"A part of what makes a piece of art beautiful is that it is one of a kind that is meant to be experienced a certain way"
Since the American Metalcore / Post-Hardcore / Screamo unit Alesana unveiled the second part of their "Comedy of Errors" music video / mini-movie, GMA decided it was about time to take the band to the grill and interrogate them via the use of pincers. The conclusion of this chapter highlights a critical turning point of "The Annabel Trilogy" (the story in which their three album concept was based on). "Comedy of Errors" (from the new full-length, "Confessions") and it's accompanying video series is complete with an intriguing storyline of love, mystery, and time travel.
Let the interrogation begin...
Overall how hard (or easy) was it to construct and release the "The Annabel Trilogy"? Will there be any more trilogies?
"The trilogy was definitely an involved venture but one that has been very rewarding. I think that over time fans, both new and old, will really begin to appreciate the level of care that went into writing these albums and stories this way. I've been finishing up the complete short story and it has reminded me just how cool and involved this idea was and how proud I am that we were able to stick with it and see it through."
As you guys call yourself 'Pop Metal', do you feel the term has had backlash over the years? Is there a stigma towards pop music that metalheads generally have?
"If there has been I have not witnessed it first hand. Genres are, and always have been, a way to categorize and pigeonhole art. On one hand, it allows for people to siphon through things and get to new things that they may appreciate more quickly. On the other hand, it causes pre-emptive opinions to be formed. For me, if somebody doesn't like my art or music solely because of a genre lent to it then that is most likely a person I wouldn't want to invite into our creative world anyhow."
You've just released your second part of the "comedy of errors" music video, would fans of your music need to listen to the trilogy to understand the mini-movies?
"It certainly wouldn't hurt. I would definitely recommend to anyone who enjoys the videos to try to submerge themselves into the whole universe that we have created."
What plans do you have for the year ahead? Any tours over in the UK / in Europe?
"This year we are scaling back and taking a break to focus on our families and some other ventures. You haven't heard the last of Alesana just yet, however."
What challenges do you feel up-and-coming bands these days face more than ever? Is social media too heavily relied upon?
"Social media is 100% too heavily relied upon. Back at the beginning of our career we were immersed fully in the MySpace revolution. It was a huge help for us but that is because we used it to compliment our grass roots approach, we didn't rely solely upon the internet. A lot of young bands these days write a record, record it, take some photos, slap everything on Facebook and Bandcamp, sit back and wait, and then wonder why their band isn't blowing up. Playing shows, meeting people, and building relationships both with new fans and other bands is so important and a point that I think too many bands are missing these days."
A Heavy Metal movie hasn't really been done before, so could you imagine a film being made with purely metal musicians acting out characters? If you could remake a film, what one would you choose and why? Who would act the parts?
"That sounds like a fun idea. I'm a huge fan of movies and good television and honestly I do not like remakes. A part of what makes a piece of art beautiful is that it is one of a kind that is meant to be experienced a certain way."
Finally have you got any hello's, greetings etc you wish to send out?
"Shout out to my entire Revival family of artists! You can check everything out at revivalrecs.com"
"Finland is a metal country, you know if you just go to a normal shopping mall you might hear Amorphis playing from the speakers, and that's like normal."
At Ensiferum's gig at the 02 Islington on 25th March, GMA found a moment to talk to vocalist and bassist Sami Hinkka about their tremendous 20 year career, their latest album "One Man Army", thoughts about Bloodstock, the fabled Eurovision question and of course many other things. The tour was coming to a close on the 25th and so understandably it was going to be a fairly emotional night, the tour was with their friends Metsatöll from Estonia (who we also interview) and was supporting the new album. As Ensiferum have been going over 20 years (as said), Sami gave us an insight into what the high and low points of the band's career have been so far:-
"(laughs), I'd say every show has been a high point of the career, low point? Erm, I guess for Markus the founder of the band, back in 2004 where there were a lot of line-up changes - those were the moments that kind of tested his faith". Since then the line-up has been solid for 10 years, and who knows if it will or wont change again (bands are constantly evolving). Thankfully Sami admitted that "Everything's working better than ever", so the prospect of a line-up change? Virtually zero chance.
Given the fact that "One Man Army" did exceedingly well across Europe having nabbed the coveted top 40 spot in four countries (Finland #1, Germany #15, Austria #37 and Switzerland #24), I asked Sami for his thoughts on whether metal music is or is not being accepted by the mainstream more nowadays or on the other hand is metal breaking newer ground?:-
"I guess so, it's kind of hard to say as a Finnish person because you know, Finland is like a 'metal country', you know if you just go to a normal shopping mall you might hear Amorphis playing from the speakers and that's like "normal". But yes I think in general metal of course is reaching new people, on the other hand all the young metalheads are getting older and they are having kids, and of course you teach them to listen to good music (laughs happily)". So is metal in the Finnish blood? "Yes! For some weird reason, I wish there would be like a really good 'deep' answer why there are so many metal bands coming out from Finland but I still don't have.... I just blame the long winter, nobody has anything better to do than sit in the rehearsal room and make music (laughs)".
