REV. DR. BILL GRAM ..... (Killing For Christ)
PHIL JONES ..... (Phil Jones Band)
THEO CEDAR JONES ..... (Swaybone)
SCOTT KELLY ..... (Neurosis)
SETH MAJKA Interview 1 of 2
SETH MAJKA Interview 2 of 2
UNCLE BOB NYC ..... (3tles)

J.D. BRADSHAW ..... (Debbie Caldwell Band)
PAUL CROOK ..... (Anthrax, Meat Loaf, Sebastian Bach)
NICK DOUKAS ..... (Full Circle, Half Angel, student of John Petrucci & Al Pitrelli)
MATTHEW MEADOWS ..... (Rango The Dog, Somewhat Seven)
DAX PAGE ..... (Kirra)
MARTY PARIS ..... (Paris Keeling, Permanent Reverse, Barbarian Way)
RUINED MACHINES & MICHAL BRODKA ..... (Celestial Bodies: A 12 Month Galactic Collaboration) Interview 1 of 2
RUINED MACHINES (aka KENYON IV) ..... (World Of Rock Records, Celestial Bodies: A 12 Month Galactic Collaboration) Interview 2 of 2
CHRIS SANDERS ..... (Knight Fury, Lizzy Borden, Nadir D'Priest)
TOM SPITTLE & TROY MONTGOMERY & DAMOND JINIYA ..... (Rebel Pride Band, Under The Gun Project)
"METAL" DAN SORBER ..... (Thy Kingdom Done, Ferox Canorus)
ERIC STROTHERS ..... (Enjoy Church's Tribute To Trans-Siberian Orchestra) Interview 1 of 2
ERIC STROTHERS & ZACH LORTON ..... (Enjoy Church's Tribute To Trans-Siberian Orchestra) Interview 2 of 2
CHRIS MICHAEL TAYLOR ..... (Carmine & Vinny Appice's Drum Wars, Sunset Strip, Hair Nation)

A.L.X. ..... (Love Crushed Velvet)
GRAHAM BONNET ..... (Rainbow, Alcatrazz)
JOE DENIZON ..... (Stratospheerius, Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp, Sweet Plantain)
TOMMY FARESE ..... (Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Kings Of Christmas, Place Called Rage)
ANGIE GOODNIGHT ..... (Fill The Void)
CORNELIUS GOODWIN ..... (12/24 Trans-Siberian Orchestra Tribute Band)
DAMOND JINIYA & TOM SPITTLE & TROY MONTGOMERY ..... (Savatage, Retribution, Under The Gun Project)
STEFAN KLEIN ..... (Dethcentrik, Dod Beverte, f.k.k.d.) Interview 1 of 2
STEFAN KLEIN ..... (Dethcentrik, Dod Beverte, f.k.k.d.) Interview 2 of 2
GUY LEMONNIER ..... (Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Kings Of Christmas)
ZACH LORTON & ERIC STROTHERS ..... (Enjoy Church's Tribute To Trans-Siberian Orchestra) Interview 2 of 2
PARK SIPES ..... (Sunset Strip, Barbarian Way, Tune In To Mind Radio Kelly Keeling Tribute album)
ZAK STEVENS ..... (Savatage, Circle II Circle) Interview 1 of 2
ZAK STEVENS ..... (Savatage, Circle II Circle) Interview 2 of 2

SCOTT KELLY ..... (Wizards Of Winter)
ERIK NORLANDER ..... (Asia Featuring John Payne, Rocket Scientists, Lana Lane)
MICHAEL T. ROSS ..... (Lita Ford, Missing Persons, Raiding The Rock Vault Las Vegas Revue)

CHRIS NUNES ..... (Ornament Trans-Siberian Orchestra Tribute Band)
JOHN WETTON ..... (Asia, King Crimson, Roxy Music)

RAFA MARTINEZ ..... (Black Cobra)


RODNEY MILES & ALISON TAYLOR ..... (365 Surprising & Inspirational Rock Star Quotes Book)
SEVEN (aka ALAN SCOTT PLOTKIN) ..... (Exile In Rosedale author, Public Enemy, Busta Rhymes)
ALISON TAYLOR & RODNEY MILES ..... (365 Surprising & Inspirational Rock Star Quotes Book)

MATT CHABE ..... (Bangtown Timebomb, Chapter Two Marketing)
JAMES MOORE ..... (Independent Music Promotion, Your Band Is A Virus Book)

February 10, 2018

"He Always Made Me Feel Like I Was Important" An Interview With NICK DOUKAS

Click here to visit official youtube of Nick Doukas.

February 2011 (phone)

Since the age of 13 New Yorker Nick Doukas has been honing his high energy rock guitar chops in numerous NY area bands, such as Half Angel & Full Circle (aka Head Case), playing covers & originals. He has studied music theory & guitar at Five Towns College & Nassau Community College &, according to this interview, in one-on-one lessons from guitarists John Petrucci of Dream Theater & Al Pitrelli of Trans-Siberian Orchestra & Megadeth. This was as a teen before either were superstar guitar heroes. Presently, Nick is expanding his musical palette through studying classical guitar with Dr. Nelson Amos, the head of the guitar dept of Eastern Michigan University, where he has been accepted to study for a degree in Music Education. Outside of music he has studied nutrition & life sciences, with extensive experience in the bodybuilding-weight lifting world. This interview focuses on his teenage years as a student of Pitrelli before his career took off via touring the world with Alice Cooper.

For some years I dedicated a lot of energy into researching the musical biography of Al Pitrelli, who might be one of the most under-rated melodic lead players of the last few decades. Nothing ever came of the effort, except new friends & a wealth of new music & musicians I might not have discovered otherwise. I became a fan of Megadeth & post-Wetton Asia because of Al's contributions to these bands, let alone discovered Savatage & Joe Lynn Turner, amongst others via his extensive studio work. Not having any central location for Al's musical output I searched far & wide for whatever I could find. I don't remember how I came across his guitar student, but Nick was happy to spend nearly an hour with me sharing memories of learning with Al before fame arrived & they were essentially 2 young bucks just playing & sharing music they loved. We've remained in contact via Facebook & I've had the opportunity to see Nick post guitar playing videos online, return to music school & play in local bands in his new home of Michigan ... still as passionate about playing those old Van Halen riffs as ever. This interview has never been heard or shared or even excerpted until now. Starting this blog I knew this interview would finally get a home & I only regret it took so long.

* * * * *

AJ: I started researching Al over a year ago & trying to find his place in the musical world. You are the 1st person I've encountered who knows the non-performance side of Al's music career & the early days when he was still a teacher.

NICK: Do you just want me to tell you about my experience?

AJ: Why don't you give me a timeline. I know only a little bit about his teaching years.

NICK: Al used to teach out of a store called Focus II Guitar Center, which was in North Bellmore, Long Island, NY. It was kinda like the guitar shop at the time. I had started playing guitar about 1984 or so & I had studied with another teacher there. I studied for over a year & then I went off on my own & did my thing. I wasn't studying for awhile, but then I started looking for a really good teacher, like a hot rock player. I was into Eddie Van Halen & Randy Rhoads & all those players. I remember going into the shop & going 'Yeah, I'm looking for someone to study with. I don't just want to get any teacher.' The owner is like 'We've got this guy, Al Pitrelli. He's an amazing player.' He told me all this stuff about him. I was like sign me up. I started studying with him late '86, maybe early '87.

AJ: Before he went off on tour with Alice Cooper.

NICK: Way before that. I think that was '89.

AJ: Yeah, that was '89. So, at that point when you met him he was the guy that played with Michael Bolton & had studied at Berklee.

NICK: It was after he'd came back from touring with Michael Bolton. It wasn't long after that. I had heard of him, too. You know, he's a local boy. He was in a band called MAGIC many years ago. Before Michael Bolton, before he went off to Berklee. They used to rehearse in East Meadow & I grew up in East Meadow. They used to rehearse in this ... I can't remember the name of it, but there was video game arcade there. I remember being a young kid, & this was a couple years before I met him & started studying with him, & going to play games there & hearing some music from downstairs. So, anyways, when I first started studying with him it was right after he got back from the tour with Bolton. He was just hanging out & teaching. I remember my first couple lessons with him & as soon as you heard him you knew he was an amazing player.

AJ: Even back then.

