Helion Prime – Cybernetic PowerMonday, 20th August 2018
Dead Rhetoric: With your other band Dire Peril, you recently completed a short tour run with Sirenia across North America. Where do you see the major differences between the two bands, and is one a priority over the other or are they equal just in different ways?
Ashcraft: They are definitely equal in different ways. I’ve invested a lot of time into both bands, and I don’t necessarily put one above the other as far as the passion goes. I would say that Helion Prime is a little bit more in the forefront, with AFM we have a stronger fanbase. I’ve really grown as a songwriter with Helion Prime, but I’m definitely proud of both bands. I want to see both bands equally succeed- I love the people within both bands, and as long as I can swing it, I’m definitely fully invested in both.
Dead Rhetoric: You had the experience of ‘buying on’ to the tour for Sirenia – does the upfront costs pay off in the end for exposure’s sake, or do you think bands and musicians need to be wiser to get more bang for the buck so to speak in these endeavors?
Ashcraft: This buy-on was my first experience with a buy-on – and from personal experience, I wasn’t into it. Now I’ll elaborate on that- the people were phenomenal, the bands were phenomenal, we had a great time. I definitely didn’t have a bad experience. But the idea of give us this much money, and then you can come on and the only money you get is through merch sales – it’s pretty much like give us this money and come on board. I’m not knocking anyone on the tour- they were all fantastic people. The way I see it is like this- you have the big local band who opens up for all the big boys who come through town. And you can say you’ve opened for these big bands, but no one really cares. I feel like a buy on is that, on a bigger scale. You may have toured with this band, but we all know how you got on that tour, you paid so much money. On this last tour, I lost a lot of money doing this. That’s kind of a bummer. I would say be a little more cautious, look at the fine print of what you are getting out of this tour. Who is the band you are touring with – if you are going to give this much money, is it worth the time and effort and exposure to be worth it. I don’t feel Dire Peril is any further along than where we were before the tour.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you see are the greatest challenges Helion Prime has to conquer at this point in your career?
Ashcraft: We are still looking for that next level. We have AFM, and that’s great- they help us out. Myself personally, I would like to secure a good booking agent, strong management- somebody that can take us to that next point of getting us onto more festivals. We are in it to win it, we want to tour, we want to play the festivals. AFM has great distribution and exposure, but we still haven’t gotten over that hump of that next level of finding someone that can get us to these places that we want to go. One of the challenges now is with Sozos living in Cyprus, it definitely makes things harder because we get offered shows here and there, we can’t really justify playing a show with having to cover Sozos in flights for 30 hours round trip to play a 30-minute set. We have to be a little bit more picky about what we play, and that’s why we are looking for the right opportunities to make it worth his time. We did a festival in Canada which is awesome, but we had a 30-hour flight to do it- with a lot of layovers. We want to make it worth the money, and a lot of things are still out of our own pocket. Some people don’t realize that – they think we are on AFM, we’ve made it. Well- not necessarily. We still have a long ways to go – we are just scratching the surface, and we haven’t paid all our dues just yet.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the misconceptions the average fan needs to understand, even being on a label at this point for a band of your stature?
Ashcraft: We are on a good label, but it doesn’t mean we’ve made it. We still have to earn our stripes. We have to prove ourselves to the label and booking agents. We get advancements and help here and there- but it’s not free money. Everything invested needs to be given back. On top of that, things are still coming out of pocket. We may be on tour, but they aren’t going to buy us the tour bus – or pay for the hotel rooms. When you get on a label, it is nice, you get some push, but you are still doing things by yourselves. People don’t really get to see the behind the scenes stuff, lineup changes – why can’t this band keep a member? What’s the problem here? Things just don’t always work out the way you want them to with five people and five different personalities. It’s not always pretty, but we do it because we love it.
Dead Rhetoric: That is one of the interesting things. There are times where life things happen, work schedules, certain members can’t make a certain tour, and then people wonder if the band is stable. Wouldn’t you rather see the band out on the road, even if it’s three of the five guys on the record?
