Sager, Josh (Din Within) (April 2005)

Din Within hail from south New Jersey and consists of Mark Gollihur and Josh Sager, who met in the early 90s, but didn't join forces as Din Within until 2003. Though they have not yet released an album, the duo has been hard at work getting that first album ready.

Joshua Turner: Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to answer my questions.

Josh Sager: Thank you for the interview. I'm happy to speak with you.

JT: You feature some exceptional music on your web site. Do you plan to show off this material live in the near future?

JS: Thanks; I appreciate the compliment. We would definitely like to play our stuff live. It's going to take a lot of work considering the complexity of the music, but it's certainly something Mark (Gollihur) and I want to do. Finding the right musicians to play with us will be a task, but we have a few great players in mind for when we're ready.

Finding the right venue to perform the material is probably the biggest issue. The Southern New Jersey/Philadelphia area isn't exactly the Mecca of progressive rock?

JT: You have an unusual name for your band. How did you come up with the name Din Within?

JS: The name is Mark's baby. He had been using the name "Din Within" for about 3-4 years before he and I started working together. We decided to use it for our project 'cause it was a cool name and it fit. In keeping with the tradition of prog rock band names that cause funny stares when spoken (Porcupine Tree, Flower Kings, Spock's Beard, etc.) we thought it was appropriate. I was leaning towards "The Legend of NineFinger," but Mark didn't dig that one too much.

JT: Please tell us about any plans you have for an album.

JS: We definitely will have a full album's length worth of material finished soon. We're just about there, but there are a few songs that we need to finish up. One thing about us is we like to take our time. I'm about as anal retentive as it gets when it comes to making stuff perfect, so I'm sure that slows things down quite a bit.

JT: Have you got a title for the new album?

JS: Nothing concrete at the moment. We have a few names tucked away for when we get to that point, but right now we're just concentrating on the music.

JT: Will this album follow a theme?

JS: Considering the songs that we currently have I would have to say "no." Lyrically these songs all hit subjects that are close to us; things we're learning and dealing with now that we're "adults." We purposely avoid writing lyrics about meaningless subjects? at least for now!

JT: Your music is lavished with complexities that integrate very well. Could you describe your songwriting process? How do you formulate these ideas and how do you put them together to form such clever music?

JS: Thanks. Our songwriting process is pretty unique I think; at least as it pertains to other music projects I've been involved with or seen firsthand. I should start off by saying that both Mark and I have very strong personalities; we both have an Alpha Dog mentality, which as I'm sure you can guess has the potential to get us into a lot of trouble working together. When we first decided that we wanted to write music together we knew that some ground rules needed to be established to avoid any Spy vs. Spy action that may arise.

A new song usually starts out with one person bringing a riff, melody, or lyrics to the table, the same way every other band out there in the world usually does it. The person with the initial song idea is considered the "parent." What that means is that this person ultimately has the final word. If we both have different ideas about a particular part of the song and it doesn't look like either of us is going to budge, the "parent" ultimately gets to decide what will happen. It makes things much easier that way. Egos do get bruised, but we manage to get past it pretty quick.

I should also add that we try to flush out any and all ideas that come out; regardless of how stupid they may end up being. That includes "styles" of music. It just so happens that we're getting pretty comfortable writing this kind of music, but that doesn't mean that a death metal song or two isn't on the horizon. [grins] But we'll probably "brand" the other music that doesn't fit in with the current Din Within "mold" as another project, just to avoid confusion for the people who latch on to what we've done so far.

In past projects I was very quick to dismiss other band member's input if my initial knee-jerk reaction to their suggestion was negative. In retrospect this was a stupid thing to do, and certainly not a lot of fun for my band mates, but that's how I was back in the day. Mark probably wasn't as "in your face" in his bands as I was in mine, but I'm sure his situation was relatively similar. In this project we make sure that we spend as much time as necessary so the person with the idea feels that we've given it all we can. This does sometimes have a tendency to sidetrack us, but it's all about the journey, not the destination, after all! There have also been a few times where taking the extra time to explore these ideas has actually paid off very well for us.

JT: I've enjoyed all the samples on the web site, but overall, I find the long epic is best. It flows very well and introduces a vast number of catchy melodies. Out of the songs you've already put together, what's your favorite?

JS: That song ? "Better Than Before" - is my favorite as well. I really enjoy working in a linear songwriting format. Dream Theater was very good at this on the Images And Words album, and that's kind of where I got it from. For example, in the second verse I wanted to change the music slightly from the first verse. The lyrics are different from verse to verse, so why shouldn't the music be as well? Mark didn't have a problem with it, so away we went.

