Daniele Liverani: A talk with the Genius Mastermind about his rock opera trilogy

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Interviewed by Anders Sandvall

Thanks to Stefan at Zink Music for setting up this interview
Thanks to Frontiers Records for the promo pictures

Daniele Liverani has finished off his rock opera trilogy with the third part of his Genius album. For those of you who are not familiar with the Italian musician and songwriter here is an interview that mostly focuses on his latest Genius opus. 


Hi Daniele, I have really enjoyed your rock opera trilogy that evolves around the main character Genius. When was the idea to create a rock opera born? Where have you found the inspiration and how long has it taken you to write these three albums?

Well, as all the ideas that you’re gonna work on for lots of years, the concept was inspired to me by a little detail….the sound of an old mechanical ring of a clock….:)
I head a strange and irregular beat sequence in its ring sounds and from there I started to create a sort of story that would be connected to this cool sound….I started to think that this sequence of beats could have been a sort of special password to be admitted into a parallel dimension….than I come up with the ‘Dreams factory dimension’ idea….and I started to create all the characters and an amazing adventure that could run through these basic elements…
The concept describes a sort of mind trip in a parallel dimension of the main character Genius. He casually discovers the way to be admitted into the dreams creation world (the strange irregular beat of his clock was equal to the beat sequence for being admitted in that dimension, used by the newborn twin spirits), where all the dreams are being conducted by a sort of organization (Dream League) that takes care of creating human fantasies during their sleeping time. Every time that a human starts to dream, in this parallel dimension a twin spirit is created for conducting his dreams and fantasies and once the human awakes this twin spirit is terminated. Genius (Mark Boals), being admitted into this realm while he was dreaming, has the chance of meeting his assigned twin spirit (Daniel Gildenlow), creating a sort of paradox that would cause serious problems to the whole dreams world safety…The whole trilogy is then running around all the adventure that Genius and his assigned Twin spirit 32 will be experiencing during all the duration of the Genius’ dream. Actually, the story concept I used for ‘Genius’ trilogy was written by me many years ago. The original name of this story is ‘Daily Trauma’ and it’s a short book that I wrote  back in 1997 I love to write fantastic stories, not typical sword and horses fantasy concepts, I prefer pretty much futuristic stories, I’ve always been fascinated by alternative reality concepts and human subconscious .Gradually I developed that ‘Daily Trauma’ little book story.
I added more details, more concepts and story events…and I started to think that it would have probably worked for some kind of music project too. So as a first natural step I composed, with the help of my friend great drummer gear Dario Ciccioni, some instrumental music that followed the events of the story. I created a lot of melodies and ideas that would have been used and developed also in the later trilogy. The result of this first step of creation on ‘Daily Trauma’ story was an instrumental album of 18 songs. All the songs were strictly connected to the story, even if it was all instrumental music. I have the produced this album with that music and I called it ‘Daily Trauma’ too. I wanted to have everything in my hands in terms of sound and so I decided to play Guitars, bass and keys.
Dario Ciccioni played drums (same team situation of Genius Trilogy…)
Daily Trauma album is a sort of instrumental soundtrack idea, to be listened while listening the story that would have been inserted in the booklet. The style is heavy and modern but in many points is very various and includes many styles. That sort of album/book has never been released till May 2004, when Frontiers released it as a bonus release together with episode 2 “In search of the little prince”. I’ve always been attracted by big classic operas of the great past composer. In fact later I thought that the ‘Daily Trauma’ story would have worked great also for a more complete Rock Opera with many singers…and I started to push myself more far and started to write down a complete music and lyrics score of an opera in 3 episodes that followed the same concept, where the character would take the voices of the singers and a narrative part would be acted by a storyteller voice over during the album…So here’s how ‘Genius’ trilogy is born.
I decided to call the opera ‘Genius’ cause ‘Daily Trauma’ was already the name of my book that I wrote down in 1997 and also the name of the instrumental album I already recorded. I wanted to keep separated the 2 stuff…anyway Genius is the main character of ‘Daily Trauma’ and I also thought that it was a smarter name for an opera….
So basically we have a story written in 1997, an instrumental album never released recorded in 1998 and then I started in 1999 to work at a 3 album rock opera trilogy.

