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Ashley Doodkorte Voyager – Interview
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Voyager Ashley Doodkorte

Voyager are heading out of Perth again for a headlining tour around Australia in support of their latest album "V" and their new video set for release soon as well as a tour to the U.S. for the Progpower Festival in Atlanta and a North American tour with Evergrey. But before that they warm things up with an opening slot for Opeth who kick off their tour in Australia next month so we caught up with drummer Ashley Doodkorte to discuss all the latest with Voyager.



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Andrew: So obviously one of the big things that we want to talk about today is your headlining tour coming up but also opening up for Opeth as well. I assume that's a big deal for you guys?

Ash: Oh yeah huge deal! If you talk to Simone (Dow, guitars) and Alex (Candion, bass) and Scott (Kay, guitars) they are all beside themselves haha! They don't know what to do!

Andrew: So being big fans of Opeth, have you guys seen them before?

Ash: I've never seen them, I've only fairly recently started listening to them, Simone has been trying to get me into them for years and I never really kinda warmed to it as much as maybe I should have. I really prefer a lot of their slower albums like "Damnation" and stuff, that sort of stuff really works for me. It's still going to be amazing to see it live.

Andrew: It's funny you mention that because their last 2 albums are more progressive rock I guess which sort of fits in line with what you guys do so I think you guys are perfect in the opening slot for Opeth I think.

Ash: That's awesome. The stuff I have heard I listen to it and yeah OK I can kinda see it working, it's slightly different but it could be kinda cool. But it's good that you mention that, I'm glad it's going to make more sense.

Andrew: Yeah definitely. And also a little bit later in the month you will also be going off and doing your headlining tour as well. A busy month!

Ash: Yeah pretty intense actually. I'm glad the Opeth thing is at home, it's kind of like a little practice run on some of the songs that we will be doing on the tour because we're digging a few out of the archives and trying to practice those for the tour. Yeah it's going to be a very hectic May.

Andrew: So what kind of setlist are you putting together? I saw on your facebook page that you are asking the fans for suggestions on what songs you can play.

Ash: Yeah we try and do that before each headlining tour. The last couple of tours we have done like with Dead Letter Circus and stuff like that, it's been a very "samey" setlist. We've done a lot of songs that we're comfortable with and that that we know are sure-fire hits. And when your supporting other bands, you don't have much time. You get half an hour so you really need to pick all the songs that are going to grab people's attention so you pick the more upbeat ones [and] dare I say the poppier ones and things like that. But when you got an hour or 70 minutes doing your own headlining shows, you can kinda structure a setlist a bit better so you got the energetic bits, you got the bits where you take it down so you can plan it a little bit more and have a bit more fun with it. So we might be doing 1 or 2 off the first album and a lot of the newer stuff off the third and fourth like "I Am The Revolution" and "The Meaning Of I" and also fairly heavy off the latest album because the tour is still promoting that as well.

Andrew: Yeah and you have launched or are about to launch a new video from that album as well?

Ash: Yeah that's going to be launched probably a little bit before we go on that tour so that's happening fairly soon. So yeah I guess we're still in the cycle of things I suppose.

Andrew: And how have you found the reaction from the fans on the new album?

Ash: It's been great! This is actually my first album with Voyager so I was kinda unprepared for it, didn't really know what to expect. It got reviewed awesomely, people seem to really dig it and when we ask people what song they want us to play you always get people that want the older stuff but we get a lot of people wanting 4 or 5 songs off the new album which is always good to hear. When you've got a back catalogue that's somewhat extensive, it's nice that people still want the newer stuff that maybe they're less familiar with compared to the older stuff.

Andrew: Yeah it's obviously a good response to have fans who want the new stuff as well as the old stuff.

Ash: Yeah and I don't know if "understand' is the right word but kinda follow what we do as well because when you compare that album to some of the older ones, it's completely different in terms of style. It's a bit less cheesy, a bit more modern sounding so it's cool that people who like the older stuff are still onboard. Because you know you see sometimes when bands do something slightly different, a lot of times their fanbase go 'No, No! More old stuff.'

Andrew: Now you mentioned before that this is your first album with the band, how was the [writing/recording] experience for you?

Ash: It was really exciting! I've played in quite a few bands and Voyager is probably the closest to the sort of music I want to play. If I had any talent in an instrument outside of drums, Voyager is closest to the stuff I would actually like to write so that was really good. Before that I was mainly doing rock and blues bands and stuff which is a lot of fun but you don't have to think as much with that stuff, especially on the drums. You can kinda just keep a beat, you can sit back on the beat, you can kinda make mistakes and turn it into part of the song and it's all good. With Voyager it's all to a click track, with metal in general it's gotta be fairly precise and well thought out and everything you do has got to really serve the song because every instrument is doing something fairly involved. There's not as much space for you to embellish things unnecessarily if that makes any sense. Playing wise it really helped out, made me think about what I was doing a lot more. Made me consider what I need to do, how much needs to be done and it also helps you keep tighter as well haha!

