Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: How would you describe yourself or your band as an artist?
TS: The Stranger is a Progressive Metal band
PD: Can you tell us briefly about your background – i.e. where you’re from, how you came to make music, etc.
TS: Myself (Kalen) and Daniel (drums) used to play in a band called Alpine Fault from 2009 – 2013, we did pretty well, released an album and toured Aus/NZ. Unfortunately the band fell apart. I had a number of songs I had already written that were intended to be on the next Alpine Fault record, however, in retrospect they were unlikely to work in the context of that band seeing as Daniel and I had started getting heavily into the growing Progressive Metal scene, with bands emerging like Periphery, Tesseract, Animals as Leaders, Monuments, etc, and as much potential as AF had, these songs wouldn’t really have worked with that group of people. So we decided to start a new band with an ethos of “anything goes as long as it’s good”. I wanted real freedom to be able to write in any style or genre that I wanted and really sink my teeth into discovering my musical voice. Thus was born The Stranger.
PD: Who and what inspires you to make music, both in terms of musical and other influences? What do you like to write about in your songs?
TS: Like any band, we collectively have a huge amount of musical influences, but to list bands that we all collectively love and draw inspiration from: Opeth, Periphery, Tesseract, Caligula’s Horse, The Midnight, Gojira, Fleet Foxes… Just to name a few.
I’ll speak from my own experience here, though I would be surprised if the other guys didn’t mirror this in some way. Songwriting for me is both a product of necessity and random sheer luck. Necessity in that this is ultimately what gives my life purpose, meaning and gives the possibility of Legacy. It has a weight that is hard to ignore. The process of writing a song is deeply fulfilling and rewarding, because you’re taking some basic tools and creating something out of nothing that you then get to send out into the world and watch it touch the lives of others. I know this is an exceedingly pretentious answer, but it’s the only way I know how to put it. The personal and spiritual rewards are enough that it draws you back again and again to see what else you might have to say musically.
Luck because honestly, sometimes I’ll be walking along minding my own business and a melody, or a rhythm (or very occasionally an entire song) will drop into my head, and then it’s a matter of doing whatever you can to get home and record a basic skeleton of the idea before it vanishes.
As far as subject matter goes, this is very broad ranging. Everything from nerdy pop-culture stuff (we have a song about Robocop for eg), to deeply personal and existential questions within our own lives. Both Tom (vocals) and I have written lyrics that are straight up fun stories, through to cathartic reflections on personal crisis’.
PD: What are your aspirations as an artist?
TS: Nothing too out of the ordinary here haha. We just love writing and performing music and the more people we can do that for in the most amount of places the better. I know collectively we all agree that getting to play Europe and the US is at the top of our bucket list, but I think for the most part whatever is necessary to keep this going, and keep our passion alive.
PD: What is the proudest moment in your music career so far?
TS: Probably the release of the first single, Eleventh Hour, from the new album. It’s been too long since our first album and with 2 lineup changes and a gargantuan effort to get this album recorded and produced, finally getting to show the world what we’ve been doing was incredibly elating. The response from listeners, to our great delight, mirrored our own excitement.
PD: Promoting one’s music is such a challenge these days, especially with so many new artists emerging from bedrooms in the day of the home studio. How is that going?
TS: Well, it’s definitely not easy. The music industry is more saturated than ever, and there is SO MUCH TALENT out there, so many incredible musicians and songwriters that being heard above the noise is definitely a struggle. That being said we’re really happy to be working with both our labels (Octane Records and Wild Thing Records) who have been doing an amazing job at pushing our music out to the world, building up to the album release on April 9th. We have a very hardworking team of talented people supporting us and it’s been wonderful.
PD: And how do you book and promote your live shows and tours? Any performances coming up?
TS: That’s now all handled through our Management and touring company. We definitely do have some exciting shows in the planning stages but nothing we can announce at this stage.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online? What about streaming sites like Spotify?
TS: This is something I’ve given a lot of thought to over recent years. The music industry and the way people access their music has changed forever and we’ll never be going back to album sales the way they once were. The way things are currently arranged I see 2 upsides and 2 downsides.
Pro: Finding new and amazing music is easier than ever before, and the algorithms that generate playlists for you on services like Spotify and Apple Music are getting scarily good. There has never been a better time to be an avid music listener.
Pro: The barrier to entry for new artists has gone from a HUGE amount of luck and an enormous initial cost to record and release music, to literally the cost of a computer, an interface and a few pieces of software. This means that more incredible artists whose music would have never seen the light of day can now, literally on their own, make their music heard around the entire world. This is unquestionably awesome.
Con: The music listening experience has been massively devalued. Remember when you used to have to go to the store to buy an album or a single, and you’d go home and put it on the stereo and listen actively? Or if you wanted a compilation of songs on a tape or CD you’ve had to sit and make one yourself and so you would think about what songs were good enough to make the cut. Listening to said mixtape was always an active experience. It’s been proven by economists and psychologists that the more cost we sink into something, the more we value it, be it money, time or effort. It’s my belief that the model that allows people to pay 10 bucks a month and get access to all music, everywhere, instantly has made the music close to worthless. In fact it would be entirely if the intangible “magic” element that makes music so important to us in the first place wasn’t there.
Con: Streaming, specifically the business model utilised by Spotify is, in my opinion, borderline criminal in the way that artists are paid. Anyone interested can do some reading to find out how this works, but I promise it’s not what you would assume. Streaming services have completely annihilated the biggest revenue stream for artists that allowed them to have a decent career, forcing even very large, well established acts to have to tour RELENTLESSLY to sell merch at shows to have an income. This is an unsustainable, untenable model that will be forced to change if the music business has a hope of remaining a business.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
TS: I literally have no idea, there are so many songs that have meant so much to me that this would be a list as long as my arm… but in the service of giving some kind of decent answer… Probably Hotel California. Its ubiquity has made it something easy to overlook, but it’s a true masterpiece of songwriting. I would also be very, very rich had I written it haha.
PD: Is there anything you don’t like about the music industry, which you would change if you could?
TS: I outlined this fairly well above, so instead of just whining about the way things are, my proposed solution is this: If Spotify is here to stay, do the fair thing. Take peoples monthly payment, take your % cut, and then divide up the remainder based on what artists were listened to throughout the month and pay it to them based on how much of it they listened to. For example, let’s say (hypothetically) it’s $10 per month for Spotify, and lets say they take a 20% cut of that. If 50% of the songs I listened to during the month were by Metallica, then Metallica would receive $4 of the remaining $8.
PD: So what are you working on at the moment?
TS: Well, we’re happy to say that even though Album 2 isn’t even out yet, we’ve already begun slowly writing Album 3. There are already a few very promising ideas beginning to take shape.
PD: Where can we learn more about you and buy your music/merch online?
TS: Our Socials are
Our music is available digitally on all fine streaming services everywhere
Those looking to purchase physical copies of our albums or merchandise (a million times, thank you), can go to https://www.wildthingrecords.com/collections/the-stranger