Home > Interview > Issue #600.5 Interviews w/ Jamie Smith (Borealis) and Martin Strange (Strange Karma)

Issue #600.5 Interviews w/ Jamie Smith (Borealis) and Martin Strange (Strange Karma)

Mini-Issue #600.5
July 15, 2011

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-Here we go with a double shot of interviewy goodness, from Neal and
Jan, plus a review chaser. Enjoy. – Tim

by Neal Woodall (MysticX9@gmail.com)

-Interview w/ Jamie Smith (Borealis)
June 29, 2011

Canada has a long history of producing exceptional hard rock/metal
bands and musicians, including the well-known sounds of Rush, Saga and
Triumph, the guitar genius of Frank Marino and Pat Travers, the
influential works of Anvil, Voi Vod and Annihilator along with lesser
known but highly respected outfits such as Killer Dwarfs, Kick Axe,
White Wolf, Exciter, Sword and Eidolon; well you can now add another
name to that prestigious list as Ontario’s Borealis deliver their
second album FALL FROM GRACE, an exceptional release already well
received by fans and critics alike in the progressive/power metal
community. I fully expect Borealis to quickly take their place
alongside the likes of Evergrey, Labyrinth, Vanden Plas and Circus
Maximus so with that in mind I took the opportunity to connect with
bassist Jamie Smith.

DETRITUS: Congratulations on FALL FROM GRACE, it’s a great album! How
do you feel this one differs from your debut WORLD OF SILENCE?

JAMIE SMITH: The sound quality of FALL FROM GRACE is what we think
sets it apart from WORLD OF SILENCE. We had a great set of engineers
who really brought the music to life in a way that wasn’t achieved
with WORLD OF SILENCE. We also think that the songs are better written
and more diverse, we were more comfortable trying out many different
ideas for this album and we think it shows in the feeling and
diversity of the songs.

D: There’s great musicianship throughout FALL FROM GRACE but it’s
never excessive; was there a conscious effort to avoid “technical

JS: Thanks very much!! We never had to go out of our way to tone down
any excesses in the songs. With the way all of our influences mesh
when we write songs together, we manage to strike a nice balance of
technicality and simplicity that appeals to us.

D: What inspired you lyrically on FALL FROM GRACE?

JS: For the lyrics on FALL FROM GRACE, we tried to stay away from the
fantasy or mythological lyrics that are often seen in our genre. Not
that there is anything wrong with that, but we thought taking a more
honest “real life” approach would produce lyrics that sounded
heartfelt and powerful.

D: Do you have a favorite song on FALL FROM GRACE?

JS: We all differ on our favourite song on the album, but two of the
standout tracks that we enjoy live are “Where We Started” and
“Breaking The Curse.”

D: Tell us about some of the songs:

JS: “Words I Failed To Say” – A song mostly written by our former
guitarist Ken [Fobert]. This song sat on the shelf for quite a while
before we picked up and finished it, but it turned out to be one of
the best received tracks on the album. It’s got a deep, personal
meaning to us.

“Fall From Grace” – With this one we just wanted a high energy tune
that didn’t lose any steam. If I remember correctly, the lyrics for it
were written in a bit of a rush to get the song done.

“Breaking The Curse” – Another very personal song lyrically, one of
our favourites to play off the new album and crowds so far have loved
it. This one was definitely a team effort, everybody had their hands
in on the composition of this song.

“Regeneration” – This was the first song Ken brought to us when he
joined the band. Not much was changed on it, and Ken had a big hand in
the lyrics as well. It’s a very good display of Matt [Marinelli] and
Ken’s work together.

D: FALL FROM GRACE is a great sounding album; how did you get involved
with Jordan Valeriote and Tomas “Plec” Johansson?

JS: Jordan Valeriote at Sundown Studios was brought to our attention
simply as a search result. We just loved the samples that he had on
his website and he was incredibly reasonable and easy to work with. We
wanted to work with “Plec” after hearing his working on Scar Symmetry
albums as well as his work with Solution .45. It was great working
with a guy who mastered some of our favourite music, and he did an
amazing job on our work too.

D: The cover is some outstanding artwork, how did you come to select
Frank Fiedler to handle that?

JS: We actually had a very difficult time finding artwork that we
liked for the new album, we just didn’t know what we wanted. We had a
look at Rainer Kalwitz’s website of artwork, and fell in love with Mr.
Fiedler’s work, which was being represented on Mr. Kalwitz’s site. We
hadn’t even had a name for the album until we saw that artwork, and it
just fit with what we were looking for.

D: I understand Ken Fobert has left the band? Have you found a

JS: You are the first to know that: YES! We have searched high and low
and we feel that we have found a suitable replacement to Ken. We are
getting his accustomed to the tracks and will be announcing his name
along with a video very soon 🙂

D: What are your tour plans for 2011?

JS: In terms of plans, nothing is set at this moment. As I write this
there are very big things being worked on diligently by our management
team at Intromental, but unfortunately nothing that I can say here.
Rest assured, if we had things our way we would be on the road
already, and we hope to bring our show to both North America and
Europe either this year or next.

D: How is the set list chosen, and what songs will likely be included?

JS: The set list is chosen after we are given a set length by the
manager or promoter. After that we’ve got a couple of tracks cemented
on the list, namely “Finest Hour” and “Where We Started.” After that
its basically a vote amongst us what we want to play on a given night.

D: Your performance at ProgPower USA last year was excellent — how
did you enjoy playing the festival and do you have any particularly
fond memories of the event?

JS: Thank you!! ProgPower USA, it’s safe to say, was one of, if not
THE, best times of our lives. The people that attend PPUSA are
absolutely remarkable and kind, as well as the stage crew made up of
volunteers. Glenn [Harveston] the promoter is a stand up guy, and
because of all of this the bands are all in a good mood and a terrific
party ensues. I would say one of the better memories for us was having
a swim at the hotel with the members of Tarot. We’re still at the
stage of being in awe and quite shy around band members that we’ve
been listening to for years, so that was quite a moment for us to be
among legends.

D: What band(s) have you enjoyed touring with the most and who would
you really like to tour with in the future?

JS: Unfortunately we haven’t embarked on a tour of note with any bands
yet, although we’ve had the pleasure of playing local shows with some
big name bands. We remember Epica being really cool people and would
love to tour with them. Of course, our buddies in Blackguard would be
amazing to tour with, if crowds would deal with the crossover of

D: What do you enjoy doing in your off time while out on the road?

JS: Judging by our trip to Atlanta alone, we’d say drinking beer and
eating pizza!! We definitely plan to take in some sights when we do
hit the road for a full scale tour, as we all love to travel and look
forward to visiting some very cool cities.

D: You’re now on the Hydrant Music label in Japan — did you have a
lot of success with WORLD OF SILENCE in Japan?

JS: Not at all, our deal with Hydrant Music simply came about with
them listening to FALL FROM GRACE. If WORLD OF SILENCE even reached
the shores of Japan before FALL FROM GRACE was released, we sure
didn’t know about it!

D: Just about all the reviews I’ve read compare you to Evergrey but
otherwise everyone seems to hear different influences in your music.
Who were some of your other influences and how did you go about
developing a distinctive sound?

JS: Evergrey was certainly a major one, but we drew from many sources
for our writing. In Flames, Scar Symmetry, Avantasia, even movie
scores and maybe just a little of Top 40 stuff crept in here and
there. We think that creates a very distinctive sound for us and enjoy
the fact that people hear different things from the same songs.

D: You originally started off with a female vocalist and were heading
in a Nightwish style. What led you to choose to perform this type of

JS: As we began to grow together as writers, we realized that we would
have to limit ourselves in our writing in order to accommodate an
operatic voice. Of course, some people manage to do this quite well
such as Nightwish and Epica, but we were at the point where a male
vocalist like Matt suited what we were writing much better and gave us
more options on where to go with the songs.

D: Anything I forgot to ask that you would like to add?

JS: Yes!! [Drummer] Sean Dowell IS single, ladies!!! 😛 But seriously,
a big thank you to each and everyone of the people who support us and
spend their hard earned money on our music. It means the world to us
and we promise to pay it back with more kickass tunes and shows!

