Douglas Docker, Keyboardist for Progressive Metal group Docker’s Guild. Docker’s Guild Interview October 10, 2012
Docker’s Guild Interview
1. Could you tell me about the recording and writing process for the new Docker’s Guild album The Mystic Technocracy Season 1 : The Age of Ignorance?
Hi! First of all thanks for having me here. Most of the music for the album was written in the early ‘90s. I basically write the music first, which can be a chord progression, a riff, a bass line, very rarely a melody, and never the lyrics. The music then creates a mood from which it is very easy for me to find the right lyrical theme and content. It flows naturally. This could seem a little odd, since I have a story to tell and one might think the lyrics should come first, but I don’t work that way. I use a lot of strange writing techniques, but they are well masked under catchy melodies, which has led some people to believe that the music is “simple” or “commercial”. But there is a lot there if one wants to dig. Odd meters, non-triadic harmonies, atonal sections, classical thematic development, Medieval music structures, complex vocal arrangements using techniques that go from Gospel to Medieval hoquetus. It’s all there. Lyrically, I love playing with the listener. Apart from telling the story, the lyrics are packed with double meanings, quotes, references to other media like comics, movies, literature and much more.
The recording was quite straightforward, although it took a lot of time. It took me a year to record the preproduction demo, which already had the final keyboard arrangements and my vocals. Another year was spent recording all the guest vocals first, and finally drums, bass and guitars. This was done through the Internet in 5 different countries and a variety of studios, so managing all those tracks, files and transfers was a massive undertaking. Finally, the album was mixed in England by the great Simon Hanhart and mastered in Sweden by Mike Lind at Masterplant.
2. What would be some the influences presented in this latest work for Docker’s Guild?
I have often mentioned my main influences in many interviews and on the official project pages: prog rock and metal, AOR, JM Jarre, David Bowie, Duran Duran, The Rockets. So I’ll try to share some more unknown information about certain songs here. Classical music was very influential for example. The song Darwin’s Tears is based on an ancient dance pattern called “Les Folies d’Espagne”. The Gem of Love contains synth lines inspired by Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (a little tribute to Emerson). Purple Orb contains excerpts of Schubert’s Ave Maria, and the coda in Black Swans is directly taken from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony n.6. Medieval music was also influential. In Norse Cosmogony Part 1 there is choir that uses a Medieval technique called hoquetus. There are several parts that use unison, octave and parallel fifth choirs in Gergorian style, most notably at the end of Legion of Aliens, but also in Norse Cosmogony Parts 1 and 2.
Some songs were also inspired or influenced by other works. For example Black Swans came to me after listening to “The More We Live” from the Yes album Union. Legion of Aliens’ funky groove and bass lines were inspired by Dan Reed Network’s unique blend of funk and hard rock. Norse Cosmogony Part 1 is pure Emerson. All the synth sequences and arpeggiators come from my love for Jarre.
3. How do you manage your time as a musician?
Badly! I’m always overwhelmed by everything I do. I am well organized actually, but there seems to be too much going on at any given time. Docker’s Guild takes up a lot of time, both the creative part and the promotion and organization of things. I also run a Rock Department in three different music schools which requires huge amounts of organization and preparation work. Unfortunately, I find little time to do anything else. Occasionally I try to guest on other projects. For example in the last year or two I was featured on the amazing Shining Line album and on the upcoming Rustfield album. I had to refuse countless offers to join full-time bands though.
4. What products is Docker’s Guild currently endorsing?
None. I’ve always stayed away from all that up to now, I guess I enjoy my independence. It might happen in the future, who knows. But I’m actively searching. That said, I used a consistent set of equipment for the album. The Logic plug-ins were of great help of course, and I ssed the Arturia V-Collection massively. I also have a few vintages synths and the Roland JX-3P is particularly prominent on the more progressive tracks of the album.
5. Without Social Media could bands today manage to survive?
Yes, I think so. Social Media have become very important in promoting your project of course, but they are not a miracle cure and many are become slaves to them. When I see how much advertisement bands put on Social Media before a show or tour, then you go and there are 300 people, maybe their importance is way overrated. Last year I went to see a huge AOR festival here in Italy, with Thin Lizzy, Foreigner, Night Ranger and Journey. There was massive advertising in the press and especially on Facebook and the like. When Thin Lizzy went on stage, there were 200 people in the crowd. It was heartbreaking. That fact is, the information is there, but there is too much of it. I see it with my project as well. People just go right past it and nothing sticks.
We have traded quality for quantity. The fact that anyone with a Mac and an Internet connection can make music these days doesn’t mean they should. There is more music out there than at any other time in human history and the system is collapsing under its own weight. It is not sustainable and massive changes are ahead.
For me personally, I have to say that without the Internet this album would have been impossible to produce. That’s why I waited over 15 years to finally get it done, before the technology was just not there. So it’s not all bad!
7. What could we find interesting in your Music collection today?
I have a massive CD collection which goes from Ancient classical music to heavy metal. There’s also jazz, pop, traditional music and more. One of the most interesting items are the complete Rockets discography, a French space rock band that had a huge influence on my musical upbringing. The song Prophecy on the album is actually theirs. The albums that have impressed me the most lately however are Threshold’s Dead Reckoning, Pretty Maids’ Pandemonium, Foreigner’s Can’t Slow Down, Harem Scarem’s Hope and Duran Duran’s All You Need Is Now.
8. Any tours lined up in the near future for Docker’s Guild?
Not for now. Since the special guests are spread out all over the world, it would be very difficult to organize something. Also, since the album has received such positive feedback, it’s easy to disappoint. A Docker’s Guild live tour would require a production quality and costs that would be very difficult to sustain. That said, I am organizing a video presentation and album release party this fall/winter and I am toying with the idea of doing an acoustic live showcase here in Italy, perhaps even without keyboards. That would be different, unexpected and doable, but we’ll see!
9. What other projects could we be seeing from you in the near future?
The main priority of course is to continue developing Docker’s Guild. We are now moving into multimedia aspects, first with a series of featurettes, backstage videos and trailers which will culminate in the release of the epic 9-min long short film “Darwin’s Tears”, which was produced by Silos Production, the same team that shot 011 by Therion. Then it’s on to album 2, which will NOT be Season 2 as everybody expects. I should also be featured on the upcoming Frantic Amber album, a very good all-female Swedish death metal band. The guitar player in the band, Mio Jäger, cowrote two songs for the Docker’s Guild project. And I am also working on a development project for a very young and promising Italian pop rock artist, but I can’t say much more yet ;)
10. Where do you see Music in 100 years from now?
I have no idea. I wonder more about where I see humanity at that time, which is nowhere fast. But regarding music, looking at history, rock will become a historical genre, like swing or Baroque music. The fact that it is currently being sanitized for middle class audiences, like Las Vegas Casino shows and cruise ships, says a lot about where we’re going… The same thing happened to jazz and many other styles of music. Soon we’ll have rock in classical halls with stamped programs and cocktails for blue-haired ladies, it’s coming.
11. Any words for musicians starting out?
Keep your dreams alive, follow your instincts, and do it for yourselves. If you start trying to please the critics, the labels or anyone else (even the fans!) you will lose your souls and your music will mean nothing. It’s tough out there, it took me 30 years to get to where I am now. The paradox is that it’s never been easier than today to make music and share it, and yet it’s never been as difficult to make it and to live on it. It is not for the faint hearted of for those seeking instant gratification. There is no substitute for hard work, and talent does have role, but it is quite frankly rather secondary. Good luck to all of you J
Check out Docker’s Guild Online http://www.reverbnation.com/dockersguild