Upon learning of Whispers of the Dragon, my first inclination was to pigeonhole the music into the psych category. No, not the 13th Floor elevators type-thing, but more like early Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett. Then on further listen it hit me that the use of Trance melded with it and took the whole ride somewhere else. I had the chance to ask the key player of the project Matt Hopkins about his vision.
So where does Whispers of the Dragon call home?
Matt Hopkins: I’m currently located in Southern California. 65% of the band is really me and my keyboards. On the other 35% I use musicians from around the world for each project depending on what is needed for each song. Most of the musicians that I use come from Europe primarily Bulgaria.
I hate categorization as much as you probably do, but for the benefit of making a connection...what genres would you say Whispers of the Dragon fall into primarily?
This is a tough one and was one that has caused a lot of grief. I know it’s important to fit into a category for targeted promotion but we’ve kind of blended into a number of genres. Primarily I tried to take a with a World folk approach, blending traditional world instruments with an electronica backdrop. Kind of acoustic meets electronic. Trying to use the unique sounds of instruments from around the world and back that with electronic “other world” sounds. In the end the projects were more Goth meets world folk. In the end I believe we accomplished finding a unique niche. The perfect formula for poverty in the music industry.
Could you introduce me to the members and explain what they do?
I’ve used so many. On the first CD we used Aisly Bowyn from Ireland on vocals. The second CD we moved to a more middle eastern/eastern European sound source so I brought in Aisha Samorah from Syria and Rayan Skalova from Bulgaria. It was Aisha who really brought us into conditions of what was going on in the Middle East and got us involved in the Green party movement and poet Hilla Sedighi. We have since lost contact with Aisha due to what’s going on currently in Syria. Most of the instrumentalists have come from Bulgaria. There’s really a treasure trove of musicians in Bulgaria, which included Krum Zhirkov on percussion and drums and Boyan Gagan on some of the stringed instruments for Whispers of the Dragon.
If you had the opportunity to collaborate with a respected musician or band-from any time period, who would you choose?
I originally come from a progressive rock background so I would say I’d love to collaborate with any of the original progressive rock bands of the early 70’s like Yes, ELP and Gentle Giant. Being a keyboardist, my dream was to be surrounded by keyboards and going crazy with thirty-minute solos. So to play that style and ground breaking music of the time would have been great. Today, I think I’d love to collaborate with some of the great female vocalists of the day in the style of Whispers of the Dragon such as Lisa Gerarrd and Azam Ali.
Any other influences in particular?
Currently for WotD the influences come from bands like Niyaz, Irfan, Faun, and Omnia, and Dead Can Dance. I’ve always had a love for female singers against a darker palette of sounds. The contrast of ethereal singing and the darker side of sounds provided by electronic have always been a favorite of mine. When I heard Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance for the first time many moons ago, I heard what I had conceptualized for years but had never really put together what my music was going to sound like.
Who came up with the name, and does it have allegoric significance?
The name of the band comes from the term used by drug addicts who after kicking the habit, hear the voices of their addition coming back to haunt them, trying to pull them back into the darkness. I actually came up with the name before I knew its significance.
Tell us what you are up to...any current projects or touring?
I was using the Arab spring as a jumping off point in creating the third album. We were supporting the Green movement in Iran in late 2009 with a video etc. based on Hilla Sedighi’s poem and really focused on having a more defining ethnic sound with a darker metallic sound. At the same time I’ve been writing songs for a group of artists out of Germany, which basically really consumed me. It would seem that recently, I’ve been hearing it from our fans so I’ve started back on finishing the third WotD CD.