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Interviews Ivory Knight

Interview with vocalist/bassist John Devadasan Perinbam

Interview conducted by Michel Renaud

Date online: July 5, 2001


Ivory Knight released its first demo in 1988, it is only in 2001 that they released their first full- length album, "Up From The Ashes". Ottawa is home to a lot of Death Metal and grindcore bands, but Ivory Knight are the only representatives of the melodic metal genre in the area. Vocalist/bassist John Devadasan Perinbam answered some questions about the past and present history of Ivory Knight...

Ivory Knight's history seems to be pretty much in two parts, first its formation in the late 80's and then you reformed in the late 90's. First of all, could you recount the first part, that is the initial formation up to what led to the breakup of the band?

Oddly enough, the band originally started out as a 'fun project' by original drummer Paul Malek (who played on the original Annihilator demos) and myself. The idea was to put together a cover band to play some shows. Unfortunately, or fortunately (in retrospect), the bass player for the fun project literally disappeared (spontaneous combustion, maybe? :). In the absence of a bassist, we had a choice - we could either start the search for a bassist - never a fun thing in Ottawa, or we could write some tunes, and put together a demo, and I could fill in on bass. We decided to write some tunes, and the result was 'Voices in your Nightmare'.

We added a bassist for live shows, and actually played around a bit, including shows in Barrymore's, Roxanne's etc… Despite the excellent reaction to Voices, other members of the band were not happy with the musical direction we were taking. There was actually a follow-up demo, called 'Breaking the Ice' that we recorded shortly after Voices. I took more of a backseat role, creatively, and added the lyrics and melodies afterwards. The riffing is highly technical, but I never did feel that the songs or production are up to par on that demo. Breaking the Ice was basically shelved pretty soon after it was completed.

One of the constant tug-of-wars in those days was the fact that I have always been interested in the 'darker' types of metal, like Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Black Sabbath, etc… The other members of the band were heading in a more 'positive', hard-rock direction, wanting to play stuff like Van Halen, D.L. Roth etc… Lacking maturity as a songwriter and as an artist in those days, I went along with it. We released a demo 'Restless Heart', which featured the original version of our song 'Last Dance', which was, lyrically, drastically different from the version that you hear on 'Up From The Ashes'.

To fit with our 'hard rock' visage, the band name was changed, and we actually played quite a bit in the clubs around Ottawa, as well as with recording and releasing another cassette demo. Eventually the guitarist left, and we hooked up with Rob Gravelle, who joins me in the current lineup of Ivory Knight. We recorded a CD as Sudden Thunder, but shortly after, decided that we were not into the poppy and commercial aspects of that band. The band broke up in '93.

After this, you reformed in the late 90's with only you as the original member. How did you come to the decision of reforming the band?

It just felt right, at the time. I was playing bass and writing with a non-Metal band, but I was finding that more and more of my writing was heading in the Metal direction. I was increasingly feeling that my own voice would be best for singing the new material. I was also becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of effort and commitment in the old band, and decided that it was time to start work on something that I would really enjoy doing!

I decided that my new material would form the basis for a new Ivory Knight.

At that point I created a web site with some of the tunes from the 'Voices' demo, more or less for fun. The reaction was overwhelming! And that was what really convinced me to put an actual lineup together.

How hard was it finding musicians to join you in "the new Ivory Knight"? The Ottawa area is not exactly a hotbed for melodic metal...

Everything seemed to fall together by luck! The scariest thing was the prospect of finding a drummer. A person who was trying to hook me up for another band referred me to George Nesrallah, who luckily enough, was available at the time, and was into what I was doing. I knew Rob Gravelle from previous bands. Our bassist Steve Mercer actually found us - he contacted us on a suggestion from a major metal web site as well as from a mutual friend.

I think you had some trouble finding a bassist? If I'm not mistaken, you did both the vocals and the bass on the album "Up from the Ashes", but you have someone to take care of bass duties for live performances, where you'll just do the singing?

I've always had a hard time with bassists, probably because, as a bassist myself, I have a fairly good idea of what I would like to hear - what would complement the song, rather than ruining the song with overly busy riffing. Maybe I'm a bit dictatorial when it comes to bass :)! Unfortunately good bassists who can live with that are few and far between. Our live bassist Steve Mercer has a good ear for what fits the songs, and I am hoping that he will record the next album.

