Interview with Dan Tompkins plus Tech-Metal Fest set review!
L-R: Keshav Dhar, Nikhil Rufus Raj, Daniel Tompkins, Devesh Dayal, Anup Sasty
Arguably the band who had travelled the farthest (although Heart Of A Coward’s temporary return from Russia coming also close), India-based progressive metal band Skyharbor were the penultimate act on Saturday’s main stage, in what is their UK debut, despite being signed to Britain’s Basick Records.
Even then, incumbent drummer Anup Sastry was unavailable for this one-off show due to being on tour with Intervals, but with a more than capable replacement stepping in, things promised to be as good as we’ve been led to believe from the band’s recent haul of gongs at the Rolling Stone India Metal Awards.
With a few questions we had for founding member Keshav Dhar immediately nixed with him being whisked away for another interview, myself and Quigs sat down with Dan Tompkins, famously ex-of TesseracT and the only Skyharbor member based in the British Isles, before their early evening set.
So how often do you guys get to play together anyway?
Not very often! Um, well, just ’cause we’re all over the world aren’t we, so whenever we do a festival or a gig, which there’ve been quite a few, we have tog et here a couple of days early sow e can find a rehearsal space which is exactly what we did yesterday. We rehearsed for six hours straight, so we’re all ready to go! We do rehearse in our own time as well, it’s just trying to find that cohesive live performance that only really comes with extensive touring; where everyone knows their place and how to interact with each other on stage. We’ve performed together five times so we’ve had to work hard very quickly in a short space of time.
I understand Anup’s not here either is he?
No, he’s busy!
Who have you got to fill in?
Well, we’ve got Mike [Malyan] from Monuments! He’s going to be playing with us.
Mr. Journeyman; does everything!
Almost like yourself; vocalling in so many projects!
Well, I have done quite a few! I mean you can check that out on my website. Now, I had to do a website just to explains to people what the hell I’m doing – what I’m about – which hopefully clarifies quite a lot now, but I’m actually only focussing on three things at the moment-
[laughs] yeah, that’s still quite a lot, and they’re all very different projects as well, so Skyharbor is obviously the progressive rock and metal, if you like, and I do some solo stuff which is under the name White Moth Black Butterfly, which is very cinematic ambient soundscapes with vocal performances on the top of that as well. Keshav co-produced the album with me, which has been really interesting because that’s the first full-length piece we’ve collaborated on, and we’ve learned a great deal about each other and furthered our own producing knowledge, and that’s only going to help the next Skyharbor record, and also In Colour as well, which is a more mainstream, pop-driven project, so they’re all very different projects.
I have a huge crush on 80s pop, so I really dug the In Colour stuff
Good, thank you!
What’s happening with that; is the album still coming?
Well, to cut a long story short, we went to Thailand and recorded an album. We were very lucky that Dan Weller from SikTh knew a guy out in Thailand. There was this amazing studio: we went over there for really cheap, recorded the album courtesy of a certain record label that we’re now no longer working with, so for the past year and a half we’ve had quite a long legal battle trying to further our career in that department, but now we’re actually re-recording those songs; completely independently, and we’re already speaking to many people, so hopefully that’ll transpire soon.
Excellent! Are you still working on the new Skyharbor album?
Yeah, well this is the thing: my time is now heavily focussed between In Colour and Skyharbor and Skyharbor is very much a band; I am the singer for that band – it is my band – and we want to make it a successful project, so we’re already writing for the second album.
How do you go about doing it, being so far apart?
It’s really easy! I mean I’m in touch with Keshav every day on Viber, the app on the iPhone: constantly chucking ideas around, speaking about the direction, and you know, I produce vocals – I produce my own stuff – and he’s a producer in his own right, and we’re constantly filesharing and experimenting with ideas. The next albums going to be a lot more cohesive and a lot more dynamic; the first album Illusion was a mash of songs, and Keshav said “hey, have a go”. Did my vocals – had complete freedom with that – and never thought it was going to go live so I went crazy in the studio, so doing Illusion live is an absolute challenge; I lay down the gauntlet to anyone to try and replicate that live – it’s hard! It’s a much tamer performance live that you’ll see tonight, but going back to your original point, yeah, writing’s very easy; it’s very quick.
Do you have any new stuff for the audience today?
