Jerry Lucky: Dennis…first off I have to thank you…you are one those rare individuals…so driven by the desire to create music…with seemingly no opportunity to become rich from it…and yet you continue to do it…why is that?
Dennis Williams: I think that anyone who becomes good at their craft has never done it for money, its about the pure joy and passion for what drives you. For me, the expression of emotion through my music and the act of creating something is at the core of my song writing. There's no greater feeling than starting from nothing and creating something new, its a huge rush! To be able to put it out on iTunes, CDBaby and Youtube and have fans love what I write is like the icing on the cake. Becoming rich has never entered my mind, I think that keeps me true to my music...too many times the desire for money destroys the true intent of musical creation. It's what makes music sound contrived and I think the real fans of music can tell. They know when something is real, you can feel it.
Now having said that, its definitely nice to see sales of my music from all over the world... Japan, New Zealand, Germany, Finland, Korea...etc. I'll never be rich from it so I chose to donate all my sales to a Foster Child in Paraguay. The amount I make isn't enough to really change my life but its definitely changed the life of a little boy in Paraguay who can now go to school, have food and clothing...all because someone bought my music. That's pretty cool.
JL: What are your earliest musical memories that inspired you?
DW: From an early age music has always affected me deeply, I was the kid who could sit and listen to music all day playing air guitar and I listened to everything...Elton John, The Beatles, Queen, KISS, Uriah Heep, Led Zeppelin. I was never really hooked on any one kind of music until I was introduced to RUSH by a good friend in school and that seemed to kick-start my interest in rock and more intricate music...I saw Triumph in concert and was blown away by the power of the music and of course Rik Emmett’s guitar playing...Hearing Van Halen was another pivotal moment, I think "Eruption" is still the most famous and important rock guitar solo ever written! Hearing Dokkens Tooth and Nail, specifically the song 'Without Warning...Tooth and Nail" really grabbed my attention...Iron Maidens "Number of the Beast "- HUGE!!! Judas Priests "Screaming for Vengeance", another massive album!
Without a doubt discovering Joe Satriani and specifically the first time I played the album "Surfing With The Alien", that album blew my mind! It was like an awakening, this is what you can do with the guitar!
Discovering the genius of Tom Scholz of BOSTON was also huge! The perfection of that first album and learning how he recorded it in his basement really tore the veil off the mystique of the recording industry for me. With his own ingenuity and genius he created one of the most perfect sounding albums ever. Discovering Steve Stevens album "Flamenco A Go Go" was another moment that changed the course of my desire to play. That Flamenco-ish, nylon string speed picking style really grabbed my attention!
Operation Mindcrime by Queensryche blew my mind! That Cd is still one of my all time favorites!
"Master of Puppets" and RUSH's "2112" both really hit home with their sonic perfection and power.
Discovering the band Nightwish was also another big moment!
Of course one of the most pivotal moments was discovering Dream Theater! I can still remember putting on the CD "A Change of Seasons" for the first time! I got it by accident in the mail from Columbia house. So on a whim I threw it on and I literally stopped in my tracks and stood there listening to those first acoustic chords playing, it sent shivers down my spine! I knew instantly this was something else, something better! Dream Theater, for me, was like discovering that there is a God! It was HUGE! Their music was so far beyond anything I’d ever heard and the perfection of their playing just floored me! When I saw them in concert I could not believe how amazing they were.
JL: The music you create isn’t strictly prog…but it does have a lot of progressive influences…how would you describe the music you make?
DW: That's a tough one, I don't really look to fit into a genre I'm really just playing what I feel. I use any genre that expresses the real emotion of the moment. To label it I would say that it’s very core is Rock but on the very Progressive end. A lot of the beats and rhythms are definitely founded in rock; even the nylon string speed picking pieces have a very rock flavour. But because of the bands I've been influence by I can take that rock base off into a really mellow, emotive place or a classical type progression or into a progressive feel with the longer more complex pieces. One of the challenges of writing such a diverse spectrum of music is finding other musicians who love the music and who are able to play that many styles. I struck gold finding Drummer extraordinaire Lou Caldarola. I describe him as a one part Neil Peart and one part Mike Portnoy! Having a guy with his talent add to the music makes the forays into the progressive realm so much easier and his rock grooves and timing are perfect.
JL: For a while you went by the handle GTRMAN…what led to you giving that up?
