Interview With Tommaso Riccardi of Fleshgod Apocalypse
"Agony" has elevated Fleshgod Apocalypse to the status of death metal superstars. Guitarist Tommaso Riccardi was able to talk to MetalUnderground.com at Chicago's House of Blues about the band's lyrics, upcoming tour plans for this October, the reception to Agony (reviewed here) and the Amanda Knox case.
Matt Dasher: How's Summer Slaughter going? It's the biggest tour you've been on in America so far.
Tommaso Riccardi: Yeah it is. It’s going very well. So far we're having a very big response. I'd say much better than expected. So it's a good thing. People are coming out early at shows. There’s a lot of people coming for Black Dahlia coming to our merch table every day to get their CD signed.
Matt: I like the new album a lot because it has those cool opera elements that I haven’t heard another band do. Which classical composers are your favorite?
Tommaso: Actually, we have a strong history of composers in Italy so of course the big Italian ones during the 18th and 19th century like Bellini. That's my first inspiration and of course the big ones like Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. The main classical influence is the Romantic period and all that goes between the 18th Century to the end of the 19th Century. So that's the classical music that we enjoy the most and take inspiration from. We're also fans of the new stuff coming up and of composers in cinema like John Williams. We're mixing two things so it's pretty normal that both classical music and death metal are extreme in this mix. This is an inspiration but you cannot say that we're doing classical music at all. We try to get inspiration from all the music we like. As far as influences from death metal, we like all of the big bands during the 90s like Morbid Angel, Deicide and Cannibal Corpse. So we're very dedicated to try something new. We're trying to be aware of what's going around. Like all the new bands and currents of death metal.
Matt: A lot of your lyrics have to do with the Sicilian Mafia. That's not a topic that a lot of metal bands use for lyrics. Why did you chose that as your band's main theme of the traditional gore lyrics?
Tommaso: We did something that came in a very natural way. Everything in this band has been very natural. We didn’t think about it too much. Like the idea of classical music and using this kind of image on stage and even the lyrics. We like to look at this kind of stuff to analyze what's going on in society and why people act in many weird way and sometimes in very bad ways. This is what we want to do. We started with “Oracles” and in “Oracles” we probably didn't make a real concept album but all the lyrics were related in the sense that many institutions, for instance religious institutions use fear to control people and the Mafia is the same thing but looking at it from another point of view. So the Mafia is a real problem we have in our country and we wanted a chance to talk about this but it's just another point of view from which you can look at human beings and find that there’s something behind the behavior of these people. And this is what we're doing and what we did in “Agony.” “Agony” looks at this problem from another point of view. Like “Mafia” and “Oracles,” everything is always concentrated in the behavior and the feeling of humankind and what brings humans to act in such bad ways.
Matt: Your band is from Rome as well as Perugia. What do you think of the Amanda Knox murder trial?
Tommaso: We live in that city so it's been something that everyone has been talking about for a fairly long period in our town. It was a bad thing that happened. Everybody knows it. They use information like an instrument to make conclusions that really don't make much sense. They blamed the city for being too free in some ways because in our hometown there's a lot of people hanging out and a lot of places you can go and drink. It's very typical in Italy. Unlike in America, you can drink in the street or do whatever so it's just a different system to manage things but what I dislike about that effect is that they used this murder to say this city is a shame on Italy since there’s a lot of drugs and drinking and everything while if true is exactly the same as every other place in the country so it was pretty strange that they used this thing to talk about that and nobody really cared about the fact that this poor girl was killed. They talked too much about it. It became something political since there was an American girl involved and the girl who was murdered was from England. And she was in our town to study so there was an exchange between schools. It became too political in my opinion. In my opinion everyone can be a good person or a killer. So nobody can know if any of this was true. You can ask yourself your whole life if Amanda Knox was actually the killer. What's terrible is these things happen. What shocked me was that it was my town. It happened very close to my place. I'd be driving and I'd see the place where it happened. It's terrible.
Matt: So you find that fans in the European scene are different from American fans?
Tommaso: I think there’s always been a difference between what's going on in Europe and the US during the history of metal. I think you can easily realize the difference between styles. In America you had Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel from the Florida school of death metal and it was different than what was going on in Europe. European bands were always more melodic with the Scandinavian death metal. What's happening now is that the communication is much easier because of the internet and Facebook. The whole world is becoming much more into one thing. So bands in the US are now playing things that can be considered more European in some way. It's the same way in Europe, it's happening except in the opposite way. It's now very easy to hear new music through the internet and Youtube. It's just becoming something more globalized like everything else. The differences are starting to be less pronounced. Once there were big differences between European and American death metal, now it's starting to become one thing.
Matt: Are you going to be doing a longer set in the United States in the near future?
Tommaso: Yeah, We're actually going back after Summer Slaughter where we'll have 30 days home and be back in October for the Decapitated tour.
Matt: Are you happy with the positive reception that “Agony's” gotten so far?
Tommaso: We are because the last eight months were us dealing with full-time schedules 24 hours a day. We've been working very hard for this tour and Bone Crusher in Europe between winter and spring. So we had the time between these two tours to write and record everything. This recording session was very stressing but it was very important to put it out before Summer Slaughter since it would be a big chance to promote ourselves. I see that every day after when the video clip for “The Violation” came out. The response here is unbelievable. We released the album as a presale before the official release and I think the response is very good. I think it's even more than expected.
Matt: What do you think of other symphonic metal bands like Dimmu Borgir and Epica?
Tommaso: Like many other things, they've been inspirations for us in the past. So me and the other members of the band would be listening to those bands for a long time and we still do. We're trying to do it our way, Music always comes from inspiration so it's always good to see bands do things that you liked but then you have to evolve it and turn it into something that represents your way of making music. We obviously like those symphonic bands and that is why we wanted to bring our music to that style. So “Agony” is the first album where we have those orchestrations for the whole songs and everything. It's just a consequence of what we've always wanted to do since we wanted to mix classical music with death metal. You can hear it on “Oracles” as well as on “Mafia.” The arrangements were already as much into classical music as death metal. But adding the orchestras into the music was something that we wanted to do since the beginning.
Matt: Are there any plans to shoot a video for your second single, The Egoism?
Tommaso: I don't know. For now we didn't plan to do another video mainly because we have this next year fully scheduled. We needed to promote the album and video recording before Summer Slaughter. Because we knew after this we were going to be busy. We're coming back to the US in October and then of course in the fall and winter we'll have to do something for Europe. So next year between winter and fall, we're going to South Africa so we don’t know if we'll have the time to shoot another video. We just have to wait a little bit until the near future.
Matt: Nice meting you.
Tommaso: You too.
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