Interview: Alex Staropoli (Rhapsody Of Fire)

Posted on December 26, 2015


RH_ITL_P02____Luigi_Orr__The new Rhapsody Of Fire album Into The Legend is coming in late January 2016, and I did get a chance to do a small interview with their Keyboardist and mastermind Alex Staropoli :)

* First of all; thank you very much for taking your time to answer these questions, I really appreciate it! :)
So you guys are releasing your new album Into The Legend, after a little more than 2 years since your last effort Dark Wings Of Steel came out, congratulations!
Could you tell us a little about Into The Legend and how it differs from Dark Wings?

Alex: Dark Wings Of Steel was composed, arranged and recorded to sound more immediate and less pompous but still maintaining the style of the band.
It was the perfect album in that moment as far as I am concern.
The main difference is that for this last production I have invested more time for the entire recording process and the mix to be able to take care of every small detail, but overall I used many elements such as orchestra, choirs, Baroque ensamble and many other guests to create a very rich and epic album in line with the Film Score Metal we created.

* Some fans were disappointed that Dark Wings Of Steel seemed a little bit slower in speed and that it’s overall atmosphere were depressing and dark, but listening to Into The Legend I get almost the opposite feeling.
How was the writing and recording session for Into The Legend, contra te sessions for Dark Wings Of Steel?

Alex: I had a different approach for “Dark Wings”, I had songs written with my brother Manuel, it was a sad period since we had lost our friend Midnight in that period and also another important person of our family. Despite that, my brother and I really like all the compositions and the way that album sounds.
Maybe not what the typical Rhapsody Of Fire fan would expect from us but I strongly believe that “Dark Wings” is a great album.

It has recieved amazing reviews in the US for example, where fans prefer to have less “traditional” Rhapsody Of Fire fantasy elements and more progressive elements.
Actually all journalists I spoke with in Europe were really excited and surprised by “Dark Wings” but we all know that at the end are the fans to have the final words on a records.
For “Into The Legend” I wanted to create songs in the best Rhapsody Of Fire tradition. I was full of energy and really inspired. The motivation was very strong, starting from the composition process to the arranging process, the recordings, the mix and the mastering.
All the way through the production we all were motivated and excited, knowing we were creating something really special.

* Neither Into The Legend or Dark Wings Of Steel seems to be concept albums in the way you guys use to do them before, you know with the big epic storyline and so on.
Do Rhapsody Of Fire have plans to do those kind of big story and concept albums that you are so famous for?

Alex: We do not write concept albums or sagas anymore, not for now at least.
Fabio Lione is now responsible for the lyrics, I think that his poetical-Italian-melodic touch is well imprinted in the lyrics as it is in the way he sings.
When I compose, my goal is to feel emotions and have the listeners feeling emotions as well, but I also always try to work with mental images.
The lyrics works the same way. Fabio is able to write in a way to stimulare the vision of images.
I also believe that in this case the lyrics deserves to be interpreted by the listener.
I don’t like to give my own explanation on the lyrics and on the music, I find it more interesting
when everyone have their own opinions and feelings.

* Into The Legend features real symphony orchestras and other instruments, like stuff you did way back in the days of Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II for example. How was it to work with all these people and arrange the music for the record?
It must be a very hard task to write and arrange stuff and later have a full orchestra to perform it the way you want it to be like?

Alex: In general people think it’s difficult, and surely it is not easy, but as I said before when the motivation is strong and you have a vision, everything is easier.
Before starting to compose I created a list of elements I wanted to have featured on “Into The Legend”, in this way while composing I was stimulated. To have a big vision is important.
One of the best moments of the production was the recording session with the orchestra in Skopje, Macedonia. We had 32 string players and 14 brass players, a really huge ensamble of hand picked musicians, who are used to record classical pieces as well as soundtracks.
When the brasses were recording, the amount of sound pressure, the amount of air blowing and the volume they had were incredible, so thick and epic!
It was a great experience to work again with my favorite conductor Vito Lo Re, who is involved in numerous collaborations such as composer, arranger, conductor and artistic director for Italian TV productions.

