Latest Release: Zero Gravity (Rebirth & Evolution) (Nuclear Blast)Website: www.tlrhapsody.com
Italian musician and composer Luca Turilli has created a huge back catalogue of great symphonic and power metal music over a good couple of decades. Initially, the band that became better known as Rhapsody of Fire released a slew of fantasy based metal music that was globally praised and influential on many a musician. About eight years ago, a unique amicable split spawned Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody which rose up alongside the continuing Rhapsody of Fire. Further machinations within the personnel of both bands eventually led to the reunion of the core band members back into Rhapsody for their Twentieth Anniversary Farewell Tour. As a result, Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody soon disbanded and a new project titled Turilli/Lione Rhapsody was created utilising the vast majority of the line-up from the anniversary tour. This ‘new’ band recently released what they consider to be their debut album with the suitably bombastic Zero Gravity (Rebirth & Evolution). Now touring Australia for the first time, Loud Online took part in an in-depth conversation with the one and only neoclassical music legend, Luca Turilli.
The album, Zero Gravity (Rebirth & Evolution), is a fantastic piece of work. There must have been a lot of pre-production involved.
It was really tough and when I think back, during that summer we did not even now if we would continue with Fabio [Lione – vocalist]. We made the decisions and then immediately the planning for the compositions, recording and production was happening. So in the end it was really hectic and it was one my busiest productions ever. I did not sleep for three consecutive nights so it was really tough this time. Also, we had a deadline for the album release [5th of July] to respect and that was on the same day as a festival performance. In the end we did it but I must have lost some years off my life but at least we have the album in our hands. So that is important. Otherwise it would not have been possible and thanks to God that I had three songs from another project that were kind of ready. So in the end I just had to re-demo them for Rhapsody and this helped a lot of it.
You’ve got some guests on the album too. How did that come about as it is new way of doing things for Rhapsody?
It was great, whenever we wanted a familiar voice, such as on the song ‘D.N.A. (Demon and Angel)’ which is about the genetic aspects of the human being. The song is a about Projection Theory by Carl Gustav Jung [Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst] and all of that so we really wanted to have Fabio representing the dark aspect of the personality. We needed a familiar voice to represent the most enlightened side of the personality. So we had the option to have Elize Ryd from the band Amaranthe as a guest vocalist. For us it was just great because we love her voice and we thought that the combination of her voice with Fabio would be really great. We sent her the song and she loved it so it was easy and Fabio had already worked with her so that made things simpler. We also have another guest singer on the song ‘I Am’ and that is Mark Basile from Italian band DGM. There is a lot of duet work going on there. He is a great singer and for me, DGM and the most underrated progressive band metal we have in Italy but they have the best musicians existing. I discovered this singer during the production of the album and both Fabio and I wanted to have him on the album. It was great because this song was different to the others. We wanted it to be more progressive and closer to being a kind of mix between Dream Theater and Queen. We thought that his voice would perfectly and it turned out to be the case. Then we have some other guests, and that includes my previous singer, Alessandro Conti, who was the singer from my band which was Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody and that band has now ended its story. He is performing on this album as a singer in the choir. Also, the French singer Emilie Ragni, who was a member of the chorus on my previous Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody albums. We also have Sascha Paeth [guitarist and producer] of Avantasia and he performs the bass parts on the bonus track called ‘Oceano’ alongside another two guests [Arne Wiegand on guitars, mandolin and piano with Joost van den Broek on keyboards]. In the past we never had guests so it was a first time. It was a fresh start for us with this new band and this is a debut album for Turilli / Lione Rhapsody. It is a new version of Rhapsody after the end of the old family and it is celebration of the old material. So we want to contaminate the new version of Rhapsody with the typical trademark of Rhapsody which is represented by a symphonic and cinematic impact. But we want to add different elements such as things that are progressive, with vocal arrangements that are in the style of Queen and then we wanted to add in ethnic music, ambient music and electronic sounds. Before this, a lot of electronic sounds, for obvious reasons, we could not use when our lyrics were linked to this whole fantasy saga. Now we are able to do so because we have no limits and without any limits, from an artistic point of view, this is very important. It is essential, especially now because after twenty to thirty years in this business, I really need to find new stimulation. You have to remember, I think I have released something like nearly twenty albums in my life.
