By Danny Estrin (Voyager),
Thanks so much for the opportunity to do a little guest blog. It’s been a tough time in Australia recently with absolutely devastating bush fires all around. The homes, forests, valleys and wildlife that have been destroyed are beyond comprehension — we have pretty much all had someone in our circle of friends or family who has been affected. When we played Good Things Festival recently in Sydney, a fan was in line to a Voyager meet and greet. When I asked him “where should we send your VIP pack”, he said “oh, I don’t really have an address at the moment, my whole town burned to the ground”. My deepest sentiments go out to all who suffered and I pinch myself how lucky I am that I was not affected and that I get to sit here and write about music stuff! So, without further ado, my top 5 keytarists. Secret: “it’s just a keyboard sideways with a strap” but that makes it equally as cool as it is uncool.
5. Jens Johannson – Stratovarious
Absolute machine. From back in the day with Malmsteen up until now. OK, he doesn’t actually play a keytar, but with that angle on his keyboard (at least 60 degree, surely), it’s basically a stationary keytar. And I’m a recovering sucker for neo-classical shred. Especially the early Voyager albums (when we were quasi-power metal) really showed that I was a big fan of Mr. Johansson. I remember seeing them live in Hanover in about 2002 — so good.
4. Chris Bowes – Alestorm
Only because we’re mates and he agreed to a keytar duel with me at Progpower USA a few years ago. I guess he’s pretty good too (although I bet he can’t play Bal Sagoth’s Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule in its entirety). Another fun fact about Chris is that he once destroyed his Roland Ax-7 keytar with rum, so that he asked to borrow mine just before the show. I trusted Chris with my baby and it came back only half-doused in some kind of alcoholic beverage.
3. Paul Meany – Mutemath
Paul is a musical genius and seeing him live jumping onto a mattress in the crowd whilst playing a keytar was slightly orgasmic to say the least. I do respect Meany on a keytar and I have to say, Mutemath, particularly their 2006 self-titled album, was one of the rock/alternative records I actually like. Play Dead in 2017 was also fantastic and Meany’s work on the keys is just phenomenal. He combines ’60s/’70s sounds with phenomenal atmospheres to create something pretty unique. I’ve definitely been influenced quite heavily by this band. Fun fact is I once asked Paul to guest vocal on a Voyager album. His management politely declined. Next time I’ll try a keytar solo suggestion.
2. Dieter Bohlen – Modern Talking
Unsure whether he actually played the keytar in any of the video clips at all, but he had so much denim and so much German ’80s attitude that it really didn’t matter. I remember listening to Moderm Talking back in the ’80s and the synth stuff was just divine — my love for beautiful (yet possibly slightly cheesy) synth sounds probably stems from these guys. Fun fact is that the Korg RK-100 which Thomas Anders used in the early videos has just been re-released by Korg as the RK-100S. Anyone wanna buy me one?
1. Louise Cole – just watch “Thinking” (short song)
And marvel at this incredible multi-instrumentalist treating his keytar like a percussive bass. That’s not how you keytar! Or is it? FYI, I have seen this man live and he is a phenomenon. It’s a completely different genre but Louis Cole (especially the Youtube videos) are on constant rotation in the Voyager tour bus. If you listen to the “breakdown” in “Entropy,” there’s a bit of Louis to be found — stabby, percussive, and funky!
** Voyager’s new album, Colours in the Sun, is out now on Season of Mist. It’s available HERE from the band directly on CD, LP and with t-shirts. Or, order from Season of Mist’s U.S. shop by clicking HERE.