'You'll be surprised': Karnivool lead singer to UAE fans ahead of Australian band's debut gig in Dubai

Ian Kenny spoke to City Times about the thrill of live performances, the band's musical evolution and more


Enid Grace Parker

Published: Thu 9 Feb 2023, 7:57 PM

Last updated: Fri 10 Feb 2023, 5:14 PM

While Australia’s best known prog-rock juggernaut Karnivool have a reputation for putting on spectacular live shows since the band’s inception in 1997, their sparse studio output has had fans clamouring for news of a new record for almost a decade.

When City Times joined in the chorus and asked Ian Kenny, lead vocalist of Karnivool, about a possible future album (after 2013’s Asymmetry), he remarked, “That’s the golden question, isn’t it, that revolves around Karnivool’s future, as to what we’re doing. There is a record kind of half-written there. I think the thing that might make a bit more sense of it is that, if you go back to 2013 when Asymmetry came out - that’s almost ten years ago - back then we were all living in the same city, we didn’t have families but now we live in different cities, we’ve got families. We only get together a handful of times a year to write on this record; it’s not like we have access to it all the time, so we’re just doing it in bits and pieces. And that’s changed things.”

Not that fans here in the UAE are complaining much. Because, luckily for us, Karnivool are bringing ‘The Regeneration Tour’ to Dubai.

Kenny remarked that all he’s seen of Dubai till date is its “wonderful” airport which he passed through on the way to other countries.

Karnivool have already been through several cities in Europe and England as part of the new tour (their first European tour since 2015), and Kenny is thrilled to be back on the road, after the seemingly insurmountable setbacks caused by the Covid pandemic. One of the band members had spoken frankly about the financial difficulties of international touring in an interview last year.

Are Karnivool in a better place now?

Kenny admitted, “No, not really, I mean, to be honest, what happened with Covid is that everybody who is in this industry still wanted to tour, so you put tours in the market but of course, they get cancelled, so you go, ‘cool, we’ll reschedule.’

"And then you hang on to that, and of course that gets cancelled… the more you reschedule something you still incur the cost, so actually by the time the tour comes around… yeah, to get Karnivool out of the country through Europe and through Dubai given the current costing of touring, is fiercely expensive.”

Despite everything, he’s loving the feeling so far on The Regeneration Tour. “It’s been amazing. It’s been incredible. It’s like, I can’t believe that it’s been 8 years since we’ve had a reason or an opportunity to come back and the vibe in the room, the vibe of the shows - it’s insane, it’s so cool.”

Ian Kenny at a live performance with Karnivool
Ian Kenny at a live performance with Karnivool

No doubt a huge part of the five-piece band’s enduring appeal is their openness to reinvention. Whether it’s their debut album Themata (2005), widely classified as alternative metal, or its follow-up, Sound Awake (2009), which screams ‘prog-rock’ quite emphatically, Karnivool are obviously putting in the work to evolve their sound.

Kenny said, “I think innovation is massive; I think innovation is what keeps it creatively engaging as writers and as artists. I can’t remember why or how that discussion started and I don’t think it really was much of a discussion as such, it was just inherently within us. We knew what sort of record, in hindsight, Themata was, it was a rock-metal record. And as we wrote into Sound Awake, we realized we were learning more, discovering more and we could completely reach a lot further than that. So that’s where I think the innovation came and we realized we could make it a different type of record to Themata.”

Known for being influenced by veteran American rock bands Deftones and Tool, does contemporary music ever make it to Karnivool’s personal playlist?

Kenny breezily revealed he and bandmate Drew Goddard are “listening to a lot of country music.”

“That’s what’s happening at home! To be honest, we listen to all sorts of stuff. We’ve gotten to the point where, these days, all music is good music and I know that’s a blanket statement, but as songwriters and people who are interested in why a song works or how it works, that’s kind of what sparks our interest, or mine, anyway!”

No “schmaltzy load of c***” though, jokes Kenny as he recalled some of the stuff he caught on the radio as they were cruising around Europe. “It’s a completely different cultural shift, but sometimes you catch yourself listening to this song and you’re like, what… why is that here! Then again, I say that because I’m a picky b*****d, but I do stand by ‘all music is good music’, there’s something in it these days.”

Even with the ‘rock’ genre becoming increasingly fluid as compared to earlier decades, Kenny believes “vintage rock has to and always will stay around.”

“Especially in Australia, that gets played a hell of a lot on radio - there are dedicated stations and whatnot. It has left such a mark on early rock and there was something very right about that. So it’s always going to be there, to come back to remind the rock bands doing s****y rock right now - that’s how you do it!”

As far as the band’s own music is concerned, Kenny said “there’s always room for change.”

“I don’t consider myself a purist and I don’t want to be precious about anything. There’s always room to learn more and accept more about music.”

Browsing YouTube videos of their songs, one often comes across fans commenting on how Karnivool are ‘underrated.’ How does that make Kenny feel?

“I think Karnivool’s very lucky - we have some of the most engaging, passionate and true music fans that you can ever hope for and it’s really great to share what we do with them, because what they return and what they give us back, it shows the energy in those rooms is incredible. You just can’t find that anywhere else. It’s amazing.”

And it looks like UAE fans can look forward to a dynamic gig, with a powerful set list that includes their latest single All It Takes.

“I think the band is quite different live,” Kenny said, adding, “I mean, we sound like our records, we work very hard to make sure that we represent the records as best we can, but the actual band, if you’re about to witness it, it’s quite a different thing to the record, so if it’s the first time you’re going to see Karnivool live, you’ll be surprised.”

Catch Karnivool live at Hard Rock Cafe on Sunday, February 12. Tickets on Platinumlist.

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