CONAN is one of the hottest names in the Doom scene. Their songs are long, slow and at times their volume may cause permanent damage on the ear drum. While someone could argue this style is a bit unfriendly for live shows CONAN have the reputation of a “live band”. Having witnessed one of their live shows myself I consent that their sound is nothing less than phenomenal. This year CONAN return with a live recording from their 2012 Roadburn performance. Jon Davis (vocals, guitar) has a few words to say about it…
Dr.Doom: “Mount Wrath” was recently released in digital form! With just one full length album in your catalogue someone would say it’s a bit early to record a live album…
Jon Davis: I think it should count for something that we have released Horseback Battle Hammer and a split with Slomatics also. Horseback Battle Hammer was longer than Reign in Blood (widely recognised as a ‘full length album’) and our side of the split was around 17 minutes I believe. I’m not sure there is a universally recognised amount of output required before you release a live album but when we played at Roadburn in 2012 they recorded it (like they do with most sets) and then they asked us if we would like to release it as an album – I guess we’d be stupid to turn down such an opportunity. I’d agree with you if we were talking about a ‘Greatest Hits’ album, but I don’t think it’s such a big deal that we’ve released an album recorded live at this stage.
Dr.Doom: It seems that you completely neglected songs from the split with SLOMATICS on that Roadburn show. Do you still play these songs live frequently?
Jon Davis:We didn’t play them, obviously, but we had an hour to play a set and due to some problems making our way to the stage through the crowd and a couple of amp issues we had to play a slightly shorter set and therefore didn’t play Retaliator, which is a regular on our live shows. We don’t play Older Than Earth because it features a Moog synthesiser on the studio version, played by our bass player at the time (David Perry). We don’t use such an instrument now so don’t want to play a dumbed down version of the song, so have left it out of our set.
Dr.Doom: While some of your songs are a bit “unfriendly” for lives shows, people always view you as a live band. In your opinion why is that?
Jon Davis:I’m not sure people who come to a Conan show would view any of our songs as ‘unfriendly’, I’d hope they would expect us to play them the way we play them so I’m not sure how to answer this question. But I guess people view us as a live band because we actually make the effort to go out and play shows, big or small. We don’t just play the festivals and make the big bucks, we’ll play any show we want to if we are asked of course. That way a lot of people get to see us live and therefore our reputation as a live band will spread. Whether they think we are a ‘good’ live band is all down to the listener.
Dr.Doom: Do you think that in studio it’s hard to capture the devastating amount of heaviness you are after?
Jon Davis:It’s clearly difficult to capture a ‘live at a gig’ vibe on a studio album as a stereo can not put out the same amount of volume as a 4×12 guitar cab or a PA system rated at several thousand watts. We record with the same gear as we play live on stage so it will always sound authentic. We don’t use a studio’s fine equipment and then tour with shit amps as that would be weird. I think we do ok on record though, we seem to sound pretty heavy on record compared to most other bands so we’re happy with that.
Dr.Doom: Would you ever consider recording live, one of your next albums instead of going to the studio?
Dr.Doom: It seems that Tony Roberts has become the standard artist of CONAN and this time returns with the crushing cover artwork even for a live record. Should we expect to see one of his works in your upcoming album?
Jon Davis:Well we’ve always said openly that Tony Roberts is the perfect artist for us and that hasn’t changed. The artwork on this Live at Roadburn album is great, we love it. He is indeed working on a couple of things for us currently, t-shirt designs, and artwork for a new record. The new stuff looks just great so we can’t wait to see the final product.
Dr.Doom: Since ELECTRIC WIZARD don’t care about playing heavy anymore several contenders for the title of “heaviest band on the universe” have appeared. I consider CONAN along with BLACK SHAPE OF NEXUS and SLOMATICS as the top ones. Who do you consider as the heaviest band right now?
Jon Davis:We’ve been lucky enough to play with BSON and Slomatics and can attest to their heaviness live. Therefore, aside from those two bands, I’d say the two bands that have blown me away with their heaviness live is Ommadon (Scotland) and AHAB (Germany). Both play slightly different styles but they almost killed me with weight when I saw them.
Dr.Doom: Would you ever consider sacrificing some of the musicianship of a song just for the sake of heaviness?
Jon Davis:Personally I don’t make a conscious effort around how much ‘skill’ I put into writing a song. We, as a band, just get together and write what comes to mind and it has produced the stuff we’ve recorded so far so I guess the answer to this question is no.
Dr.Doom: As I already know you have written most of the songs for the upcoming record. Any estimation on when this record will be released. Is there anything you can share about its direction?
Jon Davis:We have three tracks recorded currently as demo’s and already have earmarked areas for change. We have also got a couple of songs being formed currently. We’ll be back writing properly once we get our latest tour out of our system. In terms of direction, it’s hard to say because we don’t see it as going in any particular ‘direction’ – we aren’t steering it at anything in particular. However, we’re impressed so far with how heavy the songs sound and are happy with the ideas that have gone into each track. We’ll write the best songs we can and record them the best we can and then after that it’s up to anyone who listens to it.
Dr.Doom: John McNulty is a classic heavy metal figure on stage. What is his impact on the band songwriting-wise and back when he joined the band was his adaptation hard?
Jon Davis:John McNulty left the band in 2010 but I guess you mean Phil Coumbe? (Edit Dr.Doom: Yeap, apologies!) Phil has been great since he joined and his adaptation was actually very easy. He played Damnation Festival within a few weeks of joining so I guess that was a baptism of fire. Paul and I get on great with him and he’s a good friend as well as band mate now.
Dr.Doom: What are your goals for 2013?
Jon Davis:2013 so far has been great, we’ve recorded a track for a split with Bongripper, we’ve just come home from a 2 week tour in Europe and we have some shows in Finland and the UK and Denmark lined up. Our goals aside from that are to finish building a recording and practice studio at my new house (http://skyhammerstudio.blogspot.co.uk) and to get the album written and recorded.
Dr.Doom: It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Before we close…CONAN, what is best in life?
Jon Davis:No problem, likewise. I’d say the best thing in life right now is a good night’s sleep because right now I am fucked.