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Caligula’s Horse

The band Caligula’s Horse formed in the year 2011, on the other side of the planet. In the same year they released their debut ‘Moments From Ephemeral City’ and have steadily been releasing new albums every two years, every album better than its predecessor. The last album from the Australians was ‘Bloom’, released in 2015, which was received well by the critics. They haven’t been sitting on their hands ever since but they have been touring through Europe with Anathema, Opeth and Pain Of Salvation, and they will also be releasing their new album ‘In Contact; on the 15th of September! To learn more about the new album I reached out to guitarist Sam Vallen who, along with singer Jim Grey, is the driving force behind the band.

By: Leon | Archive under prog / sympho metal

First off all, congratulations on the release of your newest album 'In Contact', personally I think it might be your best work to date! Before we begin with the more serious questions, can I ask why you went for the bandname 'Caligula's Horse' rather than Incitatus, the actual name of the horse?
Thanks! We're very, very proud of the album and we can't wait for everyone to hear it! The myth of Incitatus, like all of the famous (and interestingly, most probably false or overblown) stories concerning Caligula was one that we found both darkly funny and provocative. Our band isn't named after the horse, Incitatus, per se, it's really more named after the tale of Caligula making his horse a councilor; the name of the horse is less important than the story surrounding it. That said, we also just liked the sound of it!

In June 2016 Geoff Irish decided to leave the band and, merely seven months later, Zac Greensill announced that he wanted to focus on his own project. How have their departures effected the band and the music on 'In Contac't?
Zac and Geoff were both in the band from soon after Jim and I released the first record, 'Moments from Ephemeral City', in 2011. We'd always made a point of keeping busy and maintaining a sense of momentum which really only broke for the first time with their departure. The dynamic will always be different with lineup changes, especially in a live setting, but in terms of writing the process is basically exactly as it was before. Of course, the flip side is the amazing technical skill and all-around brilliance that Josh and Adrian bring to the table, which is definitely an inspiration for me as a songwriter. No limitations whatsoever!

Of course you had to find replacements for Zac and Geoff, how did you go about finding Josh Griffin and Adrian Goleby to join the band?
Adrian has worked with us for a long time as our videographer. He's filmed shows and worked on video clips for us, and him and I have had a long-time mutual guitar-nerd relationship. As soon as Zac told us he wanted to focus on his other project (Opus of a Machine, check them out!), Adrian was the logical choice to fill his place. Josh was a close friend of our bassists Dave. He auditioned like many others and absolutely blew us away with his chops and tightness. He also happens to be one of the nicest guys I've ever met! Believe me, that helps on the long tours...

When you look back at your first album, 'Moments from Ephemeral City', what do you think has changed the most in your music?
I could say something simple like "I've become a much better songwriter over the years," but I think there's more to it than that. Jim and my collaborative partnership has become much greater than the sum of its parts since our humble beginnings in 'Moments', and that reflects enormously on how our recent material sounds. When I listen to 'Moments I hear enthusiastic beginners, very serious about what they're trying to do but not necessarily comfortable with it yet. We've grown into what Caligula's Horse "is" over our six years together, and while the style is still similar, it's much more mature and consistent.

'In Contact' is a conceptual album can you tell us what it's about?
It's a concept album, but that concept isn't an overarching narrative with a sense of chronology, rather it's an exploration of a central theme: inspiration. It explores this theme through the eyes of four different artists, separated across time and space, who all face vastly different challenges in their search for meaning through their art.

What inspired you to pick this topic for the album?
The concept is a great facilitator for the discussion of many things that we, as artists, take very seriously in our lives. It lets us probe concepts that are often overwhelming and difficult to subjectively comprehend - drastic changes in life, meeting external pressures, love, loss, and so forth - but it lets us frame these very personal experiences in fictional worlds where they can be seen and appreciated for what they are. Inspiration never occurs in a vacuum, and so to explore both the mechanisms behind art through these fictional arcs, and equally explore our own dreams and demons in the process is very fulfilling.

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You did a European tour earlier this year, playing with bands like Opeth, Anathema and Pain of Salvation, how was that?
It was incredible! Those three bands have been some of the most significant influences on my own songwriting, and sharing their stage was incredible, especially so far from home.

Usually bands tour during, or right after, the release of a new album, but you went on tour before the release. Was there a specific reason why you did it in that order?
The offers were too good to turn down! As I said, Opeth, Anathema and Pain of Salvation are heroes of ours, and it made sense to make the tour happen when the possibilities emerged. We'll doubtlessly return on the back of In Contact though, so don't worry!

We know that there's a scene for progressive rock and metal in Europe, but what's the scene like in Australia and New Zealand?
Its small relative to the big population centers of Europe and the USA, but it's no less fervent because of that. Our spread-out geography results in a lot of very singular and idiosyncratic scenes which makes for some very exciting acts and some very broad-minded audiences. Since it's so far to get to anywhere else we all tour nationally quite a lot, and the comradely is terrific.

The music industry has drastically changed in the last years. More and more people switch to streaming services, such as Spotify or Deezer, but because most of those people aren't buying any albums anymore it means that artists are financially impacted. On the other hand it makes the artist's music more accessible to people worldwide, which can lead to more fans. What is your take on all of this?
Streaming services are the greatest failed promise in the music industry right now. The idea of curbing the motivation to pirate - making music just as available as it is in those systems, but charge a small fee to keep it legal - is amazing on paper. The idea should have ushered in a revolution in artist success and financial viability. Instead, artists get paid a small fraction of a cent per stream. The reality is that when even the biggest pop stars struggle to find an income from streaming, we in the more underground of styles have little hope. Is it better than piracy? Perhaps, but I hope the future shapes it to be a more artist-friendly model.

You have some gigs to play in Australia, in September and October, what will be on your agenda after that?
I'm finishing a doctorate at the Queensland Conservatorium in the first half of 2018 which soaks up most of my attention! As a result, I haven't given 2018 much thought. We'll be looking at heading back to Europe sometime soon no doubt, and we have a few more things in the pipeline in that period.

In June you've played two shows in the Netherlands but, for those who couldn't be there, when can we expect you to come back again?
Soon! I don't just say that as a hollow promise, the Dutch have always been incredibly welcoming to us, and the Netherlands is a blast to play. We'll definitely find our way back to Europe to promote In Contact as soon as we can!

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions! Do you have any last words for our readers?
I hope you all dig the new record! See you on the road soon!

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