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Conducting From The Grave Interview

A Conversation with Guitarist Jeff Morgan

By

Conducting From The Grave

Conducting From The Grave

Sumerian Records
Updated October 31, 2010
Revenants is the sophomore album from the California band Conducting From The Grave. Guitarist Jeff Morgan discusses the history of the band, their current album, tales from the road, his musical beginnings and other subjects.

Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of the band.
Jeff Morgan: Conducting From The Grave first began at the end of 2003 when John Abernathy (guitar) and Greg Donnelly (drums) met and started jamming together. Around the same time I parted ways with my previous band, With Passion, and they asked me to play with them. Once we had a full lineup we started playing around Northern California trying to build a local following. In the summer of 2005, shortly after self-releasing our debut EP Trials of the Forsaken, we went out on our first national tour with Light This City. Right after the tour we lost our bass player and our vocalist. And around the same time With Passion lost several members and we decided to merge the two bands.

Since With Passion was signed and had some good tours lined up we decided to make the full transition to become the new lineup for With Passion. We put out a new album and toured for about two years as With Passion, but after many stumbling blocks and frustrations and complications with the label we decided to throw in the towel and reunite Conducting From The Grave in September 2007. Former CFTG vocalist Drew Winter rejoined the band and in the summer of 2008 we left on our first tour back out as Conducting From The Grave. Ten days into the tour Drew quit the band and flew home. John and Steven Lovas (bass) double teamed the vocal responsibilities for the rest of the tour.

In the following year the band signed with Sumerian records, acquired a new vocalist (Lou Tanuis), and released our debut full length When Legends Become Dust. The band toured from January-July 2009 in support of the release and then went home to begin writing for the next record. In early 2010 Lou decided to leave the band due to commitments at home. Shortly thereafter Mikey Powell joined the band on vocals and we recorded our sophomore album for Sumerian Records. Revenants was released in October of 2010 and we are currently on the road with Suicide Silence in support of the album.

How has the band progressed/evolved from When Legends Become Dust to Revenants?
We feel that our songwriting has matured a lot. Many of the songs on When Legends Become Dust were written as early as 2003, so the album had a pretty broad mix of songwriting style and influence as we progressed musically over the years. Revenants was written over the course of about four months and in our growth as musicians we’ve learned to structure songs a lot better and make them flow better. Musically, Revenants is far superior to anything else we’ve ever written. Our more mature sound along with Mikey’s vocals makes for the greatest music we’ve ever recorded.

Is there a lyrical theme or concept to the album?
Not every single song is about the same thing, but the overall theme is about how humanity is repeating the same mistakes of the past as far as going to war over things like religion and spirituality, and how it will be our undoing. If you read the lyrics to “And Our War Will Dawn,” it's about marching off to war, and how different factions or countries get all patriotic and excited go to war, but then the last song “What Monsters We Have Become” is about how it will be too late to realize what we have done wrong and there will be nothing left of our race and planet.

What does the title signify?
Revenants means ghosts or evil spirits, and so the title signifies the ghosts of past wars or dead soldiers of wars, thus tying in with the theme of us repeating the same mistakes with wars and such.

What are your expectations for the album?
We expect to make enough money to support our out of control cocaine habit. We expect it to sell 1092305920359823 copies, and we want lines of whores ready to get blown out at every show. Just kidding, that’s what John wanted me to write for this question.

How is the tour with Suicide Silence going?
The Suicide Silence tour has been amazing. It’s almost over now and it has definitely been our best touring experience ever. Suicide Silence has to be the most down-to-earth, coolest headliner we have ever gone out with. Playing these bigger venues has spoiled us a bit too. Showers almost every day and almost always big green rooms to hang out in with plenty of beer. The crowds on this tour have been pretty awesome as well. We’ve had a lot of fun being able to play a lot of new material and see how well fans are taking to it.

After that, what are your tour plans?
In December we are going out with Arsis and Powerglove. That tour is only about 2 ½ weeks, but it’s going to be a blast. We toured with Arsis earlier this year and they are great dudes. Powerglove is just going to be super entertaining to see every night and we are excited to meet them. Then in February it looks like we’re going to be hitting the road with Kataklysm, All Shall Perish and Decrepit Birth. That tour is going to be amazing if for no other reason than just because we are already good friends with ASP.

What has been your most memorable show or tour so far?
This tour we are finishing up with Suicide Silence right now has been the most memorable. Lots of good times with good friends.

