Monday, October 15, 2012

Hails And Horns Interview With Docker's Guild


Members: G. Bissonette, M. Jacobson, T. Franklin, G. Govan, J. Watson, D. R. Docker, D. D. Docker, J. Payne, T. Mills, G. Edman, A. Somerville

Label: Lion Music Ltd, Lion Music

Manager: Douglas R. Docker

Hails & Horns Interview

1. First off, explain the recording process for the album. How long did it take? What was the toughest part of the process?

The whole process took about 4 years. During the first year I locked myself in the studio writing and recording the preproduction demos, where I played and sang everything. Then it took another year to record the special guests around the world through the Net. The third year was about mixing, artwork and shopping for a record deal, then 6 more months awaiting album release. That said I have learned much from that first experience, so hopefully the next album will take much less!

2. What was it like working with musicians like Gregg Bissonette, Magnus Jacobson, Tony Franklin, Guthrie Govan, Jeff Watson, John Payne, Goran Edman, Amanda Somerville, and Tony Mills? How did each of these musicians contribute on making the record as fantastic as it was?

That was an amazing experience, which I would have never thought possible a few years back. I feel very humbled and honored by their presence on my album, and I am very proud of their work. Many of them became good friends and all of them proved to be really wonderful people. Their parts were essentially already prepared on the demos, but each artist added his own expertise, often changing parts and arrangements according to the needs of the song. The album is a whole different beast compared to the original demo versions. An anecdote that really floored me was Gregg recording all his drums (13 complex prog songs) in one single day in LA. Tony’s unique fretless bass gives the album a very original flavor, Guthrie is just beyond description, some of his guitar orchestrations had up to 64 layers, and his solos, especially on the fretless guitar cannot be described in words, while Jeff is featured on a very difficult and beautiful 12-string guitar part in Darwin’s Tears. John gave that unique Asia flavor to the album, Göran was the most creative, adding very complex vocal arrangements to my original orchestrations, plus the wonderfully narrated Norse myths at the beginning of Twilight of the Gods. Tony was the busiest, singing on three of the most complex songs on the album and he is also the staunched supporter of the project. Amanda added a beautiful ethereal vocal line to Back Swans.

3. Obviously there are comparisons to Dream Theater, Yes, Genesis and others; but I'm certainly hearing a lot of influence from Anthony Arjen Lucsassen's brainchild, Ayreon. What bands in general were major influences to the work?

Ok, I have to be very clear here, because I read a lot of nonsense in the press about this topic. Musically, my main influences were Yes, ELP, Asia, Journey, early Dream Theater, Threshold, David Bowie, Duran Duran, The Rockets and JM Jarre. Ayreon and Lucassen had absolutely no influence or impact on anything I’ve done. Believe it or not, I wrote most of the plot and music between 1990 and 1994, and Ayreon was not even out there in those days. Of course he came first and I finally bought one of his CDs two years ago to check him out. He is an excellent artist, and the master of this kind of work, but there isn’t a single note or word from Ayeron in my entire album. Sorry to disappoint all the reviewers out there!

4. How do you feel about the state of music today? Some people claim that music just isn't as good these days as it was 40 or 50 years ago. Do you agree? If so, what do you think could be the reason why music these days just is as memorable?

Well, it’s good and bad. It’s never been as easy as today to make music, especially high quality and complex music like Docker’s Guild. That’s why I’ve waited so long, the technology just wasn’t there before. Another reason is that the barriers between genres and dated and modern styles have disappeared. The terrible prejudices my generation had to face in the ‘90s are just gone now. There is an audience for everything, which often crosses all age and national barriers. That said, the market is saturated with mediocre stuff and the fact that anyone can fake being a talented artist at home with the help of the Net and an iMac is not helping. Then there is the piracy issue, and that is a major problem which I won’t even get into here.

5. How do you feel about the metal scene today? What are some current bands that you feel are really invigorating the genre?

I don’t really follow it, but from what I hear everything sounds very stereotyped to me. One style I’ve been following a bit is symphonic and gothic rock/metal since many of my students love this music. After a while, the guitar riffs, sounds, the orchestras, the singers, they all sound the same. Modern, sure, but very repetitive with little movement forward. Then you get review blaming Docker’s Guild for not inventing anything new and sounding dated. Well, yes, but actually, nobody sounds like us out there right now, dated or not! What I really love these days are Threshold and Pretty Maids, two of the most creative, consistent and talented bands out there. They never miss a beat and never compromise. Pure genius.

6. Explain the concept of your album. What points are you really trying to get across with the science fiction epic?

Since the album has come out I’ve been called a Satanist, an atheist, a New Age freak, and many more kind epithets. Of course I am none of those things. The album is not against religion or any spiritual path. The album is a deep analysis and critique of the madness of man when he loses the ability to think and uses religion as an excuse for any kind of atrocity. This is an album humans, not about God. It’s in the news every day, I didn’t invent anything there. But somehow as soon as you point these things out, you’re against God. It sounds scarily close to the “we didn’t know” from 1945… I plugged the main theme into a sci-fi story just because I’m a huge sci-fi fan and it was much more fun to develop it in that way. Darwin’s Tears for example is a passionate song about the battle between Evolution and Creationism, with the latter winning unfortunately, and it is set at the time of the last dinosaur, having a dialogue with the alien Technocrat that caused their extinction. It’s a very moving song for such a dry topic!

