Interview: Drew Goddard / Karnivool


Personality is emitted from the inside. It usually happens outside of our control, but often you don’t need many words to know whether you have common ground with somebody. When I got to Warsaw’s Proxima club for the interview and met my interlocutor, guitarist Drew Goddard of Australian rock act Karnivool, I felt it might be a cool conversation. Not only because there in front of me stood a smiling, bearded man, with his unmissible bare feet standing out against the grey pavement and his mouth puffing fluffy clouds of cigarette smoke in the air, but mainly because his character emitted something positive. Something which, as it turned out later in the conversation, is contained in his character, i.e. openness, sensitivity, humor and intelligence. However, when amongst the warm rays of the setting sun we sat beside the club to have our conversation, I was worried about two things – walking everywhere barefooted Drew would hurt his foot on a shard of glass and would I be able to understand that bloody Australian accent!? Somehow both of us managed to walk out of our meeting unscathed.

Drew, let me start with a question about your latest record „Asymmetry”. It’s quite a diverse album. The first part of it is pretty raw, rugged, irregular or asymmetric, if you will. Then there are songs like „Aeons”, „Eidolon” or „Sky Machine”, which are less unpredictable in terms of rhythm, and have more rounded shapes, which allows the melodies and space they contain to be clearly exposed. There are other different things on the album as well, so I’m interested if you had that conscious appetite for diversity when creating „Asymmetry”?

When we started writing this record there were so many directions we wanted to go into. All those directions were pretty asymmetric, so the words you used sum it up quite well. It’s a reflective mix of songs, but definitely there are songs that are jagged or rough and this is where we wanted to go with the music. We wanted to have a human factor on the album. When I say human factor I am talking about the sonic aspect, so the record doesn’t sound like it was created digitally, the perfect way. We wanted to have this natural, amplified sound. The same with tuning, we aimed to make everything sound like it was a real band playing. So the human factor represents the sonic side, but there is also the emotive aspect to it, where emotions are involved. I consider myself a happy guy, but to me music is about getting to the deep stuff. That is probably why I’m happy, because I find catharsis in music. Being human is reflected in our music. Especially the melodies, atmospheres, rhythms. Expressing emotions in all of that is familiar, yet an uncomfortable feeling at times, but it’s good for the soul.

To me heavy music is the only one which can generate this amazing intensity inside. It might be perceived as anger at times, but there is nothing negative or destructive about it.

As Zack de La Rocha said, anger is a gift. If you channel it in the right areas it becomes a very positive mean. Heavy music is very primitive. It comes from the base of the spine. I feel like an animal when I’m on stage sometimes, but humans are animals, so you don’t want to forget that. Right here (Drew points below his stomach) is what roots you to the earth and it’s where shit comes in and goes out. So to me heavy music comes from here, but it also has heart as well as the intellectual part, which is something I get off on a lot. So heavy music makes you think, feel and feel like an animal (laughs). It connects it all up. Of course it’s a spiritual thing as well, which is above the head, above the intellect. Tool were that band that really put that forward to me, that it can be this spiritual, a meditative release. I found myself enlightened by listening to their music as I did with Pink Floyd. Music can open your mind.

You’re speaking of something special about music and I have to tell you, that I have a feeling something special might happen tonight, because of your music. When talking to friends about tonight’s gig or reading people’s comments on the net before it, I sense that something unique might take place, because you make those people electric. You are a band, that touches people emotionally on a deep level.

Awesome. We always try to make sure it’s something special. Its our mission, to make it an experience, so that people could take something away from it. Something, which is individual and unique, but we all share it as a collective as well. So we’re really excited about tonight.

It’s your first time here so you know, for many people it might be like losing your virginity. You’re excited and at the same time uncertain about what and how it is going to happen, but all the doubts are taken away by that internal will to do it. That mixture of uncertainty and desire.

(laughs) Exactly. That’s a good way to put it.

