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Gandalf's Fist

Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Dean and Luke from Gandalf’s Fist from 2011


Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music - both individually and as a band?

Luke: I’ve been writing lyrics since I was 16, mixed with creating my own stories and characters; I've always been very imaginative.

Dean: I've been involved in a lot of different musical endeavours over the years and started out, like most people, in a covers band and did a few charity gigs here and there. Myself and Luke have known each other for years and would sit in the pub talking about music as well as coming up with ridiculous plot lines for films.

When we put together Gandalf's Fist it kind of let us combine the two!

MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Luke: Probably working in McDonalds, flipping burgers.

Dean: To be able to afford to actually do Gandalf's Fist, we still have to hold time daytime jobs, so I'd probably be doing exactly the same as I am now, only I'd be more miserable. In order to satisfy my need for creative outpouring I'd probably resort to creative writing, at which point, I would be laughed out of the publishers and severely flogged in the corner of the nearest Waterstones.


How did the name of the group originate?

Luke: On a night out, a girl asked us what we did, we said we were in a band and that band was called “Gandalf's Fist,” thank you Mr. Todd.

Dean: The way I see it this is true to a certain extent. Although I'm fairly sure I came up with the name, although Luke has credited Toddy, which to be fair, is the kind of thing Toddy used to come up with. Todd is one of our friends and was our flatmate about six or seven years ago as well. He had the uncanny knack of coming up with ridiculous nicknames and the unparalleled ability of making them stick. The best thing about this particular story is that we weren't actually in a band at the time, and the only pertinent piece of information regarding to this yarn is whether it was me, or Todd that spawned the moniker, was the lass was having none of it!

Who would you see as your musical influences?

Luke: Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater.

Dean: Yep, all of the above. I've always described my guitar style as heavily influenced by both David Gilmour and Adrian Smith from Iron Maiden, both of whom have an excellent sense of melody. As far as other prog bands that Luke hasn't mentioned, I'd also throw Jethro Tull into the hat, especially on our first album, there was a lot of Anderson-like whisper going on!

MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Luke: Another album based on the story of the Hobbit, plus our Christmas EP. I will also be trying to finish my book, on which the first album is based on.


Dean: As Luke says, we've stayed away from middle-earth songs for about four years now, so we think it's about time we went back and did maybe an EP of songs. We might combine it with our Christmas release, which we've already written for the most part. It's a light-hearted album with some really crazy re-workings of classic songs. As well as this, we've actually got about 30 minutes of orchestral music that we actually cut, for creative reasons, from Road to Darkness. It just didn't fit the mood of the album but sounds really cool in its own right. It won't be long before we dust that off and do something with it, no doubt!

MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
Luke: Progressive folk rock! But who knows what that actually sounds like when we get into the studio?

Dean: I don't mind being pigeonholed. If the pigeon's fine with the timeshare then it's cool with me. I think it's fairly obvious that because of our influences we're always going to fall under the banner of “prog rock,” but we approach each of our recording projects on a song-by-song basis - there is no "progressive agenda." We just write the music that fits the song.

MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Luke: We would love to collaborate with some power houses of prog, maybe Wakeman or Steven Wilson

Dean: I'd be wary of Luke approaching Wakeman because I know for a fact that he would try and steal his cape. He's hit the nail on the head with Steven Wilson, though. The man's both a genius and a workaholic.  If anyone says they don't like his material then they obviously haven't listened enough as it's almost a never-ending stream of work... and I love it all!

MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Luke:  I think that the world needs to be realistic, illegal downloading will happen no matter what. I think free radio type sites such as Spotify are the way for people to get music to the masses, where sites like Napster were prosecuted in the past, I don’t see such a case coming before the courts in the future.


Dean: I think there’s a few things to consider, I think the "try before you buy" approach seems to be the socially acceptable approach to downloading of music, and I can sympathize with that. The amount of times I’ve bought an album on the basis of a mixtape someone made me... I don't ever remember paying for the tape...


On the basis of "stealing,” I think it's different for huge artists like Metallica than it is for independent artists such as ourselves. It's still stealing, don't get me wrong but if you illegally download Master of Puppets then it’s the equivalent of walking into HMV and sticking a copy down your trousers. Whereas if you download one of our albums without paying, it's the equivalent of actually breaking into my house and stealing a copy from the cardboard box in my spare room. Which would be incredibly stupid as I've got quite a nice TV worth nabbing downstairs.

MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
Luke: For bands like us, people sharing our shows is a positive thing, but shaky handy cam shots of people’s arms and backs of heads, shouldn’t be a threat to high quality DVD releases.


Dean: Yeah I agree, it's totally different. Often for me the appeal of a bootleg is that it's something unique that the band hasn't released, a live acoustic set from the foothills of Antarctica  - if you weren't at that gig should you, as a fan, be denied that experience? The people who trade shows often are the "completeists" of a band's fanbase, they already own every album, single and picture disc, they've bought the various incarnations of "The Best of..." umpteen what's the problem?

MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Luke: I would have to say that an army of R&B and hip hop stars would be our enemies. That stuff is awful, really music for the masses with lyrics about booty and hos, we'd baffle them with stories of wizards and dwarfs. Then probably just wait till they got bored and started fighting over the new Cheryl Cole revelation. Then go down to the pub.


Dean: First off, is it “dwarfs” or “dwarves?” Answers on a raven please! Actually, Luke is a great musical nemesis in his own right. Really. I've seen him dressed in a crudely fashioned Mexican wrestler’s costume, with a cape fashioned from a tablecloth (watch out Wakeman), striking both terror and bemusement into festival campsites.


Other than that... if there's anyone out there reading this that makes that techno-chipmunk music that charvers listen to at full volume on the back of the bus... you sirs are marked as my nemesis!

MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Luke: Kai Hansen from Gamma Ray would have to have an axe to churn out the riffs, Bruce Dickinson on vocals, John Bonham hitting the skins, Jon Lord on they keys and Roger Waters on the bass and as chief songwriter. I think this band would be loud, and sound nuts!


Dean: Wouldn't it be great to see a true prog supergroup? Gilmour, Fripp, Emerson, Peart, Geddy Lee, all get my vote - the occasional Ian Anderson flute cameo, all nicely produced by Steven Wilson... if only!

MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
Luke:  I'd actually just want to see Kiss do a 12-hour set. In fact, I got really drunk at Graspop a few years ago and experienced that already.


Dean: Hmmm... there'd be Floyd, Tull, King Crimson, Gabriel era Genesis, Porcupine tree and all rounded up by a Led Zep reunion. Gandalf's Fist wouldn't be playing at all... we'd be in front row and centre.

MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Luke:  Listening to loads of Ayreon, Steve Wilson, and the last albums I bought were Blind Guardian and the new Maiden, although have been listening to the new Saxon album too.


Dean: The last album I bought was Welcome to my DNA by Blackfield. It’s a bit different to Blackfield 1 and 2 but I really like it. I listened to it loads on a recent flight from Tokyo and it's etched into my inner ear at the moment! I tend to have a really slow rotation of music, especially the CDs that I keep in the car so I really get into specific records due to sheer laziness of not changing the CD! At the moment I've been listening to Riverside's Second Life Syndrome a lot, a bit of Beardfish and I've really been getting into Abigail's Ghost lately - great band. You can hear a lot of Porcupine tree influences in there - always a good thing!

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Luke: The Wise Man’s Fear, also the Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks.


Dean: The last book I read was actually a Zombie-romance novel called "Warm Bodies.” Which sounds crap but had a lot of dry wit and I enjoyed it immensely! It gave me a lot of good tips on going out on the pull should I ever find myself a chieftain among the army of the undead!

MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Luke:  A tribute night to powerhouses of British heavy metal. Just got drunk and pretended that they were the bands from their hey day.


Dean: I went to see Saxon and Wolfsbane at Whitehaven. Good gig. Wolfsbane were excellent and Blaze is such a friendly guy to talk to as well. Was asked to open for his solo band in a different capacity last year but couldn't oblige due to unforeseen reasons so it was good to finally get round to meeting him!

MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Luke: We've already heard some mentions of what I get up to at festivals so ... no comment

Dean: I've seen some strange things over the years... at Donnington Park I once saw a tin of pineapple chunks actually spontaneously explode and nearly take someone’s eyebrows off. Bizarre. But on stage the most “Tap” moment was when the drum kit actually started to fall to bits during a song - a tom-tom came flying off the rack and the metal rim actually sliced through my guitar cable split seconds before my guitar solo. To this day I have no idea how that actually happened. I bet if they tried to copy it on that Myth Busters show it would never work!

MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Luke:  Henry the eighth, I reckon that man could pack away some food, plus six wives. I bet he'd have some stories! Ozzy back in the day, when he saw fairies and danced in the court of the twilight king! For balance I’d want to have a real straight lace, maybe Chaucer. Now there was a word smith!


Dean: I think I'd invite the Prime Minister David Cameron. Then I'd invite Scarlett Johansson and Evangeline Lilly off of that TV show Lost. Surely sitting next to the most boring man on the planet will make me appear like the master of charm...


I'd also have to hire extra security to stop Chaucer trying to crash my party after fleeing Luke’s sausage-fest.

MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Luke: Hog roast and mead! A proper medieval banquet, Henry and Geoff would be right at home!

Dean: Wine for me and the ladies. And a dry crackerwheat to keep Dave amused.

MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Luke: I love the ideas we’re throwing around for the next album. We're always thinking. We're always planning and looking forward to bringing more music to our fans.


Dean: All in all, I’m really excited for the future and have a really good laugh creating Gandalf's Fist material with Luke so I can't wait to start our next project! I'm also really proud by the positive feedback Road to Darkness is getting from the prog community and I hope more people take the time to discover some independent artists like us. There's some great stuff out there!

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at
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