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INTERVIEW: DANIEL ESTRIN of Voyager – May 2015

Australia’s great progressive metal band Voyager is about to go out on tour again, hitting Australia and the United States, including two shows at ProgPower USA.  Robert Kitay of 100% Rock Magazine had a chance to catch up with Voyager singer and keyboard player Daniel Estrin regarding topics ranging from touring plans, his vocal style, the difficulties of being based in Western Australia, when we can expect a new album, and the frustration of playing behind a pole.


Robert:  So, you’re opening for Opeth tomorrow?

Danny:  Yeah.  It’s kind of cool to be opening for one of the idols of a number of members of the band.

Robert:  And then you are about to head out on tour of Australia again?

Danny:  That’s correct.  We’re doing shows with a French band called Klone.  We’ve invited them to come support us on this Australian run, which will be the second run in support of our album V.  And there are local supports as well.  So that’s what we’re doing the next couple months, and then it’s off to the United States and Canada.

Robert:  So in the United States you’re opening for Evergrey.

Danny:  Correct

Robert:  Are you going to do the second leg of the Evergrey tour as well and come visit us out on the west coast of the US?

Danny:  I wish.  I wish.  It’s all about money and time really.  We’d love to.  We’d definitely love to.  If the opportunity arises we will definitely take it up.  But at the moment only the other dates are locked in, and there is nothing we can do about that.

Robert:  That’s disappointing.  I saw you opening for Rhapsody of Fire in San Francisco last time around and that’s really where I got hooked on you guys.

Danny:  Awesome, so you were at that show?

Robert:  Yeah, I was at Slims.

Danny:  That’s the place with the big pole in the middle of the stage.

Robert:  That’s the one.

Danny:  I remember having a real diva moment in San Francisco. Because I remember setting up and the bass player said I’m setting up here, and I said I can’t set up here.  There is a pole right in front of me.  And he said, well you have to do it.  I remember having a real diva moment thinking this was so unbecoming of a front man performing behind a pole.

Robert:  Believe it or not we have a couple venues in San Francisco that have a pole in the middle of the stage line.  I don’t know what it is about here.

Danny:  They can’t get it right.


Robert:  You’re not the first band I’ve heard complain about that stage at Slims.  Sabaton last year complained that they had to set up their drums sideways because it was the only way it would fit on the stage.

Danny:  Yeah, it wasn’t the biggest stage I’ve ever played on, that’s for sure.

Robert:  That was the first time I saw you, and I have to say immediately it hit me that you guys sound completely different from anybody else.  In the world of heavy metal bands that either go the screamo or cookie monster route or the high range Judas Priest or Iron Maiden style vocals, it really hit me how your vocal style is so different from anyone else.  It’s more like Tears for Fears or Duran Duran style.  Was that something that you planned or is that more of your normal singing style and it just seemed to fit in that way?

Danny:  Yeah, absolutely it’s my natural singing voice.  I can’t hit those crazy high notes like Fabio in Rhapsody does.  I’m not even going to try.  My voice is mid-range and has that ‘80s tambour to it as well.  That’s just the way it naturally developed.  Some people don’t like it and others see it as a stand out feature because it does give it that 80s vibe.  But that’s cool.  I’m alright with that.

Robert:  Yeah, there is no one else that sounds like that and it really is a stand out feature.  Were you influenced by any of the ‘80s pop or New Wave music with that style of vocals?

Danny:  In some ways yes, but I spent  all of my young years only listening to classical music until the age of 13, and then I discovered Nirvana and then it was metal after that.  So I never really had a stage where I listened to ‘80s music, but I’ve always been drawn to synths and synths pop, even some of the German industrial bands VNV Nation and Apoptygma Berzerk and that Goth style singing.  I’ve always thought it was cool because there’s something cold, yet emotional about it and I like that.  Was it intentional?  Probably not.  It’s just the way I started singing at an early age and that’s the way it developed.  I’ve really been pushing myself vocally for the last couple of albums.  In the beginning I was a little scared to push the voice as hard as I do now.  Now it’s something I do consciously, to hit the high register voice which has more passion in it.

