Rhapsody of Fire:
The Frozen Tears of Angels interview with Alex Staropoli
Interview and transcription by Erich Heintzelman
I recently spoke with Alex Staropoli, the keyboardist for Rhapsody On Fire about their new album, Frozen Lake of Tears. Due to legality issues, Alex and I did not discuss the band’s struggles over the last four years but Alex expalined the making of the new album, plans for a tour, and what he considers to be one of the best bands making music right now.
Alex, allow me to say it is great to have a new album from you guys again. We are all very excited about that.
Was there ever a point where it appeared that the band might not have been able to continue?
No, not really, no. We were always confidant that sooner or later we’d solve everything and it took awhile but in the end we got it finally so we have the energy and the will to compose and release an album that we love and that is heavy in arts right now and we will soon be going on tour. So this is a new start for Rhapsody of Fire you know.
Alex, it has been four years since Triumph of Agony. How difficult was it to write and focus on the new album with some of the issues going on with the band?
Well let’s say that the composition of the new album took place let’s say between the end of 2008 and 2009 so …. It was hard but we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. We try to work confidant that everything that would be solved at the moment of the release. And so music kept us positive, you know what I mean.
The song “Sea of Fate” is the single on the album and I feel that it announces that you guys are back, particularly with guitar, bass, and a keyboard solo in the middle. Do you guys have a little friendly competition to try to outdo the other when you feature those solos?
Oh no not really. No. Being the producer, look at myself, we always look at the final result we try to not look just at our own instruments and what we play you know. Sometimes there is a kind of a competition but this is a positive thing that pushes us to make the best thing we can make, you know? You know what I mean? It’s just that we know each other since a long time that we don’t need to fight for those things you know and there’s no place for fighting for those things. We just make the music in the best way that we can and there would be more solos coming on the next albums you know and something that finally the guitarist has the space they deserve and we decided to have less heavy orchestration on this album because we want really more guitars. I am the first one you know because I am a keyboarder but I love guitars so I love the power of guitars, the solos, the lead sound, and this was always missing you know. And so from this album on we would have for sure more space for guitars and more space for solos and for keyboard solos and it will be fun.
I understand that Fabio Lione contributed more on the writing of this album and in particular on “Sea of Fate” than in the past. Do you see him taking an even bigger role in the writing process on the next album?
Yes. He did. Well let’s say that since the beginning look at myself who always wanted to have the control on everything, you know, production and composition, production and everything you know. But you know Fabio had some good melodies, some good ideas in line with Rhapsody of Fire music so we decided to involve him you know. And a good idea, is a good idea you know. And this can not only improve music in general but you know so make us more friendly, to be more closer to each other. You have always to think of look that myself while we were without a singer and we called Fabio. You know, while we were already in the studio and recording Legendary Tales our first album so we met the first time and we started working together, we got knowing each and so we gave him lyrics to sing and so it was very hard for Fabio to start to sing songs that he’d never heard of and lyrics that he never wrote. So we believe that since Frozen Tears of Angels it was necessary to have Fabio write some material. To let him participate and you know it’s very important musically and personally.
Your keyboard work has always been important to the band’s sound but on this album I think you might have done some of your best work. Did you handle all the orchestrations this time?
Yes yes this is this was the main goal to have less orchestrations. And less doesn’t mean that there are not you know because you just can imagine Symphony of Enchanted Lands II we have a big orchestra and choir also Triumph or Agony was a very orchestral. This time we wanted to be more yes orchestral always some songs that have to be sound tracks oriented but also modern keyboard oriented. This was necessary to give more space to the guitars and also to give more freshness to the songs, you know. And for the very first time we started to compose Frozen Tears of Angels from zero you know. We didn’t want to use material that we had. We needed to start composing something brand new that sounds more future, more modern you know. And it was fun also for me, it was a goal to try to represent with music and keyboards and sound design the orientation of the saga you know. This was very important for me so by listening to music you can really feel which is the orientation of the saga, you know?
Rhapsody of Fire is now signed with Nuclear Blast and it appears that the company has really been marketing the album and supporting you guys. Did they give you creative license to make the album exactly as you wanted
Really, yes. Yes this is unbelievable. Let’s say that in the beginning they said because we said do you want to listen to some songs? Of course they said yes because we had some songs recorded, already we had a demo. And we wanted them to be happy you know and to be convinced that what they were doing was right, to sign Rhapsody of Fire we wanted to convince them it was the right choice. So we went into the studio and we record four songs and we gave it them and they were blown away, they were very happy, you know. So we really wanted to make no secrets no games, no nothing, you know, we didn’t want to promise songs that we never had you know. We had good songs that we wanted them to hear and they were happy. We signed and we finished the composing and recording everything and so the relationship is very transparent between us and Nuclear Blast. You know they are so supportive. We do our best you know. It’s a dream to be with Nuclear Blast and we want to respect them and they are doing an unbelievable job. The promotion is great and there’s nothing I can say more than we are so excited about it.
“The Frozen Tears of Angels” is the third chapter in the “Dark Secret Saga”. Do you plan to explore this further on the next album or will you go in a new direction?
I think Luca wants to write one more, for sure one more chapter. And if possible then we are going to do something different. Probably we will be free from a particular saga and we maybe do something in a different way. Maybe songs that speaks different thematics. We will see. Anyways for sure the next one is saga related, you know, for sure. For sure one more, for sure.
There is a tremendous amount of excitement among fans about this album. Will you guys be going out on tour soon to support this album?
