Rhapsody Of Fire interview (12/2013)
|Conducted by:||R Lewis (skype)|
Rhapsody Of Fire
We had the chance to chat with Alex Staropoli, keyboardist, founder and main composer of the mighty Rhapsody Of Fire. We talked about the split with co-founder Luca Turilli and the band's new album Dark Wings Of Steel.
Luigi: Hi Alex. Let's start with the years 2011-12. There's been a lot of speculation around it and you often confirmed its friendly nature, so let's close the topic of the split with Luca, Dominique and Patrice with your own last words.
Alex: Yes, the split was friendly; in fact, I know Luca since I was 17 and he was16 years old. The issues were related to the working process: after all these years, we decided not to continue working together, because the understanding, the "magic" was no more. We could have continued, but we wanted to be honest and so we decided to go separate ways. Regarding Patrice (ed. bass) and Dominique (ed. guitars); Luca wanted them in his band, while I was more or less indifferent, because I already had the idea of renewing the band. Also because having a German drummer (ed. Alex Holzwarth) already, I searched for band members who lived nearby.
Luigi: Someone asserted that the split was already decided after the end of the Emerald Sword Saga, but you decided to continue with the Dark Secret Saga and then split. Is this true?
Alex: Not really. We started talking about our "difficulties" a long time ago, but we made the decision only a few months before the news came out. Sometimes the pros of remaining together were winning, sometimes they got beaten by the cons, but we always worked in a friendly and professional way to carry on - to the end of the saga. Having also signed with Nuclear Blast, with the release of The Frozen Tears Of Angels, it was a really exciting period. Then, having ended the saga, we decided to split.
Luigi: And what about Tom Hess' hit and run? (ed. Tom Hess was the band's guitarist from 2011-2013) Was his leaving a consensual decision or was he fired?
Alex: While Luca stayed in the band, all went well. Then, when Luca left, we toured and, to be honest, I didn't feel at ease with Tom. It was a matter of personalities and ideas, nothing concerning the music. The problem was the personal relations, both with me and with the rest of the band. It simply didn't work, I don't hold a grudge against him. We decided to go our separate ways.
Luigi: Talking with Luca after Luca Turilli's Rhapsody live show in Bologna, he told me that he had suggested for you to take Roberto De Micheli as a guitarist. Is it true? Moreover, the band's first demo, still under the name of Thundercross, was recorded with Roberto on guitar.
Roberto De Micheli
Roberto De Micheli
Alex: Well, when Luca suggested to me to bring Roberto in the band, I had already thought about it, and the decision had been quite obvious. Roberto and I lost sight of each other for a while; we met sometimes, but mainly casually. But when Luca suggested him to me, I agreed it was a great idea. Anyway, before making the decision I had to contact Roberto, renew our friendship and know something more about him. But after our first meeting, I had no doubts. Also, the fact he had already been in the band in the early days, helped me to decide.
Luigi: It's the first time in many years that the band has only one guitarist. Is Roberto going to remain the band's only guitarist or are you looking for a second one?
Alex: No. The band has five members. I never really liked having a sixth person on the stage, but Luca felt this need, and the result of having two live guitars is objectively cool. But now, I don't want a sixth member in the band; we already did some concerts with Roberto and the sound is actually more clear. Let's be honest; Roberto sounds like two guitarists.
Luigi: Let's talk about Dark Wings Of Steel. For the first time you were alone with the songwriting duties. How was it, and what did change since when you worked with Luca?
Alex: I think I'm also speaking for Luca when I say that I'm more relaxed and free in the composition process. This is really important, it is what I desired for a long time. The composition process is always mysterious, is always made of insights, sometimes of planning. The approach was more or less the same, but being more free, I could somewhat experiment with something different. I shared the composition duties with my brother (ed. Manuel), so there's also been a strong and exciting exchange of ideas.
Luigi: Regarding the lyrics; it seems like the era of the sagas has seen its end?
Alex: Yes, both for me and for Luca. This is a thing that had to come to an end, both the sagas and the concept albums. When I asked Fabio to write the lyrics, they obviously had to be magical, poetic, and dramatic as we always did; trying to create evocative images. Fabio did an incredible job. It was a period where we didn't have much time and also during such an intense period of recording, he managed to write the lyrics. He did a miracle, because I didn't know what to expect from Fabio as the lyrics writer for a whole album.
Luigi: Dark Wings Of Steel is your heaviest album ever. Was this your idea of how the eleventh Rhapsody Of Fire album should sound like, or did Fabio, the other band members, or your brother play a certain role?
