VOYAGER – Daniel Estrin (Lead vocals, Keyboards)
Interview by Hanntu and EvilG
VOYAGER are a great melodic prog/power metal band from Perth, Western Australia. The German-born Daniel Estrin formed the band in 1999. In this interview we talk to Daniel about the band and its formation, his background, their newest album "Ï am the reVolution", and more.
When did you first conceptualize the unique sound for Voyager? Was it relatively early in your career, i.e. did you have a clear vision of what sound you wanted to achieve, or did it take some tinkering and perfecting? What were your musical influences as a musician, as a songwriter and as a singer?
To be honest, it wasn’t really a concept, it was a flow of music from my brain, through my hands and into soundwaves… There was no clear vision, merely unbridled enthusiasm for melody, catchiness, heavy music and a "different" sound… It wasn’t a matter of tinkering and perfecting, that came naturally as the albums progressed. The first album was pretty all over the place, then uniVers was the birth of a solid VOYAGER sound and Ï am the reVolution was, in my view, a continuation and perfection of that sound. Our next album will no doubt carry it a few notches further! Musical influences are totally varied, from the darkness of Emperor to Type O Negative, from Infected Mushroom to Beethoven and from Gamma Ray to Khadja Nin… I listen to heaps of varied stuff, which is probably the reason for the VOYAGER sound.
The ‘Biography’ section on your website is unsatisfactorily short, so tell us more about how Voyager got started, and some important milestones in your careers.
Damn, I knew someone would pick me up on that one day haha! I could waffle on for hours about how, in 1999/2000 a few dudes got together and started jamming melodic metal (I started on guitar – BIG MISTAKE, I am the worst guitarist ever), and then decided "hey this is pretty good"… "Cosmic Armageddon Part I" was our first song, and our first gig was quite a success, despite us playing music which wasn’t popular at ALL in Perth, Westen Australia back then. I remember meeting Emanuel (our original guitarist) because he wore a Blind Guardian shirt, which I’d never seen before.
We soon became a solid band (despite some lineup changes) and record the debut Ëlement V. It was very cool for the time and DVS Records Holland picked it up. That brought us considerable success and a performance at the progpower festival in Holland (which is a big thing for an Aussie band). More tours followed and uniVers was finally picked up by Dockyard 1 Records in Germany, who also released our last album. In between there was another Euro tour and some awesome fun playing with bands like Nightwish, House of Lords, Steve Vai to name a few.. All in all, good good stuff!
So, skipping over a few things, this is where we are now, and we wouldn’t be here without the enthusiasm and perserverence of a few dedicated people! It’s been an awesome ride so far and it’s fantastic to be recognised as a "cult" band…
The description of ‘A metal incarnation of A-HA’ would seem to be the death knell for many self-respecting metal bands. Where do you reckon your fanbase lies, towards the prog side or towards the metal legions? What would a reasonably open-minded metalhead enjoy about your music?
Metalheads aren’t metalheads exclusively (bar a few), and we have fans from all genres. Our music is heavy, catchy and melodic. Sure, it’s probably "too soft" for some or "too melodic", but you’d be surprised how many grindcore heads go: hey man, VOYAGER are actually pretty bloody catchy". And that’s awesome. I grew up listening to Christcrushingly heavy black metal and had blinkers on. Fortunately, most music fans these days aren’t like that and are happy to venture beyond their genre. Our fanbase thus lies within the depths of any lover of heavy, progressive, catchy, slightly gothic music…
Your new album ‘I am the reVolution’ is available to download from your website for a reasonable price, and now you are offering full CD artwork and booklet for free. How have physical CD sales compared to downloads? Has being from Australia (and the most isolated capital city in the world!) influenced your decision to offer this more accessible method of sale?
Not at all to be honest. I am a firm believer in selling your stuff directly from your website. I always try to find out whether a band that I like does it first and whether I can give them money that way. I know that, in our case anyway, we get 90% of the $12USD you pay for the album.. Doesn’t that give fan a nice fuzzy feeling? CD sales are rubbish, everybody knows that, sure we sell them at gigs etc, but ultimately online downloads are a sure way of getting money from your hand directly into the hand of the artist, without the poor bastards (us) having to fight labels who don’t pay up etc and maybe get paid in-kind after a few years. That’s just not on!
BTW..If people are interested in setting up an online shop they can contact our management and we’ll gladly help out.
Following the lyrics on aforementioned free-to-download booklet, ‘I am the reVolution’ is heavy on introspective lyrics. All the songs feature the perspective of "I", "my", "mine", "we" etc, some highly personal lyrics in there. Do you find it easier to write in this narrative? Was there any particular song or songs that was intensely hard to put to paper because of its lyrical content?
Interesting observation.. Yeah, it’s very personal and introspective.. It’s easier for me to write like this than about abstract concepts. Maybe it’s just because I’m just a narcissist 😉 None of the lyrics were particularly difficult to put on paper, as the emotions just flowed out of me. However "Lost" was the hardest one, simply because of the strong personal association of a sense of temporary disillusionment.
What happened to the death growls that added a different dynamic to earlier albums?