NICK: Just really special. I know a lot of hot guitar players & have been around the scene for like 30 years, but as soon as you heard him play it was just a level of professionalism that was above & beyond most people that I heard. I remember that he taught in a little room downstairs in Focus II Studios. They used to have their lesson rooms down in the basement. He had this little 4 track set up with a couple of studio monitors & he used to run a couple of pedals into an old Tom Scholz Rockman amp. I, of course, had to emulate him. I was 19 or so & he was about 23. So, I bought the 4 track & the Rockman. It actually had a great little sound. What he used to do, is he used to record. Actually, I still have a bunch of those old cassettes. I came across them not that long ago in my attic. He used to record for me on the 4 tracks. He'd record for me on one track a clean guitar & then he'd record a hot lead over there. Then he would tell me to take it home & pop it in my player & just play over what he played & try & work with it & stuff. That was like a really really cool thing. Like I said, I still have a bunch of those tapes with a bunch of his jams & stuff, just playing leads. He would just play like different rhythms in different keys & different modes.

AJ: Real basic stuff.

NICK: Yeah, basic stuff but everything he played was cool. Even the basic stuff just sounded great. I always remember that. That was really cool. He'd give me stuff to work on. I'd ask him to show me leads from Eddie Van Halen or Randy Rhoads or George Lynch. We'd take stuff apart. I remember he had a lot going on during those 4 years I studied with him. He was good friends with Steve Vai. Vai wanted him to play with David Lee Roth after he left. So, I remember when he had the audition. He had a cool picture of him & [Roth's bassist] Billy Sheehan hanging out. Then he was playing with [bassist] Bruno Ravel [of DANGER DANGER] for awhile. He was also playing with [bassist] Randy Coven [later of Yngwie Malmsteem & Steve Vai's band] quite a bit. He did some really cool instrumental stuff with him. I remember going to see him with Randy a couple times. I would try to go round & see him in whatever he did locally.

AJ: Of course.

NICK: I remember he played in a band HOTSHOT with singer named Mike Pont [who also sang with DANGER DANGER]. I remember seeing him in all the old NY clubs in the 80's. That was such a great time for original bands on Long Island. I remember he was such a great player & he had a good amount of opportunities, but it never really took off, you know. Then after I'd been studying with him for awhile he started teaching out of his house.

AJ: In Long Island?

NICK: He was in North Port, Long Island, probably around '88 or so. As I said to you, too, I also studied with John Petrucci in King's Park, Long Island, when John was teaching out of his parents house.

AJ: It was a small world out there in Long Island.

NICK: I didn't go out there for too long, but I'll never forget the point right before Al got the Alice Cooper gig & he literally said to me, 'I don't know what I'm going to do.' He was talking to his father-in-law at the time about going into carpentry, because he didn't know what was going to happen to him. Which is crazy, because the guy is so talented.

AJ: But, that's the world of music. It really is.

NICK: Sometimes it doesn't matter. Sometimes the most basic players become the most famous, while the people are more technically talented don't really get noticed. But, you're right, that is the world of music. I assume you're a musician, too.

AJ: I play a little bass & guitar & I also work in a record store in the East Village here in Manhattan. I know the scene. It's the luck of the draw almost.

NICK: Absolutely. That was the thing. I remember he didn't know what to do. You know the thing is, he had success. It's not like nobody knew who he was. He had toured with Bolton.

AJ: But, it was a bit regional.

NICK: Yeah, not enough.

AJ: It was smaller stuff.

NICK: Then he got the Alice Cooper gig. I remember when he told me he got hired to be Alice's musical director & go on the road with him. That was that. That was the last time I saw him. I went off to study with Petrucci at that point for awhile. I was a music major in college. I remember starting to see ads & interviews in mags with Al.  Then ASIA & MEGADETH. I've followed him over the years the best I could. It's a lot easier with the internet & I started to hear more about him, particularly via youtube, which is a great resource.

AJ: Have you ever watched the video of the tour with Alice, the Trashes The World video?

NICK: No, I never did.

AJ: Because, if you did I wanted to ask what it was like seeing Al on stage, suddenly catapulted from guitar teacher to touring at all the big venues with the legendary Alice.

NICK: Let's put it this way: I still play. I'm a professional musician. I still play guitar every day, play in bands, record. But, I've always said who my guitar teacher was. I remember seeing on the internet a video of Al. It was from that what you told me about. It was a video of him doing a guitar solo going into the song "Poison".

AJ: That was Al's big spotlight moment.

NICK: I remember coming across that on youtube & commenting that 'I was very fortunate to study with Al.' You'd see a bunch of people responding that this was amazing & could you tell more about it. It was always nice to say that was my teacher, somebody who was that famous. Then the TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA thing came around & I didn't really know at first that that was him. My wife had heard the stuff & thought it was really cool. She was telling me 'You'll love it. It's orchestral Xmas music but with great lead guitar.' Then I realized who it was. I looked into the background of it & saw he'd been working with Jon Oliva & SAVATAGE. I have all the TSO albums. We bring them out at Xmas. I've figured out some of his licks. It's great stuff.

AJ: I'll confess I'm a big 80's rock guy, so I'm more of a SAVATAGE fan as I like things grittier & heavier.

NICK: I'm a little more on the melodic side. I like my music heavy, but I like the melodies. The stuff TSO plays really appeals to me.

AJ: To me the album just before TSO, SAVATAGE's DEAD WINTER DEAD, Al's debut with them, is one of the best melodic prog rock albums out there. That's the album that bred TSO.

NICK: Yes, it's very prog rock with its concepts. It's all very cool stuff.

AJ: Before Al SAVATAGE was very different. TSO would be very different without him, too.

NICK: That's the other thing about Al. He's not just a guitar player. He's so much of a musician. Obviously, guitarists are musicians, but its his composition skills, the way he composes. I remember when I was studying with him he had written that song "Temptation." I thought it was a cool pop rock song. Then all of a sudden he told me Y&T was going to record it. I thought that was really cool. I remember him telling me he'd been back & forth with frontman Dave Meniketti. I remember when the album Temptation came out with the song. I remember Al playing me the original demo in the rehearsal room, just popping in the cassette. Just this little basic version of it. To me, whatever the guy played, just everything he played just sounded huge & authoritative & just really cool. I mean, I was a young kid & obviously very influenced. But, even to this day when I hear him play I know I was very lucky to have a great player like him teach me.

AJ: Obviously it's been like 20 years, but when you listen to him now & you think back, do you notice an observable difference in his playing? Does anything jump out?

NICK: I can hear how much he's matured. I think he's less ... First of all, the guy is a great shredder. Technically, he's an amazing player with the speeds & chops. But, he was always more melodic. That was something that he taught me when I was a kid. In fact, Gary Moore just died recently.

AJ: I know.

NICK: He was a big Gary Moore fan. I was never that into him, but Al turned me on to his cover of the YARDBIRDS' "Shapes Of Things". The solo on that is really cool. I remember back in the day Al saying to me he was going to teach me that lead because it was the perfect combination of chops & feel. That sort of summed it up for me on what he was about. Yeah, he's about the chops & the flash, for sure, but at the heart of it he's got a lot of melody. I can say his playing today is the same, but yet it's not. I hear today the same guy, but he's really matured. Not even that, as he was a great player back then.

AJ: I understand.

NICK: The guy was a technical wiz even 25 years ago. But, I think about what he always tried to show me back then about being melodic & about making sure whatever you were playing still fit the tune & wasn't just a bunch of flashy licks. He was very modal. He was really into the modes & how each one has its own mood & how it works against whatever the chords are. He would always show me that stuff. I came across his Star Licks instructional video & he's kinda doing the same thing. It was very similar. It reminded me of being in lessons with him where he was very into how stuff works melodically & modally & how things works against particular chord constructions or particular chord progressions. Another thing about Al that was pretty cool was that he had a really cool personality. A very cool laid back guy. Very funny. He was always very encouraging to me, too. Like I always felt, when I went to have lessons with him ... like I know there are people out there who would accuse him of having an ego or whatever, but I never found that with the guy. He was always so encouraging to me. He always made me feel like I was important, not just some other kid he was teaching. He'd always give me compliments. Not just some blanket bullshit compliment. He would notice things, like "You played that passage really well because of this or whatever. I notice your picking is really coming along. You can pick like the Yngwie kind of thing." I'd really appreciated that. He was always very encouraging & very nurturing as a teacher. That's why I stuck with him for so long. As I said, it was a good 4 years I was with him & I had a lot of other teachers in there besides Al & John Petrucci. I had several other people that I studied with it, but it was always Al that was my main influence. He was also really into everything I was into. You could sit down with him & talk about Randy Rhoads, talk about Eddie Van Halen, talk about Paul Gilbert of MR. BIG, talk about Yngwie. He got it. He was that kind of guy. He was always really cool & always willing to talk about anything to do with guitars. You know the guy loves the instrument & I was the same way. I was always very excited to go to my lesson & always very motivated. I can't even tell you how invaluable his instruction was & how much I learned from him.

