Last week Australia’s prog-metal avant gardists, Voyager announced some long-awaited North American tour dates in support of the band’s October 2011 release, The Meaning of I. The band was a smash success at the 2011 ProgPower USA Festival and they’ve been planning and plotting how to get back here as quickly as possible. The band will support Italy’s Rhapsody of Fire for the tour.
Sadly the tour only has two Pacific Northwest dates; Seattle and Portland on June 10 and 11, respectively. No Boise this time around. However, given the scarcity of either band playing in America, this might be a perfect time for a rock and roll road trip. You have two months to plan.
Voyager is the brainchild of German-born vocalist and keyboardist Danny Estrin. The Meaning of I is the band’s most impressive effort to date, and the addition of new guitarist Scott Kay, along side fret-goddess Simone Dow, bassist Alex Canion and drummer Mark Boeijen has only helped elevate the band’s experimental prowess. Boejin departed the band shortly after the album’s completion. For the North American tour the band welcomes new drummer Ashley Doodkorte.
Red can shred. The blue-eyed, ginger-haired beauty of Voyager, is Simone Dow. Perhaps the quietest member of the band, at least so far as the press goes. She quietly roars through her Ibanez guitars and Mesa Boogie amps. While many metalheads have yet to discover either Voyager or Dow, the time is coming for both.
Because I got tired of waiting for the band to come stateside again I shot an email off to Simone Dow to touch base on the new album, and much more. Below her responses to Examiner’s questions:
Examiner: The Meaning of I is the band’s fourth album, your third with the band. Tell us a little bit about the new album from your perspective.
Dow: It’s by far my favourite that we have written/recorded. It’s a lot darker and heavier than previous releases and very introspective. It’s not a concept album as such, but lyrically it centre’s around self-reflection and self meaning.
This feels like the band’s most cohesive and well-rounded effort so far. Did you guys approach making this one any differently?
I think it feels like that for all of us! The writing process was quite different this time round. Normally Danny would come into rehearsal with what we would essentially call “the skeleton” of the song and the rest of us would flesh it up and turn it into a cohesive track. This time round we all had a lot more input into the song writing process. Alex wrote the majority of the title track “The Meaning of I”, I penned substantial riffage for “Seize The Day” and “Fire of The Times” and Scott penned the majority of “Are You Shaded?”. Also, a fair chunk of the other songs were written/arranged a lot more collaboratively which was really cool. We also took a lot more time with the recording process due largely to having someone experienced in tracking guitars in the band (Scott). Because of this, we could really map out parts and get a real idea of how we wanted it to sound. Once it was all tracked we then sent it off to Swedish master Jens Bogren to mix and master the album and to say we were absolutely ecstatic with the finished product would be a total understatement.
You have a new shred-mate in Scott Kay. What is it like as half of a guitar duo to have a new partner, and how do you and Scott work out who will play which parts?
I’ve known Scott for many years now and actually started jamming with him about 4 years ago. He was writing his own material which has become “Absent Hearts” – Now a collaboration between Scott and Dan Tompkins (ex-Tesseract). Back then Alex and I were playing this music with him with the intention of performing it live one day. I saw a lot of potential in his playing back then (when he was just a spring chicken at 19 years of age!) and when a position became available in the band, he was my first pick for replacement to pitch to the others. We have a very similar style (due to similar influences) and just gel extremely well together musically. He’s also like a little brother to me, so that helps, hahaha. In terms of working out parts, with the new album it was easy because most of the album was written prior to Scott joining, so he just played whatever I wasn’t, hahaha! With new material that we pen, it just seems to flow naturally. We like to share the love in terms of melodic passages vs. rhythm sections and also with solos. You could say we are a perfect match for one another.
You had a couple of musical guests on the new record. How did the band choose those guests for their particular tracks?
Danny has been a huge DC Cooper fan for years, and as soon as we penned “Fire of The Times” he came to us and said “I want DC Cooper to sing this chorus”. So Danny contacted him, at first I think he was a bit reluctant due to a heavy schedule, but apparently his son absolutely loved our music so he obliged and the rest is history!
As mentioned previously, Scott is currently working with Dan Tompkins in his other project Absent Hearts and when we started tracking “Pensive Disarray” we just thought “these sections would sound awesome with Dan singing”, so Scott got in touch with him and lucky for us he was nice enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to track some vocals for us.
Needless to say we are really stoked with how both songs turned out with their vocals and thank them both immensely for contributing their awesome vocal chords to our album.
You guys came over to the states last summer to play ProgPowerUSA. How was that experience?
Absolutely mind-blowing and life changing. Personally, it was the best time of my life. What an amazing festival with amazing people involved. To be able to play such an awesome venue, with some of the best crew I’ve ever worked with and to have a crowd so energetic, excited and responsive was so humbling. And the half an hour signing session that lasted an hour and a half – WOW!! We definitely want to head back over to the states as soon as we can get the opportunity.
Very little is known about you. You moved from Scotland to Australia when you were quite young. Can you introduce yourself a bit. Tell us a little bit about the move and how you became inspired to pick up the guitar.
