Ever wanted to find out what inspired a particular song?
Was it based on personal experience or simply passive observation?
What happened in the recording studio or on stage to make one song sound different from the rest?
These are just some of the question bands and musicians attempt to answer in Line 'em Up - the newest page of The Power Of Metal.Dk.
This is where your favourite bands comment on their albums, track by track, because as someone once said, “Ideas are the building blocks of ideas”.
Here’s a chance for you to tell our readers about your new album “The Mystic Technocracy (Season 1: The Age of Ignorance)”. But could you please start off by introducing the readers to Docker’s Guild?
Hello and thanks for having me! Docker’s Guild is the final evolution of a project that started out over 20 years ago. Around 1991 I wrote a couple of unrelated songs that seemed to have a common theme related to science fiction, prejudice, history and religion. The first one was “Legion of Aliens”, which was originally called “The Land of the Living Dead” and dealt with… zombies! Then came “The Mystic Technocracy” and a suite called “Explorers” which will be featured in Season 5. It became obvious that my subconscious was trying to express something at the time, and shortly after that I started developing a cohesive story around these first lyrics. Unfortunately the ‘90s were a very hostile period for this kind of stuff, and the technology just didn’t make it possible to do what I could hear in my head. So I waited, kept developing, adding, writing, until in 2008 I decided the time had finally come to restart the project.
And now onto “The Mystic Technocracy (Season 1: The Age of Ignorance)”… track-by-track, what inspired you, what topics are you dealing with, what do you want to express with this song etc.
This is a great question that allows me for the first time to get a little deeper into a lot of stuff and to clarify a few misunderstandings.
01. A Matter of Energy
Musically, this is a very short extract from a soundtrack that I wrote for an industrial promo video in 1991. I might reuse more of that material in future Seasons. There are several melodic counterpoints building up to a climax. Lyrically, this song is a mystery that will be revealed only in Season 5, so I can’t say much more. I’m very proud to say that the first things you’ll hear on the album are my dad’s voice, his clarinet and his alto and tenor sax. It was a true honor to have him play on the album.
02. The Mystic Technocracy
This was one of the first songs I wrote for the project, and it gave the name to the album and the story. The Mystic Technocracy is an alien, silicon-based techno-organic life form living on a planet called Silix IV in the Andromeda galaxy. They mission is to destroy all carbon-based life in the universe. Musically the song is split in two sections. The vocal part is a statement of intentions by the Technocrat who visits Earth, while the instrumental part describes the Technocrat crash-landing on earth hundreds of millions of years ago. Through the years this song has gone through many changes, I believe there are at least 12 different versions, even a techno/electronica one.
03. Darwin’s Tears
This is the last song I wrote for the project. I am very proud of it because my songwriting has developed quite a bit through the years, and I personally think it is the best song on the album. I also happen to sing it because the original guests were not able to do it due to other commitments. Musically the song is based on an ancient pattern called La Folia and is deceptively simple. The chord changes are very complex, and I used a telescopic technique, which means every time a section comes back (verse, chorus, etc) it is different and longer than the previous one. Lyrically, it is the most complex song of the album, with at least 4 different plotlines overlapping. There is the personification of cosmic time reciting supercontinent names to indicate the passage of vast geological eras, there is a Sapphic relationship between three Muses, there is a dialog between the Technocrat and the last dinosaur on Earth, and a few more subplots. The lyrics are also stuffed with references to sci-fi movies and books, comics and other more obscure topics. That said, the song is commercial enough to be enjoyed without getting into all these layers of meaning. In the end it boils down to a fierce critique of Creationism in favor of Evolution. A short movie for this song is in the works in collaboration with Silos Production, the same team that produced the amazing 011 video by Therion. It should be ready in September.
04. Norse Cosmogony (Part 1)
This is the most misunderstood track of the album. Originally there was only the piano, a piece that I recorded on my Blüthner grand piano here at home. However the suite needed an intro that clearly narrated creation myths in ancient times. So I added excerpts from Snorri’s prose Edda in Swedish over the piano. You can hear a fire, drops, then a ship and rain during the narrative. This is supposed to represent ancient Vikings around a fire in a cave and then on a ship, narrating their myths and stories. The same thing happens in track 6 with the creation of the world in Genesis. Unfortunately, nobody got it. Some people find it irritating, others just don’t get it. I agree that the piano work gets a bit lost under the words, but I stand by my decision, the plot just needed this mysterious exposition to make the rest of the suite more meaningful.
05. Norse Cosmogony (Part 2)
One of the most metal tracks on the album, and very epic. It continues the narrative of Nordic creation myths, but this time in English and it is sung. Much easier to digest.
06. Judeo Christian Cosmogony
Another creation myth, taken from Genesis this time, which culminate in a sort of verbal cacophony during the guitar solo, with a dozen languages reciting at the same time. The message is that everybody preaches, but nobody listens. One of the most complex tracks of the album, with many influences going from Bowie to funky.