Of course after making music, bands generally speaking go on tours and or play festivals to showcase their new stuff on the live half, so with Ensiferum having played Bloodstock last year, Sami shared his thoughts on the festival, question is would they ever contemplate going into Eurovision?
"Well we've played Bloodstock quite a few times already, it's honestly one of the best festivals in Europe, it's always a lot of fun and we have a lot of friends in the UK so it's always cool to see them. It's a professional festival where everything works and some of my friends have been there you know as guests. I've never been there myself, I've always been there just as a musician, but from my festival guests perspectives I've heard that everything works really well so, so keep up the good work!"
Sami gladly shared some tips for those unsigned bands or those new to the festival experience:-
"To be honest I don't really have an opinion about Eurovision (laughs), I haven't really followed anything what goes on in the pop culture in a way. It's OK if you like it, but I can't see Ensiferum doing it, we're.... nah, we trust in our own music so we don't need that kind of exposure"
As said the show that night is the last on the tour, so naturally Sami was happy to reflect on the past few weeks and share his thoughts. Additionally when speaking earlier about their landmark achievement of 20 years activity, has Ensiferum ever contemplated making a band documentary?
"We go home for around a week and then we go to a festival in Sweden, and a few weeks later we're going to hit the road with Fleshgod Apocalypse (IT) to do a European tour which is going to be fantastic! Then it's summer festival season, and for autumn and winter we have some special things coming up sorry I can't reveal anything yet, you know 'politics' about releasing dates and so on (hint there dropped?). All the time we try and work on new songs, we're hoping we can make the studio early next year and start the 'circle of life' again so, release the new album and do some touring around the world.
It looks pretty busy because we also did a few acoustic shows in Finland and they work out really well and is a lot of fun for us and for also fans, some people even said that they were the best shows they've ever seen from Ensiferum; they're like hardcore fans who have seen us like seven times, so maybe we also record some, there will be a lot of stuff that are like acoustic material so maybe we record acoustic things some day and it would be cool to do an acoustic tour actually. Metal Blade also kinda showed the green light for the new DVD's, so we also have to start working with that, so we're pretty busy for the next 20 years (laughs)!
Regarding the documentary:-
"Yes! At one point that was the plan, we actually started working with the new DVD already in 2010 and we shot some material and Markus the frontman of the band, he has LOTS of material of the early days, even from the very first show of Ensiferum when the guys were like 15 years old (chuckles), 'teenagers'. But yeah that would be so cool to do a good package with all kinds of history stuff, interviews with old members, stuff like that you know good material from all the 20 years, and then also have a really good show, some big venue with pyro's well you know a good show. But Spinefarm actually said that these days nobody actually buys DVD's, so let's put that on hold.
Now we changed the label to Metal Blade and I think it was around last Summer we were drinking with the guys, they were actually the ones to ask have you thought about a new DVD? We said yeah but nobody buys DVD's, they were like no no no no! So we talked about it a little bit and they are into making new DVD's so maybe some day, I'm absolutely sure that it's not going to come out this year but maybe when we turn 25 or something like that, but that's something we're working on. It's not the highest priority at the moment and the album will be.... (Sami gets lost in thought)... ah it's lost, I really like Metsatöll (basically Metsatöll were sound-checking downstairs and you could hear it through the double doors separating the stairwell (where we standing) and the auditorium)".
So we changed our conversation to Metsatöll, is it the first time they've played here?
"No they've been here (UK) before and I'm really happy that we got them on board, I can't really remember where we met the guys.... err no we did a few shows in Poland and just talking shit and drinking after the show, where we was telling them 'Oh we're going to the UK' and they were like 'Arrrr we really want to go there also and we're planning to go there, so we were like 'hey come on, let's unite forces' and so here we are. We're old friends and it's so cool to share a bus with them because they're old geezers like we are and then it's really mellow in the bus, most of the time, old men can party (chuckles) also but it's been a really nice tour", and so are Metsatöll realistically the best well-known band from Estonia? "Yes they probably are, well we always called them the 'Metallica of Estonia' (laughs)".
As with a handful bands in the past, I asked Sami a question that has pretty much become a stable household question within the GMA repertoire. Would you say that Metal lyrics (in Ensiferum's case folkloric) can be educational? Could metal lyrics generally demand a certain amount of intellect?
"In a way yes, when I write the lyrics of course I want there to be a point actually in the lyrics, so educational? Yes I hope so but on the other hand I never want to explain my lyrics too much, because like art in general there is no right or wrong and I think it would be really wrong to kind of tell the fans 'this song is about this, this and this', I want everyone to have the freedom of interpretation and if its just like a 'grab a beer and yeaaaaah into battle and just kill your f*cking enemies', but you can also find a deeper level if you want.
