CRIMSON GLORY – Todd La Torre

March 25th, 2011
by Arto Lehtinen

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Interview by Arto Lehtinen

Back in the day when MTV used to show metal videos, Crimson Glory’s “Lonely” video hit the screen, people not familiar with the band before were entirely surprised and spellbound by the band’s progessive and catchy melodies. But above all their eccentric steel masks rose the interest and fuss around the band; who are these guys? TRANSCENDENCE is still hailed as one of the greatest melodic and progessive metal albums ever. Vocalist Midnight’s emotional and great vocals crowned the whole beauty of Crimson Glory. Years passed by, the band struggled with line-up changes and vanished from the map a couple of times. The passing of vocalist Midnight brought the rest of the band members together once again. After the Prog Power show the new vocalist Todd La Torre was introduced to the metal world. The man’s unique and great voice has awakened Crimson Glory to another era. It was a good opportunity to have a chat with the current frontman Todd La Torre and find out more about himself and how he got the GC vocalist job.


 

Hello, how’s it going there in Florida?

Things are very well thank you.  Enjoying the Florida sunny weather and preparing for our upcoming shows in Europe.

TODD LA TORRE – NEW ERA OF CRIMSON GLORY

You and your background may be a little bit unknown to most of readers even though you are known for being a new vocalist of Crimson Glory, therefore I assume it might be wise to start the whole interview by asking you to introduce yourself to all the readers…

Okay. Well, I am a native Floridian from the United States, and still reside in Florida today. I have been playing music my entire life. I started playing guitar around ten years of age, then continuing on with the drums at age thirteen. Music has always been my true passion, and always hoped  that I would eventually be involved with music on a much larger scale, which has finally come to fruition with Crimson Glory.

When did you get interested in heavy metal and hard rock and which bands and albums made the most and biggest impact on you making you a full time metal fan?

I really started getting into more hard rock music around twelve years of age. A friend of mine Jamie turned me onto Dokken “Under Lock and Key”. That was a new sound for my ears. From there, I started to discover a ton of bands that seemed to lean on the heavier side. Most of the bands I listened to from that point on were Testament, Dio, Stryper, Pantera, Megadeth, etc.  I must say, the two most influential bands from a vocal standpoint were Iron Maiden and Queensryche.  I fell in love with the power metal, operatic style of singing over melodic heavy music.
As far as I know you have created music since your teens. Was your main focus on writing metal and rock oriented stuff, did you try to explore other musical styles to expand your music taste and source of inspiration in the early days?

I do have many other influences musically for different reasons. My own personal writing style is quite eclectic.  Some songs are very laid back, not even in the rock/metal genre. Other songs are very heavy.  It really just depends on the mood I am feeling at the time.  I’m not sure I even have my own sound yet or style as a songwriter because I really haven’t boxed myself in with one particular sound or style. I love the singer/songwriter style of the 1970’s. Some of those influences are Fleetwood Mac, Heart, Billy Joel, and many of the older R&B artists.

You have played drums in several and various hard rock and heavy metal bands in the Tampa area, did you record any albums or demos with them?

Yes, I was in a band in the Tampa Bay Florida area called Infrared. We played covers and originals.  We played most of the local nightclubs throughout our area. There was a full recording of our material, with me on drums, but I cannot find a copy to save my life!  Would love to hear that old stuff, brings back a lot of memories. Nothing was ever professionally distributed or marketed, just the band promoting ourselves the best we could at the time.  This was around the early 1990’s.  I also drummed  in a great three piece cover band with my long time friend Donnie. This music was very diverse. Anything from The Commodores, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Matchbox Twenty, Natalie Imbruglia, etc.

Apparently these bands were more or less unknown and obviously have remained kind of a mystery to the mainstream and bigger audience. Could you tell more about those bands, what kind of stuff they used to play, how many gigs and with whom did you play?

We played every week/weekend for several years.  I have performed hundreds of shows live as a drummer and backing vocalist. The style of Infrared was more commercial metal, heavy but melodic.

How much did you follow the local metal scene like Savatage or Crimson Glory or all these death metal bands hailing from Florida?

