If you haven't yet heard, there's a new player on the progressive metal scene, and the band is called Awake. These guys come from the United Kingdom, and their new CD is called Illumination, a melodic platter of accessible yet hard hitting prog-metal, sure to please fans of Dream Theater and Evergrey (the CD was also produced by Evergrey's main man Tom Engund). Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo connected with Awake guitarist Richard Hall, who talked about the history of the band, the new CD, touring, and their future plans.
Read on for the interview!
Sea of Tranquility: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band, and why you decided to rename the group Awake after being called Humanity for a few years?
Richard Hall: Sure. The band started as Humanity in Sept 2000 in Cambridge where we were all studying music. After spending the next few years building our following in Cambridge and around the country we releases our first album When silence calls in 2004 through carbon 13 records. Shortly after the company went into liquidation and we decided to self finance our next album. Which would become Illumination. It was shortly after we finished the record that we changed the name to AWAKE. With the departure of our second guitarist we decided to make a fresh start under a different name with a new label, Lion Music.
SoT: Where does the name Awake come from? Any relation to the Dream Theater CD by any chance?
Richard: Well, there was no deep meaning behind it really. When working on the album we had some comments about our name not really giving the right message. So with the sound of the band having developed we just wanted something that was a little punchier. It had nothing to do with Dream Theatre album, we just liked the impact it had. Short and sweet.
SoT: How did you hook up with Tomas Englund from Evergrey for the production of Illumination?
Richard: We were just looking for studios to record in and a few of us were massive Evergrey fans and thought it would be great to work in their studio, knowing how great the production on their albums is. We actually first made contact with Tom at the first Bloodstock Open Air, when we were on the bill together. So when we contacted him about the record he offered his services as a producer. So as can imagine we jumped at the chance.
SoT: Englund's magic seems all over Illumination-has his presence changed the sound of the band at all? You can hear plenty of Evergrey influences on many of the songs.
Richard: Tom's a very up front guy. Which is what you need in a producer, and he didn't mess around in telling us if he didn't like something. He would generally say 'Fuck that do it like this!' which I think is great. So it was inevitable that he would have a large effect on the sound of the album and the band. But that's why we went to him in the first place, for that kind of guidance.
SoT: What other bands and influences do the members of Awake share?
Richard: We're influence by countless bands. In the early days it was bands like Paradise Lost, Dream Theater, Anathema. Metallica's S&M album was a huge inspiration for the direction we wanted to go in when we first formed. But we all have our own taste in Rock/Metal and other styles so we all bring something different which is great.
SoT: The songs on the new CD are very much rooted in progressive metal, but the band does not go overboard with lots of soloing and instrumental parts. How important are the songs for the band, as opposed to showing the fans how well you can play your instruments (which you all do quite well I might add!)
Richard: The songs are always the most important things for us. Even as a guitar player I don't like listening to 10 minute long guitar solos. They are very nice but you can go over board. The vocals and song structure are always the more important to us and its something we spend the most time on. I see flashy guitar licks or whatever as tools. They're nice to have in your box when you need them. No one has any points to prove in this band which is another reason we work so well together. I know its a bit fashionable again to show what you can do on your instrument. But who knows, maybe the boys will let me go off on a 10-minute wank session on the next album. I'm talking guitar solos here by the way. Ha ha!
SoT: Simon Shedwell's vocals are very emotional and passionate-does his style and delivery dictate how the arrangements are written. In other words, if he had a more high pitched metal voice, would the music perhaps be heavier and more complex, like some other popular prog-metal bands?
Richard: His style doesn't really effect the arrangements of the song at all. He does what he does and it's always great and it works. Simon is such a dark horse as a singer. He never puts it all out there straight away. Then suddenly he'll do something that makes you stand back and go Fuck ME! "Begin Again" for example just shows what a great singer that boy is. He is what makes this band different from a lot of other ''Prog'' bands out there. We could go as heavy as fuck if we wanted and he'd still sounds awesome. If we had a more high pitch singer, our own James LaBrie for example, we'd be another band with a high pitch singer. I personally think there are enough of those, but that's my opinion.
SoT: What are some of your favorite songs off the new CD, and why?
Richard: Personally I love the Title track "Illumination". It's a wicked live song with a great keyboard middle section. I also like "Forgiven Now Forever" because its so simple but effective. Plus it has a fine solo from Hendrik (Evergrey Guitarist) who was a pleasure to work with and a great drinking partner! "The Price you have to Pay" is also a fun live song. It's like having a shotgun stuck up your arse when it kicks in which is what I love about that song.
SoT: How has reaction been so far from fans and the press regarding Illumination?
Richard: It all been very positive. Obviously a few people are making the Evergrey connection, which we knew would happen and we see as a compliment. But we've had some fantastic reviews so far and fans reaction have been amazing. But it's early days so we'll have to see when we get out on the road.
SoT: What are your touring plans, and where are you going to hit on the tour?
Richard: Yeah, we should be touring thoughout Sept/Oct. We have three or so UK dates then we'll be over to Europe. Our management is trying to book us onto some tours as support, and those dates should include Germany, Holland, France, and Sweden. We love playing in Europe so we're are all really up for it!
SoT: If you could pick 2 other bands to do a hot "triple bill" tour with, who would they be?
Richard: For me personally I would pick MR.BIG and VAN HALEN! But as a band I think we'd choose MOTLEY CRUE and DISTURBED The two bands you know are going to get you shit faced and laid! There isn't going to be water only and a no smoking ban on that tour bus is there! We'd probably come back dead but it would be totally worth it.
(Click here to read our review of Illumination)