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Interview with Rhapsody Of Fire

RHAPSODY OF FIRE: Interview with ALEX STAROPOLI

Interview by Carl Buxton

Rhapsody Of Fire have had a chequered history. Formed in Trieste in 1993 by keyboard player extraordinaire Alex Staropoli and guitar hot-shot Luca Turilli with drummer Daniele Carbonera as Thundercross, they released their first EP, and then as Rhapsody, released their second EP after interest from Limb Music. After fourteen years and six albums as Rhapsody the band was forced to change their name to Rhapsody Of Fire in the summer of 2006 after trademark issues. Then five years and three albums later co-founder and lyricist Luca Turilli announced his amicable split from Alex Staropoli, taking bassist Patrice Guers with him to form his own version of the band, Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. That marked the end of their fantasy based conceptual albums, as Alex Staropoli intends to take Rhapsody Of Fire in a more song oriented direction with long-time vocalist Fabio Lione taking over main lyrical duties from Turilli. ‘Dark Wings Of Steel’ is the latest album to emerge from the core duo of Staropoli and Lione and it was off to London again to the rather suave surroundings of the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square to meet up. Unfortunately Fabio couldn’t make it so it was the incredibly relaxed looking Alex I was introduced to in the lounge area. I began by asking him if having effectively two versions of the same band would affect their careers?

The main point is Luca and myself invested so much in the band and the music, time-wise, money-wise, that we had to do something about that. So I decided to keep the name, the singer and long-time drummer (Alex Holzwarth) which then left Luca at a small disadvantage, so because of that we both decided to keep the same name. But the music is quite different you know. It’s Heavy Metal but the compositions are quite different. 

Four studios were used for the recording ...

We started with the drums in Munich, then we spent a few days recording the electric guitars and the choir in a friend of mine’s studio, then we did the vocals and keyboards in my studio and the orchestra in Skopje in Macedonia.

The ballad ‘Custode Di Pace’ (Guardian Of Peace) is beautiful. Did you co-write it with Fabio or was it entirely his own song?

This album is the first one I’ve done without Luca, and at first I was thinking about doing it all by myself. Then I spoke with my brother (Manuel) and he let me hear some stuff he was doing and I was really shocked, because it was some years ago that he was playing bass as a kid. He had composed some riffs on the bass and some songs and I really liked them and I thought this is perfect, let’s combine this together. So this ‘Dark Wings Of Steel’ album was composed by me and my brother. No words can describe how I feel, it’s just something I never expected, it’s like a double power where we composed the music together. I came up with the arrangements, I did all the vocal lines, the melodies and I asked Fabio to write the lyrics. It was a very important task because before only Luca was writing the lyrics, so I said to Fabio, let’s try to do something fantastic here. I told him to write something involving fantasy and magic, with passion and poetry and drama and theatrical aspects you know, and so he did and I was very happy about that. For ‘Custode Di Pace’ he wrote the lyrics in Italian, in English, and we also have the same song in French. It was also the first song we wrote.

With Fabio taking over the lyric writing from Luca, how hard was it for him to write in English?

At first it was not that easy for him. I was surprised at seeing what Fabio was doing because he came to my home with a pile of papers like that, (demonstrates), and he showed me some sentences that were very nice, so I was very happy and very surprised that he could really do such a good job. Basically he didn’t like the lyrics because there’s no saga, there’s no concept and sometimes the lyrics are very poetic, so there’s not really a straight meaning. You have to think about it, it delivers some messages, but not the images, like when you read the poetry; if take your time to understand, sometimes you read it and understand what it’s all about, and this is what I love. This is what another singer, a friend of mine, was doing, which was Midnight from Crimson Glory whom I met. He was in my home for two months and I had a project with him and unfortunately he passed away, but he was writing four lines, incredible, like not writing that much but such good stuff all the same – a very powerful voice and there was never a straight meaning (to the lyrics), three or four different interpretations. Fabio did something quite similar you know, really! Fabio did a great job and sometimes when I read the lyrics there’s something magical that I see so I’m really proud of that. They might have a meaning for you, and a different meaning for me, it takes a lot of effort to write stuff like that.

You’ve only done two festival shows this year with the world tour last year, is the idea for this album to launch you into a new world tour next year?

I hope so. We’re looking at some options and ideas and soon we will know more about that. For sure we want to come to the UK. With regards to the festivals we had two nice offers and we said let’s do it because also we wanted to test the band with five members (guitarist Roby Di Michele and Oliver Holzwarth, brother of Alex, on bass joined in late 2011, but fellow guitarist Tom Hess left this summer), so that was also why it was nice to do it.

With such a large back catalogue, how many songs from this new album do you think will make your live set?

Maybe three or four, I don’t think more. I always think it’s nice to have the right balance between the older songs. From this album I already know which songs will work – ‘Rising From Tragic Flames’ ‘Dark Wings Of Steel’, the ballad, ‘Angel Of Light’ – ‘…Flames’ and ‘…Steel’ especially were composed for the live arena. They are typical songs from Rhapsody Of Fire.

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