Several members of the melodic hardrock singers elite have appeared in the opera, was it hard to get so many famous people to perform?
It was a thrilling opportunity that Frontiers has given me! They liked the music and offered me to build up an incredible cast for this Opera…They passed me a lot of singers contacts that had already worked with them in the past, and for the latest episode I came up also with some personal choices, being more inside the musical scene, I had the chance of being trusted even without passing through Frontiers.
So after the signing of the contract I found myself speaking at the phone with some of the best and more famous singers of the rock metal scene! It was so excited for me….incredible!
I also came up with some singers that I always dreamed to write for…For example like the mighty Midnight former Crimson Glory, one of the most exciting voice of metal ever I think!
I didn’t know where I was at that moment and it was so much time that he was out of the scene! But I worked hard to find him, convince him of the quality of the project and finally he liked the music and story so he accepted to sing Maindream character…It was great to deal with him! One of my heroes! I had to choose the right singer for the right character in terms of personality, range and style…
I’ve been in touch with more than 50 singers during all these years and I kept in touch with all for month discussing the musical parts and the business part of course, to decide for the guest singers that
would have taken part of the cast of each episode!
After a long and hard diplomatic work the cast was defined for each episode and now the trilogy is completed!

Did you know any of the singers from earlier?

Well, actually some of them….but not personally, only artistically…we are talking about great singers….you know.

Was there anyone that you really would have loved to have on the album that couldn’t make it?

A lot, I’ve been casting for many months for each episode and of course many didn’t accept the offer for schedule problems and business agreements problems or only cause
they didn’t think to fit the role and the character profile.
Some names? Michael Kiske, Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna coil, Kip Winger, Rob Rock, Bobby Kimball, Ralph Sheepers to name a few…

How did you come up with the name GENIUS – A ROCK OPERA, what’s the story behind that name?

The name is actually inspired to my by the drummer Dario Ciccioni, he was so young at that time, and a true drums genius….so that was the main inspiration to call Genius the main character of the story….

Describe in your own word what kind of music style this rock opera is?

Well, the music style is very various. This was one of the main aspect that I wanted to realize with this trilogy, try to make challenge myself into different styles of music, and try to move around different styles according to the story events that I was about to describe. In this opera I had the chance to putt all my influences at 360 degrees, from hard rock to
the most experimental progressive metal style…and this is something that could be the main characteristic of the opera that makes it different from the other….

How have the fans responded to the two previous albums?

They responded great I must say, I had many email and contacts with enthusiastic comments, and that’s the main satisfaction for a musicians/composer.

What did your label think of the idea that you were going to do a rock opera in the first place?

At Frontiers they have been very happy and supportive from the beginning when they offered me the contract for the whole Genius trilogy.
They like the idea since the beginning and I’m very grateful to them for making it come true…

All of the singers that have sung on the albums have recorded their own parts in different studios worldwide, has it been any difficulties in being spread around the world? Was it hard for you as a producer to get everything synchronized?
Thanks to internet it was very easy…we shared everything by email MP3 and we worked in distance for all the takes and arrangements choices. Of course I had a lot of producers that followed locally the recordings of the various singers, and I coordinated all them by the internet too. I must say that sometimes it was hard to coordinate all the situations since all studios has different recording equipments and file formats, but finally I got to the end and everything worked out  perfect.

Who’s made the cover art-work to the albums? Are you happy with them?

I’m very happy with the cover of the third episode, it’s been designed by Matt at progart company. He’s doing a lot of covers lately since his good work has been known around the scene in the last years…
He’s absolutely great!

You play guitar, keyboards and bass on all of the albums, was that the plan from the beginning? Why haven’t you hired in some studio musicians as well?

Well, yes! I wanted to have everything under my control musically, and I already had other projects where I played only one role.
This is an opera where I have expressed all myself and I took this chance to have fun playing bass, guitar as well as keyboards…

What do your friends in Khymera and Empty Tremor think of that you’re doing a rock opera?
They were absolutely happy and thrilled no problems at all.

Oliver Hartmann sings chorus on all of the three albums, how is it to work with Hartmann?
He’s great. The choir’s production he delivers is the best around in my opinion. He’s very pleasant and professional person, very prepared both technically and musically. He did also a great lead vocal on the song “There’s a human” in the first episode. He’s a great singer!

Do you know if the previous two albums still are available in the stores today with the thought of that records are available only for a short amount of time these days?

I think they are still available in specialized shops, but of course you can order them from the mail orders and internet to be sure of finding them.

Mark Boals has sung the lead part on the previous albums, why is he replaced on this third part? And how did D.C. Cooper ended up at the album in the lead part this time?