Well, I was and still am a Savatage fan. I’ve seen Savatage play locally a couple of times. I’ve had the good fortune of becoming friends with Jon Oliva and performed backing vocals and the hammered dulcimer on his latest 2010 release. As far as Crimson Glory, I never knew any of their music before 2009. The name sounded familiar, but again, I was completely unfamiliar with this band. Surprising news considering they are based out of Sarasota, Florida which is about 30 miles from where I live. Florida had a huge death metal scene, as I believe my home town is credited as the birthplace of death metal. I wish I was aware of Crimson Glory back then, all those years I missed out on! Although I am the new singer, I am a fan now as well. I often joke, “Hey, I’m playing with the guys from the Lonely video, haha”. I love that song!

Even though you were behind the drum kits, as for your voice, when did you start singing for the first time and when did you realize that your voice sounds nothing but tremendously great and you could be a front man?

I always enjoyed singing, and always sang as a backing vocalist while playing drums.  It wasn’t until around the end of 2008 that I really thought about trying to sing and possibly becoming a front man.  At that time, I was actually thinking of starting an Iron Maiden tribute band, and stepping out from behind the drums to give singing thing a try. Had one rehearsal with some local musicians, but that didn’t work out for whatever reason. I still had the singing thing in the back of my mind, but never really pushed the issue.

Did you ever take singing lessons or are you more self taught and trained by having got influences from these classic metal and rock singers? Who are the major influences on how your singing style has developed?

I am self taught. It was only about 6-8 months ago that I took four lessons to have someone evaluate what I was doing and to see what I could learn and improve on.  Turns out I was told that my ability and technique was very good, but certainly there are things that I needed work on. I also learned some great vocal exercises and warm-ups. My major singing influences in the metal genre are Bruce Dickinson, Geoff Tate, and Rob Halford. Even the greatest of singers could improve somewhere, so I have no shame admitting that there is always room for improvement. The work is never truly done.

Apparently Matt LaPorte was aware of your singing style and skills, how was he aware of skills, have you worked with him on some projects?

Matt and I are from the same town, and I’ve sat in on drums with him before. It wasn’t until the time I was thinking of doing the Maiden tribute band that he became aware of my singing ability.  Funny story:  I went to a local music store and ran into Matt.  We talked a bit and he asked if I was still playing.  When I explained the tribute band idea, he said “F@#$ that…why don’t you do your own thing”? I said that I haven’t been in the local scene for many years and didn’t know many musicians anymore that were into that style.  I began to tell him how I can sing many styles, and I could mimic many of the great singers fairly well, throwing in the name Zak Stevens, a voice that I also liked very much, and I knew he played with him in Circle 2 Circle.  He said he had a piece of music that had been shelved that was something he and Jon Oliva had. Mostly a song idea, nothing completed. So, he gave me a cd with the rough music and asked to see what I could do with it.  That night I wrote the lyrics and melody.  It was recorded the next day and brought to him the following day. To my surprise, he was completely shocked by what I had done with the song, lyrically and vocally.  That is really how this whole thing started.  A demo Matt gave me as a test.  I passed(grin).

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JOINING CRIMSON GLORY

When joining Crimson Glory, how many times did you think about the band’s glorious past and above all how fans might react to a new unknown singer?

Good question. Once I was introduced to the band, before I became the singer, I had done a ton of homework on the band in a very short amount of time. I learned all of the material, read about the history and about the members.  Once I became the singer, I was fully aware that this was a huge undertaking.  I also know that there will be fans that will only see Crimson Glory with Midnight as the singer.  I understand that and respect that too.  However, many bands have continued on without their original singer and have gone on to do very well, if not better than before, i.e. Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Metal Church, Anthrax, etc.  I am hoping that the fans will embrace me, give CG the chance to move on, and understand that although Midnight was a one of a kind, this band is moving forward, and I hope that I can at some point be recognized as Todd, and move away from the “clone” stamp that some like to categorize me as. I will be clearly putting my own stamp on Crimson Glory. Most fans have been extremely accepting and supportive. I am very thankful to all of them.

Your debut gig and first public appearance was at Prog Power fest, but as far I know you were yet not the official member of Crimson Glory – How did you end up doing Prog Power together with the former and guest musician who have been involved in Crimson Glory in a way or another?

