Voidscape – A Spiteful OdysseyTuesday, 28th March 2023
New Jersey three-piece Voidscape contains seasoned musicians already active in numerous heavy acts across all genres spectrums, especially if names like Tombs, Hammer Fight, Kalopsia, Replicant, Windfaerer, and Chaos Sanctuary come across your listening stations. Originally releasing a two-song demo and follow-up “Drifting Purpose” single, it’s been five years since that last recording – leading us to signing with Nefarious Industries for Odyssey of Spite. A quick hitting five song affair, listeners can expect a sound that is aggressive while catchy, straightforward enough to keep the hooks on point – incorporating a mix of influences globally to set themselves apart from the pack.
We reached out to guitarist, bassist, and engineer/producer Rob Torres to get the low down on his early musical memories, the songwriting approach for this latest release, how switching hats from musician to producer benefits the final product, special memories surrounding Pantera, Carcass, At the Gates, Ozzfest 1997, and what’s in the works for Voidscape plus other bands these musicians are involved in for this year.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your earliest memories surrounding music during childhood? How did you make the progression into heavier forms of music, and eventually want to play an instrument to perform in your own bands?
Rob Torres: My parents have always been huge music fans. My mom also played guitar when she was younger. I grew up listening to Black Sabbath and all the classic rock stuff from the 70’s. By the time I hit age ten, that’s when we had the whole invasion of grunge. I also graduated from grunge to heavier forms of music like Metallica, Pantera, I grew up on 90’s metal. From there I went a little bit heavier like Carcass, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel. My love of music just progressed into me wanting to play guitar, I became interested in songwriting, and played in bands as a teenager. Eventually I ended up becoming a producer for a living, along with playing music as well. It was a very natural progression.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you end up taking any lessons in that time, or are you self-taught with picking out things by ear?
Torres: It was a little bit of both. When I started out I was self-taught, but eventually I ended up taking lessons, and studying music for a few years. So, it was a combination of both. I had a lot of great teachers that introduced me to different styles of music that I would have never heard or had any interest in if it weren’t for them exposing me to those genres.
Dead Rhetoric: Your debut EP for Voidscape is Odyssey of Spite. How did the songwriting and recording sessions go for this set of material? Were there any special surprises, obstacles, or interesting stories to delve into regarding the process that went into the EP?
Torres: Yeah, it was an interesting process for me. I am a full-time producer, and the other guys have full-time jobs, plus their own bands individually. I know Justin Spaeth the drummer is in ten different bands, Mike (Ximenez) the vocalist is in ten different bands, so they are both extremely busy. The way that we wrote this, we sent each other ideas through the internet, and we created our demos on our own. We ended up convening in the studio and recorded it all together after the demos were full fleshed out. I would get ideas from Justin for songs and work on them, and after we recorded everything – then we would meet in reality to record the music. I had never done a record this way before – I’m used to playing with guys in a room and crafting music that way. The advantage to doing things this way is you can be a little more efficient. You hear the ideas clearly at a low volume, you dive deep into the details on your own. Those two guys are really professional, and we’ve all done this a million times. I produce other bands for a living, so I’m used to the process. They are great songwriters, and it made the whole process a lot of fun, and really enjoyable.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the lighter instrumental “Ludlow” come about? I love the placement of this track in the middle of the EP, as it provides a short aural breather before the moodier “Extinctionborn”…
Torres: That’s a good question. I’m a huge horror movie fan, I was highly inspired watching the movie My Bloody Valentine, with this Irish folk song. I wanted to create something like that, as it’s way out of my comfort zone. I pushed myself to write something in that style. Me personally, I have been heavily influenced by 70’s rock production, and I wanted an interlude to have that feel. I thought it would be a nice contrast to as you said for one of the heavier tracks, as it’s so out of nowhere. That’s pretty much it. The rest of the band dug the demo, so we recorded it for real. Real drums, real instruments, and that’s how it came together.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the cover art come about – as it’s definitely something a little different than what people would expect from a band in your style?