However the second part really stumped Sami:
"That's a really tough question because, I don't think art should be an elitist thing, that only this kind of music is for people who like jazz or something like this, it's just for people who really understand the music and all the theory, I have many friends who don't understand anything about music theory but they really like jazz, this was the first thing that came to mind. Even for me when I first heard this stuff I was like 'ah its so like.. artificial', something they're trying to be, something very artistic. But I am really happy that I went the whole circle and I really love the art nowadays, it just took some time for me to open my eyes and find some really good music. There shouldn't be IQ tests to be able to enjoy music, no matter what genre it is".
So how did Sami get into metal music, become a musician and keep himself active outside of playing music?
"I have to blame my big brothers, I grew up with AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath... that was just... those were my lullabies when I was a baby (laughs) and my other big brother he was an excellent guitar player oh when I was like 10 or something, and I just wanted to jam with him because it was so cool seeing him play "Stairway To Heaven", I was like 'awwwh that's so cool' and I really loved Iron Maiden already back then and Steve Harris was my god so, I thought 'hey' maybe I should start playing bass and he (Sami's brother) helped me to pick my first bass, taught me the first songs including 'Iron Man' (Black Sabbath), 'Comfortably Numb' (Pink Floyd) and of course 'Stairway To Heaven', those were the first songs.
Yeah from there on it was really natural to go to Metallica (he also got into some melodic band - could not quite catch the name), later on I got into much more, but also I think it's really good to have a wide horizon and keep your eyes (and ears) open, because the world is full of good music and nobody can be angry all the time you need all the scale, and as a musician it's really good to play different stuff and I think that's one of my strongest points as a musician, as a bass player that I played with so many different peoples, different kinds of music. Even when I started playing metal in my home town, the best musicians of all the guys were older than me and had a metal band. I hadn't heard any of the stuff that they listened to at that time but they were just the best musicians, it was so cool to play like them, it was challenging for me and I got into metal much later."
Sami had this parting message for various peoples:-
"I'd like to thank all the fans who came to the shows and in case you haven't heard the new album, check it out 'One Man Army' and hope to see you all soon and 'vittu perkele saatan' (is assumed what is said), it's cursing in Finnish" - make of it what you wish.
Ahead of Fleshgod Apocalypse's tour of the UK and after they had finished their USA stint, GMA initiated contact with and interviewed frontman Tommaso Riccardi through Skype. Having formed back in 2007 in the beautiful city of Perugia, Fleshgod Apocalypse have since then ramped up themselves year after year, delivering four extremely well-received albums:- Oracles (2009), Agony (2011), Labyrinth (2013) and their latest offering King (2016). All whilst playing all over the world supporting and headlining, last year they headlined the Sophie stage at Bloodstock to a packed-out tent and are kicking off their UK/EU tour today by performing tonight at The Audio in Glasgow (SCO).
After which they will play at three other UK venues in Manchester, Bristol and London before setting off rampaging across Europe. Where they will be performing in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Switzerland and of course Italy. After which their string of summer festival appearances take them to Germany, Belgium, France, Finland and Spain (all dates for the tours and festival appearances can be found here)
Let the interrogation begin!!!
"We never thought about it (Eurovision), that could be a good idea though I mean there are no restrictions on the music genres so you know it could be interesting to see what happens"
Having played in the US, Tommaso admitted he still felt the jet-lag from the whole tour (USA is at least an 8-hour flight from the UK; 5 hours behind, so you can understand). 'King' as said stands as the band's fourth album and was released earlier this year, so by asking for a background explanation to what is going on behind the lyrical content and what the artwork portrays, Tommaso was able to give a in-depth account to what makes the album not only what it is, but also tick.
He admits that the formula used for this albums is the same formula used for all FA albums, that is by having an idea as to what the band wants to sing about, they can break it down into smaller 'chapters', as for the artwork the "visual is strictly connected with the concept itself", essentially the artwork explains visually what the album concept is about, in fact FA likes to talk about "human beings in the terms of how our behaviour, our feelings reflect on the world we have around us and how these two different worlds: the outside world and the inner world influence themselves", essentially from this you can gather that FA are somewhat philosophical when it comes to the albums in question, whether it has to do with their Italian heritage is a question for another time.
In context with 'King' they became inspired and guided by modern societal influences but not of a political nature, adding that the band prefers to look at something in a purely philosophical way (this lead me onto thinking maybe FA could become the next band to be questioned if lyrics can be educational). Tommaso believes that people are becoming lost in modern society and in doing so getting addicted and hooked on needless things, adding that 'King' is on two different levels and Tommaso goes on to explain these levels:-
Two tracks that really stand out are: "Healing Through War" and "The Fool" and so Tommaso was pleased to explain the meaning behind each of those songs (you can watch and listen to "The Fool" below via YouTube):-
Next year the band will be ten years old, so speaking about how FA came about mixing classical elements with Technical Death Metal in the very beginning, Tommaso welcomed us into the Fleshgod Apocalypse-sphere as it were. The FA sound "came from a very simple intuition at the beginning" and "like every idea you have it's really a matter of experimenting and developing, and seeing where that idea can take you", with references harking back to their Italian background and subsequent heritage as Tommaso continues to explain:-
"Essentially in different ways we will have been fans or in any way have had influences also as kids by classical music, and of course all of us at that time were already into metal music (for a while having played in previous bands and projects), but I really think that the fact of this idea mixing it with classical music came simply from also our heritage. Of course being Italian is something that really makes it part in that we had also a lot of very important musicians and composers, so in a way it was really something that came from a very simple intuition, that then in due time of course to integrate all the different aspects and to understand the mechanism of our music and understand also the ways to reach a certain balance between all of these elements".