D: Thanks much, look forward to seeing you live again soon!

JS: Cheers from Canada!!!

Relevant links:


Hydrant Music


Lion Music
http://www.lionmusic.com/ShopSelect.htm (webstore)

by Jan W. (jw4jzon@hotmail.com)

-Interview w/ Martin Strange (Strange Karma)
July 6, 2011

Strange Karma is a quartet from Australia, lucky enough to tour
America once, and looking to come back again. Brothers Martin and Paul
Strange have held strong to their creative roots, despite going
through long stretches of time in their homeland where fans loved
their music, but the industry largely ignored their efforts. The band
has spent years on the road, literally, not only in Australia, but
also in England and even the US. It was during that time in America
that they were lucky enough to meet a rep from FnA Records in
Tennessee. As Martin Strange says about VOLUME 1, “Thirteen days to
record, three years to release.” The band is chomping at the bit to
get back Stateside and rock US fans on tour. Martin Strange agreed to
answer some questions for Detritus readers to help America get to know
Strange Karma a bit better.

DETRITUS: I’m sure we have some readers who aren’t as familiar with
the Strange Karma’s musical history, and we need to introduce you
properly. Can you give us a very brief overview of where the band has
been musically?

MARTIN STRANGE: Musically the band has been writing, traveling, and
taking care of business. Since forming as Strange Karma in 2006 we
have been working on our live shows, constantly writing new material,
and keeping our chops. We recorded our debut album in late November in
2007 and managed to release it in February 2011. Unfortunately due to
time wasters in the music business it took so long. (Our advice to
upcoming bands is wait for no one.)

D: What is the most difficult aspect of song writing? Where do your
ideas come from? Do lyrics or music come first, and does that affect
the song?

MS: Writing songs is a very pleasurable experience for me, if I get
stuck on a song I’ll get back to it some other day, or month, or even
years. Ideas come from the imagination: creating characters, real life
experiences, journeys with the band, and individual life challenges
representing a particular time in life. Usually if I’m writing on my
own, the music and words come together at the same time. The process
changes depending on the mood. If I’m writing with Paul I will usually
follow the vocal melody and we work on the arrangement. It all changes
depending on the story and what the lyrical content is about.

D: People compare your sound to and note your influence by Led
Zeppelin. Is there a band or musician fans would be surprised to hear
that you have been influenced by? Who are your current favorites? What
music takes up the most space in your iPod?

MS: I think why people compare us to Led Zeppelin is not because of
the music sounding the same or the song writing. I think people can
really hear a certain delivery, a style, and performance whether it be
live or on the record. I think people would be surprised that Michael
Jackson had a big influence on some our delivery, especially vocally
and in our live performances. I really like the Derek Trucks Band —
they are producing great albums and are great musicians, too. As for
the last part of the question — I don’t have an iPod. (laughs)

D: Is there anyone in particular you want to work with that you have
not yet?

MS: Yes we would like to work with Kevin Shirley, Bob Rock, or Mutt
Lange to get the best out of us. There is a lot more to us then one

D: How did the first tour of America come about and how did you
connect with FnA Records in Nashville?

MS: We knew that our music was not going to be supported by the
Australian music industry, so we headed to the US to gain contacts and
experiences. Thanks to our friends in the US we managed to organize
ourselves. Strange Karma is a very resourceful and hard working band
and managed to get through the hardest challenges. It was an important
exercise. It made the band stronger. FnA Records found us and
expressed an interest in our music.

D: What have you found to be the most difficult part of connecting
with fans in America, or any other part of the world?

MS: The hardest thing is living in Australia and being far away from
it all.

D: How do you think that the digital age has changed music? Has it
helped or hurt Strange Karma?

MS: I think in some cases it hurts the bands with the piracy aspect of
the digital age, but at the same time a band can explode a lot quicker
sometimes. No matter which way you look at it, it’s all bloody hard

D: What, in your opinion, is the best musical invention of the past
five years? Why?

MS: Nothing! Your mind and your hands, pen and paper if you need it.
That is all you need. I think technical inventions are ideal for
engineers, but I don’t think they will help anyone write a good song.

