Band leader/guitarist Diego and singer Ricky – Blue Hour Ghosts
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Roberto at Rockshots Records for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Rockshots Records for the promo pictures of the band.
From Modena, Italy comes 6-piece alternative/progressive metal act Blue Hour Ghosts who recently released their second studio album titled DUE. Their debut was released back in 2016 so one of the things I had to ask vocalist Ricky and band leader/guitarist Diego was why it took so long for a follow-up.
We also spoke about DUE and what’s it like to work with well-known producer Giuseppe “Dualized” Bassi. The band has gone through a lot of member changes through the years and that was also one of the topics we handled. If you’re a fan of Amorphis and Katatonia then the music of Blue Hour Ghosts might be something for you.
Hi Diego and Ricky, thanks for taking the time for this interview today and I hope you and the rest of the band are well and are healthy.
Hi Anders, thanks for interviewing us for the awesome webzine that is Metal-Rules.com! We’re all OK, thankfully, and looking forward to restarting a normal(-ish) life!
Let’s take it back to the beginning, when was the band formed and who are the founders?
(Diego) The band formed in 2013 when guitarists Diego (me) and Francesco, after more than a decade spent in the underground death metal band Oblivion999, decided to fire up a new project, targeting a broader audience and drawing from our common influences.
Was it hard to find members to join the band?
(Diego) It took some time, 3-4 months if I recall well, but I wouldn’t say it was that hard. Modena, the city where we’re based, is home to a multitude of great rock and metal musicians, and many of them are among our acquaintances and circle of friends. Plus, at that time we still kept our spot in the rehearsal room we had with Oblivion999, and went there from time to time to jam, so it occurred quite frequently to meet up with guys from other bands and throw in a casual jam.
Which members were in the original line-up?
(Diego) Besides Francesco and myself, the very first line-up also included current band members Simone (keyboards) and Matteo (bass). The latter quit almost immediately and was replaced by Andrea Bartolacelli, only to return to the fold in 2017. The first drummer was Claudio Mulas, who is now pursuing a career as a producer, while the singer was Alessandro Guidi, also the first Oblivion999 singer (dating back to when year numbers didn’t start with “2”…).
Diego you have a decade long experience in the melodic death metal band Oblivion 999, is that band still active?
(Diego) Unfortunately not, we ceased our activity mid-2011. I can’t recall an “official” split-up date though. I even don’t remember if or how we decided to stop. My memory is quite foggy on that point. And I bet any of the band members that were there at the time could give you a take on the reasons for the stop, but in my view it was a combination of changes in personal lives, frustration for line-up changes and missed opportunities, difficulties in going forward with composition of a new album. It was a pity indeed. But, you know, these things happen. And without that passage probably we wouldn’t have BHG now, so…
Who came up with the band name Blue Hour Ghosts and does the name have any special meaning?
(Diego) It was me that came up with the name, although it took a lot of time to finally decide that it was our name. For our first album we coined a dictionary-like, pseudo-”definition” of the Blue Hour Ghosts which we inserted in the liner notes for the CD. It was like: “blue hour ghosts [/’blu:/ /’a??/ /’g??sts/] (abbr. bhg), collective noun (m.): the thoughts, the rage, the doubts and regrets invading the time of the day of utmost intimacy; synonyms (6-fold) handful of unquiet souls, waking up at twilight to craft sounds of smooth, lingering melancholy and elegant aggression.” Apparently, it was so credible that some magazines took it as a real definition. However, I still believe that it sums up the concept pretty well. The “blue hour”, i.e. the morning or evening twilight, is a magical moment of the day, perfect for evoking strong emotions, for speaking with the all “ghosts” we have inside.
The info sheet says that the debut album creates a personal and recognizable style of metal drawing its influences from progressive music, classical metal, gothic and alternative rock. Diego, what’s your comment on that?
(Diego) Well, that was the original intention when the band was formed and I think that, to a certain degree we succeeded, and indeed we are keeping on pursuing the goal of having a quite distinctive personality, sound-wise. I think that those styles mentioned in the info sheet are still the common ground for all six of us, but the truth is that we are devourers of all sorts of rock, prog, metal and also of a fair share of pop music. We always try and let all these influences flow naturally inside the sound of the band, together with what our lives prompt us to write day by day in different periods. I guess it’s a natural “ageing” process, that our sound is continuously going through, always evolving but still maintaining a deep contact with that initial root.