Wow, that is an impressive achievement.
You have to imagine that I know all the chords so when I hear some chords from one song, I know the whole song already, if that makes sense. So thanks to the arrangements or new things in the music, I do not get bored with my music. So, I like to add in different things and Fabio loves that too. We have really found an agreement with the Turilli / Lione Rhapsody sound as the new direction because otherwise we would have both gotten bored with our compositions. So, we like to really go into different directions and that is certain for originality in the songs.
What sorts of challenges arise in live performances of complex, multi-layered songs with atmospherics, created in the studio?
Oh, for backing tracks, I think that we were the first ones to used them when we started and I remember at the time it was funny because many journalists were asking us if it was a problem or not. We were asking that of ourselves so since others were asking the same thing, we thought this must be something so we were kind of scared. But I remember when we broke our music on stage around twenty years ago it was really great. Then all of the bands at the time and even some bands that have now become very big, they were using samples. Now, of course, we still use some samples. But it is not always the case as for this coming tour as we have some other saving devices. Yet, we are already thinking that from January next year when we start our European tour, I think that I sill share up some duties between myself and keyboards. So I might play a keyboard part and then add in some extra samples behind it. At least me playing the keyboards might also be something nice for our fans. Also, for me it will be very interesting.
Great. Speaking of keyboards, the piece ‘Amata Immortale’ really reminds me of Frédéric Chopin’s Études.
Ah, now you are really touching on a point as this was really inspired by Chopin. The piano is really my favourite instrument even though I am known for playing guitar. In the end, the piano was always my favourite instrument because the sound of it really touches my heart and soul. So, as I listen to everything in my life, you can see the Chopin is my favourite composer. It was kind of obvious that when I had the chance to prepare a kind of introduction for a ballad like that one with ‘Amata Immortale’, which you pronounced very well, it was great to be able to compose something that was in that direction. For me it was easy since I have listened for so many years to classical composers. It comes naturally when I improvise something on the piano and going in that direction it is a very romantic piece, I would say.
Songs like ‘Decoding the Multiverse’ and ‘Multidimensional’ has the piano in there but there are driving guitar rhythms. Is that something that co-producer Simone Mularoni would suggest as part of the arrangements?
Most of the time that I spend at home is for those parts because then the recording and production parts are the easiest tasks. To arrive ready on day one is usually the way but in this case, that is why I was telling how it was a bit tragic this time around. I had just three months to dismantle and reconstruct things. I had to spend some time stealing nights back for myself or for my life because when I entered the studio, always like this, the arrangements have to be eighty-percent done. Then I can continue the last phases of the arrangement when, for example, we’ve recorded everything so the engineer of the studio sends me back the stuff that we have already recorded. So, as an example, the voice of Fabio which is very important for me to be able to finalise the last part of the arrangements. But it has to be already up to eighty-percent so I started in October, 2018 to be in the studio by December of that year. Thanks to God we had those three songs that I had been working on for another project which fitted in with Rhapsody and we loved the idea to implement them into the album. Otherwise it would have been a really difficult thing. It was still really hard but in the end there was satisfaction with the masterful God repaying you for all such efforts. I mean, I’ve made twenty albums already and Fabio and I produced this album. I was already producing many of my other albums for many years. So it is a kind of a case of us knowing exactly what we want. Usually, for the studio engineer, it is very easy to work with us because we have our ideas planned apart from maybe some vocal changes. Maybe Fabio will change something when we are recording vocals, even if the vocal lines are already composed and set in the demo. But sometimes he will come up with an idea such as feeling that he can go higher on the last chorus and things like that. This is just the fun that you can have in the studio but normally, for all the rest [of the material], everything is already pre-composed and pre-arranged. So normally the life in the studio is the easiest part.
The vocals on the track ‘I Am’ very much reminds me of Queen’s rich and layered vocal harmonies.
