Latest release: The Meaning of I (Riot!/Warner)

Perth quintet Voyager have just had the privilege of appearing at the Progpower USA, a so far unqiue opportunity for an Australian band. Their fourth full- length album The Meaning of I is perhaps their most diverse so far – which is saying something – as they mix their progressive metal base with dance, trance, electronica and symphonic pop elements like never before. Loud fired off a few questions to bass player Alex Canion just after they returned from Stateside, and here’s what he shot us back.

Q: How has the reception been towards The Meaning Of I so far from your fanbase, peers and media? I have to say, we quite enjoyed the album ourselves here at Loud HQ and it has been on high rotation since receiving it.
A: Great to hear you’re digging it! The album is doing really well as far as everything is concerned, actually. The fans seem to be digging what the CD offers and the media reviews we’ve had have all been positive which is very reassuring. We put a lot of time and effort in The Meaning of I and we’re very proud to see it doing so well.

Q: The Meaning Of I is quite a musical journey with many twists and turns throughout that really make you sit back, think and soak it all in. How was the experience in creating such an album? Was it a relatively easy process or did the band really have to sit down and take their time in creating the material?
A: Well, the great thing about music and albums in particular is that they represent a passage of time; a snapshot or period in your life. Naturally, having been heavily involved in the making of the album I have memories and recollections of the process that when listening back to it, makes the album something completely different to any other listener. In saying that, one you’ve listened to it a certain amount of times, you start to just focus on the music itself and judge it accordingly as listener rather than creator.

Looking back on the writing process, recording, mixing and everything in between, I would have to say that it went about as smoothly as a band could hope for. I mean, we did have some minor setbacks but that is to be expected. Nothing majorly bad happened; we knuckled down and got it done.

Q: The album is quite diverse. How does the band find that balance with all of the material? Does it just come naturally or is there a plan of attack in place?
A: I think once a couple of songs are down and we start to get the vibe of the CD and where we want to go with it, we’ll then decide if a certain style of song needs to be written. But for the most part, we just go with what comes out and then focus on the track listing to put them all into perspective.

Q: How does the songwriting process go down for a band like Voyager? Is it a collaborative effort or more of an individual process? You recently enlisted a new guitarist in Scott Kay, what does Scott bring to the table in songwriting in comparison to your previous guitarists’ efforts?
A: In the past, our singer Danny (Estrin) has constructed the skeletal structure of the songs and then everyone has added the meaty bits on top. With this album it was a very collaborative effort with all of us coming to the table writing wise.

As for Scott, he brought a lot more iced coffees to the table than our previous guitarist Chris did. Scott loves Dare Iced coffee. Seriously, he just can’t get enough of the stuff (laughs). I consider Scott to be the saviour of the album actually. The guy oversaw the recording of all the guitars and bass and spent weeks on end behind his computer slowly developing bed sores and scoliosis in order for us to meet the deadlines. And this wasn’t long after he joined, too! If I had to describe him, I would say Scott is:
1. Riff Master’
2. Tighter than a fat man’s grip on a cheeseburger’
3. Totally chilled (like, ice coffee chilled)’

Q: Is there a meaning (no pun intended) behind the album title? Does it pertain towards a concept on the album as a whole?
A: It’s a very introspective album and I think the title just sums it all up really. On the whole, the album explores the journey to your inner self and to an extent, discovering what defines yourself. Or something like that.

Q: The band pays tribute to one of metal’s fallen, frontman of Type O Negative Peter Steele in “Iron Dream”. What was behind the decision to pay tribute to him? Also, the track is surprisingly upbeat and triumphant in comparison to Type O Negative’s material. Was it a  conscious decision to make it upbeat and happy or did it just come out that way from the heart? Do you think he would be proud of the tribute?
A: Danny was the one that instigated this track. He’s a massive TON fan (and has subsequently made me one too) and the passing of Peter Steele really hit him hard. I think Danny just wanted to give something back to the gentle giant after years of inspiration.

The track is definitely upbeat and I think that while it may sound happy initially, there is a depth to it that connects with what TON was all about. Given that TON released so much varied material (stylistically) it would have been hard to cover it all but I think it sounds VERY TON with a Voyager spin. At the end of the day, we wanted to pay homage, not rip them off completely.

