PlanetMosh’s Miley Stevens and Innes Rankin had the pleasure to talking to Chris Fielding of Conan ahead of their Desertfest performance at the Electric Ballroom.
Miley: Hey Chris, how’s it going?
Chris: Good thanks, a bit tired – just got in, but very well.
Miley: I saw you at Ritual Festival a couple of weeks ago – you guys put on a really, really good performance. Now I’m not familiar with the whole doom genre, how do you guys rise above the others and stick out?
Chris: What we try to do as a band, especially what we’re trying to do with this album – we just play music that we want to play. We tell people we’re in a heavy metal band, but we’re nothing like the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Some of it is really slow, some of it is faster – our new album has blast beats on it for example. Yeah, we just run with the vibe – it’s got to sound heavy but we try not to play slow for the sake of being slow – we like the loud and heavy vibe. We play like a lot of the Desertfest bands, you know – slow, stoner-y and that, but we also get billed on other gigs where we don’t fit in so well. We just played Barroselas Metalfest in Portugal on Sunday, and it’s a totally different vibe, there’s loads of black metal bands. We play more and more mixed bills and people seem to be in to it.
Miley: So you say you’re not like Judas Priest or Iron Maiden – who are your inspirations?
Chris: Ah, well all of us have got the classic influences. We all grew up listening to more guitar-based bands. Me personally, I got into music through 70s rock with bands like Led Zeppelin, moving on to Nirvana and I’ve always loved them. Jon, our frontman would say he got into bands like Pantera. Bands like our genre, I’d say Matt Pike’s bands like Sleep and High on Fire, we gravitate towards the sludgey bands.
Miley: On the back of the whole Matt Pike thing, there is a very interesting story that arose when you opened for Sleep in Oslo back in 2014 – are you aware of the effect your music has on people – physically? We know them as ‘Brown Notes’. I tried to watch you hungover at Bloodstock and it just wasn’t happening.
Chris: [laughs] yeah…I’ve heard about this. I also know the technical reasons for this. We tune really low; we tune to drop F – almost an octave lower than standard tuning. The fundamental on my bass is about 22 Hertz – which is basically pretty much the limit of what you can hear – there’s no point tuning any lower than that because you can’t actually hear it. Most audio equipment can’t actually produce that at a decent volume anyway. So yeah, we tune really low and we play through a lot of loud gear. Me and Jon are really into our gear, I run through Matamp 4x15s usually – I didn’t bring it with me today because it’s so big and heavy it’s a pain in the arse to move to be honest! [laughs] I just run it through two amp heads instead. Jon plays through two Matamp stacks.
Innes: How did your sound come about? Did you have a vision for it, or did it just arise from what you were playing?
Chris: Jon started the band initially in 2006, basically it was initially to do what it is – he first came to me to record the stuff – I recorded the first album for them and eventually I joined the band. But essentially the band is covering a concept that Jon had and although it’s progressed it is still very much running off that concept.
Miley: Do you still record the Conan’s albums, or have you passed that responsibility on now you’re in the band?
Chris: Yeah I do – I own a recording studio with Jon called Skyhammer studios. It’s in the Northwest, I’ve currently got a band in there at the moment called Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – brilliant name. I was a guitarist first, then got into the engineering side after. It’s made me a better player, because I can hear the technicalities of it now. I’m always telling people off in the studio for being slightly out of tune, or muting a note when they’re not supposed to. From the recording perspective, everything is under a microscope so you can hear when everything is wrong. Whereas you could be playing a racket in a practice room or playing live and you can’t tell something isn’t quite right.
Miley: Do you have any plans in the pipeline for Conan?
Chris: we’re supposed to be recording something over the next few weeks or so – I can’t really say anything about it but that’s the plan. There’s a few gigs coming up too. Because of the studio, I’m kind of stuck between two places so progress is slowed a bit. We’ve just had an American tour and I wasn’t able to do that because I was busy with the studio – they had Renata who plays bass in Samothrace filling in for me. Shell probably be filling in for me throughout the year too [laughs]
Miley: How is it for you to be a well-known producer in a well-known band when you have to sacrifice one for the other?
Chris: there’s only one me – I can’t be on tour and in the studio at the same time. It’s a balancing act really, because if I was in tour all the time, nobody would be able to get in the studio and they wouldn’t even bother to ask if they could get in, which loses business. Sometimes we’re offered a really good gig – like today and I can’t turn it down. Another gig I’m looking forward to is the Sleep gig when we play the Forum – that will be amazing. Straight after that we’re in Australia and New Zealand which is cool too.
Conan will be playing with Sleep at the O2 Kentish Town Forum on Wednesday 6th July.