I was agreably surprised... hmm well surprised is not the right word here, but I noticed that your vocal work is even better than it was on the demo, you seem to have much better control of your voice. How did you keep your voice in shape, and actually better in the years between "the two Ivory Knight incarnations"? Were you in some band, or were you just practicing at home?

Thanks! The secret: lots of hard work and practice after deciding to take over the lead vocals once again! I actually hadn't sung in the upper register in a while.

The demo "Voices in your Nightmare" was a bit heavier and aggressive than the album "Up from the Ashes". Was it intentional to come up with something more melodic or it just happened to come out this way? The album is so melodic that it had to grow on me, as I was expecting something more along the lines of the demo.

The songs on 'Up from the Ashes' simply reflect what I was feeling at the time when I wrote them. There was no conscious effort to write in any particular way. I wrote most of the material on the CD before I had a lineup, and a couple of songs ('Last Dance', 'Roads to Glory') were brought in from the old days. 'True Signs of Life' is the first piece that was written by the new lineup as a band effort.

The new material we are working on is a lot more aggressive, and it's much more of a complete band effort. Again, there's no conscious effort to be more aggressive or anything - so far it just seems to be coming out that way!

"Up from the Ashes" was recorded at your own home studio named "The BASSment". For our tech-hungry readers, could you describe the studio's equipment/capabilities/etc.?

Alesis ADAT LX-20
MOTU 2408
PC running CUBASE 32/VST
Mackie 1604VLZ-PRO 16 channel board
Various outboard stuff

The recording of the CD was started before I upgraded the recording capabilities in the Bassment. So most of the recording was done on an ALESIS ADAT LX-20, which is a digital 8-track machine. Because we only had 8 tracks, I had to bounce the drums onto 2 tracks. That's why the kick drums are a lot weaker than I would have liked - at mixdown, I couldn't bring up the kicks on their own.

In the middle of the recording I upgraded to a MOTU 2408 / CUBASE 32/VST -based system. That gave me extra tracks needed for the backing vocals and keyboards that you hear on Picture of Innocence. That system lets me use a number of tracks limited only by the computer's resources.

The CD was mixed exclusively on CUBASE without using any outboard gear. In fact, I'll be looking to sell a bunch of my outboard gear before too long!

Mastering was done at Shark Fin Digital.

Is the studio only for Ivory Knight's use, or have other bands recorded there (or are you planning to record other bands there)?

Right now, it's only for Ivory Knight. There's hardly any room in there! ;)

Are you planning any live shows? Ottawa is kind of metal-unfriendly, especially for melodic metal (we pretty much only get Death Metal shows here). Maybe Montreal or Toronto would be better places to perform?

We're working on polishing our live set right now, as well as writing and arranging the next album. We're going to be 'live ready' in August of this year, and we're hoping to book something local. We're also very interested in exchanging gigs with out-of-town bands - especially in centers like Montreal and Toronto.

The album is available from your web site with secure credit card ordering - all hails for that! No need to send you hidden cash with a secret passcode or anything - haha. Is the album also available through some other channels, and if not, are there any plans for that?

The secure online ordering is cool - CCNow handles all the processing, so people don't need to worry about sending me credit card information. I don't get that information, just a message telling me to ship the CD to your address.

The CD is also available at Record Runner, 212 Rideau Street, in Ottawa (pretty much the best place to buy metal in Ottawa - ed.).

I may add other channels of distribution if there is enough demand.

When it comes to melodic metal, it seems we are in a period where labels are mostly interested in signing double-bass-happy power metal bands (which frankly, save for a couple of exceptions, are all starting to sound the same - zzzzzz.) Have you started contacting labels yet, and how has the response been so far?

I know what you mean! Right now I'm concentrating on building an audience via webzines, magazines, Internet etc… any means that I can. When I feel that the band is more established as a recognizable entity, I will start hitting the labels.

How have the fans and "media" (zines/webzines/etc) response been so far? I've seen a couple of very positive reviews (mine included-hehe) and also read one with a somewhat low rating but still pretty positive. What kind of promotion have you been doing?