I think maybe if Peter was still alive today and you asked him what he thought of the song, he might have made a poop joke or something typically Peter (laughs). Who knows, I hope he would be proud of it and he (and the remaining members of TON) should know that it was done with the deepest respect.

Q: Even though you have plenty of metal running through your musical veins, the band have always incorporated elements such as electronica and ambience and there is plenty of that on The Meaning Of I. Do you think this sets Voyager apart from the majority of bands out there and  do you think this helps the band gain people who would not usually listen to heavier music?
A: I think to some degree that is a factor. We’re not slaves to metal and enjoy listening to and playing all types of music so to include as many different influences in our music as we can is always a important. Voyager definitely focuses of creating good music rather than creating good metal. It just so happens we all love metal so it just comes out that way.

Q: Some of Danny’s lyrics are quite philosophical and quite intelligent. Does he write lyrics from feeling of the music or do they stem from life and personal experiences?
A: A little from column A, a little from column B. Danny really wore his heart on his sleeve with his lyrics on this album so they are especially personal for him. I think Danny writes the lyrics with a particular mood or topic in mind but formulates them so they can be openly interpreted.

Q: You also enlisted some outside guests to collaborate on the album (Royal Hunt frontman DC Cooper and ex-Tesseract vocalist Daniel Tompkins). How did the band come about to acquire  their respective services?
A: As they say, “you don’t ask, you don’t get”. That pretty much sums it up (laughs). Well, Danny was a big Royal Hunt fan and we thought that “Fire of the Times” could benefit from a little special something so he simply emailed DC and asked if he would be interested in singing on it. Funnily enough, it was his little boy that pushed him to do it because he liked our last album I am the ReVolution so much.

Dan Tompkins is in a project with our guitarist Scott called Absent Hearts so it was fairly easy to contact Dan about doing the track. Once we got his vocal tracks back, we were all just floored with his performance. Simone, Scott and I are huge TesseracT fans so having him on the album is really special for us.

Q: What did Jens Bogren bring to the table in terms of the mixing aspects of the material in comparison to using an Australian mixer? Do you think other Australian bands should utilize  outside producers and mixers to work on their material?
A: I certainly wouldn’t want to detract from local or national sound engineers/recorders/producers. Everyone has a different technique and as long as it sounds great, who cares where they’re based, right?  We chose Jens Bogren to do the album because we’re massive fans of his previous work. When I heard Daylight Dies’ album Lost to the Living I was just floored with his production skills.

Our friends in Chaos Divine also had their album mixed and mastered by Jens too and the end result was fantastic. I can safely say that I wouldn’t change anything production wise. So, it was a no-brainer to get him on board.

Q: If you had to pick a favourite track from The Meaning Of I, which one would you choose and why?
A: I would pick The Pensive Disarray. I think it’s one of the best songs Voyager has ever written. It’s an anthemic ballad that is very emotive and dark. Plus it has a “We will rock you” drum intro (laughs).

Q: How does downloading effect Voyager? The band offers a cheap legal download alternative via your website; do you think that helps alleviate the problem of people stealing your art?

A: Downloading seems to be the way of the future so I think it’s very important to embrace this. The way we try and market it is that if you’re going to download it, you can do it directly from us for a small cost and get the official artwork in PDF. Your hard earned money goes directly to the people that wrote the music.
Illegal downloads will always be around. We’ve even leaked our own music in the past so that at least it’s a quality upload that’s going out there. I’ve even recorded a message as a “bonus track” saying something like, “thanks for checking out the album but if you head to our website you can pick up the legal download for only $15” or something like that. You never know who is going to be compelled to help us out and buy it legally.

Q: You recently ventured abroad to the United States to play the prestigious ProgPower USA festival, which would have been quite eye opening. How was the experience for yourself and the band? How did the North American audiences receive Voyager?
A: I’ll never forget the experience as long as I live. Playing Progpower USA was a landmark in all our careers and we were just stunned with the response. We had a great, responsive crowd and we ended up signing autographs for an hour-and-a-half. I definitely hope we get to go back to the States and also play the fest again.