Any nightmare shows where everything goes wrong?
We’ve definitely had those. Two of them on this tour. The first was in New Jersey at the Starland Ballroom. That one was more of a nightmare just for me. In the first song I ran from one side of the stage to the other and planted a foot on the monitor. The monitor flew forward off of the edge of the stage and I went with it. It was about a four foot drop down between the stage and the barricade, but fortunately I was able to land semi-gracefully and jump back onstage within about 2 seconds and missed only a couple notes.

Unfortunately I knocked over John’s mic stand and unplugged his foot switch in the process. On the next song my foot switch started having major issues and my amp got stuck on the clean channel. After messing with it for a minute I ended up just having to bypass my foot switch and play the rest of the set with no effects, no tuner and no clean tone. Overall our set still went pretty well.

The other nightmare set was more of a nightmare for John. That one took place in Iowa City. The night before we had played a venue called Pop’s in Sauget, IL where they have 24 hour bars and stuff. Many of us stayed up all night drinking and partying. John drank a ridiculous amount, including a few Four Lokos, and stayed up until it was time for us to leave in the morning. All kinds of crazy things happened for him that night including socking some guy in the face who he had got into an argument with.

Needless to say, playing our set the next day was a terrible experience for him. Not only was he not yet sober, but his hand was hurting him and he was dead tired. As a result our set was a slopfest. Sorry to everyone in Iowa City who had to see that. We’ll make it up to you next time.

What's the craziest thing that's happened to you on the road?
Wow, I don’t even know where to go with this one. I’ll just have to pick a random story and tell it. In Feb ’09 we went on a West Coast tour with All Shall Perish. I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version. After our set, our at-the-time vocalist, Lou, was wasted down in the green room breaking things and yelling. At some point he thought it would be funny to set off a fire extinguisher in the small green room in the basement of the venue with about 10 people sitting in the room. The room immediately filled with white dust and nobody could see or breathe.

We all rushed for the stairs and practically trampled over each other to get up the stairs. We all decided it was time to tell Lou to chill out and not drink anymore for the night. Greg and Steve took him outside to talk to him. John was outside at the time and saw them talking and it looked like Lou was about to fight. Being drunk and angry, John immediately ran at Lou, tackled him and repeatedly socked him in the head. I then came outside to see Greg and Steve standing there watching John beat on Lou. I immediately ran to put john in a headlock and pull him off but he stopped as soon as I grabbed him and took off for a walk down the street.

Lou popped up super pissed off and Greg and I both plowed him back and pinned him against the van. Then our merch guy (Eddie Merchury) got Lou in a hold and held him for several minutes while he struggled violently. Someone had called the cops and Lou ended up spending the next half hour cuffed in the back of a car till he calmed down. Then while he was passed out in our van the rest of us had to clean up the green room. The venue kept our guarantee and banned us from playing there in the future. The next day we had to hit a laundromat to wash Matt’s (ASP drummer) clothes that were sitting out in the green room and got heavily sprayed. I think that qualifies as a crazy night.

How did you get started in music?
Around 14 years old or so I started listening to a little bit of metal and it made me want to play guitar so I saved up for about 6 months till I could buy a crappy no-name Strat. It took a few years before I started trying to learn more seriously, but early on I just learned a lot of Metallica riffs. In my late teens I had several friends in bands and I started jamming with other people. That’s basically my story.

Who were your guitar inspirations?
The biggest inspirations that carry over into the band for us (mostly for John) are probably Dimebag Darrell, Randy Rhoads and Paul Waggoner. For me, I have been into all different kinds of music that has influenced me, but more than anything I just always tried to play with other guitar players that were better than me and just picked up little things here and there over the years. Otherwise I just always try to write things that sound different from what other bands seem to be doing.

What was the first concert you attended as a fan?
I went to see Metallica at the State Fair when I was 15.

What was the best concert you attended?
I’ve been to so many over the years that it really is hard to think of one that stands out. I’d probably have to say the one that stands out most in my mind is when I went to the Gilman in Berkeley in 2000 or maybe it was 2001 to see Converge and Cephalic Carnage. I pick that one because of the impact it had on me and how impressionable I was at the time. I had a blast at that show.

What's currently in heavy rotation on your MP3/CD player?
Currently the top bands that get played in our van would have to be Dredg, Darkest Hour, Jimmy Eat World, and Brand New. We listen to a lot of non-metal on tour because we get so burnt out on the hours of metal all night every night.

Anything else you'd like to mention or promote?
Come see us live. We do our best to put on a killer show every time. Oh, and check out John’s drunken rap videos on YouTube.

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