Latest release: The Meaning of I (Riot!)

Danny Estrin of Voyager has forgotten about the three-hour time difference, so my call takes him by surprise as he’s eating a falafel and walking his bike along a street in Perth. It perhaps reminds him of the time he caught DC Cooper off-guard when he rang him to discuss their colloboration on the Voyager track “Fire of the Times”, from last year’s album The Meaning of I.

“We spoke on the phone a few times and really connected,” the singer and keys player says of the Royal Hunt vocalist. “He’s a super nice guy. He’s a volunteer firefighter. I called him once and he’s like, ‘Dude, I’m in this house and it’s all on fire and I’m on this fuckin’ ladder!’ I’m like, Why? I didn’t know he was a firefighter!”

That Cooper took the time to take a phone call from Australia while in the middle of fighting a house fire probably says a lot about his character, as does getting up on stage in front of his home crowd and performing a track he’d only rehearsed once mere hours after getting back from Russia.

“We were just in the States recently, and we did [‘Fire of the Times’] live in Pittsburgh,” Estrin recalls. “That’s [Cooper’s] home town and we rang him a few days before. He was just on tour with Royal Hunt in Russia, I think, and he said, ‘I wanna come down’. So we said, ‘How about doing the song?’ and he said yes so we rehearsed it once in the tour bus just before and then he jumped onstage and did it with us.”

That show was part of a 17-day North America package the band undertook with Italian symphonic metal act Rhapsody of Fire, something of a follow-on from Voyager’s previous visit to the continent last September when they appeared at the ProgPower Festival in Atlanta. It was an encouraging return.

“The biggest show was probably in Canada, in Montreal. It was just incredible. Given that we’re pretty unknown in Canada – we’ve got a good fanbase in the US, but we’re pretty unknown in Canada – we had 1200 people at one show going ‘Voyager! Australia!’ after our set, so I think it went down well. Which is pretty awesome!”

Voyager is about to embark on an east coast jaunt that will see them joining a number of festival bills including Steel Assassins in Sydney, Perpetual Tides in Wollongong and the Canberra leg of Bastardfest. Given this last show is comprised almost exclusively of death metal and grindcore bands, Estrin must be worried they’ll go over like an abortionist at a Tea Party meeting.

“I think it can go either way,” he admits, “but having previous experience, especially in the Perth scene, which is really crossed over – we’ve played with grindcore bands and melodic metal bands and all sorts of things – I think we’ll go all right. Hopefully I won’t get any bottles thrown at my head! But in all seriousness, I think people will enjoy it, and I think that even if you’re not into that melodic stuff, there’s something in Voyager for everyone. I’m really looking forward to playing that one.”

Steel Assassins provides its own worries “because most of it will be melodic speed and thrash metal”, but Estrin is hopeful they will attract some new fans regardless. As he points out, Voyager has played with Children of Bodom, Nightwish, Alestorm and Soilwork. They’re not a band that’s allowed the genre police to determine for them which shows they should play, which is just as well, because it’s difficult to know exactly where the group may fall in metal’s  categorical framework, what with all that poppy stuff going on in there. Estrin himself probably isn’t even the best person to define it. If he was, why would he be asking others to do it?

“I don’t think that pop sound will ever leave the Voyager van, because it’s what defines our sound,” he says. “I had a poll recently on Facebook that said, What do you think Voyager is actually like? What’s the sound? Someone came up with ‘modern progressive metal with synth-pop undertones’, which I thought was really good. It’s a good way to describe the music. I don’t think that melodic catchiness will ever be lost.”

Voyager’s music also has other trademarks that Estrin doesn’t believe will go away in a hurry either. A German-born half-Russian polyglot, he’s been known to add a line or chorus in a language other than English to the band’s songs. It’s another element that makes them stand out prominently from most other local metal acts.

“Totally! I can’t resist,” he says with a chuckle, of his penchant for singing in German and, occasionally, Russian. He even spoke to the Montreal crowd in French, which probably led to them getting such a warm reaction from that audience. “People say, ‘Ah, why are you doing that?’ But when you get people who come up and say, ‘I speak the language and that was so cool’, I definitely think that’s a little quirk that will always remain in the Voyager sound, just like the pop stuff.”

After this tour, Voyager is looking to head overseas once again to further develop their following there. The US has been kind and Germany has changed its tune, pointing to a possibly very bright future.

“We definitely want to hit the US again soon, because it was such a blast and we got such a good reaction over there,” Estrin says. “Definitely Europe as well, especially given that the album did really well in countries like Germany. Before, we’ve had a mixed reaction with the second album and the first in the German market, which is one of the biggest metal markets in Europe. But they’ve really embraced the last couple of albums.”

Along with that, song writing has already begun on the next Voyager album. If things continue as they are, it could well prove to be the band’s breakthrough, and Danny Estrin is extremely pleased about the way it’s proceeding so far.

“The writing process is amazing this time. It’s going really well and it’s really creative and it’s got input from all members of the band this time, which is a really refreshing way of approaching song writing.”

Catch Voyager at the following shows:
1/11: Hamilton Station Hotel, Newcastle NSW
2/11: Steel Assassins Festival, Sandringham Hotel, Sydney NSW
3/11: Perpetual Tides Festival, Cabbage Tree Hotel, Wollongong NSW
4/11: Westfest, Lucky Australia Hotel, Sydney NSW
9/11: Workers Club, Melbourne VIC
10/11: Bastardfest, The Basement, Canberra ACT