Espionage – Dictating the FutureSaturday, 26th May 2018
Power metal with speed and traditional values may not be in vogue in the current scene, but when you hear a quality band like Espionage producing material that rivals that early movement of the 80’s and 90’s, people will perk up and take notice. Only together for four years, they’ve quietly made impressive inroads across Australia and through critics around the globe, for a sound that contains searing riffs, high octane falsetto vocals, and power that rivals bands like Vicious Rumors, Riot, Liege Lord, Scanner, and others in that ilk.
Their latest album Digital Dystopia hopefully will continue to elevate their profile and introduce many newcomers to a sound rarely heard today. Striking all the right chords, we reached out to guitarist Denis Suduzka to catch up on the band. You’ll learn more about how the band formed, their earlier releases, how they fit into a burgeoning Aussie metal scene, and learn a little bit behind Denis’ promotional work with the Legions of Steel Festival.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you fill me in on your musical history in childhood and how you progressed into heavy metal and eventually picking up an instrument to perform in bands?
Denis Suduzka: I was born in Bosnia in 1990, and my parents were big into music. My dad did lighting and sound for a lot of bands over there- mostly rock bands. I guess I picked that up from him, listening to Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Queen through my childhood. I was also big into early rap and hip-hop as well. I didn’t pick up the guitar until I was 15 or 16 when I discovered Van Halen, Guns ‘n’ Roses, then progressed into the heavier stuff like Megadeth, Pantera, etc. I discovered more of the 80’s music too, and I started a thrash band called Seppuku that didn’t really go anywhere. One day my band played with another band from New Zealand called Razorwyre, a traditional /power metal kind of band. I was blown away by the falsetto vocals, and that night I knew I needed to start a band like that- a few months later I had Espionage going.
Dead Rhetoric: At what point did you end up moving from Bosnia to Australia – and did you experience any sort of culture shock or did you adjust pretty well to your new home?
Suduzka: We left during the war of Bosnia, when Sarajevo was under siege. In late October of 1994, we bounced around through Amsterdam and Germany for a little bit until we made it down to Adelaide in Australia, where we had family already living there. So not much cultural shock, it was easy to transfer into that because of having family down there. I was four when that happened.
Dead Rhetoric: Espionage started in 2014. What do you remember about those early rehearsals and songwriting ventures – did you know right away the type of heavy/speed/power metal you wanted to develop?
Suduzka: I started writing material for Espionage in November or December of 2013. You go onto Facebook or other local musician forums, and from there you ask other musicians to join what you are doing. I’d written some demos that I put up on Soundcloud, and those songs were very much in that early Helloween style. I put the word out that I needed a vocalist, bassist, drummer who wants to play this style- and surprisingly I had a lot of hits (laughs). A few failed vocalists of course who weren’t quite up to scratch, we’d go into rehearsal and put two or three of our favorite 80’s covers, like Helloween “I Want Out” or Grim Reaper “See You In Hell”, those are the best two covers we ever did. Then Frosty – the bass player and vocalist, used to just be the bass player, and I had no idea he could sing until he did the backing vocals one day and he blew away the guy that we were trying out. Needless to say, we kicked that guy out pretty fast and got Frosty to do the bass and vocals, he’s so amazing.
Definitely we are all fans of the 80’s metal scene in general. I think we knew what we wanted to do from the start- if anything in the early days we were a bit more raw than we are now. We are a bit more refined with what we want, and more melodic nowadays than what we were back then.
Dead Rhetoric: You released two EP’s in consecutive years. What can you tell us regarding the recording sessions and overall outcome of both – did you feel like you were noticing a natural comfort and level of growth as you gained more seasoning and confidence?
Suduzka: The first EP, which we now call a demo because it was poorly recorded- it was a self-titled four track offering that I did all at home. I have my own audio interface set up at home- even now for this latest album I recorded all the guitars and bass at home. I think the vocals we did at a high school/university where there was some music course, but that didn’t turn out too well. Drums were programmed from memory, so we just used computers to start off with. We weren’t a big fan of it, we printed off 100 copies of it and wouldn’t do it again. We do plan on re-recording those songs, one day. And then with Wings of Thunder, the second EP- we went to the studio and did that properly, which obviously is an actual progression. And with the new album Digital Dystopia, same studio and same producer – it felt like home.
Dead Rhetoric: Digital Dystopia is the latest full-length from Espionage. You recorded this with respected Australian musician/producer Chris Themelco and sought out Thomas Johannson at the Panic Room for mastering. How did these sessions go for the band, and were there any specific challenges, surprises, or obstacles to overcome?
Suduzka: The only obstacles were, we were a three-piece at the time when that album was written. We had just finished up the Wings of Thunder tour, and we had a few fill-in guitarists playing the second lead guitar on that tour. All the songs were written, the obstacle was finding another guitarist which took a long, long time. Which is fairly weird these days- years ago, you could find a lead guitarist easily, now they all seem to start their own bands. Digital Dystopia took a few months- we weren’t in the studio for two weeks straight or anything like that. We’d have the guitars done at my home, Frosty did the bass at my home- we got that out of the way really early. The drums we did a few months later, when the room in the studio was available, because Chris is a very busy guy. We split it up over a few months- the drums maybe took about four days, and then about two months later when the studio was available again we did five or six days of vocal tracking. Time was the only obstacle- other than that it was a really good experience.
