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Emerald Sword Master


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Keeping up with what happens to Italian sympho power metal masters Rhapsody requires a lot of attention and brainwork. For a while there were two bands using variations of this name (Rhapsody Of Fire and Luca Turilli's Rhapsody), but last year this got even more complicated when Luca Turilli reunited with Fabio Lione (vocals), Alex Holzwarth (drums), Patrice Gues (bass) and Dominique Leurquin (guitars) and went on tour as simply Rhapsody. Moreover, this tour was promoted as both a celebration of the classic album "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands" (1998), as well as a farewell to this particular line up. In order to clear up some of the confusion, we scheduled an interview with Luca Turilli shortly before the band's Moscow gig, but this interview, just like the band's history, was a tricky thing to get through. Luca's phone went down after just 10 minutes of conversation, so we had to meet for another 10 minutes face-to-face on the day of the show, and then it took quite a while to get this material ready for publication. Nevertheless, it might still help you find out some of the reasons behind complicated twists and turns in the history of this talented and extremely influential band...

How did the idea of this reunion tour come up? Who was the first who suggested it?

In the end it was very funny, because I would have never imagined that I would go for this reunion tour, because I was too busy with Luca Turilli's Rhapsody. And it was actually the idea of my manager: after the last tour with Luca Turilli's Rhapsody he asked me something like, "What do you think of the idea to do reconnect with the old Rhapsody? It would be a huge success like in the past". And I said, "No, no, I don't think it's a good idea". And then I remembered... A few days later I was in my bedroom looking at the ceiling, and it came to my mind: It's the year 2017, we started in 1997, so this is really 20 years since we released the first album "Legendary Tales". I thought, "Wow, something to celebrate". I called my manager, and of course, he told me, "Ok, this is the 20th anniversary, and this is a great chance to present the whole thing in this way". I told him I would talk to the rest of the guys, and I talked with Fabio, it was a long time I hadn't spoken to him, and I took this opportunity to talk to him by phone again. He loved the idea, his manager loved it, too, and this idea started to become something more serious. Then we spoke about the details, for us it was important to present it really like a farewell tour, a unique chance for the people to see us on stage for the last time. And now you see, this tour has been really successful and now it's lasting much longer than it was planned in the beginning. (laughs)

Can you say a few words about the show and the setlist your fans will see in Moscow?

Of course, you will see a very special setlist: we will present the complete "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands" album, the second album in our career and a really important one because with this album we affirmed Rhapsody throughout the whole world. The Rhapsody story, so to say, began with this album. So we will present the whole album on stage for the first time, because there were some songs on this album that we never played live before. I think it will be something very special for all our fans. And then we will play the old classics that everybody's waiting for.

Have you considered inviting Alex Staropoli (original Rhapsody co-founder, now with Rhapsody Of Fire - ed.) to join this tour?

Yeah, of course, how could we not have asked Alex? But after thinking for some days he decided not to be part of this reunion. He released a public message on Facebook saying that for him it would be better not to be part of this, because he wanted to push his band Rhapsody Of Fire. He had some troubles because of Fabio and Alex Holzwarth, the drummer - they both left some weeks before we released this news. It was a very delicate moment, so he decided he would not be part of this reunion. Of course, we are all sad because of that. But in South America anyway people were happy to see the band.

So far you have only played in Russia once, and it was seven years ago. What kind of impression did you get from Russia? I mean not only the show and the fans, but the country and the culture...

You know, Russian music was a big influence for Rhapsody, so I was always in a way connected with Eastern folk music, with Russia. Before we went there, I remember - even though it's really a long time ago now - how everybody was telling me, "Russia is not so easy to play, because all the people there are colder in Eastern countries if you compare it to South America". But all the time we were there, we never felt cold, because we were playing our music, and people were excited. It's an amazing feeling to come back after so many years. It's incredible that we came to play just once in all these years. Finally we are back now. Every year it was almost possible, but in the end for some reasons it was not possible anymore. We played Scandinavia and all these countries like Norway, Sweden and all these, and now finally on this farewell tour we are doing Russia. It's one of the reasons why we are so happy about it - it gives us a chance to finally play all these countries that we forgot too much.

