Demetris "All Around" Katsikis
Oh my folk God! A high dose of the famous English humor sets the scene for a brilliant interview from the beginning on! And, this is more than the case when someone has to do with Chris Wade, the mastermind behind DODSON AND FOGG, one of the most promising and fresh progressive folk acts of today's English scene. And what an interview performance!!! He answered all those questions with breathtaking answers and without "FOGGING" them at all! What follows is the story of a man who started making his dreams come true. And, prog music is his vehicle of choice for gradually reaching the apogee of creativity! An utterly positive model for all musicians with a stellar personality is serving our prog food for today!
Hello Chris! Thanks a lot for taking part in this interview! It’s our honor to host your point-of-view in our radio!
Where this interview finds you exactly?
Just got out of the bath and gone into the office to see these questions laid out before me… I am clothed though, so don’t worry.
Tell us some things about your career history as a musician. You are also a writer and an illustrator! How do you cope with all this?
The history is kind of muddled up really. Musically, I have played guitar since a really young age, although at first I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I used to try and play along to my Black Sabbath records at around the age of 8 and 9, and me and my brother used to make songs up and play them to our dad who always encouraged us even when the results were horrifically grotesque! When I was in my late teens I used to record songs in my bedroom on an old 4 track tape machine, which I really enjoyed doing. Then I had a band with my brother and sister for a bit which was a good laugh but musically not very interesting really. My brother has a very different musical taste to me; he is very much into mainstream modern stuff so we never saw eye to eye as musicians. Also he was more interested in doing his songs and I never got to do my own songs much, which was annoying. Now I’m doing Dodson and Fogg, a recording project I do from my studio/office, it is so much better because I obviously can get a word in now. I did start doing writing and illustrating in 2008 to 2009, but writing is kind of on the backburner now as I am so busy with the music. It’s going really well.
What are your influences as a musician? What music do you like playing or/and listening?
I love Pink Floyd at the minute, totally obsessed. We will never see a band like them again, never. They changed music and dominated it without being interested in being celebrities, which I really admire, especially these days when people just want to be famous for the sake of being famous. It’s bad in the UK with that these days. So I also love Jethro Tull, The Kinks, Donovan, The Beatles, mostly classic rock stuff really. Bands who you cannot categorise, who try all sorts of things. Big Zappa fan too. King Crimson are one of my favourites too.
A brief bio of the foundation of DODSON & FOGG?
Well, after finishing a zombie novel of all things, I got some songs together in May 2012 and laid down some basic guitar and vocal recordings of them in my office. They were really bare but I thought maybe I could get some other musicians to join in and add some flavour. I was doing these projects that weren’t really interesting me anymore. In the past I worked with the comedian Rik Mayall on an audiobook and I kind of had it in mind to be a fiction writer, but it never really went beyond a few bits and pieces and my material just seemed to get more surreal and foul mouthed. But I had been in contact with Celia from the band Trees, a classic folk prog band from the 70s, when I interviewed her for my magazine Hound Dawg back in 2010 and I emailed her again to ask if she would be interested in laying some vocals down for some of the tracks. I didn’t think she would be interested though. But she agreed and did an amazing job. I have her to thank for taking it a bit more serious, although my dad has always been the biggest supporter of my music and books, but Celia made me realise I maybe could start doing music and taking it more serious. Then I started to lay more bits and pieces on the songs, contacted Nik Turner who was once in Hawkwind as you most likely already know, who kindly did some flute parts for me. This was the first album, down to 12 tracks, and I released it via my own label Wisdom Twins Records (I say a label, it’s just me really and one of the cats, depending which is sitting in the office with me at the time). It’s done well so far, especially critically and it seems to be building a cult following in all kinds of countries. I released the second album Derring Do in February and am basically already recording things for the third. The great thing is these kind people who are into the music, a few of them I have been in contact with and they’re so friendly and nice. It’s cool to know there’s people interested in listening to your work, it only makes you want to improve your abilities. My ambition as a kid was to have an album out, to have a CD or vinyl in my hand with my name on it. So it’s like a dream come true, but it is only just starting really and I have a long way to go and lots to learn I think.
