Rhapsody’s Luca Turilli
Interviewed by EvilG in August 2000
Rhapsody are one of the newer bands that have come along in the last couple of years that have really impressed me. From their lyrics that tell the saga of the Emerald Sword to their unique blend of power/speed metal with classical music this band is not for the casual listener. Band pillar, Luca Turilli also fronts his own solo band which is as impressive as his full-time band. I waited for the opportunity to interview Luca for months. For a while he was on the road with Rhapsody, playing on the same bill as Stratovarius and Sonata Artcia. In the final stages of recording the new Rhapsody CD Dawn of Victory, Luca took the time out of his schedule to call me just days before Rhapsody were to take to the stage at this year’s Wacken Open Air festival.
Hello Luca, nice to get the opportunity to chat with you. How’s everything?
I’m calling from France…nice weather (laughs) but always working! There’s no time to go out.
I’ve got a number of questions lined up so I’ll jump right in. When you look at most bands, when they release their first album, they tend to be unpolished or rough around the edges. However, with Rhapsody, your first CD Legendary Tales came out in ’97 and it was, as far as I’m concerned, a masterpiece. I’d like to know how was it possible that your first album didn’t sound at all like a band just starting out.
I think that there is a clear explanation for this. When we signed our contract with our record company we were still rough in the beginning. We had some free (time) before the release of the first album and during this time we sent a lot of demos to our manager in order to have the best songs on the first album. This meant we had the time to evolve in these years. So you know, when you make a demo, usually the one after is better. The sound evolved a lot. In the beginning we had none of the classical parts, the big choirs…but then demo after demo we decided to insert something special – big choirs, an orchestra, in the movie soundtrack style that we love. The result was Legendary Tales.
Were you in any other bands before Rhapsody, building up your compositional skills, or is Rhapsody the only band you’ve been in so far?
Yeah, before we had the name (Rhapsody), we were Thundercross. The riffs were a little different, we were more rough. I was the singer at that time. So you can imagine, it was something different, but always the heart of Rhapsody.
I’ve wondered why do you, or the media, refer to the Rhapsody sound as “Hollywood Metal” considering that classical music in no way originated from Hollywood? I would think a term like “Symphonic Metal” or “Classical Metal” might be more apt?
Yeah (laughs)…here’s the reason why. The symphonic term is really abused. We wanted to create a term that is very close to our appreciation of the cinema – the big Hollywood productions. Movies like Conan, like Armageddon…these big special effects movies that are apocalyptic or catastrophic are the movies I love. For me and Alex (Strapoli), the other composer in Rhapsody, this is the fist stage lyrically and musically. I think Rhapsody music has to give everything to cinema. That’s why were use the term Hollywood metal because Hollywood for us is Conan, Swartznagger, Sylvester Stallone, you can imagine.
I guess then that you’d love to see your music be used in a real movie some day then?
(Laughs excitedly) This is, as you can imagine, our first dream, absolutely!
A question about when you got Fabio in Rhapsody. He was originally the singer for Labyrinth. Can you tell me how he left Labyrinth and how you got him to join Rhapsody.
I don’t know…it was something natural because when I contacted him he was leaving Labyrinth due to personal problems in that band. So for us it was a natural passage. In the beginning there were some problems with him because this was not really his kind of music. He’s really more into the progressive music style. So for him it was really difficult to create the vocal lines…it was a bit strange. This is also the reason why we gave him the possibility to have other bands or projects. But in the end he is singing in Rhapsody and there is no problem at all, it’s great.
Both Fabio and Olaf, the singer in your solo project, are both great vocalists. What do you find the differences between them to be when you are working with them?
With Fabio, I know him a lot. With Olaf it’s bit difficult because we just meet two or three times per year, for a lot of time, but just 2-3 times a year. We are friends, but we don’t see each other so much. I think they are totally different in character. I really joke about this (laughs) because the singers are really special characters. They always like to be the “superstars” (laughs). The typical character of the singer, everybody is the same.
I know the answer to this, but for people who aren’t as familiar with Rhapsody, can you tell them who some of the classical musicians and composers are who have influenced your style and writing?
In the beginning, because the classical influence is very important for my beginning, it would first be Vivaldi and Paganini. There’s many others but these are the most important. My favorite work is the 24 Caprices of Paganini – a great challenge for the guitarist (laughs).
I bet, do you actually play some of that on your own?
I play some little parts here and there. I think we put one in the new album. I think we’ll play Caprice No. 10 for the next album.
On the flipside, I was wondering what hard rock or metal guitarists have influenced you? I would assume, correct me if I’m wrong, that Yngwie Malmsteen must be one of your influences?
Yes, Malmsteen, yes! For sure when I was a beginner, playing guitar at 16 I loved it and immediately after I discovered Jason Becker. He made me love the sweep picking technique. So now I put sweep picking everywhere (laughs).