AJ: Well, all these years later you're still playing guitar & still making music. There's the proof. Is there anything Al has taught you that comes out a lot today when you're playing?

NICK: Yeah, just the melody. Just being able to get in there & not only play a bunch of notes, but to put something melodic together. Something that just sounds musical. That's kinda how I am. Whenever I'm improvising something or listening to a chord progression to play over that's what always comes to mind. Yeah, I could throw in a bunch of flashy licks & I do, but I always remember the most important thing is the melody & the feel & having a really good vibrato. Things like that. Those are the things that he taught me that are just invaluable. Like teaching me appreciation. I like guys like Yngwie & Paul Gilbert, but teaching me appreciation for somebody like Neal Schon of JOURNEY, whose also a great player, but you listen to his licks on "Faithfully" or the solo on "Don't Stop Believin'" & its the not the most technical thing ever, but it just sounds beautiful, authoritative & melodic. To me, that's what Al was all about, how important that is. I can't tell you how many shredders I hear that just sound like a frickin' typewriter.

AJ: I know what you mean.

NICK: There's just something lacking. Also, I think that constant shredding, its almost like all emphasis equals no emphasis. I prefer to hear, like in a 10 or 16 bar guitar solo, a build. That's another Al taught me. A guitar solo itself is its own little composition, you know? You're really thinking about where you are going to go with it, building on it, dynamics, melody, speed, how you're going to end it. Al taught me to think very compositionally as a guitarist. I think that was probably one of the biggest things I got from him.

AJ: I'm reminded that a couple days ago it was George Harrison's birthday. I'm a big fan of his & always loved his solos. His solos, to paint it broadly, were like 10 notes. The most sparse solos in the history of music, but you always felt like every note was important. Versus a lot of the shredding or whatever that's out there now where it's just notes for the sake of playing a lot of fast notes. Speed is the most important thing, not the melody or anything else you mentioned. You know, Tony Iommi didn't play fast, but melodic & that's what made BLACK SABBATH so untouchable. But, we don't follow his lead enough.

NICK: Absolutely. I hear a lot of bands nowadays with what I call those Cookie Monster vocals. To me, if you're going to have heavy heavy music you need some sort of melodic edge over that or else it all starts to sound the same. It all starts to sound like noise. That's what I have always like about that 80's metal or even the classic rock bands like QUEEN or JOURNEY or LED ZEPPELIN. You had this heavy music, but you had a melodic vocal over it, because you need something beautiful to go with the heavy pounding ugly. You know what I mean?

AJ: I listen to a lot of heavy metal, but honestly so much of it bores me for the reason you're saying. It's all riffs with no contrast. The melody lifts a heavy riff into something else. The technical playing isn't enough. I'm bored with it.

NICK: That's the thing! When I was a kid it was always like whose technically the best, whose the fastest, who this or that. As I got older I started to realize that its not really all about that. It's about individual style. It's about tone. Like I said, your vibrato technique. I'd rather hear a guy like Eric Johnson who has beautiful tone & vibrato & the note choices, then somebody like ... not that I don't have a lot of respect for METALLICA, but it's not my type of guitar playing. It think its kinda shrill. I don't like the note choices. But, that's just personal preference. To me, Pitrelli is exactly what I'm talking about. The speed & technique is there & he's flying, but then he just drops one note & just makes it sting for some seconds. That's the type of playing that I dig & what he was always all about. Like I said, from the very first time I heard him play & the very first time I had a lesson with him, I was impressed. There's something intangible about what he does, but it speaks to you, you know what I mean?

AJ: Absolutely. Let me ask, how did learning from Al compare to someone like John Petrucci?

NICK: Petrucci was very cool too. He was a really nice guy. He had a similar personality to Al, just very encouraging & a very good guy, but he was a little more technical. John was a little more about the exercises.

AJ: What about any of your teachers? You mentioned you had a few over the years.

NICK: My first teacher was a great player & nice guy & really into southern rock, ALLMAN BROTHERS & classic stuff. I remember he had a brown Les Paul. He used to come to my house. I was about 15 when I first started taking lessons. By the time I started studying with Al I was more on the intermediate level, although when I went in with Al I still wasn't that hot. Over the couple years I studied with him that's when I first started to blossom.

AJ: How's your playing now, Nick?

NICK: I think it's pretty good. I don't practice the way I used to. But, I built such a foundation as a kid that at this time its sort of self-propelling. I sometimes feel like I'm a little stagnant. But, it doesn't really matter, because if I play for you or someone, you haven't heard me for the last 15 years to compare. I would like to have more time to be able to study again & progress a little. But, I think I built such a good foundation back then because it was my whole life. From the age of about 15 to about 25 music was all I did. I was so inspired by reading about guys like Paul Gilbert or Van Halen. He used to practice 8-10 hours a day & that's what I did. I remember it came to a point that I would play things & almost feel like how did I do that? Like it sounded authentic, you know. So, as far as how does Al compare to other teachers, I had a few other guys. I studied with this guy named Peter Green.

AJ: I'll assume not the Peter Green, the founder of FLEETWOOD MAC.

NICK: No. Actually, this guy used to have ads in all the guitar magazines. He used to have a thing I think was called Metal Method. He basically had a series of instruction tapes of lessons he did. I studied with him for awhile. He was a nice guy & good player, but not particularly inspiring. There was a point where I was studying with him & Al at the same time, because I was so hardcore I had to have 2 teachers. The other thing was Al would sometimes go out on the road. He wasn't always around, so I'd go off & find somebody else, but I'd always come back to him. He was always my favorite teacher. Of all the teachers I had, Al & Petrucci were obviously the best.

AJ: Was John in DREAM THEATER at the time?

NICK: Absolutely. This was about 1989. He was in DREAM THEATER & they had a couple of records out, but it was in the time when their original singer Charlie Dominici left. They were auditioning guys. I remember him telling me they brought a guy out from Seattle & he was staying in his house. DREAM THEATER was around & doing their thing, but they had not become ... they were still local. They hadn't quite had their chance.

AJ: Did Al ever instruct you any when it came to gear, like what guitar or strings or amp?

NICK: We talked about that stuff. I mean, I was at the time ... you have to remember, too, in the '80's you didn't have the Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier amp.

AJ: Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

NICK: I've got a 15 year old amp I'm running right now that sounds great. I'm pretty basic in the effects dept.. I don't like having a lot of processing devices.

AJ: I understand.

NICK: I like that Eddie Van Halen brown sound. But, I remember always looking for the tone. At the time I had a couple old Marshall amp heads. That was probably like a 1985 or so & I had a head from the 70's. It was an old one with the blueish-gray kinda panel on it. It was like the black ones like they have now. I had them modified actually a bit. Back in the '80's all the rage was having the extra gain stage. He used to tell me that's kind of a good thing to do. I don't know if he hooked me up with this guy or if I might have found him on my own, but I took my head to this guy & had them modified. It sounded great. Al & I used to talk gear & stuff. He used to have this awesome old black Schecter guitar.

AJ: I don't know what that is.

NICK: It's like an ESP. It's a brand name. He had this really cool black Schecter Strat. I just remember its action. I like my action low. I like my action right on the fretboard. He was the same way. I remember playing that guitar. We would trade. I had this blue ESP & I would give it to him. I remember how nice that Schecter was. It had super low action & felt really nice to play. So, we talked a lot about that sort of thing, about the guitars & the amps & stuff. We definitely got into a lot of that.

AJ: I want to know, what are you doing now? What's your music gig now?

