Welcome to the Prognaut.com. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule of promoting and rehearsing for tours for your latest album Phlegethon to answer some questions.
First off, let me say this is a fantastic album that really should launch your careers. Thanks for your efforts on Phlegethon.
DIEGO C. – Thanks to you for your compliments about “Phlegethon”. We’re satisfied with the results in terms of composition, arrangements and production. I hope the album will receive good exposure.
Prognaut.com – Please tell our American audiences a little about the band. What brought you all together? What is your inspiration to record and perform your music?
DIEGO C.- The band was founded by me and my brother Thundra in the summer of ’96. It was more a bunch of friends playing songs of Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and all those classic rock stuff. We became a real band I think with our fist promo Eyes Of Memories which was “released” I think at the end of ’99. Then, we started evolving in a kind of more “progressive” oriented music, with a lot of influences in it. The lineup changed often in these ten years and with Phlegethon we’ve our best lineup ever.
Prognaut.com – Phlegethon, literally “a river of fire”. Can you describe the concept and story behind the album?
DIEGO C. The concept of Phlegethon is about, above all, the growth and how much the experiences we live in our youth will determine the person we will be. So the story is about two brothers who live a series of events which will change their lives forever. I prefer not to explain too much the whole story ‘cause the first listen with booklet in hand is always a little bit special. There is also a full artwork with some elements about the story or the concept behind..
Prognaut.com – The production on this album is just magnificent. Hats off to the engineers, mixers, and producers for capturing the band in all its glory. Can you tell us about how you found them and decided to work together?
DIEGO C. Well, the album was recorded in the studio owned by me and Thundra. The two of us engineered the recordings and take care of the production, then the album was mixed by Giampiero Ulacco in his home studio while we continued the recording sessions at our studio. We worked every track from start to finish, so every time a track was recorded it was sent to Giampiero. Giampiero made his “row mix” and sent it back to me, then I suggest to him the adjustment and so on… When all the tracks where mixed we moved to Naples at “20Hz20Khz Mastering Lab” studio, owned by a friend of us (Giampiero and me) for the mastering sessions.
Prognaut.com – The album opens with the sound of the surf and Christian’s keys. It reminds me of some of the classic movies in that we hear about the outcome of the story before it begins. Can you describe the scene you were capturing with this song?
DIEGO C. - Yes. We try to make a strong connection between our music, the lyrical concept and the visual aspect of the booklet. It is like a movie, and we have to make the music for it. So the first “chapter” starts with a man in the dark, on a high cliff , lookin’ down the sea, with the sound of the waves…it is a kind of scene full of tension and that dark synth sound bring you there.
Prognaut.com – The story begins in earnest with the instrumental Timeshift Box. Put the listener in the frame of mind you were in when you wrote the music. What mood or ideas did you want the audience to feel with this song?
DIEGO C. – After The Slide, starts “Timeshift Box” which is the only instrumental track on the album. In my mind, when I wrote it, that piece of music was a fast flashback. To go back to the childhood of the man on the cliff described in “The Slide”. So it is a fast and rockin’ track, it is like a “fast reward” in my mind J
Prognaut.com – Islands is my second favorite song off the album. The story really begins to take shape here. Thundra’s drums are excellent throughout this album, but take on a level all their own on this song. What about this chapter in the story called for those amazing drums?
DIEGO C. – Islands was the last song written for the album. In facts, it replaced another song which was a little bit “off the mood”. Thundra spent a lot of time in arranging his drums parts in the whole album because he always try to find a balance between the technical side and the right mood.
Prognaut.com – Diego and Ivan’s guitar work throughout this masterpiece are wonderful. They play a great part on Islands as well. From the opening to the several lead riffs throughout. Who is playing which section? How did they choose which riffs each would play on this song?
Ivan – Well, all music partitions have been written by Diego Cafolla, except the solos and some arrangements. We divide sections in order to be satisfied in relation to our personal way of playing guitar. Or also to keep our hands a bit relaxed! In the first part of the song I like to play all the arpeggios and rhythm guitar on the bridge while Diego prefers the first wah wah riff and the melody in the bridge before the refrain. Regarding the solos, we had a comic squabble, due to the time division and who would have played it. Finally we recorded two different solos (the first is mine, the second is to Diego) with an odd time division, a bit strange when you listen it cause time division is usually an even number.
DIEGO C. – Yes, it was fun. I remember that afternoon spent on the solo section, the two of us playing our solos. I Think is a good example of our “subtle” use of odd times. It is odd but you don’t perceive it as “odd” :)
As Ivan said, we choose (when we arrange songs for live shows ‘cause in the studio almost all guitars are dubbed from both of us...) parts and sections trying to divide equally the amount of work. Take Numb for example... it is a really busy song for all of us, because you have to handle all those complex riff and backing vocals at the same time...
Prognaut.com – It is amazing to have two great lead guitarists in one band. How do you keep balance so that everyone is happy?
