By Mark Derricutt
Tommaso Riccardi is the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for Italian symphonic technical death metal band Fleshgod Apocalypse. Mark Derricutt recently chatted with Tommaso about the release of their upcoming opus King on February 5th.
When it comes to Italian band Fleshgod Apocalypse, it's not the just the music that's hard and fast - forming in 2007 and recording two demos, opening for bands such as Behemoth, Origin, Dying Fetus, and Hate Eternal, catching the attention of Neurotic Records and recording their first full length album Oracles for release in 2009 - the band has been a non stop force of technical brutality ever since.
Rolling forward nine years and the band is about to release their 5th release King and embark on their first (US/Canada) headlining tour following an appearance on this years 70,000 Tonnes of Metal cruise.
Hi, it's Mark from Libel in New Zealand here...
Thats crazy... I just talked to another guy from New Zealand and everyone is asking me "When are you guys coming to NZ?", and I answer "as soon as possible man - we would go play on the moon if we could".
We actually will be on the boat when the album comes out, the cruise starts on February 4th and the album is coming out on the 5th so we'll probably be playing on that day, so that'll be exciting.
Following that you're doing a 2 week back to back tour with Abigail Williams and Carach Angren.
Yes that's right. Pretty exciting stuff cause, besides co-headlining with Septic Flesh a couple of years ago, this is our first full headlining tour in US and Canada, so you know - it's nice, it's amazing, playing the new songs, of course like big responsibilities so we're all super excited and stressed about all the things we're working on, but you know it really looks good and ready, you know I think the package will really work. We've been working with Carach Angren in the past and recently we did Mexico with them and I think the package works really well. In the meantime, pre-sales and hype seem really nice in US and Canada so can't wait to see whats gonna be once we're on the road.
Speaking of playing the new songs, how do you approach your set lists for such a tour? Mostly older/familar songs with only a few new ones?
Yeah, that's probably pretty much whats going to happen. It's also we usually try to introduce the new songs, but not pushing those because we want to slowly add the songs in and give a little more time for people to actually have the chance to listen to the album - especially when we're starting a tour like this which the album is going to come out the day before we start.
But of course we're starting from a few songs, then adding or switching other songs, the good thing about this album is it's really various so there's very different songs so we have the chance to rotate the songs during the tour and that's really nice and gives a chance to listen to different stuff.
Being a headlining tour we'll try to get things out from all the albums we have out now - at this point we have 4 full length and 1 EP so there's a lot of material we can pick.
Also, it takes a bit of time to put up songs because it's very complex to reproduce in a live show - so we really have to confident when we go with a new song, and in the mean time we're so super busy on every level for like video clips and promotion. It's hard to get time to practise and do your things but we're managing it, so it's ok.
With a tour a like that where you're playing every night for something like 14 nights... how do you handle not having any downtime?
You know, it's something that for me, but I think I speak for the whole the band but it's something that came pretty natural since the beginning. I never felt it was too much to play every night probably because we've always been a band that's working a lot, now of course we take time for the rehearsal because in between all the things we have to do we can't rehearse,;for the first 3 years we've been practising like 6 days a week, every week so we've been preparing a lot - so playing every night is not the most stressful thing we go thru actually.
When we were doing the first US tours for example, we were still a pretty small band, we've been doing tours by car; like driving every night and sleeping in vans and playing 30 gigs in a row and stuff like that, so now going in US and having a tour bus and playing every night seems the most relaxing thing ever.
So the "rock star" lifestyle?
No... I wouldn't say so because we still play underground music and still taking care about so many aspects on our own but in the meantime we're growing and trying to bring up better and better shows, we have our own crew so that's amazing. We have these guys who are amazing people helping us on every aspect, but everything is just for raising the quality of the show more and more and never settle on what we do - so everything is useful to get things better and better on the quality side.
The production quality has stepped up over the albums... whilst the technical chops are clearly already there, how do you see the growth of the band...
