Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: How would you describe yourself or your band as an artist?
DG: Hello Peter, and thanks for having me! Well, I consider myself to be mostly a piano and keyboard player, although I’ve been expanding on that year after year, in fact on the new Docker’s Guild album I have also been singing quite a lot and I played bass on 3-4 tracks. I have also always been a pretty prolific songwriter. When it comes to Docker’s Guild, we chose to define it as a prog metal space opera, although it’s pretty hard to pin down, as the music goes from complex prog suites to pop rock, from classical music to space rock and even funk. There’s a bit of everything, but somehow it all sounds Docker’s Guild!
PD: Can you tell us briefly about your background – i.e. where you’re from, how you came to make music, etc.
DG: I’m half French and half American, but I was raised in Italy. I then spent many years travelling, from Sweden to Thailand, from Los Angeles to France, always for work or studies. My musical origins are firmly rooted in classical music, as I graduated in classical piano performance here in Italy back in the ’80s. I then went on to study modern keyboards at MI in Hollywood, and later in life I went back to University and graduated as an Ethnomusicologist at the Sorbonne in Paris. Believe it or not, I am specialised in demon worship by Thai musicians. I’ve been busy! Later in life I also started organizing big events, like festivals, rock band competitions, etc. With COVID, I gave most of it up to focus entirely on my songwriting and my productions, particularly Docker’s Guild.
PD: Who and what inspires you to make music, both in terms of musical and other influences? What do you like to write about in your songs?
DG: As far as the music goes, I have some icons that have inspired me for most of my life. Regarding prog, it would have to be Yes, ELP, Dream Theater and Threshold. Then there is a big melodic rock element with bands like Journey and Asia. Other than rock, my main influences are David Bowie, Duran Duran, Jean-Michel Jarre and French space rock band the Rockets. Lyrically, since I was a teenager, I always wrote kind of dark and a little disturbing vignettes with twist endings or double meanings, originally inspired by Iron Maiden and Ozzy, and then it all took a life of its own. I have even been asked to write lyrics for other projects as well, like the Vivaldi Metal Project or the Chronomaster Project.
PD: What are your aspirations as an artist?
DG: At my age, the main objective is to finish the Docker’s Guild project. There are nine albums in total and only three have been released. As it takes me forever to finish one, I hope to be able to finish before I kick the bucket. Besides, I have other projects going on, for example next year I will be releasing a Keith Emerson tribute album for solo piano.
PD: What is the proudest moment in your music career so far?
DG: There are many, but I would say the happiest I’ve felt was the day I graduated in classical piano. It was 1989, I was 22 years old and felt on top of the world. That’s when things really began to turn professional for me. I have very happy memories of that period. Plus, the first Docker’s Guild songs and early draft of the story were written at that time, it was an extremely creative period for me.
PD: Promoting one’s music is such a challenge these days, especially with so many new artists emerging from bedrooms in the day of the home studio. How is that going?
DG: I was raised in the days of flyers and cassette demo tapes, so you can imagine the nightmare. I had taken several Music Business classes in Los Angeles back in the ’90s and I was pretty good at it, but as you can imagine, none of that works any more. So I went back to school about 4 years ago to learn social media marketing and promotion, and even trained myself at home with various books and courses. And it’s still not enough. Quite frankly, it can be very frustrating at times. There is too much music these days, and I’ll leave it at that or I’ll end up writing a thesis on the subject…
PD: And how do you book and promote your live shows and tours? Any performances coming up?
DG: Docker’s Guild has appeared live only occasionally, always for relatively large or important events, like inaugurations, festivals, etc. For now though, it’s all studio work, touring after COVID is a pretty unstable affair, and I’d rather focus on being creative. But who knows?
PD: What do you think about downloading music online? What about streaming sites like Spotify?
DG: Well… It has its uses, it’s easy to find anything, but it has also completely devalued music. A beautiful LP was a collector’s item, you had to save money for it, choose it, go buy it, and playing it had a whole ritual. Now music is like popcorn and you know what happens to it.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
DG: Actually, I’ll show a bit of lack of humility and say that Die Today from the new album is the song I always wanted to write. It was actually written for one of my students for a music project that never happened. It came out very quickly at the piano, and once properly produced we knew we had something very special. It’s aggressive but catchy, the perfect single, and I really hope the fans will like it! The funny thing is that the lyrics were written without Docker’s Guild in mind, but once I decided to use it, they fit the tormented character of Lucy perfectly, I didn’t have to change a word.
PD: Is there anything you don’t like about the music industry, which you would change if you could?
DG: These days? Not much I’m afraid, with a particular emphasis on labels. They don’t sign artists anymore. They sign numbers. You have a lot of followers on Facebook? You get signed even if you suck. You’re great but still growing? Good luck. The idea of development and growth has gone completely out of the window. Fortunately, fans are pretty good hunters these days, and they find you if they like what you’re doing.
PD: So, what are you working on at the moment?
DG: A great contest that is linked to the 12 videos we released in December. Fans will have to find and then answer a series of questions about some Easter Eggs that are buried in the videos on YouTube. The winners will receive 3 brand new releases by Docker’s Guild: the reprint of the first two albums in double LP format, plus a CD/DVD of one of our live performances. Of course all these things will also be released officially and sold, probably on my own label Black Swan Records. Then it’s on to the next studio Docker’s Guild album, “Book B”.
PD: Where can we learn more about you and buy your music/merch online?
DG: The best info can be found on the official Docker’s Guild website here: http://www.dockersguild.com which also contains a nice store with lots of merchandise from all three albums. Right now, the item I am most proud of, apart from the album, is the Illustrated Storybook which narrates the entire saga un to this point. It is a beautiful piece of artwork.
Thanks for having me and keep following Docker’s Guild, it’s going to be a busy year!
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