Symphony X: "We Just Let The Music Speak"

In the wake of releasing their ninth studio album ‘Underworld’, longstanding U.S. progressive metal band Symphony X are, for the first time, arriving on Australian shores for two ground-breaking shows this October.

This October, twenty-two years since forming in New Jersey in 1994, iconic progressive metal band Symphony X is bound for Australia. It’s been a busy year for Symphony X since their ninth studio album, Underworld, was released in July 2015. Underworld brought together the best of the band’s two-decade career to date and Symphony X has been taking their epic new material to the far reaches of the globe. Symphony X bassist Mike LePond talks to Metal As Fuck about coming to Australia, uniting fans of all ages, and what makes for a great live performance.....

So Mike, how has the last year since releasing Underworld been for you? A lot of travelling? “Yes since Underworld came out we’ve been doing a lot of touring, we did a full tour of the USA; we toured Europe and South America and now I’m so excited that we are finally going to play Australia after all these years.”

Twenty-two years, right? That’s pretty intense… have you got any expectations for Australia? “You know, we’ve never played Australia before, we always wanted to so we’re really excited, our friends who have played over there tell us that the Australian fans have tremendous energy and passion and they love metal over there so really looking forward to going over and playing some cool shows.”

Fans of Symphony X have had just over a year to immerse themselves in Underworld. From your point of view, how has the album been received? “Sure…Underworld…we were really proud of it right from the beginning, and we’re really excited to get it out there! We’re happy to say that what’s cool about Underworld is that older fans and our newer fans have both embraced the albums, and are both coming out to shows and its cool because we tried to do that, we tried to incorporate all our styles from over the years onto one record. It’s good, if you like our newer heavier stuff, there’s plenty of that; if you like our older progressive classical style there’s plenty of that too. And live, the fans have really enjoyed it. On tours we have played the whole album and it’s went over really good. Everything’s been really positive about it.”

Wow, fantastic! In saying this - were there any challenges trying to meld the vast catalogue of what the band has done into a new release? “There’s always challenges but I think with Underworld our biggest challenge was… we wanted to make an iconic album, an album where you didn’t want to just download a song an album where you wanted to hear 'everything' all the way through so you can get the story, get the context, a journey for the fans, so, we worked hard on that; worked hard in trying to make a record that our older fans and our newer fans would both appreciate because, you know, our music spans a couple of different genres. As our albums were getting heavier in later years, our older fans were not really liking it, and so on this album it’s a little less heavy than Iconoclast [2011] and we just put a little more classical sound into it and I think we finally got the right mix.”

It will be great to see it performed in Australia… are there any plans to play through the album, or a mixture of old and new material? “Well I think since we’ve never been to Australia I think what we are probably going to do is try to give the Australian fans a taste of all of our years, like a greatest hits show, try to cover as many albums as we can, and try to give the Australian fans a taste of everything we’ve done over the years. We’re really excited and I think it’s going to work out.”

It sounds like everyone will be happy about that! Have you got long in Australia? Time to have a look around a bit? “I think that we’ll probably just arrive before the first show and then leave after the final show, but while we’re there if there’s any time to see anything I’d love to, perhaps sample some traditional Aussie food, I’d love to… Most important to me is just to talk to all the fans and get an idea of, you know, what they think about music, about heavy metal, and life in general, and really just enjoy the culture.” And you are playing in Sydney and Melbourne only? “Yes, we’re playing those two shows. You know I wish that we could have had more shows, so that’s one regret but happy that we are at least going to visit - perhaps in the future we can cover the rest of the areas in a longer tour.”

And they are big areas to cover! So, what do you think comes after Underworld, now that you have made such an iconic record, did you also bring in any new ideas and elements for Symphony X to move forwards? “You know at this point we haven’t really thought about what we’re going to write after Underworld, we still have a lot of more touring to do, so after we're finished with Australia, that’ll be all for this year but next year we’ll start touring again and we’ll hit some more areas probably tour throughout 2017 and we won’t really start writing another record ‘til late next year sometime.”

Yeah wow, that is a pretty long touring schedule, do you think it’s essential for all bands to do a lot of extensive touring? “Yes it really is, especially nowadays because you have so much illegal downloading of your music going on so you’re not making much money as far as record sales go. So bands are doing tour after tour cause you just have to do it ‘cause they’re losing so much money with the lack of sales of albums…”

Well I guess its a factor for so many bands. Do you think its good for music though, to engage that live show culture, making people come out and see the bands…? “Yeah, you know I think its great I mean for me music is always best when you see it live, its great to listen to your favourite albums, listen to the songs, but you can't… there’s something about when you see a band live, it’s a feeling of….of happiness, the feeling of family that you experience at a metal show. That will never suffer. Live shows will never suffer.”

I’m certainly glad for that! So do you have anything particular in live shows that you like to include that are special for fans that come to see you play? “We just like to put on a live show that’s really, really good, where the band sounds really, really good, to bring out sound men that are really, really good and a great crew behind you and to try and give the fans the best experience they can with the music. We don’t really have any fancy effects or anything like that, we just let the music speak.”


Symphony X Australian Performances:

October 11 2016 – Melbourne – Max Watts 

October 12 2016 – Sydney – The Metro Theatre