Heart of Steel: Interviews

White Skull - Interview With Tony Mad Fonto

Interviewed by Arto Lehtinen

All of us are already familiar with bigger Italian fantasy power metal groups such as Labyrinth and above all Rhapsody. Despite those big ones, going below to the catacombs of the Italian power metal underground is like an adventure to the mystical Roman empire to find out more and more metal bands are playing traditional heavy metal and keeping the flame alive. White Skull have managed to create the solid base following in their home country Italy. I interviewed the band's guitarist Tony Mad Fonto from White Skull.

 

Ciao!!! What's up in Italy? Seems like there is quite unexpected cold and a lot of snow now?

Ciao!!! In Italy…every time running… ahhhh… Here was snowing in December… I know I'm answering too late at the interview, I'm sorry, but I was busy busy and busy with a lot of things… I was out of my home for a long time to record the new album, to do some shows, to search for a new deal, and… a lot of other things… I have built with BB Nick our personal recording studio… no holidays until now…

 

Well let's start the whole interview with quite a standard, and even somehow fundamental, question concerning the historical background of White Skull. I guess readers may be aware of the name White Skull due to the promotional campaign of Nuclear Blast, I guess they hardly know you are from Italy and how White Skull got started out in the first place, could you politely shed some light on this?

Ok for the story of the Band, please check the homepage… http://users.iol.it/white_skull. Anyway, we started to play Metal in 1990 and we believe in it!!!

 

Hmm this may sound or in fact look quite a weird question from your point of view, but when or how did you come up the band' s name "White Skull"? Does it have any deeper meaning or is it just a made up name?

Ok I gave the name White Skull to the band, I'm the founder. The reason is easy, but difficult to explain, it is mystical. I'm a collector of skulls. For me the skull is the place where good and evil live together, all the power is inside. You could (be) crazy, mad or normal, depends what you have inside… ah ah ah… White??? Which is the color of the skull - easy: White… are you satisfied???

 

When you started out in the mid 90's by putting out the first demo "Save The Planet" it was quite obvious bands playing traditional metal weren't taken that much seriously and instead were laughed at, but what kind of reception did you get at that time and how much did you sell that Save The Planet tape after all?

A lot of people have moved some critics about the band, because was not time to play metal, but my answer was I believe in this music I don't want (to) change my style to do (other) music because traditional metal was not a trend at that time. When we have released the first album "I won't burn alone" someone said to Underground Symphony "You with this album will close your activity" was not true… ah ah ah… About Save the Planet, it had some good reviews and we sold 200 copies of it, was not too much, but thanks to that demo we are here now.

 

The first album "I Won't Burn Alone" came out around '95 by the local label Underground Symphony…Ehh.. Weren't any bigger companies interested in White Skull as the local label picked up and put the debut album out?

No, there weren't big companies, at that time they looked for other kinds of metal… Death or other…

 

Embittered came out in '97 via Underground Symphony as well as Tales From The North, but TFTN got the world wide distribution with the help of Nuclear Blast with whom you did a license deal. So it is obvious Nuclear Blast's deal and above all the support definitely opened new doors for White Skull to expand your music?

Yeah… With Tales from The North we signed a deal with Nuclear Blast and Underground Symphony took the License only for Italy… is different from your version. Nuclear Blast was our label.

 

In the wake of the license deal with Nuclear Blast and releasing Tales From The North, White Skull have had opportunities of getting more touring experiences as an opening act for Grave Digger and above all the visit to the holy land, Israel and then a few gigs with the British metal veterans Saxon. This is kind of a worthless question, but you gotta be satisfied how Nuclear Blast has helped you!

Nuclear Blast haven't done a good promotional job. I'm not very satisfied about their work. At the first meeting they told us in a positive way, we were happy, but in a second time all the promises were not true. The tour with Grave Digger was thanks to Chris Boltendahl, Israel show was thanks to Metal Hammer Israel (Bullos), Saxon shows, thanks to my friend Charly in Italy and so on… Nothing from Nuclear Blast!

 

Honest, how much have you sold your albums?

1st I won't Burn alone around 3000 copies
2nd Embittered around 3500 copies
Mini Asgard around 2000 copies
3rd Tales From the North around 25000 copies
4th Public Glory Secret Agony I don't know, I haven't seen any statement until now!

 

But instead of Underground Symphony, Public Glory was released by Udo Dirkschneider's record company "Breaker Records", so how did you manage to get Udo's company to publish the album?

Chris Boltendahl, because Nuclear Blast didn't sign another deal with us. They were interested in big bands, not more in us. This is the fuckin' business.

