INTERVIEW CHARLIE DOMINCI
Progressive Rock & Metal has far become more popular now over the last decade with the likes of Rush & Yes been the forefathers of the Prog Rock era and now Dream Theater opening the doors for Prog Metal, with such bands as Fates Warning, Symphony X, Pain Of Salvation, Psychotic Waltz, Vande Plas and so on... which is now become so popular the scene hasn't been so bright and promising. Dominici is the new band put together by ex Dream Theater front man Charlie Dominici, who recorded the debut album for Dream Theater. Since the debut album things have been rather quiet for Charlie, up until the last few years when he started to make a come back. Now with his new album, his 2nd for Inside Out Records in Germany, his new album 'O3 A Trilogy - Part 2', which sees Charlie taking his career a step forward. I managed to have a chat with him on the phone about his new album and the reasons why he left Dream Theater. Here is what he had to say. In the meantime check out his new album it's a must for fans of either 'Awake' or 'Train Of Thoughts'.
All right Charlie, thanks for doing the interview. First of all I would like to ask you about your upbringing, who in your family
is a musician or is it just yourself when you were growing up.
Well actually you know, its funny you ask that, as no one has asked me that before but thatís a great question because my mum and my dad werenít really professional musicians, my dadís brother was a drummer who even actually played with some big bands back in those days, you know my dad was born and my dad played guitar so I was introduced to guitar by my dad and uncle and everybody when they got together they would drink wine and an Italian family, you know, the wine and the peppers and the bread and the guitar and my mum was also a singer and she had a very very good voice and she of course coming from a beautifully ignorant old fashioned Italian parents are father would not let her pursue a career and she had a chance when she was 16 years old as someone else in the family was involved in the music business but they wouldnít let her go so they really never had any professional experience with music but they had music talent and my mum used to sing to me when I was a baby and I think that probably really put that musical knowledge into my head and the melodies she used to sing to me from like pop singers of her time, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra and that kind of stuff, just you know, as a baby, a one year old baby listening to Frank Sinatra and going to bed being sung by mum who had an incredibly good voice and I guess that must have been a big influence cause as I got older it just seemed to happen as a natural inclination to play guitar and sing.
Oh great, so you play guitar as well, obviously.
Oh yeah, Iíve been
playing guitar for a long time.
Right, can you play drums or anything with you having an uncle that was a drummer. Actually if you look at the Inside Out myspace.com/insideoutamerica there is a video there and I think there is also a video on our website, the video is there also, the making of all three, I donít know if youíve seen the video?
Who are your influences Charlie. Which singers and bands did you grow up with?
Yeah well you know, just
like my partner I am very very heavily influenced by The Beatles.
Iíve never liked them.
Well, a lot of British people tell me that and you know, I think its people that were a little bit too young to be there when it happened, cause when it happened I was just a baby but I was old enough to know that it was something that was really special.
Your influences were The Beatles, who else did you grow up with?
I grew up with, well I was there with, I was very young, but I was there when the British invasion happened back in the old days when Hermins Hermits and you know, Leftbank and all those great British bands and 'The Who' of course, that came in and really just put it all in our face and just you know, tore up everything, and you know some great British bands and some great American bands, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, you know, I think thatís obviously the late 60ís, early 70ís that whole 70ís, yes and Genesis and Pink Floyd from England and just all that great stuff that I was lucky enough to be there as It was happening, you know, and I grew up with all that stuff and listened to it all and I have to be honest, progressive metal was introduced to me later in life.
yeah, and I, but the kind of progressive metal that we do and we did with Dream Theater when we did When Dreams are unite (???????????)
Thatís the best album
When dreams day and night?
Well if you like 'When Dream Day Unite' and , you will probably love the new album, because my new album is like that, its as if, its as if all the other Dream Theater albums never happened. It's what I would have done it I was still in that band and it was time to make a second album after the debut. So the only thing I didnít like about that album was the production, the drums were very, very light, you know the snare drum was really like tinny, like hitting paper with a drumstick.
On which album?
