By Damien Castaneda
Goddard (left) and Hosking wielding their workhorse PRS guitars.
“I think about guitar sounds
like a soft rubbery ball covered in
glass, frilly bits hanging off of it and
all,” says Karnivool’s Andrew “Drew”
Goddard—and who’s going to argue?
Goddard pretty much invented the
dynamic and delay-drenched guitar
sound that has come to identify his
Perth, Australia-based band, drawing
comparisons to legendary acts
such as Tool and Dream Theater.
Despite a stream of awards, a successful
2010 U.S. tour, and garnering
a steadily increasing worldwide following,
Goddard and co-guitarist
Mark Hosking are more focused on
developing their image-laden style
of music than on their successes. GP
caught up with them in between
tours to talk about their new studio
album, the cinematic Sound Awake.
On the new album, both guitars are interwoven
amid a lot of sophisticated delay. How do these
parts come about?
Goddard: I’ve always been a delay
freak. It instantly puts you in a unique environment. Delay, reverb, different guitar
sounds and where they’re placed in
the mix—that can all give you the sense
that you’re inside of the part. You can
swim around and look at it from different
angles. That’s where the texture and
the color come from. I try to visualize
things, to get an image in my head of what
the sounds look like.
What’s the songwriting process like?
Hosking: We write very differently
than any band I’ve ever known. No two
songs are the same, and sometimes we’ll
write something and let it sit for long
periods of time. It’s amazing what doing
nothing to a song can do [laughs]. Just the
simple act of taking a step back leads that
song in a completely different direction.
Goddard: Yeah, there’s no right and
wrong really. We just kind of feel our way
in the dark and hope for the best. In a case
like “Goliath,” for example, that was a
drumbeat I came up with jamming with
our bass player, Jon Stockman. Then Steve [Judd] jumped on the kit, took out a couple
of kicks, and made it groove hard. We don’t
sit down and calculate, “Oh, this needs to be
a 7-7-7-6,” or something. You just kind of feel
it out and after a while it sounds like common
time. But if you were to play it in 4/4,
it would sound totally wrong. There’s the
push and pull and the tension and release
where it all just seems to click. If it flows and
doesn’t sound jerky and unnatural then we
are into it, whatever time it is in.
The line between lead and rhythm parts definitely
seems to be blurred in Karnivool.
Goddard: Again, it’s whatever’s necessary
for the song and taking care of where
the gaps are. If one player’s doing a shimmering
high part, then there’s a space below
just waiting to be filled, so you naturally go
for that. Most of Sound Awake is drum and
bass driven. This was the first time that we
had Steve and Jon writing together, and
they’re at their best when they play together
in a room. They just lock in and zone out,
and become this conduit for thick, heavy slabs
of rhythm. And Jon, being a guitar player
originally, plays a 6-string bass and writes a
lot of stuff on the guitar, as well. We don’t
really have any set roles instrumentally. Jon
will jump on the guitar, I’ll jump on the
drums, and Mark will get involved on the
electronic side of stuff and the sound design.
Hosking: I think it also definitely helps
to keep the perspective that there are no set
roles. If it sounds right and it feels good then
don’t not do it.
Can you detail some of the gear you use?
Goddard: We’ve got a few PRS guitars.
We quite like Gibson Les Pauls, as well. I
use an Electro-Harmonix Memory Man, and
my old trusty Boss GT-3. But we’re kind of
gear sluts. We use anything we can get our
hands on, especially in the studio. I think
the delay is probably the most integral part
of my sound. When the delay switch is off,
it’s almost like when the lights come on in
the club at the end of the night, you know
what I mean? “Uh oh, reality.” But whether
the delay is analog or digital, we’re not really
purists when it comes to that.
Hosking: The PRS CE 24 was a great
workhorse for us, but we used many different
guitars for this record. We also used a
lot of different heads like Drew’s trusty
Peavey 5150, and I would run a Marshall
JCM 800 or 900.
Goddard: The 5150 is kind of the common thread. It blended really well with a
whole bunch of different amps. We used that
in conjunction with a ’73 plexi Marshall Super
Lead that was modded by a friend of ours,
and it just sounded amazing. You crank them
up and make the speakers work. There was
even a Fender Twin, and a ’59 Vox AC30 that
we used. We also had a Bad Cat Hot Cat 30,
which got a few airings on the album. The
Sherlock Fathead, which is made in Melbourne,
was another amp that we used for a
lot of the really crystalline clean stuff. That
in combination with the hollowbody PRS
McCarty was just awesome. It really compressed
the sound, and you could play lightly
on the high strings and it would bring out
some shiny, shimmery sort of sounds. We
love gear, man. There’s no end to it.
You don’t overdo the effects, though.
Goddard: Well, I think a lot of that is the
role of the producer. I’m just like, “Put delay
on everything,” [laughs]. We’re doing a lot
of stuff now that’s totally dry. It’s almost like
that’s an effect now because I’m so used to
Could you spell out some of the different tunings
Goddard: Pretty much all of the last studio
album, Themata, and some of Sound Awake
is in B, F# , B, G, B, E. Sometimes we drop
the G to an F# ,and for songs like “Change”
we also drop the E to a D, which is this open
Bm chord. We like to mess around with tuning.
It really makes you look at the fretboard
in a different way and fumble around and
find happy accidents. You’re not in your comfort
zone anymore, and you just pick out
these cool new chord shapes. It’s our way of
keeping things fresh as guitarists.
There’s another open Dm9 tuning we’ve
got for songs like “Deadman.” It’s got an
open D with a high E. Then we chuck a capo
on at the 5th fret. “Goliath” is also in this
tuning, though it wasn’t played on the record
with a capo. It has that key change at the
end, so Mark is in the standard B, F# , B, G,
B, E, and I’m playing C, G, C, F, A# , D. I put
on a capo first, and for the key change at the
end I flick off the capo.
Are you using specially gauged strings for the
Goddard: Not really. We both use D’Addario
.010-.052 Light Top Heavy Bottom sets
at the moment, which work particularly well
with the floating vibrato on the PRS guitars
when we drop the low strings. And we both
use the grey Dunlop .73mm nylon picks.
Des any of the subtlety you’ve built up on the
record get lost during a live show?
Hosking: Live is a complex beast for us,
just by the nature of how much stuff is going
on. It’s interesting what taking a song into
a live arena can do just for the song. It’s
amazing—you’ll play the exact same song in
the exact same way in two different rooms
and it becomes two completely different
songs. Audiences have such an impact on
what a live song is and what a live song can
become as well. The energy they throw at
you highly changes your mind and what you
play back at them. It’s a beautiful process of
backwards and forwards.