Well we are planning right now. Unfortunately we could not plan the tour right after the release because of technical things you know. So we are planning to play in autumn and in of course in 2011. It means that we will be playing everywhere in the world. Still I don’t know which and where we don’t know the dates yet but for sure 2011 will be a year where we will play in spring in the summer festivals and you know, it will be very exciting. After so many years it‘s the very first thing we can do you know, release an album and just go on tour. You know, very simple.
This album really takes it to another level in terms of detail, emotion, and passion, for example having the great Christopher Lee narrating parts of the album once again. Is he a fan of the band and what you guys are doing?
Yes he enjoyed because this was one of the most important things. We met in Milan to make the first relations, to make the first… It was him who proposed us to sing. So then we finish up then to make a duet with Fabio you know and we really did the magic ….so he had enthusiasm that was creating you know interest in the band, ideas, and so he didn’t want only to not write you know he said (imitates Christopher Lee’s voice) “I want to sing.” We had him sing and we met him here in Trieste because he came for a sci-fi movie convention they invited him here to ….and we met him again. It’s great you know because he really understood that we make music with passion and uh, somehow the same way he feels the music, you know. He like opera, he likes classical music, of course, he likes uh, you know, he’s involved in the movie industry since all his life so it was really fantastic to have a person like this.
Every track on the album is outstanding but I am always curious about what band members themselves think of a new album. What are your favorite songs on “The Frozen Tears of Angels?”
The point is that every- , each band member, they love different songs. So for example since the very beginning the Reign of Terror was Alex Holzwarth, the drummer his favorite one then the bass player loved another one. Luca and myself different ones, you know. Everyone, Fabio, another one. So it’s great because everybody loves a different song, you know. It means that the album has some potential, you know. My favorite is Frozen Tears Of Angels.
I understand that you are about to open your own studio in Italy with Luca? How do you see this influencing future Rhapsody of Fire albums?
Well let’s say that we have a home there’s more studios since many years, you know. It’s just now we have the possibility also, thanks to new technology, to do many things here at home. So I think there’s nothing for the entire band to go in Germany for example you know and stay there for month like we did in the beginning of our career. No we do many things that we do at home. So the next we do things here in Trieste you know, and some vocals, too, you know. This is very important because we can make things in a better way. Don’t think about hotel expenses or you know, to be in a hurry because you know studio costs and some other stuff, you know. So we would always be going to the studio to make some things you know but all we can do here and we will do it, you know. So this for sure opens a wider possibility, you know, to do things with time and without stress.
The band has discussed writing darker material in the past, and there is some of that on this album, particularly on “Reign of Terror”. I know for a time there was talk of a “Rhapsody in Black” album. Is this a direction you would still like to pursue in the future?
Yes. No I don’t think because we just released news on our website explaining this and we just said that this project Rhapsody in Black would never take place, but we will keep going writing this kind of aggressive material, you know, having Fabio sing in the way, in the heavy kind of music integrated in Rhapsody of Fire. So it’s I think the best choice, you know.
Yes, he really does get aggressive with the singing on that track.
Yes, many people think that it’s not him but I can assure you it’s him, you know, because we like him. His versatility is amazing.
Obviously you and Luca spent a lot of time and effort putting this album together. What types of music do you listen to when you are not writing or recording?
Oh well not so much I’m not so much into heavy metal. Let’s say that one of the last bands that I really appreciated is Altar Bridge, do you know this band?
I just love this band you know. I saw them live already twice and they are from … I love it. I love the albums they make. I really love that. I listen to rock and other music,…. I just saw Ozzy Osbourne a few days ago in concert here close to my house.
I like all this kind of… I like Black Sabbath, I like Rainbow, I like Yngwie Malmsteen you know. But let’s say that in the last period I didn’t listen so much music, you know. Let’s say I was also working on my own band with my brother and Midnight from Crimson Glory, but unfortunately he (Midnight) passed away. So we were going to make a bigger project together but it didn’t went the way it was meant to, you know.
Are there any bands in particular that you would like to have tour with Rhapsody of Fire in the coming months?
Oh, it’s some question because we still don’t know that you know. We are still planning the tour and we have some rough ideas but it’s kind of hard because we don’t play since many years. So there are bands which could be good to have but and then maybe in some countries. You know it’s a difficult thing, you know. In some countries we are stronger in some others less. It is not really an easy situation. You know, because of the market and because we don’t play live since many years. So I think we want to establish ourselves again and for sure in Europe and in everywhere in the world. And we are still unclear, unsure about which bands we will have. Of course we want to headline, that’s for sure, you know. That’s the point for us. We don’t want to co-headline we don’t want to support anymore. I think this is a situation where Rhapsody of Fire has to be the headline no matter what, you know.
Alex one last thing, you and Luca are both big fans of Crimson Glory which are from my state of Florida. There are a lot of fans here that would love to see you guys, so this is my plug to include Florida on your tour if possible!
I hope that! We came already once, in Orlando but it was fantastic, you know, we want to come back for sure, we would love to come back. It was fantastic because we did not expect. It was the very first time we played in Florida at the Disney park somewhere it was a very nice place. And there were so many people coming from different areas, you know. Some people flying from South America. It was unbelievable, you know. It was a big mixture of people, you know. It was really fantastic, you know.
We’ve really got a lot of metal fans down here particularly you know power and progressive metal, big fans of Queensryche, and Rhapsody and…
Yes, I know, yes I like this, I love it.
Alex thank you for your time thanks to you and the band for a first rate album. We look forward to hearing from you in the future
Thanks to you, you know, you are so nice. Thank you.
Yes I hope we come back in Florida and meet for sure!