Melodic extremists KARKAOS have evolved coming quite a ways away from who they were way back when. Releasing a debut EP and full-length album was nothing, in comparison to the line-up changes they faced, going on to write and record for their sophomore efforts "Children Of The Void". Which has already had its first single turned video for "Kolossòs". Guitarist/vocalist Vincent Harnois discusses the band's history, namesake, influences, song themes, and new music!
1.What role do you play in the band? Can you give us a brief summary as to how the band came to be and why the recent line-up change?
Vincent: I (Vincent Harnois) have been the rhythm guitar player since day one! I started the band back in high school with some of my buddies two weeks after I learned what a power chord was and I haven’t stopped playing since then! The band grew through many generations and everyone that was part of this band at some point brought a unique element to the sound that Karkaos has. Right now I have to say that we have the most coherent and tight lineup that we've ever had and I couldn’t be happier with how things turned out with time. Our bass player Eddy left the band back in November and I do believe it was the best thing for both us and him. We had different visions of how things should be and unfortunately it grew more and more apparent that he and the band would reach a crossroad at some point in the future. We didn’t expect it to come so fast, but we all felt it coming so in the end, I think it's a win win situation for both parties. He seems to have already moved on and so did we.
2. Why go with a name like Karkaos? Does it have a meaning to it?
Vincent: Karkaos is simply a name I came up with while I was trying to find a badass name for my character playing Elder Scrolls and I thought it sounded like a badass demon name so when we decided to change from Sinister Vengeance, we chose to go for that. It doesn’t have an official meaning, but I've had the concept idea that the Karkaos is the dark side that everyone has hidden deep inside. You know how they say that the calmest people are the ones you don't want to see pissed off? We'll that’s also how I write my songs, it'll be all melodic and happy and then all hell breaks loose and you find yourself in absolute chaos.
3. What has influenced your sound and style?
Vincent: Everything! Life has a weird way of shaping you into something without your consent and you can either accept it or fight it. I feel that growing up with the band definitely influenced my life as much as my life has influenced the band. We're all very emotional beings and we're very transparent about it. As far as music, we all come from very different backgrounds but I'd say that most of the music we listen to is from Europe. The Swedish and Finnish metal scenes brought us a lot but so did the American metal and hardcore scene. As we grow, we seem to get more and more open about other genres and we'll definitely experiment with other elements other than metal in the future. We see our music as a soundtrack to our lives more than just songs following a style or genre.
4. What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
Vincent: Viky is amazing with words and she brings beautiful thoughts and feelings to our music. We always tried to keep our lyrics as open to interpretation as possible and let people bring their own meanings to our songs and with the new album, Viky's writing really makes you sit back and think. She loves including mythological and historical aspects to bring a new dimension to the music and she does it brilliantly. We also get inspired by everyday life events but we keep a lot of it very metaphorical when it happens. People don't need to know what the meaning behind every word is to us, they should make up their own interpretation and hopefully our music will become something unique to each and everyone.
5. Do you write your own songs? (Discuss the songwriting process in detail.)
Vincent: Absolutely! I consider myself a songwriter more than anything else and we've always put the focus on the songs and what it needs rather than showing off skills and jerk ourselves off and show how good we all are at our instruments. I write most of the music and Eddy wrote 4 tracks on the new album. I usually try to write keeping everyone's preferences and styles in mind and I love writing with Sam, he's very good at producing my ideas and filtering the potential in every riff we come up with. Justine took a huge part in the writing on this album and wrote the intro and a lot of the orchestrations. She is an infinite source of amazing music and her opinion is worth gold. She also worked really hard on producing the vocals with Viky and made up a lot of the vocal runs and harmonies with her through countless hours of late night work.
6. How do you describe your music to people?
Vincent: As of now, I would say that it's an adventure on its own. We write music as we'd write a movie soundtrack and we bring a lot of influences from movie score writers like Hans Zimmer, John Williams, James Horner and Alan Meken so that's a huge part of it. We also like to just let ourselves go and not limit ourselves to a genre. To me it makes it all very dynamic and much more interesting. You will hear as much hardcore influences in the guitar as you'll hear pop and atmospheric black metal influences in the vocals. To make it simple to people that don't care about how deep we go into our writing, i'd say that speed metal, power metal, metalcore and melodic death metal are our biggest influences.
7. Why did you want "Kolossòs" to be made into a single and then video?
Vincent: We chose Kolossòs because it's a very personal song to all of us. We had some hard times both personally and within the band in the last two years and this was one of the first songs I brought forward for the new album at a time that I was going through a very dark phase. This song brought the band together and it was clear since day one that it was meant to be the single. Not because it was the catchiest and most marketable song but because we felt it would represent us and this album the best. It's really different from our previous singles but we also wanted to break from the one dimensional catchy melodic death metal songs we used the other times.
