Trigger – Churning the WatersWednesday, 19th July 2017
Providing a potent mixture of the old with the new, Trigger aim to set their sights on international audiences with their latest release Cryogenesis. It’s not very often that you have a band willing to dish out classic hooks and melodies while also tapping into the aggression of thrash and melodic death riffing and tempos- making these elements gel together cohesively. Yet this quintet does – and they’ll be the first to tell you that they love Iron Maiden and Megadeth just as much as say Trivium or In Flames through their arrangements and musical execution.
We recently set up a Skype session with one of the guitarists Luke Ashley – an amiable gentleman who feels fortunate to be a part of a burgeoning country wide metal movement. In this interview, we handle the history of the group, his work as a guitar teacher in a reputable guitar academy, as well as how it is playing in a band with his father – beyond a bit of Cryogenesis discussion of course.
Dead Rhetoric: Take us back to the formation of Trigger in 2012 – how did everyone come into the picture, and did you know straight away the type of melodic metal you wanted to develop or was there a natural feeling out process to arrive at where you are musically?
Luke Ashley: It started off, none of us had ever really been involved in the Australian metal scene before. We were all looking for a bassist, who we happened to find over the internet. Our drummer was a local friend from work. Our vocalist came to us through a chance happening. We eventually decided to come to a sound that was going to be more like Iron Maiden. We got heavier as time went on, we started listening to heavier music, and we took on some more modern influences. That’s fairly apparent through the sound of our Mechania EP and the new album Cryogenesis.
Dead Rhetoric: The Mechania EP came out in early 2014 – how do you feel about the final product in terms of songwriting, performances, production, and overall development? Where do you see the strengths and weaknesses now having a few years to look back on things?
Ashley: There was a different curve in terms of the songwriting. The songwriting was more guitar based and guitar driven, where it was quite apparent that the songs were being written by the guitarists. Those guitars really drove the EP. With Cryogenesis, we took the time to really learn how to write for the vocalist, and how the narrative can take over versus writing a collection of riffs. The weakness for the EP would be, there wasn’t as much of a narrative element for those songs.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the deal with Hellfire Records happen? Do you feel it’s great stepping stone, even as a local label, for Trigger to move up the ranks?
Ashley: Hellfire Records happened I believe, Bo (Remy) from Hellfire Records contacted our guitarist Sean (Solley). It was interesting discussing the deal, we were fairly perceptive and we liked what was offered to us. We talked it up, said yes, and we call this a fetal (baby) label- it’s not a full deal, (but) with a distribution deal for Cryogenesis. We will use this for the first 500 copies and see where things go from there. We may stay with Hellfire from there, or see if things can go up the ranks. We are seeing how far we can push ourselves with this release.
Dead Rhetoric: Your latest album Cryogenesis showcases a great fusion of melodic metal that contains everything from groovier hooks to twin guitar harmonies, also reaching thrash/melodic death segments. How do you feel you’ve grown in the three years between releases, and what surprises/developments took place to make this effort stronger?
Ashley: As the primary songwriters for the early material are Sean and myself, he is very European based with his influences, and I am a bit more American driven in my writing. It’s a real meeting of both minds and both styles. I write from a place where I think the hook is the absolute, most important thing in a piece of music. Every song we write can vary in style, but there are always hooks and strong counterpoint parts off of that. That’s our staple above anything else, over any particular style, our attention to hooks.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you believe producer Chris Themelco (Orpheus Omega) brings to the table to help Trigger achieve more of what you wanted in the studio? Are there any specific insights or tips that you applied?
Ashley: Absolutely, Chris is fantastic. We went in and tracked everything with Chris- I was very interested in his insight in finalizing the writing process. He was a huge help in terms of the harmonies, the counter melodies through choruses, to really flesh them out and make them sound suitably broad but complex. So that was mostly for harmonies through the bar chords on guitar.
Dead Rhetoric: Where does Trigger come from on a lyrical content standpoint? Do you prefer keeping the topics on more of a social/political level to match the aggression and energy of the music, or do other influences come into the picture?
Ashley: We wrote Cryogenesis as a bit of a concept album. It wasn’t full-fledged, but we have an overarching world that we are singing about. We found a narrative about a location in the world or some mythological event, and give it our spin to fit into this world. There are a few songs that deal with more of the human psyche, such “Dead Sun” and “Dysphoria”, and other ones that have more of a directional narrative such as “Tethered to the Tide” or “Veins of Ambrosia”, those are more tied to specific areas of the world. More of our emotional influences come through there.
Dead Rhetoric: And how did the cover art develop for this record?
Ashley: We wanted to go with something that had a bit more power. I found Janan (Isk) as a local artist, and without saying too much about his work, there was one thing that stood out to me. I just liked the sci-fi elements that we had, I thought about having strong brains – I contacted him right away, and he was happy to go through with this.
Dead Rhetoric: It appears as if the Melbourne metal scene – or Australia as a whole – seems like a hotbed not just in one specific sub-genre, but provides a wealth of talent in numerous styles be it melodic or extreme. How do you feel about the local scene, are the fans, promoters, and venues generally as supportive of the local bills as the international artists and tours that come through?
Ashley: Yes, absolutely. Melbourne is an absolute breeding ground for talent. Especially when it comes to bands looking to break through into international waters. It becomes quite competitive to each other almost, in terms of how you can craft a song and how complex of a piece you put together. There can be a back and forth between artists. Each city in Australia seems to have its own strength as far as subgenres- Melbourne is a bit more thrash-oriented, Sydney is a bit more power metal oriented, over in Brisbane that is a little bit more metalcore, it’s all different depending where you go at least in terms of the strength based on the genre. Melbourne is quite eclectic and a scene that I am very proud to be a part of.