On the first Dream Theater album it was really light on the drums. It was a brilliant album, really technical but the drums are awful. The whole production, all of the sounds are terrible. It would be great if you could redo it!!
The guitar sounds are strong, the drum sounds are weak, the whole things sounds tinny to me, its terrible, even when you EQ it and fatten it up on your computer or stereo you still cant get it to sound right I mean it was poorly recorded. Terry Date was the producer at the time and you know heís got a lot better and heís quite a producer now compared to then but that was at the beginning of his career and you know, like all of us, young and still learning and it wasnít the best production but the band did still shine through I think you know and at least we got the album out.
Yes, now getting back to like, Progressive Metal bands, what bands do you listen to now in the Progressive Metal scene, is there any particular bands that you listen to?
"I think lately the band Iíve been listening to is the new album from Dominici. Before that I've stayed away from it too much listening as it can be really influential and I donít want to be influenced by other people so I try not to listen too much of course I have listened to Dream Theater and I have listened to Queensryche and Iíve listened to Symphony X and Circus Minds which have just been brought to my attention.
I donít know them!
Yeah, a lot of people say that our album reminds them of Circus Mind and I say well you know what, I never even heard them, so if it reminds them of Circus Mind it was purely unintentional because other bands that are out nowadays I have missed them because I go out of my way to not listen to the radio, I do not turn on the radio in my car and I do not have a radio in my office, in my studio. I just donít want to hear what other people are doing because its, its, if I was a little less the type to be influenced I probably would be able to do it but if I hear something it influences me. You know, so I donít want do that!"
The new wave of British metal like your Judas Priest, Iron Maidens, what sort of those bands influenced you?
"Well, you know, obviously they influenced me in the old days, they pushed me in the direction of heavier music because of course before Iron Maiden I guess the only thing you could say well Zeppelin wasnít really metal, the only thing that I could say that would have been metal would have been Iron Butterfly. Back in the old days, but before Iron Maiden there wasnít really, I mean Iron Maiden was one of the first real metal band, and then as you got into progressive rock, progressive rock never really became metal until later".
It never came metal until Dream Theater came about, I think they were the first band to actually do it.
"Dream Theater blended metal and the progressive together especially on the Train of Thought album which is one of my favourites and you know, I think it is a great combination because it is like jazz and metal, you know its like taking jazz and making it heavy metal but its still jazz but its metal and its like to me what progressive metal is and I think what weíve done with this new album is add one more little taste to it which is melodic and making it melodic progressive metal which is, weíve been around for a while and there are other bands that are doing that so I'm not claiming to have invented that genre but I do enjoy it and I think thatís what you can call this album if you have to call it something, call it melodic progressive rock."
When did you actually come into Dream Theater, was you in Dream Theater when they were Majesty or was it just Dream Theater cos I know Majesty had a couple of singers didnít they?
"Yeah, we did have a couple of singers, well they had one other singer and they had Chris Collins and obviously I joined when they were still Majesty and then we changed to Dream Theater."
Did you actually record any demo tapes with Majesty?
"No, actually I did not."
Did Chris Collins did that Majestry official demo?
"Right, Chris Collins did that demo and that demo was handed to me on a gas station on a rainy night by their manager at the time, a guy named Andy who met me half way between where he was and where I was and we met at this service gas station and he handed me the tape and a photo because I had seen an ad that they were looking for a singer and something about the ad just struck me as interesting so I decided to check it out and when I heard the tape that Majesty tape, that purple one, I remember thinking its sloppy, its sounds almost like a bunch of guys that cant play but if you listen harder you realize they are trying to play something that so incredibly complex that if it isnít perfect, it wasnít quite perfect, I could just hear that, I could tell what they were trying to do."
They had potential.
"Yeah, they were a little bit tighter, it was just so amazing, it was that fine line between genius and insanity and they werenít quite strong enough to perform it and I listened to the tape I could tell that, I could see how someone could listen to that and think that it was just a big mess but I knew what the potential was and what they were trying to do and yeah, even I havenít listened to that tape in years but I just knew that there was something special about that band."
So what was you doing before Dream Theater then?