Andrew: Yeah there's a progressive nature to your music so that's part of why there's a bit of thinking behind it I guess.

Ash: And it's less verse-chorus-verse sort of style which is a lot more fun I suppose as a musician to a certain extent. You can change things up, you're not always thinking about parts. You are kind of relating parts to other parts and you are creating motifs and things like that which is a lot of fun.

Andrew: I've seen you guys a number of times now and the last time was at the Amplifier Bar not too long ago and this is more for the gearheads I guess. I'm not really into the technical side of things but for the fans that are into that kind of stuff, what do you do for your drum sound? Because you're drum sound is absolutely phenomenal, it just stands out amongst the whole band. So what are some of the things you do to get that sort of sound?

Ash: Well that's pretty awesome! It's not often that people mention things about your live drum sound haha!

Andrew: Well for me personally I'm a bit of a drum nut and one of the first things that I notice in music is the drums and it's good to see a band that actually has the drums that is full on, loud and that you can actually hear it properly.

Ash: That's awesome! I think a big part of that is definitely going to be the kit itself. I'm looking at a Tama endorsement at the moment and they hooked me up with a star kit which is one of their newest lines. When I first started talking to them I was going for a star classic which used to be a top line but is now their second top line. Didn't think I could afford the top line at all but when I mentioned what I wanted, the Tama rep came back to me and said 'You know, I got a star kit in those same sizes and I'll do a deal for you on that one'. And I was like 'Yep, yep done!' Haha! I'll totally take that so yeah the drums themselves are the top of the range and are amazing with African wood on the inside and Indian wood on the outside so it's like an Indian Laurel thing so that gives it heaps of bottom end and makes it really loud as well. If you have really dense, thick wood it helps it project quite a bit.

Andrew: So that must be the difference I guess with the type of wood because as I said you can hear it so prominent in the music.

Ash: Yeah that comes down to the density and the hardness of the wood. You get a lot more attack and deep sound and I find Tama drums are kinda like that as well, I've played them pretty much my entire drumming career. They are always big and boomy and rocky which is kinda what you want! And obviously a lot of it comes down to the mix as well, Amplifier in particular has an awesome sound system and the house guy there he works with us a lot and he does an amazing job. He knows how it's supposed to sound and knows how to get the sound!

Andrew: Did you have to play around with the sound a bit on the album as well?

Ash: We had some pretty good people who sorted that out, it took a lot less time than I thought it would. I've spent days trying to pull a drum sound in the studio just experimenting and stuff but when we went in with one of the guys who's also in the studio, his name is Frasier, he's a beast on tuning drums. He can just get on there and hit it and yep, tune it in 2 minutes, amazing! But we didn't really spend that much time experimenting, we got a pretty good sound fairly quickly and I think part of that is down to the kit quality and to be honest a lot of it is partly to do with the fact that there is some beat replacement that goes on. Like the kick and snare in particular I think what happened on this one was there was a blend of a sampled sound with the real sound. It's quite common, what you are doing is half the studio audio and then half the sample and then blend them together. I might be a little wrong on exactly what that was used for but I know there is some of that on some of the kick.

Andrew: Yeah I can hear that, there is a somewhat synthetic sound to Voyager but I think it's one of the reasons it sounds so good.

Ash: It gives you a lot more control I think and when you're doing that kind of music you need all the control you can get I reckon. To make sure everything shines through the way it's supposed to and all the little bits you can hear them properly.

Andrew: So take us back to when you did first join the band, how did that all come about?

Ash: What actually happened was Voyager had their first U.S. show lined up which is the Progpower Festival which we are going back and doing in September actually, and the drummer at the time Mark (Boeijen) who had been in the band for ages, was expecting his first child about that time. So he didn't want to be away for the birth of his first child then so they needed a fill-in and I had known Simone and Alex for quite a long time and I had worked with the band a bit because I used to do their graphic design for "I am Revolution" onwards. They got in touch and said 'Can you play to a click track?' and I said 'Sure I can, I'm sure I'll be fine!' and did a couple of jams and it all gelled really well so I actually did my first show with Voyager in a little bar in New York called Bar Matchless which we sold out because it only holds 48 people.

Andrew: Haha 48 people?

Ash: Haha we totally sold out a New York show on our first time in the U.S. but we don't need to tell people how many people it can actually fit.

Andrew: Haha they don't need to know the details!

Ash: That's exactly right! So that was my first show with them and then we did the Progpower Festival and then once we got back they sorted out "The Meaning Of I" album launch and then Mark said he wanted to go off and do his own thing and felt like with his family commitments he wouldn't be able to commit to Voyager as much so they asked straight up considering I had learnt a lot of the songs and was already playing with them and it seems to be a really good fit!

Andrew: So who do you consider to be your biggest influences on the drums?