Yes, of course. One of the projects that we could have started after the end of the twentieth anniversary Farewell Tour for Rhapsody was a symphonic rock project which we wanted to make in the direction of Queen. So, it was then agreed that when we went ahead with Turilli / Lione Rhapsody, we wanted to implement these special vocal arrangements that we love so much in our music. It was kind of natural and that is why for both me and Fabio, it is one of our favourite songs.
I believe that you spent about a month on the vocals alone for this new album. The most impressive aspect of that is that the last track on the album, ‘Arcanum (Da Vinci’s Enigma)’ is literally operatic.
Yeah, bravo and for me, the fact that I have Fabio as my singer means that I can go crazy and do so with artistic surprises. In the sense that Fabio has a great voice and is a composer, he can do whatever he wants. He has a special voice and he really is one of the most underrated singers around because he known mainly in the power metal and symphonic metal area because of the bands that he performs with and so on. For me, he is one of the best singers in music in general. He would be one of the twenty best singers around. He can sing everything from rock opera to metal and that is the incredible thing with Fabio. First of all, I was shocked because I was not working with him anymore after the peaceful split from Rhapsody of Fire around 2010. I was not working with him but when we had the chance to be part of the farewell reunion tour which celebrating the early material of Rhapsody, it was incredible. At the time, Fabio’s voice was young and we really took advantage of his voice in that a lot of the vocal lines were very difficult and very high in tone. Now I thought that after several years of not working with him that I would have to lower the key of some of the songs. I was shocked though because he sang even better than before. I could not believe it because he was even smoking some cigarettes here and there. I then realised his voice was able to cope with the difficulties of the album and that we could take care with it to spend time on the vocal lines and the interpretations. I would explain to him what the song was about and he was able to finish the songs with his heart and soul in the vocals. That is why we had plenty of fun for that month of working on vocals in the studio. He was able to change interpretations, make modifications and alter the moods of songs. That is why we are very proud of the vocals on this album. One basic element of this new band or new version of Rhapsody is that the vocals or the voice of Fabio represent the highlight of the project.
You used custom guitars made by French luthier Christophe Capelli. How did you arriving at using those guitars?
People know me as a guitar player but I am not exclusively that because I really play about two weeks in the years when I have to rehearse for the shows. So I am not that much of an expert on guitars, as you can see since in the booklets of many albums I didn’t even record the rhythm guitars. So, I composed every note but I would then give that task to Dominique [Leurquin – rhythm and lead guitar] or to a second guitar player like a special guest. It is really because I am so much involved in the arrangements of things from keyboards, pianos, guitars and so on. In the end I would always be a little bit behind myself so when I do guitar magazine interviews they will ask my about things that I do not even know in depth which is funny. In my life I just have two guitars with the first being Ibanez models. Then, with Dominique being my friend and being in Rhapsody for many years, I had the chance to check those French guitars. For me it was important that I came up with the lead guitar playing but even when I’m coming up with the rhythm guitar parts, I’m doing it in a way that makes it sound like a modern guitar which is typical of the modern productions that Fabio and I love so much. So, we wanted things to be really important, rhythmically speaking. It took me a lot of time to come up with the rhythm guitar parts but in general, I’ll only take care of or specialise in the lead guitar parts. I really wanted to have one perfect guitar for the lead guitar playing so I was asking around. I was happy only up to a certain point with my Ibanez guitars. In the end, I found a French luthier who was friends with Dominique, of course and he built a guitar for me. It really satisfied my lead guitar playing aspirations and it was just amazing because I developed my sweep picking techniques which I specialise in as part of my style. That is because Jason Becker is one of my maestros in some way and so the guitar is really prefect for that. It is built for that style and I was so happy that I asked him to build three guitars for me. He wanted to go a step further so he made three guitars and this, for me, is the most guitars that I had ever had in my entire life. I have a three main guitars plus classical guitars and with them I do everything. I do not need anything else; I do not need to play other guitars in my life anymore. I can just die after having played these incredible guitars. In the beginning, the solos were kind of difficult to play, even just for little technical parts but now with these guitars, the finger movement and even the effort used to play them fast is easier. For me, it is much easier to play super technical sweeping parts or whatever shredding related style than some basic rhythmic stuff.