interview with Ivory Knight

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What´s the name of your band?  Ivory Knight

How was the band formed? JDP: I started the band in the summer of 1987 with original drummer Paul Malek, who played on the original Annihilator demos. With guitarist Joe Nasrallah, we planned to put together a cover band just to play some shows over the summer. After losing our bassist, we decided to write some tunes with me filling in on bass, and the result was recorded on a cassette 4-track machine and released as a demo called 'Voices in your Nightmare'.  Unexpectedly, the demo got great reaction and positive reviews from all over the world! Eventually, through various line ups, band name changes, many amazing shows, and 2 albums later, we’ve arrived at where we are now!

Can you tell about your band?

SM: It's melodic metal as played by 4 guys who love it.

JDP: We’ve recorded 2 albums, ‘Up From The Ashes’ and ‘Unconscience’, as well as 3 demos, ‘Voices (In Your Nightmare)’, ‘Breakin’ The Ice’, and ‘Restless Heart’.

We’re listed in respected Metal magazine Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles #92 as one of the great Canadian Metal acts alongside bands like Rush, Annihilator, Voivod, Anvil, Exciter, and others! The Temple of Metal in Greece called the band “Canada’s best kept secret”! U.S.-based Indie-Music.com says this band is “good enough to have a mainstream appeal similar to that of Priest, Sabbath, Megadeth, or Metallica”!

We’ve played many great shows including winning opening slots with Blackstar (feat. Exciter alumni John Ricci and Jacques Belanger), Sonata Arctica, Sword, and W.A.S.P.

Where are all band members from?

SM: I'm originally from Grand Falls, Newfoundland, Canada.

JDP: Born in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland UK, lived in Hamilton then Paisley, Scotland, before moving to Ottawa, Canada.

GN: Ottawa

RG: Ottawa

Who does what in the band?

John Devadasan Perinbam: Lead and backing vocals, a bit of this and a bit of that

Rob Gravelle: Lead, rhythm, and acoustic guitars, backing vocals

Steve Mercer: Bass guitar, backing vocals

George Nesrallah: Drums, no backing vocals (yet, says John) 

What was the ambitions of the band when you started?

JDP: As mentioned before, the original intention was simply to play a few gigs doing cover songs. Once we started doing original music, really, all we ever wanted to do was keep making great music.

SM: Just keep playin' is my ambition. Everything else is gravy, as they say.

Could you explain your music to someone that haven't heard you?

JDP: I’d describe Ivory Knight as powerful but melodic vocals over traditional heavy metal with elements of thrash and progressive metal. Fans of Maiden, Priest, Savatage etc… would certainly appreciate our sound.

GN: I would say we are classic metal, with definite aspects of thrash and prog thrown in.

SM: Everyone has their own idea of what "melodic" "heavy" and "metal" are, so even when I say that that's what we are, I know the best and only practical way to describe the music is to have them listen. With the advent of thinks like iTunes, a quick review is just a few clicks away.

Where was your first gig? JDP: The very first Ivory Knight gig was probably either Barrymores in Ottawa, Canada, or Roxannes in Hull, Quebec, Canada. The first gig that our current lineup played was in 2001 at a club called The Whipping Post here in Ottawa.

Where was the latest gig? SM: That would have been at Obsession Live Lounge last August 2014, also here in the Ottawa area

Who writes your songs?/Who writes the music who writes lyrics?

JDP: Everyone contributes musically, although so far, I generally have created all the melodies. But there are no rules or limits. Everyone’s welcome to contribute to lyrics, music, or melodies.

Rob and I both create riffs on guitar, although these days, since the 1st album, the bulk of the riffs are Rob’s. In the past, I’ve also contributed finished song structures consisting of riffs, melodies, and lyrics, and the band has arranged these into finished songs. Rob recently contributed all the music and lyrics to Rejected, excluding the melody, which I created.

I’d say that since just after the 1st album, the lyrics have tended to split down the middle: the ‘nice’ lyrics are mine, the dark and violent lyrics are by George :). However, as I said, the lyrics for the newest song, Rejected, were written by Rob.

Who has the best since of humor in the band?

JDP: Me, obviously ;) LOL

SM: That's a tough one. We all laugh at the same silly shit.

JDP: Steve, I disagree LOL

What's good/bad with the band?

SM: That's also a tough one. You could say it might depend on the day of the week. It's a shame we are so far from where our music is really enjoyed - North America really doesn't seem to be a hotbed of metal. though the fans that do exist here are amazing. It's hard to reach them, though. Best thing is that it's music I love playing.

