Having come up with a debut of supreme class, DOCKER’S GUILD mastermind Douglas Docker took time out from a busy schedule to answer questions on the creation of “The Mystic Technocracy”, his musical background and future endeavors.
Hi Douglas, thanks for agreeing to this interview, how are you doing today?
Very well! Thanks for having me here J
The debut album from Docker’s Guild has just been released by Lion Music. Getting a great review from us at V1 how has the album been doing elsewhere?
Yes, your review was one of the best and also one of the first reviews to arrive. Thanks for that! Most reviews since then have been of the same standard, the response has been overwhelming, which is a little humbling! I am very happy and very proud of how things are going.
Let’s go back to the start of your musical career, tell us about your musical upbringing and how your journey has led to the creation and formation of Docker’s Guild?
That is very long story, so I’ll try to keep it short. I started when I was 7, first as a classical pianist then violinist, until I graduated in classical piano in the ‘80s. In the meantime I discovered rock and lived the golden age of those amazing days. I eventually found myself in Hollywood where I joined Biloxi, an AOR band that had lots of success in the early ‘90s. Later I returned to school and became a researcher in ethnomusicology with a specialization in Thai ritual music and demon worship by Thai musicians. It’s a very metal thing to get involved with!
Docker’s Guild was born in 1990-1991 when I wrote most of the songs for Season 1. I kept writing and developing the story until it expanded into a 5 album project. It never came out because I never found the right partners, the general reaction in those days was rather scornful, and the musical environment very hostile to this kind of stuff. So I waited. Four years ago I finally decided the technology and the musical environment had become ripe to bring this project to its full conclusion.
“The Mystic Technocracy” is quite a body of work, a lot of intricate elements; lush arrangements and a big sound yet still very accessible with it. How did the vision for the album come about?
Musically, I wrote the music I’d like to hear out there and rarely find. My main influences cover three directions: AOR (Journey, Asia), prog (Yes, ELP, early Dream Theatre, Threshold), and some more eclectic flavours (David Bowie, Duran Duran, JM Jarre and The Rockets). The music is complex, much more than it sounds, but it’s packaged into an AOR wrapping, so those that just want to enjoy great melodies don’t have to dig too deep. But for those that like aural challenges, there is a lot of intellectual musical playing under the vocals. Odd meters, atonal sections, non-triadic harmonies. A lot of thought was put into all this.
Can you give our readers a basic premise of the concept of the album?
The main concept is the result of a simple observation that has been hounding me since I was 20. Why have people been murdering each other for 4000 years in the name a God no one has ever seen and for three religions that are supposed to be founded on love and compassion. Something is just not right. I plugged this premise into a science fiction story and the rest developed from there.
This is season 1 of a 5 part story correct?
Yep, with a few surprises along the way 😉
Are the future season’s written or just ideas in your head at this point?
Musically, Season 2 is about 70% written, season 4 and 5 about 20%. Season 3 is going to be very obscure and experimental, it is planned but not written yet. Regarding the story, I know the beginning, the middle and the end in great detail, some parts still need to be fleshed out, but I am very clear about how and where I want to bring this.
The assembled cast of musicians is highly impressive, yet unlike a lot of albums which have a lot of guest musicians it seems you had a clear vision of what you wanted from each artist. It all works quite fluidly, how did you go about dividing up the parts and deciding on who would suit what?
Thank you, it’s been a real honour to have these great musicians and singers on board. Well, first of all I like to give myself rules, little challenges and see where they take me. The first rule was that the singers all had to be AOR stars, I wanted to see what they could do with prog. That gave a highly melodic approach to the whole thing. Most of the musicians were chosen in a similar way. I also let each singer choose on which song they wanted to sing, that helped in making each voice fit the part.
Give our readers an overview of the other musicians involved and also perhaps a little of what you felt they uniquely gave the album?
I was able to convince most of the artists just through the strength of the preproduction demos. I didn’t know any of them basically. The exceptions being Tony Franklin, with whom I had worked in LA in the ‘90s, Magnus Jacobson who is great friend of mine and who introduced me to Goran Edman. The rest was hard work and a lot of typing!