NICK: Honestly, right now I don't have too much time. What I'm doing right now is just working on some original stuff. I have my Marshall set-up down in my basement. I went & got myself one of those nice little pod forms that plugs right into the computer. So, I can plug my guitar right into the computer. I got myself a little recording program. I try to do some instrumental stuff. I'm not really sure if I'd like to be in a cover band again. I actually have a good time playing rock covers with a really good band. I was in a band called FULL CIRCLE for many years. They're still around, but they have a whole new line-up. I played with them throughout the '90's. It was a was a cover band doing all kinds of stuff, everything from VAN HALEN to AEROSMITH to Pat Benatar. We had a female singer. We did '80's & '90's stuff. You know, I love the '80's music, but I try not to be too rooted in the past. I like a lot of new stuff, too, but, there isn't really that much out there for me. It's either that nu-metal shit or ... There's a band called HALESTORM that I just discovered. They've got a girl singer, but they're straight up 4 piece hard rock. It just sounds like '80's rock.

AJ: There's a few of them out there.

NICK: There's just not that many bands with the sound I like. I jam with some friends locally. I'm thinking right now my options are maybe either looking to join a really cool cover band or I'll put together one. It's really got to be something good. It's got to be top-notch. I'm not looking to do dance music or pop. I'm looking to do JOURNEY, VAN HALEN, HEART. That's the thing. Not always hard to find a great bass player. Not always hard to find a great drummer or keyboard player or whatever. But, when it comes to vocals, you know.

AJ: That's the worst.

NICK: Plus, you're doing cover stuff. Find me a female singer that can sing like Ann Wilson of HEART or Pat Benatar spot on. It's hard to find.

AJ: That can kill the band before it gets started.

NICK: Absolutely. I was in this band & we had this chick singer. She was okay. She could sing some stuff well. We were doing a couple Benatar songs. She just couldn't cut it. You could hear it. She didn't have the pipes. She didn't have the power. That was the thing that always burned my ass. The band sounded great. The music was perfect, but the vocals didn't quite cut it.

AJ: I had that in a band I was playing in. We had both a guy & girl singer. She didn't know what it meant to count into the song, but she had a good voice.

NICK: It makes you feel like you're putting in extra work.

AJ: Her tone was great, but it wasn't functional. Then the guy was so caught up in being a singer he would never show up or do any writing. We ended up playing instrumentals until we died. Without a good singer we didn't have all the pieces, though we had some good riffs. It was the Achille's heal, you know?

NICK: Absolutely. That's how I feel. So, if I could find the right situation with someone who could hit that stuff. Doing stuff like JOURNEY & BOSTON I would say it's even harder to find a male singer. At the very least, if I can find a good female singer she can do Benatar & we'll let her try her hand at JOURNEY.

AJ: She can hit you with her best shot.

NICK; That's one of my favorite tunes, that's why I mention her. That's me. I don't pretend to be a jazz player. I'm a hard rock guitar player. That's what I put all my time & energy into being. I love that stuff. I never get bored of that stuff & these type of guitar players. I mean, you listen to some of Schon's licks in JOURNEY. It gives me chills.

AJ: So many of those bands are being rediscovered, too. I'm hearing that older influence more & more in music now.

NICK: I agree with you. I see a lot of youtube videos with young kids playing Randy Rhoads, Joe Satriani, Van Halen.

AJ: A lot of that music vanished & now it's back.

NICK: You know what they say, man, you can't kill rock'n'roll. That's the thing. Maybe not so much anymore, as things have changed so much with the internet & the ability to put your own music out & be heard, but when I was a kid you were paying thousands in dollars for studio time for a shitty little demo. Now you can have the tools at home to make professional quality recordings that you can instantly upload to the internet to be heard by thousands of people. To me its changing, but the music industry is very cyclical. It goes on a 10 year cycle. You had the '80's stuff between new wave & hard rock. Then you had the grunge bands. It's almost like the decades start out with really talent bands & then all the shit comes along with worse & worse versions of this music. It's so watered down & people get so sick of it that they kill it. That's what happened in the '90's with Kurt Cobain in his old dirty sweater looking like he just got out of bed with a shitty guitar. He single-handedly killed all those pretty boys with the hair & make-up.

AJ: I totally agree. Though, I was never into NIRVANA until after the band ended, as I was still listening to TWISTED SISTER.

NICK: I remember SISTER even before MTV. I saw them play at a local roller rink. Their really old stuff is really some of their best stuff, when they didn't really have any albums out.

AJ: Speaking of which, after you stopped learning from Al Pitrelli, I think, that's when he went to WIDOWMAKER with Dee Snider? That was '91, after his gig with Alice Cooper.

NICK: Yeah, that was after. I remember hearing about it & I remember they played at a local club. I didn't see them. I don't remember why. I remember hearing Al was with Dee for awhile.

AJ: They're really good albums. Very heavy, very much not TWISTED SISTER hard rock, but more heavy metal. Al had a big influence writing the second album. Did you ever see Al play with bassist Randy Coven?

NICK: When I was still studying with him I saw them do a gig together locally. It was amazing. Absolutely awesome. So much great instrumental stuff from their albums.

AJ: Sammy Says Ouch! & Funk Me Tender.

NICK: Randy was just an amazing bass player. I'm a big fan of those style of bassists & even a bigger fan of those bands where you a guitarist & bassist doing that kind of crazy shit together, like MR. BIG.

AJ: I was just going to suggest them.

NICK: That's exactly the kind of stuff that I love. So, I loved seeing him with Randy Coven. I thought those couple albums were very cool. Another bass player buddy of his was Bruno Ravel.


NICK: Andy Timmons took over from Al in DANGER DANGER. Another great guitarist.

AJ: Yes. I actually have the HOTSHOT album featuring the early demos by DANGER DANGER with Al &  recorded in his grandmother's basement. Vocalist Mike Pont released that stuff in 2005. You listen to this stuff from '88, but they're playing as good as ever. Just young kids in their 20's & already up there on the top of their game.

NICK: That's the thing. You asked me how much did I notice Al changed or whatever. Aside from maybe some stylistic choices, he was as hot as he was going to be at 23 years old. Al was already amazing.

AJ: There are a lot of guitar players who you can hear change over the years, like Eric Clapton from the YARDBIRDS to his most recent solo stuff it's almost not the same guy.

NICK: You're right. Some guitar players are like that. To me, when I hear Al now he doesn't really sound that different. His style & licks now sound very similar to the past. If anything, I think he's even more melodic than he used to be. His chops are in there, but he keeps the stuff in the pocket. It just sounds so good when he goes from like a nice sound melody very smoothly into a fast lick & right back into some melody. He's probably more adept at that now. He was probably a little more shred back then. Not that he can't do it now, but I bet he chooses to be a little more laid back.

AJ: There's something I read on a lot of fan blogs & forums about his one album with MEGADETH, The World Needs A Hero, that he never fit in exactly because he wasn't thrashy & wild enough.

NICK: I can see that.

AJ: I don't know if you've heard that album.

NICK: You know, I really didn't listen to it much. I've heard him play with MEGADETH via some videos, but I've got to admit I've haven't really listened too much to the album. Al took over from Marty Friedman. Marty is a really good thrash player, but he was always a little bit too technical for me. I can see how Al might not ... I think he can fit into anything he wants & I haven't heard enough, but I can see how folks might criticize it a little bit.

AJ: It's not a criticism of his playing, just the context.

NICK: Especially from the hardcore thrash fans who might not appreciate his melodic playing as much.

AJ: I'm a big MEGADETH fan. I prefer them over METALLICA.

NICK: I'm not a big fan of either band. I have a lot of respect for both of them. Just because I don't like something that much doesn't mean I don't respect the musician or the music. With METALLICA you just take one look at the band & you know what a good band they are. As far as me, I'm very poppy. I like my hard rock. I like it hard. I like that hard flashy guitar playing, but that's why I always like VAN HALEN. With VAN HALEN you still had melodic tunes & the riffs are still catchy, like "Dance The Night Away." It instantly catches my ear.

AJ: But, then, you're talking about Eddie Van Halen, who at once was called the world's greatest guitar player.

NICK: The thing about Eddie is he's a massive innovator. He single-handedly brought a certain sound to the guitar world. He also changed the instrument itself, as before him you had the Les Paul players or whoever. I have a custom built guitar made by a local guy inspired by Eddie. The right tone, the right sound. That's the thing for me. It's kind of effortless to play.