We’re going to be doing Illusion; we don’t have Anup here so we’ve had to rehearse that. Mike actually learned the set two days ago and we nailed it in like five hours and it sounds incredible, so I’m very excited to be playing with him.
Yeah! Just having seen him with The Algorithm…I’ve seen him a few times now; he’s absolutely insane! So, obviously Anup is very busy with other projects as well – are you looking into a more permanent replacement for a drummer, or are you going to stick with Anup?
Well, it’s working at the minute! I mean, for instance, his schedule is for this year and next year is obviously getting busier all the time; his work with Intervals and Jeff Loomis and all that kind of stuff, and we’re quite open about the fact that if things don’t work out then that’s fine, you know. The thing with Skyharbor is that the focussed members are there and we can still continue and if we ever need to we can effectively replace any of us.
You can’t be too precious about it can you?
You can’t be precious about it, no.
Of course, yeah. So how did you guys get involved with Tech Fest?
Simon approached us! It’s very much a similar story to the EU exclusive we did at Euroblast. John got in touch with us, who’s the owner of that – John (Giulio Sprich) and Daniel (Schneider) – same story here: Simon got in touch; really loved Skyharbor, wanted us to play, and made it happen! We’re very grateful for that.
Yeah, I suppose it’s good to have someone who, you know, if they chase you a little bit and say “you know, I’ve really got to have you here”
Yeah, and it’s not just promoters who are asking us to come over; it’s the fans as well. Considering we never expected this to happen, the response has been incredible – and the reason why we’ve taken it live is because of that; the fans want it.
[laughs] So do we!
“We’re just doing it because they tell us to!”
“argh, god damn!” [laughs]
Have you guys played in India together?
Yeah we have.
What’s the reaction like over there? Because this is the first time in the UK isn’t it?
Well, you know, Keshav’s a very respected individual in the Indian metal scene and, you know, being one of the very few metal bands that have managed to get a worldwide metal deal, we have a great fanbase in India. Playing shows over there is an eye-opener; the nature of it is that if you play festivals in India you’re going to have some very big sponsors involved so there’s always a fund to fly people across the world to come and play, and you end up getting large audiences – you know, ten thousand plus–
People come down because tickets are very cheap!
Didn’t you guys open for Guns N’ Roses?
We actually got asked but we didn’t end up doing it.
Ah, okay; I was chatting to Anup and he mentioned it.
Yeah, we we’re gonna do it but at the end of the days that’s a bit of a difficult one.
If you could play with anyone who would it be?
Well, I mean Deftones and Tool would be my two greatest favourite artists
Your voice would fit in pretty well with those!
Yeah, big inspirations!
Saw Deftones for the first time back in February and was just blown away; absolutely phenomenal.
Yeah, I’ve seen them six times!
[laughs] no big surprise there! Ok, cool, thanks very much Dan. We know you guys are going on soon, right?
Yeah, in fact I’ve got an extensive warm-up routine to get stuck in to so [laughs]
[laughs] We’ll let you go then! Pleasure to meet you.
You too – tell us what you think of the set as well!
Which segues nicely into our set review from Angel!
One of the biggest draws of the festival, and their first ever show out of their home country to boot, there was a lot of pressure on Skyharbor to deliver their delicious goods. To give an indication of the magnitude, there was a stampede to the stage while the band were playing their final sound check, and a roar went up when Dan Tompkins and co. strolled onstage.
While the stringsmen in the band put in a solid performance and provided a strong instrumental backbone, it was Mike Malyan filling in on drums and singer Dan Tompkins who stole the show completely. The former, having learned the entire set in four days, was a maniac on the kit as he hammered through the first seven tracks from Blinding White Noise.
Dan had the audience’s rapt attention from start to finish, channelling a musical theater semblance with the sheer emotion he put into his singing and screaming. “Catharsis” in particular brought applause mid-song after a belief-defying set of high notes, and “Celestial” was no less stunning, with its required vocal gymnastics. His energy was infectious as he paced the photo pit or contorted his legs over the monitors during “Aurora”, and by the time their criminally short 40-minute set concluded, the crowd had to be comforted with the announced promise of the new album and tour dates.
Without a doubt, Skyharbor were damn near flawless, and were highlight of the festival for many.