Interview: Conjurer

By May 26, 2017 Interviews, Listen

We recently included Conjurer in our list of ten extreme bands to look out for in 2017. We sat down to talk with guitarist/vocalist Brady Deeprose to talk about everything the band has coming up this year, what they stand for as a band and the musical landscape around them.

S] You’re currently in the midst of recording your debut album, how’s that going for you?

B: It’s done. We did two weeks with Lewis Johns down in Southampton. Dan lost his voice on the last couple of days so he had to go back but everything’s now done, and we got the first mix of one of the songs back yesterday so we’re in the process of giving Lewis feedback on the mixes.

S] When do you reckon it’ll be out?

B: This is a bit of a point of contention. We want to get it out in October I think but it all depends on when the artwork’s finished. My friend Jordan did the artwork for the EP and he’s also doing the artwork for the record, but it’s quite a big job. If it all goes as we intend he’s got his work cut out for him!

S] How big a step forward do you feel it is from the EP?

B: It’s weird because some of the tracks we’ve been playing since like, our first show. A lot of it was written at the same time as the EP. It’s certainly a lot less straight up metal, the EP was quite heavily death metal influenced and comparatively this is a lot more progressive. All the songs are longer, there are more twists and turns, and there’s a lot more influences on it with more variation. We’ve played everything on the album live at least once which I don’t think many bands do, but we like to get a feel for how a track works live before we record it. We had tracks we dropped after performing because it gave us another perspective on it. One of the songs we played live a number of years ago, dropped, and now we’ve rewrote it and it’s on the record. Everything on the EP was in one tuning whereas on the record there’s more, which takes more work to sound cohesive with the other songs.

S] Are you having to tackle things that come with the process of making an album that were maybe less of a concern with the EP, like themes or track sequencing or anything like that?

B: The EP didn’t really have a theme. We wrote five or six songs, picked our four favourites and put it on the record. As for the track order, it was just what we felt flowed best. We love the idea of a big concept record or tying the songs together but the material has been written over such a long space of time that it’s kinda impossible. It’s similar to the ordering of the EP in that sense but we’ve come up with an artistic concept that’ll be linking the tracks together that’s not really formulated enough to talk about yet, but it should make a lot of sense. I think this will be the last record though that will be approached in that “here are all the songs that we have” sense as opposed to truly treating it like a fully-formed album. We’re gonna start writing the next record at our next rehearsal. We spend so long writing and we’ve been sat with some of the songs for this album for so long, we’re already hankering for new material which I think will always be the case for this band.

S] Have you got more resources to work with this time around though?

B: We’ve been really fortunate actually. We’ve sold more merch over the last year so we have more money to work with. We did pretty well for ourselves before the EP, and we put in a certain amount of our money plus what was in the band fund to fund the EP, and then when it came to recording this album we paid less out of our own pockets because the band itself covered most of the associated costs which is kind of amazing. We were saying when we got together that if we ever got to a point where the band just funds itself then we’re happy. Getting to be big or whatever would be wicked but if we’re playing shows and not bankrupting ourselves doing so, that’s the dream achieved. Having the support of Holy Roar too, they said from the off that they’d do it. I emailed Alex and asked if he wanted to talk about maybe releasing the album and he just insisted that he’d do it prior to hearing any demos or anything like that. It’s taken a lot of stress off of us.

S] Did you expect to get this level of support for what you’re doing?

B: It’s a weird question to answer because if you say yes, you sound like a dickhead. I don’t think anyone ever expects to do well when they start a band. When we formed Conjurer, Dan came to me with the track Behold the Swine from the EP when it was about 70 or 80% done and was just like “I’ve written this song, do you want to start a band?” and I was instantly blown away by it and super into it. It’s not something you expect to have mass appeal though. It’s the mentality that we really like it and that’s enough for us. Our drummer Jan has toured all over the world in various bands and if he’s playing music he’s passionate about to 5 people on a Wednesday afternoon, he’s happy. We didn’t expect it but we’re glad people are into it.

S] Are you feeling any kind of pressure after the EP being so well received?

B: A little bit. Myself, yes. I know a lot of people have invested a lot of time, effort and money into supporting this band whether it’s promoters who have taken a punt on us or people who have been very vocal in supporting us. I feel like we have an obligation to them for putting that faith in us. But if people hate the record, there’s nothing we can do. It’s what we’ve made and it’s the record that we love, and you’re very welcome to hate it, but we’re gonna still play it. Dan and Jan especially don’t really feel the pressure at all because they’re just happy to play and don’t engage with the industry side as much as I do.

