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InterviewsInterview with Turkish-Greek band NEVERLAND

Posted on Sunday, June 15 2008 @ 08:31:19 CDT by Pete Pardo
Progressive Metal

Neverland is a collaboration between Greek female singer Iris Mavraki and Turkish melodic metal band Dreamtone. The band mixes a multitude of influences, from real orchestral parts to progressive arrangements to ethnic instrumentation. Soaring guest vocals are contributed by members of Evergrey, Blind Guardian and Shadow Gallery, and the final work certainly warrants your attention. Sea of Tranquility Staff Writer Murat Batmaz had the chance to talk to Dreamtone leader Oganalp Canatan about their new project, the guests, their label, and their plans for the future…

Read on for the full interview...

The background & history...

Well, it all started back in 2004. We met with the Ch. Editor of Metal Temple e-zine from Greece, Orpheus Spiliotopoulos, while promoting our first demo, Unforeseen Reflections, and soon he told us how much he liked the compositions and ideas, which led him to introduce us to his mother, Iris Mavraki. Iris was willing to do some kind of a symphonic rock project as a collaboration between Greek and Turkish musicians to support the idea of peace between the two nations and she asked us to be partners. We accepted it but it was a live project back then. After a while though, we thought that being a full time band with albums rather than being on stage seldom is more appealing and presents a better future for the project, band, itself. So, that is basically how Neverland was formed.

The reactions...

At first, no one paid any notice to the initial press releases, as Iris Mavraki is not familiar to the metal scene and Dreamtone is a small band to attract attention. However, in the background, we were constantly talking with people about how to make this big and appealing. Also, we were practically killing ourselves while trying to come up with an original sound and music. Therefore, the first positive reactions started to rise when we announced our guests. Then, when we posted some sound clips, we started to get fan e-mails as well as messages of interested people. When we announced that AFM Records inked a deal with Neverland, people understood that this is not some small scale project but a serious one and we got the public interest as well as media attention. There were some doubts about it, being a new act with guest artists etc. But when the CD was out, the critics were really amazed by the outcome and the overall reviews of "Reversing Time" were fantastic. Almost all of the media that reviewed the album either scored it with 9/10 or 8/10. We got over 65 reviews and almost 60 of them were very, very positive. Then came the interviews, stating how much they liked the album and how much original it sounded. Well, I can say that the reactions are great and it really impressed us, our label, our management and even our fans and guests.

The guests...

From the very beginning, since we decided to move this project to a band scale and formed Neverland, we were hoping to work with some guest artists. We had the chance to get in touch with many but we didn't want to have popular names but wanted to have the guests that we would love to play with. Well, our guest artists on the disc are very much popular and certainly, this popularity helped the band to be heard at first, but it wasn't the popularity of our guests that attracted us to them to be sincere. Hansi Kürsch is a long time idol of mine and I am a fan of Blind Guardian for over a decade. When our manager, Orpheus, had the chance to talk with him back in April 2006, he was very positive with the idea and accepted to be a part of it. This gave us the courage to go on with other guest names like Tom Englund, who is also an idol for me as I am very much fond of Evergrey's works. Gary Wehrkamp of Shadow Gallery was a name that we, as Dreamtone, had worked together in the past on our "Sojourn" album and we knew that how great a person he was and how great a musician as well. So we asked him if he would be willing to participate. He loved the idea and demos, so he accepted and also helped us to get in touch with Mike Baker of Shadow Gallery. We are all fans of Shadow Gallery and any Dreamtone listener can catch the inspiration of Shadow Gallery over our music, placed here and there. So, it was basically a "lets call our idols" plan which worked. We were in touch with some other names but due to certain time scheduling problems and heavy workload, they weren't able to respond positively.

The creative process...

It was hard. We were both trying to create something suitable for the guests, as well as something suitable for the orchestra, while trying to escape from the traps of being standart and boring. It took like a year and a half to complete the compositions. The first piece we composed, if I am not mistaken, was "Shooting Star". It was more like a trial song and if it didn't turn out that good sounding on CD, it would have been left out as a bonus or probably trashed after the recordings. The last one was "Black Water" and it took like several hours to complete the whole song but we were confident by then, not like composing the first tunes a year and a half back. We had the support of our guests as well as the interest of sponsors and such, we knew that the creative process was going towards a positive outcome. Now we are almost done with the second album's compositions and we are much more confident and experienced. But back then, it was harder as we didn't know what to do at first.