"Well, I was actually in between groups, I was kind of waiting for something to come along, I wasnít really doing much physically, I was just living my life, getting by like everyone else, still working jobs, going to clubs and working out and I wasnít really doing anything musically, it had been about almost 10 years since I had been in Frankie and the Knockouts which was a major label band. And we toured."
So what type of music was that then?
"It was like a pop rock band, it wasnít anything I was particularly proud of but we did have hit records in the states and they had a number 10 single and we were on television on American TV, rock and roll TV shows."
Is that how Dream Theater and Majesty got to know about you, from the band you were in before?
"No, Dream Theater didnít know me at all. I answered an ad in the paper and they met me and they didnít know me from Adam so they knew nothing about my history. Yeah I was, I was pretty impressed with their tape and what they were trying to do and so I auditioned for the group, I guess they were auditioning quite a few guys but I became the singer then obviously the Majesty name had to change. Thatís old stuff, thatís old news, you know its, I donít know it its, its pretty old news, its getting older, 20 years ago."
Right, so looking at the first Dream Theater album that you sang on, what songs did you like the most.
Well, the ones that I liked the most where the hardest ones to sing I have to say cause the Killing Hand, you know, I really like that song, its really hard to sing that song live and thereís no place to take a breathe and you just like you know up in the high clouds all the time, you know, (sings), and you go on and on and on and you know, youíre trying to get a breath and if you donít get a breath at the right, if you miss one breath youíre done and you know, being live, trying to keep all that under control I see James. When they do that song he has trouble with it, I've seen him faint on stage one time.
"Yeah, there was a video, he passed out or something, he was right in the middle of the Killing Hand and it was funny because I typed a comment and I said, I wrote a comment I knew that song was hard to sing but this was ridiculous."
Right. Great. So just before we move on to talk about your band why did you leave Dream Theater.
"I came in one day and I just fired the whole band. I fired them all, joking!!"
Right, so was there an animosity between you when you left.
"Ah, there was, might have been a little, I wouldnít say animosity but there might have been a little mutual conflict between us because the whole thing that happened was a lot of discontent on both sides, you know, it wasnít like I came to work one day and I suddenly found out to my heart that I was being fired and it wasnít like they came to work one day and suddenly found out that. I was quitting. It was a lot of discontent because the band wasnít getting what we were supposed to get, we were promised a video, we were promised a trip to Japan. And we got none of that and we were all feeling very discouraged, there was a lot of tension between us and I must admit, being the wild man I had been for many years, being coming from the American rock and roll bands like Frankie and the Knockouts and destroying hotel rooms and doing a lot of partying with alcohol and substance abuse, I was still pretty out of control and I wasnít, and I donít think they really good handle me, I think I was just a little too wild for them at the time. I was a real Keith Moon, you know, I was like just out of control. So they basically, felt that they wanted to go in a different direction and I felt like fine with me, I'm not happy either and it was kind of a split, I felt it might have been premature at the time but then as time went by I realized that they are going to be gone in a different direction and then they got lucky and they got 'Pull Me Under' video and they got, not to say anything negative about the band because they certainly have the talent to make it but even talented bands and especially talented bands need luck to make it and to get out there and for people to hear them and they got lucky, the got MTV video that was on head banger's balls and when I saw that I felt like well, here we go, as soon as I get out of the band things start to happen but so that was a little disheartening but there was never any animosity between and the guys in the band because it was business and there was nothing personal, ever and you know, Mike and I have been like close friends before and after, John also, John Petrucci We are friends, we donít speak a lot you know, but we also communicate with each other, John Myung we donít speak a lot but he donít speak a lot to anybody."
I remember when I first heard the first Dream Theater album I actually hated the band. I couldnít get my head round all this technical music because I wasnít really into that technical sort of progressive stuff, a shit album but turned into a classic. The more you play it the better it gets.
"Why you know, donít forget you are British you come from a place where itís a lot of, I donít know if it is anymore Mods and rockers and punks and English rock, the progressive thing was never really big in England I donít think. But it is getting bigger now but from your roots, when you was growing up you were probably listening to The Who and stuff like that."