JDP: It’s great working with this band to compose, perform, and record - no stress, no egos, and no drama. We have a blast each and every time we play live, and our audience has a great time! That said, Steve has a point - there really isn’t a big scene in our area for this kind of material, but I am beginning to see signs of a resurgence.

What genre do you feel you are?

JDP:  Heavy metal.

SM: Melodic, Heavy, Metal. I know that those words have different meanings to different people, but they really are the 3 best words to describe us, I think.

GN: If I had to pick one I would say we are plain old heavy metal lol!

Why did you pick that particular style? GN: I wouldn't say we picked it, so much as it picked us. We all have various influences but when we got together this is what comes out naturally.

What are your songs about? JDP: We touch upon a wide variety of lyrical themes including overcoming personal obstacles, insanity, religious fanaticism, as well as social issues such as work addiction, vanity etc… Every song is different - most of the time, because we usually create the music first, it’s a matter of writing what we feel the music is calling for.

Do you write your own material or mainly covers? JDP: We write our own material, but we occasionally throw in some covers that we want to salute. We try to put our own personality and twist into all our covers rather than just re-creating the original.

Have you made any albums?/If yes what are they?

2001 - Up From The Ashes

2004 - Unconscience

Do you have any clips on YouTube? JDP: Yes. Check ‘em out at https://www.youtube.com/user/ivoryknightband/videos

How old are you?

JDP: Old. That’s all you need to know.

SM: zbftfr…..cough….something….

GN: I am 41.

RG: Somewhere between 18 and 99.

What got you started in music?

JDP: I’ve always loved to sing. I was introduced to my first “real” band by a college buddy after he heard me sing along with some Judas Priest and Scorpions songs (through a guitar amp - we had no PA!) at a jam session. The band was called Trojan Hammer, and featured guitarist Jeff Waters who later went on to Annihilator fame.

SM: Loved Kiss, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dokken, Metallica, stuff like that. Decided I wanted to learn bass, after singing for a bit. Lots of friends had taken it up for fun when I was young.

GN: Believe it or not, my first introduction to music which I paid attention to was Kenny Rogers! I then progressed to glam metal, but when I first heard Among The living from Anthrax I was hooked on thrash, and have been ever since.

At what age did you start playing?

JDP: Probably about 15

SM: about 17

GN: I started playing drums at 16 years old.

RG: I learned piano at 3, but I only got around to guitar in October of my 16th year.

How old were you guys when you first stood on stage?

JDP: My first “professional” stage appearance was probably when I was about 20.

SM: I suppose I was about 30 first time I played with IK.

GN: I would say I was about 22 or so.

What year was the band started? 1987. But we released our first recording in early 1988.

Best/worst gig you've played?

Best gig? Opening for Sonata Arctica show at Barrymores in Ottawa, in April 2005.

Worst gig? Never dwell on them.

JDP: Best gig: Tie between opening for Sonata Arctica and opening for Blackstar, which was a band that included Exciter guitarist John Ricci and vocalist Jacques Belanger. I can’t think of any exceptionally bad gigs with Ivory Knight, but there have certainly been some interesting moments over the years….have to get around to writing some memoirs one of these days...

GN: Best gig was opening for Sonata Arctica, and the show can be seen on our Facebook page. The worst for me personally was when i had the flu and we had a show. That was brutal!

Where have you played from then till now?

SM: We mostly play Ottawa, though we've ventured to Montreal.

JDP: We’re always looking to venture out….

What places will you be playing in in the imidate future? SM: We're making plans, but nothing's solidified yet, for 2015.

Is it always the same songs live? SM: There are a few core songs, like Up From the Ashes, Inferno, and Into the Black, that we can't seem to do without, but we occasionally switch it up

How do you get psyched up for a gig?

GN: I don't get psyched up per se. I warm up then stretch out. I want to be as relaxed as possible, but when I start playing I am anything but relaxed lol!

SM: Lots of metal!

JDP: I don’t. I just need to warm my voice up and I’m ready to rock!

RG: I actually try to relax as much as possible.  I practice for a couple of hours in the morning, work out in the afternoon, visualize myself playing some of the trickier parts.

Is it easier to get your inspiration from older bands or from bands more modern?

GN: Definitely older bands for me. I am not a big fan of the newer music for the most part (there are some exceptions of course).

SM: I like both, and from different part of the metal genre. Though these days, I'm finding more respect for older bands that were in genres I didn't listen to when I was growing up.  I'll never like country, though! bleah!

RG: Older bands definitely, but I do listen to some newer bands.  I enjoyed My Chemical Romance’s Black Parade CD.

JDP: Older bands and artists for me.

What are your sources of inspiration?

GN: I get inspired by real life events, trauma, and tragedy. As well, for some reason, the darkness (not the band lol) has always been inspiring for me musically.

