GATEKEEPER   EPIC HEAVY METAL FROM CANADA Band Questions answer by GEOFF    
Please introduce yourself and the band members briefly? Hey, this is Geoff writing. I play guitar, sing backup and write a lot of music and some lyrics for Gatekeeper. We also feature Jean-Pierre on lead vocals, David Messier on bass guitar and Tommy Tro on drums. We've had a few lead guitarists. Kenny Kroecher played guitar on the most recent recordings.   What does the band name mean and how do you get it? I've always liked the shorter, simple band names with a bit of a fantasy vibe. GATEKEEPER sounded very metal and very epic to me. Like a bunch of warrior defending the sacred powers of heavy music from wimps, flakes and fairweather fans. It also reminded me of my favourite band Blind Guardian.   Where and how was the band founded? I formed the band in Edmonton, Alberta sometime in 2010. It was just a logo, a Myspae page and a handful of instrumental demos back then.   Have you played in other bands before? Yeah I'd played keyboards in a lot of groups. Power and prog metal bands but also cover bands and tribute groups who played corporate and casino type gigs. Some of the metal bands I worked with were Samadriel and Scythia. They were very different from Gatekeeper.   Was it hard to find suitable band members who fit musically and humanely with the band? Sort of. This style of metal wasn't popular in Edmonton. I was able to find some friends who liked the music well enough to learn the songs and play them with me but they weren't invested enough to join the band on a permanent, full time basis. They were buddies helping me out and I'll always cherish and respect them for what they did to get the band started. Since 2016 we've had a more steady and dedicated lineup. Thankfully the band already had some releases and a small buzz built up so it wasn't as hard to recruit new members when the time came.   What are the lyrics about and who of you is writing them ? I used to write all the lyrics, but since we have Jean-Pierre he does most of them now. My older lyrics were inspired by old pulp-era fantasy series and also norse myth and history. Jean-Pierre uses a lot of fantasy imagery in his lyrics but they're mostly metaphors for things going on in his life from what I can tell. I write a couple lines here and there still.   Which bands inspired you and how would you describe your music to someone who has never heard a sound from you? Definitely older, more obscure heavy metal. Epic doom from Europe and of course the US-heavy metal with some progressive elements. So bands like Manilla Road, Solstice, viking-Bathory, Fates Warning and Savatage. I'm also into prog-rock and british folk music. I listen to a lot of Wishbone Ash, Kansas, Fairport Convention and Mahavishnu Orchestra. And of course classic metal like Dio, Saxon, Judas Priest and so on!   Why should people listen to our music? I like to think that we have familiar influences but are able to project our own unique sound as opposed to imitation. I think Jean-Pierre has a distinctive voice and way of arranging his singing patterns and I don't think there are many, if any bands in North American blending Euro-styled epic metal with US-style heavy metal.   In 2018, after some split ep's and demos, your debut album East of Sun appeared. How long have you been working on it? We spent about 8 months on-and-off in the studio. There were long gaps between sessions due to scheduling conflicts.   Are there any newer songs on the album or did you use older songs? It's a mix. Some of the songs are older, dating all the way back to the beginning of the band. Three of the songs are older and previously-released and five are brand new for the album. Some of the newer songs are ones that I wrote years ago, but a few of them such as „East of Sun“ were written less than a year before recording the album.   Duncan Storr won the cover artist of skyclad for the album artwork. How have you come to him since then and how satisfied have you been with his work? Duncan is great! A real artistic treasure. We contacted him directly (and a couple other artists) about doing our album. He responded right away and after some discussion he showed me some paintings that he had already completed. The first one he sent was the piece we used for our album art. It instantly struck me because of how colourful and detailed it was. The image itself was perfectly in line with our music too. It was basically perfect.   What is your favorite song from the album and why? This is a really tough one to answer because I really enjoy them all and every song has at least one section that I truly love. I might pick „Ninefold Muse“ or „East of Sun“. Ninefold Muse probably turned out the closest to how I imagined it in my head and East of Sun reminds me a lot of Queensryche, Manilla Road and US heavy metal and it's a little different from what we normally do and I'm very happy with it.   How far have you been with new songs and when can we expect a new album? We've already got a new EP out called „Grey Maiden“ with four songs and I'm extremely proud of it—I think it's some of our best stuff yet. We're also working on a second album and we've got five new songs written with a lot more in progress. If we're lucky we'll have something new in 2020 but no promises!   You have been under contract with the Italian label Cruz del Sur Music. How satisfied are you with working together and what do you expect from them in the future? Cruz Del Sur are a very fine label with an awesome roster and we're happy to be a part of it. Enrico and his team have been extremely helpful getting our music into the hands of true epic metal fans and they respect our vision and have offered us some great advice. Very pleased to be working with them, hopefully for many more albums.   What was your first concert as a fan? And what memory do you have of it? I grew up in a small town in Alberta, Canada so concerts were few and far between. I think my first rock concert was the pop punk band Sum 41 when I was 14 or 15. When I was 17 I saw Heaven & Hell with Ronnie James Dio. Megadeth was the opener. Incredible show. I've been a huge Dio fan since I was a teenager and getting to see him live before his unfortunate passing was an honour.   