DW: GTRMAN was a nick-name that I picked up from teaching. It kinda stuck and I when I first started writing I thought it would be a cool name for my experiment into trying to be a musician. As I progressed in my playing and the craft of writing I realized by the input and feedback I was getting that I might actually be okay at this. It was at that point that I decided that the experiment was successful enough to take it further...That's when I decided to simply take on my name as the performer of the music.
JL: Would I be correct in assuming music is not your day job?
DW: If it was my day job I'd be pretty hungry..lol ... I'm actually really lucky to have a great career with one of the best company's in Canada to work for. It gives me all the time in the world to pursue my passion of music and I'm grateful for that every day!
JL: Describe for us how changing technology…cheaper CD production…the internet has allowed you to fulfill your musical dreams?
DW: Without a doubt, the ability to record super high quality music in a home recording studio changed everything! I'm able to sit and record for hours until I get the right riff or play the right solo. If I were to make my last CD in a recording studio it would have cost me a fortune. Technology has definitely opened the door for musicians like me to fully express their craft. Getting my music onto the Youtube, Facebook, iTunes etc. has also been huge. I get emails from all over the world from kids who are into guitar playing and rock who discovered my songs in a video or related guitar search. Without that connection to the world my music would never reach the kid in Korea or Japan.
JL: Many of your compositions contain sound effects and voice narrations…where does that come from?
DW: That's just another tool to express myself. A lot of the audio clips I use help build atmosphere and intent in the music. It's a way to get people thinking and feeling what the music is about. Because of the type of music I play it’s hard to express the meaning of a song without words. The emotion of a song is fairly easy to get from a piece, you can feel it. But the meaning behind a song like "Samsara" or "Freedom Fighter" off my new disk is really brought to life from hearing those clips.
JL: What’s the reaction been to your music…from critics? From fans?
DW: Surprisingly good! When I first started writing I was really just writing for me. Creating the kind of music that I wanted to listen to in my car. When I started getting sales and emails from fans I could hardly believe it. That was really cool! I've had people email me asking for transcriptions to my songs so they could learn them. That blew me away...the thought that a kid in Texas was learning one of my songs because he loved it so much was the coolest feeling! The critics have been very kind as well. I'm definitely not a mainstream / pop style musician so for the most part critics aren't really interested in my music but the critics who are real fans of musicianship and playing seem to find something of value in what I write. That's pretty cool too!
JL: What’s happening on the live front…are there plans to play live?
DW: This is the one thing I need to conquer! It’s so hard to find venues for the Instrumental guitarist; especially here in Canada. That leaves you in limbo so to speak. Of course that's just an excuse. What I need to do is form the band and hit the road and that may be on the horizon. I'd love to get my drummer, Mr. Lou Caldarola of New York, into a touring act. He really brought a whole new level to the music and to take that creativity on the road to perform would be a dream. I was actually just contacted by a tour promoter in Switzerland who wants to set up a string of dates for me early next year. I'll have to weigh the costs of taking a band on the road in Europe and decide if it’s feasible. I'd definitely love to be playing live...to get on as an opening act for a guy Satriani would be a dream come true!
JL: Are you always writing music? Or what’s next on the music front?
DW: Right now I'm taking a break from the writing process. It’s a huge emotional drain and so time consuming that I need to step away from it for a bit. The plan now is to see where I can take the music, either playing live, getting into session work at some of the studios which would be another dream. I'm even throwing around the idea of scouting out currently touring bands that may be in the market for a 'hired gun' guitarist. Sort of what Doug Aldrige did in Whitesnake. He came in and became a huge part of that band while still being able to write his own stuff...that would be really cool! So, any touring rock bands out there looking for a guitar player, look no further!
JL: Lastly then…if you were stuck on a deserted island…and could only have 5 discs with you…which ones would they be and why those particular ones?
DW: Oh no....only 5! Id have a hard time if you said only 50! I'll have to make this a pretty diverse selection then:
1) "Defying The Rules" by HIBRIA...probably the best Metal album I've heard in years!
2) "Invincible" by Two Steps From Hell ... Gotta have that Symphonic Power!
3) "A Dramatic Turn of Events" by Dream Theater. My loyalty to DT makes me want to pick Images and Words but ADTOE was just so good!
4) "2112" by RUSH...Can't live without this masterpiece
5) "John Denver's Greatest Hits" ... What a great album and a great song writer. So many great memories as a kid listening to this in the car, reminds me of my Mom.
JL: Thanks for taking the time to chat. All the best.
DW: You're welcome. Thanks for listening to my music, it means a lot when someone with your musical IQ can find something worthwhile in stuff! "Music is the Personification of Emotion, Listen to how I feel"