Alex: It was mainly a desire of mine: I did thousands of orchestrations for every album, because that's what we wanted to do back then. We always had to sacrifice a little of the band's sound, especially the guitars, to have a majestic orchestra. It was impossible to fit everything in the music with that amount of orchestrations.
This time I wanted to start with powerful drums, a strong bass and heavy guitars. Then I filled the remaining space with arrangements, but without overwhelming the band. I wanted the real band's sound to be predominant.
Luigi: I would say, while Luca's playing seemed to follow and merge into the composition, Roberto's guitar work is a pillar around which each song is built.
Alex: Yes. Well, the tracks have been composed in different ways, but I wanted Roberto to be involved, so that his touch could be noticeable. Some songs that were originally born melodic, with the right guitars and mixing, became a lot more powerful.
Luigi: So far, how is the fan reception to Dark Wings Of Steel?
Alex: I have to say that it's really varied. Most of the reviews are really positive. Then there are some really radical ones; those who say it's our best album ever, and those who say it's the worst. In the end, it's always been like that with every album.
Luigi: Why did you leave Nuclear Blast and go to AFM Records? Did you and Luca decide to have different record companies or did you make this decision independently from the split?
Alex: We had a deal for two albums with Nuclear Blast, and then we also released the EP (ed. The Cold Embrace Of Fear - A Dark Romantic Symphony). Right after From Chaos To Eternity the deal was expired. Nuclear Blast, being more bound to Luca and having maybe more trust in his talent as a composer, since he had already done various projects with them, decided to work with him. I was OK with that decision, since I wouldn't have remained with the label anyway. I started searching for a new label, and then we started with AFM, testing each other while releasing the double live album. With Dark Wings Of Steel we started with the studio album.
Luigi: Since you already mentioned live performances; are you planning a new tour? Before the 2012 tour, it was nine years where you didn't play in "classic" countries such as Italy or France. Will you return there or will you choose other horizons to explore?
Alex: We're currently working with our booking agency All Access, who we work with since 1999, and we're considering various ideas. We should start in Europe in the beginning of 2014, then we'll try to return to the US, where the album (just as the previous ones) is being really successful, then South America and, if possible, Japan. Returning there would be a dream come true, since we played there for the first and only time in 2001.
Luigi: Rhapsody Of Fire is a band that "made it". Which advices would you give to a new band that wants to make a name for themselves in this difficult discographic market?
Alex: When Luca and I started, we asked ourselves: "What music would we like to hear which doesn't exist yet? How nice would it be to see a CD in a store, maybe with beautiful artwork, listen to it and discover a new world, a new music?"
With this idea in mind, we started composing, trying to create something completely new, with strong emotions; considering that no Italian heavy metal band had been famous outside of Italy, before us. Many laughed listening to our proposals. Then it all became true, with a lot of work, talent and also luck. I'd suggest to do something new.
Luigi: So, your key word is innovation?
Alex: Yes. It is important, but also difficult finding a musical genre you like and that the public could enjoy.
Luigi: The question is inevitable: did you hear Luca Turilli's Rhapsody's Ascending To Infinity, and what is your opinion regarding it?
Alex: I listened to it, even if I don't listen to a lot of new heavy metal releases, to be honest. I have an enormous knowledge regarding every musical genre: pop, rock, metal, soundtracks, classical, but I'm not a fan of contemporary heavy metal. The only band of these days I listen to is Alter Bridge, so I'm in trouble while trying to judge or comment on a band. I don't usually do it and I won't do it now.
Anyway, I listened to Luca's album, first of all because I was curious. And also because of Sebastian Roeder (ed. he mixed and edited the album), since he is our live sound engineer now instead of Sasha Paeth. So, I was curious to also check out also the quality of the production. But don't wait for a comment from me about the album. I'm happy for him, because he finally does what he wants and I know now he's happy, because he desired for a long time to do orchestral arrangements and keyboards.
Luigi: Great. Seems like the split has been the better thing for the both of you, since your two styles seem really incompatible.
Alex: Well, there's a strong difference. Luca chose the way of the orchestrations, of the ultra-polyphonic compositions we did for many years, and it's great to do, because in our genre it's difficult, but also gives an unique musical image.
I chose to give more strength to the band, because I couldn't stand it anymore having a strong live band with a weak studio output. I wanted to see how Rhapsody Of Fire sounded in a more "live" way.
Luigi: Cool. Time's up: your last words to your fans and to the Metal Storm readers.
Alex: Well, we're ready, right now, in this very moment, to play and to tour. We are five members, we're united and stronger than ever and we're definitely looking forward to being back on tour.
Posted on 09.12.2013 by
Hopefully you won't agree with me, diversity of opinions is what makes metal so beautiful and varied.
So... critics and advices absolutely welcome.
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