Interviews : “It’s literally ‘dream come true’ material now.” – An Interview With Jim Grey (Caligula’s Horse)
Jim Grey – Caligula’s Horse
2015 and the start of 2016 was a busy time for Caligula’s Horse. However, they’ve been fairly quiet outwards for a big chunk of this year. I phoned up one of my favourite vocalists, Jim Grey, last week to have a chat about their new drummer, a spell casting Nazi and fainting grandmothers…
Being a massive fan of the band myself, I was curious about what they have been up to recently and how new drummer Josh Griffin has settled into the band.
“Mostly like, I don’t know, turning whiter than before… No, we’ve got a new drummer now! Josh has replaced Geoff Irish. We sort of realised, all of us, I think, that it was best if we parted ways. I know for a fact, having spoken to Geoff, we see each other quite regularly, that he’s a lot happier now. He’s under a lot less stress than he was at the time, so we definitely made the right decision there. On top of that, Josh Griffin is now a full time member of the band. He’s been a treasure! He’s been a dream to work with. He’s an absolutely ridiculous drummer. Not just that, I hate to say drummer actually, and no offense to drummers, but he’s a musician, and I love that. We’ve been writing new music together already. It’s going to be awesome.”
You’re just erasing all my questions one after one… [laughs]
[laughs] “I’m reading your mind! On top of that, man, having him in the band has sort of excited us more about even the older material. It’s reinvigorated our passion for what we do because he’s so excited to be there. He’s not just a friend of ours now, he started out as a fan. So it’s one of those things where he’s now getting the opportunity to… We announced today that we’re touring with Opeth next year, which will be insane. Especially for him coming in at this point in the band where we’ll be going to Europe, we’ll be touring with Opeth, we have our headline tour. So he’s a bit shell-shocked. I think he’s looking forward to the first couple of shows to get them under his belt!”
As mentioned, it was announced last week that Caligula’s Horse will be opening up for Opeth on their Australian tour in February next year. I asked Jim if he could express his feeling about this in five words or less.
“Five words or less, no. [laughs] Let me think… I. Pull. The. Trigger. No, I don’t know! [laughs] ‘Thrilled’ and ‘humbled’ I believe were the words I used on Facebook today. Definitely thrilled and humbled, not something we ever thought we’d be able to do, just can’t wait!”
Have you listened to the new album yet?
“I have! Sorceress is pretty cool, man. They’re really sort of jumping in that sort of early Jethro Tull early prog kind of vibe. I dig Sorceress, the track, it’s just immense and I can’t wait to hear that live! You said five words or less, that was absolutely not five words or less! Whatever man, I’m in charge!” [laughs]
Earlier this year it was also announced that Caligula’s Horse will be playing a truly stellar festival in Spain next year along some of the biggest prog bands around. Is there a classic European festival run in the works?
“We’re working to make something along those lines happen! I mean, basically we want our European trip to be as worthwhile as possible. The first one announced is Be Prog! My Friend in Barcelona. It’s one of those things, you look at the poster and you see our logo on there and then you look up a little bit and you’ve got Jethro Tull, Marillion, Anathema, Animals As Leaders up there. All these bands that are making huge waves and have made huge waves. Jethro Tull are irreplaceable. It’s literally ‘dream come true’ material now. It’s to the point now where it’s not cheesy to say it, I genuinely believe it’s a dream come true. Not to mention we get to go Spain this time, last time we didn’t spend any time there. It will be great to meet some of our fans there and meet some new people!”
Curious about the drummer swap, I wanted to know if fans will notice a change in the band’s sound because of Josh.
“I think they almost certainly will! Josh is a very distinctive drummer. Even the older stuff with him playing parts that were written for Geoff in the past, he’s put his own spin on them as well. For me it’s really exciting to hear that, and I’m sure that our fans will think so to.”
At this point in the interview Jim learned that his daughter have learned how to open doors as she entered the room to say good night to him.
“Cool beans… Sorry about that, man. I think she just figured out how to open the door, so there you go. Progress every day! On Josh. His contribution to his older material has already reinvigorated our love for it. Sam and I, in what we’ve been writing, we now know what kind of player Josh is so we’ve tried to applied to push him and push us. So this is stuff we haven’t done before. That’s sort of why, we’ve got a fair few songs put away that we’re very happy with now. We’re not ready to announce an album or anything like that, but we’ve got enough new material to bring it on tour. We want people to hear it because we’re so excited about it.”
