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Articles : “A Real Nostalgia Trip” – An Interview With Jim Grey (Caligula’s Horse)

By on July 27, 2019

Artists’ creative processes and journeys are eternally fascinating areas of study and discussion. Where do creative people’s ideas come from? How do they form? How do creatives develop and nurture their ideas? How do they take them from raw thoughts and initial ideas through to fruition, to the fully realised works of art that the public sees/hears? Is the journey more enjoyable and important than the completion? All compelling questions.

Jim Grey, legendary frontman for and one of the major creative forces behind Brisbane’s progressive rock powerhouse Caligula’s Horse, has a highly unexpected response as to where his initial ideas come from.

“Believe it or not, listening to all-instrumental music leads me to write better lyrics,” he reveals, “anything that provides me with that next level, overwhelmed with emotion type of feeling. It can also be reading a book or watching a film. Sometimes I can just be out walking around and I’ll get goosebumps and a story will come to me.

“So usually it starts with a story idea, or an imaginary moment that sort captures a moment in time, and that inspires exploration of that idea, which is how we ended up with something like (last album) In Contact.”

Grey also tells us that, while previously the bulk of the writing has been done by himself and lead guitarist Sam Vallen, usually in a room together, the new material they have been working on for album number five has been more of a collaborative process, with the other members making their voices heard a little more.

“We never jam, we’ve never been a jam band,” he explains, “it’s very composed. 80-90% of it happens simultaneously, where you’ll have an initial idea that someone will have. It might be a couple of chords from this or a vocal hook over that, and then that gets worked on a polished. Usually, Sam and I come together and all the sparks fly and we run around this idea until we can expand it into something else, and then all the fine-tuning happens after that.

“It’s been really interesting this time though, some of the other guys, particularly Dale and Josh, and Adrian as well, have all been involving themselves in the writing process in one way or another. So for the first time since the beginning of the band, we’re actually having all these other voices coming in and really having a say musically. Which has been really interesting.”

The rest of 2019 is going to be a very solid combination of concerted writing for the next album and touring for the band. They recently announced their first-ever tour of Central and South America, which coincides with their appearance at the Progpower festival in Atlanta in early September. Plus they are about to embark on their ‘Let it Grow’ tour of Australia, which will feature the band playing album number two The Tide, the Thief and River’s End and three Bloom, in their entirety, back to back. It will represent a very exciting moment for many of the band’s long term fans.

“I feel like it was a long time coming, when you realise it was kid of a joint anniversary of the two albums, six years since River’s End and four years since Bloom,” Grey says, “we just said ‘hey, let’s put them together and pretend that they’re both five years old!’ So yeah, it’s going to be pretty spesh.”

Such a huge undertaking, playing two epic albums in their entirety on the one night, entailed doing something a little different with the lineup. For each of the three cities, the tour is taking in, the band have selected a band or artist that they love to play special acoustic opening sets, artists that usually play electrified and loud. “I suppose there’s always been a paradigm as to how we all get put into a lineup together,” Grey muses, “it’s all about what’s going to suit the evening best, and for use getting up to play these huge sets, it’s hardly suited to putting a five-band lineup together. We needed something that was more gentle on the ear, something that was just a nice introduction to the night.

“We’re also toying with having a short interval in between the albums and having them come back on for another short set while we go and take oxygen and try not to die!” He laughs.

Doing this tour has also necessitated some scrambling on the band’s part to completely re-learn several tunes from those particular albums. “Some of these songs we haven’t touched for years,” he says, “in fact, there’s one or two songs off River’s End that we literally never played live as a group, the last time we performed them was when we recorded them on the album.

“And it’s funny going back to songs we haven’t done in years and vocally, realising that I was 24 years old when I recorded them and it’s like ‘okay, I’ve got to find a way to do that, this is interesting!’” He laughs again, “it’s going to fun, it’s a real nostalgia trip for us.”

Tour details and tickets


Rod Whitfield is a Melbourne-based writer and retired musician who has been writing about music since 1995. He has worked for Team Rock, Beat Magazine,, Heavy Mag, Mixdown, The Metal Forge, Metal Obsession and many others. He has written and published his memoirs of his life and times in the music biz, and also writes books, screenplays, short stories, blogs and more.