Close your eyes while listening to local trio Voyag3r’s new album; you’ll literally be transported. You’ll feel the fireballs blazing behind you as you make that one last jump off the hanger bay, or you’ll sense sensational jetstreams surrounding you as you accelerate on your motorbike through the laser-stormed tunnel gauntlet, evading the bad guys. That’s the whole idea.
“Remember all those horror movies and sci-fi and action movies that you probably watched as a kid in the late ‘70s and all throughout the ‘80s?” Whenever Voyag3r keyboardist Steve Greene has to describe the sound of the group, he just offers that question and, assuredly, their nostalgia chords are poignantly plucked to the point where they know exactly what to expect.
Their debut album was released on local label Bellyache Records last month. Properly pronounced as “Voyager 3,” the trio (with Aaron Greene on bass and Greg Mastin on drums) deploy fantastic melodies and propulsive rhythms over a stirring and sinister-toned atmospheric soundscape. But these songs, albeit truly cinematic in their vibe and aesthetic, are, above all, an awesome and interstellar-stung summation of each musician’s unique styles and sensibilities.
“Greg definitely has his roots in metal,” assures Steve. “He loves all forms of metal music but he had his very first start, in terms of inspiration to play drums, from KISS. He’s influenced by many things, of course, but if you had to pick an avatar for him, it’d be a metal dude.” Steve chuckles at his assertion with a warm familiarity indicative of their long friendship and a rewarding collaboration that’s spanned decades.
Aaron, meanwhile, is Steve’s cousin; so they’ve been playing music together for as long as each can remember. “Aaron comes from rock and metal, too. He’s really into comic books and films, like me, though. But, he loves to read; he’s reading two books at a time, usually. But, with the comics, like Wolverine, Batman, stuff like that, he has a great sense of that world. He’s a fan of guitar-heavy harmonies and metal riffs, so we sprinkle that into Voyag3r music.”
“It has a base in horror, sci-fi and action film scores, definitely,” admits Steve of the group’s instrumental space-rock compositions. “But, it’s a unique blend. We have acoustic drums and electric guitar, with synthesizers, and it makes it its own thing. So, it’s not just soundtrack stuff.”
So, about that long friendship: Aaron and Steve performed as a metal-tinged electro-rock duo called Forge from the mid-‘90s until 2004, and their first “live” drummer wound up being Greg. The cousins met Greg during one of their assiduous runs putting up flyers throughout the metro Detroit area, (the oldfashioned format for notifying folks about your upcoming concert).
Throughout the late ‘90s, Greg was the drummer for a local thrash/prog outfit called World Of Hurt and he crossed paths with Aaron and Steve down the vinylstuffed aisles of a (since-closed) music store called Repeat The Beat. The two cousins, grasping a stack of Kinko-copied cut-and-pasted Xerox flyers with a tape-gun in their back pocket, told Greg how much they appreciated his work in World Of Hurt and he, in turn, told them of his familiarity with Forge and the conversation lead to Greg declaring: “Well…ya know…I might wanna’ jam with you, here’s my number.”
“We just struck up that conversation,” recalls Steve, “ya’ know, as you would, back in the day, with like-minded people, talking about records and music; it was part of this cool culture of record store hang-outs…” When Steve recalls this, there’s a tenderness to his voice that elucidates the charm of Voyag3r –that being an evocation of a nostalgia for a pre-internet world where a much purer excitement could be elicited from movies, shows, and, yes, even comics and video games.
Their excellent space-rock harkens back to when audiences weren’t as numbed by blue screens storms and Marvel action scene overkills, to when slasher films were actually scary and action films packed some actual punches. Potent punches! “And we’ve been playing with Greg ever since,” says Steve. “Through different bands and different eras.
We’ve become such great friends since then, too. We’ve been through all kinds of adventures together.” He chuckles again, warmly. “Forge lasted for ten years, with three albums and we toured the East Coast and West Coast and everywhere in between. We did a bunch of crazy stuff in our van, which took on many miles. We even had a Sega set up in there with a VCR. We had (touring) down to a science.”
After Forge, the trio started playing together in a bluesy hard-rock-leaning group called Decibilt (think voluminous decibels with the toughness of Peterbilt trucks).
Around 2012, however, Steve, who has always had a penchant for film and film scores, decided it was finally time to embrace a longtime yearning to experiment with a form of rock music that could be the soundtrack of his favorite sci-fi/action films from the past. “I love to hit all these different emotions. We’re not limited to where a standard rock band might typically have to go, as far as verse-chorusverse structures.”
Steve is the one bringing “the weirder aspects” to the compositional table, allowing his influences of spacey, strange synthrock and experimental jazz crash nicely into the metal and rock influences of his bassist and drummer).
They recorded their debut full length, Doom Fortress at Rustbelt Studios in Ferndale. They specifically recorded with an analog tape machine. “We wanted to approach it as though this was the soundtrack of a movie called Doom Fortress, sounding like it came out in 1981 or something; using these different vintage analog synths put through Rustbelt’s excellent preamps and this 1977 Harrison Console that could color the sound and give it a warm, old school feeling.”
“So, it sounds like if it were an old film or a reissued soundtrack that you found an old copy of, somewhere in a record store. We hope that it captures that feel and spirit.”
The band will continue promoting Doom Fortress this season with a smattering of local shows and are always open to the possibility of scoring music for an actual film or TV project in the future.
For more info: http://voyag3r.com
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