Matt La Porte was performing with CG as a guest guitar player for that show. Once he knew my capabilities, he mentioned me to Jon Drenning and how they may want to hear what I could do.  It was an opportunity for me to possibly fill an open slot as one of the guest vocalists.  I am told that Zak Stevens(Savatage/Circle2Circle) was unable to attend as one of the singers, and this may be the spot I could fill. Long story short…I was asked to meet the guys at rehearsal, and I learned a couple of tunes 2 days prior to the invitation. They liked what I did with the classic tunes, and eventually was offered the opportunity to be a guest vocalist.

How did you feel about getting on the stage with the other Crimson Glory members for the first time?

It was awesome.  The venue was quite full, around 1,500+ people. I sang four songs with two different singers. Once the first “set” was performed by Wade, CG then went back through the first two albums with guest vocalists singing them. I had the first song with Kelly Sundown(Beyond Twilight/Darkology). That song was “Mayday”, and the first scream right out of the gate is a monster!!  Once I hit that, I felt more comfortable. It really went by so fast.  It was a great time by all, and it was great to be among some of the best metal singers within the progressive metal genre.  I just happened to be a guy no one ever heard of.  I remember Jon telling me that the owner/promoter of that show was asking him, “Where can I find Todd singing?” There was nothing to be found, so I was the mystery guy with no credentials next to his name, unlike the others that had multiple albums and exposure under their belt.  I had nothing to lose really. It was a great experience and the guys all treated me so great.


When were you approached by the Crimson Glory camp asking to join the band as a full time member,  at least you had remained in contact with Jon Drenning and others? Did you have the feeling before they contacted you that you will be fronting the band someday ?

Well, I wasn’t quite sure how that was going to play out.  Jon and I had remained in contact after the ProgPower show.  He wanted to see how I was as a writer. We worked on some ideas, and one song idea in particular. This was a test to see if I was more than just a singer, and how well I was able to write and collaborate. All things went very well, and Jon saw my ability. Once that was confirmed for him, he knew that he wanted to work with me in some capacity and do arecord together. It was then that he really told the others about me and really created that dialogue.  The band was not doing anything collectively as a group after the tribute concert, and this was perhaps the spark or catalyst that would reinvigorate Crimson Glory.

I am sure you are aware of getting compared to the late Midnight more or less. How much do you personally aim to bring the singing style and approach of your own to these classic songs of Crimson Glory? Do you prefer singing them in the same way as they have been carried originally?

I am trying to sing these the way they were on the record. I do sometimes put my own flavor on some of the words or phrasing, but overall I do try to sing them as close to the original versions.

Crimson Glory has got quite colourful phases on the long career, members have left and returned, and the band has on hold once and while etc. Hmm…did the former vocalist Midnight’s untimely death bring the rest of the Crimson Glory members more closer to each other than ever?

I do believe that the unfortunate passing of Midnight has reunited the guys in a unique way.  As I am singing these classic tunes from the Midnight CG era, I do believe there are times of nostalgic feelings for the guys at band rehearsals.  There are jokes made about how small I am and how small Midnight was. I think there are key moments when I sing something that perhaps they feel as though it is like the old days.  If  that is the case, I’m very glad to bring that vibe and essence back to the guys on a personal level. I’m a part of the band and “family”, NOT just a hired singer.  Big difference.

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NEW OLD SONGS AND NEW STUFF

A couple of songs were re-recorded with you doing the vocals. What was the point of re-recording these songs?! Was the purpose to test how songs fit to your voice or convince the fans about your singing skills?

Those songs were strictly for promotional purposes only. Yes, they were to show the fans that I was doing justice to the songs Midnight sang. Considering I was an undiscovered singer, I believe it was clearly the right move to have these recordings done and to share.  Otherwise, the fans would have no idea what I sounded like singing the material. These fans take it very personally, and understandably so.  They deserved to hear what the “new guy” was capable of. So far, the response has been nothing short of overwhelming.

As a matter of fact which songs were re-recorded with you?

