Now You Know: Ion Vein

Tuesday, 4th November 2014

Formation: 1994
Location: Chicago, IL
Style: Power/prog on the heavier end of the spectrum
Personnel: Rob Such (bass); Chuck White (drums); Rich Knight (guitars); Chris Lotesto (guitars, keyboards, vocals); Scott Featherstone (vocals)
Latest Release: Ion Vein (Mortal Music)

The road for Ion Vein has been paved with obstacles. Going a period of 10 years between their last full-length album (Reigning Memories) and this year’s self titled release. Guitarist/keyboardist Chris Lotesto gives us the Cliff notes version, “We actually wrote the entire album with our original singer, Russ Klimczak, still in the band and over time we just realized that we needed to go in a different direction and parted ways in May of 2006 after the basic tracks had been recorded, which was an incredibly difficult decision. We spent 18 months looking for a new singer, turning over every stone, actually found someone in Chicago that we thought was a great fit in August of 2007 and started recording vocals. We had a lot of scheduling problems between trying to get studio time and producer time, as Neil (Kernon) had several other projects he had moved on to so it was a very frustrating period to say the least. The album was actually finished in August 2009 (a ten song version) and after a long conversation with Neil we felt that it still needed some finishing touches so we held off a bit. Around that same time we started having problems with the singer and luckily decided to pull the plug on the whole thing and fired him at the end of the year.”

“We actually parted ways with bassist, Brian Gordon, at the same time so 2010 kicked off with just me, Chuck, and another mountain to climb. About a month later, I got a Myspace (yes, Myspace) message from Scott Featherstone, who was an old friend from us doing shows with his band, Enertia, saying that he heard we were looking again and wanted to help out to get us back on track. Since he lives in upstate New York, it took a bit of time to work on songs, do demos, etc. long distance but we finally hit the studio here in Chicago in May 2011 to start work on vocals which went well but we only had three days to work. So, over the next few years, between coordinating schedules, finalizing vocals ideas, and only getting short weekend sessions to work here and there, we were finally able to get all the tracks completed in November 2013, get the album mixed and mastered in January 2014 and eventually released in July.”

Getting a glimpse of the ordeals that the band went through, it is surprising that the band survived. It’s a true testament to the willpower of the group. “We were definitely active, and as I’m sure you can guess, showing up to rehearsal twice a week with no singer for 18 months was certainly a test of will but we believed so strongly in the songs that we just had to keep going. There have been moments where you start to question things, and the efforts put forth, etc. but there is still so much left to do to try to accomplish and to give Ion Vein the chance it deserves to succeed that it would certainly be hard to but the band to rest. I’ve always said that everyone’s day will come if you’re patient and willing to keep working towards it but as time goes on, it definitely doesn’t get any easier,” says Lotesto.

The band did come up with a few demos during the “rough” points, so why not make them available for the public? Lotesto states, “Well, the demos that we did from 2003-2005, most of which turned out to be songs for the new album, were definitely never even in consideration. The first pass of the album that we did with the singer after Russ actually saw a few songs released to the public on our Facebook and Myspace pages in early 2008 as a “suped-up” four song demo, so to speak, just to get some momentum going again but that was the extent of the release of those recordings. As I mentioned earlier, this album was done in August 2009, but luckily we pulled the plug, and none of the demos we did with Scott in 2010 were ever under consideration for release.”

Speaking of Scott Featherstone, with all of the issues finding a proper vocalist, how did the band realize that he would be the best for the job? “I’ve been a fan of Scott’s since we played our first show together back in 1999 and our bands became friends. Neil actually was producing the Enertia Force album during the time we were finishing up Reigning Memories and was a fan of Scott’s as well, and really got some killer vocals out of him on that record, so when I mentioned that we were going to be working with Scott, he was pretty stoked as well. Anyway, I played Chuck a couple tracks off of Force and he loved his voice too. So, the next step was hearing how it would work with the IV sound and after we got the first demo, which was “Enough,” we knew his voice fit perfectly and we knew he was a cool guy so the rest is history.”

With a solid vocalist in check, the band finally made their way to the studio to record. The band put forth two digital releases, which featured three tracks a-piece as a way to satiate long-term followers. “…with all the scheduling conflicts, etc. we knew it was going to be a while before the whole album would be finished and around the same time, our friends at Mortal Music were working on a digital release (DR) concept where you would introduce 3-4 songs at a time so fans wouldn’t have to wait for such a long time between releases so it all just kinda worked out.”

In the studio for Ion Vein, the band once more reunited with Neil Kernon. “It felt so great to be back together in the studio, it was almost like time stood still…which I really wish it did haha….like we just picked up where we left off and kept rolling. We’ve always had a blast in the studio, even in the face of much of the adversity we faced with equipment problems, etc. there was always some bit of levity and goofing off to balance the days out,” says Lotesto.

Ion Vein was released in the summer to a favorable response. But what’s next for the band? A follow-up? Touring? Both? “It’s definitely been on my mind quite a lot lately and I almost feel like we need a quick follow-up to really solidify were the band is and to help the fans understand where were coming from as this album was a bit of shock, in terms of the heaviness, to many of our older fans but we’ll see how things progress.” Lotesto adds, “Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to do any touring or live dates up to this point but we’re working on it! Hopefully we can at least get a few shows in by year’s end and get the opportunity to jump onto something early next year for a small run of shows or festival dates.” The band is also in the midst of putting together details for a huge 20th anniversary event sometime in spring of 2015. It appears things are finally turning around for the veteran band, and hopefully the road to success will come much easier to a band that has certainly put the time and heart into it.

Ion Vein official website