I am very happy with all their performances; they contributed well beyond the call of duty. The rhythm section is thundering, Guthrie’s guitar is just unbelievable, and the singers perfect. They brought this strange mixture of metal, prog rock, AOR and intelligent pop that makes the album unique.
Was it a daunting prospect pulling in all these different performances?
Yes! I was terrified at first. The worst part of the project was opening and listening to files, I was so scared I wouldn’t like anything I heard that I often waited two days before I had the courage to listen. That said, things went incredibly smoothly, there were no technical problems and the parts were recorded rather quickly. Gregg Bissonette for example recorded his 8 songs in one single day!
Did you give the artists a blueprint of what you wanted or where they allowed to throw in a little of their own ideas?
Every single part was carefully mapped in the preproduction demos and I had charts for each instrument, but I left them some freedom, and they often added their own ideas and styles to the mix.
There’s some epic numbers on the album i.e. Darwin’s Tears, The Divine Comedy and The Secret Of DNA trilogy suite, is it easier to write a more complex number than a shorter one?
The more complex the music, the easier it is to write. Intellectual games and large scale structures are just a matter of sitting there like an architect and draw at the table. It is immensely more difficult to write e 3 minute timeless masterpiece with 3 chords. That is the real challenge, because it comes from instinct, which is much more powerful than logic.
What led to the cover of David Bowie’s “Loving The Alien”? It fits the album perfectly.
Yes it turned out real nice, I am very proud of that one. Well, I’ve loved that song since 1984, and the lyrics inspired a great deal of my own story, so I thought it was the perfect choice. That is another little rule I made: each season will have two covers, but they have to be chosen to fit the story. I didn’t write the story around the covers, it’s the other way around. It’s quite a challenge, but that’s how I like to have fun.
How did the actual recording take place your end? Do you have a home studio? Or did you do demos at home then record the proper tracks in a studio elsewhere?
Yes I have a very simple keyboard oriented preproduction studio called The Planet of Freedom Studio. All demos were recorded here, as well as final keyboard tracks, acoustic grand piano, clarinets, saxes, my vocals and all spoken voices. The special guests recorded in their own studios around the world. I then assembled everything here, but the final mix was done in England by the magic of Simon Hanahrt of Marillion and Asia fame.
Was the album recorded in running order?
Not at all. First I did all the demos, and kept all my vocals and keyboards. Then we recorded all lead vocals over the demos. The last thing were drums, bass and guitars.
Did any real nightmares take place during the albums creation?
Yes, I got screwed by a graphic artist and lost $6000… I’d rather not talk about it too much though. Thank God Carl-André Beckston saved the day with some spectacular work.
I believe a mini film for “Darwin’s Tears” is in production, when is the end product likely to be relased?
We just shot the video this weekend, and it looks awesome. It is 9 min long, and will be in a 1920s German Expressionist style, black and white and very, very creepy. It should be ready this fall if all goes well!
What other plans do you have in the pipeline for this album?
Promotion, merchandising, maybe an album release party and showcase still to be organized with some of the special guests. Then it’s on the second album which… will not be Season 2. You’ll have to wait a bit to understand this one! But it all ties up to the story.
Ok, name your top 5 favourite artists and your favourite albums…. And why?
David Bowie – any album (but let’s pick Let’s Dance). My mentor in all things, there is no one above him
The Rockets – Galactica. Obscure space rock French band that sold millions in Italy. The masters of sci fi shows and space rock.
ELP – Brain Salad Surgery. You can’t do more than that with keys no matter how hard anyone’s tried.
Yes – 90125. A production and songwriting masterpiece
Journey – Raised on Radio. Wow!
If you could take only 3 songs to a desert island what would they be?
Duran Duran – Come Undone
David Bowie – When the Wind Blows
Yes – Leave It
Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
Thanks for the support! I hope you’ll like the album, it was a real labour of love 🙂
Many thanks for your time.