Rhapsody of Fire

A new era has begun for Rhapsody of Fire. “Dark Wings of Steel” is probably the band’s most important album since their debut. Grande Rock had a very intriguing chat with the band’s mastermind, songwriter, producer & keyboardist Alex Staropoli about RoF’s new day and their further music steps. Don’t miss this friendly & captivating chat with Alex…
Rhapsody of Fire band pic

Hi Alex. It’s great talking to you about the next day of RoF. The new album is wonderful by any means.
A: Thank you, I must say I am really happy about the results it’s getting.
Firstly, can you actually say that “Dark Wings of Steel” is the most important RoF album after your debut back in 1997?
A: It’s the beginning of a new era. What Luca and myself did for this band since the first demos till we decided to split up was great and unique, the best musical experience we could aim for. Now we are on different path. I found in my brother Manuel Staropoli a perfect partner so all this sounds like a restart, a really exciting period I have to say.
RoF has been through several “important changes all those years. First the band’s name, then the departure of Luca. Do those things give you more strength to carry on eventually?
A: The most important thing for me is to have strong passion for music and for what I do. Unfortunate events are not surely going to stop me at all. I love composing, arranging, producing and doing so with very good musicians and friends it’s a big plus.
“Dark Wings of Steel” marks a new era for the band. It’s the first album without Luca Turilli who was the songwriter along with you, the co-producer (along with you) and the lyricist. How hard had been to overcome all those things at first?
A: The entire process was really stimulating and positive. Having the freedom I’ve never had before it makes me more intensively focused to achieve all my goals.
Did you & Fabio have an extensive talk about the future of the band and how to work things from now on? What was that you agreed to do?
A: First of all Fabio from now on will be in charge of writing the lyrics and I think this is really important for a singer to be able to write and sing its own lyrics. The plan, which involves the whole band, is to work hard, even harder, to bring Rhapsody of Fire to a new level. We are ready.
You wrote the music, along with your bother Manuel, on “Dark Wings of Steel”. I know that Manuel has been since the beginning like an “extra concealed” member of the band. Was Manuel’s participation vital on the new album? Was it you that asked him to have a more “energetic” role on RoF?
A: Manuel at the age of 14, if I remember correctly, gave Luca and myself some very nice pieces of baroque music which we got inspired from for our compositions in years to come, so Manuel is surely no stranger to Rhapsody of Fire. I knew my brother had lots of talent and he proved himself by submitting me with many great songs, which some of them I had to arrange and to use. I am so proud of him and there is a lot more to come.
I like the heavy, symphonic, progy & melodic direction of the new album. I do fancy the neoclassical, speedy solos and music themes, but I think the music approach on “Dark Wings of Steel” is quite fresh, more pompous & mesmerizing. What did you have in mind to do when you started composing music for the new album?
A: What I had in mind is exactly what I did, and I feel really proud about that. I have shaped the songs through the last years, so I had quite some time to evaluate decisions and musical solutions. It is fundamental for me to say that “DWoS” sounds the way it sounds and it was composed the way it was composed because I wanted so. I could have go for another album full of orchestration and ‘suffocate’ the band’s sound one more time, or do the long 20 minutes suite song, use another narrator, start another saga, etc. but I wanted to do different, a more straight and organic album which feature more powerful drums, bass and overall guitars than in the past. I needed that. I had in mind to write music that is able to make listeners to have images in their minds while listening the songs and have listeners feel deep vibrations.
Do tell us a bit about the full orchestra, the choir and the real instruments that you used on the album? They really take the final outcome a step further.
A: Vibrating real instruments, real choir voices are simply unique and fundamental for me. Samples can do a lot but there is nothing like a real orchestra playing with perfect musical intention. It was a dream come true to have a real orchestra once again. It’s a pulsating energy.
What were the criteria to recruit Roberto De Micheli (Sinestesia, ex-Thundercross) on guitars and Oliver Holzwarth (ex-Sieges Even, Coldseed, Pergana, ex-Paradox) on bass? I guess you weren’t looking for a Luca clone for the guitarist’s position right?
A: Roby De Micheli helped a lot, it was important to have great feedback from him. He wrote some fantastic guitar riffs and guitar solos. I am really happy to call him a friend and a stabile member. No many knows that Roby De Micheli was part of the band with Luca and myself at the very beginning of our career, so he is no stranger at all to what we do as well. I called him and offer him to enter in the band. It was an obvious decision for me, I was sure he was the right guitar player, since I knew he had his own style and he did not needed or wanted to become a clone of course. Oliver, I thought that if he is like is brother Alex I must give him a call, so I did and it was incredible when we rehearsed for the very first time, it was a wall of tight power and class. I am very happy.
What’s the meaning behind the album’s title “Dark Wings of Steel” and the lyric themes that the tracks deal with in general?
A: Fabio wrote all the lyrics. It was a very demanding process for him. Fabio was capable to write very epic, poetic, magic, visionary lyrics. This is not a concept album nor a saga, so we had more freedom musically and lyrically. It is a great advantage that the singer is also a lyricist. It is clear that vocal performance and the words on “Dark Wings of Steel” are really connected. During the band’s career I have usually never answered to question referring to the lyrics since I have always preferred to leave to the lyricist that task and I will continue doing so. Moreover I believe that are the listeners who should read the lyrics and get inspired by them, get images by them, shaping and feeling them in their hearts.
You also produced the new album. Are you satisfied by the overall sound? Some complain that the guitars are bit weak and not as heavy & powerful as in the past. Do you agree?
A: I am quite satisfy and happy. I am a perfectionist so a mix with me would probably never ends because the search for the perfect mix and sound never ends. The guitars on “DWoS” are the most powerful guitar this band ever had I must say. In the past we never had such guitars, especially when having tons of orchestral arrangements. I am aware that compared to some other heavy metal bands we could bring up even bigger guitars but I have to say that Rhapsody of Fire is THE film score metal band, which features many various elements if compared to other bands. We created a brand that cannot be turned down.
I haven’t seen a new video yet. Are you planning to do so in the next weeks/months?
A: We are shooting it in a few days, stay tuned and soon we will release it!!
What are the band’s touring plans for the near future? Any chance to see you here in Greece?
A: We are planning the touring activities for 2014 right in this period. It would be fantastic to come back in Greece. I’ve been there so many times, I have a strong connection with Greece and the fans there are simply amazing. I want to come back!! (i.n.: Their live show in Greece hadn’t been confirmed when this interview took place.)
Rhapsody of Fire band oic