Ivan - Oh, I play with Kingcrow since 2001. In 9 years our way of playing guitar has become so natural that we don’t fight to play this part or the other one. My guitar approach is more heavy metal and hard rock, with Arabic and exotic influences, Diego comes from the heavy rock but always oriented in a progressive style. That’s why, for example, I like to play the hard rock solo in Lullaby For An Innocent and Diego the crazy solo with the “octaver” in Evasion before the clean arpeggio or the acoustic solo at the end of Lullaby For An Innocent.
DIEGO C. - Yes as Ivan just said, we have a different approach to soloing and we know which solo is better for me or for him. The common aim is to make solos with a great sense of melody in it…a theme. Not just a scale or something that seems to be taken from an exercise. To have two so different guitarist in our band give us a lot of possibilities and sounds…
Prognaut.com – Diego Marchesi is a great addition to the band. His vocals really help punctuate the storyline throughout. I noticed that Mauro Gelsomini, the vocalist and lyricist on Timetropia, is also is given credit for lyrics on Phlegethon. Can you tell us about the transition?
CRISTIAN- The transition was not so “painful” as you can imagine because we were lucky to find immediately Diego Marchesi who joined the band after hi first audition. Mauro was not so much involved with the band when we were writing and recording the album so, with a common decision, he left and Diego joined. Maure has prepared some piece of lyrics and some of these are in the Album. But with Diego on vocals the band have found the perfect voice for the album and a step forward for the band.
Prognaut.com – The Great Silence opens with a cool keyboard and lead guitar track ala David Gilmour. What was your inspiration on this song?
DIEGO C. - For this point of the story we need another dramatic piece. That keyboard sound reminded to me something like Camel , more than Pink Floyd. So my choice go for Latimer which is a great guitar player…one of my favourite
Prognaut.com – Francesco’s bass makes its presence felt throughout the production, but nowhere better than on the opening of Lullaby for an Innocent. He seems to be the glue that holds that opening together. Would he like to comment on this or any other part of the album?
DIEGO C. - Franscesco did record only the double bass on the acoustic version of “Islands”. The rest of the album was recorded by Angelo Orlando, who played the bass lines we prepared for him. He was our session bass player in the Timetropia tour but never joined the band as an official member. Now our official bass player is Francesco D’Errico.
Prognaut.com – Lullaby for the Innocent shows off the band’s soft side. It fits the story well. What can you tell us about the inspiration for that song? Those harmonies at the beginning bring back memories of the great harmonies from Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
DIEGO C. - Yes, it is one of my favourite song on the album. I was searching for a dreamy song, similar to a lullaby. And then I’ve started the first guitar arpeggio which have the vocal melody in it…so the song was born. We worked a lot on this one, on every section. I remember, just for example, that the second electric guitar solo, which is by Ivan, takes two days of work.
Prognaut.com – Evasion is another stellar showcase for the band. The video you produced was excellent. Marchesi is introduced and showcased so well. As are the guitarists and Cristian’s keys. But it’s Thundra’s drums which steal the show. He must have been influenced by Portnoy’s Pull Me Under on his stellar drum assault?
Thundra – It’s better to say that drum sections for this song have been created by listening some Rush albums, especially Snakes and Arrows and Vapor Trails. During the years my approach in playing drums and percussions turned towards drummer like Neil Peart, Ian Paice or Gavin Harrison and a lot of others
Prognaut.com – Numb is one of the big epics on this album. The transitions and timing between the different sections of this song are just perfect. The guitar grinding along with Thundra’s drums is amazing. The keyboard section of this song is Cristian at his best. This must be a crowd pleaser live?
Ivan- Yes for sure! This song is included in our playing list. It is a 8-9 minutes song about with a lot of musical sections and atmospheres, we really enjoy it! In the previous concerts we played usually “The Killing hand” (from the album “Insider”) as a ‘suite’. Now Numb is an excellent replacement.
DIEGO C. - It is a little bit “tricky” to play live but it works a treat. Probably my absolute favourite song on the album with Lullaby and Fading Out.
Prognaut.com – Cristian Della Polla on keyboards does a magnificent job of bringing back that keyboard sound that was so prevalent on some of my favorite albums. I liken his playing to what I have heard on Dream Theater’s Images and Words, as well as Rush’s Signals, Moving Pictures, and Grace Under Pressure. I cannot imagine those albums without keyboards. Nice to see a power guitar band that understands the importance of the keyboards. What are some of Cristian’s favorite keyboard driven albums?
CRISTIAN - Well, I think all the album you quoted are masterpieces, “Subdivisons” by Rush is one of my favourite song of all time. The list of albums which I think are very important for my growth as a keyboard player is very long, so, just for name 3 albums in the progressive area my choices are :
Foxtrot by Genesis, Meddle by Pink Floyd and Arbeit Macht Frei by Area.
Foxtrot because I think Tony Banks is a great player in terms of taste and he has a huge influence on me. Or just as Richard Wright. He represents those keyboards player who, even if not so technically strong, they can determine the whole soundscape of a band. His death was a terrible news for me. I quoted Arbeit Macht Frei by Area just to remember our strong tradition in prog rock with all those fantastic bands coming out from Italy in the ’70…bands like P.F.M., Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and so on…All bands with fantastic Keyboards players.
Prognaut.com – Washing Out Memories is another great showcase of the band’s talent. What are some of your favorite parts? The use of that acoustic is perfect.