In 2015 the band along with producer Giuseppe “Dualized” Bassi recorded the self-titled debut, what did media think of the album?
(Diego) Overall, we had a very positive response from the media. We really didn’t know what to expect at the beginning. We were very proud of the result, but of course, you know, “mother love is blind”. Most reviewers and experts found quality in what they were hearing, and were able to tune in on the particular mixture of genres we were proposing, meaning that somehow we were able to transmit our musical statement effectively. Some comments were really flattering, and worked as a great boost for us to move forward and keep on making music.
Both the drummer and the bass player left shortly after the release of the debut, were their departures expected?
(Diego) As it often happens in bands, major turning points can imply frictions and conflicts which cannot be solved. The development of our first album implied some major choices to be done on the directions to take with writing and production. We reached some compromises with the guys and completed the album, but later on our different views and objectives became incompatible. It was better to part ways for good and maintain a decent relationship.
Was it hard to find new band members to fill their positions?
(Diego) Fortunately, at that time we already had the debut album as “business card” so it was easy for potential new band members to hear what it was all about. Matteo was enthusiastic to get back in the fold on bass, and still he’s there. As for the drummer, we had a sort of “double” fixture throughout the years, with Sergio Perna and then-current drummer Andrew Gunner sometimes alternating behind the kit.
Did the band tour and perform a lot at the time of the release of the debut album?
(Diego) Considering that we started out as total newcomers, we had the chance to play a decent amount of shows, mainly in Italy but also abroad. Sometimes in pretty respectable situations, other times in smaller but nonetheless stimulating contexts. We needed to accumulate experience and we did it, head down and without many frills. This allowed us to get to know each other better as people and musicians, and to improve a lot our live performance.
How was it to be out on tour in France, Switzerland and Belgium back in 2017? Why didn’t you tour the rest of Europe?
(Diego) That was our first experience of touring abroad as BHG and it was purposely a small one, organized by a small agency. Other places weren’t planned at all. It was a nice experience, with highs and some lows, but it was exciting to spend time together, doing what we love the most. Unfortunately, we had a low budget allocated for tour expenses and no other good deals were in sight, so after that we didn’t tour elsewhere in Europe. We hope to visit other places as soon as possible!
Were you out as support band or on your own?
(Diego) We were mainly on our own, only on one night we were there as a support band.
Is it correct that 2018’s DO YOU BELIEVE IN GHOSTS is a live EP?
(Diego) Correct! It was recorded in summer 2017, at a small but awesome festival “Summer of Destruction” in Imola (northern Italy). It turned out to be one of our drunkest and most badass gigs, we had a hell of a time! When we stepped down the stage, the sound guy came and said “hey guys, it’s been great, I recorded everything”.
We didn’t know beforehand, so it was a pleasant surprise. Even more so when we opened the tracks and found that they actually sounded perfect! Then, we decided to have them properly mixed and mastered by our producer Giuseppe, and we published it in 2018 as a symbolic conclusion of the debut album “cycle”, contemporarily announcing the latest lineup changes.
Again changes in the lineup happened when the singer and the drummer departed. Why did they leave?
(Diego) Basically, both Alessandro and Sergio grew a bit tired of the idea of pursuing the path of original music and lost their motivations. However, even though due to the pandemic we haven’t met each other for a long time, we’re still in contact and they’re always super supportive of the band.
Has it been hard to go through so many changes in the line-up?
(Diego) It’s certainly exhausting, but changes bring opportunities and the latest changes certainly make no exception. Nevertheless, we hope that now things will remain quiet in the camp for a while!
How did fans accept a new singer in the band? Sometimes it can be hard for fans to welcome a new singer into a favorite band.
(Diego) Changing singers for a band is a bit like changing face for a person but actually, I must say that the transition was super-smooth. Ricky’s arrival was unanimously welcomed by old fans. His voice is quite different from Alessandro’s, but as you might appreciate on the playthrough we released for “Unsolved” last year (www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRiObKvqsYY) his voice fits really well on the old songs. At the same time, his arrival gained us a good amount of new fans that he carried over from his previous projects, and that was great as well.
The new album DUE
Is it correct the band started to write material for DUE back in 2019? Are all of the songs used on the album newly written or did you use any older material as well?
(Ricky) To be honest some of the parts you are hearing in songs like “Lower the Wires”, “Walking Backwards” and “Shine” where already sketched and recorded in our archives since 2018, before the band found its actual line up. But it was mainly written and arranged during year 2019. All the material in use was written to build up Due’s tracklist and was not any leftover from previous works.
