One does not simply give a 10/10 in reviews… but recently there was this other Australian band that blew me away with their first full length album “In Death’s Shadow” – Knightmare from Melbourne. The line-up consists of the founding members “MICKoWAR” Mick Simpson (voc) and Luke Besley (git) and the “fresh blood” Jim Munro (git) and Matt McConaghy (bass). Find out which music, landmarks or (liquid) delicacies Luke can recommend, and why he was breaking into a sweat when answering our questions …
First congratulations to this awesome album – what were the reactions from other media/fans so far? Did it meet your expectations, are you satisfied?
Thanks! The reaction overall has been very positive! I am also very impressed in how global it is. We’ve got reviews from Poland, Italy, America, Finland (of course) and some contact in Brazil, Japan and Germany, just to get the ball rolling… We really give Google translate a workout sometimes.
How come you did the mastering in Sweden at Panic Room Studios (by Plec, who worked with e.g. Scar Symmetry or Watain) – so did you just send the material or did you actually go there for a visit? If yes, how was it?
Actually it was because our mixer (Ermin, who was local in Melbourne…) had a good working relationship with that particular mastering studio. I don’t need an excuse to go to Sweden, I’d absolutely love to – but that would a pretty quick way to double total album costs…
So are you all from Melbourne or from another part of the country? Inner city or countryside? Can you describe what you see when you look out of your window?
Actually what’s awesome is all of us except Matt currently share the same house, which is basically in the South Eastern suburbs Melbourne. What I see is mainly fences, backyards, unusual grocery stores and right now scorching Australian sun… nothing amazingly metal I’m afraid. I think we’re all originally from Melbourne, we’ve all been here for a long time…
Could you please introduce the band – who are you, how did you meet each other, how did the band come together?
Well, I actually met Mick when I was about 15, my high school bedroom band at the time had done a little article in the local paper and he contacted me. After that all fell apart, Mick and I decided to form our own band. Jim came to one of our shows around 2008, just as a fan to check us out – and won a raffle with a signed ukulele. I got asked to play in another band, Septerrus, that Jim was in at the time, and from there we in turn poached him in to Knightmare. He still has the signed ukulele, although given he’s now in the actual band, it’s somewhat meaningless, haha
Matt looks very young on the pictures – so how big is the age difference? If there is indeed a big difference, how much does he have to suffer “back in the days when we were young (we used steam-powered amplifiers)” stories? 😀
Yes, Matt is certainly stifled by his lack of ability to grow facial hair – but he’s actually only one year younger than me. We’re the youngest in the band in our early 20s, and there’s a bit of an age gap between us two compared to Mick and Jim, who are closer to the 30 mark. Matt is a bit newer to it all though, as Jim and I have been playing in other bands for years… we’re all really on the same wavelength when it comes to Knightmare though, so we may as well all be the same age.
Which other bands have you been working with before, any other band projects you are still continuing besides Knightmare?
So for a few years I’ve been playing in Septerrus – there should be an album coming out in February this year actually, that’s been in works for a few years now. That’s more a sort of thrash thing, and it isn’t really ‘my project’, I don’t do most of the writing – I’m more a guitarist along for the ride in that one. I play in another project – Seventh Sage, which is basically me and the singer of Septerrus, which is a really fun workhorse for us to just try out anything (I sing for most of the songs we have out). So far most of what’s out is sort of Post Black Metal – but we also do silly covers or electronic music… whatever I feel like really (like a dance pop version of Meshuggah, for example). Check out our youtube channel if you’re interested: youtube.com/seventhsageband
I assume the situation is not much different to Europe – musicians can hardly live on making music alone, so what are you all doing for day jobs?
You’re absolutely right – a metal band is definitely not a good way to make money. Jim is a contractor that works in software development. Matt works at a supermarket, Mick takes on many different projects here and there in an entrepreneurial fashion, and I am currently studying Engineering full time at university.
How do you define your musical style? What are your influences (in my review I mentioned Savatage and Amorphis)?
I found that quite interesting when I read that – it’s always interesting to see what influences different people hear in the album – they’re great bands, but I’m not a fan of either really. For influences – I listen to a lot of Devin Townsend, Gojira and Wintersun for starters. More traditionally I listened to some more well known bands – Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Blind Guardian. I like a lot of extreme metal now, especially when it’s combined with a lot of external styles of music, like Alcest for example. I’m also a massive fan of soundtracks – right now typing this I’m listening to the Borderlands soundtrack. To define Knightmare’s style – i’d put it something like a mid way point between power metal, extreme metal and film score.
Is there a particular story behind the band name, or is it just playing around with words and meanings?
Mick came up with it a long time ago – I don’t think there was a huge level of thought put into it, he just thought it sounded cool
Which topics do you tackle in your lyrics, where does the inspiration come from? And who is responsible for writing, is it only one person?
