My first interview for MetalRecusants did not get off to the best of starts, Conan were two hours late due to traffic and my dictaphone was playing up the day before. When it came to the interview I ended up asking someone where Conan’s Jon Davis was, to which the man replied “I am Jon.” Thankfully, Jon was an absolute gentleman and was fine with my error. After listening to Iron Maiden in Conan’s van, it was time to start talking. What followed was an interesting and insightful interview.
Jack: So how has the tour been going so far?
Jon Davis (Guitar/Vocals): Yeah alright, we’ve only done two shows so far, Sheffield and Liverpool and the shows were cool. I think we had about three hundred people in Sheffield, I’m only joking it was about thirty. In Liverpool we met a real cool crowd and we played with a band called Coltsblood who are friends of ours and they’re really heavy which so that was cool. We’ve driven a long way to get here and we’re really tired but we’re looking forward to playing.
Jack: Would you say playing with Coltsblood has been the highlight of the tour so far?
Jon: Yeah I’d say so. Because there aren’t a lot of genuinely heavy bands in the UK who aren’t faking it. They’re a band that have been working for a long time getting the songs ready, they’re one of the top three bands that we’ve played with.
Jack: Apart from Coltsblood have any other support acts stood out so far?
Jon: Yeah but we’re only two shows in. We played with Throne in Sheffield and they were cool. We also played with Goatleaf in Sheffield and they were ace. Their bass player is David Main who makes D*A*M fuzz pedals and he’s a good friend of mine so it was really good to see him. Yesterday, the only band that was playing was a black metal band called Ninkharsag – Who have Kyle the guitarist from Black Magician in the band, it was a nice mix last night and it must have been cool for the people who came.
Jack: Do you know anything of the support bands tonight?
Jon: I can’t say I’ve heard Earthmass, I’ve heard the name but I’ve not listened to them yet. Me and Tanya from Bismuth talk online quite a bit about amplifiers as we’re both obsessed with them.
Jack: Does it bother you when you play with bands that aren’t of the Doom genre?
Jon: Not at all. No it’s cool; I mean people just assume that you want to play with bands of your ilk and that’s the wrong attitude to have. You should just play with bands that you like regardless of what type of music they play because if every band on the bill is the same type of band then it’s boring as fuck and I’d rather not do it. That’s why festivals like Damnation, Hellfest and Roadburn do so well because of the varied line up. I think that’s important.
Jack: You play guitar and vocals in the band, do you see yourself more as a vocalist or a guitarist?
Jon: Well, I’m shit at both so I don’t know (laugh). I just play at both really; when my voice is fucked up I pretend I’m good at guitar and the rest of the time I just try not to look too bad. I don’t know, to be honest, it’s a hard question.
Jack: Your song ‘Hawk as a Weapon,’ was recently given away as a freebie on a Metal Hammer compilation CD, do you think this has helped spread the message of Conan?
Jon: Well, yeah, no doubt it will have done because the people who bought that mag who have never heard of Conan, will have heard of us for the first time. The album that Hawk came out on (Monnos) has been out for a little while now, therefore a lot of people would have already heard it. But Metal Hammer is a big magazine so I’d be surprised if we haven’t gained a few new fans from it, all of the other bands on that CD weren’t from our ilk so hopefully we stood out.
Jack: Well, you stated on your Facebook page you have fans in Malaysia and Angola. Do you think Doom metal is getting more popular?
Jon: I don’t know but I’ll commit to answer and say it is because there are lots of bands starting out who will call themselves Doom Metal bands. There are lots of rock bands who will put a Black Sabbath T-shirt and all of a sudden they’re a doom band, obviously that’s a sign that people want to be associated with this type of music that’s growing. But within the doom metal genre there are lots of bands that are different in their own right. I’d say it’s growing but I hope it doesn’t ever become mainstream because that would be shit and would lose the appeal. It’s appealing for me as it’s an underground type of metal and it’s the polar opposite to these polished metal bands. I guess it’s like an ultra-heavy version of grunge when that came out.
Jack: Do you think doom fans are protective of their genre?
Jon: I don’t know, it would be hard to generalise because everyone’s different. It’s almost like fans of this genre like to take ownership of the bands, it’s nice because it’s a smallish scene there aren’t big bands that are like “I’m too busy to talk to you, come speak to my agent,” it’s a bit closer than that. I’ve forgotten the question what was it again?
Jack: Are doom fans protective of their genre?
Jon: Ah right sorry, I wouldn’t say protective but they feel closer to it and they own it a bit more. They could feel like they are on the same level as the bands that play for them. Regardless of how big the band is in this sort of music, they always seem to be regular cool guys and not untouchable like in different types of metal.
Jack: Do you think signing to Napalm Records is significant to the Doom scene?