* And speaking of that, how is it to write the Rhapsody music now without Luca Turilli?
How has everything worked out for the band in your point of view after the split in 2011?
Has it changed a lot or is it much of the same as it used to be?

Alex: I am more relaxed I have to say. Working by yourself makes things easier.
Personally I did not change a lot in my approach, I still work with images, planning everything in detail, working on my inspirations and aiming to do the best I can, enjoying every moment of it.RH_ITL-C_1500x1500

* Roberto De Micheli has been part of Rhapsody Of Fire since 2011 and I think many fans agree with me that he was the right man to step in when Luca left.
How do you think it’s been working out with him? And does he have much influence in the song writing?

Alex: Roby’s presence in the band and in the songwriting had a lot of impact.
In some ways what he does is really in the line with the Rhapsody Of Fire music but with a modern way to do it. Kiesel/Carvin Guitars now endorses him. They build fantastic guitars, perfect for him and the sound I seek in the mix and on stage.
Both Luca and Roby are great guitar players, they started to study the instrument together, listening to the same bands and being passionate for good music.

* I don’t want to nag about it, but it’s near the end of 2015 now, how do you feel regarding the split with Luca? How has it affected you as a musician and (if) the bands future?

Alex: When I think about band splitting, members departing, etc. I often wonder why those musicians ended up like that, why the could not hold on and make another album, maybe another one after that and eventually never split.
For Luca and myself, the split was the only possible way to go on. Our friendship was not the problem, we told that many times, but the working relationship between us, and the two of us with Fabio lately created too high tensions. Too high tensions considering we always wanted to be pacific people and deliver music with positive engery.

Now we are both very happy for our respective bands. “Into The Legend” is the album that made me proud of myself and the musicians I am working with, I could not ask for more.
Roby De Micheli is an amazing guitar player other than being a great lifetime friend.
He delivered so many great guitar riffs for this new album that I had material to play around with for weeks. I have even created orchestral arrangements starting from some guitar riffs. Very cool and very stimulating.
The split was hard to handle for the fans probably, but not for us. We were prepared and consious of that decision.
Some years back we would never had considered that option, but then things changed. When you are in your 20’s, you just don’t care but at 40-50 years old you get tired of situations which are not perfect and which doesn’t make you feel happy, and I mean really happy.

* The very same year that Micheli became the guitarist for the band, you decided to release your first live album since 2006, and I think some people were a bit disappointed that it only came as a CD and not as a DVD as well.
I personally love live albums, but I am curious about what made you decide to release it at that particular time, and together with a live video-teaser but no DVD?
Do you have any plans for a live DVD in the future?

Alex: At the time we recorded some shows and I thought it was a very good idea to show the world that the band is back and stronger than ever.
A DVD production is much more demanding in terms of money and it must be organized in a different way too. I would like to release a DVD in the future of course!

* I think many fans were a bit scared when they heard about your friendly split with Turilli, and wondered what would happen to Rhapsody Of Fire.
Could you tell us a little about your thoughts and what the future holds for this band?

Alex: There are two bands now: RHAPSODY OF FIRE and LUCA TURILLI’S RHAPSODY.
Two different bands under every aspect: different music, different productions, differenc musicians, different ways of composing, different ways of mixing and I could go on and on.
I have my own opinion on this matter, the people that gets confused is the people that don’t really care much, people that listen to music maybe superficially.

I can tell you that the true fans of RHAPSODY OF FIRE knows perfectly who are the band members, which is the actual line-up, what kind of music we play, when we play concerts, etc.
These days it is enough to Google and you can have your answeres right away.
I agree that something which can create confusion is the use of a similar “Rhapsody” logo, but even those two logos have their differences in color and shape.
I think that with “Dark Wings Of Steel” and now with an album like “Into The Legend”  shows it pretty clear that we are strong, we have a strong vision and a strong motivation to keep going and creating music the way we like it.

* Okay, so thank you once again for taking your time for this, it’s been a true honor since Rhapsody Of Fire is one of my all time favorite band!
Do you have anything else you would like to add or say to all the fans out there?

Alex: We will meet on tour very soon! We are all looking forward to play the new songs and the old ones as well for all of you!
Thanks a lot.


All photos are used with permission from AFM Records.

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