Yeh there's these two aspects, especially when trying to create a brand between the two styles and doing something that is cross-over. It's of course a long process in that we've been learning from ourselves and from the music itself album by album - because when you mix something like that with so many things going on in the music it's all a matter of getting to know the mechanisms that are behind the music, because the music itself requires a long work on the arrangements and stuff. Every time you learn new things about how to actually obtain the result that you had in mind - technically talking about the arrangements and composition. So I believe we've been really growing on that side and King in my opinion represents a very big step because we were aiming for a perfect balance between all the elements in our music and I really think this album is dynamic and all the things are at the proper time in the music.
We managed to make every aspect come out in the right way and really give spaces to everything. In the meantime, as you said - the work on the production has been growing and growing and it's been really hard to achieve a good balance and we're really happy about that because at this point - it's been the first time we've been working with different people and, but I think both the recording process with Marco Mastrobuono at Kick Studios in Rome, and of course the great job of Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios in Sweden, it's been so important having those people working with us because I really feel that this album is so powerful, but in the mean time there's a lot of dynamic and you don't get stressed while listening to it - you can listen to the whole thing and you know, still get every detail and that's amazing.
Is this the first time you've also released an orchestral version of the album?
We've been thinking about it for a long time, but just didn't have the chance to do it before, and also of course having the help of those in the studio in a manner of sound has been really important in getting that result. So I'm really happy it happened with King because I really believe it sounds really good, and also the kind of arrangements and orchestral pieces are perfect to be listened to on their own.
It's great cause we've always thought if I was a fan of Fleshgod Apocalypse I would be really curious to hear what every single detail of what's happening in the orchestra. Of course you can't hear everything when you have the music there so it's nice that everyone gets the chance to hear how the orchestral arrangements are made in the detail, and you know that's really nice - we've been specifically working on that version of course, Francesco Ferrini has been working on the arrangements, also adding stuff here and there to cover up parts usually covered by the guitars, trying to make it more rich for the orchestral version - but pretty much all the basic lines and arrangements are still there. I'm really satisfied with it.
How do you approach the song writing with all the orchestration, is it music/song first and arrangements later, or are they written more joint...
It depends, on one hand at this point, whenever we have some ideas from guitar we already have in mind how the music is sounding, and we can imagine the orchestral arrangements - but sometimes it can happen that the songs come from a main orchestral themes whilst sometimes it could happen that things start off from a guitar riffing or drum rhythm. It's really, on the inspiration thing it's really random some times but then, we always work on all the elements in the same way to make them fit, because we know how they behave with each other.
In the case of King, I have to say this was, compared to other albums pretty much a guitar based composition, of course theres's still parts that have been starting from an orchestral theme but many of the main riffs that you here in the album came from a guitar riff and I think you can tell because , I dunno - its something that I hear.
What ever is the point you start from, what is important is the way you work on the single elements. The fact is we're really happy because indeed, we feel like we find a good balance between those elements, and now you really have those parts in which the guitar riffing kicks in and it's really much in the face and when the orchestral aspect takes advantage of any other aspect of the song you can really... there's a lot of dynamics and it really explodes and you concentrate on the orchestrations and crazy themes and then the guitars kick in again and you get into a rhythmic mood. So it was really a matter of finding the right balance dynamically - use the orchestra in the proper way, when it has to be something that is an arrangement around the guitars you can actually hear that but when it's the orchestra to be the protagonist it really becomes everything in the song and that's what really brings you into this mood and leads you thru the story, and it's very visual and I really like that, it's really like a sound track.
Have you had the opportunity to perform have full orchestra or is it just synths and patches?
That's something thats in our plans, cause that would be the best way possible imaginable to reproduce our music, of course we still didn't have the chance, it's not easy - being something really really challenging and extremely expensive to do, it is not easy also when, some countries you would get help from the government but that's not the case in Italy unfortunately - so it's not easy to do, but it's something that absolutely we have in mind.
The good thing is that, also for the recordings we're still working on digital orchestra - it's great that technology is really helping us because it's getting better and better, and Francesco Ferrini is extremely skilled on the realism from the orchestral sounds - so that's a very important aspect. Of course, using at least in part real instruments would be the best solution.
King from Fleshgod Apocalypse will be released worldwide on February 5th, 2016 on Nuclear Blast Records.