D: The music industry has changed so much in the last 10 years, with
mergers, arguments over rights, royalties, and downloading. If you
could make one change to help artists themselves, what would you do?

MS: I would kill all the talent TV shows and take the music to the
streets like it was back in the day. Get labels working on finding
talent and supporting them… Ha — who am I kidding? Greed killed the
music industry and bands. To make it in a band today each member has
to be strong, resilient, and work as a team.

D: During your live shows, what is your favourite cover song to play
and why?

MS: We hardly do covers but when we do we really enjoy playing
“Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin. Lots of fun. (laughs)

D: What are your goals for the coming year, in terms of performing?

MS: Supporting the album and doing an American tour at the end of the

D: If you could choose only one of your songs to be remembered by,
which would you choose? You can choose something from VOLUME 1 or any
of your other songs.

MS: I believe the best work is yet to come. I think for me personally,
it would have to be “Artistic Way Of Life;” it’s a song that is not on
the album and is based on Amadeus Mozart, his life, and a mixture of
art and romance. It’s a big piano song that is heavily influenced by
classical music of that period. I believe this is our “Bohemian
Rhapsody.” (laughs)

D: Each fan takes something different away from your music. If you
could choose one thing fans get from your recordings, what would that

MS: Honest, raw expression, and powerful performance.

D: What has been your most embarrassing moment (as a band member) on
stage or off?

MS: I don’t get embarrassed on stage and off stage — sh*t happens all
the time.

D: What is the craziest thing a fan has asked you to do?

MS: (laughs)

D: I guess that counts as a “no comment” answer. US fans may raise the
bar for you on that one. Speaking of the US, is there another tour of
the States planned — when and where — and where can your fans find
out the new info on that?

MS: We’re always planning something — keep a look out for more
information on our website, http://www.strangekarma.net/ .

-Martin Strange (lead vocals, piano, guitar), Paul Strange (lead
guitar, backing vocals), Doe Prijono (bass guitar, backing vocals),
and Jason McDonald (drums and percussion) encourage fans interested in
Strange Karma music to check out videos they have available on
YouTube. “Down And Out” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkiW3IpdKWw )
would be a great place to start — you will be able to hear in the
vocal echoes just why some compare this band to Zeppelin.

Relevant links:

FnA Records

Strange Karma

*** REVIEWS ***
STRANGE KARMA – VOLUME 1 (B/C) FnA Records, 2011
10 tracks, RT: 41:32
[ http://www.strangekarma.net/ ]
[ http://www.facebook.com/pages/Strange-Karma/157783670932214 ]
[ http://www.myspace.com/strangekarma ]
[ http://twitter.com/strange_karma_ ]
[ http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/strangekarma ]
[ http://www.reverbnation.com/strangekarma ]
[ http://www.fnarecords.net/ ]
[ http://www.facebook.com/fnarecords ]
[ http://twitter.com/RocknFnARecords ]
[ http://www.myspace.com/fnarecordlabel ]
Ten tracks introduce this foursome from Australia to the world, with a
variety of styles and some moments that make it very obvious why fans
compare the band to one of their many influences, Led Zeppelin. The
song structure of “Time” could be compared to Zep fave “Stairway To
Heaven,” but there you will hear a grandiose piano outro in place of
the a cappella ending by Plant. “Storm” contains so many changes
within the song, quite possibly trying to simulate how a weather storm
may transform as it devastates the land it crosses and includes
interesting guitar work by brother Paul Strange. Paul’s work is again
highlighted in the track called “Uneasy,” which is intertwined with a
mellower tune. Martin’s piano work closes “Young & Free,” while his
vocal theatrics are the focus of “Mind Games.” The one song I just
could not figure out here was “Indian Sun,” a complete mishmash with a
lot of drums and grandiose ending. This band shows a versatility that
just may break through in the US. Personally, I’m on the fence with
this one, liking some tracks and unsure about others, and only one I
would not listen to again. Check out their MySpace or Facebook pages
to give the songs a test run to see what you think.
– Jan W. (jw4jzon@hotmail.com)

*** OUT ***

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