Interview With Fabio Of Serenity
Before their gig at Bannermans Bar, we were lucky enough to interview Serenity bassist Fabio D'amore, who was the primary writer of Lionheart.
Nick: So you're getting into the UK leg of the tour, how are you finding it so far?
Fabio: Yeah, everything is cool, I mean it's the first time we're doing a real UK tour because back in 2011 we played 3 or 4 shows in the UK supporting Delain and more than that, we've just played London all the time, plus Cardiff back then in 2012. Other than that, nothing has been done, so it's like the first time, basically new cities, Yesterday Newcastle, Sheffield, today Edinburgh. Yeah, it's a new adventure, let's say. We need to grow our fanbase here so yeah, it feels like being on tour for the first time.
Nick: Yeah, I've spoken to a few friends who are fans, and a lot of the time when I've said we're seeing Serenity, they've said we'd love to see them again, and they haven't come here for a while so it's good that you're trying to expand the range of places.
Fabio: Yeah, we're trying to. Actually, Scotland, it's always been the Cathouse in Glasgow, although I think the band has never....I think we were discussing earlier, there was something planned maybe here in Edinburgh, but it was cancelled when Georg had his ear inflammation in 2009.
Nick: So you're experiencing the new cities now in the U.K, are you taking in the culture and the sights as you go around? Having a chance to see much of the cities?
Fabio: Uh, not really, as you know, when you're headliners you have plenty of things to do; Soundchecks, interviews, most of the time inconvenient parking [Laughs] Difficult weather, although it's the first day we've had such weather, although it's the UK. Today for example, I would have really like to have really liked to visit the city but because of this weather and stupid me, I forgot a jacket.
Stief: Yeah, we did the same, we had to buy ours.
Fabio: So yeah, unfortunately it was not possible, but it will be great. I mean back then, when we were a support act, most of the time, you have more time, you have to wait for the headliner to soundcheck and back then I remember visiting Manchester and Leamington Spa. That was great.
Nick: So you can eye up some cities when you've got some time off, maybe come back and see them in your free time.
Fabio: Yeah, definitely, and come back maybe with a bigger production.
Nick: Oh that'd be ideal
Stief: So speaking of going to different cities, how do you find the audiences in the U.K? are they different from European audiences?
Fabio: I think the British audience in general is, it's really passionate. Although we didn't have the biggest crowds in the world up to now, because it's the first time for us, so we have to grow our fanbase but nevertheless it was really, really exciting. Huge feedback even yesterday in Newcastle, with such a small audience, it felt like Wembley.
Nick: Yeah, you see it on the social media, the reaction. People really enjoyed it, especially Sheffield.
Fabio: Yeah, Sheffield was real good, but I have a pretty good feeling for tonight as well.
Nick: That's good! I think that as well, there's not a massive metal scene here in Edinburgh, so I think when there is a gig, people flock to it.
Fabio: I really hope so, I'm looking forward to it.
Stief: How would you describe your musical style to someone who's never listened to you before?
Fabio: That's always a tricky question, because you never know where to start from. I basically would say symphonic metal, very melodic with a lot of influences from classical music, and also the revival from the 80's and 70's sometimes, with bands like Toto or Queen. Two elements, if you unite them together, it's somehow, we have a pretty good image.
Nick: Becomes quite epic, doesn't it?
Fabio: Yes, bombastic, as Georg always used to say.
Nick: [laughs] That's a good word for it.
Fabio: Yeah, so, choirs, and live vocals is one of our highlights.
Nick: Yeah definitely, I feel this brand of music in the genre, the vocals are always important, they're emotional, aren't they?
Fabio: Yeah, I must say we are all pretty good lead singers, so if people come all together, it works.
Nick: I think in Lionheart, that's even more obvious than maybe some of the previous albums. You hear more of the backing vocals become involved a lot more.
Fabio: Yeah, definitely.
Nick: So when it comes to symphonic/power metal, they say a lot of bands are compared to each other, and a lot of bands are thrown together. We've heard a lot of people compare you and Kamelot.
Fabio: I remember.
Nick: What would you say makes you stand out above the other bands? You probably touched upon it in the last answer
Fabio: Yes, I don't know if I dare to say standing above, as this is a matter of taste, I guess? But I guess we are different in this vocal aspect, I don't remember any Kamelot shows with big choirs made by the band itself, and I love Kamelot, but I guess we concentrate really a lot of time...you will see tonight, there is something special tonight for the Scottish audience. You will see, we really concentrate ourselves, working a lot on vocals, especially acapella. Really working, the four or five of us, depending if we have a female guest or not, working especially on vocals.
Because our instruments, Okay, everyone can play quite okay, and when we are together, we have to define this or that, but on the vocals, I must say, we spend a lot of time, defining 'I'm singing this, you're singing that' trying to find the combination. As you might understand, on the record, there's a huge choir singing, not only us, but other people involved then you have to reduce everything to four or five of us. which is not easy. [Laughs]
Nick & Stief: [Both laugh] Yeah
Fabio: So I also give a little bit of direction because I'm a vocal coach myself, so it's 'Andy does this, because he's more into this kind of range, I do the high pitched stuff, Georg is for sure doing the lead vocals, and Nick in this case is sometimes going up, sometimes going down, for sure doing the harsh vocals when needed' therefore you have a lot of combinations, so I think this is the aspect you were mentioning that may make us differ from the other bands.
