrie. Have got have you got anything else that you going to release from the album?
“We’re talking about it, thinking about it. I think particularly with us not being able to tour at the moment, they’ll be another little thing coming soon I suspect. Can’t give anymore away.” (laughs)
I see OK. (laughs) Sounds interesting. You guys are with Wild Things Presents and they have just announced a merger with Destroy All Lines Agency, so what does this mean for Caligula’s Horse? More opportunities I imagine?
“Realistically we’ve got a lot more resources at our disposal now. And there’s so many artists that we can possibly connect with now. What I also love about it is, it’s a really united front, you know. That’s a huge part of our industry that gets to unite under one banner and I feel that support network straight away. I think we’re really good at that in this country but this is just that another step further in that direction. It’s only going to mean wonderful things for all the bands, I believe, under the umbrella.”
I imagine you are all probably itching to get back to play live just like every other band. With the pubs and clubs slowly opening up again it occurred to me that it’s going to be a while before international artists will likely tour here so this is going to open up a great opportunity for local bands at these venues, to be playing more often and playing to bigger crowds because people are going to want to go and see music.
“Yeah, absolutely. I was actually saying to my wife the other day that the vibe I’m getting from this is that it feels like we’re gonna have a real resurgence, like the 90’s with Australian alternative music. That mid 90’s period was huge and it was also so local and I feel like we’re heading in that direction once again and as much as I love my international bands and international acts, I’m super excited about that possibility.”
Are you in the process of discussing what is next for Caligula’s Horse or are you just lying laying low waiting for everything to go back to normal?
“Just waiting to see what happens next at the moment. The American tour that we were due to go on, we were supposed to be on it right now. It’s literally waiting to see what’s happening in the world and when we can get back out there. We are just super keen to get out and start playing this music. I tell you, this thing that we’re hopefully going to get out soon, we did something for it on the weekend, as we were playing through the thing, we were like ‘wow how much do we miss this’, it just made us nostalgic for touring. I think sometimes you can get caught up in all the logistics of touring, time away, the time away from family, the 15-16 hour flights, hours at a time on the tour bus. But at this time we’re really nostalgic for that, but we’ve just got to wait and see.”
Yes we are definitely all in limbo.
“And I think what’s relative to is that it’s nice to have the album coming out. Just that little bit of a reminder, that little ray of sunshine – here’s some new music, the world hasn’t completely stopped. Things are still happening and it’s nice to have that reminder I think.”
There is a lot of band and artist activity on social media now. A lot of artists that wouldn’t ordinarily personally connect with their fans are on Instagram and on Facebook live, talking to the fans and making comments and it has really filled that gap I think, and brought the fans and a lot of, particularly bigger international artists, together.
“Oh yes absolutely, more so than ever before. Like, we’re pretty close with our fans but now that interaction; it’s what we’ve got more than anything else. And couple that with the release of the album, because I was sort of saying to somebody else how the response to the album has been, it’s been a great response, but more so it’s overwhelming because of the timing of it. Everyone is responding so much more to this with that emotional connection so the response to it has been huge and it’s been inspiring us to get on our social media. I woke up on the morning of the release with my DM’s in Instagram chock-a-block full of people who had been sending me messages saying they loved the new album, your performance is amazing, I’ve got tears, so on and so forth. We’d never really had that before and I think it’s really important to engage. It’s nice to bridge the gap a little bit you know, without going too far, it’s really nice the interactions have been wonderful.”
The best result is very much a two-way thing. When the fans absolutely adore the artist and the artist or the band absolutely adores their fans you get that very reciprocal love and energy flowing through which makes it such a heightened experience at a live show.
“Absolutely, yeah. And I think when you spend the time to cultivate that relationship it only yields those amazing results. You know one thing I will always say with the fans, is that every show is just such an emotion filled journey you know, like you look out at one point and there’s people there in the front row that are crying, they’re just in tears because of the moment that everyone sharing and it just makes that emotional connection you have with your performance. So what you’re emotionally connecting with, with the fans in the audience, it becomes tenfold then it’s truly….. I’m getting goose-bumps thinking about it.
It’s why we do these things, that’s why we do it.”
And I appreciate the fact that you do it, because it makes me happy.
Caligula’s Horse ‘Rise Radiant is available now on all major music streaming platforms.
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With thanks to Dallas Does PR