Of course this tour. I mean it's been brilliant. It's good to just make touring feel normal again.
Conan have just finished a long awaited UK tour and it feels great to have them and their immense live show back on stage laying waste to venues up and down the country. Gavin Brown talked to Conan vocalist/guitarist Jon Davis before the band’s show at Rough Trade in Nottingham to hear all about how the tour has been going, the show on the night and memorable live shows as well as the status of the band’s upcoming new album and the amazing video for ‘Paincantation’.
E&D: You’re on tour in the UK at the moment. How’s the tour going and what have been some of the highlights been so far?
Jon: The tours gone really well. Highlights? Damnation was really good. That was our first show and that was to a really big crowd which we’ve not played for a while. I’d say probably the load in today was one of the high points because of the rain! That was beautiful, haha! Last night was really good. We played in Preston last night, the last time we played there was with Bongripper about nine years ago. We played the exact same venue. It was great, so yeah, it’s been good.
E&D: How does it feel to be back on the road and playing live shows again?
Jon: Yeah, it’s good to be on tour again. We’ve we’ve had a few festivals already since lockdown. We played Bloodstock in August and then we’ve been to Oslo and played a couple of shows over here as well, and then of course this tour. I mean it’s been brilliant. It’s good to just make touring feel normal again.
E&D: Does it feel normal again?
Jon: Yeah, totally now. The crowds have been good, there’s been no hassle with masks or anything like that at the moment. We’ve always followed the rules but we’re just glad that those rules aren’t really around anymore. It was bit of a pain before.
E&D: You have been the tour manager on this tour. Has it been more challenging doing it now than it has before?
Jon: I mean, touring in the UK is not that difficult. Touring Europe is a bit more complicated, because there’s different languages and different currencies, that’s why we have our own tour manager for Europe, but in the UK we normally just look after ourselves, here you just turn up arrange of fee and it’s not normally that difficult. We drive ourselves, I think Skunk Anansie used to do all that themselves as well. So we’re just copying them!
E&D: Are you looking forward to the show tonight and are you big fans of Gandalf The Green, Helpless and Underdark who are supporting?
Jon: Yeah, we’re looking forward to the bands tonight. We’ve played in Nottingham quite a few times now and it’s always been one of those cities that we seem to have a real connection with. I’m not sure why, but we always seem to have a crowd and everything, I’m a huge fan of Fudge Tunnel, and of course it’s their hometown, so we kind of feel a connection to them in that way, I am a fanboy, so I don’t mind saying it! Yeah, tonight should be cool. The show’s sold out. It’s not a huge venue but nevertheless, selling it out and having a decent crowd here, I’m sure it’s gonna be lots of fun.
E&D: You mentioned the the show at Damnation, how did it feel it back playing to that crowd there?
Jon: Great. I mean, we’ve played lots of different festivals, so playing to a crowd at Damnation we’re just completely comfortable in that environment, it’s great. To play Damnation this year was just an extra level because the crowd was so intense, like the crowd went crazy the whole set and I would say that was one of our better shows in terms of feedback and atmosphere and everything. One of our better shows since we started, I put it up there in our top five, at least I think, it was awesome.
E&D: What about Bloodstock, how was that show?
Jon: That was our first show back, so to be honest with you, that was kind of overshadowed in some ways by a little bit of nerves about just playing live again, because we hadn’t done it for so long and we weren’t sure how well we would perform as we didn’t really have that many chances to rehearse before either with everyone together. We had like an hour or two in the rehearsal room so we didn’t rehearse the way we would like, and we weren’t as ready as we would like to be. We felt like we’re just about hitting our stride. We’ll keep things going and see how things go, but playing up Bloodstock on such a big stage with such a large amount of people was really good. It was a good way to shrug off what had gone before, you know, every band’s been affected in exactly the same way, so we feel really lucky for our first show back to be such a big one because not everyone gets that opportunity.
E&D: How did it feel when you hit that stage?
Jon: Seeing all those people? Great. It felt like we were back at home and it wasn’t overwhelming or anything like that. We were just a little bit on edge cause we haven’t rehearsed, but actually as soon as we got on there started playing the first song, it was completely fine.
