Simone Dow – Voyager ‘Walking the Ghost Mile with Darth Vader Bed Sheets’

Western Australian progressive metal masterminds Voyager are gifting their eager fans with a new album on the 12th of May 2017 titled Ghost Mile. The single Ascension’ was released recently and has everyone frothing at the mouth for more. Australia and the rest of the world are in for a treat with this new record and can also look forward to a notoriously insanely energized tour. The friendly Simone Dow (Voyager guitarist) discussed perspectives, the album and general life in Voyager with me through an insightful conversation.

The new Ghost Mile album, it hasn’t reached my ears yet, with the exception of ‘Ascension’. So how does Ghost Mile differ from other albums?

“It’ll make sense after V. It’s not like we’ve gone and made a drastic change or anything like that. To my ears it’s a lot more cohesive than our previous albums. I think the songs throughout the whole album make more sense together and it’s an album you can listen to start to finish more so than just a couple of songs. It’s a little bit darker, a bit heavier in places as well and we’ve sort of stretched our fingers out a bit more and experimented on some sounds that we played around and flirted with, but personally I think it’s some of the best music we’ve ever written for sure. I know that that’s a cliché thing to say when there’s a new album coming out [laughs] but we’re absolutely stoked with how it sounds and not just the writing but the production quality as well.”

So Ghost Mile is going to be more of a darker album compared to the other ones. Has the dark feel been inspired by any particular bands?

“We toured with Evergrey and Leprous in the last year and I definitely think some of their influence has crept into our music. We’ve always had a bit of a melancholy sound but there’s been some flirting with darker themes even as far back as [our album] The Meaning of I. But I think we’ve more so found our sound on this record. I mean we’ve got the bright mix of all the things we usually play throughout the whole album and I think that, in turn is why it sounds so cohesive and also just that we’ve got the same line-up again for two albums in a row which we’ve never had that before in the past; we’ve always had a new member for each album. I think that has had such a positive effect on the writing process.”

Haha, I was going to ask; being the only album that has been created with a consecutive Voyager line-up, when writing, has the social environment regarding composition developed into a different way now?

“Yeah, it’s completely different from how it used to be. The first three or four albums it was generally Danny (Daniel Estrin – vocals, keys) who would write most of the music. He would come in with what we described as a skeleton and then we would flesh out the parts and turn it into a human. We would take the guitar parts and make them sound more like a guitar, but essentially Danny wrote eighty to ninety percent of the song. Whereas from The Meaning of I onwards, there’s been a little bit more influence.”

“This album has been entirely written in the rehearsal room. So maybe Scott (Scott Kay – guitar) might come in with a guitar riff and then we all work together and create a song around one idea, rather than Danny having the entire backing track written. I think a lot of that is to do with Ashley (Ashley Doodkorte), our drummer. He’s a lot more into jamming and working things out in the jam room, whereas our previous drummer Mark (Mark Boeijen), was not so much into that. Not to take anything away from him; he was a fantastic drummer but he had a different way; he liked to go home and work out his own parts. Whereas Ashley very much likes to be involved in the writing structure and process so that’s seems certainly different for us as well.”

The last two album (Ghost Mile and V), you guys went through crowdfunding. Has this financial support from the crowd impacted the making of your music?

“It hasn’t impacted in a sense of what we’re writing, it’s only been a positive impact in that we’re able to release the albums and get them pushed a bit further. When we went in with the crowdfunding, we’ve already been halfway through the process so it’s more so a boost to help us finish it off. We like to be as self-sufficient as possible. But it’s just helped us to push it over the line in that recording and album is very expensive. There’s a lot that goes into it that I think a lot of people don’t understand. It’s not just the writing and then the tracking and studio time. You’ve also got to get artwork done then you’ve got to pay for the pressing and production of the album. Mixing, mastering and then you need to have good PR to get it out there so people hear it so that you can go and tour all of the places your fans want you to hear you. So it’s a lot of money and I think people don’t realise that even doing it on a budget, you can be looking at twenty, thirty grand just to get an album released. God knows how much big bands are spending on it [laughs]”

Ghost Mile is just around the corner being released on the 12th of May. Australia is a wide spread country and one of the more logistically demanding countries to tour according to Ashely, so how do your guys feel about touring Australia and releasing at the same time? Think it’s a bit stressful?

“Everything you do is pretty stressful [laughs] But it’s fun as well. Look, you want to strike while the iron is hot. So you release the album and then you want to get out there and just play it to people, that’s you selling yourself. It’s difficult in Australia mainly due to how big the country is and the cost of touring your own country. I mean Europe and America have it so easy. Hire a bus or whatever and just drive around the country. We don’t really have that luxury here in Australia. You pretty much have to fly everywhere and you don’t get much sleep.”

“By the time you finish up and the venue and packed down and signed things, it’s like 2 or 3 in the morning, then you’re up at 5 the next morning for calls to go to the airport for your next flight. It’s an exhausting process. That’s why when you go to Europe and the USA… maybe logistically organising it before you go there is very stressful because it’s a different country. But once you’re there, I don’t want to say it’s a walk in the park, but it’s a hell of a lot less stressful than doing Australia for sure and I thinks that’s why a lot of bands struggle here in Australia; it’s a massive undertaking financially and time-wise.”

Speaking of doing tours, which you guys will be doing very soon in Australia and I’m very excited for that, comparing smaller shows to larger shows, do you change the performance you put on?

