CALIGULA'S HORSE

english version

A CURA DI R&MIMB

11/02/2012

Caligula's Horse is a young australian quintet that just released the debut album "Moments from ephemeral city". Let's know some more about them through the words of Sam Vallen, guitarist and leader of the band, who talks about his influences, his concept, and offers us an interesting vision of music itself. A narration that will grab the attention of the sensible and curious.

R&MIMB: Hi Sam, since in Italy we still know very little about Caligula's Horse, please introduce the band to us and our readers...
Sam Vallen: Caligula's Horse, in simple terms is a five-piece progressive rock/metal band with an emphasis on songwriting and whatever interesting concepts and sounds we can squeeze out of it. Our music is complex but melodic and eclectic whilst still being accessible to a wide range of audiences.

R&MIMB: Why the choice to release your debut album only in digital format? You guys in the band are all very young and probably grown up in the download era; since your album's artwork is very particular and rich, don't you think the whole package would be more complete in a traditional format?
Sam Vallen: The album was initially digital only; it's now available in CD digipak from our website (www.samvallen.com) and a few other places. When Jim (Grey - the vocalist) and I put together "Moments from ephemeral city" It was never intended as something to sell or market, nor did we expect it to "take off" so to speak. It was released digitally, and as "Pay What You Want" because I felt like that was the simplest and most honest way to approach it - no frills or obvious gimmicks just easily accessible music. We were blown away by the response and invested the money made straight into the physical CD release on many fan's request.

R&MIMB: On our website we are launching a new section about cover artworks, would you like to spend some words on the artist that realized the amazing artwork for your album?
Sam Vallen: Levi Fleming is a guy I've known and worked with for years. In order to capture the colour and variety of the album I felt that his style would be a perfect fit. My directions to him were that I wanted a peacock, with a huge amount of colour - but the subtext to the picture was the story of the roman emperor Caligula and his hedonistic excesses. What Levi created couldn't fit the music better in my opinion and there is a lot of symbolism in the image alluding to the underlying theme.

R&MIMB: Which are the bands from the past that influenced you the most and which the contemporaries that you admire?
Sam Vallen: As most obsessed musicians would agree, the list would be too long to be a reasonable answer, so here's a "best of" list: the first band I adored as a child was the Beatles. I was practically obsessed with them, probably as young as 6 or so. They're a band that I've come back to with the same reverence many times since. My dad is an incredible guitarist and I always assumed I'd become a musician of some variety, but before I really decided that I was dedicating my life to music and guitar I remember being blown away by the early Metallica albums, as well as bands like Megadeth and Faith No More. My first big heroes were mostly jazz musicians. I was pretty serious about following this route early on in high school and I learnt and obsessed over guys like Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and plenty of guitarists like Wes Montgomery and Django Reinhardt. My biggest revelation was buying Passion and Warfare by Steve Vai. It combined everything that I wanted to hear at the time in that it was dense, layered, amazingly written and arranged, as well as being complex and subtle simultaneously, not to mention the guitar playing itself which was the turning point between me being a guitar player and me focusing intently on becoming the best guitar player and musician that I possibly could. The final part of the puzzle is the influence that Steely Dan had on my harmonic sensibilities. I can't think of a single group (or duo in their case) who can craft music so complex, but still accessible. In terms of contemporaries, I adore the British band Frost, who to me at least define what it means to be "progressive". Also, Pain Of Salvation, Devin Townsend and Opeth are all artists who constantly surprise me and I always look forward to immersing myself in. To me they're all on the edge of new ideas and innovations, I never know what to expect which is very exciting to me.

R&MIMB: Listening to "Moments from ephemeral city" i was stunned by the way you balance a very technical, severe and almost algid musicality with really warm and intensely passionate singing parts, which is your goal as composers?
Sam Vallen: It's very important to me for music to have both elements - the cerebral and the emotional. It's the playoff between the two that creates the drama that moves me, and in my own music I couldn't have it any other way. The fact is that I've spent a very long time working on purely mechanical things, be it working on chops or learning theory. I think the problem is that musicians end up becoming obsessed with impressing themselves and others and lose sight of why they practice these things in the first place. In my opinion it's to develop a pallet from which to draw from with no conceivable handicaps to hold them back. That's what the classical idea of a virtuoso is - someone who isn't limited technically and therefore is a perfect vessel for a composer to express himself through. So I make a point to use my abilities only in a context where they're required: sometimes it's fast, intense guitar playing, sometimes it's sustained chords, there's many different sides to it but my point is that we don't allow chops to get in the way of the art that we produce. The music and the direction in which it presents itself is paramount; the end result is "the song", and ego is not important.

