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An Exclusive Interview with Sam Vallen of Caligula’s Horse, Discussing their Upcoming Album Charcoal Grace

Caligulas Horse

Get ready for a journey through the musical cosmos as Friedrich Stenzel from LotsOfMuzik sits down with Sam Vallen, the musical maestro steering the ship of one of today’s most captivating progressive rock bands, Caligula’s Horse. From reflections on their recent headliner tour to the intricacies of performing as a four-piece, Sam opens up about the band’s experiences and evolution.

Get an insider’s look into the upcoming album, “Charcoal Grace,” as Sam delves into the inspirations and creative process behind this darker and more expansive musical venture. Join us in exploring the depths of music and the artistic mind in this exclusive interview with Sam Vallen.

Below you’ll find the video recording of the interview and the transcript as well.

LOM: Let’s hope this works now?

SV: That’s better!

LOM: Very nice seeing and hearing you!

SV: What’s a day of interviews without some issue with Zoom at some point, right? I think it’s half of the calls… How are you doing, man?

LOM: I am great, how are you doing?

SV: Yeah, pretty good, pretty good. I mean it’s a sunny day, hopefully it’s not the heatwave I’ve experienced for the last week, but otherwise great. What time is it where you are?

LOM: I was just going to ask you that, it’s 2 am right where I am.

SV: 2 am?? Sorry, I could have done this at a different time, that’s rough!

LOM: No worries, no worries. I was wondering if to get up early or stay up late – I ended up staying up late.

SV: Yeah either way, it kind of sucks.

LOM: And I’m kind of jealous for a heat wave also, because we have maybe 2°C, it’s winter here.

SV: We went on a little family trip to New Zealand when it was kind of like 15°C and by end of it we were all “I can’t wait to get back home, it’s 36°C and humid, it’s brutal”. (both laugh)

LOM: All right, I already started recording, I have my phone here just in case something is messing things up with the audio.

SV: Sounds good.

LOM: Alright, let’s start – hello everybody, I am Fritz from LotsOfMuzik and we have very special guest tonight – the amazing Sam Vallen from one of Australias finest prog acts, Caligula’s Horse.

SV: Thank you, it’s wonderful to be here.

LOM: Well, thank you! Not only are you the musical director and can I even say, leader of one of today’s most exciting bands of the genre, you also hold a doctorate at the Queensland Conservatorium and work as a teacher, arranger, producer, engineer, session musician, … Sam, first of all, can you tell us, what DON’T you work as?

SV: (Laughs) I’ve tried to kind of build my entire career as much as I can around music and, yes, that has required me to do a lot of different things. It’s not like it used to be in the old days. I DON’T work as a… I don’t do any manual labour, I feel like that’s probably bad for my body. (laughs)

LOM: Alright then, let’s stick with what you CAN do or what you ARE doing. First of all, you and Caligula’s Horse were finally able to go out on an extensive headliner tour this year to promote your 2020 album “Rise Radiant”. How was it to finally bring those songs to the stage not only in your home country, but all around the world?

SV: It was incredible. We have this saying in the band that you don’t really know an album, you don’t know your own music until you take it on the road and you get to experience the interface that you have with your fans in doing so. We never got to do that with “Rise Radiant”, so it never really felt like we finished that album period, if that makes sense. We didn’t get to do that in the way we normally do, so finally doing that this year, to play across Europe, across Latin America and the ProgPower Festival in the US, and of course all around Australia, it felt like a proper end to a chapter that for a long time, I’m sure you’ll agree, felt like it was never going to end. So, yes, kind of amazing.

LOM: Sounds good! I believe these were the first show you guys performed as a four-piece, is that true?

SV: We actually did a tour around Australia in late 2022 with a band called Butterfly Effect, that was our first exploration as a four-piece. And for what it’s worth, when we did that tour, it was actually kind of a test in a lot of ways. We wanted to see if the band would work in that arrangement, with me taking on more guitar parts, putting some more ambient and keys and stuff like that in the backing tracks and just seeing how it comes out – and we loved it, it was incredible. More room, fewer people at the touring potty – all of that stuff is just fantastic when you’re a band like us, you know.