AJ: You find that guitar or set-up you really like & that's it.

NICK: Absolutely.

January 15, 2018

"Jordan Rudess With Dave Mustaine Live On Stage" An Interview With "METAL" DAN SORBER

Click here to visit the official website of Ferox Canorus.

July 2011 (live podcast)

New Jersey band Ferox Canorus is a progressive-power heavy metal band with an emphasis on melody that formed in 2004. They are fronted by guitarist "Metal" Dan Sorber, who is also a music teacher and music writer for various online educational sites. A year after this interview the band renamed themselves Thy Kingdom Done. While Dan has since moved to South Carolina and as a real estate uses what he discusses in this interview about the business-side of music.

I'd stumbled upon Ferox Canorus while writing my blog of music reviews & contacted Dan. I not just liked the music but came to appreciate his point of view that was honest with the realities of the hassle of playing music. I asked him on my Roman Midnight Music Radio Show to discuss this aspect of music particularly to have a more educational interview.

* * * * *

AJ: Dan, we've talked a lot on e-mail. It is a pleasure to finally get a chance to sit & talk with you for an hour.

DAN: The pleasure is all mine, Aaron. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity.

AJ: Sharing music with with folks like yourself who are struggling or just starting out, personally, is some of the most enlightening talks that I get to have. So, it's more my pleasure than you may realize to have you here.

DAN: Alright, let's see where this goes.

AJ: Dan, you've gigged in N.J. & you've been doing stuff for a while, but folks outside of the region aren't necessarily going to be so familiar with your group. Would you mind just giving me a little insight into who is FEROX CANORUS?

DAN: We're a 5 piece from N.J.. We gig pretty extensively within the tri-state area, but like you said, we haven't really done much outside of the region. So, I guess for people who are new to us, maybe the closest comparison I can make is IRON MAIDEN meets DREAM THEATER, might be somewhat in the right ball park. We tend to have this sound where we draw from a lot of influences, so we kind of sound like everybody but nobody at the same time. If that makes sense to you? This songs sounds like IRON MAIDEN or this sounds like METALLICA, but you can't really ... I don't really think there's anybody that quite sounds like us. I mean, I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, but this is something I've purposely set out to do. Familiar, yet unfamiliar.

AJ: Dan, you're the guitar player, but are you also a songwriter or do backup vocals or anything else in the band?

DAN: Primary songwriter. I'm not the only one. I mean, pretty much everybody has input into how a song goes & ultimately turns out, but as far as generating probably most of the ideas that actually end up being a song, I guess I would say I'm the primary songwriter.

AJ: You get the burden on your shoulders.

DAN: It's the fun burden, though. It's the marketing-business aspect that's more frustrating than writing the music.

AJ: Before we go any further there's 2 things I have to ask you. A very very important question. One is, can you tell us where people can go online to find out about FEROX CANORUS. The second question is, what does the name mean?

DAN: Right ... right ... that's a difficult question.

AJ: You knew it was coming.

DAN: I knew it was coming, of course. First, we've got a couple of sites. Facebook & Reverb Nation would be our primary sites. On the Reverb Nation page you can actually stream songs. When I made this interview an event on Facebook I kinda mentioned there would be a little bit of a surprise for the listeners. One of the surprises is our songs have been streamed only, ever since we released the demo, but I've made everything for download now. If you go to that Reverb Nation page you can download everything. That's both demos & live tracks. A little something for people to get their teeth into.

AJ: Excellent. So they can actually get the music & come back to it on their own time.

DAN: Get the music & spread it around. You know, they are demos & that's something I really need to point out. We've had some line-up changes, so while the spirit is the same, the outcome is going to be different when we finally get our first full-length album out. The demos are gonna go bye-bye once that is done, so get them while you can.

AJ: Goodbye to the past.

DAN: Goodbye to the past. We're just going to rip those those chapters out & keep writing.

AJ: We're going to talk about what you're doing now a little bit later in this hour. For now, tell me, when did FEROX CANORUS get started & how did it get started?

DAN: Before I answer that, let me go back & answer what does the name mean.

AJ: I'm sorry, I jumped ahead.

DAN: FEROX CANORUS is a phrase derived from Latin. Ferox being the word for spirited or warlike & wild. Canorus is the word for harmony. The name quite literally translates to wild & harmonious, which i think is a pretty good description of what we do.

AJ: Alright. Now, how did what you do get started?

DAN: The band started as a 3 piece in 2004. I actually wasn't involved at that point. The 3 original members were knocking around N.J. for a while & ultimately parted ways. About 2 years ago they decided to reform & that's when I came on board. We kinda began re-writing old material & writing new material. It was about that time I brought a keyboard player into the game. My drummer came on then, as the original one had left for personal reasons. While the other vocalist & guitarist was originally the bassist. We just keep adding instrumentation. I felt the early stuff was kind of limited. I do have demos from that really early period & I'd be embarrassed to show them to you. One mic in the middle of the room.

AJ: You e-mailed me about those. We'll do a trade of the demos from my band where those recordings will really make you shriek with a mic ... on the side of the room.

DAN: You ever hear of the band 3 INCHES OF BLOOD?

AJ: I have.

DAN: Our original singer sounded like that guy. It was just a completely different feel from what we do now. We're going in a different direction, but the heart is still there.

AJ: Is going in a new direction a deliberate decision or did it come through line-up change or is it a natural progression of what you were doing?

DAN: I would say it's more of a natural progression. It's funny, because we haven't really released anything, yet this band has expanded so much since it started. Originally, the songs were a lot shorter & not nearly as complex as they are now. We just kept expanding naturally. We've never tried to force anything. We've come a long way. I've been through more singers & guitar players than I care to remember. It's tough, man, especially when you've got the kinda of music we do, because in N.J. the real popular stuff is death metal & technical death metal & some of the hardcore stuff. We're in the opposite end of the spectrum from that. Even just trying to find people who want to do this style of music is tough. It's been hard getting the right match.

AJ: Plus, location, time & commitment & all those other wonderful things that come into play.

DAN: Running a rock band is probably the best exercise in frustration that you can ever have. It's rough, because you're working with so many different personalities & music being an art. Everybody has their own take on this art. Really, to be successful as a rock band you need to pull together & be able to work toward a common goal. I've seen so many people that just ... I don't know ... almost refuse to do that & it just becomes impossible for the band to work on a fundamental level, let alone releasing an album & touring & doing all that fun stuff that's associated with it.

AJ: I know from my own personal experience exactly what you're talking about. I was working with a singer in a band who could sing & write competently, but wanted the feeling of being in a band more & didn't actually want to write or rehearse or even ever sing. He didn't come to work. He thought the party would just be there waiting because he was in a band & being in a band made him special. He didn't realize that the reason we never got beyond the rehearsal room & found those parties was partly because of him.

DAN: That's exactly it. They are so against doing anything they actually drag the rest of the band down with them, so you never get anything done. FEROX CANORUS isn't the only band I've been in. I've been knocking around the N.J. scene for awhile & I tend to find 2 types of musicians. One is the person that really means well & is really willing to work hard to make the band work, but unfortunately doesn't have the talent for at all. On the other end is the person who is just so full of themselves they need it done their way. It's really hard finding that right person willing to work at the talent & isn't even gonna butt heads with everybody too much.

AJ: I want to talk about one of your songs for a moment. The demos you have are now about a year old &, as you said, will pop out of existence hopefully in the near future. One of my favorites is the song "Dark Night."

DAN: That's a popular one.

AJ: Is it?

DAN: That tends to be our opener during live shows & it gets a pretty good response. I think it's us in a nutshell.

AJ: The Batman title also draws one's attention.

DAN: It draws attention, but believe it or not, it's not about Batman.

AJ: There's 3 things that really stand out to me & they stood out to me when I first heard it a year ago. It's that riffing on guitar that you're doing. That IRON MAIDEN riff against those DREAM THEATER keyboard runs, to quote you, alongside this unique angular singing style. Angular is the only word I can think of. It's 3 incredibly contrasting approaches all slammed together. That's what just jumps right out at me when I hear your stuff.

