When I spoke to Jon Davis for the following interview, the Conan guitarist/vocalist was sitting on a rooftop on holiday with his family on the southeast coast of Spain. “Not far from Alicante,” as he put it. One imagines him, just weeks after Conan finished their first European tour, looking out over a Spanish landscape every bit the satisfied conqueror. Rightly so, as Conan — who followed performances at this year’s Roadburn and Damnation festivals with a slot opening for Sleep in Oslo — have done little else since the release of 2010′s Horseback Battle Hammer EP (review here) other than obliterate whatever lay in their path. If that happens to be the European continent this time, so be it.
Earlier this year, Conan issued Monnos (review here). What was ostensibly their first full-length — though I’d argue that at a little over half an hour, Horseback Battle Hammer had more than enough meat to it to be a complete album — the coming of Monnos was heralded by a split with Slomatics (review here), and when the album arrived, it did so via Roadburn/Burning World Records in Europe. The trio of Davis, drummer Paul O’Neill and bassist/backing vocalist Phil Coumbe returned to Foel Studios to work once again with producer/engineer Chris Fielding, and stripped their songwriting down to its essential parts even as they crafted their most expansive outing yet. For a “first album,” it was frighteningly cohesive, and it proved there was more to Conan than just the heaviest low end in the world.
This summer (July 31 to be exact), Gravedancer Records will release Monnos in the US, and it was to mark that occasion that I connected with Davis via Skype to discuss the development of the band, their conscious desire to keep true to their musical and epically-themed aesthetic, the show with Sleep, the overwhelmingly positive reception Conan has gotten from around the globe, the prospect of further touring, and finally, the relationship with his wife, Holly, that allows him to leave his young family every so often and embark on another quest to cleave skulls with volume. As has been my experience with every Skype interview I’ve done, the connection was rough — it cut out a couple times and then I ran out of credit and it was a big mess — but there’s enough here that you should more than be able to get a sense of where Davis and Conan are coming from.
To aid in that, I also asked Mr. Davis to curate a playlist to go with the interview, and much to my delight, he complied. On the player below, you’ll find that collection of classic metal and heavy rock — everything from Exodus covering AC/DC to Japanese sludge noisemakers Greenmachine, and a few surprises along the way. Given the era most of this stuff comes from, the word “mixtape” fits especially well.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
The complete 5,700-word Q&A with Jon Davis of Conan is after the jump, along with some photos from Roadburn. It might interrupt the player when you click through, so be prepared to resume. Thanks for reading.