We think this is a great name, in the tradition of URIAH HEEP like names you know (!!), taken from the literature (Dickens’s Pickwick Papers). What’s the story behind the name of your project? How did you decide to assign a name like this?
Dickens had such great character names and I wanted to call it something interesting that might confuse and baffle people a little, while also sounding English. I like that it may confuse people; some might expect it to be a duo, but it’s mainly me with guest musicians. Plus I like the sound of it.
And what a beginning for that great project of yours! Two albums before even a year passes! Where do you find all this inspiration to compose such dreamy music?
I don’t know really, it just seems to be coming all the time. Most days I will write a song or words to a song, and obviously I don’t use them all, but I do take bits and pieces and maybe use them for another song which sees the light of day a little later. I think it is also to do with being content as well, where we live it’s so chilled out and peaceful. My girlfriend is a painter and she is always doing that in one room while I am doing writing or these days music, so the creative environment makes it all easier to work in. It’s just an important part of everyday now and I love how positive that is and how positive day to day life is.
As we said before, you already have two official studio albums out. First one is called the same as your project name. Give us some comments for each song or your favorite songs of this album.
It’s hard to say which are your own favourite tracks, because you kind of don’t see your own music as you see others’. I’ve found that while I’ve been making a particular album, I listen to them that much while mixing that I make sure I like them all the same. It’s attention to detail really, if a bit sounds off or gets tedious, it needs to be sorted. One reviewer on a site called Pennyblackmusic kindly said that every note sounds perfectly chosen. That is a massive compliment and makes me feel I am doing something right here. I always thought producing and doing the bulk of the music, promoting and doing the artwork and posting out the CDs would be impossible as a one man operation, but I am learning how to do it now. It’s happening really quickly. At the same time though it is important not to take it all too seriously. Obviously you work hard and put everything you have into it, but you’ve got to remember you are just making music. It’s a thing loads of people do in their spare time, and loads of that will be brilliant, but not everyone builds up that courage to get it out there and it goes unheard.
But the ones I am really happy with on the first album are Crinkle Drive which has Nik Turner doing some amazing flute work on it. That was an idea I had years ago, the phrase Crinkle Drive. All Day Long is another I am proud of because Celia does some brilliant vocals on it.
In your second album just like the first, you have very strong folk melodies, with so many references back to great prog folk era of late 60’s-early 70’s. Give us some comments for each song of this album.
Well the introduction was a little piece I had lying around for a while and I thought it kind of opened the album nicely, by creating a liad back dreamlike atmosphere. Flying High was a song that came out really quickly and I recorded it straight away, and Nik did more flute for the ending. Leaves They Fall was another that just came out and I was really pleased with the melody for that one and the weird chords. With Can’t Hold Me Down I wanted to bring the tempo up a bit and get people who had liked the first album comfortable with the subtle change in style on the second one. What Goes Around is about the government in my country, and a chap called Colin Jones did a really somber bit of trumpet playing on it, one of my favourite on the album if I think about it. Too bright was a song I originally wrote when I was about 18, and I recorded it way back when on the old 4 track machine, but I rewrote it and now can’t believe Celia from Trees is singing on that daft old song I wrote when I was a spotty Herbert (I realize that some of these phrases are maybe too English for some readers, so I apologise to anyone who hasn’t grasped certain bits of this). To the Sea was another really quick one to write and record. There were a few weeks where I recorded every day and it was all going smoothly all the time. Dreams of you and me is a weird one, the lyrics were written by me and my girlfriend. You think it’s a love song but when you listen on, it’s really sinister. Like it Was Yesterday is a really dreamy one, it kind of sounds like the early folk rock to me when I listen to it again. I Have You is a simple love song really, and Time is another mellow one. I think it has a feel of Donovan about it but Celia said it reminded her of Lennon, which is a massive compliment obviously! Everybody Knows and World Goes By, I recorded them the same day, I remember that. They were both quite dark and weird. Must have had some out of date yoghurt that day! Derring Do was a bit of fun, I had just bought a flute and picked up a few notes for it and made this daft song up. The last one is from some old melodies and ideas I had, Why Not Take Your Time, but I wanted to make it quite relaxed, helping the listener float off as the album ends. It seems weird being asked about them seriously because anyone making art or music is doing it for fun, and then when people have some thoughts about it or enjoy it, it becomes a huge compliment. You can take your music seriously, but never take yourself seriously. That’s when you are going wrong…
You also recruited some of the most great names in prog we’d say, personalities such as Celia Humphris, Judy Dyble, Nik Turner, Alison O'Donnell (sorry in case we forgot mentioning other crucial names!!). How does it feel to work together with such great names of Folk and Rock music? And, what did you find unique about them?