It was special indeed. Karnivool after gig in Warsaw:

“Amazing crowd, amazing people, amazing Vodka!”

photo by Vool

Last month I did an interview with Dino Campanella of Dredg. It happened on the occasion of them playing their two classical albums „El Cielo” and „Catch Without Arms” in completion. When we talked about „El Cielo”, which music and concept wise is a great album, he said one interesting thing. Apparently when they were making that record, they didn’t really try that hard, as it may seem from the final outcome. They actually didn’t know how to write songs so back then they were more screwing around with sounds and all those instruments they used, than consciously creating something, which was about to become great. Would you also have similar reflection about Karnivool’s previous albums?

Definitely. When you’re in the midst of creating something you don’t know what it is. When you start something, it’s like a crude map. You just have a feeling and you have to flow down the stream, roll with it. In some ways it feels like it’s something out of your control. You just have to follow the signs, move with it and try not to think about it too much. I said before that the intellectual part of music is big thing for me, but when in comes to creating, I try to switch that off and go with the music. Trust myself, that I am going to do the right thing. The more you think the more you double guess and eventually chase your own tale. In our case every record takes four years. It’s a long, drawn-out process, but when it becomes a past event, you see it as completed. You don’t see every little part, that made up the record. When „Sound Awake” was made, which is our first record we did as a full band when everyone was throwing their own ideas, we didn’t know what it was. We had no perspective. We were happy and excited about it, but we didn’t really understand it. I think the best perspective you get is when you bring out a new album and you look back at your previous one. So after we did „Asymmetry” I think it was the first time I looked back on „Sound Awake” and was really, truly proud of that record. Only then I could finally see it from a third person’s perspective as opposed to being inside of it.

You mentioned in your answer trust, which I think is very much connected with intuition. What exactly is intuition? Is it that thought or sparkle, that appears out of nowhere?

Yeah, it’s mysterious. You don’t know where it comes from.

I guess it’s one of those phenomenas, that you don’t really need to understand. You’re just happy that it happens.

True, but it doesn’t stop me from trying to understand it, although I know I never will. It’s like with quantum physics. When you observe something you can’t observe it without changing it. Just the act of having an observer involved in something changes what it is, because of the photons etc. That’s why intuition is such a beautiful thing and that’s something I still try to understand. How to let things go through and get out of their way. That’s intuition to me. Trusting towards the order coming out of chaos. Having that faith about it coming together without you forcing it together.

How about inspiration? Is there any difference to you between intuition and inspiration? I was thinking about inspiration the other day and to me it’s something like in billiards, when at the start of a game you break the balls. So when you hit a rack, the ball which is in the middle suddenly gets hit, so it receives an external factor, which moves it to the goal, being the pocket. To me that kind of unexpected external factor leading you to a goal is something I’d describe as inspiration.

There is multiply metaphor to that, because we literally have to break our balls to get to the goal too (laughs). But seriously, inspiration strikes when you least expect it, but at least you can try to open yourself to scenarios when that might happen and take the opportunities as they arrive. It’s interesting you ask about it. I love when things in life come together like this, when they converge. To answer your question I’ll give you one recent example from this tour. Couple of days ago we were playing a show in Antwerp, Belgium. We were sitting outside and these two guys came outside to smoke a joint. They talked to us and it turned out they had a studio downstairs, so they asked us if we wanted to check it out or maybe record a song. Me and our bassist John went down and had an unplanned, but very nice guitar jam there and we get inspired from those kinds of spontaneous situations. That is what I love about touring. Being in a new places, meeting new people. I get inspired just by conversations with people or surroundings. We had also similar situation in Germany. We got an e-mail from guys, who own a studio about 40 minute drive from Nurnberg. They asked us if we wanted to come to the studio if we had some time off on the tour and at that time we actually had 2 days off, so we went for it. The studio is absolutely awesome and it is located in this tiny village in which there are only about 80 people. We had a great time there, got along so well with these people. It was so spontaneous and relaxing. We played music, hung out in the forest. So again, taking changes when they come. If it doesn’t work out then it doesn’t, but at least you can say you gave it a shot. Especially if you want new sounding music. To change and evolve as an artist you need to open yourself up to new experiences. That’s how you grow and that’s what this band is about. For us the most important thing is fun. Music is fun and we love it. Then it’s also cathartic, it’s like a medicine. And thirdly I feel it helps me grow as a person, so I’m so blessed to have it as a tool for all of that.

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