Most certainly! I moved from Scotland to sunny Perth, Western Australia when I was 6 years old. I always loved music since I was a child, it always made me feel alive and stirred something in me. My Dad was a big inspiration as he was a guitarist and I used to watch him play and dream about doing it myself one day. It wasn’t until our school conducted a test to select students with a high aptitude for music in Year 5 that I picked up the guitar. I accepted a scholarship and studied the classical guitar from Year 6 (11 years old) through to graduation (17 years old), in amongst this time when I hit my teens, my dad bought me an electric guitar and a little practice amp and I started bashing out Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine tunes, then I found Metal and that was it!! I joined my first band Scourgewhen I was 16/17 years old and cut my teeth performing. And the rest is history!
You were just 21 when the band tabbed you to replace Emanuel Rudnicki in Voyager. Tell us a little bit about joining the band.
I have known the guys in Voyager since I was 16, funnily enough we first met the day I auditioned for my first band Scourge. On the very same day, they were auditioning then drummer Geoff Callaghan. We became good friends as both our bands used to rehearse on the same day and we’d play pranks on each other and catch up when breaking between sessions. There was a lot of mutual respect for one another musically and I remember watching Voyager back then and always hoping that one day I could play in a band like that. Even back then, you could tell there was something really special about what they were doing. Anyway, I one day randomly got a call from Danny basically telling me that they had parted ways with Manny and Geoff and I was their first choice as new guitarist. I was totally overwhelmed and shocked. Part of me just wanted to say YES YES YES, but I wanted to make sure it was the right thing, so I said I really wanted to jam with them first to make sure it was the right thing for all of us. At the time they were about to head into the studio to record “uniVers” so I agreed at the very least to record the album with them. After one jam with them I pretty much said sign me up straight away – hahahaha – it was magical.
While female vocalists are becoming a much larger segment of the metal community, there are still very few guitarists that are getting recognition. Were there any female musicians that really inspired you coming up?
Like you said, there are very few female guitarists getting recognition. I think the only female guitarist I knew about back when I was starting out was Jennifer Batton (who is absolutely amazing). Most other female musicians (especially in Metal) usually sing, play bass or even drums, but you don’t see a lot coming out playing guitar. There has been Orianthi pop up since Michael Jackson enlisted her so hopefully she will inspire some more to pick up the axe and start shredding!
Our 2012 list of the Top Women Guitarists in Metal will be out soon, and you’re on this year’s list. Are there any other female guitarists you admire?
Wow, I’m really flattered by this! Thank you very much. Like I said above, there are very few females not only playing the axe, but also getting the recognition they deserve. I’m sure there are some absolute monsters on guitar out there, but they haven’t been heard yet. I really hope this is something that changes, because it’s really great to see diversity in bands. I think the only metal guitarists I’ve seen ripping it up is Leah Woodward from Aliases. More please!
You primarily play Ibanez guitars and Gibson Les Pauls. What is it you prefer about those models? Do you have one particular guitar that’s sort of your go-to axe?
I’ve been endorsed by Ibanez guitars for about 2-3 years now and exclusively use them. My current axe of choice is the RG4570Z and it’s pretty much everything I love in a guitar, Mahogany body with a flame maple top. Nice hot pick ups , beautiful action, a neck that’s a dream to play and really great and easy playability up on the top frets. I really love the RG shape. We primarily used that guitar to record The Meaning of I as it just sounded so fat and bitey. I also own a Jem7V (which you can see on our video clip “The Devil In Me” and a 20th anniversary Paul Gilbert model (which is in our video clip “Lost”).
For the other fretheads out there, tell us about your rig set up.
I’m currently running a Mesa Boogie Multi-Watt Dual Rectifier through an old Mesa Boogie half open back cabinet. Pedal wise I keep it pretty simple, I use a TC Electronic Nova Delay, a Boss NS -2, TC Electronic Poly tune mini, Ernie Ball volume pedal and a Dunlop Zakk Wylde wah pedal. I also just purchased a Line 6 G50 Relay wireless and it’s pretty awesome, just used it for the first time at our “Seize The Day” smartphone shoot show and it felt good to be free of cables!
What else are you are you into besides music?
I love food! Fine dining is something I really love to do when I can. There’s nothing better than a nice bottle of wine, a beautiful meal and some awesome company. I don’t really have much time for any other activities as working full-time and music tend to take up the majority of it, but I also enjoy watching movies and just hanging out with good friends over a few alcoholic beverages. Music really is the major passion in my life though, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When is the last time you laughed so hard you cried?
I do this pretty frequently, especially with my Voyager family. Rehearsals are so much fun, we are all absolutely nuts and I’m so very lucky to be in a band with 4 unique, amazing and talented people. Touring with Voyager is also a laugh a minute; just ask our ProgPower fans.
Final words to the fans?
I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank all our Voyager fans around the world for their constant support and love. The messages we receive on Facebook, YouTube and emails to our management really touch us more than you could ever know. Thank you for buying our merch, coming down to our shows, branding our logos on your body, and helping spread the word. I know I speak on behalf of the whole band when I say we can’t wait to meet you all on the road and we are really hoping to get out to more places so keep your eyes peeled on www.facebook.com/voyageraustralia and www.voyager-australia.com.
You can pick up your copy of The Meaning of I at The Record Exchange downtown.
Music is the universal language, speak it loudly!
Rustyn Rose is a veteran music journalist who owns and operates Metalholic Magazine and Mojo Radio.