This tour will last until spring next year. Do you have any plans to document it somehow, to release a live CD or a live DVD?

No, this was a plan in the beginning, but it will not happen, because we have so many other projects to do that there is simply no time for that. And then there's this thing with Alex - we don't feel it's right to do it without him.

Have you considered re-releasing some old stuff on the occasion of the band's anniversary - I mean "Land Of Immortals" and "Eternal Glory" demos? I know that a lot of fans would like to have them on a proper CD.

No, because there are too many record companies involved. It's all about legal things, and it's not that easy. And the fact that Alex is not part of this makes these legal things even more complicated. We look at this reunion as a one-off thing, really. We didn't think about doing extra things like that. What I can tell you is that our first record company did ask me to release officially the first demo of the band, the famous demo called "Eternal Glory", but because Alex was not part of the reunion, the record company stopped pushing this project further. I didn't receive any calls or emails from this old record company anymore.

When you started, there were many promising power metal bands in Italy - Labyrinth, Skylark, Highlord, etc. But none of them have managed to become as popular as Rhapsody. Do you have any idea why?

Normally this happens because we were the first. We were original. Now when you give advise to a new band - if I were a label or a manager, and a new band comes from Italy telling me, "I love the music of this band, I want to make music in the same style,  we want to succeed in that", I would say, "OK, then make something different or original". (laughs) When you just make some music that is on the same line, the people will always prefer the original. If you want to make music a la Manowar, for example, people will always prefer Manowar playing their own music than you playing some music in the style of Manowar. That's always the thing to say. But I have to say that Labyrinth, I have just met these guys at a festival in Italy, they are still performing, they are still in good shape. The other bands, I don't know them personally, and I don't really know if they still go on or if they stopped. You know, the problem is that when you play one style of music like we were playing our power metal, it's not very easy for you to listen to other bands playing the same style that you play, do you know what I mean? Usually for every artist when you play this with your band, you are forced to listen to your music all day - you compose it, you record it and so on. So when you come home, the most normal thing for you as an artist is to listen to completely different music. It's also my case, I never listen to other bands playing the same style that I do.

There were two persons that left a mark on the history of Rhapsody. One of them is Christopher Lee. What are your best memories about working with this legend?

This was amazing. I remember me and Alex, we were fans of "The Lord Of The Rings" movies, and first we saw them with Italian overdubbing, but then we went to see them in the original version, the English version. I had known Christopher Lee very well because of the movies he did in the 60s and 70s, but this is when I discovered his voice. It had such an incredible soul and color, it was amazing. At the time when "The Lord Of The Rings" movies were coming out, we were looking for someone to narrate the spoken parts for "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II" (2004), and we sent him an email asking if he would be an official narrator for Rhapsody, but it was not something serious. We just said, "OK, we'll try it". And guess what? After some weeks we received the news that he would be the narrator. For us it was already something great, of course. We later found out that we were at the perfect place at the right time, because it was the moment when he had finished his thing for "Star Wars", and he realized that he wanted to promote himself to a new audience of young people. He thought about doing it through music and making himself known among a younger generation as well. He figured out that the Rhapsody music was good for that, so we were very lucky. Then we went to London, and we had a chance to meet him personally for two days while he narrated for our first album with his involvement, "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II". When we came, you can imagine we were so very shy, me and Alex, we were speaking to him like he was a mentor, but then we discovered that he was an amazing person. He was really the same person that you see in the movies, and it's normally not like that. It was an incredible surprise, and we spent two fantastic days together. He also loved us, and in the end we were calling him our uncle. Our cooperation went on for many years, and of course, when we heard that he was gone, it was a disaster for us.  

Do we understand it right that he fell in love with heavy metal and started singing it after he met you?