What were your live highlights and with which bands did you play? The biggest highlight was definitely Keep It True 2018 for our album release concert. It was a very important show for us and we were a bit nervous but I think we had a pretty good show and it was great to meet so many friends. Other than that, we had a great festival gig at Shredmonton 2017. It was a smaller club but it was sold out and the energy was electric during our set. We had a really great night. We will be doing a full tour of the EU starting next week and I'm looking forward to making some new highlights on that trip. We're played with a lot of great bands. Skelator, Road Rash, Arkenfire, Grim Reaper (three times!), Satan, Q5 (twice) and of course opening for Heavy Load at KIT... the list is very long.   Have already resulted in friendship ? We're pretty close with a lot of our contemporaries and peers. It's a pretty tight-knit scene and I'm happy to be close friends with lots of the bands playing heavy metal. There is some great talent in these bands and we need to help each other out when we can.   Which band would you like to play live with and why? I'm really looking forward to sharing the stage with bands like Seven Sisters, Vulture's Vengeance, Sacral Rage, Night Demon and Solstice next month. Playing concerts with Blind Guardian would be a dream gig for me. They were no crowd quite like a Blind Guardian crowd.   With what do you earn your money except with the music? I work two jobs—a machine shop during the day (where I am writing this interview...) and I teach music lessons in the evening. I have about 40 students every week.   How important are social media for you as a band? I think it's pretty important. We try to be interactive and somewhat transparent with our fanbase. The days of bands being mysterious is cool and we like that idea but I think people respond to us better when they can ask us questions directly and see what we're up to. We sometimes do these live broadcasts on Facebook and Instagram where a couple of us will answer questions from the viewers and those are a lot of fun. We put a fair amount of video content on YouTube as well.   What would you (her) want to achieve with the band? Well everyone has dreams about being a rock star but I'm happy with what we've been able to do lately. We release an album or an EP one a year or two, we tour a little bit every year and work on music at home a lot. It'll be interesting to see where the band ends up in a couple years, the way things have been moving.   What do you think about the Canada Metal scene in general? Canada is a tough country to play music in, especially metal. The country is HUGE and there aren't very many people living here. Touring Canada is difficult and the drives between cities are very long and the number of metal fans is smaller than in Europe and even the USA. However there is a lot of talent here and each city has a unique pocket of bands. My favourite older Canadian bands are Triumph, April Wine, Rush, Moxy and of course heavier bands like Razor.   Maybe you can recommend some bands from your area? For newer bands I really like Spell. We also have a good, young band called Medevil. Iron Kingdom is cool too. I also like Anciients and Apprentice. For older bands, the mighty Sacred Blade and Black Knight are excellent. And for the cult listeners, we are from the land of Tales Of Medusa.   PERSONAL QUESTIONS !   Where did you grow up and how was your childhood? I was born and raised in a small town called Red Deer. It's located in central Alberta, the prairies. The winters are long and bitter cold, the summers hot and dry and the land is flat for miles around. My childhood was OK. My family was very loving and supportive despite some financial challenges.   How was your school time you were rather the good student or the break clown ? I wasn't the best student. I had a lot of trouble applying myself to homework and projects. I often had my head stuck lost in fantasy worlds and daydreams and I would leave lots of schoolwork until the last second. I didn't have very many friends either. In fact, I didn't start making good friends until I discovered heavy metal and started hanging out with the small group of headbangers at school and playing in bands.   How did your parents react when you started making metal music? did they support you and how do you feel about your music today? They were skeptical and maybe a little nervous but they did their best to be open-minded and would always come to at least one of my shows when I was working with a band. They would give me their honest opinions about the bands I was playing with (both good things and bad things) and that feedback was very valuable when I was growing up. My parents both like rock music but my mom actually started enjoying power metal when I started playing it around the house. I actually took her to see some bands like Edguy, Hammerfall and Angra later on and she loved it. Her favourite band right now is Avantasia and she always buys the new albums when they come out.   Would you be successful in making music as a musician? I like to think so. Before I moved the band to Vancouver I was a full-time musician teaching lessons and playing in cover bands and musicial theatre shows. Since moving to Vancouver I've stopped almost all band activity except for Gatekeeper. But hopefully the band with continue to grow with each release. I don't know if the band will pay our bills but it's a great passion project to have and it's become a huge part of my life.   Are you someone who loves the hustle and bustle of the big city? or rather looking for peace and relaxation in nature? I think I'm probably a city guy. I enjoy getting out of town and going on trips and camping and everything. The idea of settling down in a smaller, quieter place when I'm older is charming but I do enjoy the city for what it is. I like having my friends close by, I like being in contact with musicians and artists and venues. I like going to gigs and I like being able to enjoy the culture of Vancouver and the people in it.   Do you actively practice sports or are you more of a passive spectator? I'm not really sports guy to be honest. I enjoy lifting weights for my own personal goals. When I was a kid sports was an area of anxiety for me. As I've grown older and matured I've learned to see the value of them and I enjoy watching a big hockey game once in a while.   