I had a good amount of the music before I presented it to Mark. Mostly it was a bunch of miscellaneous riffs and ideas I had recorded into my computer. As I started going through the music I had, I realized that many of the parts fit together quite well. When I stuck them together into one idea and brought it to Mark he quickly added his own personality to it, and it didn't take very long after that to have a completed song.

Lyrically, BTB was fun as well. There's a good mixture of comedy, irony, and concept. It's the first time that I really worked on allusion and strong imagery; all of my lyrics in the past were just crap! To be honest, it's the first time I really spent a lot of energy on what I wanted to say. I'm certainly not saying these lyrics are worthy of Bob Dylan praise, but I'm pretty happy with them. Mark more or less forced me to write the lyrics by myself, and I'm glad that he did. It's also the first time I ever sang lead vocals on a song.

We have a new song almost completed - yet untitled - that is another epic. It's about 12 minutes long and I'm pretty sure when it's done I'm going to have a hard time deciding which one I like better, "Better Than Before" or this new one.

JT: I hear a lot of influences in your music; mostly I'd say Spock's Beard. I find a hint of Dream Theater below the surface as well. Who would you say are your musical influences?

JS: How much time do you have? [laughs] I have such diverse tastes; it's hard to just pick out a few. I'll try, however; just remember that you did ask?

I would say that Scott McGill (my guitar teacher) and the group Rush have had the two most profound influences on me. I can't even begin to tell you how much Scott has taught me and helped to shape me as a player and musician. His band McGill/Manring/Stevens ("MMS" - with drummer Vic Stevens and bassist Michael Manring) is, in my opinion, hands-down the best fusion band out there. They cannot be touched.

I wish I could give you a solid answer when it comes to Rush; they just ARE the greatest band ever. They had an instant effect on me the first time I heard them and I never stopped liking them. Spock's Beard is a huge influence as well; I think that's quite obvious from our music. I think Neal Morse is a musical genius, and the music he wrote when he was in SB is nothing short of brilliant. Dream Theater was big for me back in the early 90's, when I was practicing for hours and hours every day. John Petrucci's guitar played has definitely been etched into my mind permanently. They kind of dropped off a bit for me in terms of my musical tastes, but I can't deny their influence on my playing and writing. It's nice to see them finally get the recognition they deserve, and they're all extremely nice people to boot. You couldn't ask for a better combination than that!

I'm also a huge jazz fan, so you can include Miles, Coltrane, Wes Montgomery, Herbie Hancock, Pat Martino, Joey DeFrancesco, Hank Mobley, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, and just about every other Blue Note hard bop jazz artist from the 50's and 60's. In college I was a classical music major (guitar), so you also need to include Beethoven, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartok, Webern? most of the contemporary composers.

Who else? King's X, Bjork, BT, Opeth, Pantera, Living Colour, Allan Holdsworth, Pat Metheny, the Beatles (of course), Slayer, King Diamond, Queensryche? all of them shaped me musically in some way. Kevin Gilbert is a recent addition, thanks to Mark. A masterful lyricist and most definitely my biggest lyrical inspiration.

JT: When did your involvement in music begin?

JS: I basically started when I was in 5th grade with the saxophone. I don't really remember why I didn't stick with it. My dad used to noodle around on the guitar when I was growing up, and my mom loved to sing, so music was always in the house. Around 12 years old I got into guitar and drums, and just gravitated to the guitar.

My only real musical regret is that I never learned piano. Certainly of no fault to my parents, but I wish I had started taking piano lessons at a very young age. Oh well? there's something to be said for shedding on the guitar, so I shouldn't complain. [grins].

JT: Everybody in your band is so talented. How did you stumble across such talented musicians?

JS: Thank you very much. Our "band" is really just Mark and myself; we both pretty much play everything on our songs, with the occasional guest appearance here and there. Whoever is best suited to handle a particular part gets to record it.

Mark and I met in college. I was in a band with one of Mark's best friends, and that's how we met. It wasn't until very recently that we ever worked on music together. I think we were both lucky in that our musician friends were both very talented and very supportive. I can remember spending hours in the lounge of the music building in college, exchanging riffs, having little guitar battles, talking about theory? I guess it really was just luck.

JT: Can you recall any Spinal Tap moments that have occurred in your musical career?