Are there any bands, that have influenced the metal sounds in Rhapsody?
I can tell you the three bands that influenced us. I think you know – Helloween?
Helloween with Michael Kiske on vocals. Then, Manowar for the epic element and then I think you also know Blind Guardian – for their majestic big choirs.
When you write the classical type sections in your music, do you write them on your guitar or do you first hear them in your head and then transcribe the music to paper for someone else to play on a classical instrument?
If I want a song more metal orientated I start composing with the guitar. If I want a composition more classical, more symphonic, I start composing with the keyboards. I have my own little studio to prepare the demos. I really have a lot of fun starting with the keyboard and the computer. It depends, the composition is always very particular. Sometimes I just think in my head what they want, then it is very easy to put it in music. Then for some Rhapsody music I need Alex, the other composer of the band, we meet and share ideas. We generally listen to the same kind of music – not 100%, this is the reason why I also did my solo album, but I think for 80% we have the same taste basically. So it’s very easy to sit in front of each other, I come up with the titles and I explain to him about the lyrics and what it will be about. Then it is very easy to put all this into music.
So besides guitar, you play keyboards. Is there any other instruments, maybe classical instruments, that you play?
No, guitar and keyboards that’s it absolutely (laughs).
I thought I read somewhere that you play violin? I guess not then…
No absolutely not (laughs).
You have worked with a number of people who are not what people consider a “metal” musician such as flutists, violinists, cellists, opera singers, etc. What to these types of people, who are not involved in heavy metal, think about your blend of metal and classical music?
That’s a great question. I always notice that it’s very strange to sometimes work with these people because in the beginning when you tell them that this is metal they are thinking what will be this metal you know? But then after, probably because of the Rhapsody sound and all the classical influences, in the end they always like it and they want to have the CD. It’s a bit of a strange relation. The metal word always makes them afraid, but in the end it’s a normal relationship.
Would you ever like to do a tour with these classical musicians and the band?
Yes, after the fourth (Rhapsody) album because after the fourth album we will close this lyrically and musically – the Emerald Sword saga. So after the fourth we can represent on stage, or try to represent on stage, in the best way this concept. In 2002 this will happen.
How did you end up working with Sascha and Miro when they produced your CD’s and also played on your CD’s.
It’s fantastic because now we are really more friends, it’s not just a work-based relationship. Now they really know what we want. They are easy to work with and we wouldn’t want to waste time looking for another producer right now. For us now to go to Germany is like to go on a holiday. For the second album we never had one little problem and now with the third it’s the same. It’s always very well planned – we start with the guitar, the drums and bass…every production is always faster than the previous one then we have greater results. So we are very satisfied.
I have a couple of questions about other bands who have somehow combined classical and metal. Their first one would be, Metallica who last year released S&M where they took their “metal” songs and had a symphony play along with them. I was wondering if you have seen or hear it and what you thought of it.
Yes. I think it’s very difficult to arrange in a classical way the Metallica sound. Some arrangements in some movements are not so classical but is just a way to try to put in classical music over the music of Metallica which is very rhythmic. We (Rhapsody) have many more opportunities to put in classical parts but with Metallica it’s different. Some bands are totally different from classical music and they try to mix this with classical music and I know that Michael Kamen is very…I love him for his work on for example Highlander III. He is absolutely great. To give (S&M) a vote, I would give it a 7.
Out of 10?
Yes out of 10 (laughs).
The other CD I wanted to mention is Yngwie’s Concerto Suite. Have you checked that out, and what did you think of it?
Yeah and again I would give it a 7, I think this is the right vote. I like to listen to it for the composition. But for me it’s not really new. It’s like he takes the instruments and he just gives the best parts to the cello (he might have said solo). It’s not like a new orchestral arrangement. It’s replacing one instrument from a classical orchestra. It’s not really something adapted from the classical. It’s just to play the same thing with different instruments. I think it’s good and I like it but I would of added some voices.
Concerning your lyrics. Both on your solo CD’s and in Rhapsody, lyrics play an important role and they always tell an in depth tale. I was wondering what types of authors you’ve read or like who have influenced you.
No, it’s been movies because I don’t have the patience to read (laughs).
You don’t read? (laughing) You get your inspiration from movies then?
Movies! Movies cause in two hours you have the emotions, images, music, special effects…I love that. If I can feel like myself being the hero character of the movie…if I am able to feel this sensation…I feel a lot of emotion sitting in a cinema. Then I am full of energy to compose music immediately – by this mix of the images and the music. I love the ambiance of this kind of stuff like Tolkin…and the elves the dwarfs…but I’ve never had the time to read all the story, the names the events.
That’s one of the things that has attracted me to Rhapsody – the lyrics. I’ve always been a fan of Tolkin with Lord of The Rings and the Hobbit. When I actually sat and read through the Rhapsody lyrics, I thought these guys must read this stuff too!
