Interview with Karl Szulik and Rob Inglis
Introducing Divine Ascension...
Jennifer Borg - Vocals - Virgo - Joined: 2006
Influences: Tori Amos. Classical, Cabaret and Music Theatre was a big influence about 10 years ago, and these styles gave me the foundations for the type of vocalist I am today. I am always open to listen to lots of different types of music, especially when getting inspiration for writing.
Karl Szulik - Lead / Rhythm Guitars - Cancer - Joined: 2007
Influences: Mattias ‘IA’ Eklundh, Soilwork, Dream Theater, Symphony X, Twilightning and Scar Symmetry.
Robert Inglis - Rhythm / Lead Guitars - Aquarius - Joined: 2005
Influences: Queensryche, Iron Maiden, Kamelot, Symphony X, Blind Guardian, Scar Symmetry, Soilwork, John Williams (Star Wars) and John Barry (James Bond).
David Van Pelt - Keyboards - Leo - Joined: 2010
Influences: Nightwish, Europe, Rick Wakeman, Rainbow and Metallica.
Simon Mahoney - Bass - Virgo - Joined: 2011
Influences: Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Metallica, The Tea Party and Ministry.
Luke Wenczel - Drums - Aries - Joined: 2005
Influences: Nicko McBrain, Danny Carey and Casey Grillo.
How did you come about obtaining the band name?
We were toying around with the word Ascension that Rob came up with to describe the band as we were ascending, climbing and rising as a band. But it came down to finding something that wasn't taken which was quite hard. Someone had described Jen's voice once as Divine, so we stuck the two words together and low and behold the band name wasn't taken, so we went with it.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard you before?
Female fronted, melodic, progressive, symphonic metal with a twist! But most people I've used that description on stare blankly back at me. Haha! So I have been settling for Heavy Metal with a female singer recently.
What one thing do you feel sets you apart from the rest in this genre?
That we are progressive but within reason. We try to keep the songs catchy, which a lot of progressive metal acts tend to leave out. I think that is something that is really important when appealing to an audience. You want something you can sing along to, but where the music can keep you entertained time and time again when you listen to it over and over again.
A roughly cut, three song demo. Its only purpose was originally to get us some live shows locally and get our name out there. But it was received quite well and many people think of it as an EP. But it is definitely a demo.
As The Truth Appears
Released: October 11, 2011
How long did it take to record As The Truth Appears? And is there any particular message you are trying to relay to your audience with this album?
The recording of the album was overall a two year process due to work commitments and member changes but actual recording time was around six to eight weeks. The only message surrounding the album is one of hope and it doesn’t matter how lost or lonely you feel, the answers are always within reach. You just have to listen and understand. Not a concept album as such, but does have a recurring theme.
Which label, if any, have you produced this album through? Do you think record companies actually make the recording process any easier?
This album was completely financed and produced by the band. Nightmare Records and Hydrant Music became involved at the end of the process after the album was complete. The only thing they have really worked with us on is the track list order and which songs should be bonus tracks for Japan (Hydrant Music). As for your second part of the process, I can't really say. I have never dealt with a record label during an album recording process.
What kind of costs can one expect to look forward to when recording an album in general?
That is a good question. It really depends on what quality you want from your record. Many albums now are being produced in people’s bedrooms with amp simulators and drum machines. So for something like that, you really only need to have a decent computer and some decent gear.
But for something like we did where we were paying for studio time for drums and vocals and an engineer to record it, you begin to rack up a decent bill. Roughly speaking you're looking at around $300/day for tracking at a studio. Then you've got your mix and master costs, artwork design which usually coincides with merchandise including t-shirts, hoodies, etc. and your websites looking similar. Promotion and printing and pressing come after this as well.
Any plans for a music video? And, if applicable, which is your favourite video thus far?
Yes indeed! We have already done the filming of our single, ‘Answers’ which will appear on ‘As The Truth Appears’. We're in the editing process and hopefully we can get it out to everyone very soon. Seeing it's our only video clip, it narrows my options down quite a bit! Haha!
When you go into recording mode, do you find it easy or challenging?
In the beginning it is challenging. Especially if you're still playing live shows and rehearsing regularly. Because you need to think about the songs in a different way. You have to think about harmony ideas to add flavour and panning and effects that you can add to enhance the recorded track that you can't necessarily play live.
Who’s responsible for the bands artwork?
The artwork was done by Jon Hocking design but the concept was a group effort from all band members. It portrays a new generation rebuilding their future having wiped the past clean and starting again which is shown by the city landscape on the back which symbolises the current climate we live in. Our reliance on technology sometimes clouds judgement and often it’s wise to just start again.
How hard has it been to get to this point?
Very hard. As most people are aware we've had a few line-up changes and some of these were during the recording of our album. So, financially and mentally it was very difficult to continue on. As in every relationship and band, we've had our ups and downs, but losing members during the album process was very hard. Especially one being close to the end of the process, we were all so happy to be almost finished, but it ended up like the old saying, "one step forward, two steps back."
We're finally here though, and although there were difficulties, I wouldn't change it as the band and I are very happy with the outcome of the album and overall sound. We just can't wait for everyone to hear it!
Where does your main fan base / support tend to lie?
Our main fan base is here in Melbourne, Victoria. I guess that is because it's the place in which we have played the most shows in. But there are many international fans that have sent us messages and emails saying how they like the band and hope that we tour their country. So maybe this will change in the future.
Can you recall a favourite venue?
Personally, I love playing at The Gershwin Room at The Esplanade Hotel. Just the overall vibe as well as the sound on and off stage really sets this venue apart from others we’ve played. It always seems to be a very enjoyable show when we play there. Even the bands I've seen play there always sound so good!
What are some of your favourite Australian acts? And have you had the chance to play alongside them?