LOM: Can you elaborate how in the end you managed to perform in this constellation, did you just grow a few more fingers, or…?

SV: (Laughs) For what it’s worth, the way that I attempt to write the music is a lot actually geared around one guitar anyway. There is almost always one primary guitar part. There’s usually a bunch of layers and things like that, but for the most part they’re auxiliary layers. They’re not layers that need to be there or layers that I can have quietly on a track, it doesn’t really matter. But what it did require is… I am not able to sit up on stage and have a rest while the other guitarist takes the main part. I cannot just chill for a bit, it’s a lot more work for a guitarist. But honestly, it’s one of these things where we weren’t sure how well it would work but when we realized just how easy it made everything else around touring, it felt like a no-brainer. So, we’re pretty happy as a four-piece.

LOM: I was actually fortunate enough to see you guys perform in Berlin last summer.

SV: Oh wonderful, that was a cool gig. Well actually, it was a hot gig is what I should say.

LOM: It was, I was just gonna say, you really set the place on fire in a way. And it was that one show where you spontaneously decided to throw “Dark Hair Down” at us and the crowd just went totally nuts, me included.

SV: That’s right! We don’t often get – you know how it is at prog shows, prog people tend to be quite reserved, sometimes we get a bit of heckling or whatever, but it felt like the demand for “Dark Hair Down” was so real… I think there was a chant or something, wasn’t there? I can’t remember exactly how it got to that. But it was just like… “let’s just to it”. Fortunately, we had it sort of prepped, we rehearsed it for the tour before that one. But that was so cool. And you were right, you were definitely the only ones to hear it on that tour.

LOM: I was going to ask how you pulled that off, just pulling out that song with everything prepared, with the backing tracks and click tracks…

SV: To trade secrets, we have a bunch of other songs on a controller we’ve had in the repertoire for years but there’s definitely a limitation. If you asked us to play some obscure song off of “Moments From Ephemeral City”, I just wouldn’t know it at that moment in time. But we got kind of lucky with “Dark Hair Down” that we had rehearsed it a few months prior. And it was scary because we didn’t know how well it would work. But it was fine, you know, we played that song for enough years that it’s hidden somewhere in the subconscious. But it was really special, really cool.

LOM: It was, it was. And then you guys had to go on to the next show in the middle of the night.

SV: Yeah – you know what, that was a new experience for us in a lot of ways, because we normally do the sleeper bus but because we were doing a two-band bill, we were doing vans and hotels. And when you do that, (you know how the distances and stuff can be like across Europe), when you do that, it usually means you drive in the morning and in our case, arriving an hour before the show. In the case of Berlin it was little bit more intense. We had a much longer journey to do. I actually forget where we were playing the next night, but I remember we were up at like two in the morning. We had an hour of sleep, just trying to survive, and then we were just straight back in the van, driving through the night, trying to dose off if we can. I think it might have been – no, it wasn’t the border crossing. I forget where it was, but we had a couple of those throughout that tour where we didn’t really get to sleep at all. I’m too old for that, I can’t do it anymore, so hopefully that’s the last time (laughs).

LOM: What do you mean, you’re too old? How old are you, can I ask that?

SV: I’m (hesitates) 36. 35? 36 – yeah, I’ll have to ask my wife, she knows. 

LOM: That’s not too old. Just six years more than me.

SV: Well, they’re six long years through the pandemic, right? I feel like every year in the pandemic is worth two years, maybe?

LOM: You got a point there! (Both laugh) Sam, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. You guys got a new album coming out next month called “Charcoal Grace”. I’m one of the lucky few to have heard the album already because I will review it for LotsOfMuzik. Can you tell us a little bit about your new album?