Jon: I wouldn’t say to the Doom scene as they have bigger bands on their label than us. But it is significant for us as Napalm Records are a very good record label and it is just business at the end of the day. If you’re going to put an album out you need it to be a solid business with decent people who you can reach out to and be honest with. We spoke to many record labels and we all got that impression but there was just something about Napalm and that going with them was the right decision.
Jack: A lot of bands, thanks to the Internet, are self-signing and have a DIY attitude. Do you think Napalm have impacted your career positively?
Jon: Well, yeah, I’d say so. I don’t really view it as a career but has signing to Napalm has certainly helped Conan? Yeah I’d say so, they’re a large label, they distribute worldwide and because they are established they can pull a few strings and all that when you’re signed to labels. We’re looking forward to seeing what happens when the album comes out. They’ve been very supportive and proactive. On the same token we had a great relationship with Burning World we had a great relationship with them, slightly different type of record label but they’ve helped us along a lot. Same with the other record labels Head of Crom and Throne Records, they were great to us too. Signing with Burning World was a key moment for us as they introduced us to the European scene, but signing with Napalm is a slightly bigger network than Burning World but whether they are better labels than each other we will see. But we’ll do fine with Napalm as they seem to know what they are doing.
Jack: You’re going to be headlining the Electric Amphetamine stage at Damnation Festival, are you looking forward to headlining it?
Jon: Yeah we can’t wait, we only got invited a couple of weeks ago and we didn’t think we were going to play it but we got an email out of the blue saying if we’d do it, so, of course, we accepted. We did have a couple of shows in Ireland that same day, Dublin on the Friday and Belfast on the 2nd but when we got the invite we thought we’d play as we played in 2011 and we didn’t do it justice. The reviews were very kind but it wasn’t very loud in there, we were held back by the sound engineer as the amps weren’t very loud which does my fucking head in. It pisses me off as it’s meant to be loud, they’re 120W for a reason and hopefully we’re not stilted in terms of our volume.
Jack: You’ve also been announced for Hellfest in France, does playing abroad feel different to the UK?
Jon: Yeah it does actually; in lots of ways. Firstly the shows, they seem to make a bit more of an occasion out of them. I’m not paying any UK promoters a disservice here by saying that, but comparing the last run of shows in Europe to this run of shows in England, we’re playing bigger venues and the crowds are always much bigger in general. You tend to be treated very well, you get treated well over here too of course but there seems to be a bit of an edge in Europe. It’s as though they enjoy it more but over in England it seems to be a bit more DIY, like you play for other bands who’ve arranged the gig or sometimes you’ll play for a promoter. But in Europe it seems to be a bigger deal.
Jack: Does it feel weird finding fan uploaded videos of your live sets on sites live YouTube.
Jon: No, it’s cool. I actually look out for them sometimes, especially if we’re playing a new song live and you want to know how it came across and how it sounded. So yeah it’s actually quite flattering. There’s a video of us playing on uh….
Jack: Was it Greece?
Jon: Yeah the Greece one, that’s there. Some of them we really treasure, the Greece show was probably one of the best shows we’ve played in terms of the whole thing being in Greece, such a beautiful place and playing in Athens was amazing. When we played with Sleep in Oslo someone filmed the first song included the intro which was a wall of feedback because of the phaser pedal being on. That’s the only fan footage from the whole show because the gig with Sleep was massive for us and being able to reflect on it, even if it’s just one song then you can look back on it and relieve it in some ways.
Jack: When will we see any new material from Conan?
Jon: Well we’re going to play two new songs tonight which are part of our set now. One song is called ‘Foehammer’ and the other is called ‘Gravity Chasm,’ which is from our new album which we will be recording in ten days. I own a recording studio called Skyhammer Studios and my friend Chris Fielding who has recorded everything we’ve ever done and has worked with bands that are much bigger than us like Electric Wizard, Winterfylleth and Serpent Venom. He has recorded some amazing bands and he’s a fucking brilliant engineer. He moved down to London and he came unstuck and said “Do you know you’re building a recording studio, shall I come along work with you.” It took me two minutes to decide, I spoke to the wife and said “look, Chris wants to work in the studio” and it was an easy decision for us. Those two songs and the album itself is written now but we’re not going to play any of those songs live as we’re going to probably end up tweaking them in studio and not fuck them up live and end up like nobs.
Jack: What does the future hold for Conan? Will there be any more collaboration with Bongripper? Or what else is in store?
Jon: Well, the immediate future is the recording of the album and we’ll be releasing it in March or April next year. We’re playing Roadburn in April and we’ll be doing a European Tour around that, Temples Festival in May and Hellfest in June. There are a couple of other festival dates that are being discussed at the moment. I don’t believe we have any splits lined up at the minute but that’s possible and probable as we have easy access to a recording studio. Our main focus is getting our album written and doing a good tour around it.
Jack: Thank you very much for your time
Jon: You’re welcome.
Afterwards Conan played a blinder of a set, making the doom scene proud (you can read the review here).