Q: Any funny tour stories you could share?
A: When we played in Switzerland in 2008 we were setting our gear up on stage and we were looking for the sound guy. Over walks the DJ of the club and says, “there’s your mixer” and points to a mixing desk at the back of the stage. We asked him “So… how are you going to mix us from there?” and he replied, “no, you are. You will have to mix your own sound”.  So we all panicked accordingly and tried to figure out what the hell we were doing and how we were going to mix our own set from on stage! It turned out OK in the end but definitely something we could have done without.

Q: The band is about to undertake a national tour supporting Children Of Bodom. Not being strangers to supporting international acts, what do you expect from the upcoming tour and for those who haven’t seen Voyager in action, how could you describe a Voyager performance to win over new fans?
A: We’re all expecting this to be a great tour and we’re very thankful to be on it! We’re expecting good times with good people and hopefully we’ll win over a few new people. We’ve got a balls-to-the-wall set list ready to go that will hopefully fit well with Children of Bodom’s. We’re gonna go hard on-stage and of course have our famous, patented medley packed with some nice surprises

Q: Aside from the upcoming Children Of Bodom tour, what are the plans for 2012 and beyond  for Voyager? Do you have plenty of touring, both international and within Australia planned? A DVD release perhaps?
A: We’re looking at doing our own headlining tour around Australia early next year which will be a blast. We’re also looking into touring Europe/Asia at the end of next year. We all can’t wait to catch up with our friends in the States too. It would be great to do a support tour around the USA but that might be a bit further away. We’ll be releasing two live songs performed at Progpower USA. They’ll be on the live DVD along with some of the other great acts from the fest.

Q: It has been noted that it can be hard for an Australian band to gain recognition both at home and internationally. Have Voyager experienced that problem? Do you find being from Western Australia makes things a bit harder to break within your own country logistically?
A: Well, it is the most isolated capital city in the world. As “metal” as that is to say, it’s not really as hard as people may expect. You just have to be prepared to fly at least four hours to get anywhere else. Also, with the internet being as awesome as it is, networking around the globe is much easier.

Q: You recently did a hometown launch for the new album, how did that go?
A: The launch was a huge success. We’ve got very loyal local fan base and they’re all a bunch of legends. We also had our friends from Hemina from NSW come over and play a cracking set. A fun night was had by all… or at least most (laughs).

Q: If you could put one Voyager song into a time capsule for future generations to discover that could personify Voyager and it’s legacy, which song would you choose and why?
A: I think I would choose “To the Morning Light” from the Element V album. Although this is a song from our first album, I think it still personifies what Voyager are all about. It’s just a groovy, driving song; a favourite song for us all to play.

Q: What have you been listening to at the moment? Any new and upcoming artists that you would like to mention about to our readers?
A: (Laughs) Believe it or not I’ve actually really been getting into a cheesy band from the 80’s called Level 42. My parents grew up in the 80’s so I was privy to all that era of music when I was a kid. I’m quite partial to a bit of 80’s new romantic/pop. The singer and bass player Mark King is also just an insane slap player.
I have to say though, I got a copy of Hemina’s debut album Synthetic at our album launch and it’s a fantastic album. They’re a very talented bunch in that band. Highly recommended if you like Pain of Salvation.

Q: Do you think the band have hit it’s peak with this release and your past accolades or do you think the band have only scratched the surface with what you have achieved so far? What would you attribute to Voyager’s rapidly growing success over the years?
A: Honestly, I think we’re only just starting to scratch the surface and gaining some real exposure with this latest album. With the passing of each album we start to see more and more opportunities and the response from the Meaning of I has been our best so far. We’re all keen as anything to get out there and tour as much as possible; we love it!

We make sure we pay attention to our fans as much as we can and try to convey our appreciation to them as best we can. We get so humbled when we play shows, especially overseas or interstate. I think now in this day and age where you can communicate with pretty much anyone over the internet, the days of rock star arrogance are dying. Fans love being able to speak directly with the band on their Facebook page and I think that it’s great to communicate that way