S] On your Facebook page your list of influences alongside already renowned bands like Mastodon and Yob also includes quite young bands like Oathbreaker, Code Orange, and your labelmates in Svalbard. How has coming up in a similar time as these bands influenced and affected you?

B: That’s a good question. When me and Dan started the band we didn’t really know much of the scene that we’ve now become a part of. We weren’t aware of Holy Roar, we weren’t aware of bands like Oathbreaker and Code Orange that were doing these really interesting things with hardcore and metal. We worshipped The Black Dahlia Murder and Revocation, and Gojira were the band that got me into the heavier end of metal, so between those three influences we were just a death metal band really. It has evolved into this amalgamation of all this stuff but that only happened through exploration. Me and Dan got into Yob and we went to see them in London, and that show was a total eye-opening experience, standing there transfixed for the whole set and thinking “We need to be a band and we need to do this now”. There’s a band called Armed for Apocalypse and we just kinda wanted to be the British version of them. The more I listen to their records the more I realise we’ve nicked so many bits from them. We got in touch with them and they really like us and that was like the world ending as far as we’re concerned! We got into Oathbreaker on the previous record and now Rheia’s almost topped it for me so it’s good to see them getting some press on this album. We played a show with Primitive Man in Nottingham and I liked them on record but watching it was just the most oppressive, nihilistic shit I’d ever seen, and for a three-piece to have that kind of power, all of us were amazed. When we were recording the EP, we were listening to Employed to Serve in the hotel and thinking “Holy shit, this is amazing”, Jan got into Svalbard at around the same time, and we were just looking at these bands on Holy Roar and thinking “This label is putting out all of these cool bands”. We had the wide-eyed conversation that maybe one day in like ten years time, album six or whatever would be released through Holy Roar, and then the EP ended up doing so which was a mind-blowing moment. Definitely through Holy Roar we get to mix with so many amazing bands. Bands like OHHMS and Svalbard and Employed to Serve that are all so different but all doing really interesting stuff are so inspiring to us and encourage us to be open-minded when we’re writing music and not be afraid to do things that we think are interesting. That influences list is kinda just bands who have had an effect on us at some point.

S] You’ve actually answered a lot of what my next question was going to be, in regards to Holy Roar seeming to be really at the moment this kind of cultural hub for heavy music in the UK with all of these exciting young bands.

B: That’s something very apparent in their ethos. Getting to know Alex and Justine, the way they run it, a lot of labels will pick bands that have a track record. When Creeper got signed to Roadrunner, they’d managed to build up that following by themselves so they seemed like the perfect band for Roadrunner to be signing. Alex just takes shots on bands he’s passionate about though. You find him putting out a record like For Mankind by Haast’s Eagled who are a small Welsh doom band that play all the good doom shows in Cardiff, and that record is fantastic but it’s never going to be one that will sell masses. Alex’s credibility is always there in that sense, and there’s a growing sense of appreciation in the UK towards him that he always just puts in the effort for bands he believes in. It’s testament to Holy Roar’s attitude and for us to be part of this is mindblowing.

S] One thing I noticed about Conjurer over the last year or so is just how many places you’ve played. So many festival bills like Damnation, Bloodstock, Ritual, what was going to be Temples, playing all over the place. Do you feel that your work ethic in doing that has been an instrumental part of the success you’ve had?

B: 100%, yes. A lot of local bands don’t cover enough ground. You can play 30 shows in your local area but you’re gonna get the same 10 people at every one. You’re getting better as a band but you’re not spreading. From the off, we wanted to not only play as many shows as we could but try and cover some ground. We’re based in the Midlands and there’s really not much. I worked as a promoter in Birmingham and we’d get stats in for tours which did London the night before and Leeds the next night, and Birmingham does terribly in comparison. This goes for big shows and trickles down, local shows in Leeds or Manchester pull three times the crowd the same show would in Birmingham. Shows in London and Manchester sell out instantly and if you’ve got a sold out show in Birmingham, it has been a hard slog to get there. It’s something I’ve been trying to work out for a long time but it’s difficult. Part of it is just the acceptance of our kind of music in the North and the South compared to the Midlands. I’ve got a spreadsheet here of every show we’ve ever played which I’m quite proud of, and our first Manchester show was when we just had a couple of demos as part of this all-dayer and we had 100 or 150 people watching us, crazy. We sold more merch at that show than the last three months put together. I don’t have any hatred for the long drives to Leeds or Manchester because I know when we get there it’s gonna be great. We’ve had so much support from people and that kind of mentality is more akin to the European mentality where promoters really look after their bands which the North has, and in the Midlands there’s not enough money in the shows for people to want to do that. If there’s one thing that bands should do more is try and cover enough ground as possible.