First I should clarify something. The songs that I recorded my vocals on were the original songs on the record and were devocalized to the best of my ability,  I  recorded my lead vocals on a separate track and also backing tracks. The audio wasn’t perfect, but this was the only way I could showcase my voice on these tunes.   I did these at my own home studio by myself, then showed the tracks to Jon.  The songs included:  “In Dark Places”, “Where Dragons Rule”, “Masque of the Red Death”, “Queen on the Masquerade”, “The Dragon Lady”, “Eternal World” and “Angels of War”.  Others were done as well, but we felt it would be too much to post publicly, as we felt the point we were trying to make was already made. I would like to add that none of the Midnight/CG songs will be rerecorded and released, these were simple for promotional purposes for the fans and promoters.

I have understood Crimson Glory would be working on the new material. Is it a challenge to create new songs sounding and having the same kind of Crimson Glory vibes as on the first classic albums?

Certainly the classic Crimson Glory sound will be present. I really would like to emphasize that although many fans are seeking the classic CG sound, it is very important to remember that those first two records are 20-25yrs old.  With that being said, elements of the classic Crimson sound and style will be present, however trying to recreate that identical sound would in my opinion sound very dated.  All of the musicians in the band have grown individually as artists, and we feel it is really time to up the ante. The beauty of the Crimson Glory catalogue is that of versatility.  Each record has its own distinct sound.  In fact, there has been some scrutiny over the years about the band not putting out more material, but it has been the consensus of the band not to just put a record out for the sake of putting a record out.  Too many bands release album after album and many simply sound the same. Even as the new addition to the band, I still remain true to quality versus quantity idea. Artists need to have the ability to grow musically and not be afraid to try new things, hence the Crimson Glory’s definition of  “progressive”.  I hope that fans can understand and recognize this balancing act between pleasing the fans and having the creative freedom to write what is felt, not having to conform to boxed thinking and/or writing. I know the CG fans are very loyal, and I’m quite sure that the new record will be very well received.

But Do you find it as a challenge for Crimson Glory to create and compose the new material as the fans of CG are definitely quite demanding toward the band and treasure the band’s past and legacy with the passion ? Does this bring some kind of pressure?

We are writing new material that encompasses everything that is Crimson Glory.  Passion, sadness, love, anger, and every spectrum of emotion are all key ingredients to the Crimson Glory sound.  We want this record to be even better than TRANSCENDENCE, so yes, there is a bit of pressure but we feel very strongly about having everything looked over and over. We are not rushing, but we are very aware that this year is the 25th anniversary of the band, and what better timing to have a new release with the new line up after the long awaited ten plus years since the release of Astronomica.

As far as I know Crimson Glory had a signed deal with Black Lotus which went out of business due to becoming bankrupt, however have labels already pointed out their interest toward Crimson Glory?

Yes, there are other labels that have expressed a deep interest in the band.  As many are aware, CG has had the misfortune of bad management coupled with legal issues regarding previous record labels. Things are on the right track now, but collectively this is something that CG is very cautious of and we are not jumping at any “deal”. Just because it’s a deal doesn’t mean it is a good one.  I’m confident that when we do join with a label, it will be most beneficial to all parties, unlike the days when bands were under the stronghold of record labels.  With today’s technology, bands today have limitless promotional outlets. CG already has a name, so it is simply a matter of larger merchandising, tour support, and the actual recording of the record and distribution itself. We are capable of doing it on our own and enjoy the freedom of not having to bow down to just any label. Clearly we are looking at our options and that is something we are dealing with.

Did the bankrupt of Black Lotus somehow make all the planned ideas go up in smoke as the band went on hiatus after as far as I know?

I would have to refrain from commenting on this question, as I’m too unfamiliar with respect to any “plans” the band had at that time, and not privy to the business dealings with that particular label.

The plans were to release an album called  METATRON, LUCIFER AND THE DIVINE CHAOS, presumably songs must have been written and composed for that output, were they ever canned or  are these possible unreleased songs still on tapes? Are you going to re-record them?

Ha Ha…Hmmmm…Well, I can say that there are song ideas that I’ve heard, but I personally have not heard any recording of completed material.  Not to say it doesn’t exist, I just have not heard anything on tape/disc.

As a new singer you may be able to sing a wide range of the material of Crimson Glory, not only from the 80’s era, but also from the 90’s era. Have you  discussed if you might play songs from Strange and Beautiful and Astronomica albums even though some members weren’t involved in those albums?

