UK-based prog metal giants MONUMENTS can claim an intense past year behind them since their latest album ‘Phronesis’ came out last October. The band immediately started with a Europe-tour to promote their release and took Danish/Swedish prog-rockers VOLA, Paris-based progressive metallers KADINJA and Finnish metalcore band ATLAS with them.
I was lucky enough to see this line-up back in Budapest, Hungary and it was one of those shows that left me with a long-lasting impression.
I did not need any more convincing when I saw that the first three of the line-up were performing at brand new prog-metal event Radar Festival, in Guildford, UK.
On the second day of Radar Festival I had the opportunity to gather some of the guys for a joint interview in the parking lot of the festival venue; Olly Steele and Daniel Lang of MONUMENTS and Quentin Godet and Pierre Danel of KADINJA. Check out part two of the interview here.
Hi guys! Thanks for doing this interview. You have had quite a busy time since the beginning of this year and you have been touring pretty extensively around the world. How has it been?
Olly: Yeah, it was sick! So we kicked off with Australia and New Zealand, which was the most sleep-deprived tour I’ve ever done personally. And then we did a lap of South America which was pretty amazing. Then we did a little UK leg and now currently we’re at Radar Festival in Guildford, and we’ll be in South Africa a week from now.
Daniel: We covered the majority of both of those continents, Australia and South America in a very short space of time, which is pretty amazing.
Olly: It’s been full-on so far, we’re looking forward to the future.
Great to hear! And what are your impressions of Radar Festival like?
Olly: Great! The gig yesterday was very very hot and pretty ropey but we didn’t have any technical difficulties as far as I’m aware and the crowd seemed to like it so it was all good. It’s a great festival and there’s a lot of sick bands here. Shoutout to the boys in KADINJA specifically. KADINJA and VOLA forever!
I’m also interested to hear if you think festivals so niched such as Radar are relevant. Personally, I think a prog metal-specific festival wouldn’t be possible to organize in Finland and it’s really sad.
Daniel: Is it relevant? Of course! I was talking to the drum tech from Polar yesterday and he was talking about how it was his favorite festival he has ever been to purely based off the fact that it’s a very inclusive environment, which I think is as important as the line-up itself because it’s very much part of the experience of being at a festival. Outside of watching bands, you’re doing a lot of socializing; and if the environment is clicky or if you feel a bit insecure or, you know, anxious about being around people it kind of ruins the vibe and this is the opposite of that environment. I have to say hats off to Joe James (ed. one of the organizers) and everyone involved and the community itself for being the environment that it is. I can’t speak highly enough of this festival, especially on its first year. It seems to have gone off like a bitch.
Olly: The good thing about being in Europe is that we have bands from all over Europe, there are even bands from New York, CAR BOMB. It’s a very inclusive environment and very accessible, too. We’re just outside of London there’s a lot of people here we know, friends from different bands and units outside of the UK and London, it’s amazing. And for a festival’s first-ever day, they totally smashed it out of the park! The line-up is undeniably sick and everything has run pretty smoothly and that’s just something that feels really good after touring all this time. Also shoutout to VOLA and KADINJA forever. Don’t get it twisted! (laughs)
You have been pretty much on tour with your latest album ‘Phronesis’ since its release last October. Do you want to talk about any highlights or special moments you have had?
Olly: Personal highlights for me would be the London and the Paris show of the Phronesis tour. They were both some of the best gigs I’ve ever played in my whole life. Truly-truly amazing, both sold out, both very crazy, we had amazing bands with us. Shoutout to VOLA and KADINJA, don’t get it twisted! (laughs) Going into this year Sydney and Melbourne in Australia were insane. The New Zealand shows were cool as well, but the Australian ones were a bit bigger. And then Chile and Mexico City and Bogota, Colombia were also amazing. And then Tech-Fest on our last UK stretch was an amazing show as well and last night was pretty fun as well. I did not play any of the songs correctly, I just want to put that on record but had a good time and if you must know I’m pretty smashed right now, actually. (laughs) I just want to say, big shoutout to KADINJA and VOLA, for real.
Daniel: The atmosphere down in South America was just insane the whole way through. The size of venues varied dramatically down there but no matter where we went everyone was so happy that we came. It seems that they do not get a lot of underground bands, bands of like this niche in their area. People were literally crying tears of joy to see the band and that obviously impacted us massively and made it all worth it. We’re not doing this on a high budget. I mean we were staying in sub-class hotels and we were even surprised by some of the hospitality we got in some of the places that we went to. But you know, touring is touring and getting to somewhere like that involves a lot of variety and it was totally worth it and I’d do it ten times over just purely off the reception that we have received everywhere we went, I just can’t emphasize that enough.
Olly: Every single day everyone was so unbelievably passionate and so happy to have us there and it was that for three weeks straight. Everyone wanted to chat, take pictures, hang out, they would tell us they had been listening to us for a long time. It was really surreal, looking back and at the time all I could think about how I had only 2 hours of sleep and that I had to play a show but that’s just what comes with it. It was the most consistently passionate I’ve ever felt being received as an artist in a band. I was pretty magical.
Yes, and that actually would have led to my next question, what is the thing that keeps you going?
Daniel: Even in your home country, Hungary, the show in Budapest was also a highlight and a good example. People were just going off and really enjoying and appreciating the fact they’re seeing a band they are really passionate about live. It’s a cliche thing to say but that’s literally it, you’re feeding off energy the crowd is giving you. That’s what keeps you going, that people give a shite. That’s what you’re aiming for.