Do you believe that there was a need for a Rhapsody no2? I mean the fans are quite confused with all these things. Did you & Luca have different opinions about the band’s future music direction? A reunion with Luca in the distant future is possible?
A: It is very clear now the kind of music Luca and myself are doing as separate artists. I believe that some of our fans may have a natural and understandable disappointment to see that the band did split up, I really do understand this, but I would not talk about confusion. It’s clear Luca took the extreme orchestral path while me I have preferred to have the band’s sound as top priority. I don’t really know what will happen in the distant future, surely it is something it makes no sense to talk about now, there is definitely no reunion to happen anytime soon.
I think it’s time for our weird questions!!! What do you think about that digital/downloading trend of our time? What’s there for a band when most people are downloading their albums and do not even care to listen to them most of the times? What shall change so as to make it through?
A: It’s a very disgusting trend. I understand that at some point there are so many releases that a person cannot really buy every album. I know there is a certain promotion involved when a person downloads illegally new music to discover new bands because maybe later on they will buy the official albums or going to their shows. But I must agree with some people opinion when they say downloading it’s stealing. When you sell millions of copies you are also subject to big loss but still the artist can live quite well... but when you do not sell millions, but much less, every copy sold it’s important to be able to continue working, composing and delivering new albums.
Is it true that you have long Greek roots? You last name is kinda Greeki-sih in a way though.
A: I think so, that’s why maybe I always felt a special connection with your great country and came many times there…
What’s more enjoyable… producing, playing or writing music?
A: It’s all part of the same game. I think is the best job in the world. Probably writing is the most magic process.
Which is the record you wish you had written and why?
A: It’s the record I have in mind to record next. I look forward and I want to be focused on what I will do next. I feel positive and inspired.
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
A: The soundtrack of the “Alien” movie, to see if they like it.
If RoF’s career was a movie… which movie would it be and why?
A: Conan The barbarian or The Lord of the Rings, isn’t that clear why? Epic music is flowing in my veins and it’s a great source of energy of life.
Imagine that your girlfriend/wife is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react?
A: Fortunately in my whole life I have never met superficial persons like that.
We finally come to an end. Thx so much for talking to Grande Rock, Alex. Close this interview in your way… Take care!
A: Hope to come back in Greece, play and meet you there! Thanks for your support!