Dukes Of The Orient

Ten years in the making ain’t a minor thing… but, finally, the Dukes Of The orient are here presenting us their debut release. I couldn’t be happier than to have the chance to talk with Erik Norlander again, cuz apart from being an amazing musician & songwriter, he’s also a great down to earth person. So, do read below what Erik told Grande Rock about the Dukes and his personal plans among other things…
Dukes Of The Orient band pic

Hi Erik, I’m glad we’re given the chance to talk again. First of all, congrats on your debut album Dukes of the Orient.
E: Thanks so much, Thanos. It’s great to talk with you as always. This album has been a long time in the works – 10 years actually! – and we are so proud to have it finally out in the world for everyone to finally hear.
Do tell us… how did the idea to form Dukes Of The Orient occur?
E: Dukes Of The Orient has its roots in the classic supergroup, Asia. As you know, John Payne replaced John Wetton as the vocalist / bassist in ASIA in the early 90s, and he fronted the band for about 15 years. Then in 2006, keyboardist Geofff Downes reformed the original 1982 lineup, and that left the then-current version of Asia – John Payne, Guthrie Govan and Jay Schellen – as a second, competing version of the band. John Payne asked me to join that version of the band in 2007, and it was called “Asia Featuring John Payne”. We started doing some recordings in 2008, and we played a lot of concerts. Probably around 100 shows between 2008 and 2013. After that, John and I went in different directions to work on separate projects. But then at the beginning of 2017, we decided to finish the album that we had started nearly 10 years ago. We spent all of 2017 finishing the early recordings and making some new ones. That became Dukes Of The Orient!
And how did the name Dukes Of The Orient come about?
E: Just after John Payne and I decided to finish our album that started off as “Asia Featuring John Payne”, we got the terrible news that the original Asia singer, the legendary John Wetton, had died after a fight with cancer. John Payne and I felt that it would be wrong to use the “Asia” name in any form at this time, as we thought it would be disrespectful to the wonderful memory of John Wetton, and that it also might look like we were somehow being “opportunistic” to release an album with the name “Asia” in it right after John Wetton’s death. It of course was not opportunistic at all – it was just bad timing. So because of all this, we agreed that a new band name was the right thing to do. Our label, Frontiers Records, totally agreed with us, and so far we have had a great reaction from the fans and the press about this decision.
Which was the music direction that you wanted to give to the album? Did you talk it thoroughly with John?
E: We didn’t actually “talk” too much about the direction. It just evolved organically. If you consider the combination of the two of us – a Brit from London who loves American AOR and an American from Los Angeles who grew up on British prog – the recipe is pretty clear. Nothing in our collaboration was ever contrived or artificially motivated. This is just what happens when the two of us get together and create music.
And what about the guest musicians on the album – Jeff Kollman, Guthrie Govan, Moni Scaria and Bruce Bouillet on guitar and Jay Schellen on drums? I think that you have gathered some of the top musicians and they have given that something extra to the album. What do you think?
E: I think so, too. The musicians on the album are all incredible players, and we’re quite lucky to have them. The core of the album is built around John’s voice and my keyboards, but the guitars and drums of course play an important role as well. I think everyone shines on the album.
Was the album ready before you signed to Frontiers or not? I’m sure you did get some offers from other labels too, right?
E: By the time we signed with Frontiers, the album was nearly done. We had numerous offers, of course, but we felt Frontiers was the best choice for this music. I had of course worked with Frontiers on several of the Lana Lane albums, so I knew their power in the market, and I also just really like the guys at the company. They are very easy to work with and incredibly supportive.
Why did you decide to mix the album on a traditional analog console? I have seen many bands starting to work on analog sound lately. Why’s that? The digital sound used to be very popular at some point.
E: I think that the phenomenon of “audiophile” happens in a very small range. The difference between mixing the album inside a computer vs. mixing on an analog console with analog compressors, equalizers, etc. is a small one. It’s probably like a 5% difference, and maybe a lot of people would not even hear it, especially as MP3 files over earbuds or in a noisy car environment. But WE certainly hear the difference, and we know a lot of audiophile fans of the band will appreciate it as well. We find that the analog mix gives the music a lot more depth, not only from soft to loud but also from front to back and of course also the left to right stereo imaging. People talk about the “warmth” of analog. There is of course that, but more important to me is the “depth” of analog. That’s why we did it this way.