SV: Absolutely. It was a weird one to make. As I hinted before, we never really got to have that finality to the “Rise Radiant” period, so during the pandemic, we were pulled in different directions, everyone had to deal with their day jobs and we had to deal as musicians with the idea of “how do you be a musician when you can’t do any of the things musicians do anymore?”. Like touring and that kind of stuff. So we struggled with all of that and we struggled with the idea of saying we’re going to begin the next album cycle, thereby implying that the “Rise Radiant” album cycle is finished. So, long story short, the actual beginning of the writing process was pretty hard. It took us a while to finally break into. And we saw the album as a kind of answer to the experience we had through the pandemic. Both those issues I just described, as well as that thing that we all saw at that time where suddenly your neighbours are the ones hording toilet paper and your community is breaking down in this weird way, which was hard to not quite feel jaded by as an artist. So the album in a sense is an answer to that time, the things that we learned during the pandemic, the things we were unable to escape from in that time. But our goal with the record, especially as we got through to the end of writing, is for it to represent a kind of catharsis, both for us and for anyone listening to it. This is the experience we all shared, and this is hopefully the end of that experience. And this is a kind of time capsule of that time, as well as a way for us to get rid of all those demons. As a result, it’s a much darker album than anything we’ve done in the past.

LOM: That would have been my next question, actually.

SV: Well yeah, let’s talk about that!

LOM: I was going to ask about the inspiration behind the lyrical themes, I guess you answered a part of that already. I have the feeling that “Charcoal Grace” is a little more somber, more epic, less song-oriented and in general just bigger than your last albums, especially “Rise Radiant”. Was that a conscious decision or does a direction like that just come naturally?

SV: We tend to be quite deliberate, as we begin each new album cycle with a usually fairly prolonged discussion about how we want the album to differ from what we have done in the past. I can speak for myself, although it is true for the rest of the band, I’m really not someone who likes to repeat themselves too much. “Rise Radiant”, as you implied, it’s quite a positive album, quite a song-oriented album, an album that was a reflection of who we were in 2018/2019 when we were touring constantly, doing all that kind of stuff. “Charcoal Grace” IS a lot more somber, as you say. It’s a lot more spacious. And those things are a reflection of what we saw in that time, as I said. But it also feels like… as an artist, it’s kind of interesting to explore things like that, to sort of say, we’re starting from this very different thematic perspective and we’re throwing away some of the “rules” we’ve had in the past. One big element that motivated especially “Rise Radiant”, was this idea that when we explore dark things, we want to do so with recourse to light as well, like everything has a counterpart, as dark and a light balance. I tend to find that this allows for the most drama as a songwriter, it created the most expressive opportunities, but there was a sense while we were writing this that it would be really disingenuous to focus on the brighter elements while the world is just going through this very dark time both internally and externally. So the album necessarily had to be a little bit darker. And that being the case, we realized that it made much more sense to throw out some of the other constraints we had with “Rise Radiant”, like the idea of it being short and punchy and song-oriented. We wanted this to feel like we could have time, have blank space, have parts of songs where you get a kind of reprieve before the next moment begins rather than trying to zig-zag between ideas. So as a result, yeah, it’s a bit longer, it’s a bit more spacious, it’s a bit more thoughtful, I think. And I totally agree with your assessment that it is less song-oriented. It feels more like a kind of start-to-finish listening experience, although kind of a long one, I guess, if you’re inclined. But yeah, that’s where it comes from.

LOM: Can you tell us a little about what the album title means? As a non-native English speaker, I would love to hear a little bit about that.

SV: I see it’s probably a weird one in that regard. “Charcoal Grace” in one sense is a very abstract title. It is supposed to be something that uses language in a poetic way to just make you think of something, to make your mind go somewhere it might not normally. In the song “Vigil”, the third part of the “Charcoal Grace” suite we use the words charcoal grace as a personification of silence. If you literally deconstruct the word “charcoal grace”, you’ve got “charcoal”, like the end of something, the final result (if you want to be really literal) of a fire. And “grace”, the idea of being elegant and being poised. So, the idea is that there is a beauty in stillness, a beauty in silence, a sense of spaciousness in silence. But there is also, in that same silence, a kind of grimness, a kind of darkness to it. We really wanted it to be a title that (although I just deconstructed it probably more than I would personally like) is supposed to be thought-provoking. Hopefully it gives you a good sense of the silence we’re talking about, particularly in that song suite, but more so something that you could probably read a bunch of other ways that maybe even I’m not anticipating. 

