Alex Staropoli On Future Of Rhapsody Of Fire: "[It] Is Our Responsibility To Keep The Band Going And To Present...Epic Music That Will...Honor Our Past History"
Band Photo: Rhapsody Of Fire (?)
Ever since its inception in 1993 and revered debut "Legendary Tales" in 1997, Rhapsody Of Fire has been one of the pioneers of the classical power metal sound. The band is credited as being one of the very best bands in the history of power metal, releasing such classics as "Symphony of Enchanted Lands, Pts 1-2" and "Dawn of Victory," albums that have influenced a large swath of acts which followed.
In 2011, in a legendary mutual split, co-founders Alex Staropoli and Luca Turilli agreed to separate – each retaining the entire back catalog of the band up to that point, but one which would see a new vision of cinematic metal for Turilli (Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody) and a return to the heavier film score metal direction of old for Alex Staropoli (Rhapsody Of Fire). Vocalist Fabio Lione would work with Rhapsody Of Fire and drummer Alex Holzwarth would initially work with both bands before committing to Rhapsody Of Fire exclusively in 2012.
Since that time, Rhapsody Of Fire has released two studio albums: "Dark Wings Of Steel" in 2013 and "Into the Legend" released earlier this year. On September 28th, in a major lineup change, Fabio Lione announced his departure from the band citing a new chapter with his commitments with Angra and new band Eternal Idol. On October 9, 2015, drummer Alex Holzwarth announced his departure, citing his own commitments with Serious Black.
Rhapsody Of Fire has vowed to continue with a new vocalist and drummer (to compliment keyboardist/composer Alex Staropoli, guitarist Roberto Di Micheli and bassist Alessandro Sala) and expressed a renewed energy to take on the exciting new challenges. In the band’s first post interview since Lione and Holzwarth’s departure, Alex Staropoli sat down with Metal Underground.com to talk about the latest happenings and the future of the band.
CROMCarl: First off, I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak about the recent split with long time vocalist Fabio Lione and now drummer Alex Holzwarth. I know the fans are a bit concerned about the future of the band and I know you want the opportunity to discuss the situation and what the future holds.
A few months back, Fabio made a post on social media that many fans took as his desire to leave the band. However, it was explained that there was an issue with a show cancellation and that all was well. However, when Fabio made his departure announcement, he indicated that he made the band aware of issues over the last 3 or 4 months. Over the last few months, was the “writing on the wall” about Fabio and that you knew his departure was imminent?
Alex Staropoli: Thanks for doing this interview with us Carl. We knew Fabio’s departure would happen eventually. It was a decision discussed carefully and collectively for a while. Those discussions were, as you can imagine, internal and confidential. It was our responsibility to calm down rumors in the summer because we didn’t know for sure what was going to happen.
CROMCarl: I understand that some issues may be very personal, but when Fabio told the band that he was out, what were some of the main reasons for his decision to split? I know he is very busy with Angra and his new band Eternal Idol. What did he express to you about the reasons for his departure?
Alex Staropoli: As you said there could be many reasons. This is the best professional solution to Fabio and the Band’s respective musical careers. It is also an opportunity for ROF to bring something new on board. We want to change the future rather than hold on to the past. We already have a basket of new exciting plans to carry out.
CROMCarl: When the announcement was made, what was the initial reaction of the band? Did it feel like the band was done at any point of the process?
Alex Staropoli: Even though Fabio’s departure wasn’t exactly a surprise, it wasn’t easy for everyone to face when it actually happened. We understood the necessity to accept this change and move on to a new chapter. Quite a lot of fans sent us caring messages and best wishes and kept encouraging us. We feel very lucky and we will stay strong and focused during this important transition.
CROMCarl: Is the door open for working with Fabio again in the future if the situation is right?
Alex Staropoli: What we can say is that we have to move on. ROF will build new partnerships and look into the future.
CROMCarl: Do you think anyone can ever replace Fabio?
Alex Staropoli: Fabio will always be an important part of ROF’s history. The new singer will have a new vocal identity with ROF. He will have his own place in the band. He will be writing another chapter and playing an important role with his own characteristics in a new story.
CROMCarl: Alex Holzwarth has also announced his departure from the band. He indicated that it is something that has been in the works for some time. Was there a point when the band met to decide the impending departures and determine what the best course of action should be in the ensuing months before these official announcements took place?
Alex Staropoli: Alex and I were always open with each other, we always got along really well during all these years and had lot of fun. At a certain point in a musician career it is legit to try something else and I understood him. We have created a huge music catalogue with him that will remain forever.
We had band meetings in many occasions especially when we were all gathered during shows and festivals, it is always positive to share ideas and opinions. We all made suggestions regarding the future of ROF. For example, Alex Holzwarth is always ready to help with finding the right choice for his replacement. Regarding the exact course of action starting from now, me, Roby and Sala took that responsibility in order to let Alex H. and Fabio focus on their future.
Personally, I have to say that it’s really important to be ready to changes at anytime.
CROMCarl : What can you say about the legacy Alex has left behind?
Alex Staropoli: Alex is a good man, a great friend, generous and of course a talented drummer. I will really miss his humor and his positive attitude toward life and music. Alex’s legacy is about playing with passion. He can feel the music and what needs to be done in studio and live. Generally, when composing songs, I do program some drums as well and it was always a pleasure to hear those simple demo drum parts taken into real playing by him. I have rarely appreciated a drummer’s playing so much. Watching Alex performing ROF songs live is always a great experience and a lesson of technique and style. I have always enjoyed hearing and watching his solos during our shows since we started to play together.
CROMCarl: A lot of the fan reaction has been that the band cannot continue in its current state. Do you think that the band’s stature as a legendary power metal band puts more pressure on you to deliver for the fans?
