INTERVIEW: Carbon Black talk new album End Of This

Interview by Anna Laris

Carbon Black

Based in the Illawara area in NSW, Carbon Black will release their latest album “End Of This”. We grabbed a few words from the band to find out more on the release and the band themselves.


Metal-Roos: What is the inspiration behind Carbon Black & how would u describe your sound?

Jon: For me Carbon is fulfilling a need in my life, eighteen months before I joined CB, I had moved from NSW to QLD and left my old band. When that all fell apart I realised that I needed music in my life! I missed the comradery of being in a band, I missed creating music and performing, so CB has allowed and still allows me to fulfil my music dreams.

Our sound…well, I think we kinda sound like Pantera with Iron Maiden choruses in some sections, but different to that in others, I’ve heard us be compared to; Disturbed, Rob Zombie, Pantera, Black Label Society, Stone Sour… lots of different elements.

Rob: The inspiration for Carbon Black was Jonathan! (laughs) But in all seriousness, Damon (guitarist) and I had been part of Nekrofeist together for four years and when the time came to move on from that band, we knew that Jon was the guy we wanted to work with because he had filled the frontman role for one of Nekrofeist’s international support shows (Warbringer in Canberra). Jon was our number one choice because he’s such an easy-going guy and we were blown away because we’d never seen a vocalist so dedicated to their craft. He came to our Nekrofeist rehearsal doing vocal warm ups with his iPod headphones on, and we were giving each other glances like check out this guy! (laughs). Carbon Black is actually the title of a Nekrofeist song I had a fairly large part in writing. We agonised over choosing a band name for so long, Jon and Damon really wanted to use Carbon Black and eventually I gave in! I have an old notebook from my days in high school, with interesting phrases and stuff that I overhear. I like phrases that have more than one meaning or can be interpreted multiple ways. “Carbon Black” was scribbled down during my art class in Year 11, of all the drawing charcoals we were using, the darkest shade was called “Carbon Black”. I’m pretty sure I was comparing it in terms of “Deep Purple” or something like that. In the lyrics of the Nekrofeist song I applied the words to an unhappy personal relationship, which is kind of why I was hesitant to use it as a band name. But hey, we’re Carbon Black now! Let’s kick it along.

Our sound has evolved a little bit, but it’s really a collaborative unit at heart. I picture it as a Venn Diagram, with a circle for each member of the band representing their tastes and influences. The area where the circles overlap is Carbon Black’s sound. Listeners instantly compare us to bands like Disturbed or Pantera, but for me personally I haven’t listened to those bands in a very long time. The other guys do, especially Damon. I’m not comfortable being compared so closely to other bands. I’d rather make our own identity, but people will always draw comparisons I guess.

Metal-Roos:  Since forming in 2014 the band has seen some changes. The band has recruited a new drummer, Steve Giles, who is also the brother to Rob Giles, the bassist in the band. How do you both feel about playing together in the band and what are some good points & bad points if any?

Rob: There are no bad points at all! Steve and I had been in different bands for a while, and the opportunity came up to make this happen. I’m so glad we did! Playing with my bro is nothing short of a luxury, it works amazingly well. The connection between a rhythm section can’t be understated, it is so vital. There are so many variables, sometimes it clicks naturally, other times if you don’t like the drummer it is like torture! (laughs) I think a lot of it has to do with musical background, the level on which you can relate. Obviously, Steve and I grew up together and have a lot of similar interests musically. I felt like Luke Cook (former Mortal Sin drummer) and I connected really well also, we had common interests outside plain old “Metal” which really helped us ‘lock in’ together. I can’t wait to do more writing with Steve though.

Steve: It’s great to be in a band with Rob again. We’ve been playing together since forever which really helps us lock in together as the rhythm section.

Metal-Roos: Jonathon, you had a vocal scare recently and were forced to re-build your voice. Describe what happened and what changes you had to make to improve your vocals?

Jon: I was performing in a Musical “The Drowsy Chaperone” and the final scene I had to sing a note that was just above my range and at full volume… combine this with ten years’ worth of bad singing habits and my voice just broke. What used to be so simple was now a massive effort, my voice was cracking with no resonance and I felt I had to force notes through, which just made things worse.

I went to a ENT Doc, who gave me scan and said I had started to develop Polyps and had to go to a speech therapist, who then referred me to a singing coach who had experience in vocal rehabilitation. That was just over a year ago and I am only now beginning to get a good handle on my singing, I had layers and layers of bad habits built up from improper technique which I had to forget and re-learn from scratch. It really opened my eyes to how fragile a voice can be and how amazing some of the vocalists out there truly are.

Metal-Roos: Since forming in 2014, Carbon Black have produced 2 albums, the first being, PRINCIPIUM and now, due to be released this September, END OF THIS. Could you describe the differences between the 2 albums, lyrically & musically and what inspired the band to write the 2nd album?

Jon: Well, the first release was an EP basically thrown together so we could have a release to tour. When we formed, we already had live dates booked, so we had to cobble together a half hour set in a matter of months! We poured our heart into the songs and they turned out to be decent. When we had the final copy in our hand we were never satisfied by it… the recording experience was not an enjoyable one… so with the album we wanted a real representation of CB and our sound and we worked hard to make sure we were happy with the result.

There are massive differences musically from the EP to the album. We have matured as a band our sound has shifted a few times as we searched for a fourth member, so with those shifts the songs have sounded quite different to the last. The EP just sounds so empty vocally plus I’m a sucker for massive choruses and nice harmonies, make the songs sound like they have the potential to. Working with Lachlan (Mitchell, Producer) was an absolute pleasure and he really helped us all through constructing something really cool.