8. You will soon be releasing your new album "Children of The Void", can you tell me a little bit about it?
Vincent: We really took our time and wrote songs that highlights everyone's strengths and takes advantage of all of it. All the songs have their own soul and strengths and I'm sure that people will have a really hard time choosing their favorite out of all the tracks. We have some of our heaviest and fastest material by far but it also features our catchiest and most likeable material to date. A lot of the songs were also written with the idea of playing them live so you will find this album to be much more dynamic and bring you to a lot of different places even through a single song. We pushed the boundaries of what Karkaos is and I think that as time goes, we'll only push them further and further with every album. We're definitely not a one trick pony and COTV is a testament to it.
9. What is the concept behind the album and how did the idea come about?
Vincent: There is no real in depths concept but I'd say that if Empire was the fight to gain control over a mythical overlord, Children Of The Void is the reality check after it happened and it all crashed down. It's growing back from the soil and ashes of a Utopian world that man wasn’t worthy of having. We also attack subjects that scare us more and more like tyranny, egoistical leaders and how fine the line is between life and death. We do also have a really positive hopeful way of thinking about it all but we know and realize the odds and decide to go against them. It's a real story that wasn't meant to come as one but ultimately it could be seen as one big story line.
10. What is your favorite song on the record and why?
Vincent: I would say that Tyrants is my personal favorite. It's our fastest and trickiest song to play for me and I also shot myself in the foot by claiming a big part of the vocal duties after a guest vocalist that we wanted to be featured on it had to turn down the offer because of simple bad timing. On every album, I'll write a song that's just too tricky and technical for me to play just so I can push myself to be a better player and on this album, this is it! The end of the song is also the absolute heaviest thing we've done by far. Imagine Dimmu Borgir having a very angry child with Behemoth and it'll give you a little idea of how it sounds.
11. What can fans expect from the new album?
Vincent: Karkaos growing up and getting back up and running, it’s the kind of music we've always wanted to write, but couldn’t with the old lineup. It'll be the perfect album to sit back, close your eyes, press play and let your imagination bring you somewhere new. Stay open minded and enjoy the show! It's not Empire 2.0 but we definitely took elements from both albums. It sounds more like an adult version of In Burning Skies in my opinion.
12. What was the writing and recording process like for this album?
Vincent: We recorded it at The Grid and at Silver Wings Studios over a year and it's probably the first album that was a real collective effort and not just one or two of the band members taking the lead and the rest just following their direction. It's very personal and honest and we really felt at home recording it with people that believed in us and were not just hired to work on it but wanted to be part of the effort to show the world the real potential of this band. We had an enormous circle of people that took part in the whole process and gave a lot of time to make it happen. It made it all a very tiring but oh so satisfying experience and even though I'm very happy we're finally done with it, I wouldn’t change anything about it.
13. Why do you think people should check out your new album once released?
Vincent: Because it's a fresh and overdue take on melodic metal. It's fast and heavy but also really well thought of. Everything is there for a reason and I think that people will be able to appreciate the writing and musicianship behind every track. It's an easy listening record for people that just want to hear good simple catchy music but it has a lot of layers that I believe musicians and real fanatics will love to pay attention to and dissect.
14. How would you say you differ from other bands and artists on the scene?
Vincent: We don't try to act tough and mean, we like to have fun and we show it with every occasion we have. We're a big dysfunctional and happy family and we don't see any reason to hide it. We also have a very unconventional, intense and chaotic stage presence that you would normally associate to hardcore and punk bands but we work as a unit and we just go nuts on stage. Iron Maiden taught me that a band shouldn’t have to act a part on stage, just have fun and people will share the same fun in the pit.
Vincent: Play music and express ourselves through the medium that Karkaos is. We did have interest from record companies but we self-manage our band really well and we're not eager to sign our lives away at the first occasion. Hopefully we'll get to play around Canada and the world as much as we can. I think there would be a huge market for us in Europe and Asia so hopefully we find a way to go play there in the next couple of years. I'd like this band to help break the genre's barrier and mix music from everywhere and every style we can over the next few albums.
16. What does next year hold for you?
Vincent: Hopefully a lot of shows and since we took a while to record and produce this album, the next one shouldn’t be that far off behind. I can't wait to get on the next record. We did talk of an acoustic EP but maybe that will just get included in the next album.