I have performed some of the ASTRONOMICA material, and love doing it. We haven’t touched on the STRANGE AD BEAUTIFUL material. I feel that is a great album personally, despite the fact that it is quite unlike the first two coveted albums.  Also, the fans appear to be primarily concerned with hearing material from the first two records. This is what we are focusing on for our live shows, and this is also at the demand and/or recommedation of many promoters. The self titled album and TRANSCENDENCE put Crimson Glory at the forefront of the metal music scene, and is clearly the purist representation of the style that this band has created and carved into metal history. So, it is only fair and fitting to be performing the true classics on this 25th anniversary tour. We may introduce something from the new material, but fans will be getting real, raw, pure classic Crimson Glory metal!

Frankly, Todd, from your point of view what do you think of those albums?

The first two, what can I say?  Simple awesome. TRANSCENDENCE has still stood the test of time in my opinion, even though I am a new comer to the material. The melodic writing, great riffs/hooks, soaring vocals, and perfect rhythm section is nothing short of exceptional writing. Astronomica is much more aggressive, bass driven, and vocally gritty sounding record. I really like that record a lot.  Although STRANGE AD BEAUTIFUL was a bit of a change from the classic CG sound, I love the production of the record, and I think the music was quite fitting for that era.  It is also my understanding that label(s) had a bit of a hand in pushing that “sound” and style. Either way, I listen to it from time to time, and think the songs are very good.

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RETURN TO THE EUROPEAN STAGES

Crimson Glory will be embarking on a European tour next spring. Some time has passed by since Crimson Glory visited Europe down in Greece. You will be doing quite afew shows, how do you select those dates? Are there any particular dates that you are looking forward the most? Keep It True?

We are looking forward to all of the shows in Europe. Certainly the Keep It True Festival will be great, the German fans are so true to their metal!! We work with a tour manager directly as to which shows we will play, logistics, etc. We are not a full touring band as you well know, so these shows are carefully decided on. We feel that these shows will be even more special, it’s not every day you get to see Crimson Glory live. We are playing some very intimate smaller venue shows. We are also looking forward to playing the larger festivals to tens of thousands like the Bang Your Head Festival and Zwarte Cross Festival. Other shows are in the works, but the aforementioned shows are confirmed thus far.

Bang Your Head will definitely have the biggest crowd for Crimson Glory on the Euro tour, do you ever feel nervous about getting on the stage in front of thousands of people? Do you feel more comfortable being on the stage and let the show go on?

You know, once the first few notes come out, I’m sure I will feel quite comfortable. There is something special about seeing fans singing along with you, like one great big party! I just want to give the best performance I can for the fans and my band mates.

Are you going to do some new songs on the tour or these classic ones?

That is something we are discussing. Depending on set time constraints, we will see what the band wants to do. I would love to play something new, but would hate to sacrifice a fan favourite at the same time. These fans came to hear to the songs they know and love. Perhaps we may throw in a new tune, but clearly we plan on touring in support of the new record once it is released.

Have you ever considered putting the legendary steel masks on your faces after these years, or do these masks belong to the past?

Haha. I just knew that question was coming! We have also talked about this very issue. If all of the circumstances are right, this is something we are considering. We’ll just have to wait and see.  Even I knew the answer to that, I wouldn’t dare divulge such a thing?

Well before concluding the interview, I can’t help asking how you view the future of Crimson Glory?

Well, the band has had its share of peaks and valleys. This really seems to feel good for the four original members, and myself. The spirit and vibe of Crimson Glory is stronger than it has been in many years I am told. I feel that this is a new beginning for the band.  There are certainly many fans throughout the world that are loyal to the end with this band.  At the same time, there are many new fans yet to discover the band. We are very optimistic about continuing the journey and legacy of Crimson Glory.


I for one thank you for your time to do the interview to Metal-Rules.Com, but I let you say the last words ….

I would just like to say on behalf of myself and the rest of Crimson Glory, I want to personally thank you for your interest, and certainly a huge thank you to the dedicated and loyal fans, the Crimson Militia!!  Looking forward to seeing many of you in Europe, and looking forward to finishing the new album and getting it released for all of you to enjoy.  Thanks again!!


THE OFFICIAL CRIMSON GLORY SITE :

http://www.myspace.com/crimsonglory

The YouTube Channel

http://www.youtube.com/user/jondrenning

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