Demetris "All Around" Katsikis
Apostolis "Retromaniac" Psarros
When Apostolis "Retromaniac" Psarros told me that DEAN WATSON accepted to make a JustIn Case Prog Radio interview, my head reached ceiling! One of the leading, multi-instrumental, figures of today's jazz/rock fusion scene is opening his heart in some of our challenging questions and uncovers some of his current and future plans. Buy his albums not only for his special hybridic musical taste but also for some of the most expressionist-like artworks that you have ever seen on a sleeve! Fantastic art!
it is an honor to be with you here on the interview pages of JustIn Case Prog Radio. How are you doing this period of your life?
Great to be here! I’m doing great! Working on my newest CD “Fantasizer” and it’s going really well.
How did you come in touch with Progressive Rock music as a youngster and which were the bands you listened to back at the time?
My older brother got me interested in progressive music. He used to bring records home and I would listen to whatever he had. One day he said “Sit down in front of the stereo (it was an old console stereo, with a built in turntable) and don’t move until you’ve heard both sides of this record!” That record was Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard A True Star. I listened, and I was hooked! That single record started it all. From there I grew to love Genesis, ELP, Yes, Tull, just about all the prog greats. Having said that, a few years later the jazz fusion genre really started to kick in and I got quite interested in that – loving bands like Chick Corea, Jan Hammer, Al DiMeola, all the greats really. Another huge influence for me was UK. That band was the perfect blend of progressive rock mixed with jazz fusion, which is, to this day, my favorite type of music.
What kind of studies did you have regarding any music instrument?
I took formal piano lessons and quit just after starting Conservatory grade 10. That’s it. I just learned guitar on my own. I do think that piano is the universal instrument, and learning that, most all other instruments are somewhat easier to learn.
In the 70's you've been a member of a band called AIRKRAFT. Tell us more about your experience with this project and how did the story of the band end exactly?
I actually started Airkraft. Our goal was to play all original music, which we did. Not having a record though, meant anyone who saw us were really hearing the music for the first time. It’s quite difficult to get a following that way. The band essentially ended because certain members got tired of minimal gigs, and of course minimal money.
Our info appear your figure again (musically speaking) in the new millenium. What happened during these years with your personal life as well as your music experiences?
You are correct in that I’ve only really come back to recording music since 2007. All those other years were spent bring up a family. I never stopped playing though, I just didn’t gig and didn’t record.
So, in the recent years you also started a project called "WHERE IS THE NINE along with ex-AIRKRAFT bandmate Barry Connors. You even recorded an album entitled ''Desensitized to Insanity''. Was this album ever officially released and what happened actually with the story of Where's the Nine? Is this project still alive?
Where’s the Nine was a project I started with Barry. We recorded the music, but it was only ever in a demo format, as it was never recorded in a formal studio. But during the recording, later on, we thought “hey, this sounding pretty good” and we tried to make it the final version. But in the end, we realized, it really wasn’t up to the standards a release should be. It actually got up on I-Tunes – it might still be available there, I don’t know. I can’t really listen to it too much now, the quality of it is quite unsatisfactory for me. But it was the start of my resurgence into writing and recording, so I’m grateful we did it.
More recently you decided to follow the path of a lonely musician. Was this a forced decision due to specific circumstances or did you really want to measure your own skills in a one-man project?
Well, when you work alone, you don’t have to answer to anyone, there’s no friction that sometimes comes with artists working together, and technology allows me to do it.
Right or wrong, this decision led to two truly fantastic Prog/Fusion albums, ''Unsettled'' and ''Imposing elements''. So, what are the biggest differences between working as a member of a team and as an individual or if you like which are the positives and negatives in each case?
One thing you have to remember, these two CD’s are the result of two paintings that I got inspiration from – me alone, my inspiration. Ron’s encaustic work is second to none and I wanted to collaborate with him and make an art/music record. That would not have worked had I had other musicians with me.
Both albums were warmly received by the Prog-Related press. What about the sellings?
When I put out “Unsettled” I though to myself, can I make all my money back from sales? I am happy to say I have, and more. I won’t get rich by it, it’s too small a genre, but it worked!
Really, how would you describe your music to a music fan who's not aware of it?
I like to coin it as progressive rock jazz fusion. It’s progressive rock – ala – Yes/Genesis but it has rock jazz stylings like Mahavishnu Orchestra, Bruford, etc. etc.
What’s your personal philosophy in life? How do you cope with barriers? And, simultaneously, how do you build your strengths?
Not very well! Just kidding. I don’t know, really, I can tell you I’m COMPLETELY satisfied with my life, the people I know and love, and my accomplishments.
How do you approach your instrument playing? Is there any personal approach from your part about that?
When you play more than one instrument it is difficult to keep your playing for each in top form. I go back and forth on guitar and piano – some months I’m a better guitar player, some months I’m a better piano player. One thing is for sure – when you write – you’re not practicing, so your playing suffers.
Please name us your biggest influences that led to your personal style as listened to your albums.
Todd Rundgren is my biggest musical influence. Genesis and UK, Happy The Man and Allan Holdsworth are up there too. Today I listen to numerous artists, too many to state really. But I think those I mentioned basically sum up my style.
Our opinion is that your music is really dynamic and energetic, enough to make a truly awesome live show. Are there any plans of transporting your sound on a live stage or will this new chapter in your life remain a personal studio experience?
You are not the first person to say that. I would LOVE to perform this stuff. I have put much thought into it, but you have to realize, it’s just me, my little studio, I don’t have much gear at all. I also live about 3 hours from Toronto, the only city, really, I could play – and I don’t know a lot of local musicians either. It would be a dream though! Perhaps one day …
Do you follow the current Prog/Fusion/Jazz-Rock scene and which modern bands sound really interesting to your ears?
Yes! There are so many, I hate to state some names, only to leave some out. Let’s see … Planet X, Oblivion Sun, Alex Machacek, Pat Metheny, Porcupine Tree, King’s X, Sanguine Hum, Ronnie Heimdal, Exivious, Chimp Spanner, the list goes on ….
Closing this interview, which are the future plans of Dean Watson, what can we expect from you in the near future?
I’m currently working on my latest CD, again, another art/music collaboration with Ron Eady called “Fantasizer” – really – you should check is art out at www.roneady.com. Starting October 27th I will be posting music from it ‘in its current stated’ on my Soundcloud page – Saturday’s only, then I’ll take it down again, so if you tune in on Saturday, you can here the work in progress.
What is prog rock for you? And prog music in general, anyway? What do you think about the future of prog rock and music in general?
Prog rock is making a comeback, make no mistake about it. Genre classifications are starting to become more and more difficult to decipher – music is music, and good music is good music! With the proliferation of online internet radio, anything is available without the filtering that goes on with record labels etc. It’s a great time for music!
Finally, please send a message to all the listeners of JustIn Case Prog Radio and all the fans of Progressive Rock music in general.
Buy my CD’s! Just kidding. But please, at least have a listen, you can stream them in their entirety on my Bandcamp page.
I’m also looking at the creation of some video’s of me writing the latest CD – you can find those (soon) on my youtube channel.
Ok, Dean, we are really grateful and happy for this interview and we wish you the best of luck both in your personal life and music career.
Thank you so much for having me and I wish you great success with your site/station in the future! Keep prog alive!
Dear Dean, thanks a lot about answering those few (lol!!!!) questions!
Apostolis “Retromaniac” Psarros
JustIn Case Radio Progducer & Neo Prog Collaborator in www.progarchives.com
Demetris “All Around” Katsikis
JustIn Case Radio Founder and Progducer