Australian rock band, Karnivool will be playing two concerts in South Africa: Mercury Live in Cape Town on Friday, 22nd of April and at the Bassline in Joburg on Saturday, the 23rd of April. It will be their first time ever in South Africa.
You can get tickets for either show over here.
We spoke to guitarist, Mark Hosking about the early days, their fame in India, music in general and their excitement about finally coming to South Africa.
If you have to look back at the beginning stages of your band – you guys were doing Nirvana and Carcass covers. Those two thing don’t even remotely fall into the same category. What were you guys thinking back then?
Hahaha, well that set the basis for the rest of the crew and the band, I think especially the members that make up the band. We have such an eclectic taste among us. Kenny definitely has the pop sensibility and loves a good pop tune, has great melody sense. Drew and John are much more heavier fans. Grungy, heavy fans. And then Steve’s world of hip-hop and those things come in. I don’t know where I sit among that catacomb…
Well, apparently somewhere between Nirvana and Carcass…
Hahaha, most likely. But yeah I mean that is what we love about this pot because that is what it is – a melting pot. Every time when we come together we bring such different pieces to the puzzle and I think that sort of helps what makes up the flavour of what this band is.
If you had to back in time, looking at when you band formed back in the days, what would you go and tell your 20-year old self?
Don’t do it, man! Haha, I don’t know man. I often think about that. I guess you’re always assessing saying “what can I do better?” because we sort of work in this what’s become this four year cycle of recording, you know, write, record. Every time it comes around to where you know you’ve been before you think “how the heck did I do this better?”. It doesn’t seem to matter what you tell yourself, man. You never change your spots so to speak. You’ve always got that thing that makes up who you are and a part of that is the fact that you can be dysfunctional when you’re trying to be dysfunctional. I think if I had to tell myself anything back then it would be “Enjoy it more” because sometimes you just get lost in the work load and sometimes you just get lost in the art, I guess. Or the aesthetics. So sometimes it is just nice to stop and say “Look, this is a lot of fun. What we do is a lot of fun. We’re pretty lucky people”.
I just want to quickly touch on what you mentioned about the cycle. It seems like you guys take lot of time between albums. I’m not saying it is abnormal, but did you guys fall into a sort of cycle? Is it something that you are worried about?
Yeah, its definitely cyclic. We get pressure from management, we get pressure from the record label, we get pressure from fans as well I guess to write music quicker. And it is not like we don’t take that on board. We listen to that and say “Got it. If we could, we would”, you know? We do try. Generally the process for us is a case of: write a song, put it aside and let it sit there and let it do its own fermenting like a bottle of wine of whatever. Let it do its thing and then come back to it and listen to it again when its had a chance to grow by itself. And that just takes time and we’ve tried many times to speed up the process by throwing more hours at it, throwing more studio time, throwing more collective energy at it but for some reason (and to our own detriment obviously as a touring band) it seems to fall back to this elongated period of time which tends to be around three to four years. Its certainly not something we’d like to be that long. We’d love to pop out an album every six months. To be honest if we could, we would but it just doesn’t seem possible with the type of music we write and the type of music we want it to be.
Ja, it is not like you’re beating out pop tunes with a back track and just laying shitty lyrics all over it, you know?
I guess that’s true. Our lyrics are pretty shitty, don’t get me wrong, haha! When you’re saying that… Some of the songs we’ve written have taken honestly a week to write. Some of those songs have honestly taken 14 months, 15 months to write, so it is totally dependent on the track, it is totally dependent on the mood. It is totally dependent on five completely different dudes agreeing on something. That can often add a few months to a song. It is just a process as I said and we do want to better it but we’re fine that it has its own breath and its own life that keeps drawing itself out, not shortening itself.
You’ve mentioned pressure from the record labels. Aren’t they going the way of the dinosaur with keeping up with bands sort of doing their own things these days? I mean with the internet and all the tools at their disposal. What do you think they are doing to prevent their own extinction?