LOM: And what exactly inspired you to write such a behemoth of a song that is the title track? Just the prog-fan in you? (Both laugh)

SV: It’s a very prog thing. Once I get on a path like that (again, speaking for myself, but it’s true for the other guys in the band), it’s really hard to stop. You know, I got really excited by it. In fact, I’m thinking a bit more deeply, it’s a funny little piece of trivia, which is: when we got to the 20-minute mark of the suite, I remember very actively saying “hey, we need to work out how to wrap this thing up, or it’s not going to fit on a side of a vinyl LP”. And that was an actual problem! We needed to ensure that we could, because a lot of our fans like that kind of presentation. But yeah, in terms of why we wrote it… the short answer is, it’s another one of those interesting artistic limitations that you have in front of you. Like, we have to create this long form song with these different elements to the song suite, which I had the added limitation of wanting to make it so that each song could be listened individually, or rather, each chapter in the suite could be listened to individually. And I’m one of these people where expression is in the forefront of what I do, I really want our music to feel emotional and affecting. But I also get really caught up in the idea of these interesting challenges which act almost like a kind of puzzle to solve. Like, we’ve got this 24-minute piece of music with all of these deep themes. I want to have it so you can listen to it as 24 minutes of music or you can listen to it as four individual songs. I want all of those things to all be true at the same time. And so it ends up being a really fun challenge as an artist to dig into it and make that work, while also making the main takeaway, the experience, a very emotional one. So, as a result, it’s a lot, it demands a lot of the listener. It’s kind of part and parcel I guess, the experience of this kind of music. So, that’s sort of where that came from. It’s worth saying also that its lyrical narrative is a very dark one and it was one that as we started digging into, we realized it really needed space to not just feel like a throwaway concept. So that sort of lead to us writing a 24-minute piece of music, like the prog nerds that we are.

LOM: I guess it’s your first one!

SV: Yeah! Well, the longest song we’ve had before was “Graves”, which is kind of a side-length song. I think, what is it, 16-17 minutes, something like that? But in terms of the scope, 16 and 24 minutes is a pretty big difference. It definitely took a lot of effort.

LOM: Sounds like it, definitely. It seems that during many riffs on Charcoal Grace, not just the song, but the album, the bass, the guitar and the drums are locked in very tightly with each other, almost in a djenty kind of way. Any inspiration from your heavier peers of the progressive metal genre, like TesseracT or Periphery?

SV: I think it’s actually more a case of convergent evolution. We probably had the same influences as bands like TesseracT and Periphery do. I grew up loving Meshuggah, loving SikTh, all those kinds of bands. The thing is, I try to avoid stuff sounding too typically djent, or let’s say prototypically djent, the approach to riffs where it’s only rhyhthm and you don’t really have much harmony. I think the thing that we try and do is when we are these really punctuated and syncopated unison-oriented riffs, I try and make sure that it has a sense of compositional place. If it’s atonal it’s usually as a contrast to some more harmonic or sonorous parts that might proceed it. So it’s not necessarily a direct influence but I think we come at it from a similar place as a lot of those bands. In other words, it acts as the heaviest dynamic we have available. How do you create something heavy – add a lot of movement and add a lot of impact. So we probably come to a similar place that a lot of those bands do and try to answer that challenge.

LOM: As many songs off you previous albums were credited to yourself and singer Jim Grey, almost in a Donald Fagen/Walter Becker kind of symbiotic way.

SV: I love the comparison, thank you! (Both laugh)

LOM: Can you give us a short crash course on how a Caligula’s Horse song is conceived? And also, how have the influences of you band colleagues changed over the last albums, especially with your newer members Dale Prinsse and (not so new) Josh Griffin?

SV: It’s worth saying before I get to the answer that Dale is actually one of my oldest friends and we actually wrote songs together way back in out university days. So, although he is the newest member in the band, he is a very longtime collaborator. 

