Interview with Scott Kay of Voyager
VOYAGER are building towards what is to be a mammoth album release – with their new record (their 6th!!) GHOST MILE out on May 12th and a tour with France’s The Algorithm already announced, guitarist Scott Kay was king enough to answer a few of our questions.
Hey Scott, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions today. Let me start by congratulating you on Ghost Mile – it really is a fantastic album and I have no doubt it will do really well for you. What’s the feeling like inside the Voyager camp as you wait for the formal release date?
Thank you very much, mate! Your review was very in-depth, and very kind! We’re all super excited; this record has been quite a long time coming for us. Some of these songs are well over a year old now, and we’ve obsessed over them for as long. From our perspective, Ghost Mile is a very different record, so we’re pretty interested to see how people react to it. We’re proud of what we’ve created.
From the outside looking in it seemed like V (2014) was a massive step for Voyager. Adding some more modern, almost djenty style riffs to the mix really seemed to open doors on a global scale. Do you feel that V was a turning point for the band, and would you agree that Ghost Mile is another step forward?
Absolutely. I think V was symbolic of the band moving into a new era. It felt to me like we had written a second debut album in a way! The difference between Meaning of I and V was very significant to me, both in terms of band dynamic, and just what songs were naturally coming out of us during the writing process, and having the same line-up for Ghost Mile meant that we could continue that progression without hesitation. Having Ash behind the kit has made such a massive impact on our sound, and how we interact as a band, and as a result, Voyager has never felt more confident. Ghost Mile to me, solidifies us, and represents the most thorough, and thought-provoking music we’ve ever written.
The production and performance on Ghost Mile is first rate. I believe you did a lot of the tracking in house – was this a painstaking process? I’d love to know your thoughts on how you think tracking parts outside of a formal studio environment impacts the final product? I assume that time pressures are less of an issue, but perhaps it can be hard to find the motivation to keep on top of the process at times?
Drums and guitars were recorded at Sumo Studios in Perth, vocals were done at Sovereign Studios, and bass and backings were done at mine and Danny’s studios respectively. This record was made in many different locations; guitars would have been done at my studio, but Ash went and sliced his finger open on a meat slicer days before he was supposed to track drums, so we used that time to record guitars. I engineered those sessions, and it was a painstaking process. We re-recorded parts, I had any number of tech issues along the way… It was difficult only having three days to get it all done, and having no separate engineer to edit made it quite a draining process. The last two albums we’ve had as much time as we needed at my little studio, so the time pressure was something that got to both myself and Simone quite a bit! When it comes to recording, we’re motivated by the excitement of laying down the final takes, so we’ve never really had much of an issue staying focussed. Alex’s bass tracking was leisurely by comparison! I really don’t think the method here changes the output, though, having a time constraint does mean there’s an almost impatient drive to just get it done. Ghost Mile was mixed by one of my longest running friends, Matthew Templeman, who also mixed V, and has yet again absolutely smashed it out of the ball park mix wise. It was mastered by the same engineer as V as well, Simon Struthers. We figured, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! We’re very happy with how it all came out. It’s a dark mix, with moments of light, and the layering provides new sonic discoveries with every listen, which was something we really wanted on this album.
I really like that Ghost Mile has a darker/heavier vibe than some of the previous albums. Ghost Mile, The Fragile Serene, Lifeline & Disconnected are probably my favourite tracks, but in truth there isn’t a weak track on the album. Do you have a particular favourite song, or riff on Ghost Mile?
I have to say that I’m quite drawn to the darker moments on this album too. There’s something about The Fragile Serene that I really enjoy; the juxtaposition of the really heavy riff, with the layers of melody over the top. When I finally heard vocals over the chorus, it tipped it over the edge for me. ‘Until the sunlight burns our eyes’ – something about that line when Danny first sung it really resonated with me, and it’s awesome to have those moments in writing your own music where someone else’s contribution absolutely nails the emotion you were feeling as well. Danny achieved that multiple times with me on this album. I do love Ghost Mile as well. Really, I love every song on this album for very different reasons, and I think that’s what I like about the record; it’s quite varied overall.
I notice that Metal Hammer is premiering the video for Ghost Mile – that’s a massive achievement in itself. It must be satisfying to work so hard on something and then have it received on this sort of scale.
It is really amazing, and credit needs to go to Lulu and Tim for working so hard on this record with us, in terms of getting it out to as many outlets as possible. We’re lucky enough to have a team behind us who really believe in what we do, and it means we’re free from some of the more administrative jobs so we can focus more on the music. Emphasis on ‘some’ though, we still spend an insane amount of time doing things that have nothing to do with music! We really appreciate the positive response so far, and being featured on websites and magazines I used to indulge in as a kid, is really bloody awesome!
There are a lot of formidable guitar parings in Australian music, but I struggle to think of a pairing which complements itself as well as yourself and Simone Dow. When you trade off licks in solo sections like the one in Lifeline, do you write the parts together or just allocate sections to each of you and then see what you both come up with?
