Rhapsody Of Fire - Alex Staropoli

RHAPSODY OF FIRE have a new lineup, and in a way to re-introduce the band to the old but also to new fans, have re-recorded fourteen classic songs and have already released them under the “Legendary Years” title. METAL KAOZ had a really nice Skype session with Alex Staropoli to get a hearty scoop of the intentions behind the re-recordings and, most importantly, of the band’s immediate plans, with extra focus on the making of the new RHAPSODY OF FIRE LP. Check out what was discussed below.

Rhapsody Of Fire - Alex Staropoli

Hello Alex and welcome to METAL KAOZ! How are you? How is the weather in Trieste?
I’m fine, thank you. It’s very hot here.

Yeah, I imagine. Here, in Chicago, it feels quite the opposite; believe it or not, we have 13oC today.
Oh really? We had close to 40oC.

Anyway, let’s start right away. First of all, how was the band’s live debut with Giacomo and Manu?
It was great, really great from every aspect. Since we recorded the “Legendary Years” LP, that one was the very first show we did the last Saturday (July 29th) and it was a really great experience. So, we are already excited about playing live again, going into the studio and work hard all together. It’s a new chapter.

So, hearing you saying it’s a new chapter, what do those two guys bring in the band to make you feel so excited?
Well, first of all, their presence as persons, as human beings, is really something important. Manu Lotter, besides being a great drummer, is a really fun guy and it’s really cool to work with people that are [interrupting himself] you can see their eyes, they are so excited and looking forward to do everything, and this is fantastic. For Giacomo [Voli], I’ve worked with him already for “Into The Legend” regarding the choir parts, so I knew him a little bit better and the same goes for him; he knows that he has to do a very hard job and do his best. Both of them deliver energy, enthusiasm and a lot of talent. So, what can I ask for more, you know; it’s a new line-up, and it was incredible to play onstage for the very first time - we did a fantastic rehearsal and while we were onstage, everybody was so full of energy and relaxed at the same time. I’ve never seen something like that before.

I see what you’re saying; I mean, I hear that a lot from musicians who have been in the scene for so long that when it’s time to choose new musicians, they know exactly what they’re looking for, and the first thing that they’d always say is the personality. So, after some years, it’s all that matters, right? Aside from musicianship, of course.
Yeah, it counts because with those people, you’d have to spend years together – being in a band is part of a lifetime, you know. So, a good period of time you’d supposed to live together or so, so it has to work in every way – the artistic way but also in a personal way. Sometimes it doesn’t work in a personal way but the artistic job is really good, but after many years, the straggle becomes too much.

You said that you knew Giacomo before joining the band, so does this mean that you didn’t hold any auditions or you did not actively search for a singer?

Not really; I saw Giacomo on TV and I was really impressed and then I decided to contact him just for pleasure of doing so - I really wanted to know him. Initially I thought of doing some project - I wanted to work with him. So, when we’ve started speaking, I realized that he could join the “Into The Legend” production and be the choir master, the guy who would sing in the epic choir and would bring more singers. And it’s not easy to find good singers but he knew a lot of people. So, I texted him, we did great, epic choirs and I was very happy. So, that was the first time we worked together, just for the choirs for “Into The Legend”. This is what I meant when I told you I’ve met him before; I knew him just a little bit before. After working with him, I realized the amazing talent he has, so after Fabio [Lione] decided to leave and quit the band, I thought maybe Giacomo is the right guy, so we invited him here in Trieste and asked him to be prepared to sing some songs and it was great; the guy was amazing. We did like each other.