The Philharmonic Orchestra Istanbul...

The idea of working with an orchestra was strange and frightening at its very simple form. Composing for them is much more complicated and sometimes, we really felt overwhelmed and stressed. We wrote like 150 pages of scores for the orchestra and at first, we were very much anxious to see the conductor's and transcriber's reaction. We were joking to ourselves that they would probably use the score sheets for other purposes haha. Well, first the transcriber said that he loved the scores and he found them very original. Then the orchestra musicians said it was very different than what they had expected. It was encouraging to hear those things. At first, we were scheduled to record with another orchestra but almost a day before the recordings, they cancelled it due to some bureaucratic reason and we had to find another orchestra in no time. Luckily, Ender Sakpinar, the initial conductor for this project, suggested us to work with conductor Hakan Sensoy and Philarmonia Istanbul Orchestra. We didn't have much chance to get know each other with the musicians as the recordings were completed in less than twelve hours but the overall relationship was good.

The recording process...

Hardest part probably. First the financial side of things really tested us. We had our share of panic attacks and depression. Then we had to deal with scheduling and technical dialogue of eight different studios as all the guests had to record in different studios as well as us and the orchestra. We also had to use a different studio for the ethnical instruments and stuff. In the end, we were so confused that none of us was able to remember the names of the studios haha. The recording of the rock parts took like ten days in total. Vocals took four days while the orchestra recordings took twelve hours and we had to record them at the same time with vocals in two different studios. Me, Iris and our engineer Erim Arkman was in ATM studios, recording the vocals, while Emrecan, Onur and Burak, together with our close friend and guest piano player Ozan Alparslan, took care of the orchestral recordings at MIAM studios. After that, Tom Englund and his partner Arnold at Division One Studios, worked on the mixing and we were done with the whole process, with the exception of mastering, in April, and except for Hansi Kürsch's vocal recordings. Hansi had to cancel his recordings like six times due to various reasons, completely out of his control. Even once, the studio he booked was hit by a storm, completely destroying the rooftop. So, before summer, we were done with everything and sent the CD to be mastered to Leon Zervos of Sterling Sound in New York in August.

The songs...

People loved the songs in general and some of them turned out to be hits that we couldn't foresee. We are happy with the songs but we know that the songs on "Reversing Time" is somewhat experimental in means of working with a symphony orchestra and guests. As it is our first album, it is like a meet and greet thing. We tried several different things on the CD and it resulted in different types of songs. Power metal stuff like "Black Water" is on the same CD with folk metal kind of stuff like "Who Asked You To Fight?". We are particularly happy with songs like "Reversing Time" or "To Lose The Sun". They were also loved by our guests when they first heard the demo versions.

The artwork & lyrics...

We had to change the artist for painting the cover three times. First, we wanted to work with a deity of ours, Mr. Todd Lockwood, but due to certain planning problems of ours, we couldn't fit into Mr. Lockwood's schedule and we had to abandon that idea. Then we thought of working with Kerem Beyit, the artist who we worked with on "Sojourn" and "Snowfall" discs of Dreamtone but he was also very busy with other stuff and we couldn't fit into the label's agenda this time. In the end AFM Records suggested J.P. Fournier and we knew him from several of his works with Edguy and so. Therefore, we accepted it and in the end, he came up with a really powerful artwork. To be sincere, I believe "Reversing Time" is one of his top works up to date. He both managed to include certain themes from the songs on the cover while being able to present a solid form.

Lyrics were mainly written by me, while three of them were Orpheus' stuff. We basically tried to talk about being able to reverse the time and re-face the choices we made in the past. Asking ourselves if we would do the exact same things or if we would face with regrets. We also tried to implement this from a social side, covering human race's actions. We will probably focus more on this side of things with the next album.

The label...

