Power of Metal: How's the tour going so far?
Tommaso Riccardi: Great. I would say this is one of the first times we're actually doing a tour with an old school death metal band. We've done many tours but I'd say this is the more death metal in some way because we played most of the shows with Origin, too, and there's Vital Remains and Kataklysm. I see there's a great reaction and we're also reaching some of the old school death metal fans that we maybe didn't reach before because we did other tours here but... I mean Summer Slaughter was a mixture between a lot of people.
PoM: You were on the Summer Slaughter tour?
TR: Yeah, last year and in between there were more metalcore bands and some old school metal bands. Then we did Decapitated. Actually, the first one we did with Suffocation was really... I mean, Suffocation is like a legend on that side but we still had a very varied package. This year, this is the most death metal package that weíre doing, I'd say.
PoM: In Harm's Way I believe is playing with you tonight.
TR: On this package?
TR: I don't know.. a local band?
PoM: Yeah. I think they're power metal.
TR: Every day we have a lot of different bands playing so it's pretty rare that we know it before (we play). You're always aware of what's happening in the package but rare that you get information the particular day in one place. This is also very good because we're sharing the bus with Kataklysm and we're having a very good relationship with these guys. I think they're amazing, really.
PoM: How has the US received the new album so far compared to the other countries?
TR: Great, actually. For now US is probably the biggest market that we have all over. I mean it's going very good in Europe, too, and Japan is doing very good - Southeast Asia it's also been doing very good. We have a lot of friends on facebook from Indonesia... a lot of fans who are liking the band so we know that it's very good even down there. But for now, North America in general, so US and Canada still remains the main market and we actually worked a lot on the road here because this is the 4th tour for this album and maybe the 5th or 6th in total. In one year we played the Summer Slaughter, Decapitated and Decrepit Birth and we did All Shall Perish in April and then this one. I see that it's growing every time. It's growing and people from here... The reception of the album has been great, both from the fans and from the webzines and press in general. The label is very happy about our work and actually the sales are good. I think we were trying to do our best but maybe we expected a little less than this, so this is better than expected and it's a really good thing.
PoM: So you've surpassed the goals you've set for this album, for Agony?
TR: Yes, yes.
PoM: Do you feel the orchestras set you out from other brutal death metal bands?
TR: I wouldn't say the point is just the use of the orchestra because there are a lot of bands who are starting to have this symphonic element, if you want to call it like that.
PoM: So brutal death metal is not a good definition for this band, you would say?
TR: No. (laughs) Let's go with the first part first and then this one. (laughs)
TR: In regards to the differences, I would say now itís starting to be more usual that you see these music mixing up with some orchestral elements, but I think that probably what is different here is the fact that the use of the orchestra is a bit different because obviously orchestra is one thing. Itís like using many other instruments in one song so you have a lot of options but it doesnít mean that you are doing something symphonic, just because you are using orchestra. Weíre trying to bring it into a symphonic level in the sense that even if we need to break a lot of rules that there are in classical music, on the other hand we try to insert a lot of these rules into our music. This means that the melody and the harmony structure is inspired especially by romanticism and neo-classicism.
Orchestra can also be used in a very... I mean youíre playing metal and thereís a lot of bands that use keyboards before that but now orchestra is like an evolution of keyboards so the sound is better because you can recognize the instrument and it sounds more real. We are also trying to bring the whole thing into something that is like I would say, neo-classical and romantic. Even with guitars, what happens in the rhythmic section is actually inspired on that side. Weíre playing death metal from the rhythmic point of view but both guitars and sometimes vocals and obviously some sections of the orchestra, are trying to work in a more neo-classical way. And you know, weíre just trying to push in that direction because this band is based on this idea. So itís not something that came out just after but it started like this. In that effect, Oracles and Mafia werenít including the orchestras in the songs, it was just the matter of time because we needed to do an evolution in this idea. But obviously, when you listen to Oracles, it is more death metal and still you can hear these new classical elements in the songs. Even if the guitars win the elements, not the orchestra. Now weíre trying to build up a bigger set but the idea and the basis are the same.
PoM: That answers most of my questions so thatís good.
TR: (laughs) Oh yeah because you asked for the definition of the music...
PoM: ...no, I had other questions that I wouldíve asked but you already gave the answer to them. So what bands are you usually compared to?
TR: You mean from the audience or...?
PoM: Yeah, from all listeners, fans...
TR: I see that there are a lot of comparisons with bands like Septic Flesh, I always see their name next to ours. Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth obviously, I think bands will always be put next to our name because there are two elements. The first one is the epic part of the music. These bands all have this epic approach to the music and the visual part. We try to, obviously we donít have all the money and the possibilities that we would like to have to do all the shows we should do. It would take time because we are a very young band. We try in any case to bring this visual in the show. To us, a show is not just going and playing, itís a show. It should be theatre in some way. All the show is structured in a certain way and every one of us is like an actor on the stage and itís a concept that brings us closer to bands like Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth because thatís the concept. To bring something that goes from the beginning to the end, like one big thing. Itís like watching a movie in some way.
PoM: Like a story...
TR: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
PoM: Who is the doing the female operatic vocals in The Egoism? Is it Myst from Luca Turilli's Dream Quest?
TR: Her name is Veronica and she is a friend of ours. She just did it for... I would say for fun. We just needed to do that and she was very happy to work with us because actually sheís very good. She studies music and sheís into the music itself. We were friends with her since before the album and then when we came up with this idea, we asked her to do this part because we were happy to introduce her name into this thing and I think it turned out really well.