“No. We’re all quite high energy on stage and we just love playing. I’m glad that comes through to a lot of the fans that come and see us; they can see that we enjoy doing what we’re doing. We don’t dumb it down or anything whether we’re playing to ten people or ten thousand people. The only thing we move around is, we might adjust what songs we play on a set depending on who we’re supporting, to fit in with their style of style of music; if it’s a band that’s similar to us but they did some different stuff, there’s band that we might get away with playing more of our older stuff and there’s some bands that we can get away with some of our more darker heavier stuff things, so we might adjust the set list and put some slightly different songs on there.”

The term djent seems to spark a little bit of controversy when brought up and I’ve noticed Voyager has been described with the term. How do you guys approach people giving you that label?

“We don’t have a problem with it at all. Everyone wants to categorise and put things in labels, that’s just human nature to do that; ‘Where does this fit and what does it sound like?’ I don’t understand why people get upset about terminology; it’s just a word [laughs]. I don’t understand why people call it a dirty word, it’s still progressive music, it’s just the sound the guitars produce and that’s where it came from.”

“We are very much influenced by a lot of those bands. Probably myself and Scott the most. We love bands like TesseracT and Periphery, and I love some of the more whacky stuff like Vilhjarta. It definitely seeps into our writing and it’s influenced it over the years. People call us prog as well and I don’t think we’re traditionally really a prog band either. I mean we flirt with it, but we don’t have ten minute songs with 30 different time signature changes either. So yeah, we wear our influences on our sleeves and we’re not ashamed of it.”

“If people hear something that we don’t that’s cool. Sometimes we hear people comparing Danny to the singer from A-ha and Depeche Mode and stuff like that as well. That’s not a deliberate thing that’s gone in, it’s obviously the timbre of Danny’s voice and the synths that he uses and it pulls from that era a bit – the 80’s and 90’s sound, but it wasn’t like we deliberately went out of our way to ‘we want to sound like Depeche Mode’ or anything like that. It’s kind of cool to hear from people’s take on what we sound like.”

You’ve played with other bands recently: Opeth, Deftones, Karnivool, Children of Bodom, and I personally think that’s a huge achievement. What other bands do you guys want to be playing alongside in the future?

“I think we’re lucky in that, because we are such a melting pot with what we play that we can fit in with a lot of different bands and that’s awesome. Like you said, all of those bands you mentioned, they all sound very different, but we fit in with them. We played with Leprous recently and they’re one of my favourite bands; I’d love to go out and do a longer tour with them again. But, I’d love to play with some of the new progressive bands like TesseracT and Sikth. I want to get to Europe, I think that’s the main thing; cracking Europe and playing with some of the U.K and European bands that are out there. We’ve done really well in America and so growing over in Europe with bands like TesseracT would be amazing.”

The last two Australian tours have included French bands; you played with French Clone, and now The Algorithm. Is it a coincidence that these bands supporting you have been French, or do you just really dig the French music scene at the moment?

“Absolutely coincidence. We brought Leprous over and they’re from Norway. We like bringing over international bands because I think a lot of punkers enjoy a package deal these days. You’re seeing a lot more of that even from the big touring companies like Destroy All Lines. They’re making a package of really cool international and local bands and that’s what sells the tour. We saw The Algorithm play with Twelve Foot Ninja and I was absolutely blown away. I was already an Algorithm fan and I had their EP which was called Tr0jans and then I bought their album as well and then seeing it live it was just insane. It was just a guy playing guitar and DJing and a live drummer and it was just incredible. We do a bit of a tour swap scenario a lot of the time and I think a lot of other bands and doing that as well. You bring them here and they take us over there so it works really well. But yeah, it certainly wasn’t intentional that it was two French bands [laughs]. We love to have any sort of those bands from anywhere. Like I said, Leprous were Norwegian. There’s just a lot of very cool stuff coming out of Europe and the U.K at the moment.”

I’ve got a friend at Collision Course (Pricey)  in Brisbane that tells me you’re a foodie and a big fan of Star Wars.

[laughs] Guiltiest charge!

New Star Wars movie out last year. New Star Wars movie out this year and then several new Star Wars movies each year until 2020. How do you juggle relaxing, the band and other distractions?

“It is really important to have a balance outside of music and I’ve always thought that way. You’ve got to have a work-life balance. If I was just doing music 24-7 I think I might get a bit sick of it. It makes me excited when I’ve got other things that I’m doing when if working. And obviously it’s important to have different passions. I love going out to restaurants and eating food. It’s a real miracle that I don’t weigh 500 kilos [laughs] because I’m not on a diet or anything let’s just say that. I love French food, I love Indian food, and I’m half Italian so a big lover of Italian food as well. I think it’s a good way to unwind.”

“Sometimes we even go out with the band mates and we do dinner as well because it’s important to have that bond with one another, no just through music. It builds the relationship more and it certainly makes me more centred; it’s good for the soul. I like to go hang out and watch movies and stuff as well. You can probably embarrassingly put that I have Darth Vader bed sheets. [laughs] I’m a big kid and I’m never going to grow up. I think that’s what keeps you young and what keeps you doing what you’re doing, so I encourage it. Never grow up!”

Never growing up involves being active and enjoying yourself, so it makes sense to go and see Voyager when they tour Australia This Thursday. Simone was certainly pleasure to talk to so shout out to her for being such a gem!

Interview by Kurt Boldy (@Kurt_Boldy)

voyager tour

VoyagerGhost Mile Australia Tour
With Special Guests: The Algorithm 

Thursday 11th May – Adelaide

Friday 12th May – Melbourne

Saturday 13th May – Brisbane

Friday 19th May – Perth

Saturday 20th May – Canberra

Sunday 21st May – Sydney

Tickets Here

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