The Prog Report: USA

From Serbia to Berklee. That is the story of guitar virtuoso Alek Darson who has taken a long ride to get to where he is today.

His 2013 EP Panopticon, a diverse 6 song collection of guitar shred even got the attention of Dream Theater icon Jordan Rudess, who says of Alek, “Alek has a unique approach and sound. His music and guitar playing are incredible.” More recently, a newly released video for the song Sprocket has reintroduced the EP to the prog and metal community.

Alek, who grew up in Belgrade, Serbia started playing when he was 10 on his mom’s old nylon strong guitar. He says growing up in Serbia had a definite influence on him. “Belgrade has a very interesting geo-political position, as it’s serving like a bridge of sorts between the east and west, both logistically and culturally. My personal taste has always been toward the western culture, but Serbian musical tendencies are slightly different, more east-oriented, and if you’re a professional musician - there’s no avoiding them. I also enjoyed a lot of different genres from both streams, from classical to underground metal. This resulted in a quite unique tension in my creative process, which I feel and try to tame daily. Often it brings interesting results, so I consider myself lucky to have been born there.”

Growing up a fan of artists like Dream Theater, Steve Vai and Pat Metheny, inspired Alek to attend Berklee College of Music. “Attending Berklee College of Music was a dream of mine since I was a kid, as a good number of my musical heroes went there to solidify their musical foundation. At one point, the This dream became a reality thanks to my parents who were that generous to support me in my vision of going to the US and start building an international career. I’ve been living that dream ever since.”

The EP, Panopticon incorporates all of his influences and musicians from both Serbia and Berklee. “It all came from an idea I had back in 2010 about me and two other Serbian guitarists (Branimir Stojiljkovic and David Maxim Micic).” The trio started working on the album, but those initial production sessions fell through. A couple of the songs were kept in addition to a few new compositions, which, completed with other musicians, eventually became the EP.

It was then that Alek heard from Jordan Rudess. “He was kind enough to recommend my music to so much of his fans, as well as a few friends from the industry. Coming from my childhood musical hero, it still seems surreal when I remember seeing his video message on my phone saying how much he liked the album. He came to hear the album when my friend Eren Basbug (orchestrator for JR and DT) played him the whole album at a thanksgiving dinner. Eren had a great role in one of the songs on the release, as he orchestrated the string section and played a seaboard solo.” This led to an incredible experience where Alek was invited to share the stage with Dream Theater in the Boston Opera House, as part of the choir and orchestra from Berklee.

Alek, who is recently married, has been touring and is currently working on a new release for the fall of 2015. He is also putting a transcription boof of Panopticon which will be release with a package of backing tracks and detailed video lessons. Keep an eye out for the new album on www.alekdarson.com_. _

Roie Avin is the Editor of The Prog Report website.