DAN: That's an example of everybody's different influences within the band just sort of pulling together, you know, to create a whole that's greater than the sum. I love working with these guys. All of them are fantastic musicians. We pull influences from from everywhere & somehow we just make it work. I mean, there's a certain magic to it I will never be able to describe.

AJ: So, how different is "Dark Night" from what you're working on now?

DAN: I think we get a little bit more ambitious in terms of song structure. One of the things, a common theme that runs through the songs, is just they're all kinda energetic. They have their slow parts & things like that, but generally they're usually high-energy. We've kicked that up a notch with a few of the newer songs. One of the things I've always tried to do with the band is to be sort of borderline progressive. Get as close to that line as I can without really crossing over it & getting to the point where some bands get very over indulgent, like long extended solo sections. That's not what we're trying to go for, but we definitely get a little bit more ambitious with song structure. We got a new one we're working on that ... This is funny. Every time we go to practice we can't remember the arrangement, so it gets like re-written all the time.

AJ: I"ve been a prog-rock fan for half my life from the day I heard YES. I had never heard so many sounds & layers in one song, but I do know what you mean by over indulgent. I've noticed as I've gotten older too many bands aim for a 20 minute song, even if after 3 minutes the thing falls apart & could happily end. They don't have enough to say for 20 minutes, but are trying to be proggy for the sake of it.

DAN: Yeah, that's exactly what we try to avoid. You've heard the band DRAGONFORCE?

AJ: I've actually seen them a couple times.

DAN: I get a kick out of them. I like the band, but sometimes I'll be listening to the song & I'll forget which one I'm listening to. They go into those heavy solo sections & you lose the song. You have to wait for the vocals to kick back in.

AJ: Absolutely. They're all into the guitar flash, but sometimes to the detriment of the song itself & the uniqueness of the song.

DAN: We want every song to have its own personality, it's own individualism. At the same time, I want you to listen to it & know it's FEROX CANORUS, just like when you hear an IRON MAIDEN song. From the first few notes off the guitar you know who it is. We want the songs to stand apart, too. I think this is one thing that we tend to do that a lot of metal bands don't do so well. People who are not musicians may not be able to follow me on this next thing, but we write in different keys. You, as a musician, understand this.

AJ: Rock & metal has a comfort zone when it comes to just using a handful of keys & little else. Stuff easy to play on guitar. But, its interesting that in other interviews I've had, musicians mention how they hear the same thing over & over on the same album.

DAN: Look at AC/DC. It's the same thing over & over. It's like 3 keys & 4 chords. They do more with those 4 chords than most bands, though. They raised the bar.

AJ: A bass line for them is like 4 notes per song just repeated & all the bass lines are the same.

DAN: I don't think I could write decades worth of songs based on only that. We try to go for different keys in every song, keys you don't generally hear metal songs in. That's part of what I think makes each song stand apart from some other things that are in the same genre. We're all over the place. Each key sounds a little bit different. It's about trying to capture what that key is giving you.

AJ: & where you can take it.

DAN: Exactly, exactly. I'll experiment with different risks & different ideas in every single key, just to see what it sounds like. Sometimes the original was better, but sometimes you hit on something & it sounds way better.

AJ: Before FEROX CANORUS were you playing this style of music or were you doing other things? What's your musical background?

DAN: Not really. The band is almost an entity unto its own, at this point. My style has developed as I've been in this band. When I came into the band they taught me what songs they had & I began working with them & just really kind of absorbed what they had. I was like, let me see where I can take this. The longer I worked on it the more it started to become my style. I started incorporating a lot of the elements that made them what they were back in 2004 into my own style. This band has possessed me. Before that I played in a lot of thrash metal bands.

AJ: This certainly is not thrash.

DAN: This ain't thrash, nope.

AJ: Its the DREAM THEATER version of thrash. Jordan Rudess with Dave Mustaine live on stage.

DAN: That is something I would pay to see.

AJ: I'm sure a lot of people would. The big 5. This may seem like an obvious question to you, but there's a lot of people partaking this interview spread out across the globe. When they look at our part of the country here, the N.Y. & N.J. area, they likely think all the music is the same across the area. But, for you & I, we know that to talk about about the N.Y. music scene is not necessarily to talk about N.J. scene. The N.J. music scene is very different from Brooklyn, but the farther you get from our region then those distinctions blur. Can you tell me a little bit about how you see the N.J. music scene where you are? You hinted at it earlier.

DAN: It could be better. There's very few venues out there anymore & I feel there are very few promoters that really put in the effort into reviving the music scene in this area. There's only a handful of venues I play at & even less promoters that I'd work with. It's a very it's a tough scene. Everybody is pointing their fingers at everybody else to get the work done & promoters act more like bookers.

AJ: What about musically?

DAN: Musically FEROX CANORUS would not be a good example of what the N.J. music scene is, as I said. I really do think we're coming from more of a European metal sort of background.

AJ: What do you mean by European metal?

DAN: The way I distinguish it is in a way a lot of people distinguish it. A lot of European stuff is like BLIND GUARDIAN, EVERGREY, those kinds of bands. While in America you'll have bands that sort of lean more to the style of LAMB OF GOD, the harsher sort of death thrash metal sort of thing. That's kinda what's going on here. Sort of a death metal meets thrash metal kind of thing. We're not in that vein.

AJ: A lot of people I know think of N.J. as the home of SKID ROW & BON JOVI & Bruce Springsteen, more bar band type stuff.

DAN: It is, but its not like that anymore.

AJ: That's even farther from you than the thrash metal.

DAN: Different planet. It's more thrash metal revival thing going on right now. I've seen a lot of bands come out that are a more of the old school 80's thrash. A lot of bands that we play with. Thrash metal seems to be making a comeback, at least here.

AJ: Dan, as you've been with this band now for a few years you've really sculpted it &, I should say, it has sculpted you. You've had people come & go & come & go. It's really become ... how might we say it ... it's definitely your your child, without question.

DAN: Yes.

AJ: What is the biggest challenge in fatherhood?

DAN: The biggest challenge for me has probably been getting everybody on the same page. It's something we touched on a little earlier. Getting everybody in the band just sort of on the same wave length & to work together. That's the sort of the reason why we've been around for a while, but nobody's heard of us. Everybody is just not quite on the same page yet. My keyboard player has been taking 25 credits a semester trying to finish up school, so he's been immensely busy. He's a very very key part of this sound, so we certainly don't want to penalize him for that. For some of the others, we just had personal things to work out over the past year or so. It's just getting everybody on that same page & sometimes you've got to let people go when it doesn't work. No matter how good they are or how well you get along, if they just don't want to work for it, then sometimes you just have to let a band member go. That's probably the toughest thing to do is just getting everybody to work together, because when one person doesn't pull their weight, you're done, you're dead, that's it. You're either going to be the only guy in your band, re-hiring people with a rotating door, or you try to work with certain members that aren't being cooperative & you go nowhere. That's got to be the hardest part.

AJ: You wrote to me recently, & I warned you I would quote this as its great, you said that "someone has to be a leader & more often than not I am forced to choose between being a friend & being a businessman."

DAN: Go ahead & quote me on that as it's very true. That's one of the things with forming a band with all your friends. When it comes time to make a decision they don't always take it the right way.

AJ: You're lucky if you still have a friendship after the fact.

DAN: Egos get very easily hurt in these situations. I'm not necessarily talking about the guys I'm with now. I just meant in general.

AJ: I understand.

DAN: It's an art & a lot of musicians take their art very seriously. When something is not going their way they take offense at it more than they probably should. You have to learn to separate your emotions from what you're doing sometimes. You have to look at it from a logical standpoint to figure out how to get things done & get this music somewhere as otherwise nobody will hear it.

AJ: Then you have to re-evaluate why you are doing it, if nobody is going to hear it.

DAN: Exactly. Why are you wasting your time?

AJ: I know a guy who has been playing in a band for at least 2 years now. They have never performed outside the rehearsal studio & have no intention of leaving. They write songs & rehearse them once a week & that's it. I don't quite understand the purpose.

DAN: That would be terribly frustrating.

AJ: He has a couple other bands that perform & this group plays a different style of music & provides some creative outlet, though many of us want to hear the music.

DAN: I can understand that. He's looking for an outlet & wants to play without pressure. For me, I'm too ambitious. I've got to get this music out there & we've certainly played our fair share of live shows. But, I think we took the wrong tactic & we didn't quite build a fan base as we thought we might.