Because of this it would seem that the band arguably could have created their own genre as a result, but as Tommaso highlighted if you have an idea and you experiment and develop that idea, it can lead to things, but naturally the band did not set out to create a new genre because it had to be created, but rather as said, followed their instincts as Tommaso goes on to elaborate:-
"It's something that's never up to the musician himself to say because of course its feedback from people who support the band and listening to the music that's the most important thing. For sure we really tried to be as much as possible as original, but not in a way that meant we are just looking for something that has to be different just because, but simply I guess the fact that we incorporated certain elements, and the fact that of course those elements are obviously influenced simply by our own personality, in some way created something that at this point starts to be something that you can say 'OK this is Fleshgod Apocalypse'. I mean I guess that at this point there are certain elements that are recognisable as Fleshgod Apocalypse elements so we're just trying to keep on following this inspiration and this thought that we have, just trying to do our thing".
Speaking of doing their own thing, we had one of our readers ask a question some time ago about how fast (and if he has tested it) the FA drummer Francesco Paoli actually drums. At this question Tommaso delightfully chuckles and admits that Francesco unfortunately hasn't taken a 'drumming speed test' before going on to talk about said musician:-
"Francesco is really... I mean obviously he is a drummer at this point, but you always have to consider that Francesco is someone who started playing drums just because the band needed a drummer; he started in late 2008, previously as you know he was the vocalist and guitarist at the very beginning, but actually before we started touring. Then he decided to start studying drums, because it was a need of the band, so this is just to say that he's really a musician and not just an instrument player, that means that also his interest is always always the fact of giving the music what the music needs.
So actually it is true that he is probably one of the fastest drummers out there, but in the mean time he is not even that kind of 'nerd musician', he's really dedicated to the music and also the fact that he's the main composer and in a way he's like the 'artistic director' in Fleshgod Apocalypse, that gives you an idea of that he's a very transversal musician and he really does what is needed, so even for the speed and kind of techniques he uses, essentially the music requires it. I couldn't say how fast though, I guess what we really care about is the quality of the music and how the technique can be used to make music what it is."
Attention was then turned to (along the lines of 'quality of music') towards Francesco Ferrini, who in 2010 joined FA as the pianist and on orchestration:-
"He's (Francesco) been working with us actually since the beginning in the meaning that for example in "Oracles" we still didn't get to the point in which we had a full orchestration throughout the whole album, but we already had interludes and parts, orchestral parts and of course piano parts because already in "Oracles" for example the title track was a piano song and he was already working on that part of the music even before joining the band as a live member. Then from like late 2010 / beginning of 2011, he joined as a full member also in the live shows and of course since then and since "Agony" we actually introduced the full orchestration into the whole music. He started also working on composition and arrangements together with Francesco Paoli, so now it's these two guys that mainly work on the composition".
Consequently the first album that Francesco Ferrini appeared on was "Agony" and this partially formed the basis for the next question, well the other part was focusing on a specific track. One of the less aggressive songs that FA have put out, of which the music video matched the level of aggression exerted - virtually very little. 'The Forsaking' is a lovely number, it is piano-driven, full of dramatic twists and turns and as the music video goes (you can watch it below), the setting is rather majestic. Speaking about the venue, which presumably was in Perugia, I was wrong but wasn't completely far from the truth as Tommaso goes on to explain:-
"Yeah well nearby it's Città di Castello, that is like 60km (37 miles) from Perugia so yes it's in the area". What can you tell us about the venue and have you played there? "No actually we haven't, that's a theatre that is mainly used for ballet, opera and classical music, sometimes other kinds of music like jazz shows, it was really interesting that the piano that Francesco used to do all the private parts in the video is the piano that has been played a few years before by Michele Porchene (I am not sure of the name so I apologise if wrong) for example, so that is an Italian artist on piano and it has been played on by a lot of crazy musicians. But actually we've never played there, actually during tours we had the chance sometimes to play in actual theatres, but we still didn't play a full show in an ancient theatre like that and that's obviously something that could be suitable for future shows but also a live video, because I think it would be the perfect frame for one of our shows."
