A few years ago, a friend of mine recommended a few albums to me. One of the selections was Karnivool’s Themata, and it couldn’t have impressed me anymore. (It eventually became a staple in my daily listen.) In February 2010, their next record, Sound Awake, was released. Almost immediately, the progressive rock band from Perth, Australia, became a favorite of mine. Composed of singer Ian Kenny, guitarists Drew Goddard and Mark Hosking, Jon Stockman on bass and Steve Judd on drums, the band works incredibly hard in making an album that they truly believe in.
Their latest album, Asymmetry, was released Aug. 6 in the U.S., and it’s been achieving lots of success since its Australian release in July. I had the chance to talk to Hosking and discuss the latest Karnivool record, tour, and the way the band operates. Everything from the production to the promotion and composition for Asymmetry was covered in our chat. We also discussed the possible release of Karnivool on vinyl, the World Of Vool on Instagram, and a possible North American tour to come. Check out what Mark had to say below:
It’s been three years since the release of Sound Awake. Was time ever a concern when writing Asymmetry?
Time is a funny thing for us. We always talk about hastening the process, but for this band, time is elusive. We toured off of Sound Awake for a long time and started writing Asymmetry whilst doing that. On returning to Perth, we buckled down and pushed as hard as we could. Unfortunately, our music just needs some gestation and process time. Every album is getting slightly quicker, but that’s like saying a snail will one day win the Tour De France!
That being said, do you guys follow a specific songwriting process? If so, has it changed throughout each record?
Our process is far from formulated. For Asymmetry, the cores of the songs really came from a lot of different places. We always try to change how we do things, partly for the challenge, but more to be assured that the process will come out differently. As a band, we really don’t want to repeat ourselves with the process. We found that you need to challenge yourself on different levels and step out of the box to make sure that happens.
I’ve seen a few acoustic performances of songs like “All I Know” and “Roquefort.” Has there ever been a song that you first wrote acoustically? Or were these songs stripped down for special performances?
Those particular songs were broken down, but some songs have come from acoustic renditions. There were a lot of times on Asymmetry where we would drive down to the beach and run through songs acoustically to make sure that no matter how busy the song got or how many layers we added, there was always the core song elements that ring true no matter how chaotic or messy a song gets. I think all good songs need a strong spine and that will always shine through when you break it down to something simple.
There is a natural progression with your music. From Themata to Asymmetry, you continue to experiment and expand the Karnivool sound. What has been your favorite thing thus far in the process? Anything you would like to continue to experiment with?
We will always continue to push the boundaries, I hope. As much as the change has been obvious through the album cycles, it really is a subconscious thing, a reflection of what we are appreciating at the time or as our lives and interests progress. Who knows where we will take it next? We always seem to find a way to stay true to the core Karnivool sound—the thing that holds it all together. But we are very lucky to be in a unit that allows each of us the freedom to push in the directions we love and have that come together as a group in the end.
How much participation do you guys have in the production/engineering of your records? Do you work with the producer heavily or do you leave that up to him?
We are all in the studio and work together to make it into something we are all happy with. Often Drew and Nick would work together to get a sound they are happy with and then everyone would have a say in what they like or what needs to change. It’s often a long and back and forth process right to the very end.
“Nachash” was originally written for Sound Awake and ultimately left off. I read that there was a song that didn’t make it on this album as well. What lead to these decisions?
Ultimately it was a group decision to leave off a particular song in place of another song. By the nature of what we do in the studio, everything comes down to the 11th hour. It’s a process that has always been an employment of ours for better or worse, and this often leaves album orders and even song choices for the album to the last minute.
“Nachash” simply didn’t get completed in time, so it was left off Sound Awake so that we could be sure it was given the right amount of time to mature and become the song it needed to become, much like the song that was left off Asymmetry. It will shine at some point, I’m sure. We’re just not the band that writes 20 songs and picks 10 for a record.
On music discovery apps, when you play music similar to Karnivool, bands like Tool and Meshuggah show up now and again. What groups have influenced you guys the most throughout your career?
It started with bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots… then grew in many different directions. I was a massive Meshuggah fan and they have always been a major favorite of ours. Tool not so much anymore, but we are all big fans of the Aenima album.
I think what I most appreciate about this band is its differences, the things that gel us together. We come together sharing all these different types of music that we love and appreciate and ultimately mix together to form the eclectic sound we create.
The album is out via digital and CD copies, and I know you are looking into getting vinyls out there as well. Will fans in the U.S. be able to get our hands on the vinyl in the near future?
Absolutely. And FLAC, which is important to us. We also toss around the idea of hopefully mixing at least Asymmetry in surround sound. I personally cannot wait to put on a vinyl copy of the album. So it’s coming… at some point.
I know you just started the Australian tour for the record, but how are the new songs being received?
Amazingly. I think the separation that people felt in the album on a recorded level is very much bridged on the live front. We’ve been enjoying constructing setlists that encompass our entire catalogue but showcase the new material. We knew it was going to be challenging for people to get their heads around—hell, that’s part of why we wrote it—but the response has been magnificent.
The band is doing some very interesting promotion for this record, as you guys each explained your favorite songs off of the album before its release. On Instagram, you are asking fans to tag #voolasymmetry on a map during your shows so you can see where the group is, displaying the World Of Vool. How did these ideas develop?
We have a great team surrounding us these days. We enjoy watching the integration of music with online sites and mediums. The speed at which people can hear your music and comment, message or send a photo about it is really exciting and I think considering the type of music we do, we would not do it justice by ignoring the newer technologies.
Will us North Americans see the World Of Vool anytime soon? Any plans after the UK leg of the tour?
You will. It is definitely on the cards. We are working out how best to do it, but I have no doubts we will be gracing your shores in 2014. Looking forward to getting back there, meeting old friends again and making some wonderful new ones.
Asymmetry is now available in CD and digital formats. Check out the World Of Vool on Instagram by searching #voolasymmetry. For more information, go to karnivool.com.au.