INTERVIEW: Josh Griffin – Caligula’s Horse

In the past decade or so, the Australian music scene (particularly within the realm of rock and metal) has become so heavily saturated with original and high quality music, ultimately proving that something is certainly in the water, so to speak. Not even vaguely deviating from that pattern is eclectic Aussie prog outfit CALIGULA’S HORSE; and on the subject, its just about that time again for them, as they gear up for the official release of their fourth full-length studio album, In Contact. Thus far in the pre-release campaign, the band have released just one single, entitled Will’s Song (Let The Colours Run), a track that runs just short of five minutes, and boasts some of the band’s heaviest material to date. However the release of the album itself it set for an ever-nearing September 15th, and needless to say the anticipation is building, particularly given the striking impact of the band’s previous effort Bloom. In the midst of all this build-up, we elected to pick the brains of the band itself, and ended up gaining some insight on the new album through new drummer Josh Griffin.

So how are you feeling about the release of In Contact? You’ve already released the first single Will’s Song (Let The Colours Run), so at this point, how has the response been, particularly in comparison to the build-up to the release of the last record?

Josh: Nervous! Actually we’re all feeling confident about the album, and to be honest, we can’t wait for it to get out there. And being that this is my first album with the guys, I’m firmly planted in the middle of nerves and excitement. I think the heavier, darker approach we took with Will’s Song has pleasantly taken people by surprise. I can’t speak on Bloom as much, but the hype seems bigger this time. Coming out this time with a concept album, and two new guys (myself and Adrian), it’s getting people pumped.

The writing, recording, and release of Bloom must have allowed CALIGULA’S HORSE to develop greatly as a band. How has that whole process affected your approach to the writing and recording of the new album, and in general your professionalism and musicianship as a unit?

Josh: For Sam, having Adrian and I around has allowed him complete freedom as a songwriter. Anything he can dream up, we can (generally) nail it. I’ve seen that glee on his face several times when he’s presented me with a drum part. Usually followed up with “I’m sorry”. On my first tour with CALIGULA’S HORSE, MESHUGGAH‘s The Demon’s Name is Surveillance was on in the van. Sam asks me if I can play something like this, and I say “with a couple of weeks practice, yeah!” Thus, Will’s Song, heh heh. In all seriousness, that ability to translate any musical idea no matter how crazy it sounds has tightened up the band incredibly. There’s a wonderful chemistry that we have now, that a few tours in, keeps growing stronger.

Sonically, what do you guys feel is the biggest album-to-album progression this time around?

Josh: For me, it’s that balance of light and shade across the album. Will’s Song is the heaviest thing we’ve done, but there are also moments of beauty on there as well. That idea was in place back when Graves was being written.

Your past material has offered a hugely eclectic balance between progressive technicality and choral catchiness. Has anything changed on that front? Which aspect, if any, were the band looking to explore deeper on this album?

Josh: That balance is what makes the music so unique. Progressive music can be sometimes so dazzling in it’s complexity that it loses all feeling. Nothing sticks in your head except maybe that cool crazy instrumental section!  Don’t get me wrong, I love that stuff in context, but sometimes you just want a damn good chorus!!!
I don’t think Sam and Jim ever look to explore any specific aspect. Each song comes out organically, and parts are always written for the song, it’s never arbitrary. Graves is a really good example of this. A long song that has an organic flow, and never feels drawn out.

What about the concept/theme? Bloom definitely had some striking lyrics, and artwork that would jump out at anyone. Can you explain the approach to that aspect of In Contact?

Josh: Jim wanted to tell a story, and while it had a kind of broad, sci-fi story, it became apparent to him and Sam that they could tell this story in a very personal way. Even more so in the artwork. When we contacted Connor Maguire, all we gave him was a brief of the concept, and his interpretation of that was so unique. That was the imagery he took personally from it. Everyone who listens will draw their own personal connection and interpretation.

Musically or otherwise, were there any new influences or inspirations that came into play in the process of writing the new album?

Josh: I know we were all listening to a little bit of LEPROUS. As I mentioned earlier, having the proverbial shackles removed from Sam really allowed him to let his imagination run wild. He’s an animal! But I think the concept also influenced the mood and emotion of each track.

In today’s scene, genres and sub-genres seem to be so forcibly defined and separated. How do you guys respond to this, and is the concept of ‘genre’ something you have in mind when writing your music, particularly for the new record? 

Josh: Never! Although we all favour progressive and heavy music, we all have a wide range of influences that we draw from but that never dictates the writing. It makes sense that we are labelled “progressive” and we definitely don’t have a problem with that. So many bands are breaking the traditional prog definition and creating some really unique, exciting and original music, which is really inspiring to us.

And finally, what about the band’s near-future plans for after the album release? Is there anything big lined up for CALIGULA’S HORSE, perhaps related to promoting In Contact, such as a tours or music videos?

Josh: We’ve got a headline tour around Australia September/October, which we’re really excited about. After that, well that’s up to the sweet lord below!

And there you have it folks! A short but sweet insight into the world of CALIGULA’S HORSE, as they prepare to release their fourth full-length album, In Contact. Be sure to look out for our comprehensive review of the album in the near future, and in the mean time, make sure to support the band by grabbing an In Contact pre-order.

In Contact is set for release on September 15th via InsideOut Music.

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