 

Hmm what kind of relationship do you have with Chris Boltendahl as he has appeared on the two White Skull albums as a guest doing some background vocals and as far as I know you have even toured Grave Digger quite a lot and how did you get to lure to visit your albums?

We are friends, Chris is my friend, we have worked together an I say a big thanks to him for everything. Our friendship is a long story…

Speaking about Tales From The North. Most of the Italian bands are used to having lyrics about the fantasy things and issues about swords, dragons and all kinds of other fantasy fairytales. Instead White Skull have taken an entire opposite direction as to the lyrics for example Tales From The North was basically based on Vikings and related subjects, what made you write about the northern Vikings?

We were tired about writing lyrics about our life and we decided to talk about something historic. This is the reason from that lyrics. We studied a lot before (we began) to write.

 

But on "Public Glory, Secret Agony" you have ladled all the lyrical inspirations from the history of Rome and Caesar and everything that is related to that period of time when Gladiators fought in the Coliseum and the fall and the rise of the Roman empire, I guess your history gives an endless field to write about?

About Gladiator was casually… we decided to talk about the Romans after all the interview of Tales From the North, a lot of journalist asked us why we are Italian and we talk about Vikings when in Italy we have a lot of beautiful stories. The Roman Empire was the answer!

 

Judging by the name of the upcoming The Dark Age I am pretty much sure the lyrics will be based on the historical events in the Dark Age, or am I totally mistaken?

The Dark age is the time of the Inquisition in the middle ages. All historical and true. The church in the name of god have killed a lot of innocents.

 

As for The Dark Age, could you tell a little bit more about the forthcoming album for examples names of songs and how many…!!

Yes is there are the tracklist…. And attached you will see the new cover, you can explain your impression to the readers…

Penitenziagite (Intro) 1:34
The Dark Age 4:46
Grand Inquisitor 4:25
Maid of Orleans 4:27
New Crusade 5:07
The Edict 5:09
Voice From The Heaven 4:57
Devil's Woman 5:32
Torture 5:16
A New Handbook 4:19
Sentence Of Death 4:33
Theme For The Innocence 2:37

As well, the band have signed a deal with FRONTIERS RECORDS. The New Album "THE DARK AGE" will be on the Market at the end of AUGUST 2002.

 

 

The White Skull line up has undergone some, not so small, changes as the original female vocalist Federica "Sister" De Boni decided to pull out.. Yeah.. Why as a matter of fact did she decide to step aside from the ranks?

There was a lot of personal problems in her life. We are still friends, I see her sometimes, I speak with her by phone one or two times each week… she is like my sister. I understand her choice to leave the band.

 

And this new guy replacing her is…. Who ?!?

Is Gus… Gustavo Adrian Gabarrò, he comes from Argentina, but he has lived in Italy since 10 years…

 

Federica used to be a part of the band since the early days and started getting a lot of recognition and was compared to Doro Pesch in some cases and the female vocalist as a frontman in a band usually brings more attention and interest from the press and definitely new fans who are interested to check out the band because of the female vocalist. But do you think people are still interested in White Skull when the vocalist is a male?

I hope yes. There are a lot of band with a male singer. I believe Gus is very good singer.

 

Speaking of the Italian metal scene currently flourishing quite well (in my eyes) as a lot of new and above all great power/traditional metal bands have started getting more recognition and signed deals with bigger companies and especially Rhapsody may have opened the doors for other Italian bands, but do you think there are a little bit too much these power metal bands hailing from Italy nowadays?

Yes, but I can't stop them. I think that the label must be more attention to sign only good bands.

 

I still remember the old days in the 80's the Italian metal scene was mostly known for its extreme metal bands like Necrodeath, Bulldozer, Astaroth, AngelDeath, Mortuary Drape and of course Death SS and so on, but they were mostly known on the underground level.. How was the scene back in the 80's from your point of view anyway?

A disaster… No support from the labels.

 

The new album out and then tours and a lot of gigs, right?!

Yes, is these days we are planning our future. The release, I don't know nothing sure until now, but I thing it will be on Sept… Then we will play all over the world… everyplace the people want us.

 

Ok I for one thank you for having this opportunity of doing this interview with you and White Skull for Metal Rules, but if you have something to say, so go ahead…

Thanks for you time and sorry for the delay, but was hard time for all….I hope to meet you all in the next tour and believe my friends buy the new album of White Skull....Stay METAL!

 

Official website: http://users.iol.it/white_skull

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