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Sonic Altar - Interview with Kane Bennett from Sonic Altar

16 May 2019 // An interview by Reef Reid

Hard Rock/Metal band Sonic Altar recently released their album Under A Dying Sun.  Muzic.net.nz's Reef Reid caught up with Kane Bennett to discuss things that have been and things that will be...

Has Sonic Altar's line-up changed since in the 13 years since 2006 and where did it all begin?

Sonic Altar originally started at High School between some friends and I. Originally we called ourselves 'Eugene's Axe' because we were big Pink Floyd fans. We played very often in the early days - any gig we could take, and we rehearsed two to three times a week, which was great to get us up to speed. Originally, the line-up was quite different. It's changed over the years but by the time we were writing and recording our first album No Sacrifice in 2009, we were pretty much on the same page in terms of what the band was going to be and how we'd sound going forward.

Original guitarists Rowan Uhe and Daniel Costello contributed a great deal over the years and in the early days. Rowan played on the first album too. The last line-up we had as we went into hiatus mode in 2014 was Dave Hudson on guitar, Tom Duffy on guitar, Daniel Kilhams on bass, Chris Hulbert on drums and myself on vocals. I think that line-up worked well. Tom lives in the UK now and we've all gotten a bit older, so it's interesting to be working on this new album and getting back into it all.

Under A Dying Sun took some time from start to finish. What was the most fulfilling part of that process? (other than the completion of it)

It didn't take us long to actually record, mix and master it... But sadly, it did take us quite some time to release it. There's a bunch of contributing factors towards that. After we toured and did everything we could with the first album, we were a little jaded in terms of where to go from there. We knew we had fresh material to get on with and record and that was exciting. At the same time, we were confused about the future and what plans to make. A lot of that frustration and resentment seeped into our attitudes towards each other. We all began to blame each other for petty things as the reason why we weren't getting and further, which of course was stupid.

Eventually something inside me just clicked and I decided I didn't want to keep going the way we were. So, Dave and I flew off to Sweden for a few years and did some other projects over there. That was 2014 and here we are 5 years later, back in NZ and finally releasing Under A Dying Sun on CD and getting back into more positive thoughts regarding Sonic Altar. At the end of the day, it's hard to be in a band at any level, when you are all so passionate about what you are doing, it naturally leads to issues after years and years of compromising and disagreements. It costs a lot of time, money and emotions to work on an album democratically. I'm glad to say that we are all still friends and that the idea of working together again is exciting for us all.

How is From the Ashes going and when can fans expect to hear/purchase that?

I've stopped making any comments on a time frame because I'm always a bit too optimistic about that kind of thing and I'll inevitably not meet expectations! I'm taking my time to write it. It's definitely an ambitious project. Some of the guys in the band think I'm crazy to even suggest the idea but I think it'll be worth the time and effort in the end. Without giving away too much, it's somewhat of a concept album. A lot of songs contributing to a big epic story split into two parts. Something quite different. It definitely goes against the grain of how music is being treated and released these days where it's more about the song rather than the album... But for me it's still about the experience. I was obsessed with Pink Floyd as a teenager and I've also had a passion for progressive music, so there's a bit of that thrown into the mix. Having said all that, it's still definitely Sonic Altar. I don't want to alienate anyone, so I want the songs to stand up on their own as well. So far I've written about 7 of the 20-something tracks I have in mind. That's all happened this year, so it's getting there.

Every band has an "uh oh" moment playing live, what is one or some of yours?

We used to try play a song called The Shadow from our first album. The middle of the song has a large section that is mostly strings which we would run off backing tracks and then the band comes in and plays along with them. Somehow we missed the cue (I think someone had one too many beers to be honest) and it turned into an absolute disaster. We never played it again live after that except at rehearsal. Another somewhat hazy memory I have is that I said something rather inappropriate onstage at The Dogs Bollix to the audience and we weren't allowed to play there again. Whoops.