Dead Rhetoric: How did you come about the cover art piece- and was it a collaboration process between the artist and the band for the final output?
Suduzka: Okay- this is an interesting question. Laszlo Kupe is the artist. I was randomly Google searching 80’s sci-fi kind of cyber-punk images. I came across what would become the Digital Dystopia artwork – I saw the artist’s page on some other site and asked if we could buy the piece for our album cover and make some modifications here and there. Laszlo was so nice about it, he said it we could just have it- it was something that he had done a long, long time ago. Maybe it dates back to the mid-2000’s, it was never used and dates back to a personal project. They were happy to make any changes we wanted, and even animated certain things for our lyric video. It was interesting- it was pretty much what we wanted, we just refined smaller things and some of the signs on the wall that we changed to local references in our scene.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s it like working with a guy like Chris as well- did he give any suggestions on enhancing the output in a different or better way than you imagined?
Suduzka: Definitely – Chris is a magician! (laughs) I don’t think we butted heads at all. He knows how to get the best out of what we want and any band he works with. I think some of the suggestions that he made related to more vocal harmonies, or gang vocals, and where we would place them. One of the tracks, “Final Breath”, we put a lot of sound effects in which he hated- but we were trying to be cheesy in that 80’s way. That was the only thing we disagreed about. He definitely knows how to get the best out of everyone as a musician and a vocalist himself.
Dead Rhetoric: Matt Carroll is the new guitarist of Espionage- how long of a process did it take to find him, and how his style on the guitar in comparison to yourself?
Suduzka: Matt I’ve known for a while, mainly over Facebook. I did meet him in person, but we were very, very drunk, many years ago. I don’t think he remembers the encounter at all. I put an ad out there looking for a new guitarist after the tour, and he offered to do it. I asked him to learn one of our songs, he sent me a video the next night and he nailed it. We brought him in for rehearsal, we all clicked- the other guys had never met him before. But we all clicked.
It didn’t take very long at all- but then again he came into a band which had already two releases and the third on it’s way. He had maybe a month to learn 20 songs which was difficult for him I imagine. He’s a bit more free with his playing, I like to map out exactly what I am doing – he goes in and wings it, balls out. It works well.
Dead Rhetoric: Will it be a situation where you will split the leads and trading off, there is a lot of action going on within songs like “Enter the Arena” and “Light Begins to Fade”?
Sudzuka: Yes, definitely. “Enter the Arena” we’ve got a few guest guitarists on that lead break, which are friends of ours. Mark Furtner of Lord does the first solo, Brendan Farrugia from another Melbourne band called Envenomed, Tim Brown from the Canadian band Striker, and we got Emir Hot from Bosnia who is an incredible guitarist. He recorded his solo over Skype while drunk- so I got to watch him do that live and send it to me, which was incredible. Matt and I will trade off solos live- we already do anyway. One of the songs “Lost in Space” on the album, that’s a tradeoff between him and I, and hopefully we will be playing that one on tour. Even all the covers we do tradeoffs- I couldn’t live without that.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Espionage when it comes to your live performances – and what have been some of your most memorable shows through the years with the band?
Sudzuka: Beer soaked, usually! We like to have a lot of fun, you can’t take music too seriously. With lots of the local shows that we play, half the crowd are our friends anyways. They’ll heckle us and give us beer, which is always fun. Some of our most memorable shows, we’ve played the Steel Assassins festival in Sydney, and that was a really good one. A way to get over a hangover really quick is to play first, straight off the bat. We’ve played Perth twice, and those are memorable. Most of the mini-fests in Australia are great. The home of metal in Melbourne is the Bendigo Hotel – a great venue, most shows there are memorable or you don’t remember them at all because it’s a party place for metalheads.
Dead Rhetoric: Your style embraces many fringe acts that may have been critical favorites but often struggled to gain major appeal: Vicious Rumors, Liege Lord, Riot, Scanner, Crimson Glory, and Chroming Rose to name a few. Does this make it as difficult in today’s scene to gain appeal against some of the more ‘trend’-oriented genres within metal?
Sudzuka: I think that’s always the case- nice list of bands you mentioned there too. It’s a very niche style- not many people are doing it, and while it was more popular back then, it never quite got where it should have gone. I guess this is take two with the new generation. People seem to like it, I don’t look at the current wave of bands. We just hope for the best to be honest.
Dead Rhetoric: I think because of your distinct style, you can play with all sorts of bands and not pigeonhole yourselves into one type of metal act to play with…
Sudzuka: Yes, that’s definitely the thing. A lot of the lineups and booking here- you will have your all thrash lineup, or your all power metal lineup. We go hand in hand with everything- because the main thing is you can’t not know all the other bands in this area, it’s just so closed in. Everyone knows each other, so we are happy to jump on a bill with thrash bands, or death bands, mixed bills seem to be working really well down here lately. There’s something for everyone I think.
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