Hey man, they’re still there! the title track has some growls and so does "land of the lies"! We’re still totally death metal. 😉
Who sang the female part on ‘This Autumn Day’ and why was this song available only as a downloadable bonus track?
It was a song we feel didn’t exactly fit onto the albums and so we decided to offer it to our fans as a special giftt. It’s VERY different and more reminiscent of another project I’m currently working on, which is more synth new wave electro. The vocals are done by the amazing Melanie Robinson, who has worked with Powderfinger and some other great artists – http://www.sameroad.com.au/
Tell us more about the German and Russian/Polish (?) lyrics on ‘Total Existence Failure’ and ‘Straight To The Other Side’?
Well, I grew up in Germany and have Russian roots, so it’s become a bit of a standard for me to put Russian and German lyrics into the songs. It just adds that bit of "je ne sais quoi" and I think a lot of people dig it! A few Russian fans have commented on it and it’s obviously made them very happy! I’ll try to put a few more languages in next album!
What songs have been played live and are likely to become live staples in the future? Any chance at all of a Southeast Asian tour, bearing in mind that this region is traditionally more inclined towards extreme metal?
Most songs have been played live. Staple favourites are always "To the Morning Light", "Sober", "Pulse 04", Ï am the reVolution", "The devil in me", "Land of the Lies" and now "Lost"(with the advent of the new video).
Well, we have a LOT of facebook fans from Indonesia and Malaysia, so we’re trying VERY hard to get over there. I think our overseas friends will dig us – despite the fact that we aren’t as heavy. Once they see us live, their necks will hurt – trust me! We go NUTS
What do you think of Star Trek VOYAGER?? Would you like to write a song about some of it’s subject matter?
I’m going to politely ignore that question. 😉 ok I’ll answer it (cause I know there are some trekkies out there)… To be honest, I’ve never really been into it, so unless they decide to get us to write the new theme tune, I can’t see it happening.
Australian metal bands seem to have a harder time breaking out internationally than say Euro-bands….well unless you fit into a specific mold and tried the AC/DC pathways *cough*Airbourne*cough*…. so what do think of the situation and how you and your peers are able to make an impact?
I’m coughing twice as much as you right now 😉 Yeah well, if we didn’t live so freaking far away it’d be great. But having said that, we’re doing very well, and our friends Black Majesty, Eyefear and Vanishing Point also! If you can somehow organise Australia to be closer to everything else then we’d be most grateful.
What kind of musical background training do you guys come from? Self-taught, msusic school, etc?!
Mostly self taught and musical training (up to high school). None of us did music as tertiary subjects. So we’re all basically just geniuses and child prodigies *ahem*
Tell me about your new video for "Lost" with the matrix dropping 1’s and zeros… what’s the song about?
The new video is about a sense of loss in today’s world – to much information, too mushc stuff happening, too much of everything.
The creative control over the clip was left to Ben Berkhout the director, who did a stellar job. The clip shows SIngapore Actor Keagan Kang (great performance by the way) controlling us (the band) through screens. It all becomes to much for him and he is gradually disconnected. He feels displaced and lost and starts spewing binary code, to signify the information overload… I love technology and fast pace, but ultimately it’s all getting pretty hectic. That’s what it’s all about!
What typically inspires to write lyrically?
Personal feelings, experiences and observations. I’m not good at fantasy storytelling or any of that sort of stuff. So a lot of it is personal in the first person (ie ME), and a lot of it is imagining situations which people might be faced with and writing from their perspective. So not all songs are about me and my feelings.. You can guess which ones ARE 😉
Chris Hanssen is one of the newer and younger members of the band, how’s he working out?
Chris is great, it’s fantastic to have young blood in the band. He’s brilliant on stage (and a hit with the ladies) and he’s come into the band at a time where we have hit a great rise in popularity. He’s very lucky in that regard, it’s a good time to be in VOYAGER!
How often do you guys get to play live? Do you tour around Australia or mainly aim for getting the opening spots for the big international bands that visit?
We have recently toured a lot more around Australia, as headliners mainly. We do like big support slots too because it increases our fanbase. when we played with NIGHTWISH for example, we gained hundreds of new fans. That was really good! So we’ve done Europe twice, Australia a few times too, now it’s time to hit Asia and the US/Canada I think!!
You were born in Germany? How old were you when you moved to Australia and did your upbringing in Germany have any impact on your musical style and tastes or did your musical endeavors explode after you had already relocated?
Correct. I was 11 when I moved to Australia and my musical tastes had pretty much been set in stone by then. I grew up classically trained, with classical music and russian folk songs. That comes out in VOYAGER; my love for phrasing and melody still remains. I’m in Russia right now actually and so much of the music here is reminiscent of my musical styling that it’s quite clear where it comes from. Australia opened my eyes to a lot of other music, from black metal to electronica, so there was certainly a post-relocation explosion.. But the roots are still there!
Lastly…..what’s next for Voyager?
Writing new stuff, plugging the hell out of our awesome new video and touring to wherever you are because we are VOYAGER are you’re AWESOME!
Cool, thanks for your time!
Thanks heaps for the interview, you guys (and metal) rules!