When it comes to your physical well you can cook or let you cook for you I love cooking. I mostly cook my own food, although I'm fond of visiting restaurants and pubs when I'm out of town or visiting friends. Over the past two years I've really done a lot of work to clean up my diet and It's helped a lot with my health and strength.   What does your environment tell you about your passion for metal (friends / family / colleagues) ? Most of my friends are related to music or metal in some way. Even my colleagues at my day job are into rock and 80's metal. And I teach music to children in the evenings. So music eats up most of my life and even at my non-music work I'm usually doing something music related in my head.   How do you see the problem with the haters on the internet who have to announce their mental garbage in anonymity always and everywhere? I try to ignore them. It's most just what you described: garbage. I used to let mysef get wrapped up in internet drama but I don't have the energy for it anymore. If people spent more time working on their personal projects and self-improvment and less time gossiping online then the world would be a better place. I try to follow this path in real life too, as much as I can at least.   What do you think about the internet in general? a blessing or a curse? I use the internet constantly and while it's definitely created a completely different culture I don't really have a problem with it. Without the internet, a great deal of what I've accomplished in my life would be nearly impossible. I do sometimes worry about the long-term effects it has on some young people and also the environment, but there's not much I can do about that.   Which question would you like to have answered and why? How much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood? This is an important Canadian riddle.   What would you personally like to do in your life? I want to do what I'm doing, but more. Maybe be able to do it while working a little less. I'd like to play some other kinds of music too. I've been really into jazz lately. Of course, I will always be a heavy metal guy in my heart. Canada The true north, strong and free! I do consider myself lucky to be a Canadian. There are so many worse places I could live.   Austria The homeplace of Arnold Schwarzenegger! And of course Vienna, with its lush history of the great masters Beethoven and Mozart. I'm looking forward to seeing it for the first time.   Banff National Park of Canada Incredible. I've visited and driven through it many, many times. You could spend a week exploring even the mainstream areas and you would only be scratching the surface. It's one of the natural wonders of the world, truly. My favourite spots are Emerald Lake and Lake Morraine. It looks like Cimmeria!   Rocky Mountains Like I mentioned above, the Rockies are very powerful and they never cease to amaze me no matter how often I pass them. I wish everyone in the world got to experience a journey through the Canadian mountains.   Ice Hockey I can't skate very well which makes me a fake Canadian I suppose. I hated hockey as a kid but I've grown to enjoy it in small doses. I like how fast- paced it is compared to some other sports and I do respect the players as it's very demanding.   Ovis canadensis I've seen a lot of them! In certain parts of the highway in Banff you can see them. Sometimes they cross the road and you have to stop your car and wait for them to get out of the way. They're very impressive creatures but if you're in a hurry to get to your next city for a gig it can be kind of annoying, haha!   Poutine The Quebecois classic. I love poutine but I don't have it very often because it's very heavy food. Maybe when we return from our European tour I'll treat myself.   Growler Vancouver has a ton of micro-breweries. There are about a dozen within a 30-minute walk of where I live so growlers are very common and popular here. I think I own two or three myself, even though I'm not drinking very much these days. There are some great breweries here. My favourites are Parallel 49, Storm Brewing and Bomber Brewing.   Movie or Series My favourite movies are Conan The Barbarian, The 13 th  Warrior, Children of Men and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. I don't have a lot of time for newer movies but I've enjoyed the Game Of Thrones series (especially the first three seasons) and I watch a lot of comedy. I started watching a Korean series called „Kingdom“ which is a zombie series set in medieval times. Kind of a cool twist.   Beer I had to slow down my beer drinking but I enjoyed Weissbier when I was younger and I have a taste for darker beers too. I like Ayinger a lot but they are harder to find over here. In the summers a couple radlers in the sun is always good.   Canadian beaver You don't see them too much where I live now but I grew up near a river and every so often you would see one building a dam. When I was younger I didn't think much of this but when I moved into the city I got an udnerstanding of how rare of a thing it was to see.   Robert E. Howard One of my greatest influences and inspirations of all time. The Conan, Kull, Bran Mak Morn and Solomon Kane stories played a huge role in my life. He definitely had some personal and mental issues but his fiery writing skills and dedication to his craft really drove me to focus on my own work. It's a shame he died so young because some of his later, unreleased work showed some interesting perspectives and some personal growth on his end. He might have gone further if he hadn't ended his life so senselessly. Thankfully he left us a massive body of work.   Family I'm quite close with my parents and the rest of my immediate family but I don't know if I am truly a family man. I'm too wrapped up in my music and my band. I feel like Gatekeeper is my child and it's hard to imagine having a real one while doing what I do.   Your top 10 all time album faves In no particular order... Blind Guardian – Somewhere Far Beyond Solstice – New Dark Age Twisted Tower Dire – Crest of the Matyrs Mahavishnu Orchestra – Birds of Fire Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime Fates Warning – The Spectre Within Triumph – Allied Forces Manilla Road – The Deluge Dio – The Last In Line Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco De Lucia – Friday Night in San Francisco   The closing word is yours? Thanks so much for taking the time to write these questions and hope that you enjoy our new music. Love, respect and HEAVY METAL!
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