Torres: That’s all Mike. Mike writes all the lyrics, and a lot of the songs are very personal to him, personal experiences. He had a broad concept, we all looked at the artwork, felt it fit the mood of the EP and the music, and we just went with it. He puts meaning to the actual music.
Dead Rhetoric: Performing in a melodic death metal style, what are key signature aspects that you want to get across with the songs for Voidscape that may help you stand out against the sea of other bands playing in this style?
Torres: For me personally, and I think the other guys can agree, I wouldn’t want the songs to be a bunch of riff salads. I don’t want a bunch of riffs strung together, I want solid song structures. Even if it’s brutal music and all screaming, I want choruses, verses, and not be too long-winded. I want everything to have its own place. That’s something that’s an unspoken rule in the band. We aren’t just creating music to show off, or show our technical ability, or cram as many riffs together to create the longest, most complex music in the world. We are straightforward and we want to be about the song. Focus on that alone.
Dead Rhetoric: How does it feel to be a part of the Nefarious Industries label?
Torres: It’s been great, man. The fact that they are so supportive, right away. One of my dreams was to have a release put out on cassette. The back and forth has been so convenient, clear, and simple. It’s been great.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering the talent within the band as far as handling engineering, mixing, and mastering duties yourself plus Mike’s artwork, photography, and layout skills, is it more a case of knowing best how to achieve the results you want in these departments rather than farming out these duties to others – which could be more expensive or time-consuming in the long run?
Torres: Yeah. For me, it’s just happenstance that Mike had those skills, I’m a producer, and it’s very convenient. We are both seasoned enough that we can wear these different hats and go into band mode. For a lot of people you can make things more complicated. When I’m producing music, I don’t think of myself as the guitar player, I try to look at things objectively. And Mike is the same way when he presents artwork. If we have a suggestion, he’s cool with it – and almost treats us as a client. Even though he’s in the band and we are a three-piece, we are good at compartmentalizing. It does save us money and time as well.
Dead Rhetoric: As you said, you are wearing your engineering and producing hat in Voidscape – compared to playing the songs. How do you separate the two – and do you know when a song is truly finished?
Torres: I’m in my late thirties now, and when I was a little younger I used to struggle with endlessly tweaking songs, endlessly mixing things. Working now with hundreds of bands, I’ve learned the importance of deadlines. I have a cut off point for myself, if a band decides things are going to be done by April, it’s done by April. Whether I like it or not. I schedule things out to the point where I get the work done. It’s as simple as that. It took twenty years of experience to get to this point, playing in bands, recording and mixing.
Dead Rhetoric: As a producer, is your approach different for each band/project depending on the seasoning and skill level? What are some things you try to impart on each recording?
Torres: It varies greatly depending on the experience. Some bands, a lot of the younger bands that I’ve been working with, have gone old school and don’t use a lot of the technology that’s available today. Back to playing in a room together, that’s the good element. The bad thing is a lot of bands don’t do any pre-production. These are clients I work with – we will spend days and days working on click tracks, rearranging songs, versus a seasoned band that’s used to touring, they have a home studio setup, sent ideas back and forth. In that case, I’m the guy steering the ship and just polishing that last 10% versus reworking the songs, the tempos of a band from scratch.
It also depends on the genre of music I’m working with. If I’m working with a band that’s more pop structure-oriented, we focus more on the hooks in the songs versus a band that’s technical, riff salad thing where it’s more about the clarity, capturing that appropriately. It’s sort of a different mindset. Even if it’s all metal, there’s still a variation there.
Dead Rhetoric: Given the fact that the members of Voidscape also perform in other bands, where do this band’s activities measure up on the scale of priority? Are you conscientious of the balance that needs to be maintained and develop good time management/communication skills between the band members?