Regarding the “Legendary Years” release, I think he did great job both in the old and the newest songs, but from a personal point of view, and being I should say a long time listener of RHAPSODY and RHAPSODY OF FIRE, the only thing that I think is missing is the Italian kind of pronunciation of the English lyrics that the band had. Because in that way, the band had a stronger character - at least to my ears - but I know that at the same time here in the US people would like more the nowadays’ clear English pronunciation of Giacomo. I don’t know what’s your take on this.
I totally understand what you’re saying, and actually, I really don’t know, because this could be a positive or a negative thing the fact that the Italian accent is too strong. Because too often we receive criticism about Fabio’s pronunciation and his Italian accent was too strong. In the end, we had a character because it was part of the sound at a certain point, you know. So, I agree with what you said partially, but I have to say that after “Legendary Years” was released, the very first thing that a lot of fans and journalists said was “oh, finally we can understand the lyrics now”! So, at a certain point, maybe it’s better that the people understand better the lyrics now, even though that characteristic is gone. For sure, we’re going to do some in Italian as well, so that would be the class of a heavy Italian singer, you know. We’ll continue using the Italian in the music.

So, how did you decide to re-record all these classic songs?
I had this idea many months ago, I mean, more than one year ago actually, because I thought to do something special for the 20th anniversary of the band. So I said “maybe we could just spend some time in the studio have fun and re-record the chapter we wanted to re-record with a modern sound etc”. Actually, I was thinking about that for a long time. After the recent events and the fact that we changed line-up, I really thought this was the best opportunity for that, because I didn’t want to go immediately in the studio to make a new album - I wanted to present Giacomo as a RHAPSODY OF FIRE singer performing some old songs. The idea, of course, was not to substitute the old songs because we all like and respect our past, so the idea was just to take all these old songs and give them a new, better sound, new choir, new guitars, new drumming and a modern touch, a more clear mix; you know, to give some justice, let’s say, to those songs that are already 20 years old and make them sound more modern. That was the idea and I’m very happy because for some songs the version is really cool, like “Flames Of Revenge” for me is just amazing. Giacomo sings it in a fantastic way and the mix from Sebastian Levermann from ORDEN OGAN is so clear, everything is so detailed, there is so much space in between that you can hear the words and the arrangements and the guitar part. So, I have to say I’m really happy about it.

Is it just my idea (now that you mentioned the mixing) that the guitars are a little bit one step forward in the mix?
Yeah, well, I would say that if you compare the difference is huge, because in the past we really liked to use a lot of reverb and the sound to be more smooth, less made-up just say, so to hear very well the instruments, the orchestral arrangements etc. And it was ok for the time it was cool - for nowadays, I really wanted drums, bass and guitar to be in the front, and the rest, like a picture to just surround them. So, that was the idea. Anyway, in the past, we weren’t doing big orchestral arrangements, so still there are some keyboards here and there, some solo instruments, some strings, but we had more space in our songs in the past compared to what we do now where we use a full orchestra. So, mix-wise was a bit easier, you know, it’s to mix these songs.

How did it feel revisiting the old material? I mean, did you get inspired to do something similar or you’re inspired to present something new?
No, when you just take old songs and re-record them, the best way to do it is to re-record everything exactly the same way; same melodies, same tempo, same length, so you respect the original song. So, the song is exactly reproduced in extreme fidelity, 100%. It’s the same song - you just bring in new people and new instruments. This way you respect the song and you don’t really change melodies or stuff like that. You can do that, but I decided not to do it. I wanted to respect every single part made.

So, how do you feel the band progressing? There is a new line-up, you did the re-recordings, so when it will be a good idea to start thinking of the next album?
Well, it’s something that has already started in a way, because Robi [De Micheli] and I have already recorded the guitars for six songs. I really wanted to move forward and we’ve evaluated some ideas, a lot of guitar riffs and I said “ok, let’s sit down, take the best and just record everything”. We’ve already recorded the guitars that could go eventually on the new album. So, this is great – and we’ve already composed about 20 songs. We really wanted to have a lot of material. So now, we’re preparing to play some shows and go on tour and at the same time I’m working on new compositions and stuff. So hopefully we can release a new studio album by the fall of 2018.

