Interview with Steve Yates

“I very much doubt that any of you in the UK even heard of this band or even own their albums, well if you’re a fan of the Progressive Metal scene then you’re going to love this band. The band have released 2 albums through Nightmare Records in the US and still are without a deal in Europe, why? God knows why. I may even help them out over here, they certainly deserve it. The bands debut (see below) was directed towards Queensryche, Fates Warning & Metallica, their new album ‘Strange…’ is more influenced by Fates, Q.ryche, Heir Apparent and other exciting band, more melodic but still as good if not better. Check them out!!”

My first question is, when did the band form and who formed the band?”

“In 1990 me and a drummer (Kyle Morrill) were introduced to each other. Kyle was a good drummer, and a vocalist. I wrote quite a few songs that were designed for mosh pits. We got a bass player, (Mike Turner) and began playing at parties. We did very well as a 3 piece band for about two years, I kept trying to find a good lead guitarist, but none of them could play rhythm guitar properly. Then I met Dwayne King. He was 19 years old and had both abilities. We shared the lead guitar solos and Dawayne’s song writing got better every day. We felt the only thing missing was a good front-man for vocals. Finally, Dwayne told us about a friend (Tony Horstmanshoff) who was a good drummer that sang back up vocals, but wanted to be a lead singer. He joined the band and shared half the vocals and half the drumming with Kyle. We played many shows around Salt Lake City for a couple of years, then we decided it was time to record our first album. We met a great artist (Lincoln Wanlass) at a drive-up window of blockbuster videos. He did the art, and with his help and many other friends, we raised the money to pay for the studio and put everything together.”

“Has there been any line-up changes before the debut album?”

The only serious band mate was Mike Turner on bass. He was a good friend but there was a little too much conflict at the time. Jason fit right in, and was a good friend anyway.”

“So why the name for the band and were there any other names in mind?”

“Klye and Mike were out looking for ideas for the name of the band. They went to the library and were looking at science fiction books, and Mike said “…how about Visionary?” They called me on the phone and asked what I thought of it. I said it would do until we find something better. We had flyers to make for a gig that weekend, so we had to settle for something.”

“Does the name reflect in the bands music? If so, in what way?”

“That was the thing. The more we thought about it, that was always our approach to the music. We wanted to mix the visual “Pink Floyd” writing with the power of “Metallica.” My idea of rock has always been to somehow blend the sound of orchestra type compositions with good ole hard rock. We also used lyrics that described scenes we felt went with the music. At the beginning, we had a lot of instrumental stuff in every song.”

So who are the bands influences and how do they reflect in your music? Would you agree you have Queensryche in your music? Which Ryche album appeals to Visonary’s music? Also how would you describe your music?”

“Ever since I was a little kid, I always loved Pink Floyd. Especially, the song “Time.” I also loved Kashmir by Zeppelin. Black Sabbath was always good for the parking lots at High School. I also thought “Iron Maiden” was great at the mid-evil style of writing. Or Judas Priest for just ass kicken well played rock and tunes you can sing along with. “Queensryche” definitely influenced me. All of their albums appeal to us. Chris Degarmo probably got his influences from the same people. I like the blend of instrumental acoustic guitar and melodic metal. A lot of the stuff I write kind of has a sorrowful feel to it. When Tony joined the band, he already had that full range ability of Geoff Tate, and a NATURAL style like that. Dwayne has an appreciation for all those bands, but he also studies bands with the precision and skill of Dream Theatre, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Michael Hedges, Ect… I think our music is a product of all the influences. We like to write in a wide range of styles with ballads, rockers, instrumentals, what ever we have fun doing. Tony does a fine job of clear, clean vocals, with good control at all times.”

“How many demos did the band record prior to the debut album? What songs were on them and how well did they sell?”

“We had some of the stuff recorded when we were just a 3 Piece band, but none of it was ever released. We also have some live recordings of some of our shows. We didn’t have enough money to record everything we used to play, so we did as many as we could afford on the first album. What started out to be a demo, ended up being the first album.”

“What labels did you shop them too? Besides Nightmare who else showed interest? What did Lance offer you which was better from the rest?”