Robert:  With the comparison of your vocal style to  Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, have you ever considered doing a cover, like maybe a prog metal version of a Duran Duran song.  Is that something you’ve ever considered?

Danny:  Yeah, we have.  You get into that territory of doing covers.  There are a lot of bands that have done ‘80s covers of Duran Duran, The New Order, and other ‘80s bands.  We just haven’t gotten around to it.  We’ve done a medley live, kind of a mash up that you might have witnessed at that San Francisco show.  I think that’s as close to covers as we’re going to get, I think we’ll stick to live shows for that sort of thing.

Robert:  So when you come out to the United States, you’re not just doing one show, but two shows at ProgPower USA.


Danny:  Yup

Robert:  How did it come about that you get to play twice?

Danny:  Well, Midweek Mayhem is part of the ProgPower week, but it is a separate show.  I guess through demand there was an idea that we should do an exclusive show, and Evergrey was added to it as well, where fans get to pick an entire album for us to play, and fans responded really well to that.  It’s something that we’ve never done before.  We’ve gotten most of the votes in, so we can see where it’s going.  I’m not going to disclose which album it is.  I think it’s a really great opportunity and it will be a very different set then we are going to play at ProgPower anyway.  It’s an exclusive show for the diehard fans.

Robert:  With DC Cooper also on the bill, any chance of him joining you for “Fire of the Times?”

Danny:  I’ll have to give him a call and see what he thinks.

Robert:  That would be really cool.

Danny:  We did that actually.  We did that in Pittsburgh where he’s from.  He joined us onstage for “Fire of the Times.”  I think there is a video floating around out there on YouTube.  It was really cool.  It was a small show so it was really cool.  We rehearsed the song at the last minute in the tour bus before he came on and it was great.  He was one of my first vocal idols in my late teens and early 20s and all of a sudden I’m singing in his face and he’s singing back at you and I kept thinking “this is great.”

Robert:  When you recorded that song for the album, where you not in the studio together?

Danny:  No, it was a matter of I had the song written and pretty much recorded and I thought that this chorus need that voice.  So I hit him up and asked him what he thinks.  And he said I love it, this is great, and his kids loved it.  They said “Daddy, you’ve got to do this.”  So he went into his studio and laid down the tracks and we exchanged some ideas and then we had the finished product.  It was truly a global effort.

Robert:  Very cool.  With “V,” which by the way when I reviewed that for 100% Rock, I gave it 10 out of 10, which I’ve given very, very few of, and it was my album of the year.

Danny:  Wow, thank you.

Robert:  You’re welcome.  Thank you for making such a great album.  One of the things that immediately hit me on that album is that not only does it have a prog metal feel to it, but it also has quite a bit of an alternative feel to it as well.  Especially, for example, Orpheus.  Is that something you planned?  Have you gotten any crossover to alternative markets with that album at all?


Danny:  Yeah, a little bit.  It wasn’t a conscious thing so much as Scott, who is one of the youngest members of our band, is really into the modern progressive style.  He’s introduced into Voyager an element that is kind of groove based, which is kind of the something that has influenced the way we’ve gone with the new album as well.  So that has probably given it a bit more of an alternative flavor than the previous albums which went down the more power metal route.  It’s interesting that you mention Orpheus because that song to me is really more of a metal song.  It’s kind of like old Soilwork mixed with power metal.  I think it is a close to metal as we get on that album, so I think it’s interesting that you pick that one to be the alternative one.

Robert:  Funny, it seems to have a bit of a 311 feel to it to my ears.

Danny:  Interesting.  Ok I’ll have to listen to that.

Robert:  Let me ask you this.  I assume that the majority of your fans are prog metal fans, but do you seem to have many fans from other genres?  Do you have many non prog metal fans coming to your shows?