It's always cool to see bands play and perform in some of the most unorthodox of venues, be it a castle, theatre, church, vineyard (in Australia) or hell even right down to Metallica playing in Antarctica and The Defiled playing on an iceberg.... but what about Eurovision? Well Lordi did it and won it for Finland, soon a flurry of metal acts made the leap into the song contest: Eldrine (Georgia), Terasbetoni (Finland), maNga (Turkey) and Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar Sejko (Albania). So what about Fleshgod Apocalypse? Clearly Francesco has his eyes on the possibility as he explains:-
"To be honest we never thought about it, that could be a good idea though I mean there are no restrictions on the music genres so you know it could be interesting to see what happens, you know it could be interesting actually... you could probably have given me a good idea now (laughs)". Well Lordi did it. "Oh ya ya, that's what I mean, we could really consider to try and do that, it's one of those things that obviously fascinates me just because I like music things like that, like the Grammy awards, stuff like that so I really, you know I would never say no to anything like that just because I like the idea of participating in a contest that is so important, that's the only thing I could think about".
Aside from Eurovision being an interest, I asked Tommaso what hobbies and interests does he and the band have, how the band survives on tour and reflecting on a musicians life essentially:-
"One of the things that I love the most and I know it's a very simple thing and also probably very, VERY typical for an Italian but I really really consider food and wine as something that is a real form of art. So every time I get the chance, I really try to just see some friends and go to some place that I like, there are a couple of places here in my home town, especially a couple of wineries that I really love and we also like the people that work there, they're my friends. So whenever I get the chance and I've come home from tours I try to catch up with my few good friends and just go for some good food and wine, because I really like to experiment and try all these different things. Besides that I really like skateboarding, this is something I've discovered really late so even though I'm 33 I'm actually a beginner (I started at the age of 30), but still it's something that really frees my mind, so every time I can during the warm season (summer) I really try to go skating.
For each of the other guys, Ferrini for example he's a real expert in cinema - I like cinema but he is one of those guys who really checks out everything, so he is really into cinema so he spends a lot of time watching movies and of course going to see movies at the cinema. Paolo (Rossi) for example is a big football supporter of our home town - A.C. Perugia Calcio (it's possible that Paolo's parents named him after an ex-player of the club of the same name), when Perugia plays at home he always goes to see the match at the stadium and really follows Serie-A and Serie-B.
Francesco Paoli is the only member who has a kid for now, so of course he spends a lot of time with his kid and most of the times I see that when he has a couple of days off he always tries to go skiing, because he really likes it. So you know normal things here and there, because of course now the band became something that really takes a lot of our time and also energy, so it's so important to sometimes to try to distract yourself from what you do, even if it's your passion, sure you become used to touring and recording music, but you also learn how to manage your energy - it's about getting used to a certain lifestyle and consequently seeing if that lifestyle is alright for you.
For each of the guys and for me, I really like touring, I like seeing different places and discovering things, how different cultures work. I really like to see the world, obviously on tour you just have a very short amount of time everywhere you go, but still you get that experience that is different obviously than from going on vacation and having time to check out a lot of things, but still it's really interesting but of course it is something that takes a lot of energy both physically and mentally, because there's so many constant changes that it is impossible to call anything a routine, so that's obviously an exciting part, but also sometimes a very stressful part because you continuously switch from one lifestyle to another and that's of course very stressful.
I think this works until you're really doing what you do with friends and the good thing that in Fleshgod Apocalypse is that we're friends first of all and that means that, when we jump on stage it's not just doing our duty but it's something that we really share and I really think that, that's the only way to really take the touring life in a good way, because I could not imagine how it could be to be on tour for so much time and don't get along with each other, you know what I mean? So for us we're lucky in the meaning that we really... sometimes we also fight on every little thing but it's always a very constructive fight, so it's always getting better altogether and finding the best way to bring things together."
If you recall earlier in the interview, Tommaso revealed that he likes food and wine, well with AC/DC having already revealed their own wine and Iron Maiden their own beer, has or would Fleshgod Apocalypse ever release(d) their own wine?
"We actually already do, we have our own brand out there, for the whole "Labyrinth" promotion we put out two different wines, a red wine and a white wine, and we are putting out the new wine 'The Fool' for the promotion of "King", so it is already something that in which we are into because we, well it's really a part of our heritage so we really liked the idea so, at the beginning we wanted to do it so."
So guys Fleshgod Apocalypse have their own brand of wine coming out for the promotion of "King", so be sure to be sober enough to start drinking it (Tomasso chuckles). So how did you get into playing music and listening to metal?
"I've always been a fan of music and part of my playing when I was a kid was something that started pretty early and got me curious in the beginning, I actually started with the piano (he was 6 or 7 at the time), one of those small digital piano's from which I spent a lot of time pressing the keys and experimenting, and then my parents listen to a lot of rock music - Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Rolling Stone - and also a lot of Italian music, we had so much good Pop Rock music in Italy in the 70's and 80's; I'm from the early 80's, so I listened to a lot of my parents stuff and when they saw that I was interested in that they also introduced me to classical piano, so I've been studying classical piano for a few years when I was a kid, and then I remember that I was on probably like 5th grade when I was around 10 years old.