Yeah, indeed! When he said "yes"', he didn't really know what heavy metal is. (everybody laughs) It was a weird moment when we had to send a demo of our music so that he would understand over what he is supposed to narrate something. We sent this demo, but of course, we selected the Rhapsody songs that were not full-on heavy metal, because we were afraid that when he would hear really heavy guitars in other songs, he would say, "Oh no, I don't like this music". We sent a demo with a few ballads and orchestra-oriented songs, and he loved it, he said, "Wow, I didn't know it would be something so great!" (laughs) So we played this trick on him, but in the end he also got to hear the rest of the songs, also with heavy guitars, and he was able to appreciate it. We found out that he was a fan of different music and he always wanted to be an opera singer. In the end, he didn't act only a narrator for Rhapsody, but he also sang one of our song, "The Magic Of The Wizard's Dream", as a duet with Fabio.

Another influential person for Rhapsody was Joey DeMaio. Can you also say a few words about working with him?

Joey DeMaio was our manager, and we toured together with Manowar on a couple of tours. But it's been 10 years since we don't work together, and apart from him being our manager, we didn't have other connections.

We have a few questions about the latest Luca Turilli's Rhapsody album "Prometheus" (2015). First of all, the album touches upon many different topics and personalities. How do you decide which song is going to speak about which topic? For instance, when you have a song like "Il Tempo Degli Dei", how did you figure out that this song is going to be about Gustavo Adolfo Rol (Italian thinker and painter - ed.)?

Well, it depends. Sometimes you start from the titles. 90 percent of the songs I have ever written start from the titles. Already in the title there is a world, because for you the title is not just three words, but everything related to these three words. "Il Tempo Degli Dei" ("Time Of The Gods") was for me an incredible song about spiritual evolution and the power that we have inside and it only needs to be awaken. As soon as you know what the song is about thanks to the title, then everything flows. Suddenly the music comes - I sit at the piano, and as soon as I know what I want to speak about, the music comes by itself. For me the biggest thing before working on an album, especially when I have the possibility to speak about different subjects, is the list of titles. (laughs) When I have this list of 10 or 11 songs, an album is done for me. Even before recording, even before finishing arrangements, the album is already done.

Is there a specific reason why some songs are in English and others are in Italian? How do you decide on the language?

Italian is not the language known just by Italians, but by the world of opera, you know. It is a very open language, it's not hard like German, for example. (laughs) There are not many famous German songs known internationally apart from Rammstein. That was a big surprise, a big exception. But Italian is really perfect for all kinds of music. When I want to speak about something in a deeper way, sometimes English doesn't allow me, because for that you have to know it perfectly - like I do with Italian. Normally I don't write using the modern Italian language, but the one from two centuries ago. Back then only the rich people had the chance to learn it, to speak it correctly, and it was a little bit more particular, there were a bit more different words to mean different things. If you go back two centuries, you'll find specific words that are now not used anymore, but everybody knows them, because they are from "The Divine Comedy" by Dante Aligieri or go back even more. I like to use them, because I think it enriches the song, it gives me the possibility to express the meaning of the song in a different, much deeper way, because when there are more words to mean the same thing, you can make the text very rich, very elegant, whereas English is unfortunately very limited... I understood the difference, because if you take a band that has 20 albums out, and you take just one of them, you will find many words used in the same way, the same expressions. But if I have an album with six songs in English, two in Italian, one in French, like I will have one day, this gives me the possibility to ensure some variety from the language perspective.

What kind of message do you want to convey to the listeners with "Prometheus"? Is it enough when they only enjoy the music and do not look into the lyrics, or do you think every listener needs to go deeper and find out about the quotes and persons you mention in the booklet?

You can approach my music in different ways. I've always said that about Rhapsody since the very beginning. Some people thought it's just a saga about dragons and warriors, like a movie, but in the end, there is a much deeper message behind it, a very possible message of respect, right and love. Different people approach music in different ways when they're listening. I don't pretend that I know everything, but if you think that you need to discover something more, you have a world to discover behind Rhapsody's apparent lyrics. For the second Rhapsody saga, I improved my English, and I also changed the perspective of the narration. Before I was a simple narrator looking at the story from an external point of view. In the second saga I attempted to make the listener feel like he's one of the characters. Many people identified themselves as Dargor, this dark luminous character that represents everyone of us a little bit - he has the good and the dark side, he knows there is something more to discover about himself, and he does slowly discover more about his spiritual path. We're all different, we have different vibrations, different karmas, put it as you want, and when they approach the music, they hear different things. But it is important to give them a complete open book from my side, and then people, based on their nature, decide if they want to discover something more, or if they just want to listen to the music - that's fine by me as well.