PoM: How do you approach song writing for your music? Does it start with a specific idea and then develop around it or is it more free thought?
TR: I would say itís a combination of the two things. We never work without having a vision of the whole thing. We exactly know what weíre going to do, how and when to have the final result that is the album. Starting from the music, going through the image and going to the sound that we should have and even the promotion weíre doing on the music right after doing the album and starting the tour. All the paths are one big thing and there are always these two sides. On one side, we know which is the final idea. On the other side, we start working on it and while working on it we start understanding how we could image it, if thereís a need to change something to reach the same impression. Even if we thought we could do it in another way. Specifically the composers in this case are Francesco, our drummer, and the other Francesco, the keyboardist. Itís like a parallel work. Francesco (Paoli) is more into structuring the whole idea and the main idea, the basis of the songs, of the riffs because he also plays guitar.
PoM: So itís more guitar-centric?
TR: No, I wouldnít say that. For example, in Agony, the two Francescos - they work together starting from the main themes. I always repeat that there is always a concept that comprehends the whole thing. The distribution of everything into the album is like architecture and itís made from the first to the last song. There is nothing that is reasoned just for one song because if itís just one song, there is a reason, then there will be something else, somewhere else - that will recall that. Itís all like a labyrinth I would say, so itís all connected. They worked for example, in that case, starting from the main themes... So from the orchestral part, everything else was adapted to that. Sometimes obviously itís the opposite. It depends on the feeling of one song. For example, if you listen to the Egoism, there is a mid-tempo in the album. That one comes more from a guitar riff and you can hear it; Itís more riffy in some way. Now weíre always trying to find the right balance between the two things because we need to keep both things: to give a metal feeling in the music - even from the rhythmic point of view - and keeping the epicness of the orchestra and everything around it.
PoM: What or who are your influences in composing musically and lyrically?
TR: I would say we always have to make this distinction even if we mix it in the end. Regarding the more death metal part, I would say for some reason, especially rhythmic reason but also how the riffs are structured, even if we are melodic... Iíd say our inspiration comes more from the American side of death metal. From Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide and Vital Remains, thatís the more classic and thereís more after that but obviously death metal is one of the two big parts of this music. Even in Europe there have been a lot of bands that I think influenced us like Vader, Behemoth... You know, you just listen to music and translate what you hear into what you feel so thatís pretty natural.
From the point of view of classical music, I think the kind of progressions... even if you canít say that they are that kind of progressions, as I was saying, you need to break the rules of classical music to adapt it to metal because you could never respect everything thatís in there. I think it comes especially from the romantic period so Mozart, Beethoven, a lot of Italian composers like Paganini, Verdi - a lot of that in it. I think Paganini is the part of our music that comes out when you start hearing all the solos and all the shredding parts because Paganini had a lot of technicality. Also, especially in Agony, I hear that we have a lot the modern composers in composing themes for movies, in motion pictures like Danny Elfman, John Williams, Howard Shore... Thatís the most Hollywood part of the music when you hear the chorus, the melodies and themes. Sometimes it reminds me a lot of this kind of music.
PoM: What's the plan after this tour?
TR: The plan? (laughs) If we say that there is a plan because in this job thereís never a plan. I mean we try to, we try to have a plan, but sometimes you can never say 100% because it could happen that you come back home, you start writing or whatever and then a big proposal comes up for some other tours and you do that. I would say what weíre trying to do after these last two years since weíve been touring all the time is to go back and work very hard, pretty constantly if possible for the new album. We need time because we want to do it well and better than before. Thatís always the focus and Agony has been very good and weíre really proud of the work but in that case, we had a lot of rush so we had to be very fast. Iím sure weíve left something that can be completed and be better, but thatís nature because you keep on being interested in music, listening, understanding your mistakes and understanding the good things you did. We just want to go back and work on the new album and hopefully try to finish before spring or next summer.
PoM: You want it to be better you said. How different do you think it will be?
TR: (laughs) I cannot say. Who knows? We have to wait and see what happens. There are so many aspects that are even harder to explain which makes us think that, ĎOkay, we can do this, we can change this...í But every time itís a surprise because the process is very long and it starts from the main idea, goes to the writing, the arrangements and into the studio - where many things change still. Even if you had a great idea because then what you hear in the studio is different. The feeling is different and you start even changing something, maybe.
What I can say is that we have a main focus that is doing good music as much as possible and doing good shows as much as possible, making this idea grow in all aspects. You can always expect something new, always. That doesnít mean that weíll leave anything behind because what works and whatís beautiful will be always kept and will possibly evolve in the next works. We feel that we will never be just stuck there because that would make no reason to do that.
PoM: I think thatís all I have for you but one last one.
PoM: Any message to your fans and our readers?
TR: Yes. I try to say every time... Thank you, because you support music and keep supporting music. Especially support good music because itís very easy (laughs)... to fall into the mistake of confusing good music with what is in fashion. Good music is good music and it doesnít mean that it should be metal, or classical, jazz or dance music, itís exactly the same thing. The main thing is it has to be good music because we need to make things grow, in any case. Itís important to give support to the right things. Iím sure that everybody can recognize what is good from what is bad.
PoM: Thatís why we are here. Thank you so much.
TR: No problem. Thank you.