Ashcraft: See, and that’s a great thing you bring up because that’s something I think about often. Especially when you get offered a tour, they want to know now, an answer now. There’s the pressure of urgency, and most employers if you ask them for a month off to tour, they laugh and say you are funny. People don’t realize, we aren’t making bank doing this – we are not walking home with a fat check that we can make a living from. We have to look at the future as are we going to come home to a house, am I going to be able to have food. Like you said, some bands either don’t tour, or we have a stand in. I don’t like that all the time, and it’s not something I want to do all the time- but if the occasion feels worth it, then I’m okay with it. There was even a time where we almost had a festival that we got to play that fell through that I wouldn’t have been able to play- and we would have got a stand in. Sometimes you make that sacrifice and it’s just not that easy to get all the members to go on certain shows. If it’s for the growth of the band though, it can be worthwhile. Would you rather us continuously change members and have each album with someone new – because the album’s forever, the tour is not. I would rather have a consistent lineup on the album, than on the tours.
Dead Rhetoric: Where are you at with the work/music/life balancing act that must take place to achieve all that you set out to do?
Ashcraft: I got pretty lucky. I was working at a job, and we did a tour, and I came back to the job and they told me I hope I had fun, because they probably weren’t going to let me do that again. Well, that’s not going to work for me- so I put my two weeks in at that job, and I didn’t know where my next step was. Fortunately, things just fell into place and I work at a place called the School of Rock. What’s great about them is they are 100% cool with me touring. Anytime I need to tour, I just give them enough advance notice, and they see me when I get back. I feel like I fell into a cool little situation, where getting time off for touring is not going to seem like an issue. And not everyone gets that lucky.
Dead Rhetoric: Working with the School of Rock, where do you see the state of music education and what types of students do you work with?
Ashcraft: From what I’ve seen, businesses like the School of Rock are fantastic. We do more than just teach the kids how to play an instrument. We put them into bands, they get to do showcases, and there are schools all across America with all-star programs. You reach levels and they can tour around the states. They get a little taste of what it’s like to be a band on the road, I didn’t have stuff like that when I was younger.
Dead Rhetoric: What disciplines have helped you hone your craft as a songwriter and a performer?
Ashcraft: That is a good question. Determination, I’m sure every musician reaches a point where you just want to call it a day. When you reach that point, you think about it and you realize that you would be more miserable if you weren’t doing it. Just being able to put out songs that people enjoy, it’s great because we are doing the best with the skills that we’ve got. We do not claim to be the greatest rock stars in the world, but if we can write material that people enjoy as much as we enjoy it, that’s a win to me.
Dead Rhetoric: You went overseas in the fall of 2017 to see Ayreon as well as Edguy on your adventures – what takeaways did you have with these shows and where do you see the major differences in metal support overseas versus in the United States?
Ashcraft: First off, those were two fantastic shows. I will say I’ve seen Edguy four times in the states, and you could take the crowd of all four of those shows and it wouldn’t equal the one show I saw them at in Germany. For me, for my experience, I’m not a mosher- I’m there to enjoy the music, and I’m not knocking anyone who enjoys that. It could be the bands I saw, the crowds are calmer, they like to sing along. With Ayreon, it’s hard to compare because they had never performed live until that point. It was a three-day special event, so there were people there from all over the world that just packed the place. The show was big, the stage was big- but that’s not the normal thing for an Ayreon show. Edguy was wall to wall, it was fantastic. When I see bands like Edguy come to America- which they haven’t in a decade – they don’t do as well here. There’s maybe 100-150 people that show up.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for Helion Prime, Dire Peril, and any other musical activities for the upcoming twelve months?
Ashcraft: Both bands have a few things in the works that I don’t think I can really disclose right now. Helion Prime album is out, and Sozos and I have already got the train rolling working on the third album. We already have the title, the theme, the songs laid out and we are putting the pieces together so that hopefully mid-way through next year we can be ready to get to the third album. Dire Peril we have a new album coming out on November 9th, and John and I have been brainstorming ideas for the next record. Nothing has pushed forward just yet. I have a hundred ideas in my head for other projects. There will be one or two more videos off the new Helion Prime album as well.
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