S] It also means you guys have been able to develop a bit of a reputation as a great live band. How important is playing live to your art?

B: I think there’s a lot of stuff that pisses us off about live performances of bands. It’s that whole choreographed and fake nature that dilutes a lot of metal. It has its place, I really love Lady Gaga and I went to see her a few years ago and obviously every single part of that performance from the moment she walked on stage was meticulously planned out, and it was wicked. But for a lot of more modern metal bands, there’s so much more emphasis on merch and stage banners than working on your songs, and when half of your set is on a backing track what’s the point? We’re also not aggressive people at all. We’re not big drinkers or partiers, we’re quite pathetic as individuals, so all of our aggression and everything we have as people comes out in that 30 minute set. I’d like to think that we do live isn’t thought out or planned, it’s just putting as much honesty as we can into what we do with no pretense or attempts to look a certain way or give off a certain vibe. We don’t really write down a setlist because we like to think that we know our songs well enough to be able to sit there before a set and agree on it there. It’s quite organic.

S] It’s funny that you should mention setlists. I saw Iron Maiden recently and it was brilliant, but they finished at around ten to eleven and Run to the Hills isn’t in the setlist on this tour, and with ten minutes to spare you’d think they’d have played Run to the Hills enough times to be able to just crack it out there and then.

B: It’s interesting with a band like Iron Maiden who have more albums than we have songs. I have a bit of an issue with Iron Maiden actually. I enjoy Iron Maiden and they have some brilliant songs, but I think their last couple of albums have been total dogshit and people won’t say it because it’s Iron Maiden. All the magazines have to give them 10/10 because it’s Iron Maiden, and that attitude is really damaging because they now have no filter. It encourages new artists not to challenge themselves. A band like Metallica have put out some questionable albums but at least whatever you think about it it’s fucking different, and I’d rather listen to Lulu than the latest Iron Maiden album because it’s something that’s a little bit challenging that commands your attention. There’s more merit in that to me. The band Hell for example, they are doing classic heavy metal but they are really exciting with forward-thinking production and embracing of modern techniques even though that first album was written in the 80s, whereas Iron Maiden I think sound quite dated now. They get magazine cover after cover and Iron Maiden do not need your press. If the whole music press forgot about Iron Maiden they would still sell the same amount of albums and tickets as they do now. It’s such an unnecessary space filler. A band like Code Orange, I don’t actually like their new album as much as I did I Am King, but it’s really fucking interesting. I’d rather give space in a magazine to a band like them.

S] I actually had this conversation with Jami from Code Orange recently. We were talking about how they’d signed to Roadrunner and are getting a lot more coverage and opportunities, and I asked him how far he thinks they can take it, and his answer was that they will do as much as they can but it’s not gonna do anything major until the system changes and the industry starts giving young bands the time of day.

B: Absolutely, and I understand it to an extent. The issue with magazines is that print media is in trouble. Magazines do support underground music but not as much as I think they want to, but they’re stuck in this position where if they stuck a band like Employed to Serve on the cover, it’d be wicked and introduce that band to a massive new audience, but hardly anyone would buy it because they’re buying it for the big bands on the cover. I’ve got a Metal Hammer subscription and they’ve given us a lot of support, but outside of that I don’t really engage that much with print media. I fully sympathise with anyone who works in journalism because it is so hard to get people’s attention. I slagged them off earlier for giving Iron Maiden 10/10s but it’s what people want to read, and I’m sure some of them do believe that Iron Maiden are that good. It’s not something we can solve here unfortunately.

S] To bring things back to Conjurer finally, how high are your ambitions for what you can achieve with Conjurer?

B: This is something we’ve talked about a little bit. I think when you look at the industry, the amount of bands who are our idols and are amazing but still have day jobs and aren’t doing as well as they deserve to be doing, it lets us know that there is a ceiling for the type of music we are playing currently. If we could get to the point where we could tour everywhere, places like Japan, the US and Australia, without crippling ourselves financially, that’s the goal. For us to go out there, and people there to want to see us. If we continue to work with people who support us doing what we want to do without interfering with it like Holy Roar, then we’re gonna be happy. And yeah, big riffs innit.