Rhapsody Of Fire – Interview

In anticipation for Bloodstock I had a chat with keyboard wizard Alex Staropoli ahead of the band’s main stage set for rushonrock.com.

rushonrock: Firstly, how was the latest European Tour?

Alex Staropoli: It was fantastic. For so many years we hadn’t played so many of the towns we visited.  At first we were wondering what we were going to get but in most of the places it was a success. In Milan, we hadn’t played there for nine years and we had almost 2,000 people. It was great to come back to that after so many years and see all these people.

rushonrock: How do you approach a live performance?

AS: I just want to have fun. I want to do the best that I can and I think everyone feels the same.  We rehearsed after three-years when we didn’t play together. From the very first set we played we were very tight and looking forward to going on stage.  When there is a good sound you can express your energy, your power and you see the reaction of the fans when you play all these different songs. It’s great, but I don’t think so much when I go on stage – I just want to feel the moment.

rushonrock: You had been out for four years with the whole legal battle.  How tough was that?

AS: We always kept working in the meantime.  We kept working at a very hard time.  It was not easy.  We could get ready knowing sooner or later we were going to be free.  In fact, when we sorted everything out we had Frozen Tears Of Angels ready – we signed with Nuclear Blast and everything happened very quickly.  It was hard but it was neccessary.  The main thing is that everybody is happy and that everything is over.  Some bands take vacations for three years!  In the end it was not that long.  We can also feel that this created some interest in the band again.

rushonrock: It did create a huge amount of anticipation in fan circles, and when Frozen Tears Of Angels was finally released, it smashed expectations.  It must have been a great feeling for the band…

AS: Yeah, it was fantastic.  When we were going to release the title we went to the Nuclear Blast offices and there were a lot of journalists on the sofas and they were listening to the music on a good stereo device.  Everybody was saying ‘wow, this is amazing!’  We were kind of sure that they would love it, because we had this feeling and we always have this feeling – we know when a song is going to be a success or not.  We were so proud of Frozen Tears Of Angels that we were looking forward to that time.  When we were down at the offices everybody was excited.  This was the best way to come back.  We have had a great label like Nuclear Blast and it was exciting.

rushonrock: Tracing back to your personal inspirations.  What first interested you in the orchestral and symphonic side of things?

AS: I played piano and some classic influences were with me already.  I have to say that the movies influenced Luca and myself.  We love movies in general but anything from Korengal Valley (Restrepo) to Lord Of The Rings, these are the movies I like to watch.  Soundtracks are spectacular.  We always had this wider aim to compose the music of Rhapsody Of Fire to try to bring images to the listener.  We always want the listener to be more involved in the songs, the music and the saga.

rushonrock: When you first met Luca did you always know in your mind that you would pursue music with such a passion?

AS: Luca is a passionate guy.  We met at a stage when we were very young and when it came to composing music we knew that there was something going on.  Everything was exciting.  We made a table and all of the songs that we made in the end – 90% of them we used for Legendary Tales and Symphony Of The Enchanted Lands.  These songs were composed two, three or four-years before we released them in ’97.

rushonrock: Rather than base your stories on specific books, Rhapsody Of Fire have made their own stories.  Were you clear that was what you wanted to do when you first began?

AS: Yeah, Luca didn’t want to play something that wasn’t written by someone else.  He wanted to write them himself like a story.  He is infinite, really amazing – always with ideas.

rushonrock: There’s a divide of dark and light in your albums.  What is it that fascinates you about that?

AS: It’s like something you can’t explain.  It’s like something in us, even if we don’t recognise it.  It’s easy – sometimes we laugh together and sometimes we fight like crazy guys, it’s normal.  Every part of the record is a part in us.  When you strike it with music it takes a lot of colours and shapes.

rushonrock: It’s all contrasted beautifually in many of your albums. But with the latest one it’s the end of The Dark Secret Saga, isn’t it?

AS: Yes it is the end of the saga.  I don’t like to talk about it in detail because it is the end of the saga.  It was very sad to write the last song and to listen to the last words of Christopher Lee.  I expect our fans to discover the way it is going to end.

rushonrock: It’s the end of an era in a number of ways, but in the four albums you worked with Sir Christopher Lee, how was it?