Nick: Yeah, I'm glad you said that, as it's something we've definitely picked up on recently, so it's paying off, the work you're putting into it.
Fabio: Yeah, I don't know how many other bands are doing this, in the small/medium circuit like we are. Just remembered back then, I think they still do this, Pain Of Salvation, they really concentrate on this vocal aspect, but must admit it's not so common, everything goes into the playback.
Nick: A lot of bands focus on the riffage and breakdowns.
Fabio: Yeah for sure, song shape and so on.
Nick: You mentioned working with female vocalists, you've worked with a few in the past. Amanda Somerville and you've got Clementine as well. What's it like working with them and are there any plans to work with them again in the future as they obviously brought a lot to the albums they were on?
Fabio: I mean, I don't even have to mention Amanda, because she's always top-notch but what to say? I mean she's brilliant, she has always been doing great stuff for us, and I hope she does it in the future. Actually there would have been an idea to bring her live at some special event but I don't think it's easy to involve her.
Nick: She's involved in a lot of things.
Fabio: Yeah, and when the time is not matching your t-shirt [Gesturing at Stief's Avantasia t-shirt] with Avantasia you know? and family business, she's having a family so I don't think it's so easy for her, but yeah, we will try hard. One day maybe it happens, and then we can play live Perfect Woman and Changing Fate with her. As for Clemmy, I mean, she's been in the band in the past as a fixed member and now she's in Visions. We're touring with Visions Of Atlantis at least twice a year, in one and a half months, we're again together, I'm pretty sure she's going to be on stage with us for another song.
Nick: That's good to know. When you're picking the female vocalists or other vocalists to work with you, do you look for the vocals to fit the song? or do you work the album around vocalists?
Fabio: Depends if you mean only on the album or live?
Nick: I'd say album.
Fabio: Album wise, we for sure look for the right vocalist, and sometimes maybe it's not even the right idea to pick a female in the end, or the other way round; maybe there was a part where Georg was singing, and we say 'Ok, maybe this would have been great with female vocals.' I still remember, I mean maybe no-one could ever imagine, but our single, Spirit In The Flesh where I'm singing the lead vocals, this would have been a female part. Back then I just had to sing the guideline for a possible female guest, but in the end it ended up me, because it was already good like this. [laughs] Definitely very difficult to sing, because it's very high, but this is my range.
Stief: How is it touring with Temperance and Alight.
Fabio: Well, everything is working great, I'm Italian myself so it's easier with them to communicate and have some little extra fun [laughs] I mean, the drummer from Alight, Mirko, is one of my best friends, and I know the guys from Temperance as well from other shows, and we will have to play some more shows in one and a half months for the Symphonic Metal Nights Part II tour. So yeah, it's very easy.
Nick: Yeah, with Temperance, we were coming to see you guys anyway, but particularly for Stief here, Temperance are a Musipedia favourite
Stief: We've followed them from the beginning.
Fabio: They're pretty good live. You will be astonished, because they are really brilliant, since a long time, we haven't heard a support act as good.
Stief: So you're touring the Lionheart album, We've noticed it's darker than your previous albums
Fabio: Would you say that?
Nick: Well, lyrically it's about the Crusades, and Richard Lionheart, and lyrically it seems to us a little bit darker. Would you agree with that and if so, was that something you were aiming for?
Fabio: I wrote most of the lyrics so uh...no, I don't think we have been aiming for a darker concept, but I guess it was just a matter of fact. As always we are, as you know, talking about historical concepts, but I really, really must say, I want to underline the fact there is always a little bit of creation behind it, so it's 90% actually what happened, but we were also not there. This is what we have been told by history books and so on. So, as a metal band, we have to try also to fit the concept into our music and vice versa and I always really want to think how in that situation Richard Lionheart was feeling.
It's the same process I did when I wrote the lyrics in Codex Atlanticus, the previous album about Leonardo DaVinci. It's the same thing you know; What we were talking about happened, but maybe not that very particular situation. We wanted to imagine something behind the story, there fore, it could be, I don't know, maybe the lyrics could sound or seem darker because of that particular theme, but honestly I wrote the lyrics, I wasn't paying too much attention about the crusades and religion, and I've seen comments from the US really offended, like 'Hey guys, you're doing really great music but your christian lyrics...' What? what are you talking about? This is not what I was...I'm even agnostic, so I don't really care. But I know history, and Georg is a history professor himself, so I think we cannot be called a Christian band. We're not having the crusade as our personal theme, it's just a situation.
Nick: Yes, exactly.
Fabio: I mean, I don't dislike the word 'dark', I really like it. If you got it dark, I think my lyrics were pointing in that direction, but not voluntarily. But if you mean 'dark' in terms of mysterious, reflexive and I'll say, mystic, then I like it, but if it's dark, or some people interpret it in a religious way, then I don't like it.