In terms of the way we approach songwriting, it’s actually a little bit different than you will find in a lot of metal bands. I think a lot of metal tends to be ground up in the way it’s written, there might be the majority of the song written in the musical world and then vocals and lyrics added. We try to avoid that, because I like the idea that the music has a symbiotic relationship with the lyrics, where the two really rely on one another. So the way that we approach it is, I usually write a short song section, it might be a verse or it might be a couple of parts that kind of move between one another maybe without any particular song structural goal in mind. And I usually arrange that enough that there’ll be a good sense of the mood and the vibe. And as soon that’s there, Jim and I will usually start playing with melodies (Jim – our vocalist Jim Grey). We’ll start working on melodies and eventually lyrics for that one part. The cool thing is that once you have lyrics generated around a piece of music, you got a good sense of what the piece of music means, you got both musical and harmonic vibe, how the music makes you feel on a subconscious level, and you got lyrics, the literal way, the literal things the music is describing. That gives us a really nice starting point for where the song will go after that, what section should come next, in terms of contrast and in terms of supporting that part. And as you build the song up this way you get this wonderful sense of holistic connection between the different parts and between the music and the lyrical component.

In terms of how that’s changed over time, in the one sense, Jim and I have always remained the main writing force behind the band. It’s always going to be my main musical element with his main lyrical element – crossing over a lot, he’ll write music, I’ll write lyrics as well. But especially with “Rise Radiant” we’ve dug a little bit more into the other members contributing music. But I think with “Charcoal Grace”, because the leadup was so retracted and because we struggled so much with the stylistic approach we would take for this album (with like I said, leaving the “Rise Radiant” period behind and so forth), we actually had a lot more time to just throw around musical ideas. And this was a period where especially Dale very prolifically wrote stuff and threw it our way, saying “is this interesting to you? Is this interesting to you?”. And then when we started writing in earnest, we had this really lovely open environment where everyone had shown what they were feeling a that particular time musically and then we could meet in the middle. So although it hasn’t changed that Jim and I are the main writers, Josh and Dale had a pretty significant hand in this record. I think, if I’m not mistaken, “The World Breathes With Me” is actually the first Caligula’s Horse song where every band member has a song writing credit, which is kind of interesting in its own right. There’s a lot of song writing credits throughout the record where different members are involved.

LOM: I got to say, it sounds great. I think “Mute” might your best song yet, in my personal opinion.

SV: I love “Mute”. It’s my favorite song on the album, I’m so happy that would say that. That does mean a lot. Because I tell you what, I know it wasn’t really a question, but “Mute” is a weird one. “Mute” was a song that could have totally failed. The idea of having an acapella intro, big orchestra-oriented middle section and the dynamics, extreme as they were… “Mute” is one of my favorite songs we’ve ever written, I think it’s one of the songs that hits me the hardest as an individual. So it’s always lovely that it work for other people as well, because it is a weird song!

LOM: But it’s a great one! And it certainly works. And speaking of “Mute”, which as a lot of orchestral elements – I even remember a flute somewhere – what I always found interesting is that Caligula’s Horse don’t really have a keyboard player in their line-up. They only have you, performing “everything else”, like “Rise Radiant”’s liner notes stated. (Both laugh) You still manage to create this huge, cinematic sound at times. Can you tell us how you do that, how you come up with orchestral arrangements, how they are performed and, in the end, recorded for the album?