“We sent our demos to 41 different Record Companies. They were the medium size companies that don’t just chuck your envelopes in the garbage. To be honest, lance was the only one who showed an interest in our band. If he hadn’t, we would have been 0 for 41. Lanced was really psyched about it, and helped us manufacture a CD, get World-wide distribution, and promote us as best that he could with very little money. He put a lot of effort into it and explained everything to us about the business of marketing a CD. It seems he has done very well with the company since then, and that our instincts were correct about trusting him. He could have got annoyed for waiting so long for our second album, but he was always supportive the whole time, and was as surprised as anyone when I called him one day and said I was sending him a copy of the recording. He has always given us honest advice. Sometimes it ain’t pretty. That is what we expect from him, good, honest critique. He also knows a lot of people.”

“So you released your debut album, why did you self title it and did you not have any other names in mind for the album?”

“Nobody could agree on the title. We were going to name it …Another time, Another place. But that didn’t happen for some reason. I think indecision won. We thought naming an album was kind of overdone anyway, and we wanted to keep it simple.”

“What about the art work, also what other covers did you have in mind? Does the title reflect in the music on this album?”

“The whole band likes computers. Tony and Dwayne love gaming. Brett and Ken like the Internet. We all like them for graphics and recording. I guess I am the one who is pushing my art the most. We all liked this picture that Tony made with our Logo. We felt it was a good picture for the cover. We wanted to have art created by the musicians, because that is just more expression from the band. The phrase …strange but familiar shores, was one of the better lines that Tony sings during one of the songs. We all agreed that it was a good analogy of our journey, making the second album. The band let me do the rest of the artwork. I used a lot of their suggestions, and thought about the concept of different worlds. Then I started thinking about the history of ancient civilizations. Things that seem timeless, and the passing of great empires.”

“Could you tell me what the songs are about and which ones stand out for you? Are there any songs you don’t like and why?”

“The songs are about life, death, society, perceptions of our past, and future. We don’t have any favourites really. We put our best effort into all of them. There is a couple of spots here and there that I wished were maybe done a little differently, but I wouldn’t really want to point them out.”

“Did it sell well and what sort of press reviews did it get?”

“It has only been released for three months. And that was mostly to the webzines. So far the press has been very positive. There has been a lot of praise for Tony’s vocals. The fact that it isn’t quite as heavy as our debut has been mentioned, but people seem to appreciate the production, and the progress of our song writing.”

“Were you happy with the overall sound and the way it turned out? If not why?”

“Yes. There will always be some things that we wish were done differently, but we wanted all of our parts to be heard, and they are. We each worked at our own parts, and in the end, we mixed them together with everybody’s input applied to the very end. It was the sum of everybody’s knowledge and expertise at what they know best. We learned how to use the technology that is available now to any band with a desire to learn it. It can be a ruthless challenge at times, but recording is some thing we take seriously and are willing to see it through. The days we went to practice were half writing and half recording. (…or attempting to anyway )”

“Did the band tour or support any body for this album?”

“That would be nice. We are hoping to get the opportunity to tour with this music. If we can’t financially afford to go out and showcase our band, then we will just have to keep writing and recording till we can get the chance.”

“Did it get a Japanese release and were there any extra trax for them?”

“No Japanese releases at this time. We are still trying to get into that market.”

“So why has it taken so long for the band to release the new album ‘Strange But..’? I mean the debut was a great album which I almost thought you had called it a day, glad you did not!!”

“Thank you, we are happy that you like them both, and it was looking pretty grim for a second album for quite a while. The first album was just finished. We signed an agreement with nightmare records and had begun distribution in Europe. Things were going pretty good for us here in Salt Lake City. We were enjoying being the premiere rock act in town, bringing in large crowds to our shows. Then our drummer/ Singer, Kyle started partying at increasingly excessive limits, and life seem to cave in around him. It became impossible to go on with him, and he was an intrical part of all the songs that were on the first album. All of a sudden, we needed all new material just to be able to play a show. The next two years were spent coming up with new ideas; some of it was just trying to find a drummer. We knew Tony could do it but he wanted to concentrate strictly on vocals. When we finally found Ken we were still learning the process of recording, and that was another 2 years of effort.”

“This album also features new members such as Ken and Brett, where did you find them and what bands were they in before Visionary? Did they record anything?”

“Brett was one of those bass players that was playing a lot with other bands. At the same time, Visionary was doing shows and we ran into each other a few times. He said he really liked our band and that we should look him up if we should ever need another bass player. He ended up getting the job from Jason Fivas, half way through the recording. That was really tough on the band because Jason was and is one of our best friends. We just needed to take the bass playing to another level and Brett had that ability. Ken was a drummer that grew up around Texas. He played in some good bands and was looking for a project to get into here in Salt Lake City. He came to the audition, was put on the spot, and handled it with ease. He was the only drummer we met who could actually play as good as Tony. “

“Why did the old members leave and what are they doing now? Are you still friends with them?”