AS: It was great and one of the best experiences we had in music for sure.  We met him and he was wondering a little bit about us.  He understood the way we are.  One of the most exciting things is that in the end it was a collaboration.  It was Christopher Lee who asked us to sing, it was not our idea, it was his idea.  He was not there for the money, he was there because he loved to do the job and propose ideas.  He was very excited.  We talked a lot about movies and everything, it was amazing.

rushonrock: With From Chaos To Eternity being the last of the saga, do you feel there was a pressure there to deliver the most epic composition that you’ve done?

AS: No it was not.  You know that there’s some dramatic chords and some narration.  While composing this between me and Luca, you could really feel it was intense.  We wanted something intense, but in the end it was easy to do because it was something that was already in the air – the way the saga had to go and had to finish and with the kind of narration and music.  Actually the narration was recorded before because we did one big session, so the saga was written already.  We wrote the music on top of the narration.  We didn’t write the music and then add the narration on top, we had the narration and I made narration over the arrangements by editing and everything.  By the end the music was built by a narration.  It creates an effect that maybe you don’t realise but it’s not just music and then put on top the narration, everything is created from that.

rushonrock: When you have to compose around this narration do you go in with a certain mindframe of what to do?

AS: It depends, because sometimes we have some ideas that haven’t yet developed. The first approach is the guitars. We decided, because of our powerful sound, to take that approach so the guitars sound great.  For most of the songs Luca’s work is very important and you can hear that I’m sure.

rushonrock: Will Rhapsody Of Fire continue making sagas?

AS: I have no idea about.  Luca and myself don’t talk about this anymore because we really don’t want to think.  This had to be the end of the saga. But for the future we have no idea what we are going to write.

rushonrock: Could you ever imagine Rhapsody Of Fire’s songs to be interpreted into a film, opera or theatre?

AS: That would be fantastic.  It was always a dream for us, even for someone to take a song and use it in a movie, any movie!  Theatre or movies was something that we always had in mind.

rushonrock: As an artist you’re obviously influenced by classical music, but are there any others that had an impact on you?

AS: I started to listen to Europe and to Ronnie James Dio – all of these melodic bands – most of them classic.  Then it was my own idea of soundtracks and all the influences that Luca had with Helloween and Blind Guardian.  Altogether we created a mixture.

rushonrock: You have a Bloodstock appearance this year – are you looking forward to that?

AS: I really am, it’s very exciting!  When me and Luca met we said that there are no Italian metal bands that have had success in the world and we want to be the first – and we are.  We were the first.  For us to tour in Italy, Germany, France and over Europe was normal, but to come to the UK is something different for me.  I’m very excited because we’ve never played there.  I don’t know why we never came before.

rushonrock: What’s next after all of your festival appearances?

AS: We went to South America just a few months ago and we have to think about new countries. We have to figure out the best place we can go because we want to play.

rushonrock: How would you sum up the new record?

AS: It’s the perfect follow up to Frozen Tears Of Angels.  As far as sounds, as far as compositions – for sure.

rushonrock: You did have a brief solo project for some time. Tell us a bit about that…

AS: It wasn’t really a solo project but more of a band.  I composed songs with my brother (Manuel) and initially we were working with Midnight from Crimson Glory. But then after six months he passed away.  We composed these songs for his voice.  It was a big loss to us because we lost a friend and a great singer.  Now we still have to figure out, because I have all these good songs that I have produced with my brother so it’s something that I feel passion for.

rushonrock: What do you do away from your music?  Are there any hobbies or otherwise?

I’m not the guy that likes to be stressed.  Sometimes you work many hours for many days.  I am a person who needs some space and some time to rest.  Silence is very important for me.  I go to the gym and train, I like to stay outside, to go swimming.  Let’s say physical activities.  I do many things but it cannot beat music.  It is not possible!  If you do everything the same, everyday for years, you go crazy.  Some people can do that.  Luca is more in this direction.  He likes to work 14-hours a day – he is a workaholic.  But I’m not that way.  I like to work to reach my goal then stop and do something different.  I want to recharge my batteries, I am not a robot!  I like to clean my mind.

rushonrock: Speaking of ‘cleaning your mind’, it was at a ‘mind over matter’ course where you met Luca wasn’t it?

AS: Yeah, it was some basics to learn how to relax and use your brain in a better way.  To use relaxations and using some state of mind. It was interesting!

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