Olly: You got to think, if we play for an hour, an hour and a half a day and that’s just a tiny part of your day where you probably spent 5 or 6 hours flying and you’ve been setting up and you haven’t slept, and you’re trying to find your feet in a new time zone and you’re meeting new people, promoters, managers and fans, the golden moment is when you are actually playing the show and it’s really sick. My other favorite bit is when we all have had like an hour’s sleep and we’re at the airport and everyone has just lost it and we just turned into these little weirdos and everything is a joke which is crying laughing. That really makes it easier for me.
Daniel: I guess you can equate it to hangover giggles, it’s that level of delirium you know where everything’s a bit stupid and you’re just saying stupid shit and it’s all hilarious. Then more shit’s going wrong and it just adds to it. It’s like hangover giggles plus a spliff and a hit of mushrooms, it’s that level of giggles. I have to agree with Olly there, it’s gas!
Olly: And at the same time, shoutout to VOLA and KADINJA. (laughs) Don’t get it twisted…. And ATLAS, sorry!
Oh, yes, do you want to say anything to the guys in ATLAS?
Olly: Tuomas, I love you. I’ll fight you as soon as I see you. I’ll fight you out of love. You can’t beat me in Mario Kart so shut your mouth. Patrik, I’ll never fight you. You’re way too much of a tank. You hurt me really bad on that tour bus and I’ll never get in your face again, I had better listened on that day. I love you boys and I miss you and I hope you’re coming on tour with us again. The reason I just said VOLA and KADINJA is that both of those bands are at Radar Festival today which is another shining example of the European thing that’s going on right now. So shoutout to VOLA and KADINJA. Forever.
There have clearly been changes in your line-up. Chris Barretto has recently resigned from Monuments and Andy Cizek has been doing vocals during your latest shows. Do you want to talk about him?
Olly: Andy Cizek is an amazing vocalist and is a very busy Youtube-guy, so he does a lot of covers and a lot of session work, which is his main gig. He’s also in a band called MAKARI and another band called WNDR. Andy is a great dude and right now we’re just taking it slow, this is like officially our 8th gig with him this last night. So far things feel really good. Making the decision to have someone permanently join your band is a big thing because you live together, you work together, you spend so much time together. You know, a lot of tours are a minimum of 30 shows, day-in-day-out it’s always the same people. So that’s the chemistry you have to get right. And say if Andy was to join, which is obviously something we talked about already then it’s like what’s gonna happen when we get creative with it, we are already an established band we want things to still sound like MONUMENTS, but also want to introduce his vibes because he has his own thing going on. There’s a lot of variables. But I think mainly right now we’re just really getting on and having a really sweet time. He’s really fun on and off stage and right now everything is really positive. No red flags so far.
Daniel: You can only truly get to know someone after the first 90 days of hanging out with them. He’s doing alright so far (laughs) But honestly on a serious note, he’s everything we’re looking for right now. He’s a great guy and does everything in his power to put on the best performance every single night. What the fuck more do we want?
Olly: And his vocals are crazy. He’s got every scream and the range just doesn’t stop so we’re are very excited about the prospect to put him on our next album and make some really crazy music.
I was actually getting there myself. Do you plan on doing the next record potentially?
Olly: We’ve already started some bits but like I said we’re not going to rush to make any decisions. Right now everything looks and feels really good. Personally, I’m really happy and I think everyone in the band is really happy and it’s a really good vibe. Hopefully, it will continue. And also shoutout to VOLA and KADINJA!
We haven’t talked about the album ‘Phronesis’ itself yet and I’m interested to know how you feel about it. What is your perception of the record and its direction?
Daniel: I think releasing it everyone in the band knew there was going to be a very mixed reaction. It’s quite a step away from previous albums both musically and from a production standpoint but I think it’s a stepping stone into what is to come in terms of where the band is going. I believe the next album is going to be a combination of a sound of MONUMENTS from the past and from this album. I think “Phronesis” is the beginning of a sound to come.
Olly: I agree. We took a 4-year gap between our last album, ‘The Amanuensis’ which is our most popular album, and this one. Because of the gap, people had time to build up a certain image in their heads of what ‘Phronesis’ is going to be and they were expecting certain things from it. A lot of people were really excited and a lot of people were not getting what they were expecting. We did change some things in the songwriting, like, Chris wasn’t writing the lyrics to a concept Browne had written the songs to this time. The production is very different, the writing process was very different. So, we didn’t expect it to be just positive all the way through. But first of all, it was time for us to make a new album and new creative changes, and exactly like Lango said, “Phronesis” is an indication of what we want to do. We don’t want to keep putting out the same album. The listener needs to understand that we’re not done experimenting and there’s a lot to come from this. I’m really proud of what we did and the reception was great and the tour what we’ve done off the back of it has been amazing. On the next record, our own drummer, Lango is going to write the drums and we’re about to have a new singer, as well. So, basically, if we do some weird or different stuff in the future, you can’t be surprised because we play progressive music and we’re gonna do what we want! So, shoutout to KADINJA and VOLA, forever.
Daniel: Yeah, man! You haven’t said it yet.
Olly: Can I ask you a question?
Yeah, you go ahead!
Olly: You have a tattoo on the inner side of your left forearm, I think it’s really cool. What does this represent to you?
It doesn’t represent anything in particular, it’s just a great design (shoutout to Beth Rose, I get compliments on this tattoo ALL THE TIME, haha).
Olly: For the people who can’t see it’s a hand holding a watermelon slice on a stick and I think that just symbolizes all the greatness in life and the rich tapestry of human beings that you can meet and all the connections you can make. And I just wanted you to love yourselves and I love you. No matter who you are, just know that I have an unbridled love for you. Also, don’t get it twisted: VOLA and KADINJA, forever. All-day!
Interview by Judit Molnár