“Intense music from not very intense people!”
Holy Roar’s brutality squad CONJURER are exploding like a shooting star. Hot off a packed out Bloodstock Festival appearance, we chatted with them to find out where this crazy momentum has come from…
We’ve seen you guys play many times from when you were unsigned, and it’s fantastic to see where you have come to now in such a short time span. Where does this insane momentum keep coming from?
Jan [Krause, drums]: I wish I knew, ’cause then we could bottle it and sell it!
Dan [Nightingale, guitar and vocals]: We have no idea where all of this comes from! And that’s not for us to seem ignorant in any way. We’re confident in the music we put out and we hold ourselves to high standards. It’s just kind of a perfect storm. We have a lot of people backing us who are incredibly passionate and persistent. Our PR company Hold Tight have gone far and above. Holy Roar have blind faith in us. They put out our album without even hearing it. We were like, we’ve got the demos, do you want to hear what it sounds like? And they were like “nope, just get it recorded and we’ll put it out!” We’ve pushed ourselves musically. As a live band we used to be a bit static, but now it’s a lot more primal.
Jan: That’s the thing, it is everyone else. We don’t do anything for the momentum, we just do the music we like. It just so happens that people not only like it enough to listen to it, but also to tell their friends. Again it’s a perfect storm!
How does it feel to be one of the rare bands to play two sets at the same ArcTanGent Festival [Conjurer also played a joint set with label-mates Pijn under the name Curse These Metal Hands!]?
Dan: Well he [Jan] weren’t there!
Jan: I thought it was great though!
We thought it was great! We’d heard it was going to be coming for a long time. It actually sounded like a great meeting of the two bands. The uplifting melodies of Pijn and the gruesomeness of Conjurer!
Jan: I loved it!
Dan: It was quite a weird one. We’ve pulled double duty before with two gigs in the same day, but never at a festival. There was part of us thinking, are we going to be able to pull this off? We did a bunch of nine hour practices, but just winged it at the end of the day. We were all like 90% there in terms of preparation, and it was like, let’s just have fun with it! It was a great opportunity. Both bands, we’ll admit, all write really downbeat and miserable stuff, so we were like, shall we write something really happy and positive!? Doing that was great fun. We all had a bit of a party, but then it was like oh, we’ve got to do the heavy set still…
Jan: Who knows, maybe it will be released in the near future?
You played Bloodstock the week before. What’s the difference between playing a bill much more metal oriented, and playing a more experimental bill like ArcTanGent?
Jan: We’re kind of used to it. We quite often get put on odd bills. We’ve been put on bills where the other bands playing were noise acts, and we were the only act with guitars. We played with Orchards who played here – Set of the weekend by the way – So we’re kind of used to playing with different bands. Because there is so much crossover with fans now, people aren’t just listening to metal, they’re listening to everything. The crowds end up being reasonably similar. I didn’t notice a massive difference in the response from the Bloodstock crowd and ArcTanGent, which can only be a good thing.
Dan: It’s nice to cross so many boundaries that we’d never expect. When we said it’d be great to play ArcTanGent and 2000 Trees, we’d look at the lineups and think we’ll never get on that, it’ll never happen. So when both festivals say they’ll have us, it’s awesome! It always makes us think we are worth it. Not to blow smoke up our bums or anything, but I don’t know that many bands who are able to go across all of them.
It was great to go from watching the happy indie pop of Orchards today, to then go and see your horribleness! That is the beauty of ArcTanGent!
Jan: Soooo good! It’s the new law. Like I said we played with Orchards and Rolo Tomassi, it was brilliant!
Whether you are playing live, or on studio recordings, Conjurer always deliver this huge rage and ferocity. How do you channel that anger?
Dan: I’ve never really been one to put too much personal stuff out there. If you do that it’s tied to you forever. You’ve got to play these songs every day and you’re just going to be miserable all the time. We’re able to distance ourselves from the subject matter. For instance, there is a bit in one of our songs where I scream away from the mic. A lot of people compliment it as being quite harrowing. But when you play it that often, you kind of separate yourself from it and it becomes more about the performance than it does the subject matter. So as much as it does come from a personal place, it’s nice to not be digging up your old demons. It was nice to jump down into the crowd today and go Oi! Oi!
[we all laugh]
Jan: We’re reasonably chilled people off stage, we aren’t running around screaming in people’s faces. It’s nice to have a half hour where we can properly go mad!
Dan: It’s intense music from not very intense people!
Jan: If I could talk about football for a second. The comparison between doing that and being in a football crowd… There is a separate set of rules in those situations. So, it’s perfectly acceptable for me to cunt off someone in the football ground, but I’d never do that in the street. A lot of people will confine it to the football crowd so that they don’t have to do it in real life. So with this, we can get all our aggression out and feel good afterwards.
What happens in the pit stays in the pit! Conjurer’s sound merges many extreme metal subgenres such as black metal, grind, death, sludge, noise… How do you manage to take so many elements and still make it sound cohesive?