07. The Divine Comedy
A haunting gospel-like movement, which builds, layer upon layer, until the final climax. Lyrically, this piece is quite cynical, blaming man for inventing myths for his own greed, under the manipulations of the Technocrat.
08. Legion of Aliens
This was the first song I wrote for the project, way back in 1990. It is the most commercial song, and I distinctly remember it was a deliberate attempt to imitate Dan Reed Network at the time. It deals with prejudice and bigotry and hints at another race of aliens waiting up in the sky. The song also features some solos by Jeff Watson. My favorite part is the haunting coda with the piano, guitar melodies and Gregorian chant.
09. Loving the Alien
A beautiful Bowie song, which was a major inspiration in the development of this project, at least lyrically. In each season there will be 2 covers, and the challenge is to pick them so that they match the storyline. This one fits perfectly at this point in the plot.
10. The Gem of Love
A very complex song, with constant odd meter changes, atonal and non triadic harmonies and other oddities. The chorus is very melodic however. This song analyzes the degrading situation on the planet from several points of view (politics, environment, war) and send a hopeful message of redemption through wisdom and love.
11. The Secret of DNA (Part 1)
This is where things really get moving plotwise. This movement is very short and one of the heaviest on the whole album. The whole suite is based on the initial three chords which are then developed and modified in many ways as the suite progresses. Here a team of scientists, who have been researching human DNA for years, discover that it has been artificially manipulated by some external force. They join forces with a team or archeologists to try to find answers by visiting several ancient civilizations and ruins around the world.
12. Purple Orb
The central movement of the suite, this is a very atmospheric piece with many sections and moods. The scientist eventually find themselves in the underground caves of Jerusalem where they find the secret base and starship of the Technocrat, although he is missing. They realize that he is the ancient heathen god Baphomet that had been brought back to Europe by the Templar Knights. The research goes on and they finally realize the magnitude of the upcoming disaster, since the genetic manipulations by the Technocrat make it virtually impossible for mankind to avoid self-destruction.
13. The Secret of DNA (Part 2)
A long development of the first two movements, which underlines the bleakness of the present situation.
This cover is by French space rock band The Rockets. One of my top favorite bands of all times, I will include one of their covers in each Season. Musically, it is a very complex song, and it was quite a challenge to work on. This moody instrumental song describes a strange vision that the scientists experience while doing their research under Jerusalem.
15. Black Swans
A semi-ballad, which was partly inspired by “The More We Live” on the Union album by Yes. It describes in very surreal and cryptic words, what the scientists see during their vision, particularly the appearance of a mysterious alien race, hinted at during Legion of Aliens, made completely of transparent blue diamond. At the end of this vision, the scientists decide to create The Order of the Swan, a secret organization whose goal is to find and stop the interference of the Technocrat on earth. Season 1 ends with a cliffhanger: will they find the Technocrat? Who are the Blue Diamonds? What will happen on Earth in the meantime? Season 2 will solve some of these mysteries… ;)
Could you please tell us a bit about the artwork – who made it etc. and how important do you feel it is to have a cool artwork?
The artwork was created by the amazing Carl-André Beckston based on my suggestions which were of course linked to the plot and the lyrics of the album. We knew everything had to be black and white and very dark and bleak, without making it look like a death metal album, so it was quite a challenge. André was just amazing and I am very happy with the final result. There is an illustration for each song which helps visualize the story. In this kind of project artwork is everything, sometimes even more important than the music itself, because like Paul Stanley of Kiss is fond of saying, people tend to listen with their eyes. It’s very true.
Who and what has inspired you musically on this album?
That’s a difficult question, because there are so many influences, but I’d emphasize three major directions. First, prog rock and metal (Yes, ELP, early Dream Theater, Threshold), AOR and Melodic Rock (Asia, Journey) and more eclectic influences (David Bowie, JM Jarre, Duran Duran, The Rockets).
Can you reveal, when we can expect the next season of The Mystic Technocracy to be released?
I can’t, because I’m not sure how long it’s going to take, but I certainly hope it will take less time than the four years I spent producing Season 1! That said I have a bit of a shock for the fans, the next album will NOT be Season 2. There is a reason for this and it is tied to the main plotline, but… well, you’ll just have to be patient ;)
Will “Season 2” follow the same path soundwise as the first one?
Each album will have its own flavor, but I am determined to keep the music as organic as possible. I can already say though that Season 2 will be more prog, in the sense that the music will be more complex, without abandoning the AOR flavor that made the first album so melodic and listenable.
To close of this interview can you enlighten us, which guest musicians you will be joining forces with on "Season 2"?
Not yet, and not even for the next album which will precede Season 2. It’s just too early. I have already asked Tony Mills and Amanda Somerville to return for the second album but much depends on timing since everyone is real busy with their own projects and activities.
Thank you very much for answering my questions. Do you have any last rants for our readers?
Thanks for having me! A huge thank you as well to all readers and fans for supporting the project!
Tommy Skøtt, August 2012