SM: Aside from other bands that I like, there's good movie soundtracks, and a good book or two that has an excellent tone to it almost has it's own soundtrack that gets played in my head when I read it.

JDP: Who knows? All of sudden I’ll get an idea either regarding music or lyrics, and have to record it or write it down. Way back when, I once wrote an entire song while stopped at lights. I sung the melody into a portable cassette recorder, then went home and composed the music on keyboards and guitar.

What's the first step when making a new song?

GN: The first step is Rob coming down with a riff (or a few) and us jamming it out a few times, and then throwing our ideas into the mix.

SM: Gotta have a riff, or a hook.

RG: Being a guitar player, it always starts with a riff or melodic idea that grabs me.  Then I start building from there.  I tend to look for suitable verse, pre-chorus, chorus, and bridge parts to put together.  Sometimes it’s easy, other times, painstaking.

How do you feel about the downloading of music instead of buying albums?

GN: Personally I am still old school. I love going to the record store and buying an album. Maybe because I have no life and going to the record store gives me something to do lol!

SM: If by downloading you mean the iTunes model of online purchase, I think it's a great thing. Once, I had to hear a band on the radio, find out who they were, go to the store, find their cassette (yes, _cassette_), and buy it. Nowadays I can hear it on the radio, and my smartphone can ID the artist and song and have the music purchased almost instantly. That's amazing, when you think about it.

If by downloading you mean the copying of music from torrent sites and the like, I think it's unfortunate, and I wish people would do more to support artists by actually buying the music, but people gonna be people, and I remember the days of "mix tapes".

What would be your dreams for the band? 
SM: Hmmm! Meellions of fans and beellions of dollahs!!! So long as someone appreciates what we do, I'm cool.

JDP: OK, I give up - Steve clearly has the better sense of humour.

Besides your own music, what genres and bands do you listen to?

GN: I listen to classic metal, death metal, thrash, grindcore and some noisecore. Some of my favourite bands are Slayer, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Exodus, Metallica, Testament, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Napalm Death, Cannibal Corpse. I could go on but it would take about 10 pages lol!

SM: Lots of different metal, some rock, some techno and trance, some blues. 90's alternative wasn't all bad. Some folk music. *hangs head* J-Pop. I regret nothing!

RG: I’m into weird stuff like Mr. Bungle and Outsider Music such as The Shaggs and Shooby Taylor.

JDP: I listen to anything with great songwriting, melodies, vocals and / or great harmonies, regardless of genre, although I must admit I’ve never acquired the taste for rap or hip-hop. To me it’s all about melody. I grew up listening and singing along to the Beatles, Dusty Springfield and others, then later on the Eagles, Gentle Giant, Kansas, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Queensryche. Lately, I’ve been revisiting a lot of old 60s pop / rock and 70s rock.

When you are on stage, what do you fear most then?

GN: One of my skins breaking. That would suck!

JDP: Hah - dry ice! Always an adventure breathing in that stuff and trying to sing. Blech. And moving around the stage the way we do, it’s hard not to accidentally take a gasp of air down the throat!

SM: A) that people won't enjoy the music, and B) I try not to fuck up the music!

RG: Usually, I greatly enjoy my time on stage, except for the time that I had bulked up and neglected to try on my stage pants until just before the show.  Somehow, I squeezed into them, but I was worried about tearing them open the entire show!

JDP: On second thought, I fear Rob bursting out of his pants….LOL

Have you been part of any other projects?

SM: I've helped Rob do a solo project, called Ultraviolence. Very fun to do!

RG: John and I recorded the Knightfall CD with Jeff Waters around 2007 – 08.  I also did a covers project after that.  I recorded Synchronicity II by The Police, Dream Police by Cheap Trick with John singing, Ballroom Blitz by the Sweet, and Rabbit of Seville, which is the Barber of Seville Overture.  I also put a free download of an Instrumental called Ultraviolence on my web site.

JDP: 1985 Jeff Waters Project - recorded for a contest on local radio station. I’ve also sung backing and gang vocals on the last few Annihilator releases starting with Metal. See Rob’s info too.

Have you been in any other bands?

SM: My first original band was Killer Frost, which was a short lived high school project, that did write some original material, but never did record it. I spent about a year working on a project doing alternative music while attending University, but while some neat songs came out, they also didn't get recorded in time before the band broke up.

GN: I have been in Vizigoth, Foetus Aftermath, Nihility (early incarnation), Komodo, Bio Encrypt, and Ivory Knight. Actually, kind of neat  but Topon from Fuck The Facts was my second ever bass player.