(Kane) Name your biggest musical influence and why specifically.

I couldn't narrow it down to one artist. I have a few for different reasons. From a vocal / frontman perspective: Ozzy for his showmanship and unique vocal tone. Ronnie James Dio and Bruce Dickinson for their amazing technique and vocal power.

Musically: I'll always be a fan of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd because I grew up listening to them. But nowadays I listen to more modern bands like In Flames etc.

As seasoned veterans having recorded and performed over the years, what is one piece of advice you have for upcoming bands/artists?

Don't take your band mates for granted. When times are tough or you can't see the forest for the trees, just remember that they are your allies not your enemies. It can be frustrating not seeing your dream go where you hope but having dedicated and like-minded people on your side is part of the joy of doing it all. Enjoy the process. Don't get caught up in the details and don't always listen to outsiders promising you material things but giving you shit advice.

Oh yeah and rehearse like crazy. Be critical of yourselves. Get good in the garage before you hit the stage. Lastly: be professional as people never forget first impressions.

If you had to choose only one, which song do you enjoy performing live and why?

Deserts of Despair. It's a song from our first album. It's quite heavy, upbeat and just always went down really well live. We'd usually play it last and I have very fond memories of the crowd going nuts with us at the Kings Arms.

What was the inspiration around the writing of the upcoming From the Ashes album and especially the name?

Originally the title was a play on the idea that we were alive again, having not really done anything for a few years. So, there's still that idea which has a nice novelty factor. However, for the album itself, it's relevant to the theme of the album and the story.

What is your single best and single worst venues you have played at?

Best venue: When we played Rock2Wgtn in 2008 at the Cake Tin in Wellington. We were playing up on this makeshift stage in the seats, which was quite strange. But it was a crazy view of the tens of thousands of people in the stadium. It blew my mind. At that point it's not even nerve wracking because the crowd looked like they were miles away.

Worst venue: We played in a lounge in West Auckland one time. Apparently the guy didn't tell his mother that we were coming. It didn't end well.

Name on band you would like to open for if you were able.

I'd still love to open for Iron Maiden or Ozzy again. Looks like we missed the chance with Ozzy considering how he's been doing lately. But who knows, maybe we'll get lucky with Maiden. We almost won a competition in 2009 on The Axe Attack to open for Maiden in Auckland. It was one of those terrible voting competitions where it's just a pissing contest to see who has the most friends. Apparently someone thought it would be good to use an email generator to get us more entries without our knowledge. The Rock, instead of discounting those votes, decided just to disqualify us from the competition entirely!


About Sonic Altar

Echoing the ghosts of the classic metal hey-day with a revatilized sound, a unique blend of style and influence, Sonic Altar are a force to be reckoned with. The worship of music, a translation of the band name, is really what it means to be Sonic Altar. With a mission of bringing back the melodic substance to hard rock and being a live act to remember, the band have worked themselves to the bone since conception. Sonic Altar is here to melt your face.

Formed in early 2006, Sonic Altar began as a jam band amongst school friends. That year the band played in Hong Kong and recorded a single which received national air play in New Zealand. Between 2006 and 2008 the band progressed, undergoing some line up changes and solidified it's harder edged direction in late 2008. With a firm direction set, the band set about writing a new catalogue of songs and played all over New Zealand in 2009, blowing audiences away with their live performances. Sonic Altar have also supported some very big names in their home country, such as Ozzy Osbourne, KISS, Alice Cooper and Whitesnake.

In late 2009 the band decided that they had the right material to make an album. Instead of waiting to be discovered they decided to bite the bullet and make the album. In December of that year the band began recording with producer Mike Exeter (Black Sabbath, Jeff Beck, Glenn Hughes, Cradle of Filth) and finished mixing their debut album No Sacrifice, in May 2010.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Sonic Altar


Under A Dying Sun
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Blood Betrayal
Year: 2013
Type: EP
No Sacrifice
Year: 2011
Type: Album

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