I was a big Judas Priest fan, they are my favourite band, Saxon and Whitesnake, Black Sabbath and all the bands that started it all, the metal scene over here.
"Hard rock and metal, so you know, and the same exists in this country, our fans they donít get the progressive, they listen to progressive and they have to think too much to listen to that, I donít want to hear that, I just want to hear that (sings), thatís what they want to hear. A lot of Americans, but there is a big growing larger base, fan base of progressive metal even in America."
Mike Suggested I got in touch with the Dream Theater fan club and the cover band you know that played Dream Theater music and I didnít really like that idea because I'm not looking for a cover band I wanted a real band with real musicians and it turned out we put the ad in there and I got a lot of CD's, sampled some people all over Europe and I knew that I couldnít do that so, well I got a CD from this band Solid Vision and thatís the band that I'm working with and minus their singer of course, who wasnít really serious about music enough for them so they decided to answer my add and they arenít a cover band at all and they are a progressive metal band in their own right, they write their own stuff and we worked together and we got something going. So you know, the rest is history, I flew out there and we did a demo and we got it going and the demo was great, it took about a week, we did a couple of songs and then I got the record deal and we recorded the whole thing in one month.
Right, so the demo, what songs are on the demo, are they the same songs as are on the album?
"Actually, no, they are a little different, there was the School of Pain was on the demo, 'The Calling' was on the demo but we used a whole different music track because we didnít have time to write and we used a music track that was pretty basic. That we never ended up using because of course it was never written for the song and we didnít have time, we needed to patch together a demo and I had one week, it was expensive to fly there and stay there. I had one week to get it done."
You had to fly to Italy to get the demo done. How did you hook up with Inside Out records. What other labels did you approach?
"Well I only approached one other label, and because I really wanted to just talk to one or two of the bigger labels that are out there and I emailed Mike Portnoy and asked him his opinion and he was very Adam anent that I should stay away from the one label I was talking about whose name I donít want to mention and that I should go with Inside Out because thatís the place to be and based on Mike very strong, very strong feelings, I said to myself, well you know Mike would never let me down. I asked him for inside information and he was right because we rode Inside Out and Inside Out has been of all the times I've had experiences with record labels, many times in my life, ive never had such a great experience, just a great bunch of guys, very professional, very accessible, easy to work with, honest, fair, so far everything has been just great."
So how long is the deal with Inside Out records.
"The deal with Inside Out records now, I just got my signed contract in the mail a couple of weeks ago, so I had signed it myself before so a couple of months back, but weíve only been signed with them since we got this last album, since we got this album done, I didnít really have a signed contract when I went to record the album because we all did everything on our word. Based on what I was told and absolutely not a problem, just a, its amazing how you can trust your instincts sometimes."
So how long did it take to record this album?
"One month to be honest, very quick process!! One month to write and record the album. I wrote the lyrics in about a month and then we went out there and apart from band the rest of the eight songs got written during the month we were recording the album. We did a lot in four weeks and 3 days."
Itís a very heavy album, it reminds me of Dream Theater 'Awake' album, the heaviness of that album, did that album influence you in any way?
"No, not at all. One thing I could say, that if there is anything Dream Theater has done that has influenced me it would be the fact that of all there albums the one that appealed to me the most as far as the sound and the heaviness of it was Train of Thought. Just that big guitar and that big metal crunch, you know, that I like but nothing about the album as far as the songs themselves influenced me, its just that sound, I love a band that just scares the shit out of you and you just like hear this band that is just big and loud and strong and the chords are big and the guitars are big and the drums are huge and you know."
What do you think about The Monster because its an instrumental isnít it. Quite a long song, I was expecting some singing to come in towards the end, it was like Ďcome on.í
"No, no, its an overture, I just didnít want to call It an overture because thatís been done so many times before, but if you listen to the first song thatís an overture, its like little pieces of all the rest of the album in that song."
Right, interesting, so are you happy with the way the album turned out?
"Yes, I'm very happy, I'm very pleased and I'm working on, believe it or not, the next one because I'm planning for the next one to outdo this one."