RG: John and I have been in several bands together over the years: Sudden Thunder, The Broke Brothers, and Dr. Squish come to mind.

JDP: Trojan Hammer, The Jeff Waters Project, Talespyn, The Broke Brothers, Dr. Squish, The Woods, Raw Sugar (bass guitar), Sudden Thunder

What would you do if there was no music? SM: Probably make some!

How important are your fans?

SM: Very, but I have to love what I'm doing, too.

JDP: The fans are the raison d’etre for any band. We’re always willing to stay late to chat, sign autographs, talk gear, etc...

What's the funniest/most memorable thing a fan has done for you? SM: The guys who insisted I give them autographs at the Sonata Arctica show in 2005 were great. Clued me in that yes, people really do listen to and enjoy our music.

Where do you rehearse? JDP: We have a cave somewhere here in Ottawa.

Name 2 of your own songs you like at the moment?

GN: Rejected and Unconscience.

SM: I'd have to say that today, it's Rejected(coming soon!), and Unseen Enemy

RG: I’ve been enjoying Perfect 10 because I’ve been playing it on my double neck! Also, our new song, Rejected, is a lot of fun too becaue it’s at 205 bpm.

JDP: I love all our material, but if I had to choose: Perfect 10. In Fog I Walk, and of course Rejected, which we’re working on now..

What do you feel is the best live band you've seen?

GN: Live band would have to be either Slayer of Deicide.

SM: Red Hot Chili Peppers. There are bassists that make me want to play better, and there are bassists that make me want to put the instrument down forever, 'cause I could never be that good. Flea is one of those, and they put on an amazing show. Close second would be Rush.

JDP: Too many great shows to pick from, and I don’t know how to define “best”.

Do you have any webpages?

http://ivoryknight.net/

https://www.facebook.com/ivoryknightofficial

https://twitter.com/IvoryKnightBand

https://www.youtube.com/user/ivoryknightband

https://soundcloud.com/ivory-knight-official

http://www.reverbnation.com/ivoryknight9

http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/IvoryKnight

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/artist/ivory-knight/id4324451?ign-mpt=uo%3D4

Any pearls of wisdom for all other bands out there? SM: Play!

Describe your show, visually and musically GN: Visually we try to give the audience more than just 4 guys standing looking bored playing their tunes. We always have fun when we play! Musically it has been described to me as a full on assault to the ears and mind (but in a good way.

How do you view the music industry of today? SM: The industry is tough, always has been and always will be. The nice thing is that technology is helping level the playing field a bit, so artists get a better shake. The best thing is that no one absolutely has to become a industry marketing machine; if making the music is truly enough, and not the fame and fortune, then that's easily done, and the Internet can help you get out there - like to websites in Sweden! :)

What are the biggest obstacles for a band? SM: There are so many, and so many are good all out of proportion to how well exposed they are. The next Hendrix is probably playing a basement bar right now. That makes for a lot of competition for listener's ears. No easy solution to that. My recommendation is to just play, and maybe a little luck will fall out.

What is best/worst with playing the clubs?

GN: Best thing about it is how close you are to the audience. Worst is when you have to play on a tiny stage.

SM: A bar owner that loves music can be a dream come true for relatively unknown bands. Most, unfortunately, want someone or something that moves drinks, and there is _nothing_ worse than playing for a club's patrons that don't really want you there.

Tell us about upcomming gigs and why we should be at them? JDP: We have some prospects we are working on, as well as new material coming. When we do finalize the bookings, you’re going to need to be at the shows to see and hear a melodic metal band with great songs, solid musicianship, strong vocals, and lots of energy! I’m constantly being told by people in our audience that they were blown away by how much energy we put out while playing highly technical parts.

How would you describe your sound in one sentence A melodic combination of traditional, power, thrash, and progressive Metal.

What is your favorite crappy instrument?

GN: Hmmm not sure what you mean. In terms of my drums, they are pretty crappy! I use a lower end Pearl Export series which I have had since I was 17. It still sounds great live and in the studio so why change it? However I know soon enough I will need a new one for sure.

JDP: I don’t have any crappy instruments. I do have some lower-end basses in my arsenal, but even these are solid instruments that play well and feel good in my hands. Plus, I wouldn’t say my wireless mic is particularly high-end, but it works.

What was one of the most quarrelsome times for you in the band?

JDP: There aren’t many, thankfully.

SM: Nap time.

Whats your Pre-show ritual?

JDP: No real ritual, just a healthy meal, vocal warm up, and some light stretching.

GN: If you can call it a ritual, I warm up with some rudiments and then stretch out.

Do you have anything to add?

JDP: Thanks so much for your support of Ivory Knight!

SM: Stay Metal!

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