Dead Rhetoric: You play in this band with your father as the two guitarists. What does this mean for you to have such a strong support system, and where do you see the benefits considering your old to new generation outlook as players and performers within a metal band?
Ashley: It’s an absolute pleasure to play alongside Sean week in and week out. It’s done a 180 on our relationship. We are more mates than anything else. It’s an honor to share that. In terms of musicality, he’s far more feel driven, while I’m very much theory-based. We look at music in a completely different way, each of us. We cover each other’s weaknesses there. We understand how each other plays, we really gel well together live even though we come from completely different backgrounds.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you end up picking out spots for who handles the lead work based on those individual strengths?
Ashley: Yes. I prefer taking more structured leads, and he’ll take any leads that require a bit more aggression.
Dead Rhetoric: Being a guitar teacher as a day job, what type of students do you work with, and where do you see the greatest struggles or hurdles that players need to overcome – are there specific exercises or ideas that you implement to improve technique and skill sets?
Ashley: I work with people from the age of six to sixty-plus. The greatest hurdle is that mental hurdle, of making sure you are practicing every day. And not just practicing, practicing the right way. Have somebody guide you and making sure that the time you do put into practice is time well spent, is the most important thing. Making sure that your technique is right, and you are not practicing the wrong things so that you have to go back and fix them are absolutely paramount.
Dead Rhetoric: Are there people that come to you excited to know that you play in a metal band?
Ashley: I believe so. I think it sort of fulfills a bit of a fantasy, as such. It opens up an avenue where you can go from learning an instrument to having fun. The institution I teach at, Melbourne Guitar Academy, we are driven towards that heavy style and we are up to that style of training people to be guitar ninjas. Making sure that they can get on the stage if they want to.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you find there are people that are afraid of the changes in technology and keeping up with things when it comes to equipment?
Ashley: I’d say no more than myself. The world has changed very, very much in the last 15 years- the whole industry has had to adapt, and I think they are still struggling with it. Where does the whole movement of piracy, online streaming, and downloads go- it’s the most prevalent way to send your music across, and independent artists all over the world. It’s better if you are coming into music just now because you aren’t into an old way of thinking- you can come into this with fresh ideas and adapt on the fly.
Dead Rhetoric: Are there any specific bands that you look up to as a template for how you would like to see the career arc of Trigger go on – either in terms of the musical output, or professionalism with their live performances and business/branding presentation?
Ashley: Yeah. I’d say within the Australian base, someone like Parkway Drive. Being how they have managed to capture international audiences and explode. I believe they were a bit of a one-off case, but it does show that it can be done in Australia in the modern day. I really like the way that they’ve worked themselves and carried themselves. In terms of musicality, going off more of the influences, I would put down things like Trivium, Iron Maiden, and In Flames.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the power of social media these days – do you consider its importance across numerous platforms in keeping your fans engaged and building more of a profile for the band?
Ashley: You simply can’t succeed without a strong social media presence. You have to be on it, it’s a great thing to have as a band. The only person that will push your band is yourself, at the end of the day. With everybody on social media, it’s going to come down to who’s willing to put in the most effort, in the most appropriate way. Essentially it puts everybody on the same level playing field, it’s a matter then of who is going to put in the most effort. It’s great to access fans from all over the world, and very good for the fans to access their favorite bands from all over the world. If you put the effort in, you can reap the rewards.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us three albums that have had the greatest impact on your personal affinity and views of heavy metal, and what have been some of your favorite live shows memories purely from a spectator outlook?
Ashley: Three albums, I would say Follow the Reaper by Children of Bodom, Shogun by Trivium, and Temple of Shadows by Angra. A little bit of Scandinavian death, a little bit of power metal, and the modern touch. You have hooks all over the albums, very mature writing, and very melodic as well. In terms of live shows, I’d say my crowning moment would have been seeing Ronnie James Dio in Heaven and Hell when I was 15. That was quite an impressive moment, especially at that age.
Dead Rhetoric: What obsessions or passions do you explore on the evenings, weekends, or in free time when you are able to do so?
Ashley: These days I mostly play guitar, above anything else. Just exploring where I can take the guitar, and learning different styles of jazz and the progressions. Seeing how I can take things in and apply them to our next release. I’m just passionate about music.
Dead Rhetoric: Will it be a juggling act for drummer Tim Joyce to balance his work between Harlott and yourselves, and how did bassist Matt Ambrose gain the chance to work with Pegazus? Do you feel the opportunities open horizons for Trigger in the long term?
Ashley: Yes, it certainly is a juggling act between Harlott and Trigger, but we have toured with Harlott. We have a good relationship with them. In regards to Pegazus, we are able to share a lot of double bills with the band, as long as Matt and Tim are up for the challenge, it becomes a much more exciting show for everyone involved.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next six months to a year playing out for Trigger in terms of promotion and performances? Has songwriting already begun on the follow up, and if so how do you feel this material compares to Cryogenesis?
Ashley: Yes, I’ll be going into pre-production tonight actually for album two. We’ve written a few songs already, and we are just feeling out the direction of the next one. If we want to take on a heavier ideal, or stick to a more classic aspect. We are just churning the waters at the moment. I can’t say too much, I don’t want to spoil everything. In terms of tours, we will be doing an Australian tour, and we will be looking at potentially international things down the line. We’ll be revealing a video at the time of the release – and a more conceptual video as well.