E&D: With your set on this tour, are you playing any new material at all?
Jon: Nothing new. We are recording the new album at the end of this tour. As soon as we finish. We’re playing Bristol on Monday, then going straight to the studio after that. The setlist is like normal, just a mixture of everything. We are playing ‘Krull’ again at the moment, actually in the set, that’s kind of a fun song to play. It’s a good opener because it’s a slow builder, and then the rest of the set is our standard set.
E&D: You just mentioned the new album, looking forward to that. Is there a timeframe as to when we can expect that?
Jon: Napalm [Records], have got that in mind for, I think we were saying around about summertime next year. It’s our last album, I think on Napalm, we’ve not really opened up discussions over an extension. In fact, Existential Void Guardian was an extension to the original deal, so we’ve had a few other labels contacted. We’ll just see how things go with it and we’re quite relaxed about it at the minute. There’s maybe a few different options available too, so we’ll see what happens.
E&D: Have you had any thoughts about another tour after the album’s recorded or before it’s released?
Jon: Yeah. We’re gonna be right into next year. Yeah, totally. We’ve got a European tour, which we in the process of booking for late next year, like Autumn time and we have some outlined plans to go to America. Nothing booked booked yet, we haven’t applied for our visa yet, so that’s a long way off, but that’s something else that we’re keen to do.
E&D: You mentioned Damnation as a big highlight, but what have been some of the other most memorable gigs that Conan have played over the years?
Jon: We played at this place called the Blue Lamp in Sacramento on one of our American tours. I remember that one being a particularly awesome show. We played in Tokyo, in 2018. We played Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo in three days and we played Earth Dome in Tokyo and it hadn’t sold out for like 10 years something. We did a premiere of this documentary that the guys in Kurokuma had done, friends of ours from Sheffield and they were on tour with us. Joe from Kurokuma speaks Japanese, so they made this documentary called The Doom Doc a doom doc, which we took part in and they had a premiere of that and then the show and it sold out. That show, I put close to the top of the list of all time favourite shows because A, it’s in Japan, and B, it was super cool and the reception was just fucking insane. It was like World War Z, just stage diving and crowd surfing, from the start, the very first minute to the last and it was just insane. I don’t believe there’s any video footage of that show anywhere, which I’m really gutted about but it was just so good. That was like the perfect show. I guess another one was probably Hellfest. Such a big crowd, and for us to come from where we’ve come from, from nothing, just like any other band, we just got lucky and I got some good connections and we have played Hellfest twice now. The first time we played, that was such a big eye opener for me. I put that up there too. I mean, we didn’t play all that well, we played okay. We’re a much better band now but just to get to play on a stage such as that made me realise like, wow, this, this could be really cool. It made me really excited about in the band. This is back in 2013.
E&D: You’ve just released a, a video for the song ‘Paincantation’. Can you tell us a bit about the video and how it came about?
Jon: ‘Paincantation’ was always a bit of a joke song in the studio. We just did it without even rehearsing. My son plays guitar on that with me, he did a guitar track. I think he was only probably 11 or 12 at the time. It’s like a grindcore song at its heart. We’re not a grindcore band by any means, but my son played guitar on it with me. The video was done by our friend Nicos Livesy. He’s quite a well known video producer. He’s done work with Iron Maiden, Gorillaz, Adidas. He works for a big organisation and he just called in loads of favors to get to get the video out, to get the video created. If we’d have paid for it, would’ve cost over a hundred thousand pounds. That’s how much it was worth, but he did it for me. He called on load of favors because he really wanted to do it. Just to be able to be a part of our backlog for our videos.They wanted to be a part of that, so we consider ourselves really lucky to get someone such as him to do a video and for it to be such a good quality video. The label wouldn’t pay for it, so we had to fund it ourselves because they didn’t think it was worth it, because it was too short. Which shows a lack of vision in my opinion, that was kind of annoying, but the video was insane. After, the label just come back after an hour and said, can he do two more? He said, well, no, it would cost me his time for him to do a video for us of that style again, and it would be a full length video. That one was only a minute. If he did like a 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 minute song, it could be £200,000, £300,000 to do it the way he did that one, which obviously is not an option for us at the moment or ever haha!