Jan: Just do it! We all like different sorts of music, so it was like, is there a way we can get this doomy slow bit, into this spazzy fast bit? We gave it a go, and tabbed it out in GuitarPro, had a listen back and were like, oh that works! That’s how a lot of our songs are figured out.
Dan: It’s not as calculated as a lot of people might think. I’m not a particularly massive black metal fan. I don’t listen to the trve stuff like Darkthrone and Bathory. But glimpses of it are really tasteful. It’s the same with doom metal and stoner. We never want to be a straight up doom band or hardcore band, ’cause then it’s like, here is our one sound forever… It’s nice to change things up a bit and excite ourselves.
It keeps it fresh for the crowd too!
Dan: We do look at our crowds sometimes and see them not knowing what to do! We don’t have the music tell people what to do. It’s only very recently that people have started pitting and doing walls of death, and it’s like, oh you can do that to our music!
Do you have any influences outside of music (ie. Games, art, literature, film, etc.)?
Dan: I have a fair bit of inspiration come from film. The first song we ever wrote, ‘Behold the Swine’ [Opening the ‘I’ EP, 2016], is influenced by a 1971 Ken Russell film called The Devils. In a nutshell, it’s about the government at the time are all Catholic. And there’s all these new French Protestant towns, and they wanted to knock down any barriers and have it as a Catholic country. It’s quite political and there’s a lot of sexual imagery and violence. It’s a proper screwy film. There were a lot of themes of condemnation, underdogs, political greed. It was a film that was able to be tied in so many different ways, so when it came into my life, there’s always going to be a part of me that wants to bring it in. As much as I like writing personal lyrics, I do like an element of fantasy too. The last song on our album [Mire, 2018], is called ‘Hadal’, and it’s purely just about the deepest part of the sea.
Jan: It’s a wildlife documentary!
Dan: Me and Jan were just fascinated at the idea that we know more about outer space than we do about the rock we live on! Under the sea, only 2% of it has been discovered, the rest of it is a complete mystery. So it was like, whoa! Let’s put a sick doom riff to that!
[we all laugh]
A lot of magazines and media outlets have picked up on Conjurer, and you crossover a lot of different fanbases. Are you surprised by how well ‘Mire’ has done?
Jan: Oh yeah! We never expected to get all the coverage that we did, so that was a surprise. I’m surprised by the breadth of people that covered it! It’s gone better than we ever thought it would.
Dan: A lot of our childhood dreams have already been fulfilled, which is quite bizarre.
Jan: The first time we were in Metal Hammer, Joey Jordison was on the front cover, it was like, what the fuck, this is insane!
Dan: I feel kind of bad at times, my dad will be like “You realise you’re in Kerrang! You’ve been reading that since you were thirteen…” And I’d be like, yeah. And he’d be like “is that it?” And I’ll be like, well I’ve known this for a while now, I’ve already freaked out, I’ve come down now! It’s really difficult to process. When it’s stuff like childhood dreams, you just can’t really believe it’s happening, so you don’t really know how to react, and that can kind of come across like you aren’t reacting the right way. But we’re not very intense people. We don’t freak out when we get good news.
Jan: It feels like it’s a big thing. Nothing comes with fireworks, we’ll just get an email from Kerrang! And it’s like oh cool, let’s do that! You just take it bit by bit.
Dan: The audience see the fireworks, but we don’t at all. We just go to practice every Wednesday, play through the songs, go home, have some dinner! It doesn’t suck the love, excitement and passion out of it. It just hits you in the face on the day. We’ve known we’re playing here for a while, but it’s not ’til we’re stretching just outside the stage when we’re like… Oh God! But we do appreciate everything that comes to us!
When was the last time you were pinching yourself thinking, fuck me that is amazing!?
Dan: Well to be honest, when we won Metal 2 The Masses and got to Bloodstock on the New Blood stage, that was the first time I was nervous for a gig since the band started. When we played there again the other day, the size of it all really gets to you. We’re standing at the back of the SOPHIE stage, which is a hell of a lot bigger than the New Blood stage. And it’s kind of like, there are people waiting for us out there. You don’t get settled. You don’t just stand there waiting to get on, you do stretches and pace around for a bit. With the Pijn set we did yesterday, a lot of that was nerves because it was like, I hope we all know the set! [Giggles]
Do you have any good festival survival tips?
Dan: Wet wipes!
We brought wet wipes!
Jan: Buy a lot of food beforehand so you don’t have to buy all your meals at the festival and be out of pocket! Breakfast bars, bananas, crisps, hard-boiled eggs, fruit pots! Just be careful. Don’t go too mad, and you’ll be great!
What else do we have to look forward to from Conjurer?
Jan: We’re playing Doom Vs Stoner [HRH Festival] in Sheffield. After that we’ve got a UK tour with Conan. And then it’s whatever comes after that!
Interview conducted by Chris “Frenchie” French and Ross Baker.
Photo Credit: Ian Percival @trashmonkeypics
‘Mire’ is out now on Holy Roar Records.
Early bird tickets for ArcTanGent 2019 are on sale now!