Interview: Amie of Dakesis
Interviewer: Paul Hutchings
Birmingham based Dakesis are one of the best bands in the UK today. Their progressive metal sound has developed from their formation in 2008 and debut album ‘Trial by Fire’ which was released in 2011. On the eve of their third album ‘Fractures’ coming out, I was able to chat with bassist Amie Chatterley.
The Razor’s Edge: These are strange times. How are you?
Amie: We are all self-employed musicians, so it doesn’t bode very well for us. Obviously, we run our recording studio which we’ve had to shut down completely for now. Gemma runs a music school (Birmingham Rock School) and we’ve had to move everything onto online lessons which is going very well, retaining most of the customers for now and hopefully that will continue
The Razor’s Edge: I suppose at least with the school, a lot of the clients will also be at home so it’s an opportunity to focus on some of the skills
Amie: Yeah, I think parents are chomping at the bit to do something with their kids now; it’s a way of doing something a bit different that’s not as boring. I know some schools have set work and curriculum stuff.
The Razor’s Edge: So, you were geared up to do the tour with Fury. It’s been postponed which is gutting. How have you dealt with it as a band?
Amie: We are all devastated. We’ve got a lot of friends in Italy because we run the Power Metal Quest Fest and we’ve made contacts with bands and artists all over the world and we’ve been keeping in touch with people about the situation and before they had even hinted about closing down venues we’d had in the back of the minds that there was a real chance we might not have been able to do this or the album launch so we put contingency plans in place for that. We are good friends with Fury and the problem we now face is trying to rebook a tour on that scale between our and Fury’s availability. We are trying to rebook for April 2021 and keep all the dates in the order they are in as it makes the most sense logistically. Hopefully we’ll be announcing some of the rescheduled dates soon. It’s a fight with all the other bands who have had to cancel so of course there will be some compromise.
The Razor’s Edge: I appreciate how tough it is for bands currently.
Amie: Yeah, there are a lot of bands who rely on their income on these tours and obviously after you release an album you are reliant on the tour to sell the merchandise to cover some of the costs. As an independent band it can be very costly. We don’t have any backing from record labels.
The Razor’s Edge: I was going to ask about the support from the fanbase. The crowd funding campaign was impressive with the hit for the album achieved within 24 hours.
Amie: We were already prepared to fund a chunk of it ourselves because it's not just the merchandise and the CDs, there was the production for the album launch, the hire of the venue, getting tickets printed. Organising everything to do with that. It is a massive task. Since we’ve announced postponing the show, we’ve had loads of support with people buying bits of merchandise, adding us to Spotify, subscribing to YouTube and we appreciate that there are a lot of other bands in the same situation. Every little helps.
The Razor’s Edge: I’m glad that there are at least some small positives coming out of this and hopefully when the tour does take place this will lead to even better ticket sales.
So, to me you are a well-known UK band, but I appreciate that there will be some who won’t know who you are. Can you give us a potted history of the band?
Amie: We have been going since 2008 when we had a very different line up with a male vocalist and Gemma playing keyboards. We found Adam along the way. Our second drummer left for Australia and that was our line up complete. We released the first album ‘Trial By Fire’ in 2011 and then we had some difficulties with the front man so we asked him to leave and got Gemma on vocals and that is where we really started forming our niche sound. We released ‘The New Dawn’ in 2016, so quite big gaps between releasing albums but I think we’ve shifted from when we first formed, when we were a power metal band to our sound now which could be symphonic orchestral progressive power metal. Progressive power metal is what I think we’d call the sound. We have done multiple tours. A few headline tours, and well known for massive album launches, so even for Trial by Fire we did what we could in a small venue, balloon drops, and it was over the top. So, that’s where we’ve come from over the past ten years.
The Razor’s Edge: You talked about the album launches and trying to do as much as possible. You’re a band of the age. Your use of social media seems integral to the band maintaining the profile but is it a joy, a challenge, a grind or a mixture of all three?
Amie: I think it’s a mixture. I can’t say that I use social media for pleasure these days. In the early days of MySpace and the likes, you’d log on once a week, check your messages, maybe update the band page and that was normal. I do think that now when we must promote events via these social platforms it does take a lot of time and effort to update things and continually post. You are looking at stats and numbers and being in a band is lot more running a business now than just enjoying playing and making music which is how it started. It can be draining, sometimes you get a lot of negative comments to deal with, messages from people that are quite rude. It’s nice to be able to connect with fans that are all over the world and who are supporting you which is what makes it worthwhile a lot of the time.