Ash: Haha this is going to show my age slightly getting into the rock in the 90's but Dave Grohl is probably number one. My dad was big into Nirvana and I was big into Nirvana as well but loved the way he plays, he gets such a good sound out of his drums because he kinda wacks the shit out of them. He's just got good energy as well, he's entertaining to watch which is really important. You sit there and you get mesmerized by his power. I don't want to say "no frills" but he gets the job done and gets it done really well and it's interesting despite the fact that its not overly technical. And on the other side of things, there's David Silveria from Korn '├žause I was a huge Korn fan as well and he was really super groovy almost to the point where it's kind of quite loose in the earlier Korn albums. But he did all these things which I didn't really understand because I guess I was teaching myself drums and sometimes I would be saying to myself 'How do you even do that, that sounds impossible'. So trying to learn some of that stuff was quite interesting. It's a funny set of influences really but then there was Jimmy Chamberlain from Smashing Pumpkins, I love the way he's really busy but also super tasteful which is quite hard to do.

Andrew: So it's really more the feel for you more than anything else then.

Ash: Yeah I would definitely not call myself much of a "technician" on the drums but I think feel and groove is definitely one of the more important things. And I think that's one of the reasons why I stick with Voyager, like say compared to Mark I'm not as technical as he is but I sort of fit in with the pop aspect of Voyager a bit more.

Andrew: The other thing you mentioned before was you are heading over to the U.S. as well and I believe you are playing with Evergrey?

Ash: Oh yes that's exciting!

Andrew: OK so tell us a little bit about that and what the U.S. fans can expect from that tour.

Ash: The other thing that's going to be great is the lineup which is really solid and quite consistent all the way through so we all become good friends by the end of it. They are all east coast shows which is going to be good as well, I don't know what's happening with the west coast leg. I know they are planning it but I don't know anything about that yet. But it's going to be great, being straight before Evergrey I think we got a really good slot, we've got a bit of a following in the U.S. and I think people seem to be quite receptive to what we're doing over there so if anything, we're going to have a lot of fun. We're going to put on a great show, very energetic, gonna have a good sound. The setlist we got no idea haha! But there will probably be a bit of older stuff probably because the main reason we're going over to the U.S. is for the Progpower shows. There's a midweek one and a weekend one and that was booked first and then this other great tour came along and we were really pushing for that because we were gong to be there already and when you are an Australian band going anywhere else, you want to make sure you are getting your moneys worth. It's an expensive flight! So we fought a little bit to get on the tour and it worked out really well and our manager did a great job of getting some good promo and sorting a lot of it out. With the midweek one we've done a whole thing where we're going to stick to the album we're going to play in full and at the Progpower main show, the fans have picked the setlist for that. I can't say what has been picked, it's meant to be a surprise but the setlist will be quite varied! We've been practicing a lot of songs for the Evergrey tour that will feature in those U.S. shows

Andrew: OK cool! so everything will be kicking off when you open for Opeth obviously and then it snowballs from there so looking really good for the year.

Ash: Yeah it kinda doesn't slow down, there will be a lot of practicing in June and July for those U.S. shows. Relearn some songs, practice the ones we do a bit and doing little bits of writing here and there as well because fairly soon we're going to have to start thinking about another album which will be the first ever Voyager album which has the same lineup.

Andrew: Oh yeah it would be too, there's been quite a few lineups over the years obviously.

Ash: Oh yeah! A different lineup on every album so hopefully this will work out haha!

Andrew: Haha yeah! Well it's been a pleasure talking to you today, good luck on the tour and we will see you at Opeth!

Ash: Yeah cheers man it's going to be great!


VOYAGER with Klone Australian tour dates:

May 21: Adelaide - Jive
May 22: Canberra - The Basement
May 23: Sydney - The Factory Floor
May 29: Melbourne - Evelyn Hotel
May 30: Brisbane - The Brightside
June 5: Perth - Amplifier Capitol
June 6: Bunbury - Prince of Wales Hotel Bunbury

Tickets on sale at Wild Thing Presents.

VOYAGER with Evergrey North American tour dates:

Aug 26: Chicago, IL - Reggies
Aug 27: Cleveland, OH - Agora
Aug 28: Detroit, MI - Token Lounge
Aug 29: Toronto, ON - Opera House
Aug 30: Montreal, QC - Cafe Campus
Sep 1: Quebec City, QC - Le Cercle
Sep 3: New York, NY - The Marlin Room @ Webster Hall
Sep 4: Pittsburgh, PA - Mr. Smalls
Sep 5: Baltimore, MD - Soundstage
Sep 6: Springfield, VA - Empire
Sep 8: Charlotte, NC - The Casbah
Sept 9: Atlanta, GA - Progpower Festival (Midweek Mayhem)
Sept 11: Atlanta, GA - Progpower Festival

More info and tickets at Progpower USA and Voyager Official Website

Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on April 10th 2015