Torres: Yes, me personally I can’t speak for the other guys but I’m highly conscientious because we are all older, full-time jobs, other priorities. I have a YouTube channel, other production, I think we know that we carve out specific time per week to work on this music. As far as priorities, it’s hard to say. I think all the guys in the band treat this just as important as any of the other projects. The cool thing is it’s naturally progressed organically to be a more important part of what we are doing. It started out as a single we did years ago, then this EP, and now we are blossoming into a full-fledged project. The possibility of shows, a full-length in the near future. I’m just having fun, and having it naturally progress where the chips may fall.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges currently facing Voidscape at this point in the band’s career?
Torres: Because of how busy everyone is, just finding the time to record and rehearse. We all face that, that’s a very common challenge that anyone in a band faces. Carving out the time, and making it happen. But we are doing it, we are doing it.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider three of the most important metal releases that helped shape your outlook on the genre? And what’s your favorite concert memory that you took in as a fan – and what made that show so special to you?
Torres: For me, it’s hard to dwindle it down to just three releases. Slaughter of the Soul by At the Gates is one of my favorite albums of all time. Also, Carcass – Heartwork. It was a huge influence on me in my early teens. Far Beyond Driven by Pantera. But there are so many great records that influenced me personally growing up.
One of my favorite concert memories. There are a lot, but maybe Ozzfest 1997. I got to see Pantera, Ozzy and Black Sabbath at the same show, I think Machine Head was there, Type O Negative. The first time I had ever seen Fear Factory live. Having all those bands at one show was unbelievable. Looking back at it retroactively, it was amazing. We will never get to see some of those bands in that capacity ever again. A lot of great shows, but that’s one of the top ones.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the metal scene within New Jersey? Do you feel that there is a good variety of styles and proper support from the promoters, clubs, bands, and fans themselves?
Torres: I can say this much, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Because I record and work with a lot of local bands, there’s a huge brewing underground scene of hardcore, gritty and more visceral sounding metal bands. Rough around the edges. I was at a show a few weeks ago recording the whole set, multitrack, and the place is packed with 200 kids of bands I’d never heard of. I haven’t seen shows like that since I was younger, the scene is definitely coming back around. It’s more raw and edgy compared to the stuff we’ve been getting over the past 10 or 15 years. It’s refreshing as well. I’m just happy to see kids playing guitars, bass, and drums again. Hip hop has been the main thing amongst young people from what I’ve noticed.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe kids are at an advantage today to pick up their skills much quicker because of the tools of the internet and instructional information that wasn’t as readily available in your generation or older?
Torres: 100%. You can learn anything from YouTube. I have a production channel, and I wish that had existed when I got into audio production. Or even when I was studying jazz when I was younger, a lot of great guitar channels exist now, and drum channels. There are a bunch of channels teaching you how to take care of your voice. The amount of information out there is great. The downside is, there can be overload – but I’d rather have too much information than not enough. It is an advantage for the kids wanting to get into playing music these days.
Dead Rhetoric: What types of advice do you try to give to these younger musicians when it comes to the music or business side that hopefully they take into consideration?
Torres: The number one thing – and this is me talking to my younger self – remember that being in a band is fun, but if you are looking to get anywhere at all, you have to think of the band as a business. You can’t just practice when you feel like it, you can’t just write when you feel like it. Set deadlines, have goals – have realistic goals. And stick to them. And demo your music (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: If you had the chance to teach a high school or college-level course of your choosing on any subject matter outside of the music realm, what would you teach and discuss why you believe this is important to learn?
Torres: I would say self-improvement. When I was younger, I didn’t think of these things – but as I’ve gotten older, taking care of yourself. Prioritizing certain things that are important. Cutting out all the crap that’s not important. I’ve been more interested in this subject matter the older I get. I’m a huge reader, and I wasn’t that way my whole life. E-Myth Revisited, a lot of business-oriented books. Rich Dad, Poor Dad for money management. Ramit Sethi as well, I Will Teach You To Be Rich.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next year shaping up for activities related to Voidscape or any other bands/projects taking place for the members of the group?
Torres: Ninja the drummer is working on a new Tombs album, which I’ll be producing. Mike is wrapping up a new album with Replicant. We are planning on playing shows, and we are working on our full-length album. A lot of activity in the near future for 2023.