Symphony X - Michael Romeo

Symphony X - Michael Romeo

SYMPHONY X were a couple of days before finishing some additional North US live dates including a stop at the Chicago area so we hooked up with Michael Romeo for a reprise interview to learn everything about the band’s immediate plans after the last show. So, check what he had to say about all this.

Hey Mike, it seems that SYMPHONY X have been almost all around the world so what are you feelings?
I think we are doing good even if last week was a little bit rough because we did Costa Rica and then Mexico so I don’t know if was the juice we drank or the ice we used but most of us got sick.

Was it that bad?
Man, I tell you everyone was hit pretty hard. We flew from Mexico to New Jersey and everybody was fucking shocked and felt sick. Other than that everything has been going smooth.

Is there any show that you remember?
There are so many good ones but in the end you kind of remember the band ones.

And when you say bad are you talking about the crowd’ or the band’s performance?
No, the crowds are always great and I have to say that no matter where we are the fans are always great.  For instance, we did in Brazil the fest named ‘Metal Open Air’ and it was not run that well; I don’t know if you heard the stories about this.

Nothing I can recall right now…
There were a bunch of bands there like MEGADETH and ANTHRAX and we were set up for the first day right before MEGADETH and it was obvious from the start that there was no organization, just a total mess. We almost did not play and when MEGADETH got onstage after us they had major problems with the stage and the Pas were blowing up; I tell you it was such a nightmare.

This is such a shame because Brazilian metalheads are so loyal and passionate about this music.
Yeah, the crowds are amazing there. But this was not run very well and I guess something happened the next day, many bands had to cancel and that caused riots. So, you kind of remember shit like that because it was like a fucking nightmare. But luckily, during the tour there are more good things than shit like that. Despite all these we managed to play, even when the PA was no fire, we did our thing and I believed the kids were happy.

Anyway, last time we spoke Mike you said about making a live DVD; so, do you have any update on that matter?
We have been talking about finding the right venue and the proper production to do this because we want to make it special. I was talking to Russ about this and I think it’s kind of tough for us since we don’t have a certain show or a cookie-cutter show, you know? I mean, Russ says something, there is always a guy in the crowd to respond or I do something so it’s never the same every night. The show is always spontaneous and so we were wondering how we can plan such thing. Because after all, we don’t want to plan the show and do something cheesy but keep everything natural. And sometimes it’s about the money we can have for the production since we could film a show for a DVD release but it wouldn’t be something special. We want to capture all the things that just happen onstage and this is kind of tough.

I am asking about the DVD since in two years from now SYMPHONY X will be celebrating the release of the first album that came out in 1994, so you can do something special. Maybe for the next album…
Yeah, maybe we will do something about this.

So, do you have any thoughts about the next SYMPHONY X album? Even if it’s too early to talk about this…
No, it’s not because we have been also talking about that too; it was kind of weird for this record that it was a little late, you know? We had more material than we thought so it needed more time to finalize it. And then, we started booking tour dates before the album release; it was planned for an August release and in February we had planned those Euro live dates with NEVERMORE and then we came to the US but everything fell apart. So, there was so much touring even before the album release and when it came out we went back on the road. It was cool going to all these places but the timing was off. Normally, after an album release we tour for at least two years but this time we had toured 8 months before the album had hit the stores. Now, we have done this twice so maybe it’s time to write; after these US live dates we have nothing planned. Yeah, maybe we will start writing and then do a tour properly.

Have you ever felt tired of this process: record an album then tour and start up again?
It is what it is man…

I mean, is it more like a work for you or is it still fun?
Yeah man, it is fun but at the same time it is also work and even working on an album it is work. Of course, you enjoy the process by being creative but there is always the amount of work that has to be done, you know? Touring is also fun but traveling is a pain in the ass but in the end of the day I wouldn’t do anything else.

Before releasing the album and NEVERMORE bailing out of the North US tour you added “Odyssey” as the last track of the setlist…
Yeah, we did that as a special treat for the fans and to make up for the shortened billing.

Of course, and then after the new album release you kept “Odyssey” on the setlit; can this become a tradition for SYMPHONY X?
Yeah, it can be but you don’t want to become predictable. We come up with a setlist that feels right for us so we pick the songs to fit each other. And this is why we played the new songs in the beginning of the set because it felt natural and we added the “Paradise Lost” stuff that fit right after those.

You have released one solo album so is there any chance to do another one in the near future?
I have been working on this a little bit but I don’t want to dump all my time on it. During the summer festival I had some free time so I dug out some old ideas and saw what I have. So, maybe when I get back I will see if I can do something with this material but still, the band is my first priority. It’s a matter of finding time to this, man.

I guess this also applies to an instructional DVD, right? You have only released one with a Japanese magazine…
I definitely want to do that again. But I have to say again its’ all about time. Because I could do a DVD with me playing some riffs and solos but it wouldn’t be a real instructional DVD where I’d explain why playing this riffs or show how to playing a solo, you know, talk about chords and all that kind of stuff. I want to have some theory in it and play-along stuff; something more in-depth and not just play some riffs. I want to create something that I did not have when I was young; when I was just slowing down the record to try to play along. There were some cassettes with a bunch of licks to learn from VAN HALEN and stuff but I like to do something more than that. But this is just me talking because it is always finding time to do this, man (laughs).

Do you think, and I am asking this from a personal interest, that someone can actually learn to play the guitar from an instructional DVD?
Yeah, absolutely! And that’s I am talking about. When I did this for the Japanese magazine they kind of asked me to play some riffs and solos and it was cool. But now, I want to do something to learn from and talk about scales, patterns, show some progressions and stuff. I did not have any guitar lessons apart from some bullshit ones in the beginning with a classic guitar with a guy who wanted me to play only this.

That will be cool Mike as it will be the solo album, so we will wait.
That’s good to know because a lot of people have been asking me over the years if I will do one and it is tough because the band does take a lot of time…

And the other guys have a lot of stuff going on but you are the only one with just SYMPHONY X, right?
Yeah, because writing all that stuff is a lot of work.

Did you also do the mixing apart from the production?
I didn’t do the mixing but I did everything else and was a lot! But for me to do a solo record it’s more about just make sure that all the material is good and doesn’t sound too much like the band and that kind of thing. Getting to that point, I mean, what is kind of written and I’m finally aware of what I am going to do then the last part (recording and stuff) is just breeze because it doesn’t need to be as involved maybe as in the band, doing the vocals and stuff like that. It’s just me and the guitar stuff, you know, I am a guitar guy.