INTERVIEW - ASCENDIA: "Rock out, cry, reminisce, get angry. So much emotion was poured into this album."
Toronto hard rockers Ascendia have created a sound that embodies their wide-ranging influences. Combining what they learned from commercial rock contemporaries with elements, they liked of Country and Pop songs and their upcoming album 'Parasite' strongly asserts this musical growth and transformation. With the release of the hard-hitting 'This War' as the first taste of their new album, we chatted to vocalist Nick Sakal to find out more about the band and their forthcoming album.
Firstly, let’s go back to the beginning. What are your earliest memory of music and the moment you decided you wanted to be a musician?
I didn’t grow up in a particularly musical family. My earliest memories of music would have to be around our dinner table when I was younger. I lived in a house with my grandparents alongside my mom, dad and 2 brothers. My grandmother had the most incredible voice and used to sing while my family gathered around the dinner table for dinner.
Being a musician was never something I really dreamed about or could have ever even imagined, let alone being a vocalist. I believe I got the bug back in 2008 - 2009 when the band played their first show for hundreds of people at a battle of the bands. The feeling of recognition, energy from the audience, and adrenaline is a drug of its own. Hook, line & sinker!
Can you tell us about how you came to form as a band?
John, Billy and I have known each other for over 20 years. We were great friends before we ever embarked on this journey. Quite often, we would spend our time walking over to the local music store, where we would spend hours talking about music and playing every single instrument we could get our hands on. (yeah… we were those kids). This is where John and Billy heard my voice for the first time. They heard something that, well, frankly, I didn’t. Let’s just say they left me with no choice.
Shortly thereafter, without my knowledge, they had signed us up for a battle of the bands. I had never previously been on stage in my life, never had a single vocal lesson, and let’s just say I was ready to run the other direction and never look back! Low and behold, we ended up winning that battle of the bands along with several others that followed.
If it wasn’t for these battle of the bands, we probably wouldn’t have recorded our first record. We actually won a significant amount of free recording time from these shows. Which was the beginning of the end for us. Here we are 10 plus years later. Still hungry, eager, and ready.
How did you come up with your band name, and how does it represent you as a band?
John and Billy happened to be at the movie theatre watching the movie “Godzilla”. There were some epic “ascending” musical scores going down. And it clicked “Ascendia” was born.
“Beautiful but brutal. Chaotic but calculated.”
For those of aren’t aware. How would you best describe your music?
This is always a tough question to answer. Although we don’t like to emulate other artists or be compared to other bands. Linkin Park, Disturbed and Nothing More are some bands we are similar to. We are massive fans of all those bands, and being compared to them bodes well for us.
What are your main fluences both musically and creatively?
My early influences were from frontman like Serj Tankian of System Of A Down, and Howard Jones of Killswitch Engage/Light the Torch. Corey Taylor of Slipknot. Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. As an artist, I believe that you can draw inspiration from anywhere and anything. It’s important to leave your mind open to new things and new experiences. If it causes some sort of sensory response or emotional response, I’m sold.
What was the writing and recording process like for the new forthcoming album ‘Parasite’?
We had the pleasure of working with Canadian producer Gavin Brown. Which was an absolute blessing and an incredible experience. His ability to tell stories and his way with words is truly remarkable. It’s a thing of genius. As a band, we traditionally would be on the hunt for the best hooks and amazing melodies but would often forget the importance of the story or the message we were trying to convey to our audience.
We all put pen to paper and began to open up, writing about absolutely anything and everything. What we were pissed off about, how we were feeling that day, all the great memories, all the terrible ones. It essentially became like therapy for us. I liked to call these sheets of paper “pain sheets”.
We often referred to each track as a blank canvas in which we were going to paint. Using our pain sheets, we began painting a picture. Each brush stroke was a word or an idea. Until we had our own Mona Lisa complete. What was important to remember was when to take your paintbrush off the canvas. It’s easy to get carried away.
How did you arrive at the album title ‘Parasite’, and what does it mean to you?
If you look up parasite in the dictionary, it is an organism that lives in or on an organism of another species (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other's expense. Many of us have either been through or know someone that has become a victim of addiction or mental health. It is mentally and physically draining not only for the victims but their families and friends. We felt that parasite was the perfect title.
The track “parasite” will be our next single released in the near future. And I cannot wait for you all to hear it!
What if any, are the main lyrical themes explored on the new album?
This album became very personal for all three of us. We experienced so much since our last record. Loss, addiction, betrayal, love. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And my hope is that our audience can connect with this record in their own way. Rock out, cry, reminisce, get angry. So much emotion was poured into this album.
You have just released a new single/video, ‘This War’. Can you tell us about the single and the meaning of the song?
This particular song is about internal struggle. Each and every single one of us on this planet wakes up and go to war in our own ways. This song is about those struggles and to never stop fighting to make it through.
The new single marks your first new music since 2015. Did you intend to leave it this long before releasing new material or just how things turned out?
It was definitely not our intention to leave such a long period of time between releases. It just happened. After our release in 2015, it took some time to gain traction and ultimately get ourselves on the road to tour the record. Once we had some time to get back to writing, all three of us were on different wavelengths, and we were struggling to get on the same page musically.
We knew exactly what we wanted to create and what kind of music we wanted to write. We just didn’t quite know how. It took some time, but we finally got there. We had a lightbulb moment, and we rolled with it! Thank you for being so patient with us.
How do you think your new material compares to your past releases?
There’s an obvious difference from 2015 to now. And I think most of you will hear that. John Billy and I have grown not only as musicians but as human beings, and our music will reflect that. Our early influences included bands like Dio, Kiss, and Black Sabbath. And we loved prog and power metal. Our first record clearly is an indication of that. Although we still love those bands and the music, we shifted into the active rock world. It was really a natural progression. We are finally writing the music we always wanted to, and it’s so refreshing.
How excited are you to play the new material live, and what can fans expect from your sets?
I am itching to get back on stage. For me, it’s everything. I love to travel, meet new people, and experience new things. And it’s a bonus that I get to do it with my best friends and 2 extraordinary gentlemen that I consider my brothers. Sure being in the studio is an experience in itself and amazing things happen, but nothing compares to playing our music live. In fact, if we can’t play it live, then what’s the point?
Fans can expect high energy, heavy-hitting riffs, and a damn good time.
Outside of music, what else do you enjoy in your downtime?
I’m an avid golfer and probably a bit obsessive. We really only get 4 months out of the year in Canada to enjoy it, so I do my best to get out at least once a week. It is such an incredibly difficult sport to master. Your whole being needs to be in sync. Mentally and physically, the smallest deviation can cause an absolutely catastrophic result. It’s important to remember you aren’t competing against anyone else. You are competing against yourself and the architect that designed the course. Being an individual who is so emotionally invested in everything I do its taught me a lot and how to control these emotions while on the course. It really has been therapeutic for me, and I encourage anyone to try it.
What else have you got planned for the rest of the year?
More music! More life! More Ascendia! We are hoping to get on the road in the near future and see all you beautiful people!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
A big thank you for the interview. And a big thank you to our fans. Thank you for staying so patient with us. We can’t wait for you to hear what we’ve created.
For more on Ascendia: