Caliban - Not just negative emotions
Tuesday the 4th of April, I take the train to Arnhem, to the Goudvishal to be precise to have an interview with a band that I’m familiar with for a pretty long time now. At first, when I was sixteen or so their sound scared the hell out of me and I just did not want to listen to it that much. But now it seems like Caliban has changed their style, the bad sounds like a metalcore band now heir latest record ‘The Undyng Darkness’ did not get such a nice score on Metalrage but it’s a fact that I like that album more than the first records. Especially the clean vocals are incredible, weird and certainly uncommon but I like them a lot. And as I enter the venue I wonder what singer Andy (with a bottle of water in his hands to take care of his voice) and guitar player Mark will have to say about their band.
So, you’ve got a new record out now, how’s the response so far?
Mark: So far so good. I didn’t read so many reviews so far. But the ones I read were really good. For instance, we were record of the month in the RockHard magazine. And most of the reviews I’ve read are from Germany and we were in almost every top ten list ‘like Metal Hammer’ so the responses were very good.
Cool, because this was actually the first time that Dennis did the clean vocals, isn’t it? On the record I mean.
Mark: Yeah on the record. But I don’t know if you’ve heard of the split program?
Yes, with Heaven shall burn.
Mark: Yes, but there’s just one song on it that has got clean vocals. But that was actually the first time he recorded the clean vocals on an album.
Ok, because I believe that now the combination between the clean singing and the grunting parts is coming out pretty well.
Mark: I agree, it is way better than on our last record I believe. It fits way better with our sound. It’s got a different dimension than on ‘The Opposite from Within’. We still like that album of course but I think it is better now.
Did he have to practice a lot than, because the last you had to hire someone else and when I saw you Dennis wasn’t that strong yet live.
Andy: He’s working very hard. When we were working for ‘The Opposite from Within’ we didn’t even know that he could sing at all. And sometimes we had some problems because the songs from ‘The Opposite from Within’ are not his range of his voice, so he had some problems.
Mark: But with the new sound he’s capable of it, also live so it’s better. The songs from the previous record were a lot deeper, that’s not his range but now he could determine it al by himself.
Ok, then it sounds to me as if Caliban was looking for a way to develop themselves. I was sixteen when I first heard of your music. But then, it was too much for me, all this brutality. Over time, Caliban sounds more accessible with the metalcore sound. What happened during the period in between?
Mark: Well, ahm, maybe we’re better musicians now?
So you think this is better music?
Mark: Yes, definitely. By far.
Andy: Music wise, we grew up and learned a lot. I think it’s the normal way, especially for us. We grow, we grow with the music and keep getting better and my voice is getting stronger, although right now it’s a bit weak.
Mark: It’s more technical. It’s more difficult to play this stuff than the older stuff. I’m not saying that the old stuff is bad or something but it sure is not as technical as this album.
Yes I agree and I come from a background with a more melodic/progressive metal base but then my friend is a real fan from your first work and he’s saying this is bad. Maybe you’ve developed in a somehow new band?
Mark: No, not really, in the beginning we also had some melodic parts and I think on this record we made some really heavy parts, double bass and brutal break downs. But now we mix it more with other things. And on the previous records you can also hear some melodic things but then we didn’t work them out as we did now. For me it’s not a complete new band. Of course it’s different, but not that much. Maybe because of the fact that the production is more clean, it sounds different. If you listen to the old records with the new sound they would seem different or more civilized. You can hear it when we play live; the all the songs have the same sound, old and new and you can hear it’s the same band.
Do you think you did something different in songwriting then?
Mark: In the beginning there was not so much structure in the songs, they were more chaotic
Andy: It’s a different kind of metal maybe.
Mark: And I can imagine that fans from the beginning will dislike this album a bit. That’s a normal reaction I think and that’s how it always will be. Even a band like In Flames sounds, I wouldn’t say it’s pop metal, but it’s completely different from the beginning. I still like the band though but it’s a matter of taste. Now we have almost complete new fans.
I took a look at the lyrics of your songs and suddenly which are mostly about negative emotions and then I checked out the ‘thank you section’;. man, what a contrast! It could be a lyric for a song.
Andy: A little bit yeah.
Why not putting those kind of lyrics on the album?
Andy: I don’t know, I think it’s a little bit too short. When I try to write my lyrics, in the end I end up with these kinds of emotions.
You don’t know why?
Mark: Andy is a sad person
Andy: Yeah, but not all the time. When I’m sad or pissed of or whatever then I feel more like putting it into words. It’s not that I’m really down or depressed but it’s just a mood that suits the writing process better. I don’t know why.
Does it have to do with the kind of music you’re playing?
Mark: Well, it’s just like with other bands. Like Biohazerd we just cannot write lyrics like ‘ow, the sun is shining’ or whatever. It just doesn’t fit with the music. And most of the bands think of something pissed to express themselves.
Andy: I use writing my lyrics in a way of therapy. I write down my bad moods and stuff like that and on stage I express myself, I scream it out, that’s my kind of therapy. I think that if I would make other music then I wouldn’t write other lyrics. It’s not that I sit down and try to write them, it’s inside me.
I understand, but then these words I mentioned. It could well be a song and I think you can also write positively.
Andy: Thank you, I’ll think about it.
So if you had to choose between negative and positive emotions. Hate or love?
Andy: Love, but it always hurts so much. For me that’s always the problem having somebody so close. But I would choose that, because it gives me something to hold on, something strong.
Mark: For me it’s the same. But it’s not that difficult for me, because I’ve had long relationships and not so much trouble after the relationship was over. So I would definitely choose love.
And is ‘The Undying Darkness’ a positive or negative album?
Mark: I would say it is positive because ewe get a lot of mails that our lyrics are helping people. Somebody said he was in a very bad situation and then he read the lyrics which made him feel good again to work with the day. So I would say in the end it’s positive.
Andy: The lyrics are mostly negative, but sometimes there is hope in it, a solution. It makes me happy that people say they get some strength out of it.
Wow, that’s the best kind of recognition you can get.
Andy: Yeah, I’m very grateful for that and in that way I should also say it is a positive album. For others but also for myself, the expression I can make by writing music.
Then is there a certain goal for Caliban?
Mark: Do you mean if we had reached our goals yet?
Well, more if you have desires for the upcoming future, because you’re saying you sound more and more the way you want to
Mark: We didn’t think about that when we started to make music. At the moment, we’re having the best time, we’re more popular than ever at the moment. We play in bigger venues and especially in the states and the Christmas tour, all the big venues were sold out. It seems to be very good, this tour as well. It’s not the goal to play big, but we want to have fun. And we don’t want to be rich but we must be able to eat and stuff like that.
And if you could choose between this material profit and the emotional response of the fans saying you’re music really helped people?
Mark: Well, that’s hard, because I still have to eat. If I would have enough money at home I would prefer the emotional stuff but as long as I have to pay bills I’d choose the material thing. But then, it is not as if I have to quit otherwise.
Andy: Yes, now we can get both.
And for tonight, what can we expect?
Mark: We’ll do songs from every album expect for the very very first MCD. We play a pretty long set of seventy minutes even with four other bands. So it will be a nice show tonight.
Ok, well thank you for your time and have a good time tonight!
And then I went off in the nice sunshine of Arnhem (but it was actually still pretty cold) and enjoyed the sunset with a nice Albert Heijn smoothy on the street, waiting for my college DemonDust to have a good evening with four different bands. Hattoe!
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