Unfortunately Mark Boals had some serious health problems during the period of the production, and we waited for almost 6 month and more for his recover, but unfortunately he was not able to sing due to these health problems.The release was rescheduled trying to wait for his recover but after some time we had to choose to search for another cool singer for episode 3 main role GENIUS since the schedule was tight and we could not delay it any more. So this choice has not been due to personal arguing, or relationship problems with Mark, he just was not able to sing at that time. I hope Mark is going to recover soon and to come back in the scene as soon as possible. We were very lucky to find DC Cooper interested to the project, he’s been handling perfectly the main role and so I had the chance to complete properly the trilogy. We also recorded some acted/spoken clips with him talking with his little sons that have been used at the ending of the first song “Toy Warehouse” to recreate a scene of the story…a lot of fun! The other newcomers has been absolutely great, I mean, Jorn Lande is a huge singer and really delivered a strong and power performance on the song “No More Chances” as well as an elegance performance in the other spots where he appears. Both Toby and Andrea were very cool also, great singers that have been giving the right mood to the songs where they appear, everything went just great!

How did Jorn Lande, Toby Hitchcock end up on the new album?

Both Jorn and Toby were in touch with Frontiers for other projects and so we ended up considering his participation on episode 3.
They liked the character that I offered them and everything became reality.

Do you think fans of GENIUS are going to be surprised of the outcome of the opera?

I hope yes! I think that the surprises are the most thrilling parts of the concepts.

Have you read any reviews of the album?

Some of them, and I’m very happy on how they have welcomed the album.

Is it possible to perform GENIUS on an actual stage or is it only written to perform on album?

It would be another dream come true….but very difficult job to realize. Anyway I’m always looking around…if some chances happen I will be ready.

Which one of the three albums are you the most satisfied with and which one have been the most fun to work with?

Difficult to say….Probably the third one, it was also the most fun to work on.

Is GENIUS now a closed chapter for you or is there any chance that you’re going to write a new album with GENIUS?

Genius is over…definitely.

What’s the most common question you get by fans?

I’d say….how was to work with that singer? And that singer? He he he

Give me three reasons why I should buy the GENIUS trilogy?

Cause it’s a sincere effort from a passionate musician/composer.

What are the plans for Daniele Liverani for the rest of the year?

I have to tell you that some chances have happened lately in my musical career.
After 3 albums that I consider in a very special way and I really enjoyed working on, I left EMPTY TREMOR band some months ago, to concentrate on new musical adventures that I’m going to work on in 2007 with Frontiers and other labels as well. It’s been a difficult choice, but I had so many projects going on in my musical life lately and I just had to decide what to do, since I had no time for everything. I felt my collaboration with Empty Tremor was arrived at the end and that was more interested in other musical plans, and I decided then to concentrate on my own music basically since I really like the writing process more the all the other aspects, and let the guys of Empty Tremor go on for their path…best of luck to them! For 2007 in fact, after the last Genius episode release in February, I have a new release titled “The Music That Will Heal The World” planned for June by Lion Music. It’s the debut album of a new killer line up that I put together lately called TWINSPIRITS, that includes Italian talents that has been working with me for some of my past production like Dario Ciccioni (Khymera), Tommy Ermolli (Khymera), the talented newcomer bass player Alberto Rigoni from Italy, and a killer and incredibly versatile singer from Denmark called Soren Adamsen. With this line up I intend to continue the thread of my solo song writing similar to the Genius’ style into a more band oriented stable line up situation, so that I can play my music more live finally….that’s why the name of the band is TWINSPIRITS, which is one of the main character of the Genius Rock Opera (handled by Daniel Gildenlow). Anyway, this new band is not a continuation of Genius’ concept ,to be clear, the style is similar since I write and produce the songs , but it’s a completely a new situation that has started and will record and play live  albums in the future as  a ‘real band’ oriented  situation, and not only a studio project.
Also I have new instrumental album titled “The Cosmic Year” under the moniker of COSMICS scheduled for 2007 winter with Lion Music, with Virgil Donati on Drums, Tommy Ermolli at the guitars, and probably Rufus Philpot on bass (not sure yet), and I am already producing another KHYMERA album with Dennis Ward on vocals and same lineup basically, that is going to be released in the future by Frontiers records as usual…So as you can see I’ like to keep me busy.

Is there anything you’d like to say to the fans and readers?

Please come to my web site www.danieleliverani.com or www.geniusrockopera.com and write your opinions about this trilogy and share with me your comments….you’ll make me happy!!!
All my music efforts are for you! I hope you’ll like this opera and you’ll get great emotions listening to it!

Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer my questions, good luck in the future.

Thanks to you for your support and sorry for my late reply!
CHEERS! // Daniele


Read the cd reviews of this rock opera here

More info about the band

More info about Daniele Liverani