SV: Absolutely. You’re right in saying we don’t have a designated keyboardist, I am the defector keyboardist and in charge of the other instruments, all of which I am pretty bad at. The beauty of working in the studio: I can pluck away until it sounds cool. My general approach with that is, I like to create music with the mindset of a producer. It’s not about what would be able to be transferrable live, it’s about what sounds good, and then we worry about how we make it work live later. But because “Charcoal Grace” is such a broad a thoughtful record, the one thing we did really different this time is we actually did hire a live orchestra. Or at least a good chunk of a live orchestral that we then supplemented with some programmed parts, a thing that we have done in the past. It’s one of those things that obviously you can’t replicate live, short of hiring a ton of people. I don’t know, maybe we’ll do that one day, that would be pretty special, that’s for sure. But I try to keep in mind the idea that any backing elements that we do, at least nine times out of ten, are supplementary. So the elements where, if we played a gig and we weren’t able to use any backing tracks, would the song still work? The answer has to be yes. But we also, me especially, I also don’t like the idea that I’m restricting myself off a creative and exploratory trajectory just because it will be challenging live. A song like “Mute” will be very hard to play live, because we don’t have live flautist. In the past we’ve had that, a good example is the song “Into The White” on “The Tide, The Thief & River’s End” which also has a live flute. I actually hadn’t made that connection until talking to you right now. But I used to just perform that flute part live on guitar instead. Or a song like “Salt”, which when we performed it live – it has piano intro – I did the piano intro arranged for guitar. So, we try and have it set up in such a way that we’re not a backing track band. You know, you get a lot of those bands where when you don’t have the tracks, it falls apart. I tend to not write elements for the keyboard or symphonic parts that the song doesn’t work without. And when that does happen I try and make sure that there is a way that I can arrange it for another instrument or maybe change it a little bit to match. But at the end of the day, like I said, I don’t want to limit myself because artistically we are a four-piece metal band. I’d rather just explore the music and then work out the best way to make it work live later, because I think it’s a little bit of more of an honest artistic representation of who I am and who we are.

LOM: Sounds reasonable. And I got to say, until now it works.

SV: Yeah. So far! 

LOM: Well, “Charcoal Grace” is very big and very layered as we discussed and I’m very eager to see all those songs live. I’m sure it will work, so we can scrap that “so far”.

Sam, let’s talk about something else, you actually completed a PhD in music a few years back and now teach music and the Queensland Conservatorium, is that true?

SV: Yeah, that’s right. Again, incorrigible nerd that I am, once I start doing something it’s very hard for me to stop. I realized I had an inclination for the academic side of – I was going to say music, but I’m going to say it more broadly – literature studies, analyses and stuff. And I was compelled to do it just because I was teaching at a college level on different colleges at that time, and to move up in that world it’s important to have a doctorate. I also found a bit of an inclination for things like academic writing and so forth, which was fulfilling in a way quite different than music. So, I got into that. I finished the doctorate, it was a big project, a very rewarding project in its own right. But for sure I haven’t lost the passion for that either, which is good, because a lot of people do during the process of the doctorate.

LOM: I actually found your thesis online and read a few lines and I may dive into that a little more even, because it sounded very interesting, very well written.

SV: Yeah, nice! It’s a big read, it’s obviously very long, as doctorates tend to be. But the basic premise is, when we talk about progressive rock, we tend to have this implication that there’s this always forward-looking element to it. I did this analysis of the music that appeared – it was originally just called rock in the mid-60s – and the way it almost immediately jumped into this very rapid advancement, exploring ideas that really didn’t exist in that music up to that time – think The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Frank Zappa and so forth. And then contrast that against “progressive rock” or “progressive metal” as we describe it nowadays, look at how the impulse towards the music’s creation has changed. It’s not so much a critical piece, it’s very much a labor of love. To be able to work in an analytical realm around a lot of music that I’ve listened to and drew influence from over the years was awesome. Really fun to do.

LOM: I think you actually used the words “labor of love” in your acknowledgements. And I think you thanked Dream Theater, Genesis and I believe two more bands.

SV: Yeah, King Crimson I think. All these artists I’ve learned so much from. The problem is when you write academically, it’s hard to not have a critical element to it. Like, I’m pulling their music apart. And I wanted to acknowledge at the start that even while I am pulling their music apart, this is music that I truly love and it means a lot to me well beyond notes on a page or thoughts in an analytical sense.

LOM: I get that. I studied music before as well and I wrote a far shorter bachelor’s thesis on a similar topic and it’s hard to stay objective and to not just praise everything.

SV: Right. It’s almost impossible to do so. Again, it’s helping to have a kind of acknowledgement at the start.

LOM: I also found that you wrote an honors thesis on Steely Dan’s harmonic vocabulary – very interesting connection to a prog musician in my opinion.