AJ: What do you mean?

DAN: We had the assumption that if you play live a lot then people are going to hear you & they'll come to see your shows. The logic makes sense, but around here its the same people that show up every time. Everybody in the scene has seen & heard you. You're seeing the same faces at every show. The live shows thus aren't promoting you at all, as you're not introducing your music to new people. We've spent a lot of time playing live. Now we're planning on just focusing on this album & getting that out & being able to distribute it digitally, hopefully build some sort of buzz & then make a return to playing live.

AJ: Speaking of your songs, the simply titled demo "Tomorrow" is a favorite of mine.

DAN: "Tomorrow" is actually one of the first songs that I wrote. It's actually very personal to me as it addresses the death of my sister.

AJ: That is very personal. I know some musicians that like to disguise things a bit.

DAN: I'm not like that. I'm like a nudist. Look at it all. Music is emotion & I really feel that content is very important in building a following. People should connect with your music & take something away from it. It's not just a good dance beat, but can actually mean something.

AJ: I want to ask you, before I forget, about a day gig that you've had. You've worked as a guitar teacher. I'm curious, does the teaching you do effect what you do with the band?

DAN: It certainly does. I've heard many teachers mentioned before that they can learn as much from their students as their students learn from them. That's certainly something I agree with. There's a lot of my students that have taught me some things about the guitar, like an interesting viewpoint that I never quite put into that perspective. A lot of my growth as a player actually occurred when I became a guitar teacher. I think from a standpoint where you got to know your stuff inside & out in order to teach it properly, so that really drilled fundamentals in my head. Then you get your students & their enthusiasm in music. Sometimes they will introduce you to band you've never heard of, so it's fun. I think its definitely a give & take relationship.

AJ: Let's talk about what you're doing right now with FEROX CANORUS & where you're going with it. Can you tell me a little bit about the album you're working on?

DAN: Like I said, we've been spinning our wheels in the dirt for a while now. Now it's really time to put in the work & get the music out there. We've taken a hiatus for a while. We're going on almost a year since the last time we played out. We tried booking a couple of live gigs since then. Unfortunately, they didn't pan out due to some personal problems of some of the band members. We kind of decided to let everybody take a break & we'll get back to this later. We had actually started recording the album during this time period around last winter & the whole thing got scrapped. We were rushing it & it just wasn't coming out ... you know, it wasn't really coming out any better than the demos. We decided to take a break. My keyboard player, as well as my bass player, were doing school. Let them finish up. Let everybody work with their personal problems. Actually, for the past 3 weeks we started rehearsals again. It's fun. It's almost like we never took a break. During that time period my bass player made the decision to switch from bass to lead vocals & rhythm guitar. On the song "Tomorrow" he's the one that sings the chorus & he wouldn't have in the past. He's going to take over more of the lead duties. My keyboard player is the one who has been singing lead for the past 2 years now. He is going to continue to do backing vocals & some of the vocals on the softer sections. We added a new bassist. Everybody is a college music graduate except for me. I didn't like the curriculum & restrictions. I probably would have done well, but I have family obligations & couldn't go running off to Boston to study music.

AJ: I've known many music college students who didn't finish as they found they learned more in playing in the rehearsal studio than in the classroom.

DAN: I agree. So, what we're doing now is rehearsing with this new line-up. Everybody is getting used to the new roles. I've been the only guitarist in the band for a long time, so now that I've got a 2nd guitarist I can start doing those dueling IRON MAIDEN harmonies again. We've got to work some of that stuff out. That's got to be in there. That stuff is fun. We're going to start recording the album very soon.

AJ: Do you have all the songs for the album written? How's that part of the process?

DAN: We're always writing stuff. The gears are always turning. We have at least 6 half finished songs. What you see on the Reverb Nation page is pretty much our live set. We're going to be adding another song to that list. That's the one I was telling you about before, that we can never remember the arrangement. It'll be about an hour of music total. We've got a couple longer songs, like 8 minutes or so. We don't set restrictions. The music writes itself & takes us places sometimes.

AJ: Dan, we're coming to the end of this interview. I'm very appreciative of having you talk with me.

DAN: I have to return that appreciation. You've interviewed guys like Graham Bonnet, yet you still give the chance to us smaller guys to have our voice heard. If more people did that it would certainly be easier to get our music out there.

AJ: I might talk to big folks, but we're all facing the same struggles. Graham even asked me if I had work. There's no hierarchy. Is there anything more you want to share?

DAN: For some of the other bands that might be struggling, a couple of take home tips. As we mentioned before, somebody needs to be the band leader. If one is not willing to steer it's not going to go any place. One of the things that irks me about some musicians is they aren't interested in the marketing & business aspect of it. I think that is almost more important than the music itself, I hate to say it. In a perfect world we could let the music speak for itself, but it's far from being a perfect world. You really need to learn the music business if you want your music to read a wider audience. Those that don't want to mess with that & are just here for the art are the ones who often fail the fastest.

AJ: That's probably the thing I've seen more than anything. I think I work harder as a promoter & with a bedroom label than I ever did with a band. I've seen so many bands that don't want to do the work & yet think they'll be touring with MEGADETH.

DAN: Sometimes you hear of these overnight successes. But, those are usually bands that have been banging around for years, but you just never heard of them. There is no overnight success. Things won't fall into your lap. You have to do your homework. That's what it comes down to.

January 2, 2018

"I Wanted To Keep Breaking The Rules" An Interview With STEFAN KLEIN (Interview 2 of 2)

Click here to visit official facebook of Dethcentrik.

November 2017 (e-mail)

Stefan Klein of Colorado is the leader of the avant-garde industrial group Dethcentrik, has a solo career under the name Dod Beverte, is a member of f.k.k.d. & runs Dod Incarnate Records that releases both his & others music. Terrorizer mag described Dethcentrik's music as "black horrormetal" not long after their formation in 2009. A decade later hindsight shows this to be a poor label that only scratches the surface. Stefan has made a conscious effort to prove his critics wrong by actively expanding his musical palette. Today, his musical outpourings are far from metal or black as he fuses the atmosphere of Pink Floyd with the experimentation of Throbbing Gristle with the anger of Nine Inch Nails. His forthcoming April 2018 release, Polarination, is a haunting instrumental album with more in common with Pink Floyd's abstract soundscapes than anything one might know Dethcentrik for.

My relationship with Stefan began in 2012 when I came across the Dethcentrik albums & I was both impressed & fascinated by the amount of negativity to music. A friendship would develop after I reviewed one of his albums, leading me to remix some of his music & making new music with him in a joint release as Dethcentrik & Blank Faced Prophet, while also being an ear as he developed other stuff. I can vouch for encouraging him to change a drum track on Polarination. Of all the musicians I've known Stefan has probably progressed musically more than anyone else & its been a pleasure & a learning experience. I have a new appreciation of Nine Inch Nails because of our talks. In April 2012 I did a telephone interview with him that was broadcast on my Roman Midnight Music podcast & is transcribed on this blog. At that time we discussed some of the negative response to his music, including the false claims of Satanism. If anti-Trump lyrics are considered Satanist than surprise on us that he's actually a Satanist after all, along with a good chunk of the country ... & we're surprisingly wrong in thinking those claims & others like them are actually just a gut response to hearing lots of distortion & screamed lyrics & not exploring anything further. I like to tell the story that when I went to edit the recording to play on my show I discovered 12 minutes missing of the hour talk. Technical glitches do happen, but the irony was that the missing part was almost entirely focused on discussing Satanism in music! Maybe there is things going on after all! Considering how different his new album sounds to his past work, that just might be the case. Enough time had passed that it seemed time to talk with Stefan again about his new musical directions.

* * * *

AJ: Over the past decade your music has morphed along different experimental-industrial-metal avenues to a point where the simple mesmerizing lines of your latest release are barely recognizable as being from the same creator of the ultra distorted cacophony of DETHCENTRIK. What have been the influences that you feel have directly impacted your growth as a composer over the last few years & influenced this stylistic development?

STEFAN: I think I’ve learned to appreciate my own compositions more & began relying less of effects to make my sound. I’ve been more patient with my art & myself & have found the confidence to address criticisms of my work. I think the biggest influences recently have been NINE INCH NAILS, MINISTRY, PINK FLOYD, VOICES OF DESTRUCTION & a lot of soundtrack composers like Clint Mansell, Hans Zimmer & the like.