“I’ve already covered that, but as far as keeping in touch, Kyle Morril is living in the Eastern part of the country and has a band called Mingus. They seem to be doing pretty good. They work hard and play shows all the time. Kyle is not playing drums but does the vocals and a little keyboard. Our old bass player Jason has kind of got away from playing music but is still a good friend that we see all the time.”

“Did you ever think that lance would not be interested in releasing this album for the band with the long gap between both albums?”

“To be honest, Yes. More so during the time that we said we were close to being done, then shit hit the fan and we were stopped dead in our tracks. That was one of those where we got him feeling good about it, then it was another year before we got it straightened out. I wasn’t sure he would believe any more of our promises. “

“How do you see this album as a progression from the debut?”

“We felt the need to make our music more marketable. That stresses the need for more airplay. I think all of us improved our abilities to make our parts compliment each other and we understand the formulas that work in song writing. The biggest improvement was definitely the production. I think our first album would have really made a bigger splash if we would have had the technology that was available to us this time. We also let Tony have the complete say in all the vocals. That really helped him take it to a new level. I tried a lot of things on guitar that were interesting. I did some drop “D” tuning and some 3\4 time signatures. I also tried to get a lot more acoustic in there. Even mixing it with my Marshall when I could.”

“What trax stand out for you and why? Any least favs?”

“I like them all for different reasons. I guess I would have to say ‘Into the Void’ is one of my favourites because I did some things with the writing that I haven’t done before. I read a lot of science fiction (Particularly, Robert Jordan) and I really wanted to describe the void that I think all people go into now and then. Also, ‘A Part of Me’ because that song also represents what I was feeling during the writing. I think Dawayne shines on ‘The words of the Frenchman’ but I could say that about all his leads. Everybody has their moments on every song.”

“What are the songs about and who writes the music and song, is it a team effort?”

“Same answer as question #10. And as far as the song writing, That has been an equal effort between Me, Dawayne, and Tony. We also get a lot of input from Brett and Ken. I could just push my songs on everybody all the time, but I learned along time ago the value of letting the other musicians develop the habit of song writing. That is one of the biggest secrets to having a good band.”

“Where was the album recorded and how long did it take to record? Are you happy with the end results? If not why?”

“The album was recorded in four different basements. We had to move the computers around a bit, and the total of actual steady time recording was about two years. But there were a lot of tracks that were re-recorded because of computers crashing or some thing we found that worked better. Overall, I think we got what we were striving for.”

“Do you have a deal outside of the States? If so who with? (I can help!!)”

“No, we are just happy that we are having the opportunity to release this album, and make friends like your company. We really haven’t had this out very long, so there hasn’t been a real big buzz. Our first album was received very well by our fans but there weren’t any offers that gave us any opportunity to quit our day jobs. That has a lot to do with this second album being more commercially accessible.”

“What sort of press and fan reactions has this album been getting so far?”

“Surprisingly, very good. We knew a lot of our fans would think we were not near as heavy as our first album, but there has been more positive things said, and that has been reassuring. I think there is plenty of rockin-riffs on this album. But we didn’t cater to any limitations. We just did what ever felt good to play and we put as much of our heart into it as possible.”

“What bands have you played with so far?”

“We haven’t done a lot of shows with national acts, for whatever reason. You might say we haven’t fought for those spots or known the right people to get them. We have had a lot of local bands team up with us, and that has been very satisfying. We like to support the local talent whenever we can.”

“When do you think the next album will see the light of day? Quicker than the current album we hope!!”

“The band hasn’t actually been practicing for the last eight months. There have been several reasons. But, we are just about done with our new place to set up and get going. I know I have been writing some of my best stuff yet during that time. I am very excited to start working on it with everybody. I have always said, If there is an audience that wants more, then I will keep playing for them. We all will if there is a demand. Otherwise, I guess I will just keep playing my acoustic for good friends at their houses, catching a nice buzz, and showing them my latest.”

“Well thanx for your time, best of luck great fuckin band!! Keep the flame alive OK. Do you have anything to say before we finish?”

“Just that we appreciate every person out there that enjoys our music, and if we are ever fortunate enough to come to your town, we would like somebody to show us the sights, or invite us over for a brew and good story."

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