JS: [sigh] Yes, I have a particularly good one that all of my friends enjoy reminding me about. Back in the 90's Mark was in a prog power trio that had a gig at one of the local clubs in Jersey. His guitarist (Scott - also a good friend of mine) wanted to borrow my guitar cabinet, so of course I was happy to lend it to him. After the show he gave the cabinet back to me. I put it in the trunk of my hatchback (THE gigging musician's car at the time) and was getting ready to shut the hatch and head home. Scott said to me, "Dude, I don't think the cabinet is in the trunk well enough; I don't think it's going to clear the hatch." Being the egotist that I am, I shrugged him off, telling him that I'd put this cabinet in my trunk a million times with no problem. I'm sure I said "Dude!" about 300 times during the conversation as well.

Anyway, wouldn't you know that when I shut the hatch I heard the wonderful sound of glass shattering? I managed to completely destroy the rear windshield of my car because the cabinet wasn't put in correctly after all. There's nothing like getting out the trash bags and duct tape at three in the morning to fix a broken car window.

Needless to say I still haven't lived it down thanks to my friends ? I also no longer have large guitar cabinets as a result.

JT: I'd like to get an idea of some of your current tastes. What's the last CD you purchased?

JS: The last CD I purchased was Live At Mt. Fuji by Gonzalo Rubalcaba. I'm waiting for the new Porcupine Tree CD to come out later this month, so that will be my next purchase.

JT: What is the last concert you attended as a fan?

JS: I just saw McCoy Tyner last week in Philly; an absolutely amazing musician and a living legend. I also recently just saw Herbie Hancock and Dave Brubeck recently. The best concert I ever saw was the recent Rush tour. Three hours of music spanning their entire career. It was worth sitting outside during the torrential downpour to watch and listen to.

JT: I would like to ask you about some of your favorites.

JS: Go for it.

JT: What is your favorite album?

JS: Bah! I hate this question. [laughs] I honestly don't think I could just name one. How about I cheat and give you a few at the top of my list?

Rush - Hemispheres, Grace Under Pressure, Moving Pictures
Scott McGill - Everything he's done (Hand Farm, Ripe, Addition By Subtraction, Controlled By Radar)
Spock's Beard - V, Snow, Day For Night
Opeth - Blackwater Park
Bela Bartok - Six String Quartets
Arnold Schoenberg - Six Little Piano Pieces
Bjork - Post
King's X - Gretchen Goes to Nebraska
Pat Martino - Live at Yoshi's
Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue, 'Round Midnight
Wes Montgomery - Smokin' At The Half Note
Herbie Hancock - Maiden Voyage
Living Colour - Vivid
Allan Holdsworth - Wardenclyffe Tower, Secrets
McCoy Tyner - The Real McCoy

There are a million more.

JT: What is your favorite band?

JS: Scott McGill (solo and with MMS) and Rush. Everyone else is a relatively distant second.

JT: I would like to ask about some favorites that are not specifically related to music in order to get an idea of some other outlets that might influence your music. What is your favorite movie?

JS: Seven Samurai. Anything by Kurosawa, actually?

JT: What is your favorite TV show?

JS: West Wing, Law And Order, Whose Line...

JT: What is your favorite book?

JS: Nelson DeMille is my favorite author, so I would have to say probably The Charm School . Values For A New Millennium by Dr. Robert L. Humphrey would be a very close second.

JT: I have a quirky question that I like to ask. It helps me to identify with the artist. Do you have any pets?

JS: Nope. I don't spend enough time at home to justify owning a pet. I don't think it's fair to leave a pet alone and unattended all day long, unless maybe fish. If I did have the time, however, I would love to have a dog.

JT: Before we wrap up, is there anything you would like to say to your fans at this time?

JS: Fans? You mean our families and friends? I talk to them all the time! [laughs] Seriously, though? I'm not sure how much of a fan base we have right now, but to anyone that's heard our music and liked it I would definitely like to thank them for taking the time to listen to our stuff. It's nice to know that some people dig what we're coming up with.

The music industry is a shell of its former self, unfortunately, so it's nice to know that there are still outlets available to fans of progressive music.

JT: Thanks again for taking the time to perform this interview.

JS: Thank you very much. Great name, by the way? [smiles]

JT: Great job on those tracks and good luck with the official release. I'm looking forward to hearing it.

JS: Ah, you're too kind. Thanks!

You can read Joshua's review of some of those samples he mentions here: Din Within - Site Samples.

[The duo released Awaken The Man in 2007; in 2015 it appears they're working on new material -ed.]


Added: April 19th 2005
Interviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner

Artist website:
Hits: 1935
Language: english

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