Interview With
Rhapsody's Alex Staropoli

Interviewed by EvilG, February 2001

To me, Rhapsody stand as an example of all that is great about power/symphonic metal. With this being the second time I was given the opportunity to interview a member of Italy's Rhapsody, I was very excited! The first time was with Luca Turilli in August 2000 (check out that here). This time I spoke to Rhapsody's other "band leader" - Alex Staropoli. Alex is the brain behind the keyboards and much of the arrangements and orchestration. 

  Listen to the interview in MP3 format 
(22mins long, 5meg download)

How long have you been playing keyboards?

I started to play when I was really young playing piano. I was nine years old. I played for three or four years, and then I left it for a short period. Then when I was 18 I decided to begin another time to play. At the same time I was playing piano and keyboards. Then after a few years I met Luca (Turilli). I can say that I played keyboards for about 12 years. It's not important how many years; it depends on what you do in these years. It depends on what you're studying.


When you did start out playing keys, was your immediate desire to play in a metal band or were you more beginning off with just classical?

Yes, when I began I played piano for some years. I never thought to one day play in a metal band. What I knew was that I was a big fan of classical music. Then when I was 18, like I told you, I began to listen to heavy metal, rock and pop to. All music apart from classical music and then I was attracted to heavy metal because, I don't know why. I really liked it al lot. Then, it was in this moment that I thought to play this music but I think of many instruments like in Rhapsody. So I think that the many years I studied piano, this for me means to be in a certain way prepared to do the arrangement of classical music. First of all, I am really attracted to movie soundtracks…so now my love is this. I love every kind of music but the movie soundtracks is for me is something really, really interesting for me and for my music.


I assume soundtracks like Conan and Highlander must be high on your list?

Yes, very high yes (laughs). I really love this kind of composition because it really makes me crazy. There are a lot of instruments playing at the same time and in all the frequencies and range you know? It is, for me, something very complete from the very low frequencies to the very high. I like big melodies, big themes and then a thumping march like this style like Conan, like you told me, I like Gladiator, I like Braveheart. For me this is the best.


I was wondering, do you play any other instruments besides keyboards?

No not really. What I do is play the keyboards and arrange the music of Rhapsody. This takes a lot of time.


Yeah I bet! Can you tell me how you first hooked up with Luca Turilli and then formed the band?

This is like I told you before. It was more than 10 years ago. We met in the period that we listened to a lot of the heavy metal music from the 80's - bands like Helloween and Crimson Glory, all these great bands. Then we put together these influences and plus my and Luca's love of classical music. Its only now, from Symphony of Enchanted Lands to Dawn of Victory, that this big soundtrack sound is coming up. In the beginning it was more classic. We met very casually, me and Luca. We started to talk about everything and then we talked about music and we discovered that we were two musicians without a band and we decided to put our energy together.


Luca has a solo career as well your vocalist is with Vision Divine. Have you ever considered having a solo career apart from Rhapsody?

Yes, I've considered this idea now for two or three years. Soon, at the end of 2001 we should enter into the studio to record the two solo albums - mine first and Luca's being the second one. So yes I will begin to release some solo stuff, yes.


Will it be drastically different or fairly similar to what you do with Rhapsody?

Drastically….I think not, not for the moment. I think I would like to do something in a different way but in my style, my touch. And this depends, because I can change my ideas every day. I still have time to decide what to do. But basically I was to use real instruments on this solo album.


When you play live you have to handle all the orchestration parts so how much of it are you able to perform live as opposed to having it play through a triggers or sampled?

We consider Rhapsody not to be like a normal heavy metal band. So we can't go on stage and improvise and be free. But we like this because we like to propose to the audience a really great sound not only a normal heavy band on stage. So we decided to put on samplers all the parts on stage which are not easy to have like big choirs, strings, a lot of orchestration that we can't play on stage. So we play with a click (referring to a click track - basically a device used for the band to stay in time) and we must stay in the click. The results are really good because there are big choirs doing the songs, real things doing the songs, this is a great thing because the sound of Rhapsody…this is what we want and Luca is very emotional you know, to use this orchestration also live. So this is a part of the game. For the next tour, we are planning to do always more of this stuff because we want to give to the people the opportunity to also see something on stage, not only to listen. So we want to propose something really theatrical and I hope to have this as soon as possible.


Are you making plans to bring on tour with you a choir or more musicians to actually play the orchestration parts live?

Yes, this should be possible but after the fourth album. After the fourth album we will for sure do a very big tour. We want to represent the saga so we'll want to play songs from all four of the Rhapsody CDs. We want to play two hours and to do great shows with theatrical things and choirs and in some of the gigs in big towns we really would like to have choirs and strings on stage and a lot of surprises for the people you know…that's for sure. It will be a real attractive from this kind of theatrical way…many people on stage thinking it's a play...this for Rhapsody should sound good.


Have you thought beyond the next album in terms of a storyline or what you will do after the Emerald Sword Saga has been completed?

Yes, Luca is thinking right now because now we are finished the fourth album because in April we go into the studio to record the album…so very, very soon. He's thinking about another story but I think basically not so far removed from this one…we will see when it is time. Anyway, we like fantasy movies, fantasy stories. The music of Rhapsody is always around fantasy so we will begin another saga in that way.

What other bands or music do you listen to and do any of these have any influence on the music you write for Rhapsody?