In the booklet of "Prometheus" you mention your trip to New Zealand. Can you say a few words about it? Did you manage to see all the places where Peter Jackson shot "The Lord Of The Rings"?

Of course, that's why I wrote the song "One Ring To Rule Them All". One of the greatest influences on Rhapsody are the natural landscapes offered kindly by Mother Earth. (laughs) In some way, when you go to New Zealand, you get the best that you can expect. You have volcanoes, you have incredible mountains like the Alps we have in Italy, you have incredible colors, the air is totally pure... You feel like a free man, and when you're a free man in a free world, you feel totally satisfied, which is an emotion that I like to translate in music.

Before "Prometheus" you built a very powerful studio for recording orchestral arrangements because you wanted to record film scores there. How is this idea progressing? Have you recorded any actual film scores in your studio?

No, nothing. It's been three years since I opened this thing. I made a demo with an American partner, and we were lucky with it - every copy that we made landed somewhere. We had contact with a famous agent in California, but the problem is that the second step was not what I expected. This guy asked me to compose like 50 pieces of music - 10 in the horror style, 10 in the comedy style, 10 in... you know, all these cinema styles. And I understood that this is really not what I would like to do. This is how it works in Hollywood - music is made in series, and then they send it to the client. So I decided that I still prefer to make albums with the band. I also understood that in Hollywood it's not easy to be 100 percent free. Every time you have a compromise to reach - with a producer, with an executive producer, with an artistic producer, with a director, whatever. Even the most famous composers these days have to face big deals when they're working in Hollywood. At this moment of my life I still prefer the band vision, and now there are so many projects that I had to stop that. If, for example, there is a video game or movie where I can decide many things, then I could also do it. But at the moment I am totally free in what I do, I have people trusting in me - the members of every band, record labels, they all have trust in my compositions, and this is where I should really give my best. After the end of Rhapsody I will start many different projects in all styles of music, there're so many opportunities that I don't understand how on Earth I will able to sleep anymore. (laughs) I'm totally into that for the next 3-4-5-10 years, I don't know, but if there's something interesting coming from that side, I am really open for it.

Do I understand it right that it's too early to speak about what you will do after this reunion tour, or could you give me any hints?

I can tell you that I will make things in every style of music. I'm a composer, I'm not a stage musician, I was forced to be a stage musician, but I like it because I can meet the fans, and that's the greatest gift after you compose the music - to meet the people. But I'm not a stage musician, it's not really my role, I feel forced to do it. When you feel forced, you understand it. I'm a composer and an arranger, that's what I love to do, and it takes a lot of time. I find out that over one year of my career I am on stage for only 10 days, two weeks maximum, so I play guitar only 10 days a year. When I hear people say, "You are a great guitar player", I say, "OK, thank you," to make them happy, but it's not like this. I'm a composer. And In order to be a good composer, you need to know all the music, so I listen to everything - Adele, a famous vocalist, she is really touching my soul, Cia, my favorite band is Muse, for example. I even love some things from hip hop, there's this guy called Tech N9ne, he's very good. It's a bit of an evolution of hip hip, it's not the old hip hop that I never liked so much. In the new hip hop, there are even cinematic elements in it. For me, wherever there are cinematic elements, a little bit of epic impact, I tend to like the music. When you listen to all this music, and you as composer have the will to create, you feel the need to do everything. So I will have a metal project, I will have a rock project, I will have a pop project, I will have all these different things. Sometimes, probably, because of the way the market is run, I will not use my name in some projects. As Luca Turilli I am known for something, I cannot do pop music as Luca Turilli, do you understand what I mean? I will have to hide myself behind different names, which is not nice, but it's a kind of market rule.

Special thanks to JC-Sound for arranging this interview

Interview by Roman Patrashov, Natalia "Snakeheart" Patrashova
Photos by Natalia "Snakeheart" Patrashova
October 29 - November 2, 2017
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