Interview by: Annalisa Orlando
Interview with Dean Holmes (bass/vocals)
We interviewed Dean (bass/vocals) from Age of Emergence. Find their E.P. review here.
You’re quite a new band. How did you guy all meet?
We have been gigging for around 5 years, which makes us quite new still I guess as we haven’t yet toured and only played locally. Benn and I met through an ad I placed in the year 2000 looking for band members when I first moved to the Hunter Valley area, we had a short-lived band going for a year or two but we were both too young and temperamental at the time to make it work, Benn reconnected with us over the last few years and as things weren’t working out with our first drummer Allan Hofer, I suggested we jam like the old days and we just clicked again. Matt and I met through the live scene as we both played local gigs in different bands together Matt’s guitar solos were often a stand out at these shows and Matt often mentioned that he liked our sound, I eventually suggested that we could make a great band together after I returned from a 5-year hiatus from the scene we began jamming and trying to write together, that was about 7 years ago now I think.
What is the meaning behind the band name?
Age of Emergence I think came from a sci-fi TV series that Allan’s girlfriend at the time suggested to us it means in that show coming of age, becoming a man I think at the time I suggested Age of Emergency, but we decided Age of Emergence sounded better and now to me at least it means the time of awakening, change, revolution, the age of emerging consciousness or something similar.
Where you able to explore some new creative venues since you broke away from your old band?
I think to an extent my influences have always been the same but each new member always brings in new influences: Matt has brought in a more guitar virtuoso type of sound, and Benn has brought in a heavier style of drumming utilising double kick, but as far as me writing it’s always me try to refine and create a somewhat original sound and write the best songs we can.
When did you first start getting into music and know you wanted to join a band?
I first got into music in high school and learned to play self-taught since I was 16, I realised I wanted to try starting a band when I was living in QLD at the end of high school me and a few friends would get together and jam on guitars trading rhythm and lead and attempting to play and sing, and sometimes we would go busking down on the Gold Coast strip. I joined my first band proper in Cairns in 1996 where I played covers like Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, The Doors etc and some of my first originals were played also in that band and people back then said they thought the songs were good and I should continue with music. One of my first songs was a tribute to Kurt Cobain.
As you’ve spent most of your life in bands if you couldn’t, what profession do you think you would’ve done instead?
Unfortunately, music has never been our income or profession, we are amateurs and we’ve always had day jobs to support our bands which are more of a hobby. I guess if the music was never my creative outlet I would have got more into painting, drawing, design or environmental science.
You’ve recently released your first EP/Album. What is the concept behind the album?
The concept behind our new E.P is “The War Within Ourselves”. As the name suggests it is based on the idea that in the modern world at the moment we are facing some of the biggest problems we ever have and are in turmoil as a species, as people begin to take sides and argue amongst themselves to preserve their own interests in an endless spiral which on a basic level comes back to only taking what you need, not being greedy and taking care of your fellow humans, living in harmony with the planet. Unfortunately instead it often comes down to war, fear, hate and suffering instead of love and compassion.
What makes this album different to your previous releases?
On this EP we have attempted to evolve our sound, to really try and nail down our sound whereas in the past we haven’t worried so much about that. Trying to combine our individual influences in different ways and always trying to find different combinations of notes that we haven’t used before. Our sound is still a work in progress as we try and make our ideas as original as possible, some of the riffs and lyrics on our new EP we are more happy with than others and on our new material that we currently working on we are trying to push that even further and scrap more ideas only keep the best of the best.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?
I would describe our music as progressive metal, hard rock, stoner metal, it’s heavy and melodic with clean singing, with sounds familiar to a great many rock and metal bands.
Your EP cover art is amazing. Who drew it? What was the idea behind it?
The concept started as the green man which is a pagan mythology symbol, but when the EP became named “The War Within Ourselves” the colours and tone changed to the world-weary modern-day warrior. Matt’s girlfriend Meagan Peel created the work from a photo and design apps.
Do you think the image is important when being in a band?
Yes, I think so it’s good that people know what you stand for or what your band is all about, what you are trying to achieve is it just entertainment or something more.
Do you have a favourite track from the E.P.?
I personally like the opening track, “Stone Cold Icarus”, especially since we had the lyric video done. The concept really came to life for me, and it was a one of the ones I thought was good right from the start, whereas others needed more initial work on the original ideas to make them work. I spent hundreds of hours trying to get the right structure for the ideas with “Stone Cold Icarus” and ultimately while I try to spend equal amounts of time of all new compositions that ones that really resonate probably get the most attention.
I noticed that there was a strong narrative and conceptual voice throughout the EP. Are your songs ordered in a linear story or are they more loosely tied together in the concept of the album?
Yes, we do have a strong message in our songs, but the ideas were ordered more to do with the music on this EP, as in we thought one of the songs with a drum intro should open and have a couple of hard-rocking songs to open with then the more mellow, melodic intro to “Your Kingdom Dies” to break up the EP a bit more and finish with the message “join as one” on the closing track “Two Halves”, although the vibe of the outro riff was still more important than the lyrics. The lyrical ideas definitely are seen more random to me although they obviously have a common thread.