7. There are a few tracks that I am curious about in particular. Could you explain the concept behind "Darwin's Tears, "Norse Cosmogony" and it's relation to "Judeo-Christian Cosmogony", "Loving The Alien" and  "The Secret Of DNA?"

I’ll get a little deeper into Darwin’s Tears then. It’s an extremely complex song lyrically, and also structurally. The music uses a telescopic compositional technique, which means that each time a section of the song returns, it is always different and longer than the previous time. The arrangement is also very complex, with a whole guitar orchestra with over 60 parts. Lyrically, there are several layers. The strange spoken words heard throughout the song are from “Eternity”, who recites a list of supercontinents from the ancient past to the future, representing the relentless passage of time. Then there are the main lyrics, a dialogue between the last dinosaur and the Technocrat who kills him. This alternates with an unrelated text which focuses on three Muses, Urania (Astronomy), Cleo (History) and Euterpe (Music), who have a Sapphic relationship and create the dark world the plot evolves in. This kind of “tribute” to who inspired a story was common in Renaissance and Baroque theater and opera, and that’s where it comes from. There are also loads of obscure references to sci-fi movies and books, comics, etc. There are mentions of Uatu, Klaatu, The Land That Time Forgot, and many, many more. There is a real treasure hunt waiting here for those that have the patience and inclination ;)
Twilight of the Gods is a 20 min-long suite in 4 movements. The first two describe the origins of the world and humans in Norse mythology, first in Swedish then in English. I got a lot of crap for the Swedish part, but I needed to establish that these Vikings, sitting in a cave around a fire, were telling stories that they then brought with them on their raids, hence the various background noises. Nobody got it unfortunately, and the piano part, which is quite complex, got completely bypassed. The third movement tells the same story according to Genesis, but then it climaxes towards a real Tower of Babel of languages, all telling their myths. I did massive research for this and hired native speakers in Arabic, Hebrew, Swedish, Classical Latin, Medieval Latin, Italian, French, English and Thai. The point is, everybody is talking so much, there’s no one left to listen. The last movement, The Divine Comedy is a cynical look at how these myths, which were invented by men based on real events, have somehow taken control of our lives to a point where we can’t even choose what is right or wrong on our own anymore. As soon as you question one, you are blasphemous, heretical, etc.
Loving the Alien is a cover of the Bowie song from 1984, I just made it a little heavier. The lyrics were hugely inspirational in the development of my story.
The Secret of DNA is the action song of the album. It describes the scientists search for an answer about the evils of this worlds, which they find under the city of Jerusalem where they find the hidden base of the Technocrat, and many other answers. However, the Technocrat himself is missing. That will be solved in Season 2. Musically, it mostly develops around the three notes of the main riff, which is reworked in many different ways throughout the song.

8. What mediums inspired the ideas to write this concept album? (Books, films, games, exc.) Are there any mediums that you might recommend to people who are interested in these concepts?

Regarding the concept, the structure and the theme, that came from sci-fi TV series Babylon 5, especially the name Docker’s Guild and the structure in 5 Seasons. It is a true sci-fi TV masterpiece and I highly recommend anyone to watch it from beginning to end. There was also a book by Fritz Lieber called “Enter Darkness!” that really marked me when I was a kid. A very dark story about a future fake religion which controls humans though technology. All 1920’s German Expressionism movies and TV serials, especially Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. 1970s campy sci-fi like Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Dr Who, The Black Hole. 1970’s Marvel comics and Japanimation, especially Captain Harlock, Grendizer, Gundam and Jeeg. There’s so much stuff I could fill a book! ;)

9. What do you believe regarding the nature of man and the cosmos? As you've stated about the fallibility of religion, do you believe in the nature of the human spirit? Perhaps any metaphysical or arcane concepts? If so, share them with us.

I am Buddhist actually. Mostly Zen, but my wife is Thai so I also follow a bit of that and some Tibetan stuff. Plus Brahmanic rituals related to traditional Thai music, and I have very definite Gnostic tendencies in my vision of the world. Human nature… if it were that good there would be no laws and no religion, because we would be living in that state already. The fact that we need to be constantly lectured and brainwashed about being “good” means we are not. Humans are fundamentally flawed and corrupted, as is the world of matter. Ironically, the story of the Original Sin, is not that wrong, taken as myth. I think there is a spark of pure light deep inside each human, but it’s buried under tons of dark matter. Call it karma if you will. I think dogmatic religion is particularly insidious here, because it trains people not to think. Follow, don’t think, repeat, don’t think. It’s VERY scary. Real spiritual paths are another matter altogether and I am a great supporter of all of them, they all lead to the same place.