Why has it taken the band so long to follow up the debut album which came 2016?
(Ricky) The line up changes have been the main delaying factor toward this second release. 2017 was mainly used to promote our first work, shooting videos, playing it live. In 2018 some private life priorities and the band’s line up changes have been playing a key role in this.
Walking Backwards (VISUALIZER)
Did the COVID-19 pandemic have anything to do with the fact that it took you long time to get DUE released?
(Ricky) Indeed. In February 2020 we were ready to complete our recording session at Dysfunction, On Black Clouds video was already “in the bank” and we were about to discuss in detail with Rockshots Records about a potential agreement, which then came true late summer.
What did your label think of the fact it all got delayed?
(Ricky) Actually, they have been the ones to draw the proper strategy to use the given time the best way we could to put one foot in front of the other and come out when the time was right, so the situation we found ourselves into has been wisely used as an opportunity to sweat onto details. Rockshots already had a pretty busy schedule of releases for year 2020 so it was no big deal to shift DUE to 2021.
Who in the band writes the music and lyrics? What are the lyrics about this time around?
(Ricky) The music comes from all of us. Anyone in the band is entitled to come up with ideas, submit it and record it in our massive archive, which we consult from time to time to write songs. DUE is no exception: every song has a main author essentially, but all of us suggest variations and ingredients to be added. The main job happens when Giuseppe Bassi works with us on the final arrangements and sound picks. The lyrics have a variety of themes we felt it was time to let flow into DUE’s songs; they mainly emerge from intimate questions we set ourselves, and then take a narrative path to find an answer. What is what? Who are the people around us? Why do we feel the way we feel? So it happens you find songs like “Dead in August” talking about the silver linings of having a given role in today’s society or songs like “On Black Clouds” asking ourselves if we are really enjoying what we have. Existentialism, intimism and social triggers drive our writings.
Just like on the debut, DUE contains 9 tracks, was that a just a coincidence?
(Ricky) Yes I think so!
Did the band feel any pressure on delivering something extraordinary this time, given that the debut album went so well?
(Ricky) Absolutely no. On the contrary, we delivered the band from any pressure concerning potential comparisons with the debut by the time we felt to write something that was by meaning different in terms of arrangements and vocals. We just knew we were delivering something “different”, it just required following our own instinct without any doubt. “Fearless” is a song that can embody the whole answer, haha.
The info sheet claims the band finds inspiration in other progressive/classic/gothic metal acts. Is that correct or are there other places the band finds inspiration?
(Ricky) They are correct tags about our main inspirations, or at least the ones all of us six have in common. Beside those, there’s plenty of music we listen to and take inspiration from as seasons change. We have been reading about many different musical styles spotted in DUE in reviews: darkwave, synthwave, gothic meal, rock, alternative rock, progressive rock and metal. It’s all true, it’s all good, we love all those styles, it’s just up to the song itself. There’s no main style binding our songwriting. Songs have a mood and arouse feelings and experiences for any single listener.
Which other bands do you think are close to Blue Hour Ghosts musically?
(Ricky) Hard to say since we really strived to find our own distinctive sound. I’d like to name some, but every time we listen to these songs we hear a vocal variation that reminds you of the latest Alice in Chains, some keyboard arrangements making you think of H.I.M. or other goth metal bands, but you don’t really dare naming specific names that could build whole discographies on their musical style. Amorphis or Anathema with a rock cut could be bands that have been writing powerful and atmospheric songs that all in all can be matched to what we propose.
On Black Clouds (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)
Do you think the band have developed musically if you compare DUE with the self-titled?
(Ricky) Indeed. It requires a lot of self confidence and skills earned to resume all you have to say and give in the format DUE’s songs have been written in. It’s like being able to depict the whole world in a bonsai vision instead of taking all the space you need to feel at ease, risking redundancy and sounding lengthy. So music-wise in the was a true exercise of expressing power and energy in full control of our musical acknowledgements.
How would you like to describe what kind of music the bands play?
(Ricky) It’s a melodic and progressive rock/metal probably best described.
What are the the songs “Shine” (5,19) and “Dead In August” (3,12) about?
(Ricky) “Shine” is an exhortation to find a way to break the veil, take the spot of light you’ve earned and shine through, knowing you’re worth and what are the leashes that bind you to darkness. “Dead in August” was inspired by the tragic suicide of porn star August Ames and it’s about the misrepresentation of people when it comes to human beings embodying a certain social role and the self awareness of the persons they are truly. Where’s the borderline between the goddess on the screen and a lonely human being?