Nick: Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head there, maybe the atmosphere around it is a bit more dark.
Fabio: Yeah, that's cool, I just wanted to make sure. Too many times I've been asked this question, and really, I pay attention to what the people say, you know to improve yourself, and I read some comments that were completely shocking to me because this is not what I was thinking when I wrote these lyrics, you know? I wrote them, not them, I know what I was thinking, yeah, it's really weird, and I sometimes like to point it out, if you don't mind.
Nick: No, definitely, it's why we asked the question as well, it's always interesting to know how people perceive your music, it's a shame that people get too passionate the other way that they...
Fabio: But even without thinking.
Nick: Yeah exactly.
Stief: They just see the words there and leap at it.
Fabio: So superficial, you know, I mean, if you get the music and if you like it, it means you're not totally superficial, but if you interpret the whole record as a christian record, then you don't understand anything.
Nick: They've not really listened to it properly.
Fabio: Or even read it properly.
Nick: You mentioned there the work you put into the album, I'm guessing you do a fair bit of research because you say about 90% of it is fact.
Fabio: Oh, we do, yeah.
Nick: How much time do you put into looking into the history and researching it, before you start putting the lyrics in?
Fabio: It's really not easy, because you know, having such a person like Georg being the lead singer and also a history professor, it's not easy to get to a point where he wants to go, because he really cares about having a clear image about what we are doing in terms of his profession. So everything has to be on point, although, it's power metal, it has to be cheesy sometimes [Laughs]
Nick: [laughs] Exactly
Fabio: But it is cheesy because of the melodies, not because of the theme. We are not native speakers, so we pick up words that sound great for us and define the concept. This is the time we have to put before everything is ready, this is the difficulty behind it and I have to say, it requires time. But once I have the vocal line from him, we discuss 'okay, that song has to talk about, I don't know, Jerusalem' then I know, I see the scene already. Actually, we have been in Jerusalem, a little bit before. We were in Israel in Tel Aviv, we visited Jerusalem, and then we had the idea of Golgotha and so on, so therefore I was already having pictures.
I have the theme from him, I have the vocal line, therefore the research can take a little less time, then I can make it. But sometimes, for sure, its longer because I'm not so keen in that specific theme, I'm not a history professor, my mum was, so sometimes I even ask her, and she suggests some points of view that maybe we didn't think about, therefore the research is taking a little more time. All in all, this is the most important time, before writing the lyrics, the theme has to be real clear.
Stief: and do you all discuss that as a band?
Fabio: Actually, not really, the main factor is normally Georg, as I repeat, it's also his profession, and he really cares that we are not saying bullshit.
Stief: Just not making every thing up.
Fabio: We cannot really make everything up, but a little bit of make up has to be there, because I think this is the fun. This is how we see it; This really happened, and I could place it in my own world of creation.
Nick: I'll probably go away and appreciate the albums even more now that I know the work that's gone into it.
Fabio: and maybe tonight, you can even think about it when you are watching the show, think about what I said, because most of the lyrics came from me on the last album, so you can maybe now understand them even better. I hope [laughs]
Stief: There are a few metal festivals around the U.K, have you shown interest in taking part in any.
Fabio: Actually I just remembered we had one UK festival planned, but we had to cancel because AC/DC was down town with Axl Rose singing, and it was the same evening so they postponed to the day after, but we could not make it to the day after for another show therefore we had to cancel. This was the only occasion I remember about the UK. But for sure, I really would like to play a UK festival.
Stief: Yeah, we attend one called Bloodstock nearly every year.
Fabio: Bloodstock, I know, yeah.
Nick: I think that you would fit in really well there, there's a good range of genres representation, and I think a lot of people would appreciate you being at that festival.
Fabio: Definitely, if you can call the promoter [laughs]
Nick: We'll get a petition going [laughs] Are there any festivals worldwide that you'd love to play or anything that you're aiming to play in the future?
Fabio: I think Summerbreeze is one of the few we still haven't played, I wouldn't dislike it, it's also not too far from where I live, so it would make everything so much easier, because Wacken, you know it's great, but it's so far away [laughs]
Stief: We'll keep an eye out for that [laughs]. Even though it's only been a year since Lionheart's release and you're still touring it, have you had any ideas springing up for any new albums yet or are you just focusing on getting the tour over and done with.
Fabio: Actually, yes, a new release, but you will understand better tonight. There's something special planned for February, including another type of touring activity. You will understand better tonight, it's about acoustic. That's part of the special gift for the Scottish audience tonight, but then you will understand better.
Nick: So we're from Wales, as you know, and we're famous for our Sheep. We always do this at the Musipedia as a funny last question to end on. We have a selection of sheep and we just want you to pick your favourite sheep.
Fabio: [laughs] Okay, that's cool! [He looks at the selection] I like this one.
Stief: The Manx Loaghtan...it's the horns, isn't it.
Fabio: [Laughs] Yeah!
Nick: That's brilliant, well, we appreciate your time and we're looking forward to the show.