This is great news! Do you know if you’re gonna make a concept album? How does it feel so far?
I believe that “Into The Legend” is a very good reference. I love this album – it’s full of stuff; full of Baroque, epic, orchestral. There are so many elements and also the fans reacted very well to it, so in a way we’ll follow that direction, I think with a heavier sound, more guitars and the drumming of course will be different. I think that the mix between the modern playing and the ancient element will be on the next level - we’ll bring this to the next level. With vocals up in the sky, so powerful – I really want to say that “Legendary Years” is just an appetizer for me as a producer and composer, for us as a band in the studio recording and for the fans - it’s an album we made for fun, to present a new singer to the world. Some people said “ah, they did that because they didn’t know what to do, because they haven’t new ideas for new material” and this is some funny speculation because we do have new material and we’re very excited to enter the studio and record it as soon as possible. During winter will be working  and in the spring we’re gonna be mixing it and then we’ll have new songs, new videos and so on. We just began working and we are really looking forward to accomplishing our very first new studio album with this new line-up.

Any ideas of making it a concept album?
Oh sorry, you asked me about it. I dunno yet; we are working on the music, but I don’t think we’re gonna make a concept album. Usually, with RHAPSODY OF FIRE it is very important for the songs to have a connection but actually we haven’t decided yet - it could be a concept, it could be a big saga or just an album talking about some specific topics. We’ll have to evaluate this.

Sure. And you said that you have the EU tour with ORDEN OGAN until November, so what is next in your calendar?
That is a good question. As I said earlier, we still have a show at ‘Metalitalia.com Festival’ in Milan together with EDGUY as well on September 09th and after that, a month later, we’re gonna start the European tour. After that, we’ll begin composing the new material and go to the studio, so if we’ll have more shows, of course we’d be happy to do them, otherwise we’ll work in the studio. We’re ready for everything. The good thing is that after the last rehearsal and the shows we did, we’re back on track, you know. We have confidence and we’re excited to play as much as we can.

Did it cross your mind as an idea to take the “Legendary Years” on the road and play the entire album?
That could be an idea. Sometimes it’s better to have a mixture of songs, but this could be an idea, for sure. Actually, we haven’t thought about it yet, we’re always start to play some songs that the audience always wanna hear but it could be an option – why not?

Yeah, because once the new album comes out, the setlist has to have new songs of course.
For now, half of our shows’ set has songs from “Legendary Years”.

Ok. And when you see the band coming to the US?
I dunno yet. I think we have to work hard to come back to the US again. It’s not easy but we’d be happy to do it. Actually, as I said, we’re ready to play live, so I think 2018 will be a good year to start playing. We already have some contacts and the agency is working already in some future shows so we’ll see. I mean, I love coming to the US for vacation or for playing live. For me, it’s great. I’m always ready to travel and play.

One last question; I read online that some years back, you were planning to release a solo album with your brother Manuel, and the plan was having Midnight doling the vocals and lyrics. Did you do any recordings with Midnight?
No, fuck me, no! To cut a long story short is that we met Midnight when I was in Florida (I was three times there), with my brother and usually, he was not very kin to play with other people, especially to play Heavy Metal, but with me and my brother something special happened, and I invited him in my house in Trieste. He came and it was supposed to stay for a few weeks, and in the end he spent two months here. It was close to Christmas and New Year’s Eve and I had my parents here and it was an amazing experience. It was really emotional – the guy was very special. He was here writing lyrics and I still have some paper he brought. Unfortunately, he took back everything to the US when he left, and after six months he died. I was very sad, you know. It was really sad.

So, does this mean that you don’t have anything from that time, right?
If I wanted to do a solo album, I wouldn’t like to do something with some seniors around – I wanted to do something special, and this idea was really that. Doing something with my brother and Midnight would have been so unique and great because I had good songs and he liked them and he was writing poetry actually for these. So, we were already excited in doing something that special, and not just a solo album. In the end, this was a band. So, before doing a solo album, I believe that there should be really something behind it – a kind of energy and a special connection between the musicians. Otherwise, it's just another solo album and I don’t think I’m interested in doing something like that.

Yeah, I see what you’re saying. Ok, Alex, thank you very much for your time and I hope to see you again here in the US.
Thank you, Dimitris for your time and your questions. I hope that as well. Ciao, ciao!