While not yet a name prominent in current metal circles, Melbourne based instrumental prog outfit Kettlespider are an upstart group slowly establishing themselves in the local music scene. Having received national airplay on Triple J, leading former The Racket host Andrew Haug to describe the band as, "Nice solid prog ala Dream Theater," the group is making healthy strides in an often competitive market. KYS recently caught up with the band over a few beers, following the group’s well-received performance at the Espy’s Gershwin Room to discuss all things music, specifically Kettlespider’s upcoming debut studio album ‘Avadante’.
So you’ve just finished your performance at the Espy tonight, album’s about to come out. Can you give us a brief overview of how things are going with the band at the moment?
Scott Ashburn: We’ve been together for quite some time now. [About] four years and we’ve been working on this album for awhile. It’s some of the best music we’ve made in my opinion. We’ve played a few gigs, we’ve never played so many gigs in such a short period of time and now we’re all looking forward to hearing what people think of the new album.
And obviously with the new album coming out, the debut album I should say. Can you give us a brief rundown of that as well?
Geoffrey Fyfe: We recorded it at Jam Tin Studios. We spent about 12 hours there, tracked everything. The rest we tracked at my house. And then we took about two months to mix and master [the album]. lost count of the hours. It’s good, coming out of a sound production course to make an album, to finish it off, [and] polish it off.
Simon Wood: Also, completely independent of the hours Geoff put in, Geoff and I working on the mixing and mastering of the album, we did like 10, six-hour sessions just to try and nut out everything. [There were] lots of band listening sessions to try and get everything as good as it could be. [And] make sure everybody’s happy. It’s pretty much ready to go.
I remember you said ‘Avadante’ is a concept album. Do you want to elaborate?
Harry Boyd-Gerny: The trouble with instrumental music is that you sort of just have to impose the story because there’s no lyrics or anything. And the idea was it is about a guy who goes into a coma for some reason that we don’t explain.
Is that intentional?
HBG: Sort of. There’s a lot of implied things. That’s the thing about instrumental music. You don’t want to give someone just story, so it’s good to be open like that. So the story is the guy’s in a coma and once he’s in a coma he goes off to this place called ‘Avadante’ and he learns things about his life because it’s really interesting to depict stories and lessons through music.
And because there’s no lyrics how’s the concept of it come about? Is there going to be liner notes?
HBG: There will be. Because it’s so open, we’re pretty much going to write it on the spot because we’ve got a skeleton for it, but all the little details we haven’t really figured out.
SW: The intention is to make it fairly open, so different people who listen to it can have a basic story to get their head around but ultimately put their own spin on it and figure it all out for themselves.
And I know we joked earlier about the absence of a singer, but did you ever consider a vocalist or was it always an instrumental thing?
SW: We tried one singer properly and we jammed with many different singers before. Singers are great, most of the music we listen to has singing in it. But I think ultimately with our band, we are a really strong core of 5 people that have been playing together for many years and we know each other back to front; musically and as best mates. And at the moment we are just trying to explore what we can do with our instruments without the need for that sixth person and we don’t really want to break the dynamic at the moment. However, our options are always open. And there [may] be singing on future records of ours.
Speaking of instrumental outfits, do you feel with bands such as Animals As Leaders and Scale the Summit and all that, now the time is sort of right in the sense that people want to listen to that type of stuff.
HBG: Tosin Abasi is one my biggest influences and if he started putting singing over the top, i’d be like no, it’s all wrong (laughs).
Colin Andrews: And one thing is when I’ve been listening to the demo album so far, I’ve found myself singing to the lead lines. There’s no words but they’re lead lines and melodies and they’re big enough.
For sure. And song structure wise, when it comes time to write the songs, who seems to spear-head the process?
CA: Basically what has been happening so far, is the general formula is one of us comes up with song ideas and you propose it to the rest of the band and then they influence it in each of their individual ways. All the riffs, all the parts, all the general structures are sort of Harry Boyd Gerny influence. It’s really hard for one person to write five different parts. Each person comes in with a different take on how each riff should sound and then we sort of collaborate and put it all together and chop and change.
So it’s still early days in 2012 but what’s the plan for the rest of the year? Is it going to be writing? Or gigging more?
CA: Basically we’ve got ‘Avadante’, which is one half of 2012 and the other half is ‘Ozmo’, which is another set of approximately six songs that are similar in structure but they’re songs we are going to work on in the next couple of months because we’ve got them there, they’re in the bank so to speak. What I think with new bands like us [who are trying to get established], you can’t afford to cruise on a release for long.
I know it’s a broad question but what is your current take on prog rock/metal at the moment?
HBG: It’s taking off. Even though it’s underground, it’s not really underground at the moment. It’s on the rise and it’s just continuing to rise [too].
SW: I’ve been listening to prog metal as my favourite genre of music for the last 5-6 years. I think the djent movement is pretty cool. A lot of people that wouldn’t usually listen to prog are getting into prog, which is great. A lot of bands are adopting progressive elements into their music. Not a lot of bands are doing the instrumental thing. The bands that are influencing me the most at the moment are bands like, Pain of Salvation, Opeth and I’m really enjoying what Mastodon’s doing at the moment. And on an Australian level there’s so many great Australian prog bands. Everyone in this band are massive fans of the ‘Sound Awake’ album by Karnivool, that’s been a big influence. And I think big things are happening with prog and we’re happy to be young dudes trying to get on the ship.
These ones are just easy ones to finish off with.
Guitarist-wise, Misha Mansoor or Tosin Abasi?
HBG: I can’t answer that. It’s like trying to pick between your family [laughs].
Ok, and in terms of drummers, Mike Portnoy or Tomas Haake?
SW: Mike Portnoy.
SW: He’s the most influential drummer I’ve had the pleasure of watching.
What would you prefer: a rushed eight-ten minute, short set supporting Dream Theater in a stadium or a full, hour-long set co-headlining with Animals As Leaders, TesseracT, those type of bands.
SA: Definitely option B.
SW: Option B, because more people who like buying music and buying merch would have more of an interest in us I think. Supporting Dream Theater would be great but I think there’s a lot more merit in looking forward to the future.
Another drummer one. Periphery-wise, Matt Halpern or Travis Orbin?
SW: Matt Halpern. Incredible what that man can do with so few drumming utensils. I really respect Matt Halpern.
And dream gig. Venue and three bands. Can be past/present, local/international…
GF: You could say Rod Laver Arena. [As for bands] It’s based on favourite bands for me. Dream Theater would be in there. Maybe Karnivool for some Australian music. And third band, I’m leaning towards Opeth.
This is traditional metal in approach. But it’s more definitive albums, At the Gates ‘Slaughter of the Soul’ or Slayer’s ‘Reign in Blood’?
SW: Dude, At The Gates. Sorry, I like Slayer but…
No, I agree.
SW: Slaughter is a huge melodic death metal album that defined the Gothenburg sound and I mean, look, I like ‘Reign in Blood’ but I’m more influenced and interested in ‘Slaughter of the Soul’.
Finally, any shout-outs, any plugs?
SW: Shout out to Mardy Tankard, shout out to Peter, our parents [and] Stuart Finn because it is his birthday.
HBG: Jarrad Camilleri [as well].
And most importantly how can people get a hold of ‘Avadante’ when it comes out?
SW: We are going to press copies of the album onto compact discs and there’s going to be liner notes with all the information you need about the album and how yet can get a hold of us. Otherwise there will be digital download via iTunes and Band Camp.
Excellent, thanks guys.
HBG: And can I just say, I think now the ball is finally rolling and everyone is really excited.
You can listen to ‘Discovery‘ off ‘Avadante‘ here.