I don’t really like to talk in terms of heavy or not, but I still wanted to know how the new material compares to Bloom.
“I prefer to talk in terms of shades. Like, is it darker or lighter, does it have different elements of colour? It’s maintained what we’ve learned from putting Bloom together, it’s maintained a fair amount of that colour and vibrance, but at the same time it’s a little more conceptual. Some of the stories are a little sadder and darker. There’s no way for me to describe this without sounding like a mad person. [laughs] But at the same time, I think people should come along to the shows and hear it because it’s the only chance you’ll get until we have an album ready to put out. Is the tour’s name, Hands Shape Stone, based on a new song? “That’s right! It’s not the name of a song, but a reference to a lyric within a song!”
Turning the interview towards touring, I wanted to know what the most inconvenient thing to deal with on the road is.
“I’m probably the most inconvenient thing the guys have to deal with! [laughs] If they do end up reading this and I will make them read this, they’re not even going to laugh, it’s that true! In Australia it’s just the distance really. It’s always a hassle. But other than that, we’re a fairly finely tuned machine at this stage, we get in the van, we get there, we’re on time, we sound check, we play the show, we get out. It’s really something I’m looking forward to now!”
Do you have any stories about weird encounters over in Europe?
“There was one woman in Vienna. I swear to God, she was trying to cast spells from the mosh pit. She was an insane like Nazi, black metal fan. I think she was at the wrong show, definitely for us, you know. Imagine how she felt when we started playing Bloom with me singing my sweet little heart out, expressing my feelings and she was like “WREAAAAAH!” in the front row. So that was pretty interesting. Other than, everyone is pretty chill. [laughs]”
Is there a person that stands out in a positive way, maybe someone you met like a hotel, or something that did you a favour, or similar?
“Yeah, there was a woman in Paris. She followed us for a number of shows. She was there to see Shining, she was a huge Shining fan. And she was amazing, she was great to talk to. Obviously, the attack happened when we were there, so it was a high tension, highly emotional evening. I have this memory of being in Paris at the merch stand and she was setting up next to Dave who was setting up our merch and stuff. I asked her what she was doing, she had all these glowsticks, glow in the dark face paint. She basically said that she wanted this night to be a light in the dark for us and for everyone to carry the positivity with them. So she was handing out lights to everybody. It was like something from a movie. She’s very special to me. We’ve actually kept in contact since. She’s amazing.”
What do you do to pass time on tour?
“Most of it is spent driving, but if we’re flying and have time, more often than not, I enjoy breakfast food! We try to walk around the city, catch up with people, and we go and eat breakfast food. Good breakfast food is the sign of a compassionate and civilised society!”
If you were on death row, what would be your last ever meal?
“Hmm. If I could eat it with people I wouldn’t care. It could be some sort of vegetarian dhal or something, but if I got to spend it with friends and family… I probably wouldn’t even eat, I would just be talking shit. I’m not sure the judge would allow that but FUCK him! It’s my life!”
If you could do one show with another band, which one would it be and why?
“I don’t know. I’m going to say Limp Bizkit because it seems like that would be a fun time. All you got to do is get up there and kinda be a douche and be like, “yeAAAAh!” I’ll regret it, but that’s my final answer!”
You should totally do a cover of Break Stuff.
“Oh, yeah. I can really see us doing a really fruity, flowery, colourful version of Break Stuff that sounds almost sound half-apologetic for breaking the thing you suggested.”
Any last fans for the Australian fans?
“Oh, I want to hold you close to me. I want to feel your heartbeat. I want to be close and sweaty amongst you. I know this is sounding really suss. I just want to play shows, man. That’s all I want, so I can’t wait to see you come out. Come and say hi and party with us, it’s going to be great!”
You can always play one man shows for your family in your living room.
[laughs] “Yes! And they’re not allowed to say that it sucks either!” Or a wedding. “Yeah, pull out “Rust” as she walks down the aisle. Nothing wrong with that. Grandma in the third row fainting when she hears the word “fuck” a couple times. “Good heavens, my stars!” Sorry, grandma.” Good times. “They are good.”