Australian atmospheric rock band Karnivool has released a new album entitled “Asymmetry”, and man, it’s good. Grande Rock had a chat with the guitarist Drew Goddard about the new release, the band’s history and early steps, their distinct sound as well as the future of music.

Hello and welcome to Grande Rock. First of all, I’d like to thank you for this interview, it’s great to have you here.
A: No worries.
Let’s start with the band’s early history. I read somewhere that you first started out in 1997 as a cover band playing Nirvana and Carcass songs at parties. Is that true?
A: Yes. My first gig was as a bass player at the Kent St School Ball, where Ian and the other lads in the band at the time used to go to school. They were jamming together and playing parties under the name Karnivool even pre ‘97 before I joined the band.
When did you decide to write your own stuff and why?
A: After the school ball show, the guys asked me to stay on and write with them… which I did. I started writing songs on guitar and ended up switching over to that by late ‘98. They boys were always writing their own material even before I joined. But for me personally… I don’t know why I stared… it just seemed like the obvious thing to do… I’ve always been drawn into creating something.
I am sure you know that a big part of the music reporters out there will mention Tool when they are talking about your work. Which bands have influenced your music?
A: Tool were a big influence in the early days… they really shifted my thinking about music and life in general and how the two can inform each other. They just represented something big to me and gave me a glimpse into another world that seemed so unknown and new yet so natural and intrinsic; something physical, emotional and mystical. I think we have forged our own sound these days and we hear the Tool comparisons a lot less these days (especially since “Asymmetry” was released) but they are definitely a great band who’ve carved a path for modern alternative heavy music and shown us possibilities. Apart from that, prior to Tool, we listened to a lot of metal and grunge and indie music. These days, there are so many great bands over a wide range of styles… Any band that is doing something fresh and exciting that invigorates the soul. Everything from Meshuggah, Converge, Neurosis, Bjork, Sigur Ros and Radiohead. Holwin’ Wolf, Midnight Oil, The Drones, Flying Lotus, Led Zepellin, Can, The Roots, The Bronx, The Police, Cog, Nirvana, Battles… to name a few.
On your first feature album “Themata” your sound was a lot more nu-metal than any of your later releases. Why did you move away from the nu-metal sound, and how did you arrive to your current one?
A: I cut my dreadlocks and traded my track dacks for some jeans and a more respectful, less smelly haircut.
Since “Themata” your sound has been described from progressive rock and alternative metal, all the way to indie rock. How would you describe your music?
A: Any of these are fine. We let others do the labeling.
Over the years people have considered the combination of dropped-B and standard E tuning as your trademark. You kept that up on “Asymmetry” as well. Did that happen consciously or by accident, in other words, do you also consider that tuning to be your trademark?
A: Actually the old hybrid drop B/standard didn’t get a look in on the new record. Changing tunings, is a way I keep things fresh. I like messing up the fretboard, so I start fumbling my way around and, exploring different patterns and chord shapes that sound fresh and move me. Happy accidents galore!
I noticed that you release an album every four years. Is that on purpose or is it purely accidental?
A: Accidental… I guess. We’d love to narrow the gap down, but it just seems to be the case that we take a bloody long time to write.
Would you care to explain the title of the album? Why “Asymmetry”?
A: “Asymmetry” to me is about two sides of the coin and the beauty in imperfection. Also about seeing beyond duality. I think there’s more to it than that, but that’s a broad brushstroke. smiley
How about the cover? Any stories there?
A: The artwork was the work of a Mexican artist named Rene Almanza. The other guitarist (Mark Hosking) found samples of his work online and was drawn to the mood he created with free form sketch pieces. He sent over a bunch of ideas and it was the male and the female torsos that really resonated with us.
What’s the story behind each song in “Asymmetry”?
A: We all have different interpretations and we like to leave that up to the listener. To me the beauty of music is that it is subjective, every person will take their own meaning from it…
Are you planning to release a music video for any of your songs?
A: We released “We Are” as a video earlier in the year, we plan on doing a couple more videos – but what they are exactly I can’t really say! But, yes, there are plans.
What are your expectations from this album?
A: My expectations stop when we finish creating the album – it’s out of our hands now – and I’m already focusing on the next record. We do hope to tour to as many new places as we can worldwide though and to just keep playing, bettering ourselves as musicians and a band and quite simply to just enjoy the ride.
When are you planning to tour next time and where?
A: We are heading around Europe through October and November this year (2013) for our own headline tour. We taking along TesseracT from the UK with us who are a great up and coming prog/alternative band. We are in the processing of booking a bunch of tours for 2014, none of which are confirmed as yet, but we are hoping to get back to North America and India as well as hopefully getting the opportunity to play some new territories, especially Asia. South America is a pipe dream too, but nothing planned as yet… I can only hope! We are also looking at an extensive Australian tour around early-mid next year.
Karnivool band pic

It’s time for our “Weird” questions!!! How did you come up with the name Karnivool in the first place?
A: Ha! I wish I knew the answer! It was before my time and no one has a decent story worth mentioning…
Which is the record you wish you had written and why??
A: “OK Computer”. It’s just perfection.
Are you into that digital/downloading trend or do you believe that’s killing music little by little? What’s there for a band when most people are downloading their albums and do not even care to listen to them most of the times? What shall change so as to make it through?
A: It makes it very tough for up and coming bands to make any money from physical sales, however, it’s forcing people to think outside of the box and think of new ways to keep the cash flow coming in – as well as getting and, more importantly, holding the attention of people – which is not easy in this day and age of information overload. One positive of file sharing is that it opened up a market for Karnivool in India. We toured there for the first time in 2010 before we even had a release there and played the biggest and one of the most memorable shows of our career – all due to file sharing and word of mouth! It really is a strange time for the industry, it’s always in a state of flux, but this to me is a period of dramatic change, like the poles have shifted. I don’t know where it’s headed but you can’t fight against a current so strong. The DYI ethos is definitely stronger than it’s ever been which I think is a positive thing which provided the artist back themselves, stand up for their rights and are savvy enough – will mean the record label will actually start working for the artist again. You need to surround yourself with the right people who believe in the band, love the music and will fight for them in a dog eat dog industry.
If you could share the stage with any band or musician (dead or alive), who would it be and why?
A: In the afterlife I wouldn’t be able to wipe the grin off my face if I could jam “I’m Broken” with Dime Bag and “Milk It” with Kurt. Riffing out with Meshuggah would be fun too.
If (knock on wood) there was a fire in your house and you only had time to save only 3 albums which would they be and why?
A: Meshuggah “Destroy Erase Improve”, Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” and the aforementioned Radiohead “OK Computer”.
I’ll mention some bands now and I would like you to tell me what they mean for you in five words or fewer.
A: Porcupine Tree: “Nil Recurring”. Killer EP.
Tool: Switched on a light for me.
Emerson Lake & Palmer: 7s wide world of sport!
AC/DC: Gosnell’s boy done well.
Nirvana: Made me start playing music.
Carcass: “Black Star”, one of the first songs I learnt on guitar.
Muse: Taking Epic Stadium shows to a new level.
Karnivool: Who?

Thank you for talking to us once again and thank you for the music as well. Best of luck with the album and all your future endeavors. Is there anything else you would like to say? The last words belong to you.
A: Thank you. Support local bands, buy their t-shirts and trash talk X Factor et al at any given opportunity!!