Danny:  Yeah we do.  Absolutely.  Funny you mention that.  We originally toured around Australia with a band called Dead Letter Circus.  I don’t know if you’re aware of them.  There very much in the modern, more than alternative, genre.  I think through the last album, through “V,” it came to their attention.  They’re a really big band, really popular around Australia and they’ve been to the states a few times.  They asked us to join them.  It was a really different lineup.  The crowd was completely different.  The fans were completely different. We drew a lot of their fans to us as well.  These days it’s all about exposure.  These days you really have to put the music in people’s faces, and when you do, they turn…hopefully.

Robert:  So this tour, you mention shows in Australia, is the second time around Australia in the last year or so?

Danny:  Right…actually third time.  We did a headline run, then the tour with Dead Letter Circus, and now we’re doing a headline run.

Robert:  With the great distances between cities in Australia, how do you go about touring?  I assume you don’t use a bus like they do in the United States.  Do you fly into each city?

Danny:  If we used a bus a tour would take 6 months and we would only do 6 shows.  Pretty much every city is flying, which is really tough…and really expensive.  The flights we took for the US tour were less expensive than those we took for an Australian tour, if that puts it in perspective.

Robert:  Being from Perth in Western Australia, that’s about as isolated in the music world as you can get from Europe, The United States and even the rest of Australia.

Danny:  Yeah


Robert:  I assume there are more disadvantages to that than advantages.  Are there any advantages to being in an isolated part of the world?

Danny:  Not many advantages, apart from being really safe here.  Nobody wants to hurt us.  This is one of the safest places on Earth.  But as far as being in a band, it’s about the worst place you can be.  As far as touring it’s really expensive getting anyplace else.  It’s really tough.  The only positive is that you get used to long distances.  Some people will consider a 3 hour drive as a long distance, but to us that’s nothing.  We have to fly 43 hours to get to New York City.  So, you put things into perspective more.  You become tougher.

Robert:  I would guess that you get a greater opportunity to play more shows with the bigger bands when they come in as local support when they come in.  Is that true?  Does that open any doors for you?

Danny:  Yeah, it does.  We’ve toured with Halestorm and we’ve toured with Children of Bodom around Australia.  We’ve toured with Nightwish.  It’s pretty competitive out there.  There are a lot of Australian bands who want to jump on the slots.  But generally you’re right that there are fewer bands in each city that compete for those support slots so it’s definitely given us great connections and struck up great friendships being able to support big bands.

Robert:  Have any of those bands you met from working with them, in let’s say Perth, taken you out on tour through Europe?

Danny:  Not yet at this stage.  It hasn’t happened yet. We’re still looking at those options.  Obviously getting onto a European tour is a great expense.  You really have to plan ahead a long time, like on any big tour, so your day job doesn’t suffer, and you need to make sure it’s worthwhile for the band as well.  There were a couple offers that came through from big bands at the end of last year, but in the end it probably wasn’t worth our while to do it.  There was too great an expense, and buy-on tours are becoming more popular.  I think that is something that is really sad for the industry.  So, it’s something definitely in the works, but hasn’t happened yet.

Robert:  You just mentioned day jobs.  What kind of work do you and the band do when you’re not playing music?

Danny:  Alright, Scott is a guitar teacher.  Simone works at a music shop.  So does Alex, and he does some private gigs as a musician as well.  Ashley is a graphic design lecturer and I’m a lawyer.

Robert:  What kind of law do you practice?

Danny:  I do immigration law.

Robert:  So if other bands want to play Australia should they hit you up for visa advice?

Danny:  Yeah

Robert:  So you’re one of the few people out there that play a keytar.  How did you decide to go the keytar route?


Danny:  I never decided; it was decided for me.  It was given to me as a birthday gift from a few of my very closest friends.  And then someone said, “Hey man, you should use that live,” and I said “really?”  So I did, and it was a huge success.  A keytar is one of those things you don’t even have to play.  All you have to do is hold it up and people love it and go crazy, because it’s red, and it’s awesome, and it’s from the ‘80s.  It’s become a great part of what we do and it frees me up as well on stage.  I used to be behind a massive rack of Korg Triton keyboards. It’s just much more practical to have this light plastic thing from the ‘80s that you can jump around with.