So far the reaction has been great, although I think some were expecting 'Voices in your Nightmare Part 2'! That was really something I wanted to avoid, mainly because 'Voices' was something that felt right in 1987, and although it is a big part of Ivory Knight's past, I didn't want to be trying to force myself to write in a certain way. That has never worked properly in the past. I always prefer to let the ideas flow as they may.

The promotion so far has been all through Internet.

You had your demo on mp3.com for a while then moved your stuff over to another online music site (IUMA?), which I think went down some time ago. Do you have mp3's available anywhere for people to sample your material?

No, IUMA is alive, rockin', and healthier than ever. We're at http://ivoryknight.iuma.com. (Note to self - don't believe news stories, next time go check yourself - ed.)

I pulled our stuff from mp3.com in disagreement with their philosophy of publicizing artist earnings on the artist page. I emailed them a couple of times, only to be advised (invited) in a generic email to post my concerns on the artist bulletin board. These guys are making money off our music, yet they do not even listen to the artists!

I strongly recommend all artists to support IUMA!

Have you followed the Ottawa metal scene in recent years? I know your drummer once played with local Death Metal band Nihility. What are your thoughts? Personally I find the scene a bit lacking show-wise, although we do have a couple of quality bands such as Deämon and Nihility. The scene seemed much more active say a little over 10 years ago when metal was "big" in the mainstream media. How's that for trendy city.. haha.

What Ottawa Metal scene?! Just kidding! I'm not a really big fan of Death metal, although I do admire some of the musicianship involved. So for that reason, I must admit I haven't really kept up to date. I must admit I really like Deämon. I've seen them a few times now. Great band, and they put on a great show! (Right on! - ed)

But I agree with you - and it pisses me off that this city is full of sheep- like followers, who look to their radio DJs to tell them what is popular, and therefore, what they should like. When metal is popular, watch and see, they're all big metal fans all of a sudden! I personally know people who, upon hearing a piece of music, decided it "sucked". Strangely enough the same people were later recommending the same music to me later. The difference: the song had become a major hit in the meantime! I guess that stopped it from sucking.

Standard question... What are your main influences? I guess I could add a little twist to this question by asking about your influences back in the 80's and your influences today?

Bands: Halford-era Judas Priest, early Queensryche, Maiden, Rainbow, Mercyful Fate / King Diamond, Deep Purple.

Vocalists: Rob Halford, Ian Gillan, Joe Lynn Turner, Ronnie James Dio, David Coverdale etc...

Bassists: Geezer Butler, Joe Bouchard (Blue Oyster Cult), Tony Levin, Roger Glover

I would say the influences are pretty much the same. Although I do occasionally borrow some technical ideas from the stuff I'm listening to, I'm insistent that the 'feel' always remains true to Ivory Knight. So you're never going to hear Ivory Knight with rap vocals or hip- hop beats or anything like that.

What metal bands do you listen to nowadays? Bought anything recently that you thought was simply excellent? Looking forward to some upcoming release this year?

Jag Panzer - Thane to the Throne
Iced Earth - Alive In Athens
Symphony X - V
Control Denied - The Fragile Art of Existence
Demons and Wizards
Dimmu Borgir - Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia
Tristania - Widows Weeds

I'm looking forward to the new Jag Panzer and King Diamond!

Well I'm pretty much out of questions here, so here comes the standard ending. Anything else you'd like to say, plug in some merchandise, shows, etc.? This space is yours. :)

OK, firstly everyone visit http://www.hammerheartamerica.com/makeadifference.html, read it, and make a donation to help Chuck Schuldiner (Death, Control Denied)!

Right now we have merchandise available from our web site http://www.ivoryknight.com - just click the Merchandise button. We have Tshirts, longsleeves, mousepads, mugs etc.. and more stuff coming. Also, the web site will have details on upcoming shows. We're also on this month's Knuckletracks (#33), in Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles. (That's BW&BK magazine #52 - July 2001. - ed)

Other information about Ivory Knight on this site
Review: Show at The Whipping Post
Review: Up From The Ashes
Review: Voices In Your Nightmares
Review: Unconscience




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