Check out the song: “Please Come Home”

Mark Vermeule the guitar player from the Dutch progressive rock act Knight Area took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with me about the bands newest release, Nine Paths. This is a really good disc and found myself thoroughly engaged and engrossed in it. The bands trademark sound is stamped all over this disc but fans will immediately notice a harder, edgier sound to the record. Here is what Vermule had to say about the band, the new release and their upcoming plans.

Tell me a little bit about your new record, Nine Paths?
Mark: It’s our fourth studio album. There are nine songs that contain elements from progressive rock, symphonic rock, melodic rock, plain rock, you name it. All the music we as a band like and listen to. We also added a ballad, a duet with Charlotte Wessels from Delain. And still, it’s Knight Area. Some heavy parts, melodic parts, fast, slow, dynamic, etcetera.

We were trying to raise the bar again for ourselves. So, we looked at the process we followed last time, and thought about things we could change and still sound like Knight Area. After some discussions with the band, and also with our record company, we decided to get in a fresh set of ears and work with Neil Kernon and Alan Douches for the mixing and the mastering. Other things that are different is that both Mark Smit and Gijs Koopman wrote a song.

Are you happy with the way it turned out?
Mark: Yeah! I think all of us individually show some growth, which is reflected on this album. And Neil and Alan really make us sound as we want to be heard. Very well balanced. We’re also very happy with the art work. We worked with the Dutch artists Dennis Sibeijn from Damn Engine.

What made you decided to work with Neil Kernon? How did you get in touch with him?
Mark: Early in the process, we talked about who we wanted to work with. Ken Golden from our record company came up with Neil. Neil has an enormous experience with different kinds of bands and types of music. We asked him to do one trial song for us, and we were happy with what he came up with. We feel very fortunate to be able to work with Neil.

Is it hard translating your songs to a live performance?
Mark: Well, yes and no. Off course, you can’t play every track of a song live on stage, so that’s a challenge. For instance, in some parts of the songs I play 6 guitars at the same time. But, that’s something we’re used to now. It’s part of the creative process to first start with how you want it to be on the album, and then, in the rehearsal, decide what to leave in when we’re on stage. I think it’s actually fun to work this out.

Who are your biggest influences on your playing?
Mark: I listened to a lot of guitar players and at several points in time really dug in to play their albums. I like to think there’s a small print of them all in my style. There was the time when I was playing a lot of Guns N’ Roses, and I still like Slash’ style. Next to that, I have been playing Dream Theater songs, solo stuff from Steve Morse, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani. All of them are into the heavy guitar songs with fast soloing, and underlying there’s this bluesy layer. That’s what I’m going for as well.

This is your 4th full-length disc, did you find there was any pressure when writing and recording?
Mark: Well, as I said, we want to raise the bar, every time. You’re as good as your last album. But somehow, we don’t feel that pressure. We just do our thing and try to have fun. Music should be fun, in my opinion. There is off course the time pressure we put on ourselves. At one point in time we just say that it’s going to be finished then and then. If we don’t do that, it takes forever to record an album. When we decided on the deadline, we communicate that to the record company and plan for the whole process of recording, mixing, mastering, rehearsing, but also for promotional activities.

A while back you guys went from a 7 piece to a 5 piece band? Are you satisfied with that decision still? How has it affected the band and the music?
Mark: I think there’s no good answer to that. It’s just how it is. There are pros and cons to being a smaller band. For instance, I liked the chemistry in playing between Rinie Huigen and myself. He was more the guy that played really cool melodic stuff and I was more of a metal head. So that was clear. When he left, I also needed to be the melodic, sensitive guitar player. I also like that. A big advantage is that it is easier to agree on stuff when you’re with 5 and not with 7. I think the biggest impact is on the live performance. We needed to think harder on what tracks were to be left out. But, again, that’s fun.

Check out the song: “Wakerun”

How did you end up picking this particular title for the name of the album?
Mark: Our vocalist, Mark Smit, at one point came with this idea. He writes most of the lyrics. The album consists of 9 songs, and each song has its own theme. The main theme is the Tarot. The Tarot cards are grouped to each of the nine categories. For every category there’s some theme, that’s represented in a song and the lyrics.

Any touring plans in the works?
Mark: We have a few gigs ahead of us, and are still working on some things for next year. It is difficult these times to have a full tour, and it’s also difficult to arrange because most of us have full time jobs and a family. Just keep an eye on our website, and you’ll be the first to know!

What is next for Knight Area?
Mark: Who knows? We’re already working on some new stuff for a new record, but we also have some ideas about shooting a live DVD, doing a clip, etcetera.