It feels amazing to hear my voice alongside Celia’s. My dad was a fan of Trees and got me into them, so it’s great for me, as On the Shore is one of my favourite albums. She has an amazing voice that only seems to have got better over time. She is vastly under rated in regards to women of classic folk rock. Celia is definitely unique and everyone knows Nik Turner is one of prog rock’s real characters. It is still a bit weird to think they’re on the album with me. Nothing could take the excitement of that feeling away.
In you live shows (if any), will the whole band be with you? Or, are these big names only for the records, and you will different musicians on stage?
This is all just for the records really. Nik doesn’t seem to be on board for the third album as he is so busy and Celia lives in France. Plus I have never enjoyed gigs and really do prefer recording and mixing the music at home. I haven’t done a gig under the Dodson and Fogg name yet, but I might one day…
Do you play any cover versions from other bands in your live shows? (If you are doing live shows). And if yes, which ones are the most common?
I don’t do live shows, but if I did I would love to cover I’m So Tired by The Beatles and Love Her Madly by The Doors.
What about any other members? Give us a brief presentation for each member.
Well on the first album, there is a violinist called Alice White, who I can’t seem to get hold of anymore. Lost her email address. There was also Ellie Davies who did cello on the one track on the first album, Colin Jones is on trumpet for the second and third upcoming album, and he is just brilliant. Comes up with great stuff, really imaginative and clever. Also, there is a lady called Amanda Votta who does some beautiful flute for Dreams of you and me on the Derring Do album. She has her own project called The Floating World; their new album is really good, well worth checking out. Also Kzrysztof Juskiewicz of the old prog band Skin Alley does some accordion on the first album too.
What about the writing process? Are you the main composer of the band or do the other members contribute equally?
I am the main composer and writer, I just send the songs across. Celia is definitely the one who is most involved in the process though. She has lots of ideas and they’re all brilliant.
Do you plan playing live? Or, have you already played some? What about the reactions of people during live sessions?
I haven’t done any yet but you never know!
What’s your personal philosophy in life? How do you cope with barriers? And, simultaneously, how do you build your strengths?
I don’t know if I have a philosophy but I think you should spend time with people who appreciate and love you and keep people out who are a bad influence or have a bad effect on you. Also, try not to hurt anyone, do something productive with your time and eat lots of malt loaf (the last part isn’t that important though).
What would you suggest to an aspiring musician, especially in the folk area? That is, to someone who desires to play some traditional or/and prog folk out there?
No way can I give someone advice, I haven’t even been recording and releasing music for a year yet. Give it another couple of decades and I might be able to give some advice, although it would most probably be crap advice, haha!
Do you write lyrics? And, what are the stories behind them?
I write all my lyrics. Sometimes they appear just from a phrase or something on the news that has pissed me off or upset me. Sometimes they come out of thin air and other times they are purposely written with a theme or subject in mind. There’s all kinds of ways you can start a song.
Which you can say are your personal favorites from the UK Folk-Rock scene?
From nowadays? I don’t really listen to any new music. Older music under the folk rock name, obviously I love Trees and Mellow Candle, and maybe some early Fairport... But then, I am not a big folk fan really. My dad is, but I’m not really into it all. Modern music I like is Amy MacDonald and what I have heard of Tame Impala.
Now an unexpected question for you! I (Demetris “All Around” Katsikis) really admired the folk album of JAKE BUGG, a 19-year-old singer/songwriter that really hit the charts, a very BOB DYLAN-esque approach but very fresh in my opinion and really bold in terms of lyrics, mainly. What do you think about him?
Yeah what I have heard I liked. I saw him on the Jools Holland new year show and he was good. It’s not what I would choose to listen to, I like something with more atmosphere myself, but it’s a good sign that a talented guy who plays an instrument is in the charts like that. It may be a sign of a change I think.