I remember my brother who is 9 years older than me, that when he got his driving licence I was going around with him sometimes on Sundays, just driving around the countryside and I remember that he was the first person to introduce me to Iron Maiden and I recall that it shocked me in a positive way because I remember he was listening to 'Fear of the Dark'; that actually came out when I was around 8/9 years old and I remember I was actually quite hit by this music, it was so different and then when I started intermediate school, I also had a friend of mine who was a super big fan of Queen and he gave me my very first CD as a present and it was "Hot Space" (1982), I was so blown away by Queen in particular so I started to temporarily listen to some metal music, Iron Maiden namely so after that of course discovering Metallica and then listening to Queen, Aerosmith, some rock bands from 70's / 80's.
When I was 13 years old my brother who was actually playing a little bit of guitar, pretty much acoustic guitar and so then I came pretty curious about the guitar and I remember I was continuously taking his guitar and trying to find notes by ear without knowing anything about guitar, and then I think the last push was the fact that my sister's boyfriend was a singer from a local rock band in my area and they gave me my very first electric guitar as a present when I was 13 years old and from then on I just started playing a little bit of rock music and stuff and then of course after a couple of years I formed my very first metal band with some friends of mine, and from then on of course I've been keeping on playing metal music until I found myself in Fleshgod Apocalypse.
My parents are happy of course that I was playing, they didn't push me in any direction, it's been something completely by myself that I started to do just for passion so of course they cared about me taking care about school like every parent, but in the mean time they were happy that I was playing and doing some local shows. But of course they didn't have an idea how this could or not become a job, but really they've been really supportive in that they never have pushed me in any direction, just let me do what I have in mind.
When I was 19, so right after school they asked me if I wanted to do this or that, continue into college or go to music college, or something like that, but at that time I did not know where music would take me in the end, so for many different reasons and because also I have a passion for science (his father is a researcher in medicine), I decided to study pharmacy in college - that I have been continuing also during the first years of Fleshgod Apocalypse, in the mean time I kept playing as a self-taught musician, then obviously Fleshgod became my main job and in the mean time I graduated in pharmacy, so at this point I'm a musician but at the same time I have a graduation in college, so I know something about chemistry and stuff like that. Now of course they're super happy about this and always following me, continuously communicating when I'm out - sending pictures and stuff."
Having finished their US tour, Tommaso happily stated where they have also played, where they hope to and the like:-
"We've actually been to Japan twice, we've played China, Hong Kong, Taiwan (Taipei), Indonesia, Australia, we've been to South Africa twice, Mexico twice, Costa Rica, but we're still missing South America and that's a shame, BUT we're working on it of course because I know that South America is crazy and we've been already trying to organize for a couple of times but due to timing reasons we had to pass, but we're working on it. Until now Asia in general has been amazing for us, and it's been growing really fast, I've also seen that in this particular moment with "King" we have a very high position in the charts in Japan and Australia too, so obviously we're planning on organizing a new Asian tour for "King". It's been a blast since the beginning and especially China and India, we've been to India last year and these are all new markets where there's a lot of people discovering metal music right now and it's really interesting because they didn't have the possibility of getting this, because of Governments and stuff like that.
So to see them opening up to this kind of music, to see now that it's happening is really interesting as we see fans and new fans emerging. Although I'm not very aware of what happens over that side of the world when it comes to bands, I know of some bands but still to be honest I don't know very much about what's happening with bands out there, but I see there's a lot of things happening even though it's still mainly an underground music. I do though see these bands on Facebook and continually listen to new things from all over, there's a lot of fans who send me links and stuff - there's also a lot of people interested in playing music, so of course it is a market that is destined to grow up also in terms of putting out valid bands and valid music - when a new scene starts it's always stimulating for new music to come out.
How do you keep yourself amused on tour?
"What I really try to do and I think I speak for the whole band, is really try to use that small time we have to just walk around and try to check out the places, also places we've already been because also as I've said it's always such a short time that you have because every day you play in a different city, for example in San Francisco we finished the show at around 11-11:30pm and were leaving around in 4:00am and I spent around 3 hours walking around the city at night, just because I think that's the best part of touring - it would be foolish just to.... I mean sometimes of course we do watch movies or just relax because that's obviously a good thing to do and I really like to spend time talking to other musicians and just listen to music, or sometimes just partying - that's of course a part of touring, whenever I can I also try to spend time around the city because I really like to just be outside and do things.
So that's the main thing that we try and do is seeing the place and of course now, we start having a lot of friends around the different countries - so whenever there's a good friend of ours that lives in / near the city, we obviously try to hang out with friends and spend a little time with them. Sometimes of course there's party time, but not everyday because of the show we do - it's physically challenging, so we also try to be as much as possible normal but there's of course times where you drink a little bit and you party and listen to music. It's healthy for your mind just to chill out and forget for a minute all the things about the shows and things like that."
What plans have you got for the rest of the year? (UK tour begins 13th March).
