If someone asks me about what new bands to check out one of the first bands out of my mouth every time for the last few years has been Conan. Since my cohorts Gary and Colum introduced Conan to me i’ve been listening to them non stop waiting for each new release. Their demos, splits and albums have changed my very definition of heavy. Whilst their studio releases have been jaw droppingly heavy it’s their monstrous and LOUD live shows that gets everyone talking. Earplugs are a must unless you want several days of tinnitus, which some fans seems happy to deal with. From playing smaller shows throughout the UK they have gone on to play the likes of Damnation Festival and what is now quite the legendary performance at Roadburn Festival in 2012. Fans from across the continent crammed into the The Bat Cave with bodies spilling out into the corridors for an utterly rib shaking set.
Singer and guitarist Jon Davis seems to be changing equipment every time I speak to him, always on the look at for new bits to create even more sonic destruction and thicken what is one of the heaviest tones going from any UK, nay worldwide band. I decided to hit him up to find out what he considers to be some of the best albums out there for tone, see below for his response.
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In no particular order……
1. Sleep – Dopesmoker
What hasn’t been written about this album is not worth writing, so I won’t go too mental about it. However, in terms of tone it is all about Matamp. Foggy mids, overdrive that seems to have a ‘sagging’ quality to it. You can actually eat the noise that comes out of your speakers.
2. Slomatics – Flooding The Wier
Slomatics have released plenty since this one (from back in 2004 / 2005). This album is all about the Meathead. A one knob Fuzz Face variant by D*A*M Effects (www.stompboxes.co.uk). This album taught me that when you sound good you don’t need to do all the fret wanking to impress people. Less is more.
3. High on Fire – Art of Self Defence and Surrounded By Thieves
Once again, this album seems to have been written in a Frazetta inspired haze of pot and the overwhelming lunge and creak from the Matamp rig dominates the tone here. This album was the first time I had heard Matt Pike playing through the Matamp (I discovered Sleep AFTER High on Fire) and I couldn’t get enough. I heard 10,000 Years on a Kerrang comp cd and was hooked. The darker sounding Surrounded by Thieves followed on and I think I actually prefer this album in some ways. It literally IS the perfect doom/metal album for me. Just listen to Nemesis and you can hear the foggy qualities that the Matamp has. I think Matt moved onto Soldano or Marshall after this album.
4. Boris – Amplifier Worship
Just listen to the first few minutes of HUGE…. That oscillating riff, through what I suspect to be Orange amps, just screams EPIC. The name of this album is perfect. Not sure what is used for distortion here but it sounds like a RAT or maybe a Boss DS1 or something, but it adds a nice cutting quality to the amps natural tone.
(Not available on bandcamp)
5. Nirvana – In Utero
My favourite ‘sounding’ Nirvana album. I read that they used Steve Albini for his ability to get an ‘in your face’ guitar tone and to do this he placed microphones all over the live room in the studio (rather than just in front of the cab as would be common practice). I also believe the amp of choice then was a Fender valve combo of some description. Best sounding Nirvana song is a b side (from Lithium I think) called Curmudgeon. It sounds like he is using an MXR Phase 100 on that track and he has it on all the way through the song….. Nirvana at their best.
(Editors note – not available on bandcamp to embed – a 20th anniversary deluxe reissue is due out in September 2013)
6. Sepultura – Beneath The Remains
I like the tone on this album because it is quite dry and in a lot of ways it sounds like the guitar tone on Arise and (Metallica’s) And Justice For All. I haven’t a clue what they used but it was just perfect for that grinding thrash sound they have.
7. Fudge Tunnel – Hate Songs In E Minor
Alex Newport is now a highly respected producer based in New York. I also gather that he assisted with the production of a lot of the Fudge Tunnel stuff. This album is all about the bass guitar for me. Again, I’m not sure what he uses but it just cuts through so well. Listen to it on the track Grey and you’ll see what I mean. I have a claim to fame, Alex Newport once told me “….Conan tracks I listened to are awesome. I think you actually outdid us with that guitar sound, it’s ridiculously massive!”. I can now die happy.
8. YOB – The Unreal Never Lived
I could probably name any YOB album and talk about their sound, but this one displays all the power and the beauty that I love about this band. How can a guitar sound so out of control while at the same time playing the most brutal and life changing riffs ever? I guess a lot of it is to do with Mike’s technique, but the way he uses the open strings within chord sequences the way he does, combined with his excellent use of effects and amps (I know he used to have an endorsement with Electric Amps (similar to Matamp is many ways) really sets this band apart in terms of style and substance.
9. Sick of It All – Call to Arms
Play this loud, you’ll hear (what seems to my ears to be) cranked Marshall and active humbucker ESP SG’s boring right into your face.
10. Toner Low – Any Album
Orange half stack, Gibson Les Paul, EHX Big Muff. Danny proves that this is all you need. Live this band are just as heavy as anything I have ever heard, the tone from the Muff and the Orange work perfectly – choppy, barking distortion matched with Miranda’s use of Ampeg amps (I think she uses a 4×10 and a 1×18). Low end for days.
Conan have an upcoming tour in October, if you haven’t seen them live before get your ass to one of the shows. They have recently been signed to Napalm Records and will be recording their follow up to Monnos later in the year at Skyhammer Studios with Chris Fielding. What is Skyhammer Studios? Well it’s the new studio near Ellesmere Port being opened up by Jon in a few weeks!! Here’s the full spec:
Live Room – 23 sq m
Hardwood flooring, professionally built acoustic panels. Extensive backline including Peavey, Matamp, Orange, Sunn and Mesa Boogie amps. Cabs include Orange, Matamp, Peavey, Sound City, and SWR – 4x12s, 2x15s, 8×10’s, 1×18, 2×18. We have a great sounding 80’s Pearl Masters drumkit. The live room has ceilings reaching up to 25 feet providing a great deal of scope for room micing of drums and other instruments. This is a great sounding room.
Control room – 29 sq m
Hardwood flooring, carpeted rest area, large custom built bass trap, professionally designed and installed acoustic treatment to ceilings and walls and a custom built desk / console for artists to use for writing and making notes. The control room is built around a beautiful early 1970’s Neve 5116 mixing desk and a Pro Tools HD system, a perfect combination of vintage mojo and modern technology.
When we bought the house it was a 6 bedroom farmhouse, in an L shape. We quickly identified one end of the house that was formerly servant’s quarters and have converted it into a fully self-contained 2 bedroom apartment with its own front door. It has its own independent heating system, wifi, freeview tv and dvd player, kitchen, shower room and W/C, lounge and two bedrooms, sleeping 8 in total.
Conan play the following dates in October 2013:
October 2nd – Sheffield – The Harley
October 3rd – Leeds – Santiagos
October 4th – Colchester – The Hole
October 5th – London – The Black Heart
October 6th – Birimingham – Asylum 2 (Fear Fest)
October 8th – Manchester – Roadhouse
Official site: HAIL CONAN