Why did you call the album DUE?
(Ricky) It’s a word trick. In our language DUE is simply “two” so it refers to our second album, but in English “DUE” has a deeper and different meaning, and we felt like this album was really due: to our passion, our commitment, to the people who encouraged us not to give up and all the new potential fans around.
Who did the cover artwork and are you happy with the outcome?
(Ricky) The idea was to represent the blue hour with a digital rendering and a minimal layout, some kind of coloured gradient stripes, but the first lockdown we experienced gave us lot of time to think about it, so I came up with the idea to use the time given as a sort of Penelope’s canvas, using acrylics to depict the blue hour onto a material layer that could pop out of the digital rendering once published. It was the need to express the hands-on-something feeling, that our crazy times forced us to, and share it with people. The red stripe represents the Unexpected, the mad variation you were not ready to meet on the background of a recursive scenario like the Blue Hour and that can abruptly interrupt its course and give way to the course of events, as it was before.
What did fans think of the single “Walking Backwards”, released at the end of last November? How many have seen it on YouTube?
(Ricky) “Walking Backwards” has been warmly welcomed by fans and it had a fantastic response on Spotify’s playlists rather than on YouTube, as its video is actually only a visual static image with some animations.
(Diego) Actually, the video for “On Black Clouds” (140k+ views now) and the lyric video for “Shine” (35k+ views) had a much greater response on YouTube.
DUE’s been out for a while now and I have read some really great reviews of it. Does the band care about what critics have to say about your work?
(Ricky) Of course we care about what people think of our job. They are spending their time listening and analyzing our songs. We read them all and it’s fun to read what everybody’s hearing inside of it or thinking of such a different work from many other publications!
It’s a time for celebration, review and a spur toward what you’re gonna do next. We are rooted to what expresses our music and feelings best but it’s always useful considering the different points of view.
Studio and production
In which studio was DUE recorded?
(Ricky) We recorded all of DUE’s parts at Dysfunction Productions, where Giuseppe Bassi is based and works.
Why did you choose to work with producer Bassi once again, what’s his strongest feature as producer?
(Ricky) That was an easy pick. We wanted to maintain the solid sound mix he gave us in our debut album and the writing of DUE began considering him as a seventh member of the band for the final arrangements, following some of his suggestions toward the final goal. He is meticulous, he has a smart approach toward the achievement of the goal we establish together and he works FAST! He’s a damn lightning bolt at the desk!
He also mixed and mastered the album. Where did he do that and were any of the band members part of that process along with Bassi?
(Ricky) As mentioned above, it was made in his own studio, Dysfunction. Due to COVID restrictions we managed to agree to the final mix and master remotely. We’ve been evaluating around 8 or 9 final versions of this work and then gave the green light for what you can listen to now.
He also took care of the additional arrangements, keyboards, sound design and programming. How big part of the album does Bassi have?
(Ricky) A big part indeed, we had all the ideas, the concepts, the songs, the touch but he definitely turned it into the sound we desired for our creations. He proved himself once again really qualified in taking the word on all instrumental and vocal parts for suggestions, slight variations, alternatives and this made us feel at ease and work as a team.
Do you think you’re going to work with him more in the future?
(Ricky) Absolutely. It’s a winning combo and we are already thinking about new things he can turn into our Ghost sound properly.
Is it correct you began to record the album last summer? How far along did you get before the COVID-19 pandemic put everything in lockdown?
(Ricky) We had a full pre-production recorded with Bassi up to that moment and this has sped up subsequent recording sessions, but not anything meant for the final release, so we had to organize all of the final takes during July/August 2020.
Label and management
Both the debut and the EP were released by Buil2Kill Records. Why did you chose to end your co-operation with them?
(Ricky) In the beginning we were searching for a more international-oriented label to take over DUE. Then we met Rockshots in our researches and we found a fresh, modern and strong willed approach that tickled our minds. Contacts with guys at Buil2Kill had been occasional in the last 2 years and never pointed toward a second production.
Why did you chose to ink a deal with Rockshots Records?
(Ricky) Their approach matches our vision and exigencies. They are realistic and work hard to make ends meet, by planning, sharing and have a solid know-how in the business.
Are you happy with the work RR have put into the band and into DUE so far?
(Ricky) Absolutely. We’ve been getting all we wanted to achieve with them in this first part of our relationship, with DUE. Only COVID has stopped them from giving us more.
