CALIGULA’S HORSE: Different Approach

Caligula's Horse interview

May 22nd marks the release of the fifth studio album by Australian prog metallers Caligula’s Horse. Entitled ‘Rise Radiant,’ the new album sees the group from Brisbane taking different approach. Singer Jim Grey reflects on the creative process of the album, its themes, band’s evolution and more.

Describe the musical frameworks your upcoming album Rise Radiant explores.

Rise Radiant was definitely a different approach for us – we wanted to challenge ourselves to be more direct in our meaning and song structure, and to connect a more personal part of ourselves through each song. There’s a lot of variety within the album, and each song definitely has its own voice, and it was our challenge to let those songs say what they needed to say in the most immediate way.

Tell me about the ideas that inform the album.

It’s definitely not a concept album, that much I can tell you! I do like to explore themes though, so each song on Rise Radiant is something of an exploration of those ideas, but if there was an over-arching theme that encompassed the consistent message of the entire album, it would be the title of the album. The theme of rising through adversity and overcoming struggle is the keystone of the entire album for sure.

How do the diverse, complex rhythmic and global musical influences serve the storylines of the record?

We all have very diverse tastes in music, sure, but in terms of the appearance of complexity, that’s always been less important to us than the song itself. When it comes to Caligula’s Horse, if something is technical, it has to be for a reason – we might ask what a particular section is adding to a song’s journey, does it flow naturally and make that journey coherent, that sort of thing.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and lessons learned during the creative process for Rise Radiant?

Basically being super busy ourselves. [laughs] Sam [Vallen, guitars] had a kid and was in the throes of finishing off his PhD, we were also still touring pretty often on the back of In Contact, it was a super busy time! The rest of the experience was quite the opposite. This was the most streamlined and enjoyable writing experience I’ve ever had. Dale [Prinsse, bass], Adrian [Goleby, guitars], and Josh [Griffin, drums] all contributed to the writing process, Sam and I have never been more aligned in our vision as a writing team, and the album came together beautifully as a result.

Is there a unifying thread that connects Rise Radiant with previous records?

Only in that we try to do something different from our last release each time we release a new record, haha! The rest is all separate and its own journey.

Have you managed to make any new discoveries as the time passed during the creative process? Do you think that at some point of that process your writing approach changed drastically?

In terms of our whole career, that’s something that’s been naturally refined over time, learning from our mistakes each record and always striving for the music to be the best it can possibly be. There was a big turning point towards positivity and musical message on the release of Bloom, where we wanted to make sure that if anything was dark or tragic, it always had the colour or a glimmer of hope inside.

If we’re talking just about Rise Radiant, then really the only big change was having the lads’ contributions to the process!

Caligula's Horse - Rise Radiant

What types of change do you feel this music can initiate?

I can only hope that our music can make a change for people on a personal and individual level. I know from my experience that music has in a very real way saved my life at a number of times. I’ve had people message me with gratitude for our music for helping them through hard times, and honestly, I can’t think of a more beautiful compliment than that.

Do you tend to follow any pre-defined patterns when composing a piece?

We will always set ourselves goals and constraints at the beginning of a new album, defining the things we love right now and what we want to say with the album. Those will all be slightly modified naturally throughout the process, of course, as the songs take their own shape. For the most part, Sam and I will work independently at home with very basic ideas and directions, and send those back and forth to one another and help to develop and shape those ideas into something strong. We’ve definitely got an ear for when we’re onto something solid now, and once those ideas become something of a skeletal song structure, we get together at Sam’s home studio to finish the song and track the demo.

What evolution as a musician and a band do you see across your five studio albums?

I think it’s a pretty strong sign that I very rarely go back and revisit the older albums (unless we’re preparing for a tour!). I know loads of people out there have a real connection with those albums, and that’s beautiful and I’m super glad, but for me, I can really hear the still-developing style that we hadn’t quite landed on yet. I’m still immensely proud of those albums and those moments in my life, but for me, it’s only really from parts of Bloom, all of In Contact and Rise Radiant that I feel we’ve really grown into our shoes musically and stylistically.

What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?

Good ideas can be sparked from literally anywhere – that doesn’t mean I go for journeys of retreat in the desert searching for the new sound though, haha! The ideas very rarely come in the form of an actual idea, if that makes sense, just some kind of spark that you may or may not notice until you’re able to stoke a small flame out of it and work it into something real. Sometimes you might pick up a phrase or form of phrasing from a poem, or song, or even a TV show, whatever, and that sits in the back of your mind and gestates. So yeah, could be anything really!

What advice or philosophy might you impart to other musicians, be it in forms of creativity, technical stuff, the business side of it, or anything else?

This is one that I’ve mentioned before, but definitely don’t delete your ideas! You might spend a whole afternoon working on something, and then you might hate it or can’t find a real use for it, but don’t delete it. You never know when that idea might find a home, or whether even a tiny moment of that idea could be the spark of a new and completely different one. The other piece of advice for songwriters is that the only way to become a better songwriter is to write song after song after song. There’s no magic bullet, you just have to do it, get out there and express yourself until you find and develop your artistry.

Thanks for the chat!

Rise Radiant is out on May 22nd via InsideOut Music; pre-order the album from this location.

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