"Our last show on the tour is in London at the Underworld on 17th March, so we go back to Italy the day after and we have got ten days off over Easter, so obviously we'll try and spend time with our families and then we're leaving in the very first few days of April because we have a European tour in direct support to Ensiferum. I've seen a lot of the clubs we're playing at, there are some good clubs and so it looks set to already be a good tour so we're excited about that. Officially we're confirmed for some European festivals (having just played Hammerfest in Wales; 10th-13th March) including Hellfest (FR), Metal Days (SI), Graspop (BE) amongst other festivals, we're also trying to add other few festivals in Europe for the summer. We're working on some things for May and probably other tours between Europe and the US for the last part of the year, but nothing official has been confirmed yet. Pretty much the idea is promoting the new album as much as possible, but also going back to all the places we've been in the last few years and obviously having the chance to play new songs and play new shows."
Finally have you got any greetings you wish to send out to fans, etc?
"Of course obviously I'm supposed to say this but I always take care about saying thank you to all our fans everywhere because of course the support of fans and people who listen to our music and believe in the project is the main reason why we are here, so thank you all! Of course the same for our families, you know it would be quite impossible to be able to do this, a kind of 'crazy life' we do without the full support of our families so that's the two most important things that I would say"
Their UK tour started 10th March, lasts 7 days and finishes up in London as Tommaso said.
"See you there and thanks very much for your support!"
Bloodstock "is the best independent metal festival, and we hope to play again soon".
Following the latest album release by East Anglian Black Metal horde The Infernal Sea, it was about time we gave them a grilling as we interrogated them about their latest album, what the future of Black Metal in the UK holds, thoughts about Phil Anselmo's recent outburst and once again the fabled Eurovision question.
Buy "The Great Mortality" from their Bandcamp page:- https://theinfernalsea.bandcamp.com/
Jonathan Egmore sat in the interrogation room with us on this one.
So Jonathan, what's new in The Infernal Sea camp aside from the new release? What makes this release distinguishable from your previous releases?
"Hails! We are currently writing for our next release. I can’t really say too much, but we have some music and theme ideas, and it’s quite an exciting time for the band in general. On the whole, ‘The Great Mortality’ is the band at its most dangerous. Previous releases merely touched upon the sound we have aimed to achieve over the last 5 years or so, with this album the bar has been raised musically, and aesthetically. Also working alongside Cacophonous Records has helped us reach a wider market, and we are very proud releasing the album on a label with such a rich heritage."
Would you agree that British Black Metal is not only celebrating a resurgence but also a newfound renaissance?
"I would say so, yes. Especially the fact that ‘The Great Mortality’ is being released on Cacophonous Records, which for the many that don’t know, opened up the UK Black Metal scene by releasing the first Cradle Of Filth release ‘The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh’ in 1994. There is a lot of younger talent being recognised now with the help of good promotion, festivals, zines etc. The 90’s resurgence has been helped heavily with the influx of reissues over the last few years, making material from the Scandinavian scene easily accessible to newer fans that wouldn’t have gone out of their way to buy it before. You can clearly hear that influence in a lot of bands within UKBM, it’s an exciting time for the underground scene."
Do you feel Black Metal is more of an art rather than a music genre? Is it still seen as Satanic?
"I think in essence, especially nowadays, it is seen as a style of Heavy Metal. I think to the uneducated, it is seen as Satanic. I think I have more Death Metal albums in my collection that are seen as Satanic, than Black Metal records. For me, it is an art. It is a means to forget, it is a style of music to express misanthropy, extremity, to reflect on past demons, to appreciate the wild and to praise the older masters. It is for me, the most underground style of music, and should be kept for our own satisfaction."
2016 is in full swing, so what plans have you got for the entire year?
"Writing a lot of new music for the new album, playing more shows, festivals and touring across the UK/EU!"
Speaking of new music, check out the band's new music video 'Entombed In Darkness' below:-
In spite of recent comments made by Phil Anselmo r.e. 'white power', do you think racism is still an issue in metal let alone generally? Would you be surprised to know that metal exists in Sub-Sahara Africa? (e.g. Botswana)
"I don’t think so, only to a small minority that maybe go out to seek that kind of scene. I have been a metal fan for over 20 years, and I have never witnessed any racism at any point at any shows or festivals (and yes, I have seen Pantera!) I think the media is a huge culprit for blowing up things as soon as the word ‘racism’ is involved. I’m not surprised at all, we frequently receive messages from all over the world from different fans from different cultures, and its fantastic. Metal has always been about unity, so lets keep it that way."
You played at Bloodstock back in 2013, how would you sum up the festival and please tell us who you saw at the festival?
"It was fantastic. Playing Bloodstock is still a huge highlight for the band. Especially for me, seeing Slayer & Anthrax the same weekend was a dream come true. I personally love Bloodstock and will continue to attend every year, it is the best independent metal festival, and we hope to play again soon. There is actually a campaign on Facebook started by one of our followers to get us on this years Bloodstock, you can go show your support here." https://www.facebook.com/TheInfernalSeaforBloodstock/?notif_t=page_invite_accepted
What song from 'The Great Mortality' is your favourite and why? Would you submit any for Eurovision contention?