Well, I don't know how many promo packs we sent but it was enough. We were, from the very first day, sincerely hoping to work with AFM Records as we knew some of the people working there from their previous jobs and so. We knew that they are a good label in terms of promotion and distribution and at AFM, you are not treated badly or being ignored if you are a new band. So, it was the best choice and, thankfully, AFM it turned out to be. We have a very good dialogue with the label and they are very helpful with things. It is easy to get in touch with them and talk about things. As Dreamtone, we had worked with major labels in the past as well and it was one hell of a pain.

Sales figures...

I cannot give exact numbers as I sincerely don't know the exact figures but as far as I know, we exceeded the initial target number only within two weeks! And we will probably go six to ten times higher than the first planned number at the end of this year. The CD went to sold out status several times on so many e-zines and shops that it makes us really happy to see how much people liked "Reversing Time". Hopefully, these numbers will go much higher with new tours and albums to come.

Influences... Similarities to Ayreon & Avantasia…

We never hid the fact that we are fans of Ayreon and other works of Mr. Arjen Lucassen. However, to be sincere, we cannot say that there are many similarities, if there exists some at all, in between what we did and what Ayreon does. The only similarity, which probably made people to think that way as well, is to have similar guest names on the album. People also compare us with Avantasia as we are coming from the same label, as Avantasia was at AFM before being signed to Nuclear Blast, but Avantasia is far more power metal than us while we are on a progressive rock, symphonic metal and Blind Guardian like power metal axis. So, our influences were mainly names like Blind Guardian, Dream Theater, Shadow Gallery, Evergrey, Labyrinth like metal names while also being propelled with classical and other genres' representatives such as Antonin Dvorak, Inon Zur, Harry Gregson-Williams, Michael Hoenig, Mika and so. To cut it short, no, no worries at all. And being remembered alongside these names is an honor for a new band like us anyway.


Well, I cannot talk for other people as we sincerely didn't discuss much about it and I don't know what they think but I am not against downloading. If people want to download it, so be it. We try to present a good product with booklets and good sound quality and the chance to have it archived etc but you cannot force someone to get on the same level of ideas with you. It is not about people not being able to buy CDs but it is more about people not seeing the music as valued as it was ten years ago. It is easier to reach and major labels produced so many crap albums, pushed so much crap stuff in the past twenty years that people don't place much value on the albums produced. So, we are hoping to create a fan base and tour and reach them. It is up to them to decide whether they would like to buy the albums or not. Personally, I bought my first Blind Guardian CD after listening to an mp3 file, over a decade ago. Now I have several copies of each of their albums. So, you see, it is not something to be against or to support. It is a decision for every listener to make, after a certain point and we, as musicians, can only thrive to produce the best we can and hope that there will be people who will think on the same frequency with us and buy our stuff. Our first priority is to make people listen to our stuff. If that will be mp3 files and downloading, so be it. However, we cannot deny the fact that we need CDs to be sold in order to stay signed with a record label and get the necessary support to produce a new album. Today, an average production costs like 30.000 Euros and you either have to tour madly or sell well to find the money to produce it. Touring is not an option for new bands like us, so… Well, I said what I think about it above hehe. Hopefully, Neverland will sell enough to keep us being as musicians in the future hehe.

Favourite releases of 2008...

To be truthful, I haven't listened to much stuff as I was so tired working on Neverland, my brain didn't want to get into new things. Most of the time, I re-explored the old stuff that I listen to. One of the albums I liked though, is Jon Oliva's Pain's new album, Global Warning. I don't get that much excited with it like I do with Savatage stuff but it really had some good songs on it. I am more into soundtracks recently, listening to names like Inon Zur and so. Oh, I also heard some songs from the newest Opeth album and it is probably a killer album. I have yet to listen to it in full though. Also, I am eager to hear Evergrey's Torn.

Plans for the future...

We hope to tour but I don't know if any dates with Neverland will happen this year. We are also hoping and planning to re-enter the studio in the beginning of 2009. In August, we will send the label our new album demo and then, the process of arranging guests, orchestras, writing scores and so will start. Phew… Some stress again haha!

Murat Batmaz

(Click here to read our review of Reversing Time)

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