Lyrically the inspiration for my songs come from a variety of personal spaces. I always try and allow the listener to interpret the song for themselves as well as having my own meaning behind them. That being said, the theme most attacked is the nature of human behaviour and trying to do the best you can in every situation.

Metal-Roos: Do you all feel passionately about the lyrical content of the album?

Jon: I do. I have had to separate myself a little from the emotional connection while performing the songs, but, I am always angered by how badly people can treat things… anything… and by choice. Deliberate destruction or harm on innocence really pisses me off. The fact that our political leaders are such blatant liars, the fact that people still believe the bullshit that drips from their foamy mouths is infuriating. This whole world can be infuriating at times, so, I take that out on stage. It’s quite cathartic.

Rob: I feel passionately about everything on the album! We worked very hard on it! Lyrics are a very personal thing, and I don’t press Jon too hard for clarification about topics that are addressed in our lyrics. I could tell you what I think a song is about, and it might be completely different to Jon’s intentions. That’s a good thing though, and I know that Jon would definitely agree with me. If we can glean different messages from the lyrics then the job is done.

Metal-Roos: Rob & Steve, you both have some classical training with piano. Have you ever considered incorporating piano into some of your material?

Rob: Nothing is out of the question! Keyboards or piano, if it serves the song it will be there. We have a lot of mellow, acoustic material on the shelf which will really benefit from some keyboards. I can’t wait to get it recorded.

You know it makes me laugh, not a lot of people realise that I have that background in music. A work colleague once made disparaging comments about my tastes, like “Rob’s kind of music”. Like metal fans are uncouth. My kind of music?! I studied at the Conservatorium for most of my childhood, dick head! He had no idea who he was dealing with! (laughs)

Metal-Roos: Do you feel Carbon Black is prepared and energised for a world tour? If so, where would u love to tour and why?

Jon: We have a few shows coming up that we are really excited for. The set has been sounding great in rehearsal and I am finding my confidence again vocally. Touring is what I have been working towards, it would be a dream come true to tour Europe and America! Even if just for a couple of shows… playing some of the summer festivals in Europe would be mind-blowing! It truly is the holy-land of metal.

Steve: Ready to go! Looking to playing every seedy sticky beer soaked venue we can. Wacken is a personal dream.

Rob: Absolutely, we’re very keen to travel and perform wherever we can! I think our sound will go over best in North and South America, that’s where I’d like to perform first. We’ll see what opportunities arise. 

Metal-Roos: Are there any plans in the near future for a 2nd album?

Jon: As soon as we finished recording the first album we wanted to start the second! We have demos and finished songs in the can, and plan on taking our music in a few different directions, but that all comes later. First we tour!

Metal-Roos: What are your thoughts on the metal scene in Sydney and what do you think is needed to improve the metal scene and music scene in general?

Jon: I ask myself that question constantly. I believe that the Australian scene has so much talent and the younger generation have an amazing drive and motivation to work their asses off. I think the scene is slowly improving. But it all comes down to fans attending live shows. You could put on a phenomenal show with an amazing album, but if no one turns up…well… We all know how hard it is to get in and out of the city, especially coming from Wollongong, and how tight money is, especially with real estate prices… it’s hard for everybody.

But I also know that there are amazing people in the scene, both in bands and not, doing their best to lift Aussie Metal and music, we are getting bigger festivals hitting our shores, more people are coming to shows, and there are so many more shows to see. Maybe it has something to do with getting people to really care about your band… to believe in your message, your art… and I think that as a band, we truly believe in ourselves and our message, so hopefully people latch on to that energy.

Rob: Metal elitists are getting out of hand, but that problem is everywhere, including Melbourne. People need to chill out and enjoy the music without dissecting it and arguing over what category it falls into. More openness to diversity would definitely help the Sydney scene. Not just diversity with getting more women on stage, but also diversity in styles of metal on lineups.

Metal-Roos: Are you all aware that there is an all-girl band from Stockholm Sweden also named Carbon Black?

Jon: Actually yes!! Hahaha we are hoping to co-headline in Sweden one day…

Rob: Are you aware that there is a singer/songwriter in America named Rob Giles? He’s recorded with Andy Summers (The Police guitarist). When I attended the NAMM show in Anaheim back in 2014, every day someone would ask me if I was that guy! “Are you THE Rob Giles!?”. I was confused at first, like yeah, I’m Rob Giles! That’s what my name badge says! I was thinking, what’s up with these weirdos? Must be some kind of bizarre American humour. Then I realised what was going on by the third day of the trade show! (laughs)

Metal-Roos: What is the most important piece of advice you would give to all the young people wanting to start a career in music?

Jon: Preparation. You really want to know what you are going after and where you want to go. Diving in headfirst is all well and good, but there are so many finer details that can make or break you. Work hard. Expect to fail but learn through your mistakes. Network with everyone! The scene rests on strong relationships and people believing in each other. Do not rip anyone off, do not be greedy and communicate openly.

Rob: Know your band’s strengths and work within them. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Surround yourself with people that you trust, and who share the same vision as you. Anyone else will waste your time. Keep outside influences out of the creative process. Girlfriends, mates and other bands have no place in the creative side, in my opinion. Always aspire to work with musicians who are better than you. That’s how you grow. 

Metal-Roos:  Briefly, describe what heavy metal means to each of you?

Jon: For me, the sound of overdriven guitars spoke to my brain like nothing before. The music was amazing and the attitude was inviting. Metallica in the 80’s to the Re-Load album basically owned the globe… and this is when I discovered music. It gave me something to spark my imagination with all the imagery and themes, and something to belong to with the other metal fans. It has saved me a few times and driven me so many more. I owe a lot to Metal and want to give something back.

Steve: Everything. It’s a way of life.

Rob: Good times, with great friends


Interview Date: 2018-09-03

Interviewer: Anna Laris