Is there any chance to give any live shows with the Dukes Of the Orient or not?
E: We are currently fielding offers for some Euro dates later in the year. We would love to come over and play, so I hope we can make it work!
Are Dukes Of The Orient here to stay? Do you already have any future plans for the any next album?
E: I hope so! We are still working hard to promote this album including many video interviews and of course the music videos. The next step is to settle on the tour plans so that we follow through with this album 100% from start to finish. Then we can start on another one.
How about your personal plans? Do you have any plans to release any solo album at some point?
E: I released my last solo album, “Surreal”, in 2016. That was a wonderful album to make, and I’m so proud of it. I think I really captured a great live band feel with it and not just another “project album” where files are sent back and forth over the internet and everyone overdubs their parts separately. “Surreal” very much captures the feeling of musicians playing live in a room together, and that’s really important to me. So the next solo album?
Time for our “weird questions”!!! If you could “erase” one thing from modern music, what would it be?
E: I think digital music files have been the death of the music industry and have also greatly affected the quality of music that is created. The value of an MP3 is not the same as the value of a CD track or even a vinyl LP. Music has now become “content”, something you have on your hard drive or your iPhone or even a web site. This rather than something more like a painting or a sculpture as it was in the past. This greatly lessens the value of music, and that’s a real travesty.
Which is that band that you’d like to be part of (any time & era)?
E: That’s a difficult one, because if I was in the band, it would not be the same. It’s like the Copenhagen Interpretation or even a form of The Observer Effect. It would be great to play keyboards in Rush as the fourth member, for example, but then Rush would not be Rush anymore!
Has the internet changed the ways music should be played and released or not? Is it a “divine gift” or a curse?
E: Surely it has changed it, and it is surely a curse. As I mentioned above, music has been transformed from “art” into “content” and that is a really negative transformation.
Top 3 comedy movies of any era?
E: The Blues Brothers, Spinal Tap, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Best 3 Prog Rock albums of all time?
E: Yes – “Close to the Edge”, Emerson, Lake and Palmer – “Brain Salad Surgery”, Rush – “Moving Picture”s. King Crimson – “Red” is also not bad.
Fill in the phrase… “Prog Rock music wouldn’t have evolved the way it did, if it hadn’t been for…”
E: Bob Moog and the Moog synthesizer.
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
E: Beatles – “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.
Which do you consider to be the best female & male vocalist in rock history?
E: You mean after Lana Lane and John Payne, right?! I would probably say Ann Wilson and Ronnie James Dio, in that case. (i.n.: Hehehe…)
If you had the chance to travel in time… where would you choose to go? To the past or the future and why?
E: Probably I would go to 1970 – 1972 and make prog albums for a much wider audience. The problem of course is that disco would then arrive a few years later! (i.n.: Damn that’s so true!)
If you had the opportunity to invite any famous person, living or dead, over for supper whom would you choose and why?
E: My father for sure. I really miss him.
Which is the record you wish you had written and why?
E: I sure love “Time” by ELO. That’s a brilliant album from start to finish. I don’t know if I wish that I wrote it, though. I’m glad that Jeff Lynne did!
If you were God for a day… what would you do?
E: Well, the obvious choices are to end hunger and disease, bring world peace, the good stuff that everybody should want. But I guess there are harder questions like what if there was no such thing as money? What a different world it would be. It would also be pretty cool if we could all instantly speak and understand every language. You could pick the best language to express exactly what you want to say. Maybe Greek for this sentence, French for another sentence, Japanese for another sentence, that sort of thing!
That’s all for now Erik! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Say anything you feel like saying before we close… take care!
E: It’s great talking with you as always, Thanos. Thanks very much to you and your readers for the wonderful support. I really appreciate it! (i.n.: Thx for the wonderful music dude!)