"Personally, my favourite song on the album is ‘Plague Herald’. It shows a different side to the band for the first time, in that we don’t have to play at a thousand beats per minute all the time to sound heavy. That’s an interesting question, I don’t think we would’ve ever thought about doing that to be honest!"
Speaking of Eurovision, if there was to be a metal version of said contest, do you think it would take off? Would you participate? What would your thoughts be of a metal-based Eurovision song contest?
"I’m not sure if it would take off. The Eurovision song contest is so very politically fuelled and very tongue in cheek. I’m not sure if it would really suit our style to be honest. That being said, it would probably make for some interesting viewing depending on what bands were to attend."
Finally are there any hello's, greetings etc you wish to send out?
"Infernal hails to all our dedicated followers who have supported us on this dark journey. Hail Satan! Hail the darkness!"
Dalriada have been making waves in the Hungarian Metal scene since their inception way back in 1998 when they were known as 'Echo of Dalriada; they changed their name in 2006. Since then they have been gaining considerable attention worldwide despite their songs being sung exclusively in Hungarian.
Having released their eighth studio album 'Áldás' last year, and recently released their latest music video of the same name, it was about time we interrogated the septet to find out what hides behind those fur clothings and the beautiful facade that is Dalriada.
Check out their music video below, this is soon to be followed by a video for the song 'Moldvaggedon', an acoustic album (due May time) and an exclusive concert in Budapest on May 13th which as we have been told, will be part acoustic, part metal. Sounds exciting.
Would you say that over the last decade or so has the Hungarian Metal scene grown in popularity and recognition?
"I think it has, definitely. Sure, there were a couple of bands already around 2000 or even earlier, which made it beyond Hungarian borders but as far as I see it our home country receives more recognition in terms of music, arts and literature nowadays. Hungarian rock and metal bands made it to Japan, the US, Russia and every corner of Europe. Although I still wouldn’t say, that it is popular but some of the acknowledging voices are getting louder".
Because you sing in Hungarian, do you feel that it has that special feeling when playing Folk Metal than otherwise would be in English?
"It is our mother tongue and since we are writing songs about legends, folk tales and historical events from the Carpathian Basin it just feels natural; it fits. Just imagine, somebody singing in a somewhat broad Bavarian dialect about the tough life of an Inuit hunter on the everlasting ice fields of the north. Might be exotic to some extent but “authentic” would definitely not be the correct term to describe this phenomenon".
Your album 'Áldás' broke into the mainstream charts, what are your immediate thoughts? Would Eurovision be of interest to the band?
"Mainstream charts – sounds impressive but let us not forget, Hungary is a small country and if you have maintained a band for 15 years with a new album every 2 years sooner or later you get noticed and since album sales are in the dumps permanently you get statistical recognition even if you are able to sell only a thousand copies. Eurovision – there was a point in the past when we thought about it but at the moment chances are very small to honestly consider participation".
Would you consider touring the UK? If so what phrases should fans chant at your shows?
"Of course, especially since there is a quite notable Hungarian minority in the UK. But even while disregarding this fact, the UK is a destination we planned to visit for a long time now. What to chant? “Pálinkát, bazmeg! (pronounce it: Pa-link-at baws Meg!) or VISSZA! (viss- sa)".
Could you gives us the meaning behind 'Áldás', it's origins and how it plays a part in Hungarian folklore?
"First of all, 'Áldás' means 'blessing' in Hungarian. Furthermore it is one of the ancient Hungarian names for the month of July ('Áldás Hava', meaning the month of blessing). So of course this can be interpreted as the blessing of the soil, a blessing of growth but it also symbolizes new life (three people of the band became parents in the last three years). It is an important symbol in the whole cycle of life. Watch our new video for the title song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qE98ZI0d2bM ) and you will understand, what 'Áldás' means!"
From the album 'Áldás', what song is your favourite and why? What makes it unique?
"I have several favourites: first of all 'Moldvageddon' because the whole song is a big musical joke (which maybe not all of the listeners will get) and because it reflects the mental state of the band precisely :). 'Zivatar' because it is somewhat different from what we have done so far, I love the simple yet boasting groove of it! 'Futóbetyár' is a nice challenge to be played life, a fast, powerful and aggressive metal piece and last but not least 'Úri Toborzó' - it has something majestic and it is musically a very mature song. But to be honest I could list almost all tracks from 'Áldás'."
'Áldás' is your eighth album, what gives the band energy to strive onwards? Is it the love of metal or the enjoyment of making and playing music?
"Definitely both. And the knowledge that there is always a possibility to improve and to head in a concrete direction."
Finally are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"Dear British Dalriadors and soon-to-be Dalriadors: please convince your local clubs to book us! We’ll drink all your single malt and beer but we’ll do it with love ;)."