No, it’s only because of time, it’s really a physical problem.
When it comes to writing music, do you have the storyline written before you come up with the music?
It depends. I can come up with the titles for everything because in my mind the story is already planned. So already I have the titles of the fourth album and actually it’s very easy to define the songs to complete the story. After you know the story it’s easier to create the music because if in one moment the events in the story are dramatic, you compose dramatic music. If it is a moment of joy, you compose happy music. Before I start with the titles I don’t have in mind the exact particulars of the story but I have the general idea.
How do you decide when you are writing lyrics, what would be more suited to Rhapsody as opposed to your solo CD?
I will define more of a difference with my second solo album that I will release next September. I’ve already composed it and I feel that the difference is more accented. With Rhapsody we have this story, this Emerald Sword saga, it’s four chapters. Basically I will write the events as with the emotion I get when I see a movie for example. So I don’t think I’ll write something totally different. For me the basic ideas of my life, my personality, will (influence) the lyrical results. So you can’t expect some very different things from me. When you write music it’s what you feel inside, then you write faster and in a easier way as well.
Now that your solo CD and the Rhapsody CD’s have been domestically released here in North America, do you hope to some day tour over here in Canada and the United States?
Yes, for sure. I think that this is just the beginning you know – these interviews with you, your friends. It’s a beginning to make a break in the wall.
So how has your CD and Rhapsody been selling in North America? Has it been doing well?
I don’t really know (laughs). No one has told me how much we’ve sold.
Regarding your tour that you recently did with Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica. Was this Rhapsody’s first proper tour?
No, this was just a test tour. We’ve never played enough together on stage. But now after two months, we don’t want to be the support act any longer. For the next tour in October, we want to be the headliner and then after the fourth album we want this bigger tour around the world with this special story represented on stage. But anyway next Spring we’ll come to South America I’m sure. If we sell really good in the United States, there’s a good chance of touring there.
Considering that you have so many mixed elements in your music, I assume you had to have a lot of samples setup for the orchestral elements. I was wondering how that came across live and if you are happy with how that comes out live where it’s sampled?
Yes, obviously. The problem is this, we would like to start from the beginning with the orchestra live on the stage. As you can imagine, you have to make a lot of experience before. When you have to think about yourself it’s one thing, when you have to think about the orchestra with all the other people around it’s a bigger thing. We want to have patience and wait till the fourth album to make this bigger show on one big headliner tour. We need this tour for our third album first so people can tell who we are then on the tour after (for the 4th album) we can really blend everything. For the moment, yes we play with samples, and for the moment this is OK.
I read that the title of the next Rhapsody CD is to be Dawn of Victory. Can you tell me how much of the music is written, how far along the recording is and when we can expect it released?
These days the singer is finishing the last songs. After that we will record the special guest performers – some choirs and other instruments then the mix. So you can expect the album out, well the single in I think the first week of September, and the full album by the middle/end of October.
So your guitar parts are all recorded?
Even the solos?
Yes it just has to go to mix.
Wow, cool! I’m looking forward to it. Will it be released in North America as well?
I think so yes. This time for sure.
And I assume that musically it will be in the same vein as the first two Rhapsody CD’s?
Yes absolutely. We will to use the typical Rhapsody metrics (sounds).
Tell me what you have in store for us with your next solo CD and what the progress is on that.
I’ve finished composing it and I’m really proud of it. It’s better than the first, this is of typical of musicians no?? I will offer something really more particular with some special guests. It will be like the first one with what I prefer the faster hymn-like refrain with the choirs, opera choirs, a lyrical female singer and a lot of folk.
Will the basis of the band be the same – vocalist, bassist, drummer?
Yes, for the singer it’s sure because Olaf is my singer for the solo part. I have to see for the drums because I have to think to be on stage with this band so there might be a chance of there being another drummer but I’m not sure yet.
Have you had the opportunity to play live with your solo band?
No but I think after the third album because we will close the trilogy and we want to start immediately as the headliner.
Do you think Rhapsody and your solo band could ever play on the same bill?
It could be, why not? (laughs)
A lot of work though huh?
YES! (laughs)…too much probably.
Is there any other news you can tell me about from the world of Rhapsody or your solo band?
What can I tell you…oh my god (laughs).
You mentioned at the beginning of the interview you were in France. Is that were you’re recording part of the CD?
No I’m here cause I have a problem with my car. I had to leave Germany to come here for two weeks. It was very hard because I had to “define” all the lyrics because the story I already had in my mind. I’ve had to do allot by phone so it’s problematic you know? I’ve listened to everything, the results by phone. I leave here in four days because we have a very important concert in Germany.
That’s the Wacken Open Air?
Ok thanks for taking to time to answer my questions.
No problem, thanks to you for the interview.