Interview with Dave Couper

We had seven deadly questions for Dave Couper, bass player of CALIGULA´S HORSE, who released with ´In Contact´ (Review here) another fabulous album. Enjoy:

Is it only a coincidence that your albums come out every two years?

Yes, very much a coincidence! There has not been any attempt on our part to arrange things this way. From a performance and business perspective, the periods in between each album have been very different from each other. The fact that we managed to get In Contactrecorded at all, given our hectic touring schedule and the changes in our line-up since ‚Bloom‘, may externally be viewed as miraculous but internally it is a testament to the songwriting process of Sam and Jim and the ability of the new lads Josh and Adrian (and “old salty McBassist”) to take on the challenge.

Was it your aim to make the best album ever with ´In Contact´ or had only to be better than ´Bloom´?

We make what we want to make. The purpose of the music is to satisfy our artistic drives first, then see if people out there resonate with it. From a songwriting perspective, the aim is to be different from what we’ve done before, but still recognisably us. From an artistic perspective, there is no “best”: subjectivity is paramount here, so whatever we think about the artistic calibre of our material has no bearing on an objective reality. From a production perspective there was an intention that the clarity of instrument recording, the mixes across the album, and especially the realness and dynamics of the drums, be so that we came up with what we think will be the “best sounding album” ever, but that is a different concept from any talk of “best album”. On this production front, incidentally, I notice some bands in the wider metal/prog/rock family tend to “over-produce” their albums, especially the drums; we try very intently to avoid the “Superior Drummer”/“replace everything“ trope for a final recording of any of our songs. Thankfully the metronomic and dynamic drumming beast that is Josh Griffin made that very easy on ‚In Contact‘!

Does the new album have a continuous concept?

‚In Contact‘ has an overarching theme that is told over the stories of four different characters. In short, the most apt word to describe the theme is “reach”. You’ll hear and see a lot from Jim in existing and upcoming press on the album about the fullness of the concept and its character arcs, so I best leave the details to the creator. I can say, at least, that it is not a “continuous concept” or “singular storyline” in the style of say a Dream Theater concept album or our second album ‚The Tide, The Thief & River’s End‘.

How would you describe your style? Is it progressive rock, alternative rock or progressive metal?

We call it “progressive alternative rock”, but it’s whatever you feel like calling it, to be honest. Sometimes I’ve sat in my car wondering whether we could get away with calling it “progressive alloy”, a nice halfway point between “rock” and “metal”, but then I realise that, as per usual, I’m being too clever for my own good, so I stop thinking about it!

Can you name your five favourite albums of all time?

This is an incredibly difficult question to answer. Before I attempt to, may I make it clear that my answers do not have any bearing on the nature of Caligula’s Horse’s music, given I do not contribute written material to the band at this stage.

I own almost 2.000 CDs and a small amount of LPs. A guy with my historical income should not own that many albums, but if this is my one addiction, it’s demonstrably a better addiction to have than most others.

To make a judgment call on the “Top 5” is nigh impossible. So many albums have shaped my own musical tastes and my own songwriting and playing over the two decades since I first bought my own copy of Van Halen’s Best Of Volume One (having destroyed the copy my parents owned!). I might therefore take the liberty of pushing it to “Top Eleven”: I’m a football fan, and also a cricket “tragic” as we say in Oz, so 11 is a great number! Bear in mind the only specific order these are in is chronological by release date.

Genesis – Selling England By The Pound
Dream Theater – Scenes From A Memory
Pain Of Salvation – Remedy Lane
Angra – Temple Of Shadows
Delta Goodrem – Mistaken Identity
Opeth – Ghost Reveries
Nevermore – This Godless Endeavor
Devin Townsend Band – Synchestra
Alter Bridge – Fortress
Voyager – V
Babymetal – Metal Resistance

And which are our favourite bands nowadays?

Leaving aside any of the artists mentioned in my Top Eleven above, there’s a number of brilliant artists and bands around today. On the prog front, I’m still a huge fan of FROST* and of course Steven Wilson. The boys in C-Horse and I are always left jaw-dropped at the prowess of our label mates Leprous. Oceans of Slumber are a new favourite of mine, too, and I’m excited to hear their upcoming album.

Outside of prog, I’m a big fan of Dirty Loops, Thundercat, Kaleo, Childish Gambino, and Janelle Monáe. Seeing Body Count in concert in June here in Brisbane was also a highlight: lyrical and thematic delivery doesn’t get any more authentic than it does with Ice-T.

Don’t get me started on the high calibre of music coming out of Australia right now, either! – you can find many examples of us discussing our love of many local bands all over the internet, but on the whole Australia is a hotbed of musical talent.

Is ‚Incitatus‘ your favourite horse?

To be honest, I’m more a “Bojack Horseman” guy. Let me try to tenuously connect the two horses: the way world politics is right now, particularly in Australia, it seems a little sad that no one is using the colloquial term “Caligula’s Horse” to describe the vast number of impostors who populate our parliamentary bodies, particularly at the Federal level. Be it because the elected officials are more commonly failing to uphold and legislate on the reasonable wishes of the wider electorate, or be it due to some of these people being elected in breach of our Constitution for being dual-citizens, there are “Incitatuses” running around everywhere right now in Aussie politics, and it’s simply not good enough. It occasionally makes me feel that a Bojack Horseman-style approach to the whole thing – downright cynicism and utter despair – is the way to go, but then I remember that there’s a world to fix, a humanity to connect with, and a universe out there to aim for.

On a more humorous note, if the guys in the band were familiar with the story, they’d probably say that my favourite horse was the infamous “Clever Hans”, because apparently both he and I were/are really good at pretending to know how to count!!