R&MIMB: Nowadays everyone seems ready to thrown in the progressive cauldron bands like Radiohead or Muse, thanks god Caligula's Horse don't sound anything like that! Anyway it's clear that 30 years of rock didn't pass without living traces on you, which are the artists that inspire you, outside the world of metal and progressive rock?
Sam Vallen: It's true that rock has probably had the biggest influence on me, but as I said, it wasn't my first love growing up. The truth is that I'll give any music a good chance, and I feel like I can be impartial and enjoy it on it's own merits. I'm a fan of both Muse and Radiohead and I think they're two bands who have made a name for themselves pushing boundaries in their respective styles, which in my opinion is a pretty big reason to consider them under the "progressive" banner, for whatever it's worth. Artists who get cloistered in a particular style end up stagnating and becoming uninteresting, to me at least, and the best way to mix it up and avoid this is to spend time exploring styles of music you wouldn't normally explore, be it a Tchaikovsky ballet, an Ornette Coleman Free-Jazz exploration or a perfectly conceived three-minute pop song. It's the artists that take things from beyond the realm of "rock" that really excel to me. As for some particular non-rock influences? Besides the few I mentioned above I adore classical music, particularly modern classical like Debussy and Ravel. I love Jazz, mainly from the end of bebop to the start of Fusion in the late 60s: Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis are two that I continuously take inspiration from. I enjoy the innovation in electronic music - especially in terms of production. All of these things can be combined effectively with rock and metal.

R&MIMB: What do you think it really means to be a prog band in the year 2012?
Sam Vallen: I think it is to literally "progress". "Prog" as a genre is defined by long instrumental passages, high vocals, odd-time signatures and a lot of other things, but there's the problem: how can it be considered "progressive" if it's required to have those elements to fit in? If bands must utilise these elements then aren't they actually regressing? Of course there are many bands who do constantly push boundaries, but as a genre the term "progressive" has lost it's original meaning. To me Pain Of Salvation's Road Salt 1&2 perfectly encapsulate the idea of "progressive". Daniel Gildenlow stated that he wanted to forgo the intentional complexity his band was previously known for and get to the heart of emotional and meaningful songwriting. The albums are far less complex and elaborate but are no less progressive by that definition since they are an intentional step forward and away from what the band was previously comfortable doing.

R&MIMB: How was the feedback for your debut release in your homeland and internationally?
Sam Vallen: It was surprisingly positive. It was this feedback that encouraged Jim and I to put the band together and take Moments? to the live stage.

R&MIMB: Australia is famous for its wild garage punk scene, how is to be a young dude in love with prog growing up there? Please tell us something about your local music scene in Australia, how do you compare that with other international scenes?
Sam Vallen: If you look deep enough anywhere you'll find like-minded people, and it's no exception here. On the global scale Australia has very few big names in the international prog scene, which could be because we have a comparatively low population, or because our exports seem to be biased away from the arts and into sport amongst other things, but looking locally we actually have a very interesting and burgeoning scene trying to break out. I've lived all over Australia, after moving here when I was 10 (I'm actually a New Zealander), and even when I was a metal loving kid there was always people interested in playing in bands and swapping music no matter where I was. To me the Brisbane scene may be the best in Australia for this type of music, and it's a great thing that although far away, many bands travel between Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney often. Despite the distance the scenes are surprisingly friendly and intertwined.

R&MIMB: Would you like to suggest us some interesting new bands from your homeland?
Sam Vallen: I highly recommend anyone reading this check out Arcane, who share Jim's incredible vocals with us; Dead Letter Opener who are an incredible progressive death metal three-piece from Brisbane; Leadlight Rose and Echotide from Brisbane, with whom we share our drummer Geoff; Hemina and Anubis from Sydney are incredible and Toehider from Melbourne are amazing, prolific and as eclectic as anything I've ever heard.

R&MIMB: Have you ever played outside Australia?
Sam Vallen: I haven't. It's a tricky and expensive thing, but we intend on doing it soon with this band.

R&MIMB: Which are your next live dates? Is there any chance to see you guys over here in Italy?
Sam Vallen: We're playing a fair few local shows throughout March and April, and looking at a national tour in May if all goes according to plan. Although we don't have European tour plans at this point, we intend on getting there at some point.

R&MIMB: Thanks a lot Sam, it's time to say goodbye to the readers of R&MIMB!
Sam Vallen: Thanks for the opportunity guys! I hope everyone reading this has a chance to see what we're about. Download our album for free from www.samvallen.com, you can buy a CD if you like it, and be sure to come and join us on Facebook, at the address www.facebook.com/caligulashorseband.

Alle Royale