Well, the music and instruments are pretty much 100% me. The lyrics on In Death’s Shadow were mostly me, with Mick taking a few songs here and there. The general theme we take in our lyrics in general are about the human experience, primarily in the mental and experimental realm. Many of them are observations or reactions to certain situations and experiences in life.
What is the song writing process like – is it teamwork? How long does it usually take to complete a song?
Usually, it’s me sitting on my computer at 3 am in the morning, glaring the speakers down as though they’re in a Clint Eastwood film, trying to make dozens of layers work together, until I fall asleep. Then I’ll send it round to the guys when I feel it’s good enough to send around, and we talk about what we do and don’t like about it. Then it’s repeat cycle for me, until we feel it’s all done.
The land down-under – there are lots of clichés about it, ranging from AC/DC, Kangaroos&Koalas to sheep, Surfing&Sharks – what is the most annoying one you have encountered? How far all those cliches are true?
Oh, it’s not annoying at all, I think it’s hilarious. When I was 15, I went to Italy and went to school there for a week or so with my host family’s son – I legitimately convinced a girl that Kangaroos are a mode of public transport. Everyone gets around on them like some kind of marsupial taxi service. If you’ve ever encountered the cliché about everyone wearing shorts all year, having bbqs and yelling at the cricket with a beer in one hand – yeah, that one’s true.
If you were a tourist guide for a Metal fan group – what would you recommend, what is a “must-see/visit” nearby your area?
The only thing I can really think of is to get a picture in front of a street in the city known as “ACDC lane” – yes, we have a street named after a band in Melbourne.
Which Australian beer would you recommend (well, back to the clichés) – or which (red) wine?
Ah, I love beer. I’m going to try make sure I don’t end up writing a thesis here – but I’m sure it’s like this in most countries. All the major beers that Australia is ‘famous’ for – VB, Fosters, XXXX (four X) etc. are of course absolute garbage not fit to clean your driveway with. But there are a few microbreweries that are small but unbelievably good –Moon Dog and 2 Brothers are two of my favourites.
My dad is a massive red wine fan too, I don’t mind it but I’m not such a fan– if you are, Grange Hermitage is like the ultimate Australian Shiraz, except it costs like $500 a bottle. Mr Riggs is a pretty nice wine that doesn’t require a mortgage. And avoid Yellow Tail. It’s the Fosters of wine.
What is the scene “down there” like – are there a lot of venues, how big, which genre is the most popular, do bands cooperate, are they close to the fans – what´s a “typical” Metal gig like? What is touring in Australia like (somehow images of the “Priscilla” movie pop up in my head…)?
There are a fair few bar/pub type venues, but they are slowly shutting down one by one as live music seems to kind of be dwindling… although I’m not too sure, I just know a few have closed down. As for big-time Euro festivals, the only one that’s remotely metal-friendly is Soundwave which happens in early March every year. Last year I got to see Gojira, Meshuggah, Devin and System of A down – it was amazing.
As for local metal, I find in Australia there is a lot of deathcore/metalcore. A lot of bands and fans. There’s a lot of older style thrash bands that Slayer and Pantera fans would eat up, too. A gig is something like an unusually low amount of people chilling at the bar watching a stage that’s too small with some incredibly loud guitars.
Which other Australian bands you would like to recommend? (I´ve already praised Vanishing Point + Ne Obliviscaris, for example)
Sure – there’s Adrift For Days from Sydney, who are really a interesting blend of stoner and more sort of progressive and droney elements. They have a really interesting take on it all. Good if you’re into like Neurosis and stuff. Another band is Hybrid Nightmares – Black metal with an amazing stage show and charismatic performances.
Any chance you come to Europe for summer festivals / a tour? Which bands would you like to be touring with? Which places would you like to visit? (Have you ever been touring with other bands in EU before?)
Oh, we would absolutely LOVE to tour Europe and play some festivals. We’re working hard already trying to build a network and connections. It’s definitely a very high priority for Knightmare! I would love to visit anywhere and everywhere in Europe, to be honest. Who would we tour with? I could really name a thousand bands. But I think I would love to tour with Devin Townsend Project, they just make a stage show look like a crazy mystical adventure.
As I am Austrian – and yes, some drunk people sometimes ask me about Kangaroos – what are the clichés about Austria I might encounter in Australia? And because I live in Helsinki now, I also have to ask: how about clichés about Finland you´d have in mind?
You know, I love snow so I am expecting there to be some of that. As for clichés… I don’t think there are many… I picture everyone having very long silences in amidst an icy forest. Simply nodding once every 20-30 minutes, because it’s cultural and you’ve said everything you need to. Meanwhile I think we’d be standing there going “do we say something? What do I do?!”
Something you´d desperately like to have people know about you but I didn´t ask?
Yes! Well actually you’ve caught me off guard, I thought this was a pretty comprehensive interview, so I can’t really think of a question you missed… I suppose I should let you guys in on a few secrets – I love computer games. I have a Team Fortress 2 addiction. Also that we can’t wait to hit up Finland and the rest of Europe – it’s only a matter of time!