A few months ago it was entirely possible that this interview would never take place. Last August, Luca Turilli and company announced the end of Rhapsody of Fire after fourteen years and ten albums of some of the finest, most stirring heavy metal ever committed to tape. It was a hard time for Turilli, to say the least. “I really did not know what I could do, whether to concentrate on my soundtrack writing, writing for trailers… but as well I knew that I would miss the metal – it’s a very hard thing renounce!”
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, let’s go back in time before that late Summer bombshell was dropped last year. When last MaF spoke to the Rhapsody camp, in the guise of keyboardist Alex Staropoli, the future, whilst not being Orange, was looking seemingly bright on the outside. What went wrong? “Actually myself and Alex had been finding it harder and harder for a while; Although the band recorded its first album in 1997 (Legendary Tales) we have been together writing since 1993, and for a few years it was getting difficult. We had finished the great cycle – ten albums – the saga we had been writing, we had invested everything we had into the band, both as Rhapsody and as Rhapsody of Fire, but it was time for us to try other directions. As I said, both Alex and myself had invested tremendous amounts of financial and emotional capital in the band, we had a lot of legal problems as everybody knows with the name, and like all families do sometimes we were feeling the stress of holding things together. Alex and I decided – very amicably, to separate.”
Was it a difficult time? “Oh of course it was. And we decided to bring things to an end in the best way we could. We decided we would both keep the Rhapsody name to give each other a fair chance in the future. It would be unfair for one party to start with the name and the history of Rhapsody whilst the other had to start from nothing,“
This is a marvellously civilized way of doing things. I wonder if anyone suggested such a modus operandi to Axl and Slash at any point? Probably not. Not only did the two major protagonists divvy up the band names, they shared the band’s other members amongst themselves as well, with leather lunged vocaliser Fabio Leone going with Staropoli (who is pressing on under the Rhapsody of Fire moniker), guitarist Dominique Lerquin and bassist Patrice Guers staying with Turilli and octopoid drummer Alex Holzwarth electing to keep a kick drum pedal in both camps. After news of the split was made public, Turilli started work, informed label Nuclear Blast of his intention to carry on (“they were obviously very pleased to hear this!” says Turilli with a hint of pride in his voice at the thought), and set to work. For the first time in aeons Turilli decided not to work with longtime producer Sasha Paeth and look elsewhere. Was this a function of the ‘saga’ ending, drawing a line under that chapter in Rhapsody’s history and making a fresh start? “Of course you know it was; Sasha was our producer for our first five albums, and then myself and Alex took over that role, although I think when you are a musician recording your own music you are always producing yourself. But Sasha never really like our music! He’s a Frank Zappa fan, you know? I definitely saw it as a chance to make a fresh start. On the last tour our promoters all commented on how good our sound was, and I was talking to our front of house soundman on that tour Sebastien Roeder, and learned that he had his own recording studio. He loves our music, he shares the same favourite band as me (Nightwish), and I asked him if we could work together. The record company were a bit nervous, they wanted to hear stuff that he’d recorded before we could use him, but it was a good opportunity to make a break from what we had been doing before.”
The recording cycle is over now – how long does it take after that intense period of work before you can listen to your albums again? “This album was a very intense experience. In the past we have not allowed anything to be heard by outside influences for maybe months, we had a very calm, relaxed way of doing things. This time we had deadlines, very very strict record company deadlines, that meant me and Sebastien were doing fifteen hour days in the studio every day, sometimes worse – I had three straight days with no sleep! But I think that when I am making an album I am making music that I would want to hear – you know when you have a new favourite band you just want to listen to their cd over and over again? This is how I feel when I am making a record. I’m making something that I would want to hear as a fan so even after a very intense process like this I never feel that I don’t want to hear the record again!”
A very good answer. So, that being the case you’ll be happily rehearsing ready for a big slap of touring, no? “Of course! Although not for a while. The new album is out on June 22nd but we won’t be touring in Europe until November and December, with the rest of the world to follow in January and February.”
And Australia will be included? “It would be very nice to come to Australia! We have had arrangements a couple of times that for some reason have not happened.”
January and February – and March as well – are a good time to tour here. It’s when the touring festivals roll across our great southern land. “Really? That’s useful to know. Very useful to know! I will tell some people about that! I do a lot of interviews with people in Australia so hopefully there is a trickle of interest about us! It would be good to come down and meet you all!”
The album is out, as Luca pointed out, on June 22nd and it has to be said that it's rather splendid - get involved in sufficient numbers, and there's just a chance a lucre-inspired promoter (see what I did there?) might just fulfill Luca's dream to perform for us all down under. Go to it!
Luca Turilli's Rhapsody release Ascend to Infinty on Nuclear Blast/Riot on June 22nd.