The top two have to be AC/DC and Kylie Minogue. Unfortunately, Kylie Minogue has not responded to any of my requests to play a show with us. So I don't know, maybe one day? Haha! Apart from them, there are many local bands such as Vanishing Point, Crimsonfire, Lord and Black Majesty that we have had the pleasure of playing with. In fact, Silvio Massaro guest appears on ‘As The Truth Appears’. So listen out for that when you check out our album!
After a live performance do you tend to go and hang out with the fans or do you prefer to keep to yourself?
I'd love to chat and hang out with our fans after our shows. Unfortunately, I'm not good looking like the other members of the band like Jen, Dave and Simon. So most fans are not interested in me. Haha! Can't say I blame them though. But in all seriousness, we all tend to chat with our fans after our set, have a beer and check out the other bands on the bill.
What would be your most memorable gig / performance to date?
For me, my first gig ever at Musicland. I had not long had my license and my parents, sister and many of my close friends were there. I wasn't that nervous either. Quite strange. Apart from that, as a band, I think the PBS 'Screaming Symphony' benefit gig at The Corner Hotel was pretty memorable. It was an awesome turnout and excellent night and all for a good cause. We had a ball that night!
Have you got a favourite song you like to play? And is there one in particular your fans seem to prefer?
For me, I love to play particular sections in songs or specific riffs. I don't have an all-time favourite. Some of my most favourite riffs are the ones under my solos though. So unfortunately I don't get to play them much at all. Our fans usually all have different favourite songs. Some regular favourites include ‘Another Battlefield’, ‘Answers’, ‘Vision Divine’ and ‘Civilisation’.
If you created your own metal festival, who would you prefer was playing alongside you and where would that be?
So hard to choose! Firstly, I would have Dream Theater, Nightwish, Iron Maiden, Symphony X and Steel Panther appear. I'd love to play in a country highly populated with heavy metal fans, but I'd love to run a festival of this magnitude in my own home town of Melbourne.
What kind of instruments do you use?
No, not endorsed by any manufacturer or company. I play Caparison guitars. I have a couple of Horus models at the moment. I'm looking at adding a few to the collection soon though. I've always been a big fan of Japanese made guitars. Even my old Jackson guitar is a Japanese make. The acoustic guitar I used on the bonus Japanese track 'Not Today' was a Taylor 414ce; a very beautiful sounding guitar. Even when I hit bung notes! Haha!
What have been some of the more bizarre signings you’ve had?
One time I signed a shirt for a fan while I was on stage. I ended up signing it on her chest. But due to the lighting I couldn't see her face or the shirt I was signing. I hope she wanted it signed! Hahaha!
Have you ever had any Mystical experiences?
A few of my mates are ghost hunters as they call themselves. They've dragged me to a few haunted places including an abandoned mental asylum at three in the morning. Anyways, me and my mate Jason, we broke off from the group and decided to go our own way exploring.
Along the way into this abandoned room, Jason stopped. He asked, "Did you hear that?" I had heard nothing. What I found strange was there seemed to be a small breeze blowing my hair even though we were in a closed space and the trees were still. We walked into this big open room and went to different ends to explore. Suddenly a quick flash of dull light went shooting across the room without making a noise. It went from one wall to another. We had both spun with our flashlights on opposite sides of the room and had them pointing in the exact spot on the wall where the flash had disappeared.
Needless to say we were a little unnerved by it. So we headed out. On the way out there was no breeze and it was extremely hot. I stopped a few paces behind Jason as I heard what I thought was a breathy voice saying, "Don't leave." I asked Jason if he heard that. He hadn't. Later on the way home, he asked me what I heard. So I told him. His face went blank. He had heard the same thing on the way in.
Where can people purchase your music and merchandise from?
Everything is available at all our shows. Apart from that, our music will be available digitally on most digital music stores such as iTunes. But for those interested in the physical CD, check out Nightmare Records (www.nightmarerecords.com) and Hydrant Music (www.hydrantmusic.com). All our merch will be available on our website (www.divine-ascension.com) very soon too.
What was the main reason you chose this career path and has it turned out as expected?
Pure and utter enjoyment of music; playing and creating it. I would not be here if I did not enjoy it. It's the reason I play in multiple bands (including this one) of all different types of music. I live and breathe music and any attempt at describing why I chose music would sound lame. As for expectations, I have none. So it definitely has turned out awesome! But in the music industry, as in life, you really can't expect or have your heart set on things. It usually turns out differently to what you expected. But that is half the fun of it!
Let’s pretend you were creating a tour survival guide. What would be your top three tips for surviving a long tour with the band?
1. Pick a band you actually enjoy playing music with and being around.
2. Make sure the other band members are all either married or have partners so you have a clear shot at the groupies (if you're lucky enough to get some!)
3. Make sure the band members don't drink any alcohol because then the rider is all yours!
What words of advice can you offer anyone looking to enter the music industry?
Don't give up. I know you always hear it and everyone says it, but it's true. There is a really great poster I have in my house where there is a bird trying to eat a frog. But the frog while being eaten is strangling the bird. It says on the poster "Never give up! You only lose when you surrender." Apart from that, believe in yourself and your abilities. If you don't, who else will?
Anything you'd like to add or say to your fans?
A very big thank you for all the kind words of support as well as coming to our shows and sticking by us even though the album has taken so long. We hope you enjoy the album and can't wait to see you all on the road! Keep Rockin'!!
Divine Ascension Website
Divine Ascension Myspace
Divine Ascension Facebook
Divine Ascension Twitter
‘Interview with Divine Ascension’ by Déa di Morté © 25 September 2011
Hails! to Karl and Rob for agreeing to participate and taking the time to complete this interview
All pictures courtesy of Divine Ascension, Nightmare Records and Hydrant Music