I’d ask you the same about RODRIGUEZ, the Detroit-based folk rocker that recently his music made a revival via the “Sugar man” movie. Did you know him from before? And, what do you think about his music? [Personally (as Demetris) I like him more than BOB DYLAN in terms of musical composition and arrangement!]
I have never heard of him, sorry. Will check it out though!
And, as we all know, Great Britain is a country full of folk in all its types. How do you see the present and the future of folk, in its traditional and progressive form, in Great Britain? Is it evolving? Is it static? Or, something more?
Folk seems to be really healthy at the minute. Mumford and Sons are kind of folk and they’re really popular aren’t they? The word ‘folky’ is used everywhere now. But I am not too sure. People say my stuff is folky but I disagree. I’m not a huge fan of folk, more into classic rock really. But the folk scene is really healthy in the UK. Loads of folk clubs and folk singer-songwriters around the place. Maybe people have had enough of the X Factor and soulless modern pop music. I mean, this TV show we have called The Voice, claimed to be focused more on the talent and apparently when it gone more into the series it was exactly the same as X Factor. It’s all really tiring. The success of Adele though shows that people are starting to get back into real music. The only person being clever in pop is Lady Gaga in my opinion, although there probably are others. She should do a piano album next. Her piano and vocal renditions of her own songs are brilliant.
Could you give us a review of your musical collaborations besides DODSON & FOGG?
That’s it really. I mentioned before I had a band with my brother and sister. It was more punk rock. We did some gigs which were fun because friends and family came along and turned it into a party. We did have a support slot lined up with Wilko Johnson, of Dr Feelgood, back in 2007 or 2008, but the band fizzled out. I always found it hard collaborating with my brother as we are not like minded at all. But I would love to collaborate with others in a close way one day who have similar views and tastes to me. It would be great! Anyone out there that wants to collaborate should get in touch with me for definite. Always looking for interesting projects to do.
What is prog rock (incl. prog folk) for you? And prog music in general, anyway? What do you think about the future of prog rock (incl. prog folk) and music in general?
Progressive music is to me the most interesting music. People use the word prog in a derogatory fashion, especially on any documentary on punk where they somehow make musical competency seem like a sin. Prog is something interesting, anything outside the box, something full of atmosphere and imagination. To me it is something you can tell took a while to formulate and a piece that took real thought. Yeah, sometimes prog gets overblown, but it’s such a vast genre it encompasses all sorts of styles, from Yes and King Crimson to prog folk and even heavy prog rock. I would happily put Dodson and Fogg into the progressive category, with pride in fact. The future for prog is bright, so many bands coming in under the banner and the genre continues to be massively popular all over the world. Also, from my experience, people into prog are always nice as well and easy to get on with, a lot of depth to them maybe.
Until this moment, we continually labelled your music as folk or prog folk. Yet, we will leave it up to you to describe DODSON & FOGG’s sound. How would you describe it?
Yeah like I say, definitely in the progressive camp. The third album I am working on now is definitely even closer to prog. There is a theme to it and the arrangements are more complex and it is taking a lot more of my time, effort and imagination to get it done, but it really is enjoyable. I can’t wait for it to start taking a proper shape.
If you were given the opportunity to pick 2 musicians of all times to participate in your next album, who would you pick?
There are loads of musicians I admire, but if I had to pick a couple I would say Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. I can dream can’t I?
Do you have any future plans for DODSON&FOGG that you would like to share with us?
Just the third album which will probably be out later in the year. It’s definitely going to be a stronger album I think. There’s so much in it already and I am really happy with what I have so far. It is basically themed, all about the night and things that happen at night, none of them rude or pervy of course, but interesting and strange things that occur, as well as the beauty of the night and darkness. I am still promoting the second album at the minute though and there’s still some reviews and interviews to go live this month and the next.
Any messages on your part for the listeners of JustIn Case Prog Radio and all the prog’n’rollers out there would be…
Keep on proggin’ folks.
Anything that you might want to add?
Thanks for sending me all these questions! Great to know some people are interested in my music.
Dear Chris, thanks a lot for answering those few (lol!!!!) questions!
Demetris “All Around” Katsikis
Founder and Progducer of JustIn Case Radio (www.justincaseradio.com)
Progducers of JustIn Case Radio