10. What do you believe it will take to save the planet, if possible? I'd consider this disc an effort to awaken sleeping minds who are shackled into popular religion. For people who have just finished listening to the album and are now questioning it's ideas, maybe even asking "what's next?" What advice could you offer to them?

It can’t be saved, in the sense we mean it, which is bring it back to its normal state before we damaged it“. We’re part of the system, and the system will cleanse itself out when the time is right. It might mean devastation to us, but the planet has survived much worse. I do all my recycling and care about the environment, but honestly, I don’t think any of it will make a dent. It’s not up to me to offer any advice however, I’m here to learn, certainly not to preach.

11. Talk to us a little more about "Darwin's Tears." (The short film.)

The short film is a visual transposition of the plot I described above. It is not a video clip, it is a real short film with actors, models, extras, etc. There will be all the characters I mentioned before: Eternity, the Three Muses, the Three Dark Religions that will turn innocent people into brain dead indoctrinated zombies and much more. It will be about 9 min long and it is shot in the 1920s Expressionist style, so it’s all black and white, a bit surreal, with high contrasts and some disturbing scenes and imagery. It was shot by Silo Production, the same great team that produced 011 by Therion.

12. Are you planning to take this live on the road? Maybe like a live stage show with theatrics? If you were going to do a stage show, how would you go about it?

I’d love to, but it’s difficult to say now. For now we’re planning a very low-key acoustic showcase here in Italy to celebrate the album release and the video sometime in the future. It might happen, who knows?

13. What hobbies do you enjoy when you're not making music?

Reading, I devour tons of books, comics, manuals, anything interesting, with a particular interest for history, religion, sci-fi and horror. Same thing with movies. I practice iaido, the zen martial art of samurai sword fighting. I also enjoy biking, trakking and swimming, and travelling.

14. Finally, if you could give a glimpse to further the story; what can we expect from the next season? What surprises are in store? Will there be a new set of special guests, perhaps?

First a shocker: album 2 will not be Season 2. For now I can’t say much more not to spoil the surprise, but it will be connected to the story, something I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager, and I’m sure everyone will be very surprised and pleased. Album 3 will be Season 2, where we get deep into the mind of the leading scientist in charge of saving the world, discover what has to be done in order to do that and we will also witness the beginning of the end of things, with the terrible events that will unfold in Season 3. Several songs have already been written and just need to be recorded. One of them will be called K475 (W.A.M.) for example. Like in Season 1 there will be 2 instrumentals and 2 covers as well. It’s too early to talk about special guests, but many have expressed interest in returning, and I have my eye on some very special talents in my wish list that I’ll try real hard to get on board. Thanks you so much for having me here! Buy the album, we need all the support we can get :)



The Mystic Technocracy Season One: The Age Of Ignorance
Lion Music

There's no doubt about it. 2012 has been an excellent year for metal, despite the fact that there are still some people who believe it might be our last. However, we've also been pleasantly gifted with the debut offering from progressive operatic metallers, Docker's Guild. So if this is our final year, than I'm glad that it went out with a bang. Because this album is every bit of that bang, and I daresay the best album that AYREON never made. Not than Arjen's self titled album was a wash; but it was nothing like this. The album manages to space out 15 tracks of sheer awesomeness in the form of classic metal riffs, phenomenal drum work, trippy synths and structural changes that only help to enhance the atmosphere of the work. In all actuality, this disc sounds like the sort of thing we might expect to be on a Broadway stage, complete with smoke machines, lavish set-pieces and costumes as well as a light-show. Tracks like "Darwin's Tears" would actually be right at home in a planetarium during a 3D show of such magnitude and it's not the only one of these fifteen tracks that works at such a grand scale. This is what comes out of a labor of love, not processed material that was quickly shoved out to the masses as fodder for the metal scene. "The Age Of Ignorance" is an album that would be best enjoyed in it's entirety, but tracks like "The Mystic Technocracy", "Loving The Alien" or the sandwich of "The Secret Of DNA Parts 1 &2" and "Purple Orb" are just what you'll need for a quick prog fix. Though there are other vocalists on the album, Douglas has some amazing pipes that stand out among all of the complexities on this album. When I say complex, I mean that this album is rather enormous, being filled to the brim with so many effects that the synthesizers were probably close to the point of explosion. The mixing effort alone must have been tedious; but it all sounds crisp, clear and precise. This is the very definition of prog metal, with beautiful guitar melodies and solos that seem to fit right in with the gargantuan amount of effects contained within. This disc is so packed with the very definition of "epic rock opera" that pulling everything off of it would entail a full stage performance in my living room, which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. If you miss the glory days of bands like AYREON, STAR ONE, KING CRIMSON, YES, GENESIS and many more, then I humbly suggest that you pick up this impressive display of musicianship.

E. May


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