The songs vary a lot in tone and heaviness. Could you tell me how in each individual track that relates to the message you are trying to convey?
Again I think the music is first and foremost although it did work out to be quite effective in “Your Kingdom Dies” when the vocals take the lead it is often in parts where the most powerful lyrical ideas are situated. There was no conscious decision to do this really though.
You mentioned in your bio that this album is also about humanity and climate change. Do you feel passionate about environmental issues?
Yes, I do feel quite passionately about environmental issues and have also previously worked in the field of environmental restoration. The fact that many of these issues are coming to a crossroads right now is also making me even more passionate about these issues the time is now to change our ways, live in a more sustainable way for the future of humanity.
What is the procedure of producing a new EP? Do you have a set way of doing things? How have you found the songwriting process?
It’s currently about a 2-year process for us to write an EP to come up with the best ideas and find the time to write and record. It is basically a set process I guess we get together and trade ideas and then it’s usually me that turns it into actual songs with everyone else’s opinions considered on the final, finished product.
What has been your favourite gig to date and why?
Hard to say for me I rarely have a favourite anything but certainly Metal United Worldwide is up there as are our local shows at the Hamilton Station which lately have been with many cool interstate bands, and the big stage at the Badgers Lair is also a highlight.
Do you have any plans to gig/tour in Europe?
As much as we would love to travel the world for music I think it is currently out of our budget, I think we need more a local fanbase first before we consider that kind of thing, even our recent tours plans were an expensive thing for us to consider but who knows what can happen in the future.
What is the music scene like where you are based in Australia?
The local Newcastle heavy music scene is quite strong in a variety of different genres; the crowds are rarely massive but there is a passionate following.
What is it like touring? Do you all get on all the time? Or do you have times you need space from each other?
We have not yet toured but so far, we are getting along very well and the musical chemistry is good, we have not yet been put to the test with touring.
Your tour was recently cancelled. What are you looking forward the most for when you’re able to get back on the road?
Yes, unfortunately, the pandemic crisis wrecked our plans and we are really looking forward to eventually undertake the “Smoking the Universe Tour” and properly release the EP with the live component. Although we’ve had mixed reviews so far we still believe there’s potential in our music to grow Age of Emergence and certainly retain the clean singing style, concentrating more on melody rather than worrying about any metal cred or whether we’re not heavy enough or any other associated bullshit.
How do you think the music industry has changed over the years? Or is the music industry how you thought it would be when first starting a band?
I think the industry has changed a lot since it has become more online but the same fundamentals still apply: you need to play live and build a real following, get real payers through the door, sell merch at shows, etc, you can’t rely on online promotion I think, although obviously for introverted people like me the social media platforms have helped enormously as we also can’t afford to go out every weekend and support other bands.
Do you think it’s important for a band to be signed to a label to be recognised in today’s society?
As I’ve never had a record contract I’m not sure but always thought bands that have contracts are better off as they have access to more of the music scene’s infrastructure, and would not have been chosen by these companies unless there was some sort of potential or strong numbers there that the band has created themselves through playing live and promoting themselves, to begin with. The financial side of it I’m not sure how it works these days but certainly much different to the ’70s, ’80s or ’90s, when bands received big signing bonuses etc. I’ve heard of well-known young Australian acts receiving 6 figure cheques, but they have quite a big following locally and overseas, for smaller bands I’m thinking they might help loan you money might you have to then pay back but have access to many contacts etc, but again I’m not speaking from any kind of experience on this.
What did you find where the pros and cons of releasing the E.P. yourself?
As we’ve done it a few times now it seems easy enough to organise yourself the recording, production etc as we have a good idea what to do in the studio now, but the promotion side is the hard part and biggest con of being an independent band and we’ve been working on that with much help from Black-Roos Entertainment and trying to get the most out of social media with a combination of organic and sponsored reach, and this time we almost feel like we’re doing things professionally.
What are your views on bands who give away their music free on social media? Do you think this is a good beneficial marketing idea, or should fans be paying to purchase tracks?
Until recently I’ve resisted using platforms like Spotify, for this reason, some kind of moral stand I guess, people should pay for the music but also it seems many people are discovering new music through Spotify etc so this time we’ve now released our music including our first EP on most platforms and some people are still buying our music in hard copy and digital from Bandcamp. I can’t give you the answer definitively, but I think these platforms are here to stay so we may as well utilise them. That being said it would help us out a great deal to make as many sales as possible so I guess we are hoping these platforms could eventually lead to more hard copy sales, but at the same time resigned to the fact that we have to play live to get paid so play as many shows as we can in the future.
You’ll have to forgive me, but I need to ask. Are you guys currently isolating? Tell me how that’s all going? Are you getting some creative bits done here and there?
Yes, we are all doing to the right thing and have been writing new music without live commitments or distractions which is actually very good for the writing process to clear your mind and think differently about the world which will never be the same again after this pandemic.
Thank you for your time, is there anything you would like to say to our readers?
Thanks for having me. I’m Dean, bassist/vocalist/songwriter in Age of Emergence, thanks for this and please check out our links.