Any plans on releasing the album on vinyl? Is the band fans of the vinyl format?
(Ricky) We actually talked briefly about a sort of limited edition in the future on vinyl format, but that’s not something we scheduled yet. They’re really fascinating, but none of us is collecting them actually, though most of us still collect loads of CDs, haha.
Do you currently work with any booking agency?
(Diego) Not yet but we’ll soon try to finalize some agreements, whenever the global situation will allow us to think forward
Past present and future
Italy was struck pretty hard by the pandemic, what’s the status there at the moment?
(Ricky) Actually we are cautiously and gradually taking a step further toward the reopening of activities. The vaccine campaign slowed down drastically soon after its start. People are frustrated and hoping to get back to some normality as soon as possible. We definitely hope so too.
How has the pandemic affected the band? I mean it must be hard to make PR etc for a new album these days?
(Ricky) We stuck to our social media plans, we took the most out of what we could do during these crazy times. Since the pandemic started people are suffering an overload of online promotions, campaigns, calls to action that convert into nothing most of the time, so we’ve been a little wary not to be redundant or pushy.
Do all of the members come from the same town in Italy?
(Ricky) Yes we do, in the range of 30km you can spot any of us.
The band has a pretty good looking website, however there isn’t much info about the band and members and so on. Why is that?
(Ricky) Eehehe…This operation had many delays. Long story short: we are putting up a new web page which is gonna be essential and exhaustive in terms of info. It’s coming within days.
Who runs the website?
(Ricky) We do take care of it thanks to our guitarist Francesco (Poggi) web skills.
Do you think it’s important today to be active on all the social forums that’s available?
(Ricky) It is. I mean, if you are not active on social media it’s kind of like you don’t even exist for the audience, and thanks to the dynamics the pandemic has put us through, this is pushed to its extremes. It is also important to have quality content to share, being reliable and realistic nowadays. There’s a saturation that’s making people picky and selective on what to suggest and generate word of mouth around.
Shine (OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO)
At the moment the band’s got about 2,500 followers on Facebook. Do you think that number is going to increase with the release of DUE?
(Ricky) As soon as we will be able to play live and run some real-life campaigns with merch and other tools, numbers will naturally rise. Numbers on social media are also another topic that is both a sort of business-card and a certificate of the job you’ve done: but was this job pump up the numbers or sweat onto contents? We always go for the second option.
I know the band is planning a live stream shortly, tell us a bit what the plans are will all the band be there and what the stream is going to include and when it’s going to take place?
(Ricky) Nice you’ve spotted our advert on this! We wanted to be there for people even seen the distance we are required to keep, so it will be a sort of live chat where we will be taking on 3 songs from DUE, chosen by listeners, and exploring them together. The whole band will be there but Ricky will simply sing them through and probably Diego will accompany him with his acoustic. This will be live from our rehearsals room sometime soon! We are waiting for more permissions to organize this.
Are there any plans on play live late this year or under 2022?
(Ricky) We want to, but now none can tell you how they will manage hosting events, live shows. So we are hanging on the time venues will reopen with all of their new guidelines. We are also a release-party short.
Do you think it will take as long until the next album with band will be out?
(Ricky) It’s gonna take a shorter time. The line up’s now stable and we are eager to write more songs to give DUE a great successor.
What would you say to the ones who haven’t heard the music of Blue Hour Ghosts before?
(Ricky) I’d tell them to live every song into DUE as the perfect soundtrack to different times of their day or life, but also as an enjoyable record for anyone in search for different colours on the same palette. I’d also tell them not to stick to a predefined kind or genre when pushing “Play”.
Could you give the readers three good reasons why they should buy DUE?
1) You’ll find your own song. It’s like a gold chest where you can find the coin you’ve lost and get some more yourself.
2) It’s been written heart in hand and it cannot leave anyone indifferent to its atmospheres.
3) It is sing-able, enjoyable and it won’t be hard to involve someone else into empathizing with its songs.
Well, that was all for me and Metal-Rules.com this time around, take care and stay safe and healthy!! do you have any words of wisdom to share with the fans and readers?
(Ricky) We want to thank anyone who took his/her time to read our conversations, everyone who already enjoyed DUE, and anyone who’s going to have a listen to it after this. Wisdom is sometimes more in gestures than in words themselves and we all need to overcome the times we are living in and begin again with gestures revealing some respect and wisdom, like writing an album with all of your heart.