DIEGO C.- It is probably the simplest piece on the album but a like the vocals a lot. As always, it was written for fitting the mood of the story so, as an “ending” love song, it is a good power ballad I think. It is melodic yet powerful.
Prognaut.com – A New Life captures another part of the softer side of the band. Francesco’s bass is showcased well before the leads and drums take over. Then there is that awesome Rush inspired run of guitars! Can you tell us a little about how you write and construct your songs?
DIEGO C. – The way it is arranged the first section (the mellow part) always reminded to me of “Mike Oldfield”, I don’t know why. The first part I wrote was the second half of the song, that funky guitar, then the first half was made. I think is a two half song. There is a break in the middle and then the song follow other paths J
Prognaut.com – The synth effects on this album are wonderful everywhere. But one song that stands out is the beginning of Lovocaine. Can you tell us how you created some of those cool effects?
CRISTIAN - Well, the choice of the synth sounds started before the recording session. We were searching for sounds that can recreate the dark side of the album, which is prominent in Lovocaine. For that song, we were aiming for a kind of acid or “trippy“ sound, something psychedelic in some ways…our starting inspiration was the starting cosmic sound of Cygnus X-1 by Rush. So we started distorting an modify in pitch and phase the original sound of my main synth until we were satisfied J
Prognaut.com – The acoustic and lead guitar and drum work on Lovocaine is also stellar. If anyone wants to comment further on this song, go ahead?
DIEGO C. – Thank you for your compliments. We simply try to do our best on every song. Always searchin’ for the best.
Prognaut.com – My favorite song off the album is Fading Out Part III. Why was this part included on Phlegethon and not with the other two parts that appear on Timetropia?
CRISTIAN - Well when I and Diego decided to connect Phlegethon and Timetropia with some reasons; firs at all Fading Out is been a focal point of the story of both concepts, the main part of questions are answered. Also, There is a kind of connection in the structure of the two song, that kind of “crescendo” in the end.
DIEGO C. - Fading out part III was written during the writing process for “Phlegethon”. It started not as the third part of the Fading Out Trilogy but then, we found strong connection with the other two parts and Cristian have the idea of making it as the third part of the Fading Out Trilogy.
Prognaut.com – Phlegethon, the title track is another great song off the album. As the closer and longest epic on the album, was its role to tie the final pieces of the story together?
DIEGO C. – Phlegethon is the longest track on the album and it represents the moment of the “revelation” in the concept. All the pieces of the story came clear in Phlegethon , as you’re watchin’ a thriller movie. So it is really “intense” and it represents the same moment of the opening track “The Slide”…you can hear those eternal waves again, for the last time….
Prognaut.com – Italy has long been a place where great prog flourishes. Who would you say are the best prog or prog/metal bands besides yourselves from Italy?
CRISITAN - Yes, Italy has a strong tradition in prog rock so there are interesting prog bands coming out from Italy. Nowadays there are some interesting act but the support of media and national booking agency is poor, and if this is real for all kind of music , it is more tangible with and underground movement as prog is. I want to suggest to you the last album of Moongarden “A Vulgar Display Of Prog” witch is probably one of the most original albums came out last year.
Prognaut.com – I know you guys are Rush fans by your Facebook posts. Who are some of your other influences?
CRISTIAN - There are so many bands and artists that we could be here speaking about that for hours. I can say Fates Warning, Queensryche, King Crimson, Tool and a lot more…
Prognaut.com – There must be a billion stories in that ancient and historic city of Rome, where you hail from. Are there concepts or stories that you are very interested in developing in the near future based on your hometown or homeland?
CRISTIAN - Usually we prefer not to use “location” too much connected to a specific territory ‘cause we prefer to choose arguments in which everyone can reflect itself, without being strictly connected to a specific time or , as said before, territory. The only one reference about the territory in which we live in is the title of our third promo “Matzmariels”, which is a reference to a myth connected to the Bracciano Lake.
Prognaut.com – Is there a band or individual artist you would like to work with in the future?
DIEGO C.- Beside Rush , which is my favourite band, I think my choose go for some talented producer like Peter Collins or Steven Wilson. I think to work with one of those guys and co-produce the album should be a great experience.
Prognaut.com – Hopefully Phlegethon is the album that rockets you to the stardom you deserve. Insider came out in 2003, Timetropia in 2006, and now Phlegethon in 2010. What are your plans for the future?
CRISTIAN - We are in full rehearsal for the gigs in support of Phlegethon. Then we will shoot another video with the Mauro Marani (the director of the Evasion’s one).
Prognaut.com – What are your tour plans for the future?
CRISTIAN - Our management Intromental is trying to book an European Tour as support act for the next fall. But it depends on how much the album sells
CRISTIAN - Oh we really hope about that but…we know we still have a hard work to do for the next years but…it is a dream but sometimes magic happens J
Prognaut.com – I and all of us here at the Prognaut.com appreciate all your time in answering all of these questions. As a fan I look forward to eventually buying the entire catalog in time, and to hear what you guys produce next.
Thanks Professor for everything…. see you soon in USA!
Interviewed by Prof on July 19th, 2010