SV: I have to admit straight off the bat that was probably the most selfish academic endeavor I have ever done. I literally did that honors thesis with the idea in mind of getting to know as much about this as I can so I can borrow these harmonic ideas for my own music. I was entirely selfish in that way.

LOM: I was just going to ask how that knowledge influenced you as a composer.

SV: The cool thing with that particular thesis is I started the thesis with the idea that I was just going to come to a bunch of conclusory heuristics, like, here is how this band (or two songwriters in the case of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen) approach different songwriting problems. You know, like cadences, how those contrast choruses. And in the end, for my own selfish needs, I created this final chapter in the thesis, which is basically just a glossary of the different ways that they approach different problems. The essay element was literally just cadences. Let’s look at how Walter Becker and Donald Fagen do five-one cadences or plagal cadences, let’s look at their approach to this and that. And for me it was just amazing, because as I’m writing all of that I’m just going “cool, I’ve just learned a ton of new things that I can immediately integrate in my own writing in my own way”. And in an abstract way that it doesn’t feel like I’m just doing Steely Dan stuff – I don’t think anyone would accuse my band of sounding like Steely Dan, right? But instead, they’re just a bunch of amazing musical building blocks that I got to learn about for a year.

LOM: I’d love to read that one day, if that’s available somewhere.

SV: Oh yeah, I’ll send it across to you if you want. 

LOM: That’d be great! So, we’re coming near the end of our interview. You have already announced some American tour dates for early next year. A little selfishly I will have to ask – will you extend this tour to the other continents as well, maybe even to Europe?

SV: Obviously, I can’t spoil the specifics, but the short answer is yes. Unequivocally yes, we will be touring everywhere this coming year, the next couple of years, 100%. It was incredible to finally hit European shores again earlier this year. And it’s been far too long, we’re going to make up for lost time at this point.

LOM: Alright, I guess we’ll see each other at one of these shows at the latest. Sam, thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. And to everybody out there, “Charcoal Grace” will officially hit the shelves of every well-sorted record store near you 26 January. 

SV: That’s right.

LOM: And I can only recommend to all of you to lend an ear to this beautiful album.

SV: Thanks so much, it’s been a wonderful chat, mate, thank you.

LOM: Likewise! That’s all for now from Sam Vallen of Caligula’s Horse and from Fritz of LotsOfMuzik. Stay safe everyone. Until next time and thank you Sam!

SV: See you in Berlin next time, I guess.

LOM: I guess so.

SV: Wonderful.

Pre-Order Charcoal Grace here:

Caligulas Horse album cover


Side A
The World Breathes With Me (10:00)
Golem (05:20)
Side B
Charcoal Grace I: Prey (07:48)
Charcoal Grace II: A World Without (06:48)
Charcoal Grace III: Vigil (03:22)
Charcoal Grace IV: Give Me Hell (06:13)
Side C
Sails (04:31)
The Stormchaser (05:57)
Mute (12:00)

Charcoal Grace is available as Ltd. CD Digipak, CD Jewelcase (US only), Gatefold 2LP in various colours & Digital Album. 

Caligula’s Horse are

Jim Grey – lead vocals
Sam Vallen – lead guitar
Josh Griffin – drums
Dale Prinsse – bass

The band recently announced their Charcoal Grace North America Tour 2024 with special guests Earthside. Tickets available at


01/31 Union Stage – Washington,DC
02/01 Underground Arts – Philadelphia, PA
02/02 Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
02/03 New York, NY – The Gramercy Theatre
02/04 Montreal, QC – Le Studio TD
02/06 The Axis Club – Toronto, ON
02/07 Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall – Pittsburgh, PA
02/08 Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL
02/10 Exit – Nashville, TN
02/12 The Underground – Charlotte, NC
02/13 The Masquerade (Hell) – Atlanta, GA
02/15 Come Take it Live – Austin, TX
02/16 Granada Theatre – Dallas, TX
02/18 Nile Half House – Phoenix, AZ
02/19 Brick By Brick – San Diego, CA
02/20 The Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA
02/21 Cornerstone – Berkley, CA
02/23 El Corazon – Seattle, WA
02/24 Hawthorne Theatre, Portland, OR
02/25 Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver, BC

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