Robert:  You don’t find it limiting to what you can play compared to a bigger keyboard set?

Danny:  You do, but now days a lot of stuff is on backing tracks and things like that.  I think it is limiting, but I think any instrument for a frontman is limiting in itself.  So the fact I’ve been able to free myself from those things has made the shows a lot better being able to interact with the crowd instead of being stuck behind an instrument and not being able to move around much.

Robert:  Yeah, it looks like you have a lot of fun playing that, and you can’t say that most keyboard players look like they are having much fun while they’re playing.

Danny:  Especially in progressive rock and progressive metal, you’re right.

Robert:  Have you started work on the next album?

Danny:  Yeah, the creative juices are definitely flowing. There are ideas floating around.  It’s just about fleshing out those ideas and finding the time between the planning and the logistics to smash out some music.  The longer you’re in the industry and the longer you’re a musician you realize that most of the time is spent being in a band rather than actually playing music.  But hopefully by the end of 2016 there is a good chance we’ll have a new album out.

Robert:  That will be great.  I’m looking forward to that already.

Danny:  Me too.

Robert:  I have just one final question for you.  We all know that you’ve already explained The Meaning of I, so how does that compare to your definition of the Meaning of Life?

Danny:  That’s a big question.  It’s inexplicable.  It’s not something that someone can explain, or should try to explain.  I think life is what you make of it.  We are here for a very short amount of time.  To try to explain it by things that might be convenient or things that might feel right at the time is a worthless activity.  You just need to focus of living it, because it is something that is so finite.  It doesn’t last forever, so instead of searching for meaning just be in it.

Robert:  Great.  Thanks for your time.  I’m really looking forward to seeing you at ProgPower USA.

Danny:  Thank you very much and I can’t wait to being there.

Robert:  I’m looking forward to checking out both of your sets.

Danny:  Awesome.  Awesome, and if you haven’t done so yet make sure to vote for what album you want to hear.

Robert:  I thought that voting was already closed?

Danny:  Is it?  Look how badly informed I am.

Robert:  Well, I’d have an absolutely terrible time deciding between V and I Am the Revolution.  Those are my favorites and I honestly can’t decide between the two.

Danny:  Interesting. That’s interesting.  I think you’re the first person I’ve talked to who picked those two as favorites because they are so different.  I Am the Revolution is more of the older style Voyager and more of the power metal style, while V is more in the modern style record.  It’s nice hearing that someone likes the old stuff and newer stuff equally.

Robert:  Yeah, I do.  And I think it is interesting that you have The Meaning of I between them.  Actually I find I Am the Revolution and V to be more similar than The Meaning of I just because those two are more melodic than The Meaning of I, which I think is a little more proggy.  At least that is the way I look at them.

Danny:  Interesting, interesting.  It’s so cool to hear other people’s views and opinions on this, because obviously I’ve written the music so I think of it in a certain way and when somebody tells me how they see it, I think to myself I’ve never thought of it that way before.  Thanks for sharing that. Cool.  I appreciate it.

Robert:  No problem.  I hope one of those two are chosen, but I’ll be satisfied with whatever you end up playing.  We just don’t get to see you very often here in the states.

Danny:  That’s true.  I can’t wait to get there.  We love it.  We love every minute of being there.  We love hoping on our tour bus and exploring the country.  It’s great.  The people are great.  The fans are great I can’t say a negative thing about it.

Robert:  Well, I hope next time you’ll make it back out to San Francisco, and maybe next time you can play someplace without a pole.  But even if you have a pole I’ll still be enjoying the show.

Danny:  Nice

Robert:  Well, thanks again for your time and we’ll be seeing you in September.





Category: Interviews

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ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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