The Razor’s Edge: You’re all multi-instrumentalists in the band. You’re the bass player so do you have any bass players who influenced you?
Amie: I started off as a guitarist and had never played bass before joining Dakesis. My main influences are guitarists and bands in general. A big one for me is Michael Romeo (Symphony X), Tom Englund (Evergrey) has been a massive influence on the way I write and Nevermore, Jeff Loomis, so quite a lot of guitarists who were around who were virtuosos inspired me. I don’t really have any bass heroes which is quite weird. I get asked this a lot.
The Razor’s Edge: Ah, sorry about the repetitive question. I suppose Becky Baldwin (Fury bassist) would be one?
Amie: There are heroes and there are inspirational people and I think Becky is a truly inspirational person and not just because of her bass playing ability but because how hard working she is.
The Razor’s Edge: Let’s talk about ‘Fractures’, which I’ve been lucky enough to have had for a few weeks to review. It’s stunning and one of my favourite releases this year. How happy are you with the finished package and how the whole process has gone?
Amie: Thanks, that’s great! We couldn’t have imagined creating something like this. We wanted to do it in house and specifically opened the studio to make the recording process easier. We all lead busy lives and sometimes our schedules don’t permit it that we can go and book out a studio at a certain time to go and get things done. It’s also expensive and the quality we need and the hours we need writing the orchestrations so that was a really big help. When we got to mixing we thought we’d give it a go ourselves, or more specifically Matt, and he was so worried that he wouldn’t be able to achieve the results but as soon as we started hearing the first mixes back we were blown away by what he had done. We couldn’t be happier with the results. We just must wait to see what other people think. We don’t write to meet the criteria of our fans, it’s a massive outlet for us to deal with whatever’s going on in our lives. Whatever you release, album or single, there’s always a worry that people don’t like it, especially being on the third album now, it’s a bit of make or break.
The Razor’s Edge: The reception to the first single seems to have been universally positive?
Amie: We have had a lot of positive feedback and the early album reviews have been good which makes the whole thing worthwhile.
The Razor’s Edge: The track that really blew me away was the title track. I got to ‘Fractures’ and it was like, wow! It took me right back to ‘The Seventh Sky’ on ‘The New Dawn’ which is longer again. Is it mandatory for a progressive metal band to deliver an epic song or did it just happen?
Amie: Adam wrote The Seventh Sky on The New Dawn and he also wrote the bulk of Fractures. I think because we write these concept albums, we write this grand finale which is a kind of completion of all the stuff we haven’t been able to get in the rest of the album. We don’t intend to write a specific length, it just kind of happens. As soon as we started working on this, we knew it had to close the album; the last few minutes of the track do that and it bookends with the intro. We like to look at how tracks flow into each other and that is important to us. A lot of what we listen to is progressive and epic and vast story telling with a journey and that’s what we want from our music.
The Razor’s Edge: Is the plan to play it live?
Amie: Yes. We will probably close the set with it. Since we’ve been touring ‘The New Dawn’ we’ve been closing with the last track ‘By The Fading Light’ which I think is about 13 minutes long. So yes, we intend to close the show with it. It might mean we only play three songs but hey, that’s the prog way!
The Razor’s Edge: The album is out on Saturday [March 27th]. Plans have changed. How are you going to mark it?
Amie: We are not sure. It’s been disheartening having put so much effort into the grand launch. Then we put plans in place to do a live stream. Sunday was the last time we were together and we reformatted the studio, so we could look at multi-camera live stream and it was all miked up so we could run it through our desk, we had our sound engineer that was going to mix it so it was as professional as possible but obviously from the beginning of the week we can’t do any of that. We are still dealing with the fact that we can’t launch it but I’m sure we do something on the day.
The Razor’s Edge: And finally, I wanted to ask you about your use of water bottles on stage. It struck me when I saw you at The Gryphon in Bristol last year that you guys have been using them for a good while now. I’m hoping it’s because it reduces plastic but is that the case.
Amie: We’ve done it for several years, to assist with being more eco-friendly. All our merch for this album is similar so our CDs are made from recycled packaging as much as possible and our t-shirts and fleeces and tote bags are all recycled and organic and vegan, so it is a conscious effort. We try and reduce waste but also to reduce cost. So even something as simple as a water bottle, we can refill means we save money on tours and reduce plastic use. We would need two or three bottles each on stage and then after the show and travelling so that is a lot of plastic we don’t use. Every little bit helps.
A band that deserve to be much bigger, their new album is truly a magnificent piece of work. Thanks to Amie for her time. ‘Fractures’ – just go get it and check out our review here.