Aww shucks, thank you! Lifeline was an interesting one. We were both given a section to write a solo for, and we decided I’d do the first half and Simone the second. I completed my solo first, and showed it to the band for approval. Simone’s solo however, was the very first collaborative solo writing process we’d ever done. She had some placeholder ideas, and had written an exit lick, but needed to write the middle section. That was a tricky process, but also really rewarding! We’ve always had a format of listening to one another’s ideas, and bouncing off of them. If Simone had a solo written first, my solo would change depending on what she’d done. It makes it feel like a continuation of the same solo, but with our own little individual quirks to identify us. We both feel that the best thing to do is to complement each other’s strengths, and we also enjoy feeling connected to one another’s ideas thematically. Thus, a lot of the time the solo sections will interlock.
In terms of song writing process, how does it work for Voyager? Did you do anything differently when writing Ghost Mile?
Overall, there wasn’t really much of a difference in approach from V to Ghost Mile. We’d all come in with some new ideas and work on them collectively. I’ve coined the term ‘catalyst’ for that single idea that starts an entire train of thought that comes out as a fully fleshed out song. Catalysts were written by all of us; Alex and Ash had the groove for ‘As the City…’ which brought that whole song together, the riff for the chorus in ‘Ascension’ was mine, ‘What a Wonderful Day’ was pretty much all Danny… The fact that the catalysts for the all songs were written by different members, lent itself well for both V and Ghost Mile, as it naturally brings greater variance to an album.
There was no conscious drive to make a ‘different’ record either. We write what we feel best complements the song, and that’s it. This record has less solos than previous albums. We only realised that was the case seven or eight songs into writing, because there were very few points in which we felt solos would work. One factor that I think has been really effective for us as well, is to write in different permutations. Sometimes we’d all be present, other times it’d be three out of five of us. On some occasions, the song would flesh itself out in one of our studios, and brought back to the jam room later. This changing up of the process keeps it fresh, and you know, sometimes there’s just too many cooks in the kitchen.
I really love how Alex Canion is given some lead vocal parts on the album. The section in The Fragile Serene is particularly great. That whole song has a Devin Townsend sort of vibe for me. I almost see the part where Alex takes on the vocals to be similar to what Devin does in recent years when he gets Anneke van Giersbergen to sing certain melodies in his compositions. As a Devin Townsend fan, do you agree with this observation?
I can totally see that. You mentioned my love for Accelerated Evolution in your review, and I can definitely hear the ‘Deadhead’ kind of melancholy in this track. I think that’s why I like it so much. You may have noticed this even before I did! Alex’s vocals on Ghost Mile are fantastic, and I’m so glad he got some features on this album, because his voice works really well as a counterpoint to Danny’s. It adds a whole extra dimension to what we do, and his voice is naturally higher than Danny’s too – his scream singing on the title track is insane!
I said in my album review that I think Ghost Mile is a phenomenal album and an accurate musical depiction of what Voyager is in 2017. Would you agree that this album reflects who Voyager are these days better than any of the previous albums?
I would. We’ve all hit large milestones in our personal lives, that really makes this album feel more important to us. A lot has happened in the last three years, and we’ve all grown a lot as people. I know that certainly applies to me at least. It’s an honest record, and it feels more focussed and nuanced. I’ve honestly not felt as strongly about a Voyager album as I do Ghost Mile. It is, of course, the cliché to say ‘Oh this is the best stuff we’ve ever written’, but I do feel that this album really resonates with me on a personal level. Normally I’m connected to just the instrumentation, not being too much of a lyrics guy, but Danny’s lyrics also hit home for me.
The Australian Tour with The Algorithm is shaping up to be a beauty. Over the last few years you’ve toured Australia with some really great prog bands including Klone and Leprous. I think these sorts of tours are a fantastic win/win for everyone involved because arguably these bands might not have the following in these parts to tour Australia on their own. Pairing them up with Voyager gives them the opportunity to tour our country and gives the prog fans a fantastic package to go out and see. What can fans expect from The Algorithm, and are there any surprises planned for the Voyager set on this tour?
It’s become a positive trend in heavier styles to have international bands support domestic bands, and you’re right in saying that it’s a great opportunity for bands with a good reputation, but perhaps not a lot of tours in our region, to jump over and play some solid shows. It’s a win for us, because we build our network overseas, and it’s win for them because they have some good shows to play here. It’s great for fans, as they get a rare opportunity to see incredible bands who may not be able to make the trip otherwise. I love this new format! The Algorithm are an absolute feast! Expect rhythmic insanity, and awesome, punchy riffage. Our set has a few surprises, but they’re going to stay that way. Let’s just say there’s all manner of different emotional shades in this set.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, and congratulations again on the Ghost Mile album. I’m sure the album will be well received the world over and I’m excited to see what the rest of the year has in store for Voyager!
Not a problem at all! Thanks for the opportunity, and I hope everyone enjoys Ghost Mile when it finally drops!
Thursday 11th May – Adelaide
w/ Tony Font Show
Friday 12th May – Melbourne
Saturday 13th May – Brisbane
w/ The Stranger
Friday 19th May – Perth
Saturday 20th May – Canberra
w/ Immorium & Highview
Sunday 21st May – Sydney
OXFORD ART FACTORY
Connect with Voyager
- Chris Reid