Lets say that maybe in the past, yes. We really love bands like, for example bands like the German band Blind Guardian and then Helloween for sure and Manowar I love, we really like the music of Manowar, and then the music of Yngwie Malmsteen because he is a great musician and then after many years you really are captured form the style, also for Luca for the guitar playing. It's easy to play something that way because it's a kind of fashion for guitar players (laughs) to play a little bit classically but we really love the classical music so it's something that is on our blood. And then there are a lot of classical composers, a lot of soundtrack composers. There is a lot of people that can influence us. The most important thing is that we really like to be influenced by movies. This seems strange, but it's like this - we really love cinema, watching the movie and listening to the music coming out from these movies that they are creating now…the pictures to compose and be simulated you know?


Dawn of Victory turned out to be, in my opinion, your most aggressive/heavy sounding release (yes). Was this something deliberate, or is it just that the storyline took a darker turn so the music kind of matched that?

Yes it's both things because after Symphony of Enchanted Lands we thought, yes great, my god very good this album…but we think that the guitars were not really heavy enough. So after this album we decided the third one we should really do something more aggressive. So this, plus the fact that on tour we used a second guitar player. This was the second fact that. To change a little bit but maintain the orchestration and have a more aggressive sound. Now I can tell you that this fourth album, we are always aiming for this powerful vision with heavy guitars but you really must expect something….I think that the best album of Rhapsody is coming. The fourth album will be the end of the saga and we are preparing something that is a union between the symphonic music of Symphony of Enchanted Lands and the heavy style of the third one, Dawn of Victory. So it should be something really kick ass.


How much of it is written already, or is it completely written?

Everything is written and now I am arranging right now. Every song is almost done. We do a demo usually, and then we are ready to start.


Regarding Dawn of Victory - I haven't read any totally negative reviews…. have all the reactions been positive?

Yes, absolutely, yes. In four months we have, sales speaking, over 150,000 copies sold. The people are absolutely happy about the album because people expect a lot of heavy and aggressive music from Rhapsody. We met a lot of people, especially in Germany because we went there on a promotional trip. In Germany is was fantastic - a lot of magazines, a lot of music shops to do merchandising, signing sessions and interviews. Germany is our big country for sales. We sell our albums all over the world, but Germany is very big.


Have sales of picked up for the new album in North America?

The important thing is that something is changing now. Considering for the first two albums I never did an interview with someone in the USA you know? They say it's not so great but it was in the beginning I think. We are around 7000, it's not much but I think that soon we'll change something. I'm sure of that. Maybe we must wait some more years. We are really convinced; it's only a matter of time to propose in the right way to the people.


Well it's a wish of mine that some day you will tour in North America because I would love to see you guys over here.

Yes, I'm really looking forward to it because we play all around Europe and we will play in South America for sure seeing that they have waited years for us. But the USA is something that for us is our dream at this moment. It's a big market; it's a big chance for us to meet new people. I was in Florida in November and I met a lot of people they knew the music of Rhapsody. This for me is something strange and I never expected that. I'm really happy about that and I'm really excited to get over to the USA to play.


I have a question about the image of the band. Do you think Rhapsody has an image or that the image that you portray is important?

I think so yes. Everything of Rhapsody, let's say that it is planned, but respecting the tastes of me and Luca first of all because we are the band leaders, so nothing is done only because its in fashion you know? Absolutely not. So what we do is really what we feel. We always love this way of act the way you dress. Imagine what you see from Rhapsody is really what we feel inside. I think it's very important, not only a matter of taste…to have a good image is always good.


How do you feel about newer bands that have come out in the past year or two years who seem to be taking quite a queue from your success so far and have incorporated symphonic elements and the type of story lines that would find a home in Rhapsody? Some seem to be following what you've started.

Yes, I think there are a lot of bands in that situation. You know, I didn't believe that, but after Symphony of Enchanted Lands and now after one year of the release of Symphony of Enchanted Lands many bands were coming out talking about Rhapsody and saying thanks to Rhapsody because blah blah blah… I think now there are a lot of bands, especially Italian bands and German bands that like to use swords and fantasy stories and classical elements with the instruments. So yes, I think that we created a style. Sometimes it's not very easy to play this style because we like to propose something always really full of instruments and full of emotions. Sometimes it's not easy to get all the musicians and al the special guests. These things cost a lot of money.


You have to pay all your special guests then obviously?

Yes, choirs and strings and pianos are all rented. It's always expensive but sometimes to have a really good result you must pay a lot.

I assume you already have their parts (the choirs and string musicians etc.) arranged and written for them so that when they show up they are told 'this is what you are playing'?

No. We know a lot of good musicians thanks to our producer and they are really open to do anything we want.


That's about it for me. Do you have any closing comments or other information you'd like me to pass along to readers?

Yes! Ok I have some news. First of all I want to say that I am really looking forward to playing over there and the second thing is me and Luca are personally preparing the official website for Rhapsody. We are preparing another special thing which are some scrolls from the music of Rhapsody for all the musicians that like to play our music. Then after the fourth album we are preparing a book that Luca is writing all about Rhapsody, about our philosophy of life and about the music….something that can be really interesting to understand…everything about the band. And we are preparing a special edition containing this book with a piece of music from Rhapsody that we should compose very soon. It's like a short symphony, a special piece of music that's played, the operas, at the end of the saga. This should be something special that should be out lets say, after the fourth album - between the fourth and the fifth album. The most important thing is that we would really hope to come over there to play.

Yes, definitely. I HAVE to see Rhapsody before I die.


Oh my god…yes, sure.


Well best of luck with the recording for the next album.

Yes, very, very soon yes. We are going to play some festivals here in Europe and probably we should play in August in South America, this would be great then to come to the USA after South America. Maybe we can so something because we will be so near you know. From South America to North America is not so far. I'd really love to organize something with the agency!!!



Thanks To Eric at Concrete Planet 
for setting me up with this interview!!!!

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Sunday, February 25, 2001