We are pleased to interview an artist from the Dutch Prog Rock/Metal scene, Dimitri Toonen, in this article. With the new album released on April 15, 2022 titled “Sounds From Emotions.”
Hi Dimitri, how are you?
I’m good. Better than I was a couple of days ago because I caught Covid. I’m able to play some guitar again now, so I’m living haha.
You are a composer and multi-instrumentalist of Prog music, where does your passion for this musical genre come from?
I grew up listening to a lot of music from a young age. First of, my parents listened to a lot of great music and I absorbed it all. My parents listened to various artists like Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam, Gary Moore, Genesis but also, Vangelis, Talk Talk. Later when my parent split up and I started living a lot with my mom and step-dad, there again was a lot of music at home, because my step-dad is really into music and there isn’t a day that goes by where he isn’t turning on the stereo and putting some music on. My step-dad listen’s to a lot different stuff, but he is a big fan of David Bowie’s music so that was played a lot at home. He has all Bowie’s studio and live albums, but also a lot of bootlegs. He also listens to a lot of other great artists like, Alan Parsons, Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, Metallica, Rainbow, Al DiMeola, Joe Satriani, just to name a few. There was and still is a lot of music in my life and it was bound to come out of me at some point. So, my passion for prog music is basically a passion for music in general. And my music is a blend of the music that I love listening to.
In your career you have released 2 solo albums, how did your sound evolve between the two works?
I guess for my first album I was as much busy with learning the recording process as well as learning how to write music. It’s not that I didn’t focus on writing the best songs I could write, but the whole recording an album and then mixing it yourself process takes up a lot of time and energy and I believe that it can take away from the creativity at times. That’s not to say that I’m not immensly proud in my first album, but I do believe that my second album “Sounds From Emotions” sounds more mature to me because I’ve become more familiar with recording and mixing. So I can let that go a little bit and focus on writing more.
In terms of sound, I used a lot of acoustic nylon string guitars on “Leave My Mind Sometimes” and I think I wrote pretty much everything for that album on my nylon string guitar. For “Sounds From Emotions” I wanted to use more piano as an inspiration so a lot of progressions are written on the piano even though technically I’m not really a piano player. Also, I wanted to use more of my electrisch guitar on this album and use a darker overall tone for the album.
The album “Sounds From Emotions” was released in April, how would you describe this new chapter?
For me the songs and lyrics that I wrote for “Sounds From Emotions” are more drawn from personal experiences than my previous album, so I guess this chapter is more about letting go of the shame to write about personal experiences. It’s sometimes easier to write about other peoples problems because you are more emotional detached from it. Writing about your own stuff can be a bit discouraging at times.
The themes of your albums are always highly sought after, what about the lyrics of this new work?
Well, the lyrics are more personal like I mentioned. But I try not to overcomplicate my lyrics. Just let it flow naturally. When the music and lyrics really fit together, that’s when I’m happy. If it’s not, I’ll try something else.
Do you use a lot of guests in the project, how does the creative process happen and how do these artists contribute to the sound?
I did have more quests on the new album this time. First of I’m not a drummer so I need a drummer that understands my music and respects the drum patterns that I’ve laid out. I found an amazing drummer (Hugo Ribeiro) who can play anything I throw at him, and give his own style to it which I really like. It’s really easy to work with Hugo, and I always look forward getting the actual played drum parts back from him.
Also, I’ve writting “My Dark Passenger” with Sander van Gaans which was a great experience and looking forward to working with Sander in the near future.
For the most part working with musician on the album was pretty straightforward. Apart from working together with Sander I basically wrote all the parts using virtual instruments and send that over to the musicians. The great thing about letting other musicians play on the album, is that it feels and sounds more as a whole than if I played everything myself. Each person gives his/her own character to the parts and that’s what makes music great I feel. When I ask the musician to play a section I tell them what the song is about for me, and what feeling I’m trying to portrait. Then I also ask if they can improve on what I’ve written and to please do so. Especially Hugo had several parts that were way better than what I’d written.
Working with Sander was different because we both wrote “My Dark Passenger” so he contributed a lot of parts and it was really easy to work with him. He came up with basically the whole song. I arranged it a little bit and I added my vocals and guitar solo over it.
Many of your fans and our readers will be wondering if there will be a chance to listen to your music live or is the project only in the studio?
Maybe so, maybe not. I’m working on new music with Sander. Maybe, we’ll put a band together. Maybe we won’t. Let’s see.
Prog music is constantly evolving, how do you see the future of this genre?
I guess people will continue enjoying music and keep writing music. And when genres cross and people keep experimenting with different instruments and sounds, progressive music will continue to live on. Also nowadays, playing guitar is very much alive. And I see a lot of it on Instagram and YouTube, so I reckon progressive rock can have a bright future. But our patience is tested for sure.
Even if your album has recently been released, are there any new studio projects in the pipeline?
Yes. I’m not sure when something new will be released but I’m currently writing a lot of music. The direction I’m going in is getting more clear every day as well. I’m working a lot with Sander van Gaans at the moment.
What advice would you give to young artists who decide to propose more sophisticated sounds like Prog?
Just listen and play the music that you love and want to hear. Everybody’s got a voice that needs be heared. Also, don’t get caught up in technical skills all too much. I’ve done that in the past and it didn’t make me a better musician or songwriter for that matter. Sure, practicing your instrument is a good thing, but dedicate some time writing music, and making music with other people as well. Just my 2 cents.
Also, if you listen to sophisticated stuff then you will write it because you’re going to be interesting in it. So, just do the thing that you love to do. That’s the only thing that matters anyways.
Outside of music, what other passions or artistic projects do you have?
I’m into photography from time till time. I want to make more time for it in the future but music has been absorbing most of my time (apart from my day job). I love to just walk and taking pictures. Especially on a holiday.
I thank Dimitri for the interesting interview, wishing him the best for his artistic career.
Read our Review of his new album here: https://progrockjournal.com/review-dimitri-toonen-sounds-from-emotions/