Wow. So why did you decide to call this album Part II the Trilogy as opposed to the first one like you said it would have been like an acoustic sort of totally different thing. Why did you decide to call this part II, I mean thereís no resemblance by the sounds of it, if ones real like bar music like you said and this one is in your face rock, metal, whatever you want to call it.
"Well if you put the lyrics from Part I and the lyrics from Part II and put them side by side you see they are probably from the same album but because itís the same story and the same lyric style and I've been writing the story and concept Style of writing and the music is completely different because Part I I had no band and did it all on acoustic and Part II I had the band and I was able to do what I wanted to do so thatís the reason for the difference."
Is this like a release thing for you, the second album, like an aggressive release sort of tension thing? You had to do this album? Was there a monster inside you that wanted to get out?
"Yeah, thatís exactly what it is and especially musically but the story itself that runs true for the whole story, all 3 parts."
Is it going to be a concept album for the 3rd album you are working on now?
"The 3rd part is obviously the same concept. Itís a concept album in 3 parts so what youíve heard is, youíve only heard part 2 but if youíve heard part 1 you would see its like the black and white version of the first part and all of a sudden it changes to the full technocolour with the second part with the band and the third part I'm hoping is going to be even more full blown than the second part but its all the same, its all 3 parts of the same one concept album."
Is the third album going to be heavier?
"The third part is probably going to be, its not heavier, its definitely as heavy but I'm hoping that it could get a little heavier."
It might be a bit darker you mean?
"You know what, I donít want to give away the story but '03 - A Trilogy" the second part of the album there is like a loophole, you know thatís there hope in the world and everyoneís going to try and save the world, but things are going to get a little bit scary by the third part and I'm not going to tell you what happens but its going to be heavy."
Great, so tell me a little bit about the album cover. Who designed the artwork for this album, the new one, whose idea was it to come up with the world in the middle, the earth, the symbol.
"The symbol is something I created, the atomic earth logo I created myself and the designer helped to put it on the computer and he actually did the mock up of it and he came up with the idea of that whole background which is great and I think its so perfect for this album and we put the two together and it was just magical and just looked really good."
Brilliant. Brilliant. Are you doing a promo video for this album?
We have that little video on the web which when you have a chance go and see it but as far as these promo videos and even interviews its so difficult because like I said I'm in San Diego and the band is in Italy so I cant even go, I cant even, if I have an idea for a song on the next album I have to wait until I can get together with them to even work on it so its all up in the air. I'm really stuck here, I'm trying to get the hell out of here and get over there so I can be with my band.
Have you been getting really good reviews for this album so far?
"Yeah, the reviews have been really good. Only a few people have heard it, we only sent the promos out last week so but its been an extremely great reaction and I keep waiting to hear someone say Ďitís a piece of junkí ÖÖÖ. Its crap!!"
And what would you say if you read something like that? How would you feel?
"I always think this stuff is shit, you know that. I wrote all the
mistakes, I knew all the things which were difficult to get right and almost not
quite right but overall as my experience in the business I know that it could
have been so much worse especially under the pressure we were under and the time
I had to do it and the minimal amount of money and time and not even knowing my
mind and none of us speaking the same language. I know it came out pretty damn
good when you think about all those things but again, as an artist I hear all
the things it could have been but I can do that on the next album, I'm not
worried about it."
Are you going to be touring this year?
"Like I said, I would
like to be touring but right now I'm stuck in San Diego and im really
concentrating on getting the hell out of here but yes we plan to tour all over
Europe and if theyíll have us."
Iím pretty sure they will.
"I hope so. Iím kind of a realist when it comes to stuff like that. Really I got to see what happens, I donít know, I would like to tour and I'm proud to but weíll see."
Are you going to be headlining or would you like to go as a support act just until you get confident to be out there again.
"I doubt we would be headlining, im sure we would be opening up for some bands."
Right Charlie, I would like to thank you for doing this interview. I wish you all the best with the album and I hope to see you on tour and have a drink with you at some point.
Do you have anything to say to the readers that will be looking at the website?
"I got to tell the British fans, you are the hardest guys to please because you have very high standards obviously so if we please the British fans, I think weíre doing pretty good."
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