I think record labels are doing everything they can to prevent it. To be honest, I don’t have that dark, brooding sense that I used to have whenever the words “record labels” are brought up and…
No, I din’t mean it in the “dark way”. I just sort of have a feeling that they need to adapt somehow.
No sure, maybe I was just looking at it that way, haha. They used to be pretty dark beasts, you know? They used to be just all about the money. I guess if you are talking about the business side of any industry of course its gonna come with negative connotations. I think they’re doing all they can. I think they are finding great ways to re-invigorate what it is they do. It is obviously as you say much more of a challenge when you’ve got powers in musicians hands like the internet, like free-form distribution, online distribution, online digital sales. All these things that are taking out the middle man and making that percentage that you can throw at people to work for you much smaller but in saying that – they keep finding a way and like with any industry they either find a way or they don’t. If they don’t, they become extinct and if they do, they carry on. I think there is still a place for them. Its just obviously very much changed from what it was 10, 5, 20 year ago.
Ja, true… I just want touch on something weird that I picked up. You guys tour Oz, The States and so on but tell us about India? You seem to have a very large support base in India. Isn’t it a bit strange? What is that all about?
Sure, I completely agree. We didn’t know either. The first time we went to India we thought we were playing a very small college festival and we thought “Look, we’ll do it. Its on the back of the US run and it is on our way home. Let’s make it happen because we all wanted to go there to find out about the country if nothing else. And to meet some local musicians from there.”
What we thought was this little college festival ended up being a large outdoor auditorium, six, seven thousand people and we thought “Ah OK, there’s a lot of people here but its a college festival. They must all be here because its a ticket to an event. There’s something going on. No-one’s gonna know who we are. Let’s just have fun with it”
We got out there and did the show and everybody sang every single lyric and I think that just sort of left us in a shock and awe kind of thing and there’s obviously a movement here for that kind of music and people really dig what we’ve done. That wasn’t record sales. That was word of mouth. That was illegal downloads or whatever it is that was going on but there was definitely a student movement I guess you can call it. An appreciation for that style of music that is obviously still there today. That was an absolute mind boggle for us.
That’s very cool because it shows you that you’ve sort of got an investment there. You can always go back there because your music has somehow weirdly spread to there.
Oh absolutely! And the funny thing is: because it is India, it is not a huge… I guess the record company would call it a fiscal market. It is not a huge market for us in that sense because as I said you don’t do record sales there and the show ticket prices are obviously quite low so its not like we say: “Let’s go there and really cash in”. It is “let’s go back there and enjoy what that place is or what that place has to offer musically and what people are vibing on there and we try and get back there…
Not a lot of bands will do that. They’ll be like “Ugh it doesn’t make financial sense, so we’re gonna skip that country”. So that’s very cool of you guys to do that.
Yeah it’s true, but we were kinda lucky as well. I mean they’re not on our doorstep but they are a hop, skip and a jump on our way or ways to Europe or America so we are very lucky. And we’re very appreciative of the response they have given to our music.
So how did you guys decide on South Africa?
None of us has stepped a foot in your country. It is a place we’ve always had on the list. Like India it is a place we’ve had a lot of emails from. A lot of people have reached out to us saying “Please come!” Whenever management says “Where would you like to go on that dream list of places that aren’t really the normal places to go?” we’ve had South Africa on that list. We’d wanted to get there for a long time, you know Dead Letter Circus, Frenzal Rhomb, a whole bunch of Ozzie bands have been over there and really enjoyed the experience and we really want to be part of it. We’ll jump sideways to play a live gig in a territory we haven’t played in before. So it is exciting and we’re very exciting to go there.
Anything in particular you wanna check out while you’re over here?
Obviously the standard tourist stuff that we’re all pretty excited about. And the country’s history is amazing but more than that from the emails we received and people talking about music and expressing their appreciating for different styles of music… I mean to be honest that is one of the thing we really enjoy about touring around. We are such music nerds, we kind of just enjoy chatting to people about music and you find when you go to different countries and you experience different local scenes you get so much about it that you can’t get from an e-mail conversation, reading a book or whatever.
We can’t wait to have you guys over here.
Fantastic, we’re really looking forward to it.