Priestess high on tour plans

JASON MacNEIL - Sun Media

, Last Updated: 6:24 AM ET

Priestess shouldn't be compared to Spinal Tap, but moments over the past 12 months for the Montreal hard rock band might have made great scenes in the classic Rob Reiner rock "mockumentary."

Late last year Priestess, who perform Saturday at Lee's Palace, planned to enter the studio to start work on a new album. The first attempt failed, resulting in the need to find new studio time and another producer.

All the while, the band couldn't plan a proper tour because, well, it's hard to book a tour when you're not sure when you're heading to the studio. Oh, and then that schedule has to fit in with a producer who is available.

After a few tries, things finally fell into place last month. And lead singer Mikey Heppner couldn't be happier.

"Since last holiday season we haven't really been able to make any really solid touring plans, because we kept on making studio plans that were set a few months in advance that kept falling through," Heppner said from Los Angeles on the last day of recording. "As soon as this was booked, basically the same day, the manager said we know when we're in the studio, so let's book the tour."

Priestess comprises Heppner, guitarist Dan Watchorn, bassist Mike Dyball and drummer Vince Nudo. They plan to release their new, as-yet untitled album early next year. Heppner says the band has 14 songs to choose from but plan on cutting the number down slightly to "make it album length."

Heppner says the record will be somewhat different than the band's 2006 debut album, Hello Master.

"In general the (new songs are) much heavier -- well, much heavier is subjective but I would say they're heavier and leaning toward progressive (rock) territory," Heppner says.

The singer also says the formula for creating the material, written over the past 18 months and which Heppner previously described as "rip-tastic," isn't a gigantic leap.

"Our vision is very simple: We don't want to screw with anything too much," Heppner says. "It's more of the progressive rock territory, so there's definitely more stuff going on. But it's all stuff that's within the basic meat of the tune. The riffs and arrangements themselves are pretty rich. Other than some subtle keyboards here and there on a couple of tunes, and some extra little guitar here and there, there's not really much messing around."

A few of the songs have working titles but nothing is etched in stone. Heppner has a few favourites including one dubbed The Gem, a nine-minute epic.

He's also enthused about Communicating Via Eyes.

"It's about a guy who becomes a werewolf, so even if the title changes, it's the werewolf song," Heppner says. "I actually wrote the meat of that song while we were on tour with Megadeth about a year ago, and we were in England. I remember writing it and being really excited about it and I've been excited about it all the way. I actually put the finishing touches on it vocal-wise last night."

Aside from the odd Canadian festival dates this year -- which featured them playing on bills with Iron Maiden, Stone Temple Pilots and Ozzy Osbourne -- Priestess are looking forward to the 2009 tour. Heppner says the set list will favour the new album but also feature tunes from Hello Master.

"We played a show out here in L.A., a secret show while we were recording," he says. "We played everything and it was really cool."


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