AJ: Along the same lines, what musicians or music styles are the biggest influences on your music in general?

STEFAN: I’d say I’m most influenced by rock, metal included,, industrial music & classical. Anything I like tends to rub off on me.

AJ: You’ve had the opportunity to connect with some musicians on the bigger stage, I believe members of industrial groups SKINNY PUPPY & NINE INCH NAILS have come into your circle & heard your music? Can you tell me more about who & what of those encounters?

STEFAN: I have run-ins with people in the scene from time to time. The most bizarre incident may be when a Trump supporter friend of mine kept arguing with Tom Shear of Seattle industrial outing ASSEMBLAGE 23 on my Facebook. I’ve actually asked a few of my connections to listen to my music & critique it. One person who took to time to listen was Nivek Ogre, a founding member of SKINNY PUPPY, & he was actually able to tell I had only taken & used one sample for "The Big Clang". I’m assuming Chris Vrenna is the NINE INCH NAILS member you’d be referring to. He was also in MARILYN MANSON. He actually did a remix of "If Only", which I had produced as DETHCENTRIK. It’s on the bonus track edition of Electronic Saviors Volume 3: Remission.

AJ: In the beginning there was a lot of animosity against you, being called Satanic &the worst music of the year, often without any cause other than your music was heavily distorted & seemingly angry. This is something we spoke extensively about in our 2012 interview. What’s the state of response to your music today? Are there still the haters?

STEFAN: There are still a lot of haters. They just don’t bother me as much.

AJ: Working with others has also helped temper that mood against you, I'm sure.

STEFAN: Working with other artists gets you constructive criticism. People may tell you they don’t like something, but they can also tell you why. As an artist that helps you grow.

AJ: I believe you’ve also had some trouble with distribution in the past?

STEFAN: I’ve been known to be a bit provocative with album art & lyrical content. Album covers I design have been banned numerous times. The most recent controversy is that Amazon wouldn’t give away Red, White, & F*ck You!. The reason they gave me was the distortion, but I know they’ve sold much noisier music of mine.

AJ: Your music has also appeared on some compilations. Can you tell me about these & how did you find yourself included? I mean, here’s a guy once pushed away for Satanism, which actually didn't exist in your music, & now is on compilations.

STEFAN: I won’t tell anyone there’s a straightforward way to get on a compilation. There have been some we’ve been rejected from during auditions, that is you essentially send a demo & they give a yes or a no, & others that have been as simple as sending an email. I think reaching out more, in general, tends to land you in more places & I think that’s partly why we’ve gotten beyond the barrier typically associated with black metal: Satanism & loud music. I think becoming more musically open-minded got me a little more accepted.

AJ: What is the biggest hurdle you’ve found when reaching out to people with your music? Is it distribution or is it getting listeners in general, as most musicians face, or is it breaking down stereotypes about what your music is/isn’t?

STEFAN: I think finding the right crowd has been a hurdle. We don’t conform enough to any given genre to really be able to know our niche or what is our scene. So, I think we have had to break stereotypes first, then find our listeners, whereas a lot of artists who just copy a generic formula tend to have media outlets specifically for reaching the people who like their genre.

AJ: How do you define the style of your music?

STEFAN: It’s still hard to define. I guess if I had to label it I would call it industrial music, simply because that’s such a broad umbrella term.

AJ: You also have your own label that has expanded beyond just your own music. Who are the musicians you work with?

STEFAN: Most recently it’s been EXHALED LIFE, a black metal project from Texas, & DISTURBING TAXIDERMY. Romero from DISTURBING TAXIDERMY & I often frequent the same club here in town. Our first collaboration was through Vivi Vex’s project THE RUST PUNK TRIBE. Vivi was having artists produce stems for the project & would mix them together. We then collaborated on "I Don’t Want To Live This Li(f)e" & Romero joined DETHCENTRIK.

AJ: Part of the changes that I know have effected your music is that you’ve had your stuff remixed by others & you’ve done collaborative work with others, such as this work with Romeo or what you & did as DETHCENTRIK & BLANK FACED PROPHET. When we did an interview years ago I asked what it was like hear these tracks sent back to you & the response was surprise. But, now years later, how has this work had an impact on your own creations?

STEFAN: That’s actually quite an interesting question. I do think I can safely say that the remixes certainly helped me realize how much more possibility there was for DETHCENTRIK. Being able to hear different mixes of one track allows you the hear improvements made the original that perhaps you’d like to apply to future tracks.

AJ: Long overdue question I've wanted: how do you make your music? I always have envisioned you recording some sound effect, like thunder, & running it through some mixing program & then having someone plug a guitar or drum over it. Or, taking a guitar line & looping it around to a distorting level. What do you actually play? Is there others involved? How do you make your sounds?

STEFAN: It depends on the song really, & the approach has certainly changed. I used to write lyrics & the music was honestly somewhat of an afterthought. Now, what I typically do is improvise a riff, practice it a few times, record it, repeat until my guitars are completed, then mess around with effects & pitches, etc. Then, program drums & keyboards, manipulate, then finally add samples. Obviously, I didn’t sample Donald Trump or the Charlottesville protests, but objects I can sample I do, like banging things together, machines, etc. I often feel my brain is on a different wavelength for composing than it is for writing, hence why I tend to predominantly either make very noisy music with lyrics or instrumental music. On Polarination it’s just the samples I collected & me. Romero & I have gone out & recorded samples for our collaborative work before. It’s quite fun!

AJ: Going back too what you just said about lyrics. Your music has included its share of shouted undiscernible lyrics, but the current work is more instrumental. You have albums that have lyrics & others that use lyrics as more background sounds & others that are more instrumental. What’s your view on lyrics in your music in general?

STEFAN: I do think lyricism is its own art form, it’s not music alone, but it is an art form. There’s nothing wrong with combining the 2, however I personally think that my soul certainly pours more through sound than words. There’s nothing wrong with lyrics, but I feel they actually serve a separate purpose than music. Whether I write lyrics or not really comes down to the message I want to send.

AJ: What is that message? What are you trying to do with your music? Or, where are you trying to take it?

STEFAN: It tends to go with however I’m feeling. My emotions drive me to make music I tend to feel an urge or a craving to make it. I can’t predict exactly how it will evolve over time, but I’d like to think it’s maturing with me, that as I improve myself it too will improve.

AJ: All this talk leads to the new album, which we've been touching on lightly, can you tell a little bit about this new effort? Its so very different than past music you’ve created that there’s obviously some vision behind it.

STEFAN: I think that the upcoming DETHCENTRIK album has been influencing my next solo album, & I’m actually hoping to apply some elements from this album on that DETHCENTRIK album. I’ve decided to take more time & be more proper from a musicology perspective. I wanted to keep breaking the rules, while also demonstrating maturity, discipline & a knowledge of music theory while still being unconventional in many ways. I wanted more familiarity at the music’s core rather than vague influences from other genres. This began as composing dark ambient. One of the tracks on this album, "Holding Onto The Pieces", was originally composed for soundtrack use. This album essentially grew as a soundtrack of the modern political climate. It’s kind of slowly taken the place of working class American atmospherically as that has taken on a new atmosphere of its own.

AJ: Tell me about the composing behind this new album.

STEFAN: My primary focus became instrumentals & atmosphere on this album, while before the themes were the most important thing, as I mentioned earlier. I let my subconscious drive me more here & have certainly put more focus into the individuals pieces, rather than rushing the pieces into the whole. I’m staying more in line with consistent time signatures & more conventional instrumentation & having the noise simply add more atmosphere over dominating the instrumentation.

AJ: I believe you also have a new name you are making music under, in addition to DETHCENTRIK & your solo work as Dod Beverte?

STEFAN: f.kk.d was the most recent new band I was in. I’m not sure what’s happening long run with that project, but I have also been collaborating with other industrial & electronic artists. Jeremiah & Romero are new to DETHCENTRIK & collaborating with them I think has helped me grow personally as an artist. Polarination is just me with the samples, guitar, drum machine & MIDI controller, but I have had many recent collaborations that have improved my musicianship, production skills, & given me a new perspective & influence on my own style.