Alex Staropoli: Of course we understand the pessimistic views and we are not happy about disappointing any of our fans. Our fans are truly remarkable and they have supported us through many ups and downs. They don’t want ROF to lose its position in the metal world. This is yet another challenging moment and it’s definitely far from being easy. As musicians, we all want to be true to ourselves even if it means to sacrifice certain things in life. ROF is greater than any of us. It’s a music ideology that is not based on any particular individual. We will treat the pressure from our fans as the drive to continue delivering outstanding musical works.
CROMCarl: Quickly after Fabio’s announcement, you issued a statement about the band’s commitment to continue. Can you share some thoughts about what the future holds for Rhapsody Of Fire and some of the challenges that the band will face in the coming years?
Alex Staropoli: It will take some time for the Band to regroup so we are very busy working towards that. We are already in the process of finding a new singer and a new drummer. Once we confirm the partnership, we will introduce them to our fans one by one and talk about upcoming projects and live shows. It’s important for us to build a solid new line-up that can benefit the years to come. The preparation will take some time. We hope sooner than later.
Regarding the challenges: As we all know, most of our fans were really saddened by the news. But after the initial shock, many have come to understand where we stand. We hope our fans will continue to show support and stay on the journey with us. There will be a lot of new challenges and ROF cannot conquer them all without our fans. With an album like ‘Into The Legend’, we showed everyone in the metal world what a huge impact Rhapsody Of Fire’s music can still make. It will take some time to regroup and transit. It will be even more challenging to deliver better works than Into The Legend. We really have to be patient. However, all these challenges also make the work we do more exciting. We hope the Band will also have lots of fun in carrying out new plans.
CROMCarl : With all of the lineup changes, was there any thought to change the name of the band since there was already a lot of confusion from fans when the band split with Luca?
Alex Staropoli: Lineup changes are never easy and pleasant especially for the fans and the new transition might be challenging for some of them. However, I never seriously thought to change band name. As a co-founder and co-composer of Rhapsody Of Fire I do feel fully commited to keep composing Film Score Metal. It’s my passion and I live for it. Rhapsody Of Fire is a brand with a strong concept: orchestral compositions entangled with inspired vocal lines, powerful guitar riffs, deep bass and kick-ass drums. The concept is not tied to individualities. This is our responsibility to keep the band going and to present a solid new line-up and epic music that will do nothing but honor our past history. We keep faith and look straight forward!
CROMCarl : Has there been any initial thoughts about a new direction for the band, not just with a new vocalist, but the direction of the band?
Alex Staropoli: From "Legendary Tales' to "Into the Legend," ROF has created an amazing music repertoire. Each album is different from the previous one and all productions changed and challenged the music landscapes every time. The development of ROF has truly followed our hearts and epic visions, and will continue to be like that for the years to come. ROF does not follow fashions. Said that, with the Into The Legend production, we kept on blending baroque, classical and film score music with the power of modern metal and, with the next album, there will be an even more consistent changes in this direction, especially regarding the increasing presence of drums, bass and guitars. We want the Band to sound more powerful and tight than ever.
CROMCarl : For the fans, this may seem very sudden, but has the band already begun the process of contacting or auditioning a new vocalist and drummer?
Alex Staropoli: There are many great potential candidates and we are in contact with some of them. The most important thing for us is to find the best fit. Regarding the choice of singer, I am quite experienced at working with singers and choirs. I have written and produced for vocalists many times. Regarding the choice of drummer, we are in touch with a lot of people that can advise us, including Alex Holzwarth. Actually, Roby and Alessandro are contributing a lot. This new partnership has to add a lot of value to the team. We are looking for new friends as well as an artists and performers.
CROMCarl: What sort of qualities are you looking for in the new singer and drummer?
Alex Staropoli: There are three main aspects for both: personality, technique and emotion. We want someone with the right chemistry. We want to have a lot of fun playing, performing, recording and touring together. For instance, the new singer needs to have a solid vocal background, skillful and experienced, with a wide range and lots of power. It’s important that the singer can easily communicate with our audience on stage and convey a wide range of emotions through epic storytelling. Regarding the drummer, it’s of course less about storytelling emotion but more about the fun on tour and the energy on the stage in addition to a mind-blowing technique that fits our music.
CROMCarl: Is there new material currently in the works? I know the band announcement stated that there was going to be a month or two break for the band.
Alex Staropoli: We didn’t say there is going to be a break, but unfortunately there won’t be another tour this year. We feel very sorry for our fans who really wanted to see an Into the Legend tour. Regarding the music production, I am currently developing ideas for the new studio album while Roby De Micheli is constantly working on riffs and elements for guitar. We are also looking for creative ideas and stories for the next studio album. Having great new singer and drummer will be very exciting to go through this creative process.
CROMCarl : What can fans expect from this new era of Rhapsody Of Fire?
Alex Staropoli: Me and my band mates have a lot of ideas. The latest studio album "Into The Legend" really represents what we are able to create these days and it represents what we are capable of producing. Still that’s not enough. We want to do much more in studio and in live situations. The more I produce music and the more I need heavier sounds. Therefore, during the next production, I will surely work harder to enhance the power of the band’s sound for example. Me and the rest of the band are excited, focused and inspired. All these changes and odds makes us even more hungry and motivated. We have many targets and we will go on till we will nail each of them no matter what. It’s passion for music, simple as that.
CROMCarl: I want to wish you all the best for the future. I have all the faith in the world that you will succeed.
Alex Staropoli: Thanks a lot Carl! It means a lot coming from you!
Carl Frederick is a staff writer for Metal Underground.com. From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.
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